FOUR MINUTE BAND-AID
Updated: Sep 16, 2021
I stroll out of the mall with a new smart phone in my purse—actually it’s less stroll, more shifty-eyed shuffle of guilt, my mind fighting what I deem an extravagant purchase even though my old phone ran on a sliver of battery life and rejected half my texts—when I’m arrested by the sight of an old man sleeping, folded forward over his legs, arms dangling, half-slipping off a bench. It’s raining and his hands tremble as he snores. A scrawled sign taped to his shopping cart reads: homeless and hungry, not out of choice.
I’d usually leave a banana or a few coins, but today the hopelessness smacks me in the open wound of my cell phone privilege and I buy him a jumbo New York Fries with all the sauces. It doesn’t do much to appease my guilt, especially when he tucks into the food like he’s not eaten a hot meal in a long year.
My expression probably matches my landlord’s last Saturday when he offered us a new year-long lease before selling our home of eighteen years—it's the kind of look that says “this is the most charity I can give, even though I’ll be making 1.3 million on the house.” Truth is, few landlords would care enough to inquire into the best way of protecting their tenants from future renoviction, let alone offer a lease renewal. Few landlords would deliver a hundred bucks worth of vegan “meat” from The Good Butcher to their tenant’s fiftieth birthday party, or buy their tenant’s kids Christmas gifts for nearly two decades—our landlord is a rare man. But the gap between his wealth and ours is comparable to the gap between mine and the man sleeping outside a mall in the rain.
How did the world get like this—I mean, I know it’s been royally screwed for a long time. We can talk about the tax-less super-rich and the corruption of corporations until crows fly home to roost. My husband and I voted two nights ago—we stood in line at the local elementary school with other so-called privileged people who chatted idly, sipped Starbucks, or watched the football on their smartphones. Voting is supposed to be a right, but it feels like a privilege when so many in the world cannot. The wonky balance of power and wealth turns basic rights into lofty privileges all over the place.
My single income family (homeschooling a teen with autism), can’t afford current market rent—we’re probably looking at moving our airy three-bedroom fixed-rent home with a garden into a dank one-bedroom unit with a balcony. And yet, there are people sleeping in doorways. In the last year we’ve twice-applied to every housing co-op that allows a tiny pup, we’ve attempted math on a trailer home, a townhouse, a home with a mortgage-helper suite, dreamy faraway land with a yurt…we can’t work the magic on any of those options. It’s weird to be on the shortlist for the city’s annual book prize, and yet unable to afford a home in said city (I won’t get started on artists and their unpaid contributions to the world).
I had a hard time marking an X in a circle on my ballot paper—I don’t believe any of the parties have a decent plan for anything. It's estimated that homelessness costs Canada seven billion dollars a year, and that for every ten dollars invested in housing the critically homeless, twenty-seven is saved in social services. We’ve had within our reach good solutions to so much for so long, and yet people eat out of trashcans, and there are communities without drinking water in this country.
Most of my everyday life is spent caring for my daughter, homeschooling her, applying for services for her—if I jumped into the fight for a social cause, it’d seal up all the cracks of time in which I presently write. Presently, I should be writing a grant application or editing client-work, but instead I’m tapping out a long overdue second blog post—it’s not as if anyone’s waiting for it, but sometimes the only way to stop your mind from endlessly crafting sentences in the air is to write a few of them down.
When I began this blog oh-so-long-ago-last-month, I was imagining a simple way to support other artists, thinking it might be cool for under-publicised artists to add a small blog review lauding their current work to their personal website or SM page. Maybe the world is too broken and my heart is too bruised to stick to a single niche.
After the man began hungrily eating his fries, I drove home in my dry, safe car, to my dry, safe house, with my well-fed and well-loved daughter beside me. We don’t know what our future living situation will be, and we don’t have a ton of choice or control, but we’re presently living in a house (with a garden) a block from the ocean, and we can sip Starbucks while waiting in line to vote, and my new smartphone is so slick I can write a four-minute Band-Aid for myself (much like the box of fries), and post it without a glitch.