Ronald Stevens had a disagreement with Wayne earlier that night, but this time it was serious. Stevens became excited and angrier as he approached Wayne. The two squared off, face-to-face in the middle of the street.
“This is to the death,” said Wayne. Stevens agreed.
Earlier that night, a 13-year-old girl entered the kitchen crying with cuts around her eyes.
“What happened?” asked Stevens.
“Wayne hit me, I was only trying to calm him down.”
“Where is he?” demanded Stevens.
After a night of heavy drinking and pill popping, an intoxicated Stevens set out to find Wayne. Stevens approached him and delivered the first blow. It struck Wayne in the face and knocked him on his back. Stevens got on top, delivering blows to Wayne’s face and torso. He lifted himself up and took his sweater off as Wayne lay there. Then, he returned for more. He began kneeing and elbowing him while punching and kicking his face. He stomped on his head with both feet. After Stevens felt Wayne had enough, he rolled his body off the road and into a 15-foot gutter.
Two days later, sitting in remand awaiting court, Stevens realized the severity of his actions after reading the disclosure on the case. When Wayne was lying in the gutter he was belly down. One of his nostrils stayed above the water allowing him to breathe until he was found that morning.
Wayne was in a coma on life support. He suffered two broken cheekbones, a broken jaw, and six broken ribs on his left side, a broken elbow, leg, and a dislocated shoulder. When he woke from his coma, doctors discovered Wayne had lost 30 per cent of his vision in his left eye.
During Stevens’ early teens, he felt he had to prove himself in Eskasoni to the bigger guys. He had to be hard to survive on Nova Scotia’s largest First Nation Reserve. Stevens was a smaller boy, but he had to make up for it by challenging anybody, regardless of size.
At 15, Stevens returned home where he found his mother crying at the kitchen table.
“Last night I waited for you and your brothers all night, it’s my birthday,” she said.
Stevens and his brothers either forgot or didn’t care. She then told her sons she had breast cancer and six months to live. Stevens held his emotions back; he didn’t hug her or look her in the eyes.
“If that isn’t cold, then what is?” Stevens said in an interview.
A few months later his mother was admitted to the hospital where she could receive daily treatment. She wanted Stevens there daily so they could spend time together before she passed. But he was too involved in drugging and rarely visited his mother.
One day, an uncle of Stevens picked him up and told him they had to go to the hospital immediately. Stevens told himself that this time he’d tell his mom he loved her.
He saw a shooting star on the way to the hospital. When he got there, she was dead. He never got the chance to tell her he loved her.
After 10 months in remand, the Crown and Steven’s defense lawyer agreed on a five-year sentence for assault. The 10 months he spent in jail awaiting trial was not deducted from the sentence.
His first six weeks in Springfield penitentiary were scary. The Native Brotherhood was at war with Spryfield Celtics. A Spryfield soldier stabbed and killed a member of the Native Brotherhood. The institution was locked down for weeks.
For Stevens, prison was home. He feels that life on the inside is similar to life in Eskasoni. You must defend yourself and not back down from unimaginable odds. Deaths and suicides were just part of life in both places.
Three-and-a-half years into his sentence, he made it to the Westmorland Institution, a minimum-security prison. An inmate approached Stevens and told him hot girls were coming to the institution to do missionary work.
Stevens saw this as an opportunity to find a pen pal. He met a Christian girl and began a conversation.
“She was so happy. To her nothing in the world mattered, she had no worries. She was just so happy.” Stevens never experienced this kind of happiness: “I wanted it, and I craved it.”
“If you want what I got, just raise your hand in the air to Jesus,” the girl said.
For a joke, Stevens raised both of his hands.
That night in his cell, Stevens thought about the girl and how happy she was.
“If only I could be that happy.”
He shut off his light, kneeled on the floor facing the bunk, clasped his hands and said, “You got one chance with me God.”
Suddenly, a warm sensation entered his body. It started at his head, passed through his body and exited through his feet.
“I was totally convinced, without a shadow of doubt, that God and Jesus was real.”
He then wanted to get an education, become a social worker, and help youth who went through the same struggles.
“Everything, all the trouble, all the pain, it was all for a reason. It was for that moment in time, for that feeling.”
The walls of his bachelor apartment are covered with diplomas and certificates for completing Bible study. Stacks of daily devotionals fill his dresser. A Scarface poster with Tony Montana brandishing a machine gun is pinned to the wall, next to an “Amazing Grace” plaque.
Stevens is now in his third-year of university, majoring in social work.
Stevens still fights his “demands.” He has slips. About once every month, he abuses alcohol and cocaine.
He prays every night; he asks the Holy Spirit to show him the way. He says without daily prayer, “I will end up following the old way.
“I will always believe in the word of the Lord. He has stuck with me through my toughest times, so I will stick with him through my best.”
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