by Nic Olson
You probably don’t remember me, and I don’t blame you. We likely never had a full conversation, except that time on Christmas Day that I picked you and Leon up at the bus stop and drove you to turkey dinner at the Marian Centre. But even then I didn’t know what you said when I asked you your name. I thought you said Leonard. Although I didn’t know you as well as I would’ve liked, I can say that I think of you often. I hung your name on my bedroom wall.
I can also say, however, that there was a time that I forgot you. I forgot your name and your face and how you talked. I forgot how you died and I forgot what reserve you were from. I forgot who your family was. I forgot your real name. Linden. All I remembered was this faint vision of a man I knew that had died last winter, and that was about it. When your name, ‘Mouse’ finally surfaced in my brain I wrote it on a sticky note and have kept it since. A pathetic monument, to be sure, but better than the alternative of me permanently forgetting.
That is what was supposed to happen. You were to die and your case file was to close and the $459 that the ministry gave you would be swallowed back into general funds and used to finance interest free/tax free rental developments and that was that. Your home at Detox would fill your bed in a matter of hours and after a week they’d neglect to mention your name ever again. All levels of government would continue to stage press conferences with scummy developers to show their commitment to you, although they deny your existence outright, even aloud to the media. Community organizations would trod along in their busy, busted down buildings and wait for the next death to sombre things up. You’d be forgotten by the world except by the family who would feed you while you’re on the other side.
There are campaigns for your sisters and aunts and grandmothers and daughters who have gone missing or were murdered, and the spirit of these rallies and vigils also reaches to you. Because although you’re a male, and although we know where and how you died, you’ve been brushed aside and purposely forgotten by a brutal system of murder and assimilation.
We’re all eventually forgotten, Mouse, that much is certain. In 100 years no one will know my name or remember that I can’t make a decision to save my goddamn life. But I’ll be forgotten simply because time has passed. They won’t remember you and how you said, ‘Softly,’ with a grin when you put out your closed hand for a fist pump. But you’d be forgotten because multi-million dollar government policy was designed for your culture to be destroyed and your life to be ripped apart. What I can try to do, in some way, even as simple and degrading as a sticky note on my bedroom wall, is to ensure that in 100 years, you’ll still have family on this earth that will at least have the chance to remember you and their other ancestors.
The government’s denial of your existence isn’t a slip of the tongue, it is long-standing, ingrained belief. Because to acknowledge your existence is to acknowledge that you deserve to be remembered. I won’t forget you and I’ll do my best make sure no one else does either. Because once we forget you, the system is winning and the people are losing. Eventually, the people always win. And we’ll win remembering your life.
It was a pleasure, my friend.
Nic from Carmichael