This article appeared in the October 2012 edition of Ottawa Magazine.
by Judy Trinh
At the first home, a woman unleashes a barrage of profanities at me while chasing me off her garbage-strewn front yard. At the second, I encounter another woman sitting on her back stoop, staring vacantly at a parking lot. She simply sits in silence, refusing to acknowledge my presence. By the time I visit the third place, a simple walk-up brick apartment building in the city’s south end, I’m not sure what to expect. The main entrance consists of a creaky screen door that opens up to a set of steep, narrow stairs. My shoes echo with each step as I climb the dozen or so stairs to the top-floor unit, a not so subtle announcement of my arrival. A knock on the door of Unit 2 prompts a singsongy voice to inquire, “Who is it?”
A petite woman opens the door, smiling politely. Dark curls frame her makeup-free face, and she’s dressed in a long floral skirt with a crocheted shawl draped over her shoulders. When I introduce myself as a reporter, her breath catches and her smile fades. She knows the reason for the visit is her 15-year-old daughter, C.B.* [all names changed to protect the identity of the teens] “I don’t know what happened. I’m still trying to figure it out.” Her words trail off. Her voice is tinged with defeat.