Ryann Reflections

A glimpse into the life of one anti-social stripper nerd.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


He calls himself Robbie the Newfie, but his east coast accent is fading. I don’t know how long he’s been in Vancouver. Beyond his name, I don’t really know anything about his past. But he always smiles when he sees me in the parking lot at the No5.

It’s raining. I’m just leaving PACE, pulling through a shallow alley in the downtown eastside, when I spot Robbie. He’s shivering, wearing a thin woman’s blouse and boxer shorts. Rain drips off the ends of his sandy brown hair and runs down his forehead. I watch him wipe it away with his thin arm and catch his eye and wave. My smile holds his attention long enough for him to recognize me. As I pull through the alley he takes long strides towards my car. “Hey! Princess. Hang on. Just a second.”

I stop and unroll my window, looking up at his too thin six-foot frame, “How you doing Robbie?”

“Not good. It’s not good.”

For the first time I realize the rain is mixed with his tears. “What’s going on? You’re freezing. You okay?”

He shakes his head, still shivering, and begins to cry. “It’s not a good day princess. Look at me. I’m fucked up.”

“Have you eaten today?”


“Robbie. Seriously. Are you okay?” My concern must have struck a chord.

“No. I’m trying to find a reason to get up in the morning and there just isn’t one. Look at me. There’s nothing left. There’s no point. I just want to die. She’s gone and there’s nothing left.”


“My wife.” He sobs “She died in the spring. A complication with her heart. From smoking crack. It does stuff to your heart. And she needed medicine. And I tried. I brought her to the hospital and I sat with her. But crack, it does stuff---

“Yes it does.”

“Like with me. But she died. And I tried but she’s gone. There’s nothing left… and now. Now there’s really no point. I just want to die.”

“Oh Robbie. I’m so sorry. I’m sure you miss her very much.”

“And now… I talked to the clinic and it’s all over.” Tears stream down his face. “I got it. HIV. Now the love is gone. No one will ever love me again. She worked y’know. On the streets. But I loved her. And she loved me. Just to have a woman all warm and good. I tried to take care of her. I tried.” He chokes on tears, “But she died and now no one will ever love me again.”

I force a soft smile and keep listening.

“And I have so much love to give. So much love to give. So much love… that’s all that matters. I don’t belong here. I fucked up. I don’t belong here. I gotta get out. Get cleaned up… I’m a painter by trade. But no one will ever love me again. There’s no point.”

“Are you going to the clinic? Are you getting treatment?”


“You’re a painter. That’s a good trade.”

“Yeah. If I could just get a job and get out of here. I gotta get out of here. Get cleaned up. I gotta get out.”

“That’s a good idea.”

He whispers, “Aren’t you afraid of me?”


“Why’d you stop and talk to me?”

“Because you’re Robbie the Newfie. You’re a person.”

“You’re really not afraid of me? The HIV doesn’t scare you.”

“No Robbie. It doesn’t. You’re a human being with hope and love and fear. Just like everybody else.”

“Hey if I get cleaned up and get a job and all that would you go to movie with me?”

“I don’t know. You get cleaned up first.” I smile.

He nods.

“Can you get out of the rain this afternoon? Is there somewhere you can go?”

He nods again and reaches his bony hand out to collect the two dollars I offer. Grasping my hand tightly he holds on for a moment. “Thank you for listening. Thank you.”

“Of course. You take care okay.”

He nods again and waves as I slowly pull out of the alley. Tears well in my eyes as I drive away, warm and safe in my car.



  • At 4:23 AM, Blogger Cairde said…


  • At 4:31 AM, Blogger deepthoughts said…

    oh my god. that just broke my heart ryann.

  • At 7:35 AM, Blogger Christopher L said…

    A sad situation... but what you did was incredibly noble, all he needed was an ear for the moment and unlike many people in this world... You let him have one. That was good of you. I'm sure it brightened his world for quite a while that day, whether or not you got to see the light that came from it...

    Hopefully he gets treatment. Hopefully he finds life again. Even after something like that... there are ways to find the warmth of another human being, its just that the pool you pull from is a lot smaller.

    Stay strong, Ryann.

  • At 10:00 AM, Blogger Ryann said…

    it broke my heart too :*(

  • At 10:53 AM, Blogger Annie Temple said…

    Wow. Thank you for sharing that story. xoxo

  • At 4:21 PM, Blogger KellyNerd said…

    you are an incredible person. wow. thanks for sharing this story.

  • At 5:39 PM, Blogger thestraightpoop said…

    Aaah that is sad. Sitting here with a big lump in my throat.

    He's awfully lucky to have you as a friend. Powerless as I am sure you feel, you made the different that day.

  • At 12:48 AM, Blogger Cheeks Filibuster said…

    Thank you Ryann for this post.

  • At 6:18 PM, Blogger Croaker said…

    Very sad, always someone out there that makes your story seem trivial. None of us are to far from being a Robbie.

  • At 7:40 AM, Blogger jlb said…

    i've been reading for a little while, and thought i'd say hi. it's amazing sometimes what compassion for another human can do. you listened..you showed him you cared...that will make a difference for him - if not now, then later.


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