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Archive for December, 2009

10. Post-Thanksgiving

I could have accepted Brian’s proposal on Thanksgiving night. That night, I could have traded in a bunk bed in a shelter for a cozy room in a familiar person’s abode. But this sudden gift of generosity stunned me. I had never in my life had such an opportunity come my way. Okay, it was a room, and not a treasure chest with millions of dollars worth in gold and jewels. But still, I was so surprised that it would come this quick, no less than three days after I had been bounced out of Brampton.

I spent the next three weeks weighing my options. In the meantime, I tried to live as normal a life as possible. The Seaton House people allowed us to go out in the daytime, but we had a curfew of 6PM. We had to make sure that we didn’t get into any trouble, we had to report to a counselor every week, and we had to be clean of drugs and alcohol. And it was lights out at 11PM. I spent my free time at the Toronto Reference Library and the Eaton Centre. I went to the gym and worked out, and no one was any the wiser as to my homeless status.

I didn’t like going to the counselor. The one that I had been assigned to was this well-meaning, but rather patronizing, guy named Gilles. He was thin, weathered, and had a thick Québécois accent. He was the kind of guy who would simply nod and say “How does that make you feel?” and shit like that. In my experience, that was always the kind of counselor who would come my way. High school counselors, social workers, psychotherapists… it seemed like I could never find anyone who would understand me. I wasn’t looking for the next Sigmund Freud, but I would have liked to have had someone even 1/16th the person he was.

Aside from the protocol, life at Seaton House was decent enough. None of my roommates bothered me at all. In fact, we were pretty nice to each other. There were some disagreements, such as leaving the radio on all night long. It wasn’t that in principle that was the disagreement – it was the choice of radio station. I preferred CBC Radio One, but my drag queen roommate preferred Flow FM, and the others wanted the multilingual CHIN FM. We decided to alternate nights.

Outside our room was a different story. There were a lot of fights and shouting and screaming. It was a rare occurrence when someone WASN’T being put in a straight-jacket. Mercifully, me and my roommates were never involved in the altercations.

For those three weeks, despite the in-fighting and the regular battles that came with living in a shelter, I slept reasonably well. And yet I still weighed the pros and cons of staying with Brian, a man who I hadn’t seen in years and who, the student-teacher relationship aside, I knew next to nothing about. Was Brian a serial killer? Was he a sex freak with a thing for furries and leather? Was Brian being put up by my parents to kill me?

And then, on the Monday before Halloween, I made my decision. And it wasn’t a pretty one.

I was in the food court at Eaton Centre, having some lunch. I still had plenty of cash on hand, even though I didn’t disclose this to my roommates. I ate from Harvey’s, which is kind of like Burger King, only with poutine. I just had a cheeseburger, fries, and a Diet Coke. It was a rather pleasant time. The Christmas decorations in the mall were beginning to sprout up, even though Halloween was five days away.

As I tucked into my fries, I heard a very shrill voice twenty feet away say the following words: “OH MY GOD, IT’S THAT GUY!

I recognized the voice right away. It was Canada’s Favorite Christian herself, Sissy Vandenbroucke, a tormentor of the highest class possible. In fact, she was the worst kind: the one who used her faith to belittle others. She had bullied me in elementary school, and had never seen justice. The very thought of her made my skin crawl. Being around her was like being around the Predator of 1980s lore. No, scratch that. The vagina-faced Predator that stalked Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura, and Carl Weathers would have made a lovely guest for tea compared to Sister Christian herself.

I quickly finished my meal and bussed my tray next to the trash can, avoiding her. I could feel her stalk me. It was as if I was Monica Seles and she was that crazy German guy who had a hard-on for Steffi Graf. And then, the bitch stabbed me. Well, “stabbed” is a rather extreme word. I felt her Lee Press-On nail jab into my shoulder. I turned around, and there she was… a meter and a half tall, with chestnut-brown hair, chestnut-brown eyes, and wearing a pantsuit like she was Hillary fucking Clinton.

“Graziano Buonfiglio!” she mockingly cheered. “How lovely to see you.”

“Yeah, whatever,” I groaned.

“Why the cold shoulder?”

“Why did you harass me in school?”

Sissy feigned being taken aback. I could smell her shit from ten miles above the earth. “Are you still on that?” she asked. “It’s been almost 20 years. Let it go.”

“You’re still the bitch from hell that I remember,” I snapped.

She did not directly respond to that. “A little bird told me that you’re now a homeless bum,” she said.

“Would this bird happen to be Harlot?” I knew that she was a close friend of Charlotte’s, even though they never went to school together and Charlotte hadn’t stepped foot inside a church since she was 18.

“If you’re talking about Charlotte, then yes.”

I turned around and walked out of the dining area. Sissy’s heels clicked and clanged behind me.

“Just look at yourself, running away from the truth!” she hollered. “I was so right to make your life hell all those years ago. You’re nothing but a contemptible, morally bereft, psycho-sexual faggot who has no respect for family and God!”

I tuned her out to the best of my ability as I walked out of Eaton Centre, and crossed Dundas Square. And still, she walked behind me, screaming and hollering as if she was in her mega-church preaching the hypocritical bullshit that she and her ilk preach 24/7, 365. I tried to shake her, but she continued to force the issue.

Within one block of Seaton House, she was still at it. She even threw in a couple of Bible verses as she tried to read me the riot act. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. On a dime, I turned around and screamed, “BITCH, SHUT THE FUCK UP!

This shut her up real good. She froze on the corner.

“Don’t you have anything better to do than to follow me?” I asked. “Shouldn’t you be poisoning the minds of your flock at that supermarket you call a mega-church? Shouldn’t you be banging the menfolk of your congregation, Reverend Hot-Pants?”

Sissy stood there for a few moments, and then she slapped me. Hard. The hardest slap of my life. I fell onto the ground. She stood over me, like she was a vulture and I was a carcass that she had designs on picking clean.

I don’t know what came over me, but then, I stood up and lunged at her. We brawled in the street. Soon, passers-by tried to break up the fight and people from Seaton House, clients and staff alike, joined in. I think the fight took ten minutes to break up.

When the dust settled, I had scratches on my face and sore muscles. Sissy, ditto. She cleaned herself off and said, “I have a service to prepare for!” She stormed off towards downtown.

I knew that this would probably get me kicked out of Seaton House. I didn’t care. I had enough. I decided to leave the place. I could not handle life in a shelter if this was one of the consequences – people mocking you and making your life hell. That afternoon, I bid goodbye to my roommates, collected my things, fetched my cat Britney (who was in good condition), and checked out of the shelter. I got into my car for the first time in weeks, and I drove away.

Somewhere in Scarborough, I stopped by a Shoppers Drug Mart and bought a first-aid kit. After patching myself up, I sat in the driver’s seat, with Britney resting on my lap. I cried for the first time in weeks, and it was a torrent of tears. I sobbed so hard that my cuts hurt even harder. When I stopped, I took out Brian’s card and dialed.

“Hello, this is Brian Gutensohn.”

“Brian? This is Graziano,” I said, my voice not as strong as it could be. “I was wondering… does your offer still stand?”

“Yeah. Where are you?”

“I checked out of Seaton House. It got too tough for me. I’m in Scarborough right now.”

“Do you have my address?”

I looked at the card. 600 Queens Quay West. “Yeah.”

“Graziano, I’m grading mid-terms right now. Ummm… I’ll be home around 9PM. Can you come by around that time?”

“Sure.”

“Thanks. Graziano?”

“Huh?”

“It’s going to be okay, buddy.”

I said goodbye and hung up. Britney sat up and nuzzled my face. Though my face was sore, Britney’s nuzzling made it feel better.

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Apologies, again.

Hey, everyone. I’ve been busy with school and finals, the latter taking place this week. I have not forgotten my blog novel, and as soon as finals are over and done with, I will continue working on this. Please keep in touch. Thanks.

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