Eight deaths since Christmas. The last one overdosed on meth. We discovered him during a routine safety check, but he’d been dead for three days already. The gas build-up and decay made him pop.
I learned in first aid class that the human body contains 4-5 liters of blood. I cleaned that amount up off his floor last night. The soapy water turns a ghoulish reddish-brown as my mop goes back and forth across the stain. The blood dry and thick resists the urge to come off the floor. I have to put my back into it. The cockroaches are disappointed with my efforts; the feast days for them are over.
The sight is disturbing, but it’s the stench that’s most offensive. It’s pungent and thick. I feel as though the smell itself is staining my clothes, perhaps even my soul; when I get home, I strip down, everything I’ve been wearing goes straight into the wash. I scrub extra hard in the shower. Clean at last! My body is free from the dark stains of gruesome death, but my mind is not. He was 49 years old. Why such a miserable and lonely end? I learned some of his story in the months preceding his departure from the world.
He’d spent a good bit of time in the Canadian navy. The two skills he learned to excel at while serving his majesty the queen were drunkenness and getting high. There had been a girl in his life for a time, but she left him. Something about a business venture going belly up: the relationship couldn’t sustain itself through the failure.
He moved to Vancouver to get away from the sting of broken relationships and he started over with a new plan to live in a van. That worked for a few years. He lived cheaply enough with odd jobs here and there sustaining his living arraignment. But then the van died, and he couldn’t find work. Estranged from family members who refused to take him in, he soon found himself on the streets.
The homeless shelter just down the block from where I work took him in. It’s an open question about which is worse: being homeless or living in a shelter. These places are rough, to say the least. He told me it was in the shelter where he first experimented with meth. He was depressed; his life had not worked out the way he hoped, and he wanted to escape the stress of existence for a little while. Meth is cheap and readily available, so he thought to himself, “what the hell, let’s give it a try.”
He was hooked immediately, but he knew that it was dangerous. He had to get out of the shelter. Every day he came to the manor begging and pleading for a place. We decided to take a chance on him. He was thrilled, but his recently acquired demons followed him into his new residence.
Drug-induced paranoid psychosis is what they call it. Meth made him think that everyone was out to get him, making him volatile and dangerous and putting his tenancy at risk. We had several emergency meetings. The drugs were destroying him, and he knew it. He wanted help so I made a few phone calls. Surprisingly, a detox place up the street had room to take him right away. If he could make it a week there, he would be off to a treatment centre and perhaps have a fighting chance to get his life back.
He only lasted a day and a half at the detox facility. He couldn’t take it, everyone was crazy over there, he told me. He reassured me he would be fine and he would find some other way to manage his issue and avoid eviction. I was both doubtful and sad for him. I knew he wasn’t ok, but what else could be done? This man’s life was one mess after another, including one final mess which fell to me to clean up.