I watched my feet cover the damp, red bricks as I made my way to the train. There was a receipt in my pocket and I was folding and unfolding it. “Hey”, the word echoed through the empty street and off of the steam clock. I stopped, looked up and saw you in the distance waving. “How’re yah?” You yelled. “Not too bad, how about yourself?” I shouted back. There was a pause. You seemed to grow smaller then a short, sharp “Sorry” and you turned on your heel and walked away, footsteps falling heavy on the brick below.
It was the first time I’d been to a ribbon cutting. Some people were excited. The rest of us were there for the champagne. We’d been called from upstairs to join the event, to make the ceremony more lively, to fill out the photos. The crowd of suits was bubbling. Calls of “Where’s Greg?” surfaced and repeated. Those of us on the periphery asked, “Who the fuck is Greg?” and “Are there snacks?” Eventually, as if on a horribly delayed cue, a man I assumed was Greg rushed past with an arm full of scissors. I imagined him running from class to class, banging on the glass of the doors, his face flush, making a cutting motion with his index and middle fingers to whoever was inside. Then he started handing them out. Women with towering hair grabbed their pairs. Greg looked out over the crowd, an asking look in his eyes. I raised my hand. I would take the last pair of scissors, I would do my part, I would help cut the ribbon. He looked at me, cocked his head, chuckled and said “no”.
I had two glasses of champagne and three shrimp-sliders before I headed back.
I was at my apartment door, fishing through the coins and scrap paper in my pocket on the way to the keys. You, as my neighbor, were at your door. It was hard to tell if you were coming or going. When I entered the hallway you had been at your door and now as I almost entered mine you were still there, fumbling through your jacket as if in a tank of molasses. “Hey Buddy, do you have the internet?” You asked from beyond left field. I hesitantly said yes, holding on to the ‘s’. “My cousin just moved in and he likes the internet, you know? Maybe you want to share yours? You could just string that cord, you know, the firewall–the firewire? Whichever. You could just bring that shit out your balcony door and into our window. We’d give you like ten-bucks a month or something. It ain’t too expensive.”
It took me a few moments of reading your face, watching your eyes narrow and mustache jump as you sniffed back the snot that slowly eked from your nostrils, to realize you were serious. “I’ll think about it.” I said, closing my door behind me.
There were rumblings that you were in town. Sightings. News reports. I was on the look out. That afternoon as I waited in line for my donair, as I watched the tzatziki drizzle over the lamb–you walked in. It took all I had not to stare. I thought about texting someone, anyone, but the man behind the counter was asking for toppings. I had to keep it together. After my order was finished and paid for, with surprisingly minimal fumbling, I sat at the table closest to the door. No way I would miss you. When you walked towards the exit, taking yours to go, l looked directly into your face. Into your eyes. Eyes that were wrong, so wrong. The nose, the nose was off. I let go of a sigh punctuated by a frown. You looked at me quizzically. You were not George Clooney. You were not George Clooney at all.
I hadn’t yet looked over but imagined a maniacal grin stretching and bending your mouth into frightening shapes as you looked around at the others on the Skytrain, cowering and covering their ears in protection from whatever bastardized dubstep cross-breed spewed from your iPhone at maximum volume. I imagined you holding it up like a cursed talisman, threatening to poison the souls of all other commuters.
I imagined standing up, confronting you, putting myself in the crosshairs of eternal darkness for the sake of the other riders. I saw myself collapse against an empty seat as you pointed the phone in my direction, my ears bleeding as you approach. Then, the fates smile, the Skytrain rounds a corner too quickly, slamming you against the doors which G-force had opened just enough for you to slip out of. A small mushroom cloud of inconsiderate shadows plumes as you hit the ground. When I finally look over to you someone shouts, “Turn that fucking shit down!”
We placed the case of Gypsy Tears on the counter. You asked for my ID. Called me sir. Then you asked for hers. “Oh, sorry ma’am, we don’t accept Manitoban ID’s in BC anymore, new legislation.” Your face sympathetic. I looked to her with my own face struggling between humour and confusion. This went on for a few more moments before your belly erupted and rolled with laughter, nearly hitting the till. “Ah, I do that to all out o’ towners, thanks for being good sports.” We left smiling, wishing you and your jovial mid-section worked at every liquor store in the Lower Mainland.
You held the door open and smiled as I jogged my way down the hall towards the exit. “No Problem” you chimed, a melody in those words, as I thanked you and picked up the pace.
What you didn’t know and what I now regret was that I was running away from an unfortunately inspired gaseous release. As I ran past and into the cool November air the stench climbed and met my nose, chasing me down the street and undoubtedly assaulting you in its wake. Hopefully it did not extinguish your smile or sully your song.
We stood inside of the shop watching you outside of the shop, petting your finely raised quaff of hair in the reflection of the expansive storefront window. You turned your head to different angles, sunlight tracing the slow upward arch of your hair. It had been almost thirty-seconds of this, at one point you had made to leave then caught a concerning peripheral glimpse of your person and returned.
Eventually I waved to you from inside, you did not wave back just turned sharply on your heel into the open arms of the autumn afternoon.
The line to the bank teller slogged along. I looked at my hands. I looked at the floor. Then I heard a muffled belch and saw your face burrowed in your mother’s shoulder, eyes focused on me, brow furrowed quizzically. I proceeded with a procession of funny faces. You looked startled and turned away, then turned back with two jagged teeth dividing your smile, chins folding in on one another with a Hitchcock-esque precision. We traded faces until your mother answered to the call of “next” and slobber descended onto her shoulder.
My shirt was a Rorschach of sweat when I entered the Skytrain. The only handles available were of head height so I had no choice but to submit the rest of the passengers to whatever smells emanated from my arm pit. Our eyes met and I smiled. You smiled back. It was hard not to return to your gaze and only did so again once before departing.
The next day I returned to the Skytrain at an arbitrary time and station, found a seat, sat down and looked up to see you doing the same. I smiled. You got off at the next stop.