A few years ago, when I was going through a difficult patch in my life, during a shoulder season like now, not-winter, not-summer, I was hailed one evening by a voice from behind a small drift, with a shopping cart parked in front. It was close to the end of November, but above zero that day and calm. An Aboriginal man was lying behind a ridge of snow and against a hedge, trying to stay warm.
I had come home from somewhere that night, lost in contemplation, no doubt of my own troubles, and hadn’t even noticed the cart. I lived in Oliver then, and there are always carts and bottle pickers going through. Sometimes they would stash the cart for the night and come back for it the next day.
The man seemed like a character out of a Beckett play, you know, the kind that pop in and out of garbage cans and say the most absurd yet spellbinding things: “Hey! Come here for a minute,” he called over to me. I’m not sure I would have gone over to him if he had been standing up, but there was something about him on the ground, that was completely disarming. He was leaning on one elbow, stretched out in his parka and jeans, looking up at me as if it were the most natural thing in the world. “I’m just resting here for a few minutes,” he explained, “before heading to the bottle depot” nearby, to cash in his empties. “Then I want to get to the detox. Someone told me it’s around here.” He was perfectly coherent.
“Yes, I said, you’re really close.”
“I want to sober up for my granddaughter’s Christmas concert,” he went on.
“The detox is due east if you follow 103 Avenue to 107 Street,” I told him, pointing, the old social worker in me eager to help.
He was cheered to find that he was so close. Then he asked if he could have something to eat before he left. “I just need a little energy,” he said. So I ran into my apartment. I was low on groceries: the bread I had was frozen, but I did have a boiled egg. So I grabbed it out of the fridge and brought it out to him.
His eyes lit up, disbelieving. “Is it cooked?” he asked. “Yes, yes!” I have never been so excited to share a piece of food with a stranger. He was so grateful, he grabbed my hand and kept saying “Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas!” I said back. “Merry Christmas!” But I could just as well have said “Happy Easter! Happy Easter!”
Five minutes later I looked out the front door of the building. He was gone, his cart too. I don’t know if he ever found the detox or sobered up or attended his granddaughter’s Christmas concert. But I felt like I’d been visited by an angel. Which is all to say that the egg and the stranger and the enduring possibility of spring is what makes Easter for me. I still think about him.