It sometimes takes years to build enough trust for some of our street friends to talk to us about their lives. Red is thirty-six and we have spoken fairly regularly over the past eight years.
Most of our conversations revolve around things that are of concern to Red. He is preoccupied with the spiritual world and speaks of his battles with demons, and even the devil himself. Wisps of hair from his bangs fall down over one eye, both eyes glisten and he speaks of the devil coming at him with a gun, but he is stronger and uses his own power to beat him up. That would be God’s power in him. His world is complex and difficult. He stays at the local shelter mostly, but has taken to the streets when that doesn’t work out. He suffers from schizophrenia and his endless conversations with the voices that are inside his head lead to sustained self-medication.
This week we had opportunity to talk once again over coffee. There were the usual demonic and satanic battles that he was waging, with strong testimony that he will not be overcome. Then his tone changed.
He told me that one of the staff at the shelter want to talk to his mother who lives in the Maritimes. He refused to allow this because, well, what would she tell her? He said his parents know he is on ‘skid row’ and he doesn’t want to bother them about his own problems. He told me his dad is a retired firefighter and he has a brother four years older than he.
We spoke quietly about his family relationships and about his drug use. He has seen it all on the streets, the back alleys and everywhere in between. The people at the shelter remind him to take his meds, which are working quite well for him at this time. In fact, he hasn’t taken any pills (street drugs) for four days.
Red doesn’t stay in any one place for any lengthy period of time. He was on his fourth coffee, downed it and said it was time to go. On his way out the door I wished him a good weekend, and hoped that when I saw him the next time he would be able to say he hadn’t taken any pills now for seven days! He smiled and agreed.
Seven years. I found out more about Red in the forty minutes we spoke together this day, than I have in seven years. We can build on this. We can talk more, and maybe… well, anything could happen.