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Here's a freestyle I wrote for The Ubyssey back round 1998 I think. We normally had a strict policy concerning submissions: after a certain time of day on Monday, for the Wednesday issue, no submissions would be accepted. I brought this in on Tuesday – a day past the deadline – and handed a printed copy to our Coordinating Editor. He walked away reading it, and then made space in the Wednesday's Edition (printed on Tuesday night for distribution round campus so it would be there on the stands Wednesday morning). One of our news editors (who was also one of the staffers who told me that everyone always read whatever I wrote) told me it was the best thing I had written. The girlfriend, after living common law for 12 years, is long gone and The Drive, already becoming trendy even back then, is no longer recognisable as an enclave for Vancouver's bohemian community, though homeless people still abound. infinity bridesmaid dress

Incident On The Eastside

"That's a bit of excitement you don't see very often." The driver is telling someone as I get off the bus. It's the last stop, Broadway Station, and the bus always pulls off onto Commercial Drive just before the point where the Drive crosses the Grandview Cut. "I don't want to have that kind of excitement too often."

"Yeah, eh?" Responds the passenger he was addressing. It's not until after I get off the bus and start walking North up the Drive myself that I begin to understand what the `excitement' is they were talking about.

There's quite a crowd hanging about on the overpass. Most of the onlookers are leaning on the railings peering over the edge, down into the cut. It's quite a drop, should one fall, like the gorge at Lynn Canyon, but without the cushioning effect of Lynn Creek.

At the far end of the overpass, a fire engine sits dejectedly, near a pair of ambulances parked under a clump of scrubby alders on North Grandview. In the centre of the overpass, parked facing the wrong direction, a police car sits. `Somebody's jumped.' I think, `Poor bastard. Probably couldn't find a job, and life on the edge just got to be too much for him.' I fully understand and sympathize with the man's loss of hope in the future.

As I walk past, I have to look. Curiosity, don't you know, the source of all wisdom. A pair of ambulance men are manoevring a backboard near the body, which is covered almost completely by a blue tarp of the sort purchased at Canadian Tire for about six bucks. Police officers and firemen are trying to walk down the steep slope; it's slippery and treacherous because its surface has been turned to gumbo by all the rain we've had over the past week.

The only part of the body not covered by the tarp is one lone bare arm flung forlornly to the side. There is something so hopelessly pathetic about that lifeless arm flopped so casually on the gravel rail bed as though it epitomizes the utter futility of all last gestures, even those gestures born of unrelenting despair.

"What happened?" A voice demands gruffly, "Somebody jump, or what, eh?"

Several of us turn to look at the speaker, a short stocky man with a large gut and an unshaven face. He looks like a lot of the people one sees down here on the Eastside, dressed in secondhand clothes and probably living on a fixed or very low income. A woman who looks like her background isn't much different than his informs him that somebody jumped.

"Fuckin' asshole." He remarks angrily, "One more fuckin' asshole the taxpayers won't have to pay for. Good riddance!"

The woman and I both tell this guy, almost simultaneously, to show a bit of compassion. But he starts raving about how much better off society is now that this unknown person has committed suicide. "I hope the bastard's dead." He concludes. And this is just too much for me.

"It's entirely because there's too many selfish pricks like you around that the poor bastard felt like jumping in the first place, asshole!" I spit out at him, for he's become, for a moment, the epitomy of everything that is wrong in this caring, compassionate society we live in.

"Who cares about that guy anyway? He's a fuckin' asshole!" The man shouts back.

"Obviously you don't." I reply, calling him a "Fat useless cunt" as he stalks angrily down the Drive towards Broadway.

I walk home, thinking about that arm sprawled listlessly on the railbed. Thinking about the angry, heartless things said by the stocky, poorly dressed man, and my own response to all of it. I think about a society that prides itself on its social safety net, and its compassion for the less fortunate, and yet whose streets are filled with the homeless, a society which demonizes its victims, the lost ones who can't seem to make it on their own.

I can't help wondering if it was someone I knew. Later, back home, I tell my girlfriend about it, not forgetting to mention my altercation with the street person, for that's what he really looked like. She applauds my giving him a piece of my mind, but then observes that it was probably just his way of dealing with something that he's really afraid of.

I don't need to think too long about it to realize that she's right. He's probably closer to the person who jumped than I am. I at least can look forward, with some small degree of hope, towards the future. It's the future I'm living in, in a sense. Certainly, it's what I'm working towards. Getting angry and making provacative statements is probably the only way a guy like that can deal with his own unwelcome sympathetic connection to the suicide.

The image of the suicide's solitary protruding arm won't leave me. I can't say exactly when I realized that the arm was too slender, too soft and supple to have been a man's arm. As I visualize it more clearly in my mind, I finally become aware that it was the arm of a young woman. Probably someone I knew. Probably someone we all knew, in passing.