LEAVE MY METHADONE ALONE
an excerpt from Book 2
In the Spring of 1989, age 28, I take the train from Regina out west to Vancouver to become a famous writer, to write television and movie scripts for lots of money, to write short stories and novels for fame, maybe marry an actress. And I must remember to do some main-stage standup comedy to keep me fresh and creative. Perhaps do some charity work.
With monetary coaxing from our mother, my oldest brother Louis offers me a place to stay in his downtown Vancouver apartment until I get enough money for a down payment on my own condo.
I arrive at the Pacific Central train terminal after the two-day trip sleeping with my head rattling on the window. Tired and hungry, I know I still have a two-kilometre walk to my brother’s home as he doesn’t drive or own a car. “Why would you? With great transit like Vancouver!” he often says.
Picking up my tiny baby-blue plastic suitcase and the brown plastic case holding my Smith-Corona electric typewriter, I jump off the train to my destiny, smiling to myself that this will make an amusing anecdote when I’m on Letterman.
I look west, see the gigantic BC Place Stadium, and head towards the white dome. I don’t know the name of Louis’s neighbourhood, but he says it’s near downtown.
After a hot and sweaty hour walk carrying my suitcase in one hand —filled with reams of writing paper, a few underwear, some socks— and my heavy typewriter case in the other, I arrive at my brother’s address.
A scruffy man is standing directly in front of the apartment building buzzer panel and offers to move if I buy the chihuahua he has in his coat. I’m too hot, tired, and hungry for this, so I squeeze past him to ring my brother’s number.
After pushing the buzzer a dozen times, then a mindless ten minute conversation through the tinny speaker, Louis finally figures out who I am and says he’ll come down to let me in.
“Can’t be too careful,” he says. “Lotta sketchy people around here.”
“Ya, a lot named ‘David your brother’ I bet.” He doesn’t hear me.
His tiny place is what would be called a bachelor pad, though it may not be suitable for entertaining women. It is one rectangular room with a small, enclosed bathroom in the corner. Beside it is a stainless steel unit with an oven, fridge, and sink. There is no bed, not even a Murphy bed, and it occurs to me that he sleeps in a ratty recliner in front of the TV. When he sees me look around the musty room for where I’ll sleep, he opens a closet.
“This is yours, the guest room.”
There are no coats or clothes on hangers in the barren closet — just a shelf three feet off the floor and underneath filled with clothes, blankets, and who knows what else. On top of the closet is another shelf, again filled with what I don’t want to know.
“If you want it dark to sleep, just close the door,“ he says. “I gotta keep all the lights on out here cuz of the cockroaches.”
He opens the nearby fridge and points to several containers of what looks like orange juice. “Main rule. Do NOT, I repeat, do not EVER drink my methadone.”
Our mother has been paying for Louis’s phone for many years to force him to call her often, which he does. I feel guilty that he may talk to our mother on the phone more often from Vancouver than I do so in the same city. She even bought him an answering machine, which he has no problem with me changing the message in case potential employers call me.
He informs me to never return a call from Spud, no matter what he threatens, as there’s no money owed. I thank my brother for the heads-up.
I spend my days walking around Vancouver dropping off my resume to television stations, film production houses, and ad agencies. I get a few interviews which I think go well, though in one I’m asked if I wrote down my correct address. When I double-check Louis’s address, the interviewer grimaces.
When I leave each morning, Louis is still sleeping in his recliner and is still there when I return in the evening. I say hello to no response, open the closet, push my blanket to the side, and set up my typewriter.
“Does my typing bug you?” I ask.
There is never an answer as he sits in his recliner, facing the TV, his back to me. Every once in a while I sneak up to him to see if he’s still breathing but I can’t tell. I’m worried Mom will be pissed at me if he dies while I’m staying here.
“Get up! GET UP!! Get the hell out now!!!”
I was in a deep sleep in the closet and Louis has pulled open the door, the main room’s bright light blinding me.
“Hurry, get the hell out!” he yells.
“What’s going on?” I say, half-asleep, confused.
“You gotta get out. NOW!”
I’ve never seen him in a frantic state — he looks truly insane.
He pulls my shoulder until I sit up.
“Pack up! Out! Now.” He’s kicking my suitcase.
“Louis, it’s the middle of the night. Relax. What’s going on?”
“Out! OUT!” His eyes are no longer green, just black bowls.
“Louis, fuck! I have no where to go!”
I look at my watch. It’s nearing 3 a.m. and I’m standing by myself on a dark sidewalk on Helmcken Street in downtown Vancouver, my suitcase touching one leg, my typewriter case on the other. I’m not really alone as it seems the people on the chilly streets were recently kicked out of somewhere too. I zip up my white, fuzzy Icelandic jacket, trying to stay calm as I figure out what to do.
I recall from my daily walks that there is a nearby hotel most likely in my price range. Flattered but politely declining offers by women in short skirts to go on a date, I turn the corner at Granville & Davie to see the seven-storey Austin Hotel. Painted on the side in 1920s ad-style white-paint-on-brick is their clever slogan: Girls! Girls!! Girls!!!
Yelling above the noise of the strip club music, I am pleased at their reasonable rates and am happy they accept cash.
“Up the back stairs, third floor, 303, don’t touch the girls.”
“Um, thanks,” I say, grabbing the large key.
My room is surprisingly neat, the bedcovers reminding me of what my gramma had on the guest beds in her basement. I’m startled to notice the mirror above the bed. Even considering I’m in a small room, it may be the largest mirror I’ve ever seen, sitting within a thick, intricately-carved gold frame.
I try to sleep that night but can’t stop worrying if the mirror will fall from the ceiling and kill me. How will the police explain my death to my mom? She won’t believe them and will be so embarrassed with The Leader-Post headline: "Regina Man Sliced to Death By Mirror at Hooker Hotel."
Maybe Letterman won’t find this an amusing story.