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Creative writing stories from Onsite

Photos by Popeye Logic from the VO Flickr Photo Pool

At the Megaphone creative writing program at Onsite -- the detox centre above the Insite safe injection facility -- many writers write poems and stories based on their experiences. The students range from former A-students from West Vancouver to gang members to new immigrants; they are young, old, male, female and transgendered. Everyone there has a story to tell. 

Below is just a small sampling of their writing. 

“Scared to Death at the Bar”

by Doug Lidstrom

When I was quite young, I remember my friend and I used to sneak up under the girders of what was then the Second Narrows bridge. It’s since been renamed the Ironworkers Memorial bridge, in memory of the 18 workers killed as well as the six survivors all of whom I’ve worked with or come to know. Between harassing pigeons and scarring the shit out of ourselves, that was how we spent a typical Sunday. 

For whatever reason, I’m sure my childhood experiences under the bridge had nothing to do with why I became an ironworker.

In the last 35 years I’ve worked on bridges, towers and practically every other use of structural steel there might be.

Most of the work I did was up in the air, and sometimes very high. Up until a few years ago, we did not use safety belts or life lines, and god knows what other safety devices might make a pencil neck in an office feel safe. Over the years when people would become aware of the work I did, they would usually always ask why I wasn’t afraid of heights, or how I can work up there all day.

Truth is, like most other honest ironworkers, I am afraid of heights. And it’s not always the most comfortable place to be up there. However, the adrenaline is a huge rush, and you will never have a hard time finding an ironworker to drink with any day after work.

“Do they really know?”
by Gina 

I’m afraid they’ll find out.

The sun is beating down on me, causing me to sweat. My makeup’s coming off, I’m scared they'll see through the foundation. I try hard to blend into the crowd, not wanting to stand out in any way. I’m worried that when I finally get there, I’ll be soaked from the heat. I’m anxious and scared in my own skin, but try not to show my fear.

I sigh a breath of fresh air as I spot the “Women” sign on the bathroom door. I duck inside as if it’s my safe hiding spot, hoping to God there’s no one in there.

Luckily, I’m the only one and I can relax as I check my reflection in the mirror.

Damnit! Beads of sweat have formed on my face, and my makeup needs to be reapplied. I want to look good when I meet him. My hair is straightened and the length is nice and long, but I need to redo my upper lip. I apply a heavy foundation to cover up that horrible five-o-clock shadow. And a darker lipstick.

I check my watch. My heart skips a beat. I have five minutes to get there.

I take one last look in the mirror. Can they tell…? I think to myself. I might just pass, I think as I race out the door, heading to the restaurant at the other end of the building. The lighting is dark at the restaurant. I feel more at ease. I walk through the door, my body’s tense as I feel like everyone’s watching me.

I spot him sitting there. He notices me.

And smiles.  

"I survived."
by Darren Ganderton

It was a beautiful sunny day in Vancouver, but I was not so bright. No, I was a damn wreck. My life's experiences and decisions had led me down a futile path, that path was crystal meth. I'm sure you've heard of it.

Life as I had known it had faded long before. My silly hyperactive jubilant attitude that I once possessed was robbed from me from the poison that I willingly ingested. I was thin, gaunt, my face paralleled with the emaciated features of a concentration camp prisoner. I had no idea of the events that were to take place that bright afternoon but if I did, I would have taken caution, as any sane human would.

But I wasn't sane. Amphetamine psychosis robbed me of my mental health and I was left with a despondent mixture of angst, anger and fearless rage.

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