Chapter 08: “At least the turkey is delicious.”

FRIDAY, 9TH OCTOBER, 2009

On Friday morning, they discharged me from Toronto General Hospital. I did not have a change of clothes. However, Jessica was kind enough to have my clothes from Wednesday washed and dried, so when I got out, I didn’t smell like the hospital. In addition, my iPod, cell phone and wallet survived the ordeal, so that was good.

No one bothered to pick me up from the hospital, so I ended up riding the subway to Union Station. From there, I boarded the bus to Brampton. It took me about an hour to ride from downtown Toronto to downtown Brampton. During the ride, I took my mind off things by listening to Kathy Griffin’s For Your Consideration album. From downtown Brampton, I boarded a succession of two buses and rode all the way to the neighbourhood of Heart Lake.

Before I go any further, I have to say that I don’t bear any ill will toward the City of Brampton. It’s a lovely city, it’s easy to get around, and it’s the eleventh largest city in Canada. So it wasn’t like I had been uprooted to some remote outpost in the middle of nowhere. I enjoy Brampton and consider it to be one of my favourite places. But my memories are tainted, because I had to spend a considerable amount of my life living on Oakridge Court with Joseph and Nadine.

The last bus dropped me off at the intersection of Kennedy Road and Conservation Drive. I walked through a small pathway, and soon I ended up on Oakridge Court. The house that I had spent the past four years or so lay at the end of the road was a two-storey piece of red brick shit. Most of the houses lining Oakridge Court also were made of red brick. I saw my car, a PT Cruiser Classic that I had won in a raffle a while back, parked in the driveway. Neither Nadine’s car (which was a silver Kia) nor the family Hummer were in sight.

As I walked up to the house, I heard soft rustling in the bushes, and then some meowing. I figured that Britney, my cat, was there. Before I had a chance to check it out, Britney crawled out and meowed at me. I knelt down and she leaped into my arms. Standing up, I looked in her eyes and I just could not fathom leaving her. For one, she was my only ally. Secondly, Nadine and Joseph didn’t like her at all. They barely tolerated her. I had adopted her and all her food and furnishings were coming out of my pocket. If they didn’t respect me at all, they should have at least respected her.

I walked into the house and noticed a set of six flattened boxes, along with scissors and tape, on the foyer floor. Six? I could easily fit all of my possessions into three. And so, I set about packing my things. I had a bevy of SpaceBags, which made packing a lot easier. I’m seriously addicted to SpaceBags. They’re among the greatest inventions of recent times. After an hour and a half, everything in my bedroom had been accounted for, packed up, and sealed, except for the furniture. I also filled three duffel bags with changes of clothes. I carefully slid the lot down into the foyer, and they were in the back of my car in no time.

I then walked into the kitchen, and took everything that I had bought. Cans of soup, pasta, candy, cereal, etc. It wasn’t as if Joseph and Nadine needed the food, anyway. They almost never ate dinner at home, and Nadine usually drank as opposed to eat. I filled up half a box with the food and drink, and they too were in the car in no time.

Afterwards, I picked up Britney and found her things: her carrier, her food, her toys, her litter box, everything. I put Britney in her carrier, and placed it on the passenger seat. Her things were put underneath the back seat.

When all was said and done, I took one final walk around the house. It had been, technically, home for a considerable amount of my life. As I walked around, I realized that I had no attachment to the house whatsoever. After ten minutes, I left the house on Oakridge Court for the last time. And I drove out of that wretched, red brick neighbourhood like I was fleeing Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

I stopped at the Swiss Chalet on nearby Hurontario Street for a late lunch and an opportunity to formulate my plans. I had chicken spring rolls, fish & chips, and a slice of fudge cake. As I tucked into my meal, I looked over my cell phone contacts, and for the life of me, I just could not bear to tell anyone about my predicament. I even brought out my laptop, and I couldn’t even update my status on Facebook. I couldn’t even send a message to my contacts. I was absolutely petrified.

Back in my car, I decided to drive back into Toronto. Around 6 P.M., I pulled into Migson Public Storage on Gerrard Street and unloaded most everything from my car into my 5’x10’ room, which already had stuff in it. The only things left over in my car were some changes of clothes, my iPod, my laptop, a few blankets, and my cat’s belongings.

I had no place to go that night. I was scared out of my mind. I could have simply camped out in my storage room, but I didn’t want to break any laws. So, I did the only thing that I could do: I drove around Toronto for hours at a time, and stopped for an hour at a time. I would pull into a secluded neighbourhood, get out, walk around for ten minutes to get my legs working, and pop back in the car for a quick nap. I did this well until morning.

SATURDAY, 10TH OCTOBER, 2009

When morning broke, I was in Scarborough, just outside the McCowan RT Station. I fed Britney and set up her litter box on the car floor. I got out, and decided to feign the appearance of normalcy. I hopped on the train at McCowan, and from there, I rode the Bloor-Danforth line until I got off at Bloor-Yonge.

I spent the next four hours at the Toronto Reference Library, one of my favourite places in the world. I spent two hours taking a nap, and the remaining two reading and browsing. I ended up checking out four books, but I didn’t bother to update my card information. For lunch, I had a hot dog and Diet Pepsi. After that, it was off to Steamworks.

I don’t go to Steamworks just for the sex, though I have had sex there. They have a really cool gym, and I work out a great deal. I go to Steamworks at least once a week to work out, but I usually do my working out at the Metro Central YMCA. There, I don’t even hit on the guys, let alone fuck them. I like both facilities equally, and don’t see any point in changing them for the immediate future.

I spent four hours working out at Steamworks. There were some hot guys, but I wasn’t interested in having a sexual encounter. After I left, I went to the nearest Subway restaurant and ordered some take-out, and an hour later I was back in my car at McCowan Station. Thankfully, my car wasn’t impounded and Britney looked fine. I ate my sandwich and began another lonely night of listening to the car radio as I roamed the streets of Toronto, with no final destination in sight.

SUNDAY, 11TH OCTOBER, 2009

Sunday morning came, and I was at my wit’s end. I didn’t know where to go, what to do, and if I could survive living in my car. I sat in my car, crying into a blanket. Plus, I had no idea where I even was. All I saw were trees and grass.

I picked up my cell phone and dialled a number that I had dialled many times before: the Distress Line.

“Distress Line,” the woman on the other end said.

“Ummm…. hi,” I began, trying to hold it together. “I got kicked out of my home, and I’ve been living in my car since Friday night. I’m scared.”

We talked for an hour, and I filled her in on my predicaments. Unfortunately, on account of it being Thanksgiving weekend, she didn’t have a lot of resources available. She did give me the number of the Shelter Assessment and Referral hotline, and wished me a Happy Thanksgiving. I called the referral hotline and told the operator my story, and unfortunately, she didn’t have anything available. Every available shelter bed in Toronto was taken. After I hung up, I sobbed hysterically.

Later that day, I summoned the courage to announce my status on Facebook. Within an hour, amid all the condolence messages that I received, I got this message:

“Hey, Graz. I’m sorry about what happened. You’re more than welcome to crash at my place.”

The message came from Marie-Lourdes Pelletier, whom I hadn’t seen since I left university. I called her, and we chatted for an hour.

That night, I arrived at Marie-Lourdes’ apartment in the neighbourhood of West Queen West. Her appearance had changed a bit; she wasn’t a bull dyke with a crew-cut anymore, but a femme with bouncy black hair, streaked with red. Nonetheless, she was still the warm and supportive lady that took me under her wing all those years ago. She even welcomed Britney into her apartment.

Per her transformation, she said that she never really fit into the “bull dyke” lifestyle, and actually liked being feminine. She only got into it because, as she put it, it was “the thing to do”. Of course, she could still kick one’s ass, but more likely in a strapless dress.

MONDAY, 12TH OCTOBER, 2009

I woke up around 11 in the morning on Thanksgiving Day. I hadn’t slept a normal set of hours in days. I had fallen asleep around 9 PM the night before, while Marie-Lourdes was working on some homework. After a few years away from university, she had enrolled in a graduate program at York and was also working at a women’s health clinic.

Marie-Lourdes invited me to tag along with her to Thanksgiving dinner at the Metropolitan Community Church, of which she was a regular parishioner. We arrived at the red brick church on Simpson Avenue just before 2 PM. It should be noted that I’m a spiritual person to an extent, but I have problems with organized religion. I haven’t attended a Catholic mass since the week before my 18th birthday.

I found myself surrounded by other LGBT people: seniors, transgendered folks, families, and people of colour. This was the most people who I had spent Thanksgiving with. Growing up, Nadine and Joseph celebrated Thanksgiving at Nonno Pietro’s house, and it was the only time of year that I was allowed to sit at the table and eat with the family.

In recent years, the terrible two went away for Thanksgiving, leaving me to make my own damn dinner, which I did, to very successful effect. In 2008, all alone, I whipped up a full-course meal of bacon-basted turkey, mashed red and purple potatoes, green bean casserole with fried onions, and pumpkin pie from scratch, and it didn’t even take four hours to do the whole thing.

As we ate our meal, Marie-Lourdes said, “Some Thanksgiving this turned out to be, huh?”

I nodded. “At least the turkey is delicious.” It was.

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