The other day I rode my bike into Koreatown to run a few errands, popping in to the Bloor Fruit Market at the corner of Manning. There was a longish lineup that was moving slowly and in front of me at the cash was a slightly sketchy looking guy buying a pack of Pall Mall’s. He was paying with a universe of change and the cashier was being very deliberate, almost suspicious, as she counted it out. When she finally did and nodded that there was enough money, the guy who was buying the smokes literally got a spring in his step, like this was the happiest thing that was going to happen to him all day long, maybe all week.
Just as I was about to move forward and pay for my items an old woman stepped wordlessly in front of me in the line. I looked down and saw that she had left her basket on the floor there before me. She dropped a few items into it and made a point of avoiding eye contact with me before pointing her chin up and away in a haughty, indifferent way. It irritated me a little bit, the way that these types of things do, and I watched her. Her hair was touchingly dyed the way that all grandmothers seem to colour their hair and the paint on her fingernails was chipped and fading, her fingers bent and swollen. On the back of each hand was a small, gauze bandage that had been taped into place by a nurse, little, island bruises spreading out from beneath— the signs of chemotherapy. When she left the store she got into a red Sentra that was idling in front, and sat down and smiled as if relieved. Her daughter or granddaughter, the woman who was driving, also smiled and they drove off, the old woman now happy, her basket full of the vegetables she need to make that special dish for her family who still remained.
Heading home I passed a beautiful young woman. The sunlight caught her hair and her cheeks were pinched a healthy rose by the autumn. Her right leg was in a brace and she used a cane to help as she threw one side of her body in front of the other, heaving up the street toward the subway, beauty and sadness falling indiscriminately upon the world around us.