Awhile back, I lived atop Burnaby Mountain. Often, I would take the 135 bus in and out of downtown Vancouver. One of these times, returning from downtown, I happened to sit next to a fellow who wished to share a story.
The man overtly smelled of alcohol.
Not sensing any danger, there was no reason for me not to hold a conversation. Though, the light banter quickly took a turn as he mentioned that it was his birthday and he’s off to see his father for the first time in years.
Trying to not get too personal, nor trigger any sour reaction, I politely reply “I hope everything goes well with your dad.” Perhaps sensing my timidness, he quickly acknowledges his sent and demeanour, “My birthday is not a good day, I try to celebrate, but the memories are awful.” Again, timidly I reply, “it’s good you’re staying positive.”
“When I was a kid my mom overdosed on my birthday.”
I tried not to react. With overbearing solemn, I looked him in the eyes and nodded. Trying to avoid words altogether I utter, “that’s tough.”
He goes through the details. How he remembers lights, sirens, police, his mom. He stays away from drugs because of it. But, openly admitting, “I struggle as an alcoholic.”
His stop is up. I acknowledge his openness and wish him, with as much conviction as I can, a happy birthday.