Christmas shopping on Queen West at dusk
Broken men, huddled near the doorway to the Salvation Army, look out at the passing shoppers.
They all appear so wealthy and beautiful. Dressed crisply in black and plugged into their iPhones, they move swiftly and with such confident purpose that they seem visitors to this world—weightless, as if they might flicker in the dusk and then simply vanish. But the men who carried all of their possessions in hockey bags on their backs, who had decades of anger and disappointment burned into their features, they seemed weighted and permanent, and they stared like fires at these people streaming by.
Rocks left on the banks of a great river.
To get around the city I now need to use supplemental oxygen, which means I always have a tank on my back with tubing that leads to my nasal passages. In the stores, some people give me tight, warm smiles, the sort of smiles you see more in the eyes than on the lips. “There but for the grace of God, go I,” these smiles say. And of course, other people notice nothing at all, seeing just a form amongst other forms.
A couple, the only customers at La Hacienda, sat at a big, glowing window table.
She looked wary, as if a naturally defensive manner was built into her character. On the TV show of her life she would have been the sarcastic one, the one who always lived on love’s periphery. He was leaning in toward her, having made his body expansive and noticeable in effort to conceal his verbal insecurity, his fear that he was actually boring. And she was leaning away, as if she couldn’t believe she’d ben trapped by Jerome and his stupid man bun, and while he was talking she was actually composing the story she would tell her friends about this encounter later on, but still, there they were. Just the two of them glowing in their youth, glowing in the dark, glowing like a Christmas display in a window, and I wanted to yell at them, to shake them, “Damn it, fall in love, create a story that will last generations!”
On the street I was trying unsuccessfully to hail a cab. After about 15 minutes a young, college kid in a hoodie showed up beside me. He was so fresh-faced. His smile a simple, uncomplicated thing, his eyes clear. He wanted to get a cab for me. He wanted to run blocks to find one. He wanted to kick through the slush and snow and bring this good deed home to me. He wanted to find the lost dog, he wanted to clear a path for everybody in need, to be that light in the dark, that thing you remember when you think of Christmas.