Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Portage and Main - 3

He walked across the 10 by 10 living room and into the smaller kitchen. He found the cleanest dirty glass from the sink and opened the fridge door to grab the water jug. It was only thing inside the gloomy and unsanitary interior other than a mummified onion and a nearly empty jar of salsa topped with a thick grey fuzz.

Is that blood? That’s blood.
The jug was empty.

Ryan turns to the sink and opens the cold water tap which sputters to life as though it does not appreciate being woken from its slumber. No one has asked for the water on this day. It will hiss and sputter all the way to the top.
It chugs and vomits out rust colored liquid for a moment and soon it is urine colored and soon enough it is clear. He fills the cup and then drinks like he is gasping for air. He hacks some back up as he fills the cup a second time. It’s already working. He puts the jug under the tap and fills it to about a cup and then puts it on the counter and shuts off the water.

He heads to the shower without putting the jug back in the fridge. The shower water is lukewarm and the pressure is non existent. He squeezes a final drop of shampoo out of the bottle and stares ruefully at the full bottle of conditioner that he got a great price. As he massages the foam into his scalp mindful of working the thin and empty spots he recalls the first times he had come into the city on the bus.

It was an exciting and scary place. It was where you would meet people who were coming in and out of the city. This was before the brothers were old enough to go to the Manor and The Savoy.
It was at the bus depot where he had been busted for his first real crime. He still felt bad about it. After all these years.

He had committed other crimes since that one. But that was one he considered to be a real crime. Everything else was something that he figured he had the right to do. No man should tell another man how to live. This was what he believed.
He was sure those words came from Old Lodgeskins from Little Big Man, but he couldn’t be sure about that. Either way, he knows he heard it in a movie and that it was a Hollywood writer’s version of what he thought was the summation of Native American philosophy and as far as Ryan was concerned the writer had nailed it.

He and Laurence had stolen chocolate bars from the convenience store at the bus depot on their grade 9 school trip. It was wrong and they were humiliated. Dad was humiliated. Teased when out with the men. That wasn’t the worse part. Father Marcien preached a cruel and judgmental teaching on the commandment “Thou shall not steal.” It brought shame upon the family because it happened out there. Amongst the white people.

That’s how our communities are. No one will ever forget any mistake that you make. This was part of the ongoing history of residential school. You are either being judged or you are the judge. You are the sinner or the condemner. Make a mistake and we will never forget.

That’s how it was with the church. Poor Noah. He listens to the craziest message left by God and he follows through on it. He builds the Ark and loads the animals and saves all the creatures from the Great Flood. Later in the Bible he gets hammered and he wanders around naked and someone puts that in the book. That’s not cool. Not cool.


There was no bus serving the neighbourhood on Sundays. Ryan stood looking up as the words “not in service” tracked in an endless loop.  It was the same posture he held each morning as he caught the bus downtown to the Millennium Library.
He took a deep drag of his cigarette. It would be the last one until he got back up north although he was likely to bum a smoke at the stop in Lundar. If there were Neechies smoking, he would be good. If it was only Whites they would expect a toonie. One usually just held the coin out and got either a nod or a shake although someone would usually shout out “Here!” and be reaching for their pack as they walked towards you.
He took in a deep drag filling his lungs to capacity and then spewing out the obnoxious miasma.
It was a crime. It was also a shitty thing to do. But the fact was there was no bus service and it was cold as fuck outside. So he smoked his smoke inside the bus shelter with adolescent defiance. This was a good smoke. He had not had a good smoke in a long time.
A car turned left down the street and his good feeling disappeared. He cupped the cigarette into his hand like an adolescent. What the hell? He was old enough not to give a fuck but that changed when he moved onto Scotia Street. He had never seen so many cop cars patrol a street in his life. It wasn’t policing. It was security.
Some of the oldest richest homes are on this street along the Red River and some of the finest crackhouses are just a stone’s throw away.
He looked to the right.  Down this street was the Battle of Seven Oaks. It was there that the Metis Flag, the infinity flag is officially recorded in the history books of Canada. In was 1816, a generation before there was a country and almost 150 years before the Maple Leaf flew over Parliament. If you followed this street on the way to Kildonan Park you will pass a marker, a plaque on the corner. Not much. Truth be told and if you don't know where it is, you are not going to find it.
Also along this street there is a beautiful little resting area with a park bench and a flower garden and one of the few places where one can sit along the banks of the Red River. Here there is another plaque for a nuclear physicist that may have saved the lives of his colleagues or who may have caused the accident in a Homeresque error. It depends if you wanted to believe the plaque or the Wikipedia page.

It was cold that much was sure. Ryan dropped the smoke on the floor and crushed it with his feet. It would be 30 minutes if he made good time, 40 if he was slow.


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