Women, children, joggers, smokers, hot dog sellers, construction workers, pigeons—the whole world passes you by when you stand on the street corner long enough. Part Two of this report appeared in Geist 87.
QUEEN AND DOWLING 5:40 A.M.
At the streetcar stop, in the warm and clean and early air, a Tibetan woman is holding an insulated cup containing tea, probably tea, likely tea with milk. She wears blue pedal-pushers, flip-flops and a blue sweatshirt. Next to her is a young man wearing knee pants and sneakers; his T-shirt, red. Next to him a pretty girl with wispy red hair in ringlets, wearing tights and a loose white top. Her shoes hurt her feet. We all have shoulder bags. When the streetcar arrives, we board in this order: her, him, her, me. A man is already on board, so we are five as we ride. I know this streetcar. I’ve ridden it before. I recognize it by the black stain on the aisle seat—the sheen, the shape of it.
Overhead: an ad for the public library; an ad promoting affordable funerals; an ad for a pink stomach remedy. Out the window: Bargain Mart. The Sizzling Grill. An internet café, empty because those people stay up late and get up late; this is early.
A man boards the car and thanks the driver for his transfer; the transfer is mandatory. This is not Venice, the Queen car is not a vaporetto, the street is not a canal; we don’t trust each other here. Across from me is a man with a scowl who keeps his bag beside him so that he won’t have to share the seat with anyone. Out the window: a big young girl in a sun dress—no sun yet—over a pair of tight black jeans. Queenglad Pawnbrokers Buy Sell Trade. A man with a dragon T-shirt.
The forecast: A mix of sun and cloud near noon. Wind becoming south 20 kilometres late this morning. High 28°. UV Index 8, or high.
The headline in the free paper: Doughnut Debate Heats Up. A yellow bicycle is chained to a tree in Trinity Bellwoods Park: yellow seat, yellow chain, yellow handlebars, yellow tires. Yellow art.
Three white people board the car: a white woman and two men, all carrying cups of coffee, likely double doubles.
A thought occurs: if the paper cup was soaked in coffee flavour, all you’d have to do is fill it with hot water.
A girl in heels—it’s too early for heels—tiptoes, ouch-ouch-ouch, into Super Queen’s Market.
Two men sit up front: grey brushcuts, short-sleeved shirts, speaking softly.
“Yeh, yeh, ah, yeh.”
Queen and Spadina, where the cop car burned. Past the Horseshoe Tavern where I saw Charley Pride in 1967. I had never seen anyone famous up close until then.
Two backhoes on Soho; one car in the parking lot; six men pouring a concrete sidewalk; a cop in a lime-green vest. The girl with the wispy red hair gets off at University, looking as if it hurts her to be pretty. It’s the shoes.
The Opera House: a Land Rover parked in the window. City Hall: two men sleeping on benches, one man sleeping on the walkway, all sleeping men in sleeping bags, all sleeping bags look like cocoons.
6:10 A.M. VICTORIA AND QUEEN (HER NAME, HER JOB, HER CORNER)
Five giant statues—men, tall and rusted, stand guard on the northwest corner. On the wall near the door of the coffee shop there is a plaque to honour the artist and explain the statues. Peter Von Tiesenhausen. Full Circle 2002. Cast Iron and Granite. “The iron figures in ‘Full Circle’ are direct casts of five wood originals that were carved”—the sound of a streetcar—“and blackened in a fire on the Canadian prairie. From there began a journey that took them 35,000 kilometres through every province and around every territory. From Newfoundland they navigated the Northwest Passage to Tuktoyaktuk. Down the Arctic Ice Road through the mountains of the Yukon and Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia. ‘The Watchers’ returned to the plains five years later. Having nearly traced”—a sparrow, and another—“the geographical boundaries of Canada”—a man walking his dog—“they had come full circle.” The iron men are rusted. Rusting.
I have seen the photos of them when they were wooden, and burning on the prairie; the photos are not on display. Rust is a form of fire. The granite on which the rusting figures stand is shaped like the almond-sweet, sugar-powdered ricciarelli of Siena; on it someone has written, in a neat hand, with a felt marker: 5 Star.
A nurse buys a cup of coffee. That’s not coffee. Across the street someone sleeps on a grate next to a traffic cone; too soon to say if it is man or woman. An office worker, high style, Toronto style: ponytail, print shirt, dark skirt, sneakers, high heels in bag, on her way to work.
The sleeping figure sleeps like I do, and I sleep on my side. A well-dressed man with a dolly pulling two carry-bags full of papers. A man with his ID tag around his neck.
THE LONG BRANCH CAR HEADS WEST, MOSTLY EMPTY
A slim man in a red T-shirt whose expression suggests he thinks it’s funny that he’s up so early. His hair is water-combed. He talks to himself. “Oh.” O-roony. A young man wearing paint-stained jeans cycles west, and then another.
I think the sleeper is a woman.
A streetcar, westbound, covered in plastic wrap. Pictured: spoons; a restaurant ad.
The hospital, of course, with its blue angel. A man with a barbed wire tattoo on his biceps talks to himself. A pigeon, and another, and another. Banks in this neighbourhood, a park, some restaurants; shops selling voice recorders, cell phones, electronic gadgets; a couple of shops selling papers, magazines, cigarettes and gum.
The public square around the corner is not rimmed with cafés, where you can while away the time with an espresso or a glass of beer. A woman in a runner’s costume holds her coffee like a torch. A Wheel-Trans van, one occupant. A man stoops to tie his shoe. A taxicab, a meat truck, a plumber’s van. A man with a cane and a limp has a teddy bear secured to the zipper of his backpack and a cup of coffee in his non-cane hand. The sidewalk is clean.
Another man with a shopping cart full of bottles, his cart is orange. That sound, the same bottle-rattle over every break in the sidewalk. He also has a big pressurized aluminum can. His nose is flattened. There is a fresh scar on his forehead.
Three mountain ash trees are planted around the rusting men. A man being pushed in a wheelchair is clutching his crutches. The woman pushing him is his wife.
Long Branch car, heading west, full. Another man with a barbed wire tattoo circling his bicep. A woman with hot pink toenails and flip-flops and a business skirt. A bullet-headed white man in a shiny black truck: wraparound sunglasses, turning north on Victoria, tapping ashes out the window, glaring at me.
QUEEN CAR EASTBOUND / LONG BRANCH WESTBOUND, BOTH FULL
Now I am sure the sleeper is a woman: her hips, her bare feet are too slender to be a man’s.
Turtle Island Recycling. A young man with a shaved head, loudly: “Go fuck yourself.” I’m tempted to ask if he’s talking to me.
Down the street is Massey Hall. I saw Frank Zappa there in 1967 or ’68. There is no reason to be here, on this corner, except that there’s no reason to be anywhere else. A boy with a skateboard and a Maltese cross on his T-shirt.
The sleeping woman is using her sneakers as a pillow. She has a bowl of something and a cup of something by her head. No one stops to ask if she’s okay. I do. “Sweetheart, you okay?” No answer. “You still alive?” “Fuck off; can’t you see?” Alive, then. In proof of which she waves her hand at her bowl, and her cup—milky coffee in the cup, white pap in the bowl.
“What are you doing, sleeping on a grate?” “I’m homeless.” “How come you’re homeless?” “Because I haven’t got a place to live. Have you got any money?” I hand her a fiver. “Thank you, sweetie.” A street-vac passes by. She rolls over and closes her eyes.
A big woman, coffee and smokes in her left hand, cigarette in her mouth, lighter in her right hand, bends her head to the flame, fires up, takes a drag, starts her day. You have to walk if you want to smoke.
A man with a guitar and curly, shoulder-length hair: a bum, or a Christian on the prowl. The sun appears at the corner of the hospital. The Queen Street subway stop is pushing people onto the street. Two dump trucks, empty, at the light, facing the sun. This is a hard town in the morning if you live west and work east: you get light in your eyes at both ends of the day.
A nurse in lime-green scrubs and sensible shoes. One small brown man to another:
“Oh, stupid, though, isn’t it? The subway’s a big headache.” There are homeless shelters nearby. The sun hits my eye.
A woman gets out of a car. She doesn’t speak to the driver. He watches the light. She closes the door. He drives south on the green. She steps into the coffee shop.
A man with a white beard and a briefcase, sunglasses, suit and tie; he checks his fly with his left hand and carries on. A man in work clothes pushes a wooden bin on rollers. A woman wearing a head scarf looks at the five rusted men, looks at me, looks at the sky. Her dress covers her ankles. Her scarf covers her hair.
“It’s music to the pope,” says a man who shields his face from the sun with his briefcase.
Steps quicken, late for work.
I see the sleeping woman. I see her bowl. I see her cup of coffee. I see people pass her by. I see a pigeon. The pigeon gives the woman a wide berth, nods with a jerk at the cup of coffee, walks close, looks both ways, walks back, pecks at the bowl, steps away, pecks again, decides it is good to eat, eats until it is full, then steps back and walks away.
QUEEN CAR EASTBOUND, FULL, FOLLOWED BY AN ORANGE MOTOR SCOOTER
An Asian woman heads for the hospital, wearing salmon scrubs.
Right-handed tea carry. I can tell it is tea. I can see the Red Rose bag-string, dangling. The Toronto Star in a man’s hand, folded.
We look tender in the morning, vulnerable, sad. One half-ton pickup, then another. The first half-ton is blue, clean. The second is green, dirty, topped with a ladder: one for show, one for go. A shaky jogger, smoking, spits.
No one asks the sleeping woman if she’s ill. A security guard: cropped hair, wraparound shades, hands in pockets, legs planted wide. Grey shirt, impeccably pressed, with red patches; the black pants are balloon drapes pegged at the ankle, low on his hips. Skinny black shiny shoes. Hip.
Purple scrubs, slate-blue scrubs.
A bike with a squeaky brake. A fly investigating a crack in the sidewalk. A cigarette butt. Many people carry two bags; some people carry three.
McCaul car, heading west. An old smoker jaywalks. A cement truck. A Greyhound bus. A man carrying his hard hat in one hand, and a three-step ladder in the other; caulking compound in his bag, a tattoo on the back of his neck. A man with earbuds, chewing gum, his jaws alive under his porkpie hat. A City cab, rare downtown.
A woman in blue scrubs, ponytail, earbuds, coffee in her left hand, bag on her right shoulder, second bag in her right hand. A woman pushing a trolley carrying three trays of sandwiches. A tall black woman, older, with white cornrows, green shirt, white pants, red handbag, grey satchel, and gold hoop earrings. A bum in a slouch hat talks to himself. A flatbed truck, air brakes snorting. A young black nurse wearing light green scrubs, her hair piled girl-group high, heartbreakingly beautiful. A young white man with a yellow hard hat, earbuds, black T-shirt, left arm tattooed heavily.
A woman with a book. A girl with a cup of coffee who stumbles at the curb and does not spill a drop.
A streetcar wrapped in an ad for green tea; the tea is available in plastic bottles. A fire truck in no hurry, nevertheless with its siren. A man with a cane and a guide dog. The man pats the guide dog’s head. The dog is placid. The man squints, bends, puts his Thermos between his knees, lights a smoke. A yellow-and-blue city dump truck. A shy man with a walker and a cup of coffee. Two paramedics walking toward their ambulance. They walk like sailors or Wild West cowboys, with a rolling gait.
A fellow with a shaved head stands close, but not too close, to the sleeping woman. He yells at the top of his voice, not at her. She wakes up. She glares. He is no threat. She turns over. The sidewalk is hard but it is warm. A backhoe heads east and a woman with an orange apron assumes a position on the corner and begins to hand out free newspapers.
“Sir, have you got any money? My dad’s in the hospital. He’s dying of pneumonia.” She is fiftyish. Her haircut was good two months ago. Now it is uncombed and unwashed and ragged at the edges.
“I called my sister. She gets mad when I call. She’s a teacher, sir, she’s retired. She had breast cancer. It spread to her ovaries. She doesn’t want to talk to me.” She can’t stand still. Her hair is short. Her eyes are seeking something. Her chin is wet.
“Is your dad in St. Mike’s?” “Sir, no, Scarborough. I love him very much, I don’t want him to die.” “You should visit him.” “I can’t, my sister. I’m afraid. I come downtown. I don’t know why. I left my man, he’s my best friend, I don’t know why. He yells at me. Why do I come downtown? I’m trying to think with my mind.”
A motorbike honks at a car. A man wears a T-shirt with the map of Africa on his belly. Someone says “You want a coffee?” Someone says, “Nah.”
“Sir, I have schizophrenia. I don’t want my dad to die. I’ll remember him always as good. Is that right? To remember?” “You should see your dad. You should tell him.” “Sir, I can’t. I was good growing up. I got good grades. I studied French at school, a French school. I didn’t neck with the boys. I got prizes in acting and fitness. I was in drama. I was a negligee model.” Why does she tell me that? What does she mean?
A big round woman in an orange dress carries a tray of dainty tarts. A woman, Latina, is taking snapshots: she holds the camera the way we do now, with her arms extended in front of her face. The picture she takes is of a building with no particular significance. What does she see? A man sits on the other side of the granite bench.
A woman asks me if she can buy a smoke. I do not smoke any more. She moves to the other man, who is smoking. “Sir, can I buy a smoke?” He gives her one.
My new friend: “Sir, I don’t know what to do.” “You should call your man. He’s your best friend.” “He’ll yell. I don’t know why I come downtown.” “You should see your dad.” “He’s dying.”
Many people wear ID tags with pictures. I remember once, not far from here, seeing a man who had his own face tattooed on his shoulder. We are all of us labelled. We are all of us dying. The people we know are aware that we are dying. We are not aware, ourselves, of such a thing.
For a brief moment there are no cell phones in sight. A woman carries a pair of sneakers in a plastic bag. The sneakers in the bag are white. So are the ones on her feet. The headline in the free paper: Family First.
501 CAR WEST
The call and response of car horns. A boy wearing a do-rag delivers a load of freshly laundered uniforms.
505 DUNDAS, TURNING NORTH ON VICTORIA, RINGING ITS BELL
A man in black sweatpants holds a map and waves at two women across the street. He is wearing shower sandals. They are wearing head scarves. A tall man in a good suit with a zippered briefcase, cowboy boots, ponytail: oh, a lawyer. A dwarf on a bike. A woman wearing a sleeveless dress carries a clutch purse tucked under her armpit. An old man in a coat who misjudged the weather. A boy in a suit on a bicycle. I hate the sound of flip-flops.
Two street sweepers with brooms and dustpans, wearing lime-coloured reflective vests; they are deaf, and they sign to each other merrily.
The sun is blocked by a tall building. A fat grey-haired man wearing a white shirt and pink pants, carrying a briefcase. One of the street sweepers carries a cardboard tray with two paper cups of coffee.
A woman on a bicycle. Her ponytail emerges from under her helmet; it is as thick as a hawser on her bare shoulder—the effect, strangely erotic. A transport truck, long and white, parked by Massey Hall, and another, and another. A grocery van. A man on crutches with his keys around his neck. Coffee, coffee, Thermos, water, coffee, bicycle, bicycle. A court services van, filled with men on their way to court. A man on his phone: “You do whatever you want. I have no say in what you do.” A man from a shelter is wearing a reindeer sweater.
There is a pillar near the woman who is sleeping with her head on her shoes. There is a drop cloth at the base of the pillar. There is a tray of paint and a man painting the pillar with a roller. The colour of the paint is no colour.
A cyclist confronts a jaywalker: “Hey!” Two Native guys laugh at the futility of anger, and the futility of haste in the morning. Motorcycle, bike, bike. Three bikes chained to one pole.
505 DUNDAS WEST, 502 MCCAUL EAST
A grocery truck. A tour bus, southbound, with a fleur-de-lys on the side, under the windows; the bus is empty.
501 HUMBER, PICKING UP AND DROPPING OFF
An old man pushes an old woman in a wheelchair. A young man with a fresh cut on his cheek. A fat biker with studded leather saddlebags on the side of his hog. The first walking texter.
A hospital worker pushes a rolling bin in the parking lot. Two women smoking, drinking coffee; one of the women says, “I’m deeply ashamed.”
At least forty people on the corner now. The pace is quickening: you can be late for work at 6:00 a.m., and you can be a little late at 7:00 a.m. but you should not be late at 8:00 a.m. and never late at 9:00 a.m. Not downtown.
The sleeping woman wakes up, sits up and crosses her legs as if she were sitting in front of a campfire. She picks up her coffee and she drinks. She takes the spoon and she eats from the bowl of pap in which the pigeon has pecked.
An eco-taxi. A girl whose youth is the cause of her pain. A van with a woman in a wheelchair.
The woman who was sleeping, having eaten what the pigeon ate, gets ready for the day: she puts her shoes on her feet. No laces in her shoes.
A parcel van, a city maintenance truck, two cyclists.
And somehow, the sleeper vanishes. Her coffee and her bowl remain.
All the streetcars are crowded. Earbuds, sunglasses. Earbuds, sunglasses. Earbuds, sunglasses.
A woman: “They apologized to me profusely for making me wait twenty minutes.” A yellow panel truck. A homeless man wearing an investment company baseball jersey. A food truck on delivery. A man with a tiny dog on a leash; the dog is afraid of cars and won’t go near the curb. A man with a cane and an open shirt kisses his wife without a word. They part without looking at each other. A mobile truck whose purpose is to shred documents. Two male nurses, wearing pea green scrubs and white running shoes, off to work. A father pushing his son in a pram with his right hand, carrying a coffee in his left hand.
A soft young man with his soft hand out, in a soft voice: “Change for a coffee? Ha? I’m just going to McDonald’s.” A white woman in an orange dress with a white shoulder bag, white runners and a large cherry-coloured drink in her left hand. A truck full of construction workers.
A family of Sikhs who look lost. The Sikh father carries a note in his hand. His turban is black. His beard is black. His children, a boy and girl, do not look lost. They are with their father. His wife does not look lost. She looks concerned.
A truck stacked with folding chairs. A young man with two skinny white cords between his teeth; the cords go from his teeth to his ears.
One girl says to another, “I told him yeah, okay, whatever, right.” A bus: Youth For Human Rights. “That is not what I would say,” says the other girl. Behind me, an old man and a young woman. He says to her, “I said to Norman, let’s just do it. That’s the only picture we took.” A picture of what?
A court services truck. A tourist bus, jitney-style, empty. A man carrying a stuffed briefcase wearing a blue and white striped shirt, smoking what we used to call a cigarillo. A man, on his uppers, with a neck brace, wearing a T-shirt with the words “Tzu Chi.”
This occurs to me: “Hey, buddy, you’re the fifth one of those T-shirts I’ve seen so far this morning; what’s the deal?” “There was a tai chi meeting in the park yesterday.” This is how we clothe the homeless.
The sun escapes the building. A family of four—motherfatherdaughterson—at a table in the fast food joint, drinking iced cola for breakfast.
Metropolitan United Church. A man takes a snapshot of the spires. A man sleeps on the grass. Another man sleeps on the steps of the church. Four chess tables. Someone has chained an insulated cooler to the park bench where I sit. Four men who are not watching the chess games are watching the cars go by. They watch a woman with a yoga mat go by on her bike.
Pigeons, sparrows, grackles. Orange peels, cigarette butts. Feathers. Dry leaves. Twigs. Backpack, handbag, fanny pack, plastic sack. Doughnut box, paper cup. Tissue, dirty. Glass, broken. Squirrel, black. Rubber band.
On the sides of passing cars and trucks: Toronto Ride, Rona, Royal Taxi, Druxy’s, Penske, Wheel Trans, St. John’s Bakery.
A bodybuilder rides up on a bicycle, sits on the bench next to me; big biceps, muscle shirt, sweatpants, sunglasses pushed up on his head, orange juice in hand; he lights a smoke. A van pulls up to the curb, pulling the hot dog cart of J. Maciak. A man, perhaps it is J. Maciak, or the son of J. Maciak, or his delegate, unhitches the cart. The van pulls away.
Canada Post. Beck Taxi. City of Toronto. Ontario NDP.
J. Maciak unfurls a filthy awning, circus red and yellow, and erects it over the cart to give himself shade. A man sits at a chess table with a newspaper.
Yellow things: Downtown Camera, Gino’s Pizza, an Automart newspaper box, a pawnbroker’s awning. Red things: a mailbox, and the collar of the shirt of the man at the table with the paper.
Over there: The sleeping woman—the one who was sleeping on the corner, the woman who unwittingly fed the pigeon, the one who told me to fuck off but who took my five bucks, is there, cutting across the grass. She doesn’t know me. She’s had a shower. She’s come from breakfast at a shelter. She’s carrying a free paper. Her hair is combed. She looks angry. She looks okay.
A cyclist rings a bell. A Beck cab is orange and green. A school bus is empty and yellow. A Co-op cab is yellow and red. We carry bags over our shoulders, in our hands, under our arms, on our backs; they dangle from our handlebars as they did for Perec in Paris. All the pigeons fly into a tree.
J. Maciak sells hot dogs to two construction workers not ten minutes after he has unfurled his umbrella and lit his grill. A cop car in a hurry. A chess player wears a blue shirt, blue jeans, a blue ball cap. He wipes a chess table with a cloth. He has a beard. He wipes a second table. He’s with a skinny man. There are sirens.
The skinny chess player wears red pants and a black windbreaker. He sits at one of the clean tables, and breaks out his chessmen: plastic, Staunton, black and white. The wiper sits across from him and plays white. P-K4.
A church worker sweeps debris from the sidewalk, picks it up with a dustpan, empties it into a bin. The players trade knights. Tzu Chi again. The skinny man is motionless, knees together, angled to the left, leaning into the board. He swaps his queen for a queen. The bearded man swaps a rook for a bishop.
Dominion Roofing, says the cap of a man with a black bag, yellow pants, red shirt, black sneakers, white socks, orange pop.
The bearded man topples his king.
On the covers of the magazines in the window of the Maison de la Presse Internationale: Jessica Chastain, Ryan Gosling, Sarah Jessica Parker, The Guide to iPad 2, Stars of 2011, Best Clothes Ever, Exodus to the ’Burbs, 100 Girls 99 Bikinis.
On the corner where the woman slept: I see now that her bowl contained oatmeal. I’m hungry, and the rusting men have company, people basking in the full sun as if they could store it for winter.
To the Senator for breakfast. I wash my hands downstairs. In the single cubicle, to the left of the urinal, a man sits behind a closed door with his pants down around his ankles, talking on his cell phone to a woman. What did she hear when I ran the water?
The other diners have come for a bite to eat before the matinee across the street: a musical about a dancing boy. A peameal bacon sandwich. An espresso. On the way out, a dish in heels opens the door in a hurry for two women, perhaps her mother and her mother’s friend. The mother refuses to be hurried.
She says, “Food any good in here?”
I ask, “What are you going to have?”
“Lady, life’s too short for salad.”
“What do you recommend?”
“I had the peameal BLT.”
“Best in the neighbourhood.”
“I heard they were good.”
“You from out of town?”
“If Mississauga is out of town, ha, ha.”
A woman sits in my spot, smoking. Four punks pull up in a blue sedan and stop at the light; one spits out the window, all four stare at her. The light changes. They stare. The truck behind them honks. They race off. She exhales.
My first pregnant woman. A woman, into her cell phone: “I’ll handle it.” A young man, wearing a duster and a do-rag, pushes a shopping cart full of rags and metaphorical bones; a first, for me: he is young, homeless, black and a hoarder.
A man on a scooter rolls by. The scooter is jury-rigged with aluminum tubing, and fitted with an awning against the sun. Four girls in front of the juice joint, youthfully awkward, two of them wearing patterned stockings, all of them wearing short skirts, with their shoulders hunched forward as if they were trying to hide the fact that they have breasts. One of the girls has a tattoo on the back of her thigh. She’s a heavy girl. She will regret the tattoo, or use it to test others: fail the test, earn her scorn.
Heels, loafers, flip-flops. Sneakers, oxfords, sneakers. Sneakers with white ankle socks. A man in a Henry’s shirt: “Let me get to the office and see what the status is, and call you.”
Men in short pants look like boys. The man in the Ocean View Sea Dragons T-shirt looks like a boy; he spits in the trash can under the plaque that explains the rusted men. He leaves. His place is taken by a handsome man who pours excess tea from his cup on top of the spit, and then makes a call on his cell phone.
“Excuse me, can I get a light, please?” A woman hands over her lighter, expressionless. “Thank you.” “You’re welcome.” His smoke was half a smoke that he’d smoked and stubbed before he’d finished smoking.
A yellow Vespa. A white woman: tights and a billowy, leopard-print shirt, clutching her handbag to her breast. A black woman: yellow pedal-pushers and turquoise T-shirt, two-tone hair: lacquer black, ink-blue hair.
Court services truck. Crown cab. Beck taxi. An Asian woman with a parasol.
He has a cup of coffee in his right hand and a fresh pack of cigarettes, still wrapped in plastic, in his left. He taps the pack against the heel of his left hand. Sharp taps, fifteen taps. It is unbearably hot. His coffee cup has a lid. He does not spill a drop while tapping. He removes a cigarette, holds it, unlit, in his left hand, and takes a sip of coffee.
A man wheels a tray of fruit salad on an aluminum cart. A truck rolls by; the bed of the truck is stacked with the kind of forms you use when you pour concrete. A woman with bowed legs and bunched calves in a purple shirt-dress on the phone, her hair cinched in a top-knot.
At Massey Hall: a white cube van, a white rental truck, a white tractor trailer, another van, another tractor trailer, and a couple of half-ton trucks, black. Ritz Caribbean Foods. Being Erica.
Near the corner where the rusted men stand: a coffee shop, a shop for sensible shoes, a pen and gift shop, a print shop, a place to buy newspapers, a foot clinic. The hospital. A financial services building. A juice joint, another coffee shop.
The Bay, Eaton’s. Down the street, City Hall. A jogger in the heat, a fool. A city bus. We come, we go, we bisect a tangent. We are prepared, or not.
C&A Refrigeration. A wizened man on a bike, nut-brown, his black T pulled up to show his belly, a long vertical scar bisecting his chest. A cop car, the cop watching me take notes. Officer Bubbles!
A fruit platter on a trolley. A husky on a leash. A grey sedan; the four men who sit inside have suits and beards.
A woman who smells of dung, perfume and sweat.