Chapter 3: Alone
You’re gone. Where did you go? I went to sleep in my bed and you were asleep in yours. I woke up and you were gone. I asked the lady where you went. She just said “Tsk. Tsk. She had to go home.”
Home? How come you got to go home and I didn’t? Was it because I let the big men into the apartment? Was it because I peed the bed too much? Why?
I go upstairs to have breakfast with this Foster family. Not my family. Just a family. I sit at the table and without thinking, I start sucking on my bottom lip. I do that when I don’t know what is going to happen to me. It soothes me, makes me feel better. “Stop doing that!” the lady says. I look up at her and stop. I don’t say anything. I never say anything. I don’t talk. I listen and do what I am told. I obey. Because that is what a good girl does and I want to go home. So I stay quiet and try to be obedient.
Days, weeks go by. I miss you. I want you beside me. I want to sleep with you. I don’t care if you pee the bed. I don’t care that sometimes you cry for no reason. I miss you. The Foster family tries to make me feel like one of them. I know I’m not one of them. I am me. I am us. I am alone. I miss you so much I cry at night, but not loudly. I just let tears fall silently and hold Darlene. How come you didn’t take Darlene with you? Did you leave her for me?
My sister. What did I do that was so bad that you got to go home and I didn’t? We need each other to survive. I need you and I know you need me. I feel only half way. Only half of me is here with this Foster family. I feel like I will tip over any second. I need you.
The family is getting ready for Easter. I wonder why everyone is so giggly and happy. What is Easter? Why is everyone so excited? They keep talking about the egg hunt. What is an egg hunt? You buy eggs. You don’t hunt them. I don’t understand. I am confused.
I wake up and the Foster brother and sister come and jump on my bed. “Get up! It’s time for the egg hunt!” I look at them confused and follow them up the stairs to the dining room. Breakfast is already waiting for us. Pancakes! Remember pancakes? Wow, what a treat! With lots of butter and syrup they are delicious! I am so full, I can’t move.
“Now?” the brother and sister ask.
The lady smiles and says happily “YES!”
“Yay!” say the brother and sister.
I sit at the table and start sucking on my lip. What is going on? Do I need a gun? I’m too little for that. A knife? I’m not allowed to touch those. What am I supposed to be hunting? The lady looks at me and her smile fades. She sits beside me.
“Darling why aren’t you hunting for eggs like brother and sister?”
I look up at her and tell her, “I don’t know how to hunt eggs.” I pick up my fork and hold it up. “Can I use this?” The lady laughs and looks down at me with kind eyes.
“Oh sweetie. Last night me and dad hid a whole bunch of chocolate eggs all over the house. The one who comes back with the most eggs gets the prize! You just have to look for them darling. Go! Don’t let brother and sister beat you!”
A huge smile comes across my face. I can’t remember the last time I smiled like that. Chocolate! I drop the fork with a clatter on my plate and grab the little basket she hands me and off I go. I looked under every nook and cranny of that house and found a total of 52 eggs! I can’t even count that high but the lady says that’s how many I found. Brother got 51 and sister got 50. I win the prize! The prize is a beautiful, colourfully decorated giant chocolate egg! It will take me a month to eat that!
And then I remember. If you were here with me it would take us half the time, I know you love chocolate too. With every bite of that big egg I think of you. I miss you, and again… I cry.
Chapter 4: Pride
I feel the house start to tremble. We live on the second floor of a duplex now and we can REALLY feel it when planes fly over, trains pass by, cars speed past, when a butterfly sits on the window ledge… We feel it all.
I take a bite of my stale toast, wishing I had jam to flavour it with. I sip my bitter tea, also wishing that I had sugar or even canned milk to put in it, but there’s none left. Nothing.
All the donuts and stale sweets that I got at the Harbour Lights the night before were all eaten up. I kick myself for not having put some away in my room before I let everyone else at them. But it is what it is, life.
I place my cup back down on the plaid plastic tablecloth and watch my cup of tea slowly pass one square, two squares… It’s a little a game I play every morning before school. How far will my tea go before the train passes by?
I chew my toast and watch. Then I hear it, the train’s whistle. It always calls out before it slows down by our house. That means it’s about 8:30. I grab my cup that is teetering on the edge of the table and take my last sip. Put my cup and saucer into the sink and slip into the bathroom. Brush my teeth, ponytail my hair and I’m gone. Last day of school, yay! Good-bye to Grade 7!
I know I passed my year, I always do! Not bad for someone who “only passes ‘cause you too big to stay in that grade”. Pfft. I always pass with high grades. ALWAYS!
I have no life and very few friends. The downstairs neighbour is my only friend and she doesn’t go to my school. But I’m not lonely. I go to school, do my work and remain invisible. I’ve become very good at being invisible… I…am…Ninjun! (Ninja+Injun) LOL. But yeah, I try.
It is the last day of school. I only have to write my Math Exam and I am out! So I do. I go to school. Check in for one last time in homeroom, clean out my locker and go to my exam.
My exam teacher is a 5 foot nothing sharp featured little mean man. He has grey hair, blue eyes and wears tweed…EVERY DAY. I take my exam. I finish and hand it in.
He looks at me and says, “Come see me before you leave.”
I say “Okay,” and go on my merry way. There are activities going on, but they cost money. You have to buy tickets if you want to have a hotdog, burger or join in the fun. I don’t have money. I never do.
It’s about 1 pm and I go back to my old math class. I ask the teacher what’s wrong, “Did I do something?”
“Am I failing?”
“No.” Then he asks, “Are you joining in with the other students for the barbecue?”
“No,” I say. “I just want to go home.”
He looks at me with his steely blue eyes. I should say UP at me with his steely blue eyes, he was that short.
I look at him and tell him straight out, I don’t have tickets to buy food. I want to go home. And with that I spin around and start walking out of the classroom.
Imagine my surprise as I feel my pony tail being pulled, yanking me back into the classroom. I turn around ready to fight the goddamn ice midget and he holds up his hands.
“Wait!” he says.
He reaches into his pocket, pulls out four tickets and shoves them in my hands. “Go EAT!”
I am embarrassed. I am ashamed.
Fuck You Ice Midget. Fuck you for knowing I am hungry half the time. Fuck you for knowing I spend my lunch hours sitting in the field doing homework until the bell rings. FUCK YOU! But I take the tickets.
I say nothing and nod at him and he waves me away. I go to the centre of the school, where it seems like the entire student body is hanging out, tickets in my hand.
I watch them through the window, look at the smoke rising from the barbecue and my stomach growls. I take the tickets and without looking down at them, still watching the rest of the students laughing and eating and having a good time, I rip them into little pieces.
I go home, hungry.
Chapter 5: Good Times…
The nurse takes my vitals, gives me my supper and leaves. I sit in my bed and wonder, “How am I gonna’ get out of here?"
I look over at my hospital roommate. She looks like she weighs 80 lbs and she is my age. 20. Her supper tray is has a mountain of food on it and I feel envious.
I’m not here because I ate too little, I’m here because I stupidly reached out to the authorities and expressed that I was ready to die. I am on suicide watch.
For fuck’s sake, I don’t have time for this shit. I gotta’ go home, I gotta get out of here. But… here I am. Apparently I’m here for at least a few days.
The doctor asks, “Do you still feel like hurting yourself?”I say no.
“Do you still feel like ending it all?” I say no.
The doctor looks at me skeptically and says, “Take the time here to remember all the good things in your life. I will check in with you tomorrow.” And with that he scribbles something in my file and leaves.
So here I am, stuck in the mental ward at the hospital with an anorexic roommate.
There is a pyromaniac too… He scares me ‘cause I smoke and he asked for my matches. He told me the staff won’t let him have any. Well shit, I ain’t gonna’ let him have any either. Mama didn’t raise no fool. Or did she?
I do what the doctor told me to do - think of the good times.
Good time #1: I was about 8 or 9, and a total cartoon freak. Mom left me with some friends of hers so she could work at a truck stop doing cooking and housekeeping. I was outside in the front yard, and saw one of those hard-looking metal and wooden rakes…. I tentatively pushed the edge of the rake with my foot and remembered a cartoon where the bad guy stepped on the rake and it knocked him out.
I thought to myself, no way. No way can that happen. I slammed hard with my foot on that rake and… YUP, slammed my face with the wooden end. I saw stars. I almost passed out! I looked around real quick to see if anybody else saw my stupidity. Nope… I sat down and waited for the dizziness to pass. Yup, rakes kill.
Good time #2: A time where I realized my imagination had no boundaries. Again, I was about 8 years old. I had no friends to play with but the city decided to dig up the field behind our apartment and left what seemed like a hundred mounds of dirt. In my eyes they looked like mountains to be conquered.
One day, a telephone repair guy pulled into our parking lot and went to the building next door. I was nosy. I looked in the back of his truck, found a rotary wall phone, stole it and promptly “installed” it into one of the “mountains”.
I was playing secret agent and jumping from mound to mound “looking” for the secret phone. All of a sudden the phone guy appears.
“Hey you!” he shouts at me.
I go up to him. “Yup?”
“ I had a phone in the back here, what happened to it?” he asks.
I stare at him with the most innocent look.
“I dunno,” I say.
“You’re the only one out here. Who took it?”
“I dunno,” I say.
“What are you doing here anyways?” he asks, looking around at my mountains.
“Playing hide-and-seek,” I tell him.
“With who?” he asks, looking down at me.
“With my friends.”
“Well where are they?”
He looks at me and I look right back at him square in the eyes and wave my arm at the mountains, trying hard not to roll my eyes.
“Uhhh…they’re hiding!” I say sarcastically.
The poor guy had no response. But in all fairness, I did return the phone… blamed it on “my friends” and it all ended well. I know he knew I was lying but I bet he’s telling this same story to his friends and family just like I am now.
Back to the hospital: Yeah… life ain’t so bad.
Sonya was born in northern Manitoba, where she spent most of her childhood. As a teenager she moved to Winnipeg and lived under the care of the Children’s Aid Society until she turned 18. Sonya has three children who are now fully grown. Social work is her chosen career path and she is currently dedicated to employment assistance for First Nations in northwestern Ontario.