Carl

Toronto is where I grew up. Can you guess how old I was when I owned my first car? 14. I found my grandfather dead from suicide when I was 16. That was pretty messed up. Shortly after that, I ran away from home. I’m writing to you from the hospital now, recovering from an overdose. Everybody thought I was a goner. The doctors told my parents that I wouldn’t live, and if I did, I’d be a vegetable. But here I am, still alive.

I’m living in Vancouver now. A few months ago, I found out I’m going to be a father. Being a Dad is a big responsibility—I know I need to clean up my act, quit with the drinking and the drugs. I know somebody who’s got a cabin out in the woods. I spent the last week holed up out there and quit, cold turkey. I threw up for days. I’ve never felt so awful in my life, but I got clean.  

I’m sorry it’s been so long since I last wrote. I’ve been all over the country. I’ve worked lots of jobs, met lots of women, and had a couple kids. I’ve been through some pretty rough times along the way. I’ve got so many stories…people are telling me I should write a book. The past few years I’ve spent living and working in Toronto. I’ve been all over the place but this is the place where I can walk a few blocks and run into somebody I know. I actually just got a promotion at work. It’s been hard recently, and the stress is getting to me. I might have to quit my job. And then it’s onto the next thing.

I got into some trouble recently, so I’ll be writing to you from prison for the next few months. That’s if I don’t get whacked while I’m here. I don’t really want to go into details, but prison is not a nice place. It’s not the first time I’ve spent time in an institution. When I was younger, they sent me up to some place Kingston. One guy, he was there for murdering his wife. He used to come in and try to strangle me in my sleep. When you misbehaved, they’d strap you onto a stretcher and leave you there far days, sitting in your own urine and feces until they thought you had calmed down.

I’m living on the streets in Montreal. I was spending the night outside last week, and my feet were totally frozen. I had to go to the hospital. They thawed them out, then sent me back out again without my coat and with my feet wrapped in plastic bags. The cops here are better. Sometimes, when I’m lost, they’ll pick me up, drive me to a donut shop, and give me a toonie. I hate when I go into the hospital, and not just in Montreal. When people see my charts, they see schizophrenia, bipolar, alcoholic. I don’t like being treated like that. Whether I’m living on the streets or not, whether I’m schizophrenic or not, I deserve the same treatment as everybody else.

I was on the streets when I first came to Kitchener. With help from my son I got housed (in his townhouse) and got on meds. I’m sober now. The townhouse is gone, but I’m still housed. I’m great at talking to people and making friends, but my health means I don’t get out of my apartment much, and it gets lonely. To help with the aloneness in my apartment I like to listen to the radio and sing to myself. I also have a cat named Sprinkles that keeps me company. I like that in Kitchener, I’m close to my son and his daughter. My granddaughter is wonderful, and I love her very much. I take a cab to go and visit them most Sundays, although she doesn’t have much time for me—she spends most of her time on the computer. I’m saving up to get her something nice for her birthday.

I’m worried about the future. I never planned to live this long, with all the drinking and the fighting and the motorcycle riding. My health isn’t what it used to be. I’ve already had one heart attack and I have an old back injury from falling off a roof. I have appointments all the time. I can’t clean the house or go for a walk without my heart acting up. Lately, just getting out of bed has been a challenge. And my thoughts get mixed up sometimes. It takes me longer to think of something than it used to or I’ll forget what I’m talking about. I think my caregivers and my family want to put me into a home. I watched my mother get old and die in a home. By the end, she wasn’t herself at all and didn’t know what was happening around her. I’d rather kill myself than go like that. What I really need is a change of pace. If I had the money, I’d like to go on vacation—Europe or down south somewhere. Maybe to Cuba to see the old cars. If I can’t have a holiday, at least maybe I could go into treatment again. I’d have a rest, talk with some people, meet with a psychiatrist. It’d be a lot easier and better when I come back home.