A conversation in front of the 7-11
In front of the 7-11 at Bloor and Spadina a homeless man sat cross-legged on the sidewalk. He was completely contained within a narrowing and unseasonable patch of sunlight and looked happy for this small pleasure. When he saw the dog and I walking toward him his features became warm and gentle, and now, instead of inviting sympathy from the world around him, he was radiating it outwards. I stopped and said hello and he nuzzled the dog’s ears. He wanted to know what the Chuck-It stick was that I was carrying and I explained that I used it to play fetch with the dog, that it was a kind of catapult. He expressed amazement that such a thing might exist.
“For dogs, eh? So instead of you throwing the ball, this thing throws it for you?”
“ She just loves it.” I told him. “She jumps about, all excited yet totally focused, her tail beating like a propeller. It’s just about impossible to imagine a creature as perfectly alive in it’s own body, you know?”
He smiled and nodded.
I was going to move on but I didn’t.
“Can you remember anything that made you feel as alive in your body as fetch does to this dog? For me I think it was playing hockey as a boy. It was like being free of from the limitations of my body, almost from gravity, and I loved it so much that I would play for hours and hours and hours, finally walking home in my skates with frozen feet.”
The man didn’t say anything and I felt I’d gone on too much and was being weird and was about to move along again, but then he started to answer my question.
“I wasn’t much at sports and I guess I liked being alone– I didn’t have the best home life– but what I loved was kites. I had a Superman kite and I would go out into a field when I was about 8 or 9 and just see how high the wind could take it, imagining myself to be the kite, to be up there like Superman. So like you said, it was being free from your body, and those were the greatest moments of peace and happiness I think I ever had in my life.”