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Street testimony: Different brothers

Stacey Campbell
Guest Comment
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 21/05) - I knew this man by face, a face I wanted to avoid. Loud. Arguing. Drunk. One of many on Yellowknife's streets. I didn't want the grief of knowing him. Now I know he doesn't want the grief of knowing himself.

He sat beside me in the library. I just wanted to read, and not be bothered. He'd wanted to be left alone once, too. But not now. So I tried to be better than I usually am. I couldn't ignore the tears. So I listened to his story come spilling out.

You've probably heard it before, and I have, too. I couldn't turn this page though, or click the channel off. There are his words between the tears - a rude, tragic poetry.

"I was just a kid. It was like a concentration camp. Beans and wieners. Beans out my ears and rotten fish.

"A big black strap. Pow! Where were the social workers then? I couldn't complain. To who? My parents weren't there. My big brother was. He said it's OK. It will be OK. But it wasn't.

"There was a brother, not mine. He worked in the basement feeding the fire. He came upstairs and took me. I'm the little one. I'm so ashamed... How can I tell my father that?

"One time we were sliding on a hill. My brother hit his shoulder, took it out. How you say? Dislocated it. Grey Nun screams 'Get away from him!'"

"I want to get away from there. But where can I go? There is nowhere to go. Still I run away. They always catch me. Pow!"

"Then I'm 14. I tell my father. What could they do? Nothing can take that away. My brother and I want to strangle that man. I don't know what happened to him."

"Now I'm here. I still can't get away. It hit me again. Pow! Like that bastard did."

He's getting loud, punching at the air. Someone's calling the security guard. He's a nice guy doing a difficult job. He wants us to leave. So we go together and sit outside on some snowy steps. We talk some more. I cry, too. But then we laugh together. Another drunken man staggers past, yelling and screaming at god knows who.

My friend wants to leave, to get another drink, a meal, a place to sleep. I say I've heard about kids being abused in residential schools before, but still I don't know. I thank elder brother for teaching me. We shake hands and hug. Then we go our separate ways.

I've fought in the ring. I've fought in the street. Nothing has ever hit me like this before. I am glad for the cold snowflakes cooling my face.

My writer's block is shattered. I've got to write this down before I forget exactly what he said. The newspaper people are kind. They're pushing a deadline, but they gave me a piece of paper and a pen.

I say there'll be no change. I think some have paid too much already. Others not enough.

- Stacey Campbell is a Yellowknife resident and intermittent journalist.