…but instead…

The following is a contribution by fellow Beat Enforcement Team member Tyler Urquhart, inspired by some of the people he’s met along Hastings Street. He says it’s “kind of a poem.”

A Grandfather,
Bouncing grandchildren on his knees.
Burgers, ribs, the family barbecue,
Stories of ‘how things used to be’,
chasing girls, a classic car, old friend,
Wisdom, command,
always an unspoken respect for the Patriarch.

… but instead …

An old, worn-out man long past his due date.
An addict, a recluse, full of delusion, full of disease.
Erupting in anger and compulsive put-downs.
Spare change? Spare change?
Missing pieces…missing places… farther from human.
Alone.
Cursed.

A young Mother,
A shy toddler, spying, hooked on her leg.
Coffee with old girlfriends.
Other little ones mingle.
She checks the time on her Iphone,
Loving husband still at work,
Family time soon,
with talk of another little one on the way.

… but instead …

Soaked to the bone,
crouched on wet cement in a nasty alleyway.
Poison in her bra.
Rock? Rock? Up? Down?
There are no children back here.
Waiting for her turn to fix.
‘Where’s my money bitch?’
The dealers’ had enough … she’s short again.
Time to pay up.
No family … No hope … No life,
Only misery and thoughts of the next fix.

An educated young man,
Top of his class,
Proud parents,
Head hunted, sought after.
Set to make more money than he ever imagined possible,
A lady-killer,
On top of the world,
Success.

… but instead …

A scabbed-up, jib-head thief.
Those who would have spoken highly of him, he has stolen from.
A loser, beyond desperate for another mind bender.
Suicidal thoughts,
Stuck with cockroaches and bed bugs.
Constantly running,
Running from the drug dealer he owes $150 to,
Running from the cops who want to lock him up,
Running from the truth of his existence.
Screaming…
Hoping to be listened to.

A mother, father, son and daughter.
Family. Close, full of love, hope, support.
Holiday turkey dinners.
Hallmark cards and balloons every birthday.
Father and son watching the game,
Mother and daughter embrace and recognize the unspoken trust.
No one goes hungry here.

… but instead ….

Forever a mother and father.
Up all night with worry.
Father can’t help but cope with 3 fingers of 90 proof.
Mother can only cry.
The shadows of addiction have taken those most precious.
Had to change the locks on the house.
Had to stop answering the phone.
Unreliable, untrustworthy, unstoppable.
Addicts no longer welcome.
Forever a mother and father,
Up all night with worry.

A few in a cast of thousands in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
What could have been…but instead…what is.

- Tyler Urquhart


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11 Responses to …but instead…

  1. 9-1-1 Operator says:

    Touching…sad. Well done.
    Dealt with a report of a woman screaming called in by a few neighbours.
    Members get there and, yes, a young woman was screaming all right due to her friend being in the process of OD’ing / bad reaction to a cocktail of drugs (I heard GHB, meth, etc). Unconscious…in and out of seizures…not good!
    I relayed the gory details to my 13 year old sister later and ended with “DON’T! EVER! DO! DRUGS!”

  2. Denise says:

    Tyler-thank you. This hit home more than I’d like. Of the 6 cousins I once had, I’ve lost 2 of them to drugs. One was a very gifted young man with whom I had a lot of belly laughs with as children. He ended up jumping or being pushed from (we’ll never know) a parkade downtown Vancouver on a Friday afternoon during rushour. The other was a beautiful, smart young lady with 3 young sons who she left behind as she overdosed on heroin/cocaine. Now, I’m a mom with kids in the early teenage years and scared to death over the possibilities that await them.

  3. Theresa says:

    Thank you, Tyler. Very touching and sad. I too have “lost” someone to the DTES about 13 years ago. He was the educated young man but unfortunately he turned into the scabbed-up, jib-head thief. He had so much promise. He left behind a son whom he has not seen in the 13 years he’s been “gone”. I too fear what awaits my early teenage son.

  4. DC says:

    Very nice.

  5. Sue says:

    Brovo! Well done. When I’m on the bus and see the kids having kids I often wonder what sparks will never glow due to poverty, addiction and mental illness. But instead…

  6. JustSayin says:

    Powerful and profoundly sad stuff…

    Thanks Tyler.

  7. Karla says:

    Thankyou, Tyler, for taking a chance and telling the stories of the faces we see but don’t know on the DTES.

  8. Karen says:

    I held my breath as I read the words. So many broken dreams. But, there is hope, right?

  9. Raingurl says:

    Hello Steve,

    Do you ever wish you could help them all? Last week by PP Savings I saw a guy yelling at his girl and she was crying. I really wanted to yell at him but all I imagined was him grabbing my throat and bashing my head against the cement wall of the bank. I can’t get it out of mind. I wanted to help a girl but I was too scared to say anything. I just walked along eating my chicken from Prime Time. *sniff*

  10. pigeon says:

    Since the poet is blaming addiction as the source of these problems, it behooves us to inquire as to what causes addiction.

    The vast majority of the people who become addicts in the DTES have experienced some kind of childhood trauma, including sexual abuse. Many of them are Aboriginal, who have had abusive parents, themselves likely abused in residential schools or by their parents. It’s not for no reason that certain people turn to drugs. It’s that they don’t have appropriate coping mechanisms in their life, and have inadequate or no social support. That is ultimately what lands most people down there, not “drugs”. If we care to address the root of the problem, we need to look at social solutions, including protecting children from poverty and abuse. There’s no way that most people on the DTES people would’ve ever ended up in the happy, upper-middle class citizens that this poem imagines as their alternative future.

    Drugs in and of themselves are not a problem. Drugs don’t create addicts by themselves; instead “inevtiable addicts” gravitate to drugs. Then they become physically addicted. We can’t blame addiction without knowing what causes it. We can’t blame drugs as the source of problems.

    For some discussion on trauma and addiction: indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2012/04/30/ayahuasca-may-hold-key-to-breaking-addiction-but-canada-is-forcing-a-doctor-to-stop-its-testing-110073

  11. Skcatlady says:

    I was lucky, I lived in that world. My husband was well educated, and fell into the world of drug selling. I lived with the fear of drug lords coming to the house. I had 2 girls, but welfare said, due to my husband’s life style, we could not keep them. Welfare took my 1 and only hope for life. My husband found a new wife and moved on. Leaving me with no home, no children, no life to speak of. A chance to change, get out of hell, still missing the ones I lost to that different world, that only we that survey that world can understand. I left that world behind me, i started again, a new life a new husband, a new home, and a son.
    Now my son is a father and I’m very proud of him. My 2 girls welfare took, are somewhere in that rat race, with only a wish and a prayer that they some day will come to me. And ask that dredide question as to why it all happened? This mom prays that some day will come before I go home to be with God.