Wednesday, July 13, 2005

What's his story?

I sometimes make up stories about the strangers I see in my every day life. Maybe the couple driving in the car in front of me is arguing about when he's going to propose to her. Maybe the lady in her mid-50s in the leopard-print mini-skirt and teased hair really isn't looking for some young arm candy, but is on her way to a masquerade party. Maybe that young teenager is really part of the CIA, and is 35 years old. (hey, it worked for 21 Jump Street, right?)

Yesterday, I did the same thing with a guy I saw at the fast food joint I frequent every once in a while. I heard him before I saw him. I heard his conversation: "See, if you look right here, you'll notice where it's wrong ..." I looked over and saw him circling something on a piece of paper, covered with handwritten notes.

I sat down at my table, facing him. I could still hear him talking, pausing when the other person spoke, and then continuing the conversation. Since he was alone at his table, I assumed he was on the phone. He wasn't. He was just having a conversation with someone he could clearly see at the table. He wasn't just making rambling grumbling noices that I've heard from other homeless people I've encountered in my life. He was having what seemed like an intelligent conversation.

I waited as my friends, Em and Shannon, made their way to the table. I saw Shannon glance over at the guy as she heard his conversation. Emily then did the same. We started talking about how strange it was ... and how something like schizophrenia could really impact your life, making it hard to get a job to earn money, and to end up homeless like this guy. He had his grungy backpack, stuffed with everything he owned, except for the folder that he had on the table, filled with documents and pages and pages of writing.

Then he did something that made my stomach drop. He looked down at the seat beside him, his eyebrows raised in delight, and he clapped as he said, "Good job, good job!" It reminded me of what I do with my own little girl.

And then I realized that he was probably talking to his family. While I don't know if this family was something he just fabricated in his mind, my story is that he once had a family but doesn't anymore. It could have been a tragic accident. It could have been a messy divorce. Either way, his loss caused him to lose his mind, and to live in a world that only he could see.

He finished eating his lunch, got a napkin and wiped down the table and the chairs, grabbed his things and headed out, still in mid conversation. We saw him later, walking by the Walgreen's. Em said she's seen him on the corner sometimes, passively begging for money. At least I know he's really needy.

It just made me stop and thing about how close we all are to being that guy. It could just take a moment for something tragic to happen, to send us spiralling down in dispair. It just makes me grateful to have the life that I do, my real family, and the ability to use my brain to its fullest potential (something I should do more of!).

This guy's story, while seemingly sad, actually has a happy ending. Not one where he finds a job, earns money, and gets a home in the suburbs. But on in which he lives his days surrounded by the people he loves, holding meaningful conversations, and living his days at peace with himself.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The joy of brain freeze

Today, on the 40th birthday of the Slurpee, we decided to take a little stroll down to the local 7-Eleven to get a free frozen treat. It took me back to 5th grade, when I'd make the trek the two blocks to the 7-Eleven to get a Coke Slurpee (mixed with just a touch of cherry), and a Jolly Rancher watermelon stick.

This evening, when we entered the 7-Eleven, the scene was quite a bit different than those olden days. For one, there are many more flavours (I'm not sure why I just added a 'u' ... just felt like adding a bit of pizzazz for Slurpee's big day) than just Coke and Cherry. There's also Orange Creme, Wild Cherry (really, what is the difference between Cherry and Wild Cherry? Just more pizzazz?), Gully Washer (I think it's some sort of grape), Diet Pepsi, and Watermelon.

Boogie chose watermelon. My husband chose Cherry with just a touch of Coke. I decided to try the Diet Pepsi version ... not bad if I do say so myself. We took the little "free Slurpee" cups, not much more than a dixie cup, really, but to be honest it was just enough. None of that, "Oh why did I just drink that entire thing?" or "Oh my god, my head is killing me," comments after those tiny things. Just a cool refreshing jolt that was much needed after a long day.

The best part was listening to Boogie rave about her watermelon Slurpee all the way home. "THIS ... IS SO ... GOOD ... MAN!" I'm not sure where she's gotten the "man" part, but it's part of her new vocabulary lately. We walked home, just like I used to do when I was in 5th grade ... walking on the curb, pretending it was a balance beam, skipping and hopping, and hiding behind trees trying to scare each other.

I think it can honestly be said that Slurpees are the essence of summer.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Mean girls ... the toddler sequel

It's happening already. You know, that weird thing that girls have to be as cruel and mean to each other as possible. The way that a girl can't just be mad at a person; she has to get a whole gang of people to be mad at that person as well. The way that girls can just not like another girl, just because.

It's happening already to little Boogie, and she's only three years old. It started a few weeks ago, when she'd been in preschool for all of four days. During naptime, a girl named Sophia told Boogie that she didn't like her, and moved her cot away from her. When Boogie told me this story, she kept talking about "Nice Sophie and mean Sophie." I thought she was talking about herself, how she's nice sometimes and mean sometimes. So I told her that we didn't like mean Sophie, and she agreed. Later, my husband told me that she was talking about the girl in her class. The great thing is that she told my husband about it first, and he just told her to say, "That's OK, I'll go away now. Bye!" I love that he didn't get into all the pettiness that us girls are famous for.

But then this past week, she told my husband that she had tried to play with a boy named Brook, and all the other kids told him not to play with her. That just broke my heart. The amazing thing is that she's not bothered by it at all. She just goes about her day, and either plays by herself or with someone else.

But it bothers me. I've seen enough of those teen girl movies to know how mean girls can be these days. It didn't seem so bad when I was growing up, although maybe I just blocked it all out. I never really had a lot of girl friends, though, so I guess I wasn't involved in all of that. I just usually had one best girlfriend, and then guy friends. There was a reason for it. Guys aren't petty or cruel like girls are. And I just wasn't comfortable in that scene. For the first time in my life, I now have several girlfriends, and it's OK. Maybe it's because we've all gotten past that immature jealousy or pettiness that we are prone to when we're young. I also know it's because once you get older and get married, it's hard to make friends with guys. Even if it's strictly platonic, there are typically weird feelings by the spouses on each side, so it's just best not to start that relationship to begin with.

But I digress. I hope Boogie is strong enough to realize that she's better than these mean comments. That she's a wonderful person -- so funy, and goofy, and smart, and loving, and pretty -- that has a lot to offer. I hope that these types of comments always roll off her back. She does seem like she has other friends at pre-school that she likes. I just hope that one day, "mean" Sophie and Brook will realize what they're missing out on by not being friends with her.