September 1, 2019

The Wire On Tessier Place

Everybody was watching

The Wire that year,

remember. We had to quit.

That shit was too real. If we

wanted to know what happened to a street

overrun by dealers, only had to sit out

on the stoop. Watch season one live,

in real time and up close.

After it happened, after the murder I mean, police officers came around to the neighbourhood and started asking us all questions.

It felt like it was the first time the police had taken a real interest in the what was going on in the neighbourhood.

What had happened was so simple really, but it changed us all: drug dealers moved into the house next to where we lived and changed everything.

We moved to Tessier Place because there was a nice house with a lovely yard and a tree that became heavy with sweet-smelling lilacs in the summer.

The rent was affordable.

The neighbours were nice.

The older couple across the street watched out for our daughters when they were out.

That was before we couldn't let them outside the house, not even on the porch, without one of us with them.

But at that time, the street was safe and the green park space it connected to was a place to play and wasn't littered with used needles.

Tessier Place 2012-2014

When the old electric mixer broke,

she didn't buy a new one.

She was that broke.

Found a forty-cent whisk

at a yard sale, down the road some.

Told her kids how whipping cream by hand

tastes better.

I don't want to write a polemical piece about addiction or drugs or safe neighbourhoods. Others have done that.

I just want to remember what it was like there.

I was a master's student when it started and a doctoral student when we left, so I wasn't pulling in what might be considered a full wage, though I always had scholarships and contracts on the go.

What I mean by that is that it wasn't easy to just up and move when the neighourhood changed.

Anyway, we didn't want to move.

It was our home.

The truth is we kind of shrugged it off at first.

We taught our daughters how to recognize needles and not to pick them up.

We taught them not to talk to the drug dealers who would try to chat them up if we weren't with them.

We told them not to take their sleds to the little hills there in the snow, for fear their sliding might pull up an old needle and prick them.

That kind of thing.

March 14, 2014

The man next door as beaten to death

with a baseball bat while I

set out the Playmobil house on the floor

for a couple of four year olds

who wore pink, gauzy wings.

The Curious George soundtrack was playing,

so we didn't hear any screams, nothing.

Proper two-storey, three bedroom

doll house, it was. We set the toy mom

in its plastic yard to pick up the needles.

Having drug dealers move into the neighbourhood isn't just about drug use.

I mean, you can shrug your shoulders and say live and let live and what they put in their bodies is their choice.

Except we were the ones who couldn't live, not properly.

There were the addicts who slipped beneath our porch to shoot up, leaving needles and making me afraid I'd find someone who'd overdosed there one day or that someone would break into the basement.

There was the day I was walking with the kids home from school and scattered outside the house next to ours and along the lane antsy, angry young men, pacing and shouting, a couple of the men were shaking.

Two or three of the men were at the door pounding.

A woman leaned out the top window and shouted "he's not here."

There was a tension.

Something was going to happen.

There was going to be an explosion, I could feel it.

I said to the girls let's walk a little faster.

That was a few months before the murder.

Talk Of The Town

Officers rolled down their window,

asked would I get in the back for a chat?

Wasn't going to get in a cruiser alone.

You come on in the house, I said, my husband's there.

And yet we didn't leave for any of those things.

We left because our daughters were growing up.

I didn't want the parent of her friends to hesitate before driving them over for a visit.

I mean, when the man was being beaten to death next door, I was watching my friend's daughter along with mine.

But more than that, I wanted my older daughter to be able to walk outside the house by herself.

I wanted her to be able to walk to school on her own.

It wasn't the drugs or the drug users that gave us the final push.

It was the johns. Not the sex workers let me be clear but the johns.

I wanted my 12-year-old daughter to walk to school without a man in a car slowing down to a crawl beside her and asking her if she was working and how much.

This had happened to me more than once.

I didn't want my daughter to begin thinking of herself in those terms or to think of the men around her in that way.

I wanted her childhood to last a bit longer.

She was entering junior high and I couldn't watch her all the time and many of the johns seemed who prowled the area seemed to have a fuzzy concept of consent.

So we moved.

March 14, 2014: The Playlist

I told you, we didn't hear

a thing. Must have happened

while I had the music

on. What were we

listening to? I'm always putting on

that soundtrack for the kids.

You want a list of the

songs, it's right here:

Upside Down, Broken, People Watching.

Wrong Turn, Jungle Gym, Talk of the Town.

We're going to be friends, The Sharing Song.

My Own Two Hands.

OK, so I'm leaving out a few things.

The noise. And that's as much the reason we left as the johns.

When the house next door is used a drug house, there are incessant deliveries of drugs and a steady stream of unending customers.

This means cars come into the street. They stop and slam the doors.

Every ninety seconds, all night long. It's worse than a colicky baby we know, we had one.

So, after the murder happened, police officers came around to the neighbourhood and were surprised to find that the neighbourhood was a good one.

"Oh it's just one house," they said, and "everyone here is so nice."

We were a little bitter, to be honest.

All of us tried to get some attention to the issue for months and months.

But the priority wasn't to shut down the little dealers, the police told us, it was the big guys.

So, they'd let the little drug dealer on our neighbourhood run his business until he was murdered and then everything was quiet again on Tessier Place.

I hear though, that it's moved to a street nearby and, still, nobody knows what to do about it all.