Friday, 5 July 2013


When asked how she was doing after her husband died, a friend said she was "inconsolable".
It's a good word.
I know the feeling.
It's the feeling you get when you lose your child to drugs, to the street, to suicide.
Sort of the same feeling in your stomach when you get into an elevator and it drops unexpectedly. Your stomach feels like you're chewing on it. Swishing it around your mouth. Then ripping it into smithereens because it hurts so bad.
I lost my son Nicholas a few times. When he decided he'd rather live with his dad, "get to know him" and his stepmother. That time I lost him for five years.
I got him back when his dad didn't want him anymore. Literally didn't want him. Dad shipped him off to a boarding school with a set of cheap sheets and expensive skates. Shipped him like a Fed Ex package. No return address.
I lost him another time, after he'd returned to live with me at age 15. Instead of bunking with his brother, he chose to live in the crawlspace in the basement. He said he liked small spaces. This was were he smoked weed and took Ecstasy. Before he nearly went to jail. The crawl space was what he left when he set out on the street.
Whenever Nick became depressed, he physically got small. I could only see his nose inside the oversized hoodie he called home. He smoked, he drank, he drugged, he fucked skanky girls, he slept in parking garages before he was saved by Jacques, a saint of a man who worked for the Youth Services Bureau.
He came home. Yes he did.
As a ghost. It felt like he was haunting me. Burning eyes, sunken cheeks, teeth yellowed by tobacco.
Stef said Nick was a kid with an old man's face.
Living at the Mission will do that to a kid.
Makes him old. Drags his soul out and replaces it with blackness.
He never stopped taking drugs.
He just stopped taking them recreationally.
Moved to Barrie to refine his misery and become a pro.
By the time he came home this last time, he was a skeleton, a junkie, all pierced and tattooed.
Wizened, even.
But I kept taking him back. Of course I did. It's what you do if you give somebody life, isn't it?
Well, it's what some people do. Others give up on them, set them adrift.
Because their kids don't match the furniture anymore.
Sometimes the kid doesn't make it home, like Nick's friend Michelle from high school.
Michelle was one of our kids.
She found our place safe. I think she could see the love but couldn't quite touch it.
She tried; it was just at her fingertips, but then poof! It was gone.
Scott drove Michelle home in tears numerous times. He carried her out to the car, blasted out of her mind. I recognized the face. It was small, a little pink face under a head of cotton hair.
Nick and the kids tried to help.
But Michelle was inconsolable. I recognized myself in her face.
Eventually, she hung herself.
Nick took it hard. Carved her name on his arm with ink.
Then he disappeared again.
But this time, he found a safe place to take his darkness.
He started writing poetry.
We never lost him again.
I just got a copy of his book of poetry, Ground Zero, which lays out the pain and anger he has felt over the years. He rails against his father, a little at me, too. It's hard to read.
Especially because Ground Zero has a poem written by the Inconsolable Michelle.

leave your eyes open
If I were a doll I would stare straight ahead - glazed
my bones are waiting to be white and smooth
my eye lids are jerkily shut as I am lain down
no longer rolling in the back of ochre skulls

Michelle had no dreams left when she exited this world.
I wish we could have given her some.

You can buy this book on
Ground Zero by Nicholas Gagnier.
Some of the proceeds will go to the Youth Services Bureau, the place that saved Nick's life that one time.

Maybe you have a child who could read it.
There is hope in them there pages.
If you're a parent, maybe you should read it, too.
It's a feeling that stays with you but it doesn't have to.


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