The Choices One Makes (Part 3 of 3).

It must have been mid-July when I hadn’t a roof over my head or enough belongings to constitute a large backpack. I had been crashing at a girls parents place whom I wasn’t much into yet fond of the warm bed she afforded me. Some months before this I had been around this dude Jay Babinski and we kept in each others circles. He let me stay at his place as he was living with his girlfriend. He also stopped paying rent but I was not privy to that info ’til the day the landlord came a-knockin’.

I had lost my job at the gas station near the end of the nabob stint. Staying between Tamaras and Jays, I had so much time on my hands and zero money for even a meal. I found myself breaking into vehicles every night for spare change and pawnable items like tools or leather jackets. Some nights were better than others. It wasn’t so much a crime as it was me teaching these people a lesson. I never officially broke into anything; if it was unlocked then I opened the door. I also found myself going to a men’s shelter for the odd meal and though my body needed the nourishment, my mind took a beating. I didn’t want to be around those people. I was better. I wasn’t really homeless. I was more so a visitor.

The day Jays landlord told me to leave really scared me because I truly had nowhere else to go. I had let Cheech outside a few nights prior, just hoping someone who could take care of him would adopt him. I could barely take care of myself. Sitting in a downtown park on a sunny summer day reading a book about serial killers I had stolen from a Coles bookstore, I bumped into Lee. Lee was an aquaintance of Daves, someone nobody really liked. Lee was loud. Lee was a jackass. But Lee had a floor I could sleep on so Lee became my friend.

I rarely looked at myself in the mirror and I had no scale to weigh myself but I was wasting away pretty good. My only income was still taking from onlocked vehicles so I was rarely eating or drinking water. Any money I had would go towards booze and cigarettes. Probably the lowest I had gotten was the night Lee and I attacked a gay man in the parking lot of the gay bar The Roost downtown Edmonton. It was just a bunch of yelling, no physical violence, which resulted in him giving us $40. I remember running back to Lee’s apartment as fast as we could in case the cops were called.

Throughout all this time I had asked my mother for money and her answer, knowing my bad state, was to come live with her up north and rehabilate which I turned down several times. But now was different. There was nothing here for me. I was unhealthy and in a terrible state. I knew that I might die on the street or wind up behind bars. I knew that I had blown this opportunity of adult freedom that was given me. I made the call and within a week I was in my mom’s car heading to northern Alberta, in full surrender.

Twenty four years later I can definitely look back and see a very messy young man. I let things go when I followed, not led. I haven’t taken anything that doesn’t belong to me since those days and I look at it as a means of desperate survival, not fun at other’s expenses. My priorities were all wrong and the people I hung with are probably either in prison, living on the bottom rung of society still, or worse.

Like all history, it is in the past but it remains a part of me. I’ve learnt enough about how not to live by those seven months alone and vow never to return. It’s taught me to fight. To pick my friends wisely. To be a better man and gosh darnit, a better pet parent. I look at my son, now twenty himself, making way smarter choices including supporting himself just fine and beginning University in the fall. What a different path I took but in the end, I survived just like we do.

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