Day 276 - Jonathan

Day 276 - Jonathan (2nd person I approached)
October 03, 2014 - It looked like Jonathan was sleeping when I first saw him. He was laying stretched out on a bench in what I call ‘the secret garden.’ It’s one of the places I frequently walk through, and I’ve met a few strangers there from time to time. I stopped near Jonathan and pondered whether or not to ask him to chat. I figured the worst he might do is tell me to piss off. At best, he might actually want to chat with me. The answer is always no if you don’t ask. HIs head was resting on a medium sized backpack. There was a shopping bag of food and a beer can on the ground within reach. Jonathan sat up as soon as I spoke. He told me he was “somewhat okay” to chat. I took that to mean he was a somewhat private person, rather than meaning not in a condition to chat. I let him know that we didn’t have to talk about anything that he didn’t want to. He agreed to chat.


Jonathan was born in Deep River, Ontario, about 200 kilometres north-west of Ottawa.

“It’s a really small community, maybe five thousand people. It’s on the Ottawa River,” he said. I noticed his hands were really large and looked like the hands of someone who had worked outdoors for many years. His rubbed his knuckles as he spoke.

“I’m an only child. My mother had me when she was just nineteen. She wasn’t with my father. She felt that she wouldn't be able to look after me properly. I lived with my grandmother,” he said.

“Then when I was five, my mother came and got me. She was living with my stepfather then. She felt good and stable and wanted me to live with her. That was everything to me. I remember her coming to get me. Yeah, that was important,” said Jonathan. 


“My mother didn’t marry my stepfather until I was about fifteen, but we all lived together as a family. He worked in the military, so we moved around a fair bit. He was a civilian employee, which meant we never lived on base. I went to regular schools as well,” he told me. The family ended up back in Deep River around the time his mother and stepfather married.

“I went to high-school there. I was permanently expelled from school halfway through Grade eleven. I was working part time at a car lot, detailing cars. Even my employer pleaded with the principal to reconsider and reverse the decision, but they wouldn’t. He said I had missed too many classes. I guess I was working more than part-time. I never graduated,” he said.


“I continued working at the car lot for about another year or so. I became good friends with this girl I had met. She was pregnant when we were getting to know each other. We became really good friends. She married the baby's father and then they had another child,” Jonathan said.

“Then. Then he was killed in a car accident. It was after that, when we became romantically involved. I wanted to look after her and the kids. I was fine with that.” I sat quietly and listened as Jonathan seemed to be gathering his thoughts.

“Then an incident happened. And I walked away. I went to Ottawa and left the three of them behind,” he said. I didn’t ask what had happened. 


“I went to Ottawa because it would be easier to get into some mischief there. It’s easier to do things when you feel a bit more anonymous,” he said. Jonathan started selling drugs.

“I started many years of beating the shit out of myself. I had a deep regret for the ghastly decisions I had made. I left those three behind. And I’ll never know what might have happened if I hadn’t done that. I often wonder where my life would have gone if I hadn't done that. I left them,” he said, his voice trailing off. Jonathan started injecting heroin while living in Ottawa.

“I was an IV drug user.”


“I came out to Vancouver. Another bad decision. This isn't the city to come to if you’re poor. I worked as much as I could. Did what I needed to do to get by. I got into some trouble and ended up getting incarcerated for six months,” he said, rubbing his hands together.

“About two years ago, I went on a methadone program. My Doctor helped me with that. It was my idea, not his. I had finally accepted that I didn’t care for the actions I was taking, and the things my decisions caused me to do, in order to fuel my drug habit. I didn't want to continue with those kind of life choices,” he said.

“Then about a year ago, I quit doing methadone. It’s been hard, it’s definitely not easy to do. It’s only now that I’m starting to feel like my head is clearing. It’s taken year or so to get it out of my system. I’m just starting to feel decent again.”


He’s currently homeless.

“I’ve been working with some individuals that are helping me work through the process to get me fixed up with accommodations. I’m hoping to get a room in an SRO (Single Room Occupancy) hotel soon,” he said. I asked if that meant he slept on the streets.

“No, I mean sometimes yes. But there are plenty of resources to help one to not be homeless. No, that’s not correct, I mean there are resources to help one not to have to sleep on the streets at night. Shelters and hostels are made available. And even on the odd occasion when I do sleep outside, I’m okay with that. I have a place that I go to every day to shower, and shave. But there hopefully will be a solution for me next week,” he said, his hands now resting in his lap. 


“I had a bit of a rough morning and got myself all worked up. I’m not going to be able to do anything now until Monday morning about getting a place. That means I have to get through the weekend. I got pretty worked up about things. But, it’s okay. I worked through it, and managed to shake off my anger. I just thought I’d stretch out here for a bit and have a little rest. Just lay down for a while. I did manage to kick the anger to the curb though. Yes.” #notastranger