October 30, 2018
The Life and Crimes
of Billy Butters: Chapter 5
"Butters?" I mumbled into the phone.
"Hey...how are you?"
"I'm good," he said happily, "I'm just chillin' at this men's shelter in Van. It's right downtown, great location."
"What?" as I felt the heat rise up my chest, no fucking way, "at a men's shelter? I thought you were living at your parents?"
"Nah, I ended up crashing my dad's work vehicle when I was drunk one night and they kicked me out," he chuckled. "They didn't want me around, well, it was mostly my dad, my mom was kinda chill about it, anyway, 'said I was a bad influence for my bro. It's cool though." I stayed silent, "After that, I got this job at Purdy chocolates, you know the factory on East 1st? But they fired me because I kept eating all the chocolate," he giggled, "I mean it's fucking chocolate, what did they expect? Purdys is delicious."
He was right, Purdys was delicious. In my preteen, overweight years, my dad would buy me a Purdys dipped chocolate ice cream cone after spending hours shopping at the mall, crying in the changing rooms of various clothing stores. I must have cried in just about every changing room of most major brands. My particular favorites were Esprit and Hollister. Their changing room doors were full size, so you could cry without being heard.
As nothing ever seemed to fit me, especially in the era of low rise jeans, ice cream would not only make me fatter but would soothe my chubby heart after such traumatic events. It's amazing how ill-fitted jeans can change your life. But that ice cream cone was worth each diary-induced lick. Now, I use the lighting in changing rooms to explore ingrown hairs and the peach fuzz on my upper lip. When I want to have a good cry, I stare at Instagram models. That way, I can feel like shit, but without the added calories.
I tried to get a word in but he was on a rampant roll. What the fuck could I have said anyway? Oh yeah, chocolate is great, do they serve that at the shelter? As he continued speaking, I broke down the turn of events post-break-up. I didn't want to start making grandiose assumptions, but it seemed that right after we broke up, his life went into a downwind spiral. I played around with the thought, but it was a substantially narcissistic thought to have, one that's pretty dangerous to sit on. He became homeless because of me. He got drunk and crashed his dad's car because of me. He ate all the chocolate at the Purdys factory because of me.
On the one hand, the empathetic side of me felt guilty that his life ended up like this, but my ego was impressed over the power I was able to have over someone. But if I was partially responsible for this, was this something I wanted ownership of? When I broke up with the guy I dated before him, Aaron, he underwent surgery for his receding chin and joined Crossfit. Now that was something I could take pride in, I mean, he can now wear birthday hats and wear tight t-shirts - a true win for everyone.
"Anyways," he continued, "I got fired and then started selling all my shit. It's way easier than working. But then I ran out of shit to sell, hehe, and getting a job is lame, so I just signed up for welfare and I'm staying at this men's shelter, hehe, it's pretty sweet." He said it with such conviction, you believed him. I believed him.
"So..." my thoughts were like a typhoon in my mind. Wow, you really fucked this one up, eh? No, I didn't. Well, you certainly helped. He couldn't have just started to work out at the gym and calorie count like every other broken-hearted person? I quickly picked a vague question to fill the silence, "What do you think you're going to do?"
"Well, uh, can you live at the men's shelter forever? Are you allowed?"
"I don't know actually, hehe. But I really like it here, plus, I don't want that 9 to 5 shit. I'm going to try to be here as long as I can." He paused for a moment, as he collected his thoughts, "oh, remember when I went to college? Okay, well, you know how I did that agriculture program for a month or whatever..."
"You want to go back to college?" my voice picked up as the guilt quickly faded away. See, you were meant to call him and help him get his life on track, "you know I can --"
"No, no, fuck college. I don't need four years of being brainwashed to learn how to grow a plant." A long pause filled my ear, "I'm thinking about making an opium farm."
"An opium farm? What do you mean an opium farm? Is that legal?"
"Nah, fuck the government. I'm gonna go far into the bush and do that shit right on their land. They won't fucking notice, I talked to this bum I met on the bus and he knows some people who do that shit. I'm not gonna give my tax dollars to those fucks anymore, I'ma start making money off of them. Fuck the system."
I didn't hear anything he said. "Wait, so you're going to become an opium farmer?"
"Yeah, I've been doing some research on YouTube for the water system and whatnot. It's pretty fucking cool."
I didn't know they had wifi at shelters.
I was happy to know he was learning how to build self-sufficient watering systems, I just didn't think it would be for an illegal opium farm. But it's a job, right? I mean, he was trying, right? I just needed him to do something good for himself. For myself.
"Ha ha," he continued, "they won't find me."
What the fuck is going on, what did you do? There's nothing worse than facing a tragedy you had a helping hand in creating. Or at least thinking you did. Or maybe you actually did. At that point, I wasn't sure.
"Um, well, I hope that works out well for you." Wow, Natasha. Inspiring. I paused for a moment and recollected my thoughts, "I know this is kinda a sudden switch in subjects and uh, you're probably wondering why I'm calling, but, uh, I, uh, you know, uh, called because I wanted to tell you, uh, ha, uh, that I'm sorry."
The phone became dead silent. He knew why I called. We all knew why I called.
"No, it's not." My palms were dripping from sweat, "I'm really sorry for what I did to you."
"It's okay, Natasha."
"I'm really sorry, Billy." My eyes became warm as they started to swell up.
"Butters is homeless, living in a men's shelter and wants to become an opium farmer," I said anxiously as I teared up a napkin and placed the shards into a neat pile in front of me. Sarah accepted my release of anxiety under one condition: that I kept the shards of the napkin in a neat pile.
"What, is that even legal? Wait, he's homeless?" she adjusted herself in her seat, "how do you even know that?"
"I called him."
"You called him? Why did you do that?" she said, as she stared at the shards of the napkin in front of me.
"I apologized to him for what I did."
She leaned back and smirked, "well, you did ditch him for another guy you met on a beach in Europe and then never spoke to him again as he waited, thinking you two were gonna get back together while he sat at home on house arrest...so... he deserved an apology. Even though it's like three years late." That bitch had been waiting for this moment.
"Well, it would have been nice to have been told I was being an asshole."
"You weren't going to listen, you didn't even realize what you did. Plus, you were madly in love with that European cabbage truck driver of a boyfriend," she crossed her arms, "what was I gonna say to you? Oh hey, remember Butters? You didn't give a shit." She was right. I didn't care then, I was living my whirlwind fairytale. This sudden urge to make things right was only because my current relationship with the European cabbage truck driver, as she called him, was in turmoil.
I hadn't seen my European boyfriend in seven months. You know how it is, that long-distance bullshit. I'm not sure how I thought it could have lasted, my Serbian was almost offensive and his English wasn't any better. But that wasn't the problem, we managed to hustle through that.
The problem arose when I dislocated my knee while dancing with some guy at the club. The good thing was this guy turned out to be a physiotherapist. The bad thing was that my boyfriend magically found out from across the other side of the globe. Just when you thought you had friends. The silver lining was that when you're immobile and need your parents to help you piss, you have a lot of time on your hands to think about life. That's when I remembered Butters.
I felt judged by Sarah when it came to my choice of men and she wasn't in a position to be handing out judgment. "He wasn't a cabbage truck driver, he was an economy student who now works as a successful parking attendant."
"No, he was a fucking alcoholic with a bad temper and you know that. He was mean to you. Remember when you did an undercut and he called you a whore and posted it on Facebook or whatever? Or that time he teased that disabled guy that worked at Ikea? Like, it's time to accept the truth. All you saw was this hot European guy who was a fucking asshole but gave you attention. And you didn't give a fuck about Butters or even that euro dirtbag you were dating. You liked projects, you wanted to reform bad boys because it was fun." She folded her arms, "it was fun and exciting and now Butter's homeless, actually homeless."
Though I heard her, I didn't hear her. I wasn't into hearing mediocre psychoanalysis of myself from someone with an associate's degree or trying to explain that my feelings towards bad boys and homelessness aren't correlated. "Okay, sure, it's a little late to say sorry, but listen, I tried to apologize to him before," I took a sip of water, "also, don't put all that shit on me, okay? Don't think you're some angel here, throwing your fucking words of wisdom on me."
"You heard me. You're sitting here all like homeless this and homeless that, fuck you. When you were dating that really nice Asian guy and he did that romantic night with the rose petals on the bed or whatever and you saw his dick for the first time and didn't fuck him because you said it was too small, I didn't say anything, but you know that was a cunt move. So, don't think you're on some moral high ground here. He probably didn't fuck for months because of you," I took another sip of water, "probably left him with some crazy small dick complex and you just peaced it, went onto the next dick like it was no biggie."
She stared at me for a moment, calculating her next move. I have more where that came from and you know it. She leaned back, "when did you try to say sorry to Butters? Because you never told me." That's because I didn't actually try to apologize. It was more like one of those convenient run-ins where you seize the opportunity and confess your sins while ordering a coffee or paying for a pack of underwear at Walmart, you know, you don't really go out of your way but manage to check off one of the things off of the to-do list.
"I wanted to apologize to him two years ago when I saw him at the stupid fucking Canucks game but then that riot broke out and you know Butters, he just couldn't stand still for a fucking second," I said agitatedly.
"Wait, you decided to meet him at the Canucks game?"
"Well, no, I ran into him there," I replied as her face dropped, unimpressed.
"I ran into him at the riot, and I was leaving, obviously, because it's a fucking riot and I was wearing these horrible slutty floral platforms that I couldn't walk in."
"Wait, those Jeffrey Campbell ones?"
"Yeah, the ones I bought online."
"They were horrible," she admitted as she shook her head. I allowed the low blow.
Though I was slightly upset with the revealed betrayal, I continued, "anyways, and there, in the middle of the street where riot police are running around like tards, yelling at everyone, he was running to the crowd because it's fucking Butters. He was looking pretty hot though, anyways, he said hi to me and kept going towards the riot. Then later, I found out he tried to loot The Bay but the cops came, so he hid in the ceiling with some homeless guy. And apparently everything was going alright, the police dogs came in, didn't smell him but then,"
I paused dramatically because nothing ever ends well with Butters, "then the homeless guy sneezed. I shit you not, he fucking sneezed, the cops pulled the homeless guy out from the ceiling, they didn't see Butters but you know bums, so the homeless guy ratted him out so he got arrested." I piled the shards of a napkin into the shape of a circle, "I guess I'm responsible for that too?"
She scratched her head, "I'm not sure who's worse, you or him."
"I don't even think it's about who was worse. I think we were both two hurt assholes that found each other. He just happened to become homeless."
"Yeah," she nodded as she furrowed her brow, "just like, where did you even find Butters?"
"The only place where two assholes could ever meet - playing chess at a house party."