From Facebook – By Elsie K. Neufeld. (From Voices For Dignity) Who is Faye, the woman whose tent was destroyed by fire last night, a fire that, according to Ward Draper of the 5&2 Ministries, was intentionally set? I spent an afternoon with Faye at the end of December, and with her permission, wrote this piece.
FAYE: a variant of Faith (Middle English) and Fay, and the meaning of Faye is “belief; fairy”.
She moves quickly — spritely, in fact. “Shoes. Shoes. Don’t look at the shoes. Purses, purses. I love purses. And lately I’ve had a thing for scarves and hats, but I’m here for pants. I really need pants. I’m down to two pairs…”
But she can’t help herself. Stops at the purses, “Oh, this one woul drive me crazy. It’s beautiful, but it would drive m crazy,” she says. She fingers its beads, moves onto the red one beside it. Lifts, and examines it, lets go, and keeps walking. Past sweaters and stops. “Hats. Hats,” she says. “Oh, look at this. They’re exactly the same, but the one with Oilers is $3. and the Canucks is $7.”
You look, and she’s right. They’re identical, but for the brand and price.
She fingers at least a dozen more, comments on each, and minutes later, has a pink one in her basket.
You’re at Value Village, her favorite store. She doesn’t like to come to this part of town; she told you so in the parking lot. Pointed northwest, and said, “that’s where i used to live. Two blocks from here.” Her voice broke, though she didn’t cry this time, as earlier, when she’d told you, “I just want to go home. Home isn’t a place; it’s a person. It’s…” and she named him.
You met her for the first time two weeks ago. Sat behind her in court, and across from her at lunch, then behind her again, in court.
Today (Sunday), you asked if she’d tell you her story, and she immediately agreed. You talked in your car for two hours…her voice at the start, strong, and the words tumbling out as if you’d opened a jar of preserves and tipped it, too fast into a bowl.
But the longer she talked, the quieter her tone. At the end, so quiet, so small, you strained to hear. “And that’s in a big nutshell,” she said, “and it just cracked wide open.”
“It’s a big story,” you said. “And I don’t know what to say.”
And she’d looked at you, and the two of you sat in a silence, as if under a summer starlit sky, dazzled by something you both recognized as vast. Vaster than words.
And then you’d asked if there was anything you could do for her now, and she’d said, “Well, I was going to head over to the Value Village now…”
She didn’t ask for a ride. You offered. She didn’t ask that you buy her clothes. Nor did you offer. You asked, “Do you have money?” And she said yes.
Then you asked if it was ok to take a photo of her in Value Village. And she said, “Sure.”
So you’d followed her in, and tagged along, taking photos as she made a few stops enroute to the pants.
“Are you layered, Faye?”
“Yeah. Your clothes. It’s cold; are you layered under your hoodie? Are you warm?”
“Oh. Yeah. I was an officer in cadets. I know how to keep warm. You wear tight clothes underneath, then a few layers.” She pointed at her hat. “Make sure you keep your head warm.” She pointed at her feet, “and your feet” and then you’re good to go. So all you need on top is a hoodie.”
She has two hoodies, and two pairs of pants. “The rest is still in my tent at Jubilee Park.”
And with that, and after another hug, and her thanking you, again, for the ride, you left her there, in the aisle at Value Village. She’d take the bus back, she said. “Back” meaning to the tipi, where she’s been sleeping since the eviction from Jubilee Park on December 22, 2012.
Faye’s homeless. Has been since March 24, 2012, when a relationship ended “abruptly.”
She’d moved to Abbotsford to be with him in May, 2010. “It was complicated,” she said.
She told you a few things, and didn’t ask they not be repeated, but some things are best left in the care of the one who has lived and survived them. And this story about Faye, written here, is to show what no one sees when walking by Faye in the Value Village aisle, or as she’s riding her bike in Abbotsford, or walking, with a jaunt, to the beat of music from the ipod she’s hooked up to most of the time, a smile on her face, her earrings — vertical strings of pink-jewelled stars — moving in the air like a playground swing a child is pumping sky-high, her thoughts carefree and weightless as she devotes herself fully to the task at hand: pumping her legs to ride higher, still higher… The wind lifting her hair, and stroking her face, her hands clinging to the chains she trusts won’t break under her weight as she drifts between this side to that of the bar overhead, over and over, the ground and clouds blurred into one, and time — what’s time?
“It’s one day at a time, and sometimes not even that,” she says, when you ask how she gets through. “And a day for a homeless person is a long, long time.”