Sergei asked me if the lady kicked me out of this place. I replied by saying, “she was really nice to me”. He then said that the girl, who used to sleep here for five years, was forced to sleep elsewhere by these security guards. I would spend the next three hours talking to Sergei.
Sergei was a 55-year-old man who lived on the streets for 10 years. He was crushed after he divorced his wife. He spent most of his life in Eastern Canada, but when he moved here, things started to change for the worse. He had a difficult time finding employment. The combination of these two things may have drawn him towards a life of drugs.
When I told him that I don’t do drugs, smoke or drink, he was surprised. He was surprised because it is not common to meet someone without any kind of addiction problem on these streets. He had a case of beer with him and was drinking while talking to me in the alley.
We talked about Sergei’s past drug addictions. He told me that he fought a crack and cocaine addiction in the past. Fortunately, he was able to get over those addictions problems on his own. It is always fascinating to me, how, where, when and why some people can end these highly addictive habits. I asked Sergei how he stopped smoking crack, but unfortunately I forgot his answer. You have to keep in mind that I usually go through very long conversations without being able to write in my journal until many hours later. It is easy to forget some details.
Next, I asked him about how safe the Vancouver streets really are. He said that in the 10 years, while he was on the streets, he was robbed twice and both times the same person robbed him. The thief put a knife to his throat and Sergei complied with the man’s wishes. He stated, “if you were to resist at that point, you better make sure to come out victorious”. There aren’t any second chances with that. Sergei did not take that chance. And he would never have to take that chance again. That man is not around anymore. That man maybe dead or in jail, who knows?
He concluded this topic by saying that there are a few troublemakers on these streets and that most people tend to mind their own business.
I asked Sergei about his family. He has two sons, but he doesn’t allow them to visit him. Why? Because he is too ashamed of his standard of living here and he does not want them to see him in his current state.
Sergei told me about his newfound interest. He recently taught himself how to use a computer. He bought himself a laptop. After many years, he finally started communicating with his family again. I told him to contact his family today, if he has the time. Christmas can be a great excuse to re-kindle lost connections. He agreed, but he then mentioned that his computer was stolen from his place a few weeks ago. I guess there are a few more stumbling blocks in his way before he can have a full reunification with his family.
Towards the end of our conversation, Sergei said that he opened the Bible for the first time in his life. He never gave that book a fighting chance before. Later he told me that he is interested in reading it again. Without going deeper into a religious debate at this point, I told him that I was getting hungry.
I put my belongings into the cart and Sergei walked up with me towards the end of the alley. We shook hands and departed with him saying “good luck”. It is getting dark and I need to eat.