The Power I Once Had (Zena)

There are times when I run into a mire of defeating thoughts, frustration and anger and I see how easy the inability to change ‘past choices’ can haunt you in the present. You work through what you could have done differently almost obsessing over each of those moments that have come to define who you are today. Those defining moments never fade, it is how you choose to live with them that alters your future. Some know what they need to do, but can’t achieve it. I am fortunate for awesome family and absolutely amazing zany crew of friends that helped pick me back up. Some people just slip away into obscurity with no one to pick up the pieces when they need mending.

I ran into Zena (Pronounced Zen-Nah) while walking on Richmond St. near York St. I sat down at the edge of the curb to talk to her for awhile and instantly her story flooded. She sat above a steam metal grated vent to keep warm all the while constantly rubbing her hands together. Her distinct accent easily detected as her words flowed. She has been in Canada for 13 years immigrating from South Africa losing touch with most or all of her family. Judging from the conversation she continues to work through her scenario over and over again in her mind. She is embattled with her fading memories and trying to achieve what she thinks will save her in the future. Some of the conversation becomes borderline surreal and nonsensical, but the merit of the tale rang through of decisions that can’t be changed, loneliness, despair has gripped her and a haunting knowledge that a resolution may never come.

She continually phrased the words ‘the power I once had’ or ‘I need to someone to give me the power again (she apparently calls a lawyer regularly and leaves messages for them asking for this power she needs) I guess she is recalling a time when she had independence and freedom to do things on her own without challenge and now to become anonymous on the streets with little resource available to her must be a dis-empowering feeling.

She talked about a brother in Vancouver, she mentioned University Degrees that she lost during her travels (losing the degrees is also something that she leaves in messages for the lawyer and something she thinks is required for her to achieve social assistance. Also a very important link to her story in some way.)

While we continued conversation, I requested to photograph her and she became very shy thinking she wasn’t photogenic, immediately hiding her worn and stained hands into her sleeves. She did say I could capture a shot and granted me full permission but I realized that I was losing her comfort and trust at this point so I backed off as I didn’t want to be intrusive to her and almost decided not to use her photograph at all.

I am hoping that maybe someone might catch her image on the blog and recognize the story, while she isn’t clearly defined in this shot, family and friends always have a way spotting someone they care about a mile away.