So I was in the belly of Smaug at this point, heading down the Lonely Mountain and towards the ocean, with eight other people and a dog.
Besides the girl who owned the dragon, Melissa, and I, there were six guys. They all turned out to be weird and creepy in their own way, and they don’t really factor into the story much. I don’t remember particularly getting a crush on any of them, but one of them named Richard was cute. I thought he was out of my league, though. Melissa started dating one of them, a guy named George, who was tall and big and dark, he told me he was part Orc, and he was. Part good and part bad. He always wore a trenchcoat and carried a staff, and he would sing this song he wrote about the mountains, the rainforest and the ocean in a deep voice. I thought he was pretty cool, and he was, at first.
Now, a VW microbus is pretty small as far as vans go, so to cram it full of nine people, nine travel backpacks and a large dog is kind of pushing it. So as we were driving out of the mountains, Smaug was having a bit of a hard time. The guy driving didn’t seem to really know how to drive standard, so it was pretty painful all around. It was one of those drives where one by one, everyone drops into silence, and you’re all leaning forward, kind of willing the vehicle to get you where you need to go and not die.
We were still deep in the mountains when two of the guys, incidentally the creepiest and weirdest of the two, randomly decided they were done with the red dragon and got out. I don’t remember where they were going or why they left, but it was definitely a relief for Smaug.
One of the guys who left was the one who had been driving, and I don’t remember who took over, but we made it about six hours before Smaug took one last fiery breath and died. I don’t remember why, but luckily we had made it into Hope, a town which definitely had a car garage we could take him to. So we all spent the remainder of the night in the van, and in the morning Melissa had him towed to the garage to be fixed.
The mechanic told us that it would take at least a week to get Smaug fixed, so we all kind of settled into Hope for the time being. I don’t remember where we all slept or “lived” while we were there, but there was one experience I had that is definitely noteworthy.
When I was in my last two years of high school, my school had started to offer this class called Native Awareness because there were a lot of Aboriginal and Metis students. It was taught by a Native woman, and she would give teachings to the students on the culture, history and spirituality of the Native people that were local to my home province. I’m not Native, but I took it because it interested me, and I had some pretty powerful experiences through it. I still incorporate elements of what I learned into my spiritual practices today.
During my time in that class, I learned about the concept of animal totems and teachers. So ever since then, it had been in my mind that I wanted to know what mine was. Meeting Peter had strengthened this desire, because he shared with me the story of how he learned of one of his. I wasn’t around any elders after I left Winnipeg, so every day I kept praying and asking “the Universe” if it would show me what my totem was.
So on one of the first days we were stuck in Hope, I woke up early, and I was on the go from morning until sunset. And everywhere I went that day, everywhere I looked, I found crow feathers. By sunset I had at least thirty of them.
We were all hanging out in a park that was called, interestingly enough, Spirit Park,. All throughout it, among the tall pind trees, were wooden carvings of animals. The sun was about to set and I was sitting there looking at all these feathers, and I decided I needed some kind of irrefutable answer. I walked off by myself until I was standing under one of the tallest pines in the park.
I stood there holding this bundle of feathers, and I raised my arm above my head. I stood looking up at them, and the setting sun knifed through the trees with one last dazzling blaze. I said out loud, “Okay, if the Crow is my animal totem, give me a sign!”
At this point, about thirty crows flew into the tree above my head, cawing. I kind of paused and went, “Well, I’d say that answers my question.”
What makes that story extra-interesting is that Peter had almost the exact same experience when he was seeking his totem.
The only other thing of note that happened in Hope was that I started to learn that I am not the kind of person who can live in a VW bus with six other people and not start to go crazy for wont of personal space. I also started realizing that I don’t like sharing everything I own. But back then, that was the whole philosophy we all lived under; share everything, peace and love, all is one, blah, blah, blah. Vomit. But at the time, I was afraid to speak up and tell people to bugger off once in a while, get their own bread and peanut butter and jam, because, well, I didn’t want to seem unenlightened, or like I wasn’t “one of them.” Peer pressure. It happens among hippies, too. Not that they’d ever admit it.
So we stayed until Smaug was fixed, hung out with some other sketchy people, then were on our way again. Our goal was the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island, and not much else of note happened between leaving Hope and arriving in Vic. I was rather eager to get to said city, because Best Friend Guy was there, and I still had a mad crush on him.
Even though a few good things came from my time spent in Victoria, I can say that it was by far the lowest, darkest, most scary point of my adventures / misadventures. Welcome to Mordor.
I remember that summer as August was coming to an end and September was drawing near, thinking of what September used to represent to me back in my Winnipeg: school starting again, shuffling through autumn leaves, cozy sweaters, the smell of woodsmoke, sitting inside reading books and watching the leaves fall, movies with friends. . .and on some level I knew that summer wouldn’t last forever. It was going to get cold, and I was living out of my backpack. Well, it was around the beginning of September when I arrived in Victoria, and you know how you can sort of feel autumn creep into your bones; how even when a part of you is clinging to those last few tendrils of summer, another part of you knows that fall is coming, heralding winter approaching? This aspect of the Goddess is never easy to face, no matter how many “turns” of the Wheel you’ve been a part of. It never gets any easier. It means death.
There was one more Rainbow Gathering that summer, since September is still technically summer (at least on the Gregorian calendar), and I decided to go, mostly because Best Friend Guy said he was going, but also because I don’t think I was ready to let summer go yet. It was held on a beach by the ocean this time (the last one had been on a lake) on the Island, and I hitch hiked out there with a guy I became friends with, who went by the name of Turtle. We got there way after dark, and it was a crazy hike through the marsh to get to the beach, at least two hours from the highway, the darkness not making it any easier. We finally got there around three in the morning, and I was pretty shocked and disappointed that there were under ten people there. Not quite like the last two, that numbered in the hundreds. It was kind of foreboding, really. The whole gathering had a sombre feel to it, much like September itself does, if you compare it to July and August. I could feel autumn seeping in, though I tried to ignore her and tell myself “It’s still summer!” It’s funny, now that I’m more familiar with the Pagan calendar, and how the seasons changing are not quite like the calendar that most people in our culture reference. Because if you go by the Pagan calendar, the mood of that Gathering made perfect sense. Harvest time begins around August 1st, and when I learned that a couple years later, it made perfect sense. The seasons don’t just end and begin; they flow into one another, like water from different pools. There is a transition period.
So Crush Guy never did come to that Gathering, and neither did Peter, which disappointed me more than I let on, which was not at all, because I told myself (and others) that I practiced the Buddhist concept of “non-attachment,” not that I had any clue what that actually meant. What I thought it meant was not getting disappointed if the guy you have a huge crush on doesn’t come to the party that he said he would meet you at.
The beach was beautiful, but my disappointment was pretty raw, so leaving wasn’t really a sad affair like it had been at the other Gatherings. This one was different.
There was a girl there who I had become friends with, though in retrospect I really don’t know what she saw in me; I just became friends with anybody back then, so me questioning what I saw in her never happened. She went by the name of Blue, and she was, as she called it, “hardcore.” Army boots. Metal buckles. Lots of black and patches. Could handle junkies and street kids. Tough. La di da. Whatever. I, as it turned out, was not hardcore. This was, I gathered from her reaction when it was discovered, a bad thing – though for some reason not obvious. Maybe because I wore army boots too. With my tie dye.
I remember this one night, this guy Turtle, Blue and I had hitch hiked into Vancouver, and Blue had introduced us to some street kids she knew who were all-around sketchy people. I remember standing there with her, and she told me they had invited us to crash at “their place,” which was nothing more than an abandoned house. For whatever reason – maybe I was tired, maybe I was really tired – I just could not handle the idea of sleeping in abandoned house with some sketchy homeless people. Call me whatever you want, I just couldn’t do it. When I told her no, she kind of snapped on me an announced that I wasn’t “hardcore” enough, which upset me at the time because I wanted to be able to handle anything and everything with grace and awesomeness, the way I thought my sister always did. So she went with her friends, and Turtle and I found a “nicer” place to sleep, down near a pond, I think it was.
As we were lying there going to sleep, I talked to him a bit about how I had felt before, downtown. He asked me if I wanted him to do something for me, and I said yes, not really knowing what I was agreeing to.
He had told me before that he had training in martial arts, and that he knew some things about Eastern energy work. I had basically ignored him, maybe because I heard a lot of people talk a lot of shit back then, but down by that pond, he said he was going to do some “energy work” or something on me. I didn’t feel completely comfortable with it since I barely knew him, but I was far too nice back then to say anything.
I lay on my back and he sat beside me. I closed my eyes, and I felt him trace something on my forehead. And all of a sudden, I just felt this rush of pure energy enter my body and completely envelop me. Suddenly I was no longer drained, depleted, scared, stressed, none of that. It was shocking because it was so intense, and so real. And I can honestly say there was no “placebo effect” going on there, because I had had no idea what to expect, and a part of me had been resisting. It was pretty cool.
So, to resume: the Gathering over, we all hitch hiked into Victoria, and there I put down some shallow, dubious roots for the winter. What a mess.
It turned out that the reason Peter never came to the Gathering was that the beach was Native land, and the tribe was not happy with the Gathering being held there, so he didn’t go, out of respect. I wish I had known that beforehand; I wouldn’t have gone either.
The first thing I saw upon arriving at “the park” or “the square,” which was the unofficial hub of hippies / punks / street kids / drug dealers there, was Crush Guy sitting in the grass with a cute French girl, who later turned out to be his FWB (friend with benefits.) I ran up to him all excited, and he played it all cool, and she got all jealous, then I got all jealous, then I found out that sleeping with her was kind of a rite of passage to become part of this group of us that hung out together that winter, so I was less jealous, but hurt because he didn’t want a relationship because he was a manwhore, but all my friends said he totally liked me, blah, blah, blah. Like I said, boring story. The only cool thing about that part of the story happened after he left to go home for the winter. This was around December I think, so we had all been hanging out for a couple months, and I had never stopped liking him. He was taking the Greyhound home to Calgary, and another friend, let’s call her Sapphire, and I went to see him off at the bus station.
Me being the hopeless romantic I was (am), I cried a little bit, which shocked his hardened manwhore heart, and then he left and we waved goodbye, and that was the end of that.
A few days later, Sapphire and I were having one of our deep conversations. She had recently gotten this new Tarot-type deck called The Oh Cards. They’re not like a traditional Tarot deck, but more like an oracle; there are actually two different decks that make up The Oh Cards. One is larger than the other, and it has a word, or a couple words, printed around the edges of the cards. These words are be things like “Childhood,” “Love,” “Fear,” words that spark something in you. The other deck is smaller, and is only pictures – seemingly random pictures. The smaller card fits inside the larger card, as you draw one of each together, and the way they are drawn has a pattern, something to teach you.
So Sapphire and I were talking about Crush Guy leaving and how I was kind of heartbroken, and she asked if I wanted to do a reading. I agreed, and the two cards that I pulled kind of blew my mind.
The smaller card, the picture card, was of a person standing waving goodbye (or hello), and of a bus in the background. The larger card, the one with the word(s) on it, read Letting Go.
I never did see Crush Guy again. I tried calling him a couple times in Calgary, but he never returned my calls. Looking back, I kind of shake my head at how I let myself fall so hard for someone who “didn’t do relationships.” Nowadays, I know not to waste my heart on people like him, because guys, generally, are really straightforward. When they just want sex, that’s all they want. Oxytocin just doesn’t do to them what it does to women.
The Dragon Dwellers kind of went their separate ways once we got to the city, but a few of them come back into the story a little later.
A note here about Sapphire. She was this beautiful, sensual, short, fiery mermaid creature from Quebec with a French temper and passion to match. I adored her and was scared of her all at the same time. She was my sister’s age so I looked up to her quite a bit. We met over a crow feather, and we are still in touch today. She comes into the story more later.
So it didn’t take long to get drawn into “the group,” which was just basically everyone who hung out together in “the park” or “the square.” I really didn’t even notice when I first got there (again with the naiveté), but everyone I met there either sold drugs, or did a lot of them. A lot of them just sold weed, which I still don’t really see as a “hardcore drug,” but to say that I was hanging out with sketchy people, whatever they were selling or doing, is a definite truism.
This is one of the hardest parts of the story to recount, the most disturbing in some ways, and the scariest. Looking back, I can’t honestly tell you how I got out of that time without being raped, murdered or chopped into little pieces in a ditch somewhere. I thank my spirit guides, my creature-teachers, my angels and my ancestors – certainly not my common sense or worldly wisdom. My “everyone is awesome and trustworthy!” beliefs were about to get me into trouble.
Like I have said, I knew that winter was fast approaching, and I would need to settle down somewhere for the duration. Up until that time, I had been basically going wherever the wind took me, trusting in “my path” to guide me to wherever I needed to be. I believed in some sketchy “everything that is happening is meant to happen” destiny, so when I landed in Vic and winter was on her way, I decided that it was meant to be, and so I made some plans to stay for awhile. That didn’t include much planning; it was basically, “I am going to stay here the winter, sleeping in the big park down the road, and just hanging out and doing what all my friends happen to be doing. . .which in that town meant panhandling and doing lots of drugs. I never got into the drugs. Panhandling, I’m ashamed to say, I got quite into. It appealed to my so-called Buddhist beliefs at the time, but the reality was, I was lost and confused and didn’t want to get a job because that meant I was a sell-out. So again, hiding my low self-esteem and confusion beneath the “spiritual” veneer.
I remember well my daily routine, or lack thereof. At the beginning of my stay there, I was closest with a guy named Mike and a French girl named Mary Eve (pronounced “ehve,” not like Eve.) The three of us were basically living together in our various camping spots throughout the park, and of course it was a love triangle. I liked Mike, but he liked Mary Eve, and she didn’t seem to like anyone, at least not at first. I think I trusted Mike and felt safe around him (which was weird because he was really untrustworthy), and since I was still a virgin at the time, trust was a big thing for me in someone I liked.
So we would go sleep in this huge park called Beacon Hill that was down the road from the downtown core area, a beautiful spot that ran right into the ocean. There were tons of tall stands of trees and places to hide a tent, which we did for quite a while. We would walk there after sunset, smoke a bunch of weed, talk for a while, and go to sleep. It never got cold enough to snow there, only rain, so as long as you had shelter and a sleeping bag and stayed dry, you were fine. In the morning (or afternoon) we would get up and wander downtown, and then panhandle for a couple hours. Mike and Mary Eve started selling weed, but I never did because if I got caught, then it would show up that I had a court date I had missed. Not to mention the fact that I am a horrible liar and always have been, and would get myself all worked up into a paranoid frenzy if I were a drug dealer. So I panhandled and ate from “the food van” that came to the small drug-dealer park once a day around 6:00 PM. They gave out free sandwiches and juice and hot chocolate, and you could take as much as you wanted. We had all learned the soup kitchens in the city, too. How awesome.
So that was my life. Yes, I had moments when I questioned what the hell I was doing, and if I was happy, which of course I wasn’t. But I was still holding onto the belief that I was meant to be there, and that it would all become clear at some point as to why. And of course I was happy! I didn’t need material things like a house, food, or showers to be happy! I wasn’t that shallow! I was way more enlightened than the masses. And maybe I actually would have been, if I truly had been happy living a simple day-to-day life with no material possessions. But I wasn’t. If that’s the life for you, then go live it, I say, and live it to the max. Don’t let anyone judge you for it. But it wasn’t what I really wanted.
When I would have enough money, I would take the ferry to the mainland and then hitch hike the two hour journey to see my sister in Whistler, and that was probably the only healthy thing I did in that time. Get away from that hole I had dug myself into in Victoria. She always let me stay with her, but our relationship was kind of strained during that time. She was living in a different log cabin in the woods with her best friend, a girl from New Zealand. There wasn’t a lot of room and they were doing their own thing, so I always kind of felt like a fifth wheel, awkward and uncomfortable, smelling like a street kid and all jangly with city-energy, and ever so lost and confused, looking to them for answers that only I could give myself. I never stayed very long, always finding some reason that it was totally my destiny to go back to the city.
My sister had a made friends (yes, just friends) with an older guy who owned a property north of Whistler. I still don’t know what he does for a living, but he was, and is, pretty well-off. He was always off in Vancouver doing business stuff, and he would pay my sister to take care of his two Bouviers des Flandres, two awesome dogs that I grew to love, his large, beautiful property with the mountain view, and his beautiful house. I would go up with her sometimes and help out, and, holy of holies, shower. A few times I went by myself, and it was sooooo good; probably one of the things that kept me sane. A safe, warm, dry house with running water that I could drink and shower under! And do laundry! And sleep in a bed! And not worry about being woken up by the cops in the morning! Holy crap! Of course I felt like a huge sellout and hated myself. I was supposed to be non-materialistic, enlightened and hardcore. But clearly I wasn’t, and now, I see that that’s an awesome thing! I had standards. I had self-respect. I wasn’t okay with living in the gutter.
The guy who owned the dogs and the land and the house was a really generous, good guy, if not a little crazy, but only in a minimal, neurotic way that was mostly from living alone for too long and was actually quite funny. Once I decided I was done with living in the gutter and had moved in with my sister, he bought me a really nice pair of good winter boots that cost over a hundred dollars, just because we lived in the woods and I needed them. He was that kind of guy. He had money, you needed something, he liked you, he got it for you. Simple. As a result of his big heart, he had been burned a fair few times, and for a lot of money by one person in particular, but it still didn’t stop him from being generous. A really good guy. He’s still friends with my sister, and we hung out with him at her wedding a few years ago.
So my winter was basically a lot of back-and-forthing, which I loved because staying in one place was totally anathema to me then. Every time I got sick of the city and needed to be in the quiet and the green, I would hop the ferry and hitch hike up to see my sister in the woods. Then I would miss my friends, and head back down.
I met tons of people that winter in the city, and called them all friends. Some were definitely not my friends, some were more like acquaintances, and a few are still my friends today, though we haven’t seen each other in a long time. Sapphire is one, Rhiannon is another. (Peter kind of faded out of my life. . .I just creeped him on facebook, and there he is. He wasn’t for a long time. I’m not sure if I want to know him now, since my definition of cool has changed a lot.)
I met Rhiannon one day that was just like any other day, and I think that neither of us had anything better to do than hang out. We had seen each other before, of course, because the whole group of everyone kind of moved in circles around one another, but we had never hung out. I was, in her mind, a flaky hippie (and I totally was, for the most part), and she was, in my mind, the really cool-looking, interesting, beautiful girl with the beautiful black Lab puppy. Tall, with beautiful black hair, greenish eyes, and an exotic face. So this one day she invited me down to the ocean to smoke a bowl, which I agreed to, because I was in my “I-have-to-start-liking-weed” phase.
To explain: everyone smoked weed out there. I mean everyone. And since I was now living there and wanting to become completely enveloped by that world, I, of course, had to smoke weed to. But I hated it. It was horrible. It made me paranoid and it made me think too much, which I already did anyway, so it made me think way too much. I would tell this to people, and their response was always the same: just smoke more, and that will all go away. So, for about six months, I was stoned. Every waking minute of the day, I was stoned. Literally. I was determined.
But after six months of being a dribbling, useless mess that could barely walk, let alone talk or function in any capacity, I quit. And I didn’t give a shit what anyone thought. And it felt awesome. I think since leaving “paradise” and coming back to reality, I’ve smoked weed maybe three or four times, and I did it because I wanted to prove to myself that I could control my thoughts while I was stoned, that I didn’t have to become a gibbled mess. And I learned that I can, but it’s hard. Once I proved it to myself, I stopped. I think it’s been at least five years since I last smoked.
No one knew what to do with me anymore. My lack of smoking was actually the centre of more conversations than I can count. It’s like it was actually really, really interesting and baffling to those people. They would try to convince me to smoke with them using every argument you can think of. They would try to analyze me to figure out why I wasn’t smoking. It actually got really annoying after a while, to the point that even now I hate being around people who are smoking. If you want to do it, go for it; just don’t try and push your lifestyle choices on me. Maybe it’s because I’m an HSP, but when I’m around someone who’s stoned, I immediately start to get contact high, and I don’t like the feeling. And I don’t let anyone into my home who’s stoned or high. It upsets my balance, and my cats’ balance too.
I really believe that smoking weed is kind of like getting a tattoo (at least in some circles): all the cool people are doing it, you know. You have to do it. A little while ago my boyfriend and I were talking about tattoos (I have five, he has none), and he told me that once his brother (who has lots) told him that he has to get one. That really kind of pissed me off for my boyfriend’s sake. I mean, who says you have to get a tattoo? Because they’re cool? The point of a tattoo is that means something to you, something that you will honour for the rest of your life. Period. And if someone chooses not to do that, who is anyone to tell them that’s wrong? And who says you have to smoke weed? Is it just that same old truth that when one person quits something, it threatens the people who are still stuck in their addiction? But the universal argument of potheads everywhere is that weed isn’t physically addictive, only psychologically. Anyway, done rant.
So back to meeting Rhiannon. We went down to the ocean, sat, and smoked. And for two hours, we had the most amazing conversation. It just flowed out of us, beautiful and natural and true. At the end we kind of looked at each other, and it was like we were seeing each other for the first time. From that moment on, a beautiful friendship started growing. We had a million more awesome conversations like that first one, we laughed and were silly and shared spiritual ideas and thoughts and experiences, and she was totally there for me and I for her.
Obviously no friendship is perfect, and one thing I noticed that was sort of a bridge that I, at least, had trouble crossing, was the difference in our childhoods. She didn’t talk about hers much, but from what she said, I gathered she had been through some really rough times. There was an anger there, and a darkness, both deep. Her mom lived in Victoria, yet Rhiannon was living on the streets like the rest of us. I never asked her why, but obviously they didn’t have the best relationship. Sometimes she would go home to her mom’s and try to make it work, but she inevitably ended up back on the streets.
From the time I met her, Rhiannon had a mad crush on this guy named Bob (fake name), and it was fairly obvious he liked her too. At one point during the winter I took her up to Whistler (a big deal; I wouldn’t take just anyone to my haven) to hang out for a few days, and we were in a cabin of our own at that point. We smoked a lot of weed and talked endlessly about her crush and mine (I was still pining for Best Friend Guy at that point). Basically, we were being girls, and it was fun.
Once we were back in the city, she and Bob got together, and I was stoked for her, since she’d liked him for so long, and he really seemed to treat her well, and they seemed happy.
At first our friendship remained really solid. I remember this one day when I was sitting with her and Bob downtown, with my didgeridoo resting on the bench beside me. (For those of you who don’t know, a didgeridoo is a wind instrument that originated in Australia with the Aborigines. It’s generally long, almost as long as a person, and looks like a pipe, straight, with no holes or anything in it. You purse your lips in a certain way and blow into it – it’s called circular breathing if you can do it right – and it makes a really cool, deep sound that can be sustained for as long as you want. There is some disagreement as to whether women should play the didgeridoo, as in traditional Aborigine ceremony, it is only men who play; I wouldn’t play one now.) So a guy in town had made me one of bamboo, and I didn’t let just anyone play it, since it was special to me, my instrument. Anyway, this guy who was generally a creep came wandering up to us, and Rhiannon and I were talking and laughing together, so I didn’t even notice him pick up my instrument and start playing it. When I heard it, I glanced over and saw him staring at me with this nasty smirk on his face, daring me to do something about it.
This is one of those moments I’m embarrassed of now that I look back, but at least I tried to stop him. I asked him politely to stop and put it down, and he replied by shooting a string of swears and insults at me, and then he kept playing. I took a deep breath and asked Bob if he would help me out; he told me to just let him play it. In other words, he didn’t think it was worth getting into a fight with this idiot over it. So I, in all my dignity and maturity, tried to wrestle it out of his grasp, which obviously didn’t work, since I’m a tiny girl and he was a big smelly dumb guy. So I sat back down on the bench and stared straight ahead, angry and hurt, while he kept playing it until he felt he had made his point. Then he put it down, gave me one last dirty look, and walked away.
I started to cry, and Rhiannon covered my face with kisses and we went for food at this amazing vegetarian restaurant down the street. She always had money, since she sold weed.
So our friendship was awesome, but gradually I noticed she was distancing herself from me more and more. At first I think I thought it was because she was really in love, and it was kind of natural for her to start spending more time with her boyfriend than with me. But over time, I started to notice that something was definitely wrong, because every time I asked her if she wanted to go hang out, she would reply with, “I have to go sell.” She and Bob were inseparable then, always selling together, always together, always selling.
I decided I needed a break from it all, and went to see my sister. While I was there, we stopped in at the library, and I had resolved to ask Rhiannon what was up. I sent her an email telling her I was hurt, asking what was wrong. And her reply was not what I had expected.
Me in all my shelteredness, had expected her to say she was just really in love, or mad at me, or something, but instead, she told me that she and Bob had started doing heroin. Suddenly, it all started to make sense. She was addicted, so she had to sell enough to make enough to keep doing more and more. I can’t even say how I felt. Shocked. Hurt. Scared. Confused.
I told my sister, and that night I decided I had to go back to the city. Quite frankly, I think she was glad I was leaving at that point; I was a pretty big mess at that point in my life, really a draining person, and I know that I smelled. I had to show Rhiannon I was there for her, that we were a team and we would work it out. What I don’t think occurred to me in that moment was that maybe she didn’t want to quit and get better. That maybe me riding up on my white horse to save her wasn’t what she wanted. I couldn’t wrap my head around that.
When I got back to town I kept trying to get her to hang out with me so we could talk, but I kept getting the same answer: “I need to go sell.” I remember one of the last times I saw her, right around when I gave up. She was sitting beside Bob in front of this coffee shop, Blenz, on Douglas Street, the main road in Victoria. He was nodding off with his head on her shoulder, and I remember thinking she looked like a little girl and his mother, all at once. Then I walked away.
It took a while, but Rhiannon ended up quitting heroin with huge strength, and we figured things out and became friends again after a couple attempts, though we’re not as close as we once were. Having seen and heard how this drug and others like it have destroyed other people I knew back then, I’d say it’s pretty awesome that she did it. I’m pretty sure she’s made peace with her mom, too.
So while all that was going on, I was busy making some very bad choices in regards to the company I kept. I remember this one night in particular, I somehow ended up hanging out (alone) with this guy who sold hash and was a special breed of creepy. So somehow we ended up alone together after everyone had retired to their various sleeping spots, and he and I were sitting on a step somewhere on Douglas around two in the morning. I was still a virgin at this point, and I really had no idea how sex and everything related to it “worked.” I suppose, in my gormlessness, I had given him the message I was attracted to him, because he started sucking on my ear, which was just more weird than anything. We ended up taking a long walk to Beacon Hill Park where my friends Mike and Mary Eve were sleeping, and I remember as we were walking along in the darkness thinking, Wow, he could totally rape me right now, and there’s nothing I could do about it, and no one to hear me scream. Luckily he didn’t, and we made it to our sleeping spot, where I promptly laid out my sleeping bag and he sat there staring at me for half an hour, talking about some weird spiritual stuff and being generally creepy, which I tried to ignore and pretended to fall asleep. In the morning he was gone, and once again, I was lucky. . .not smart. Lucky.
There was this other guy that I remember thinking was this really cool person, and it turned out later he was a pimp. And yet another guy who I also thought was awesome, and he turned out to be a cokehead. What can I say?
Something interesting that has stuck with me, however, is the way that the group of street kids interacted. As I mentioned before, the majority of them sold weed and what-have-you, which is what you would expect. What you might not expect, though, is the fact that, among themselves, with no “higher authority” present, these “street punks” were actually extremely ethical, caring and honest (for the most part).
For example, most of the people who sold weed worked in pairs, and what really surprised me when I first got there is that they would actually take shifts that were agreed upon prior to their start. That way, everybody made some money each day.
I remember this one night that I met up with this girl named Lucy (in the sky with diamonds). She was all leather army boots, metal studs, piercings and black. . .and I was all decked out in my hippie gear. She was actually a really funny person. I had had a bad day and hadn’t eaten, and I sat down beside her on the street well after dark to bitch about how horrible my life was. Yeah. Anyway, when I told her I hadn’t eaten, she reached into her hat, which she had been panhandling with, and handed me enough money to get a burger at McDicks. This was a girl who did drugs and probably could have used that money for a number of other things. . .but she gave it to me because I was hungry.
Kind of makes you think about some of the well-off people you might know. Would they do the same for you?
So this part of the story has been mostly shitty to write. A lot of sad, scary and ugly things happened while I was there. I had always believed that most people were good and decent and trustworthy; living there proved me wrong. There are a lot of really messed up people in the world, and they’re not always where you expect them to be (more on that later.)
I think I’ve really compartmentalized this time in my life in my head, because it was so dark and hopeless. And I can’t say that writing this all out has been healthy. But I hope it has been.
I need to go kiss my cats now.