in Tall Tales

Death and Story-telling from the Margins

Remember: in one’s own death one only dies, but with the death of others one has to live.
~ Mascha Kal├ęcko
Yesterday a fifteen year old girl was found dead in one of the Single Room Occupancies in the downtown eastside. The media is reporting that no foul play is suspected, but the word on the street is rather different. Be that as it may, I’ll leave the details aside.

It’s an odd thing to constantly be living one’s life in the presence of death — and not just death that comes to take those who have lived full and privileged lives, but death that comes violently for the young who never had a chance. My wife was hit especially hard this time. She was doing outreach in the alleys yesterday, it was a beautiful sunny day, and she was wondering why hardly any kids were out. It was only after she started hearing the stories circulating about the girl who died that things made sense — the kids were hiding, avoiding risky places, they didn’t know who would get it next.

I’ve always felt conflicted about sharing my experiences with the marginalised, or the experiences of others, on this blog. Some stories seem too intimate, too sacred, to share — especially with strangers who, nine times out of ten, completely miss the point. I worry that I simply end up becoming another form of provocative, but essentially meaningless and inconsequential, entertainment. Readers will be titillated by my stories, and will leave me notes telling me how “hard-core” I am, and thus we arrive at a parasitic relationship where I exploit the vulnerable by sharing their stories with the apathetic in order to boost my ego.
And yet, another side of me feels as though it is burning if I keep these stories in. These stories must be told, they must be presented to the public. This is the suffering that is goin on in our own backyards — these are the kids we ignore on the sidewalk when you step into Starbucks to buy our fucking “fairtrade” coffee. These stories must be told. They must be thrown back into the faces of the public because maybe, just maybe, somebody will be moved to act.
These stories are my act of begging. A begging that, just like the begging of the youth I know, is almost always ignored.

I hope Jesus has finally come to meet this girl. I hope her hard days are over now. I hope she is free. It is we, the living, who must feel her death as a wound. It is we, the living, who are left wondering how people can do the things that they do to other people. Her race is over. It is for us to labour in exile, while she is welcomed home.

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