Shortly after I moved to Victoria, I met a sweet young gal and her male friend one afternoon out by the dumpster. They had two shopping carts that carried all of their personal belongings. I asked what they most hoped to find when sorting through the dumpster. The man said most anything, that he had more now than he has ever had. He was just happy sorting through and gathering treasures. They mentioned a camp that they had set up somewhere that was home for them.
I asked the gal what she hoped to find. She looked at me and started to cry. She wanted a home, a roof over her head. She wanted money. She wanted to be normal. She was tired of surviving and this lifestyle was taking its tole on her. She was young, so young, and vulnerable. I could feel her heart break. It was palpable and the tears were flowing.
I shared the story of losing my Steve’O to fentanyl poisoning on December 1st, 2018. I wanted them to be careful. I could sense just how vulnerable they were, especially her. I wondered if they had ever seen Steven about town on one of his many walk abouts. I wanted to somehow connect with my boy, always hopeful that someone would recognize him. I wanted to hear someone tell me how much he was loved and how happy he made them feel. I wanted a connection that I missed so deeply. I hoped that I might find it with others who were struggling. Perhaps I could connect with a part of them that would allow me to feel that presence just one more time.
I showed the young gal a photo of my Steve’O. She started to cry again. She recognized him from his walks about town. She said that she was afraid, that she had lost so many friends to this epidemic. She was having a difficult time talking through her tears. I asked them both to please take care of themselves and to be careful.
This was a few months ago and I hadn’t seen them since. I was afraid that they had fallen prey to the crisis. I kept a look out for them, but they never returned.
Last night I went out with my bag of garbage for the dumpster. My heart filled with happiness when I saw the young gal beside the dumpster. I was so grateful to see her. She started to cry as soon as she saw me. I asked if she remembered me. I said my name is Lynn. She said yes, my name is Carley. I gave her a hug and asked how she was doing.
She said that her male companion had beaten her and completely taken advantage of her so she had to leave him. She was now on her own. He had picked up someone 6 years younger than her. She was 26, he was 43. His new “girlfriend” was 20. She said he’s screwing her now and will beat her up too. The tears were flowing heavily.
Carley was picking through a garbage bag and talking to me at the same time. “This is what I have to do now to eat, hope that I can find a few can’s so I can buy some food.” She said that she had shelter somewhere but it was a scary place for her to stay. She didn’t get much sleep. She was always sad.
All I could offer her was hugs and to tell her how sorry I was that life was so difficult. That it wasn’t fair. She deserved a good life. We all deserve a good life. I was really happy to see her.
She said she wanted to be a lawyer. She had found some law books awhile back that someone had tossed out. She read them all. She really wanted to do something with her life. She was smart and determined.
She had set aside a box of magazines that someone had tossed out. They were for her favourite thrift store. She hated to see them go to waste. She cared about waste. She was the by-product of waste. Disposable.
As best as I could I encouraged Carley and let her know just how strong and resilient she has been to make it this far. She has the determination in her to keep going and to make her dreams come true. Please don’t ever give up. I asked if she was able to get any support from the government. She said no, I don’t qualify for any help because I’m white, not addicted to opioids and I don’t have any children. There’s no place for me to go for help. I’m on my own.
Carley told me that she had been addicted to heroin at 18 and managed to quit on her own, had relapsed once but got back on track. Has been struggling to get back on her feet since then. She really wants to do something with her life.
About this point a man walked past and whistled at her. I was embarrassed and frustrated for her. This poor young gal digging through the garbage and some gross old man whistles at her because she is dressed in shorts and fishnet stalkings. She’s got a “punk” flair about her. Very sweet and innocent. She burst into tears again. More hugs.
It was all I could do to leave her there. I brought her down a cloth bag to collect the cans in and gave her more hugs and another pep talk. I told Carley that I loved her and that she deserves a good life.
Please don’t give up. You can do this.
You will make it Carley. Your dreams will come true. You have what it takes. You are strong. You are resilient. Take good care of yourself and your dreams. You matter more than you will ever know.