Wednesday 1am I hear an angry voice coming my way. It has to be loud to gnaw through the wind gusts. A middle aged, grey haired man passes by my alcove. As I "fuck you" stare him down from my hooded second hand Canada Goose coat I have an eerie feeling this is an extreme case. Three peeking laps later I decide to get up out of my sleeping bags.
I sit on the window ledge of the facility. Experience teaches you to show no fear. Appear weak and trouble will follow. The guy takes a wider turn on the next lap. I conclude I'm winning the "fuck you" stare battle and as if to confirm the assessment ten minutes later he picks up his stuff and begins walking across the Lakeshore Field to the Lakeshore Road. But I still don't trust him so I follow his path as I stand at the edge of the field. I eventually see him pass the adjacent road which leads back to the facility and so I can conclude for now, I am safe. My instinct told me he would back. Magic carpet ride suspended as anxiety kept me alert. Here comes the voice again. Louder this time. Fucking nightmare is my thought as I jump back onto the window sill in what felt like one movement.
Now he has an umbrella which he keeps opening and closing as he retreats to the annex building where I hide my sleeping bags during the day. As I pace down the side of the corridor I peer around into the annex almost asphyxiating myself in the process. Fuck hes still there. I look around for a stick but couldn't find one. But as if from a scene in Game of Thrones. I look into the City of Toronto pick up truck a few yards away. I see a slew of shovels. And all caked in mud. Perfect. I pick one up and start ceremoniously smacking it on the ground and the walls. It got rid of the mud. As I turn I see the grey haired man pace walking back down the road. I concluded he was done for the night.
I withdraw to my alcove. My anxiety prevented me from any carpet ride this time. I wake a few hours later freezing cold from the chilling wind gusts. Only a few hours sleep this night. Off to see one of my three musketeers. Minder Kevin who bought me coffee and a bagel. With only four days left what does it matter now. Kevin is uneasy. He requests I run a coaching session for his girls team on Sunday. I say I wont exist Sunday remember. He doesn't know what to do. I see the concern in his face. I just smile at him and share a funny Colin Miller story. The one where the radio interviewer asks him about the jet lag from travelling all the different time zones and doesn't he have difficulty with sleeping. He says normally yes but fortunately for me my roommates were Jamesy and Frank Yallop and so when I felt insomnia kicking in I'd ask them to tell me their life stories - and I was out like a light.
Off to the shower facility I go and its only 10.30am. When I enter the changing room I feel a cloud of fatigue and exhaustion descend and so I drop to the floor and rest my head on my bag. As I look around I see two other guys in the same position and of course the black man in the far segment of the shower is still there.
Magic carpet ride.
I see Ashley Max and I sitting in a tree. Then I fall out.
I see my sister open the taxi cab door as I slither out covered in blood. Its late April 2001. She cleaned and paid for the cab as I lay on the lawn in a fetal position. I feel the pain of what would be 20 head and facial stitches.
Floating to six weeks later I'm looking at the Iraq' team while singing the Canadian national anthem. I notice the opponent players are overage and not the ones we had scouted. Fuck. 20 minutes we're 2-0 down. I shouldn't have started Bernard. Why did I do that to him. I try subbing him. 3-0 down. I end his pain as he floats to the bench in a mist. Players see out the game as a 3-0 loss. I got it wrong as a coach. It wouldn't have made a difference says my elegant assistant Dave Elliot.
Ball is 8 yards from the line against us and it's their put-in. Their number 8's picking it up and coming on the blind side. I'm up. Fuck I'm going to get flattened if I get the tackle wrong. Nigel Palmer dives across my line and times the tackle to perfection as I was a second away from closing my eyes. I somehow keep to my feet., The ball pop's out and in the mayhem while on the run and with one hand I'm able to pick it up. A few side steps and shimmy's I run the length of the field to score a try against the Private Boys School St Illtyds - a powerhouse in the rugby world Whitchurch High School competed in. As we make our way back I look at Palmer and surmise that's why all the girls love him.
I think of former Canadian international Frank Woods and his kind email to me. He was happy I was accepting accommodations. He said it was the first stage to healing. A beautiful man and I haven't even met him. Frank must be worried that I am still in my frigid alcove. Justice served comes before any healing can take place and without employment, purpose, dignity and respect from society you have no chance. I fear I wont see Frank Woods.
Phil Wilson and his beautiful wife Marjolaine from Ottawa appear to me. I think about the email I just received from Phil. How much he cares. How he has such contempt for the purveyors of not injustice and such dreadful treatment. When he lived in Toronto he was Vice President of CIBC Human Resources. A class act who while he cares about the big picture of discrimination he cares more about my well being as an individual.
I see Paul Peschisolido from my hotel room in Ottawa. Its 1989. Paul was the number one draft pick of the Toronto Blizzard from the old Canadian Soccer League. I hadn't seen him play. It was TSN game of the week Hamilton Steelers vs Toronto Blizzard. Paul was magical. He had everything. Quick, sharp skillful. He could finish and he did in this game and he had controlled swagger. A naughty boy type. Unpredictable. Breathtaking for the level we were playing at.
I hear the Toronto Star's Mary Ormsby's voice as i wake from a daze at a Lakeshore Park picnic table. "Paul. Paul. Paul". I say no to her interview a few hours later. She cries. Even today it appeared to be so genuine. "I don't want you to die Paul. But if you must. Have your story told. I can get someone else to write it if you like".
I see two big eyes looking at me as I've lost my bearings. I leap from a lying position onto my feet in one swoop movement. That's what a Raccoon in an overhanging tree can do to you when you're not anticipating it at 3am in the morning.
I hear, see and feel Ashley crying after she threw up in the toilet when we felt the true reality of Cracked Open and the soccer industries imbeciles as I was assassinated. "What are we going to do now Paul"
I see Rick Evangelista walking towards me on King Street with two hands full of bags with goodies. Two hours earlier he had asked me what I had eaten in the past 5 days of my first hunger strike protesting the Mooredale soccer club fiasco. I said to Rick absolutely nothing except water. He counselled me that if I was to do this I had to at least take some sodium and at least something or I would be dead real quick. It explained why I had trouble opening my eyes.
Lying a wake in my tiny dirty room at the Parkview arms at $130 a week. Its the summer/fall of 2017. I hear thumping and banging in the room beside me. Deathly silence for about 20 minutes then bang thump. Silence bang thump. And on it goes for hours. I recognize the impact of auditory psychosis. The person was using a stimulant and paying the horrific price for having a high functioning conscience. The levels of anxiety cause persons of similar ilk to tear themselves apart trying to free themselves from the imaginary persons coming to get them. I conclude the cost of criminalization in terms of human suffering is appalling and enormous but invisible to society.
I see Robert DeNiro with a gun to his head. A scene from the Deer Hunter as prisoners were forced to compete in Russian Roulette. I try to brace myself. That is where I'm at with the Canadian system. With the Toronto Star and with York University. I'm out of options. I have no leverage to access justice, dignity, respect, social status or any human right. People like Paul James are worthless. The Toronto Star front page exclusive and four internal pages made sure that nothing would change. I could never have imagined it would have been so bad. I see Kevin walking to me on the fateful Friday when it was released on line. I thought someone had died in his family. I didn't realize it had been released. He tired to put a brave face on it but slowly he let me know what was written. I call Mary Ormsby and request her to take it down. She hangs up.
Later in the day I threw up when I read some of what had be written. It wasn't to be the first time. I recognize the impact of the past decade.
As I look out of the Greyhound bus window we pass through Hamilton, Kitchener, London as I make my way down to Dresden. Kevin and Peyvand made sure I was on the next bus after the article was released.
We are all going to the same place. Its just a timing thing. Its just when. I am not suicidal. I just don't fear death anymore. And I am willing to risk my life in negotiating for justice so that no one ever has to experience the same. The other side are in deep now. They cant scapegoat anymore. The rallying of Canadian Soccer alumni has made sure of that.
I slowly wake up from the dreamy state to the sight of a man's soiled white underwear. He was changing at the locker in front of me. I get up. Shower and move on.