Each life story is composed of a series of introductions, leading to some kind of relationship. While some relationships are fleeting, some just knowing and shared glances, every one of them plays an important part in moulding who we are. Each person we meet carries a story within his/her/them-self, which weaves within our own, provoking thought and growth, reaction and emotion.
Location, Location, Location
I met Steve on the trail that followed beside the river, tucking underneath the highway half-way along.
I was marching, eager to break a sweat and meet my daily step-count goal, and started to watch him. He was walking slowly in front of me, stopping every few steps, looking down; I couldn’t see what he was doing. I took my phone from my pocket and held it in my hand, fiddling with it to appear busy. But as I met up to him, and attempted to pass wide to the other side of the trail, I couldn’t not say a “hi” … as per trail etiquette.
And that’s when we got-to-talking. I tapped my ear pods to turn them off and he immediately launched into a vivid description of his “new place,” his plans for expanding the build, how he had picked the perfect location, with some unsolicited help from a police officer, and the problems he was having with his neighbours.
He shifted thread, without warning, starting to detail his walk and the garbage he was picking up as he went.
“It’s gotten so bad since Covid, there’s never been so much garbage: Tim’s cups, wrappers. Everything. No one seems to care.”
I agreed. He was carrying two faded plastic shopping bags, wrinkled as though they had long been twisted and shoved into a pocket. He carried one bag in each hand, the handles of one balanced behind his knuckles and a half-eaten Mars bar.
“It’s everywhere,” he says, “I go along, starting at the bridge and head to the park. Today I started at the bridge and then I’ll go through the park and then downtown to pick up a chocolate milk at the store on the corner.”
He suddenly realized he hadn’t introduced himself and, shifting one bag into his other hand, he thrust his now free hand forward, “I’m Steve,” he says.
“Brenda,” I reply, offering my own hand to his, surprised by the strength of his firm grip – it’s an intense grip that would win him any job.
“Nice to meet you. I live just over there, by the bridge. Did you see it when you came by? You can just see it.”
I nod. I had noticed it to the side of the trail, nestled within the tall weeds, the river passing close by and the highway bridge towering over it, the traffic rumbling into white noise.
“I really wanted to build on the island, the other side of the bridge. I started to pull some of my stuff up top the bridge and was about to throw in to the island on the other side and wouldn’t you know it but a cop pulled up and asked what was I doing. I told him my plans for the island. He looked over the side, indicated my original location and asked if that was me there. I said yes. He told me to leave the island plan and stay put on the other side. Now I’m building there, you saw it right? ” The details of his home building plans rushed from him in just one breath.
I again nod to indicate I had seen the home he was speaking of.
“I’m staying where he told me to … no one can say anything if a cop told me stay put. It’s the blue tent. I’ve got two chairs. You can stop by some time.”
“I’ve got two chairs, so you can stop and visit. I’m going to put in a fireplace, my friend is getting me some bricks from some guy he knows. I fall asleep in the chair sometimes. There will be a fireplace and I’m getting some wood too, I’ll have some walls and maybe a roof. I’m going to build myself a place.”
“Only problem is, I fell asleep once and wouldn’t you know it but someone stole my chocolate milk. I woke up, wanted it, looked around and couldn’t find it anywhere. And then, you know what?”
I shook my head no.
“I saw him. A racoon, he took it. Didn’t know he would like chocolate milk. Can you figure that? He took my chocolate milk. But I have two chairs and if you’re walking by … do you walk here a lot?
“You can stop by, if I’m there; you can visit if you want.”
“It’s by the bridge – you probably saw it when you walked by.”
“Ok. I’m going to get going now. The mosquitos are biting like crazy.” I’d been slapping at my bare ankles and trying not to scratch. He was unbothered by them.
“Sure. Nice to meet you Brenda. My name is Steve. I’m heading to the park, I’ll have two full bags by the time I get there, the garbage is so bad now, no one seems to care anymore. Stop by and visit any time. Maybe I’ll have some chocolate milk.”
We walked our separate ways: him to the park to continue with his yard clean up and me back towards my care to complete my step count.