She curled into the mound of tattered old blankets piled high against the frozen clay banks along Winnipeg's Assiniboine River. A skiff of snow covered the ground beneath the elm trees that stood sentinel over this liminal ribbon of land between the river and the rest of the city.
This was Angelica's house.
By now, it was easy enough to find her. Her camp sat off on its own, just beyond the main encampment of tarps and tents and driftwood structures.
I brought along a couple of Narcan kits, some clean rigging, snacks, a hot coffee. Tithes from the harm reduction camp. An offering to the camp of hard times.
The water slipped by silently, illuminated by flickering lights shining off the bridge downstream. Beyond lay The Forks, that confluence of water and people, the meeting place for all nations since time immemorial, now cement and stores and coffee shops.
"This is Treaty One land, you know? Our land," Angelica once said.
Sometimes she visited the actual clinic. To use the washroom. To warm up. To bang down. To catch some shelter from the storm.
Other times, I visited the homeless encampment; it was our version of the canonized--almost sacred--clinical encounter, the drill that everyone who funnelled through medical school can act out autonomically. Our version had a few adaptations.
The interaction was often short. A glance exchanged--more bemusement than mistrust --for the most fleeting of moments. A mutual question hung there, sort of a "What is your world like?" as our orbits intertwined for a second and before we each slipped back into our respective shadows.
Nevertheless, on more neutral ground, Angelica and I slowly came to...