“I’m not sure how it came to be that I was sitting there on my disintegrating leather couch speaking to Adi in regards to the events that took place on that strange day in April ‘19; the day it all began.
“I remember it like it was yesterday, sitting there along the river just a few hours prior watching the ice melt and rush down the river running so fast you’d think it had a deadline of its own. I remember that I couldn’t help but think how quickly I’d be swept away if I were to go for a swim. Surely the undertow would pull me down in under ten seconds, and I’d never see the sun again. But I’d never do that, especially in that river because it’s common knowledge that The City used the river as a sewage dump; that’s why the river’s brown colour has a slight hint of orange, you know what I mean? But again, on the same topic, I’ll never see this sun again anyways.”
It bothers me that my couch is falling apart.
“Get back on task, Malcolm” Adi harshly scolded, realizing that I was daydreaming “You don’t have long,” he then grimly reminded.
I nodded and sipped my cup of room-temperature coffee. The walls of the room were painted an ugly white. I’d love to call it an antique white, but antique white actually looked nice. This white was more so and simply a very plain faded-white. A fresh spring breeze rushed through the open window and blew the curtains as it entered, brushing over my face.
I looked into his eyes and told my story.
It was like any other day. Up at four in the morning–the time where people view me as crazy for waking up at seven days a week, but can you honestly blame me for doing something that I love to do? I never accused Lewis or Mik, for enjoying their coffee with three full heaps of sugar, did I? No. I didn’t. But you wouldn’t know.
The alarm on my cell phone rang and sent shivers up my spine. It was a new phone, and even though I knew how to turn off the alarm, I could never do it in the morning. This deed alone was worth well more than one alarm. I hate alarms, especially when you’re not expecting them or when you’re sleeping. The sound reverberates through your ears and almost into your brain, I know you know what I mean.
So once I finally rolled out of bed, I made my way to the coffee machine which had recently become easier. My previous apartment had two levels, and my coffee pot was on the main floor when my room was upstairs–a genuinely labour-intensive morning, and I didn’t even begin my walk to work.
You see, I got rid of all my transportation and for some strange reason took a liking to the shoelace express. I love walking. I love walking because I don’t have to worry about the stresses of driving. There’s no more desire to intentionally send your car flying into the broadside of the car that is sticking its ass-end out in traffic because the driver doesn’t know how to merge–fucking idiot. I love walking because I found that when my mind is free from that terrible place, I can think about things I prefer to think about, like what I’m going to have for supper, or what song I’ll learn next on my trumpet (yes I play the trumpet). To me, walking is peaceful and a form of meditation, and because of that, five days a week running Monday to Friday, I leave my apartment at 6:30 AM and walk for two and a half hours to the call centre I work at in the dead centre of the city.
Another frequent judgement formerly made against me was because I worked in a call centre. I used to have a much more meaningful job which I of course left because a job is a job and due to that mentality, I believe is the cause of this most interesting of situations.
As the digital clock struck 6:30, I left. I put on my jacket and began walking south into downtown. For the most part, the walk was uneventful–
–but it’s important to note the following: the city is full of homeless, and increasingly so. I’ve been around to other cities and naturally in the downtown core, homeless tend to live. But in my city, there are a lot. Following sporting events, they stand at bus stops and street corners holding coffee cups all the while asking for spare change or granola bars. I actually believe that some of them are homeless in the first place.
On my walk, I pass by at least ten, and a few of them remember my face and I, theirs. I don’t know their names at all, and they don’t know mine, but it can feel very personal every once and a while when they nod greetings at me, and I respond, I even feel guilty.
As I hit the corner of 17th Avenue and 4th Street, there stood a regular, if you will. The man who always stood there. He was short and hooded, as he was on a regular basis. He wore a brown jacket that was way too big for him. It’s not that he didn’t fill it out–he did–he was just incredibly stout. It was that it was way too long for him. The coat which was a regular coat looked as if it were a trench coat when he wore it. The coat was torn at the zipper, and its exterior pockets were hanging off, held to the fabric by less than a full thread. Under the jacket, the man wore a heavy pullover hoodie. A full beard spilled from his hood and from what I could see, his eyes were a bright blue, nearly white. His teeth, of course, were and alarmingly the ugly version of antique white that I mentioned earlier.
He smiled at me as I passed, he then waved not the hand holding the used coffee cup full of loose change. I waved back and smiled a bigger smile than he sent my way in the first place.
To be honest, I didn’t think much of it. The case I made for this was that I assumed he was a former stock trader or something of the sort, maybe an insurance or car salesman, and he was waving at me in hopes that on my way home I’d drop him a buck or two. The memory of this event kept on my mind throughout the day, as this hooded man had never waved at me before.
The first thing I did when I got to work, was sitting in the chair that did not recline, and think about how much I despised this job. I wanted to be at home, playing the trumpet and…watching television, I guess. But you know what I mean! I wanted to do something productive. So, I opened my personal email and scanned it aimlessly for about ten minutes.
And then I did the same with global news which I couldn’t understand.
And I did it again.
I then contemplated taking my lunch break, but it was only 10:00 AM–half an hour into my shift.
So I started to make phone calls and tend to my daily call centre duties.
From then, until I took my lunch break, was arguably the most boring time of my entire life. Let’s skip to lunch, shall we?
It was now 1:30 pm; a most appropriate time to take my lunch break. And on the topic of that, I’d always wonder why it’s considered a lunch break if one doesn’t eat lunch? What’s the next best word? For me, it was the alone break. I prefer solitude to being amongst people human or…whatever else. I can hear my thoughts.
As I opened this case, I spoke of sitting there on that April day in ‘19 along the intensely paced river that ran through the heart of the city, watching the newly melted ice rush down the river, thinking about how quickly my measly-self would perish underneath the sewage-abundant water that had a tinge of orange to its already gross-brown. What I did not mention was that I was not alone, I soon found out.
I was checking the time on my cell phone, after twenty-five minutes passed, to check the time because no one can tell time on an analog clock anymore, can they? My break had reached its end-point, but I despised my job to the extent that I didn’t care in the slightest that I should get back to work. So I elected to sit and monitor the beauty unfolding in front of me.
As terrifying as the rushing river was, I found it to be so beautiful. It was true bliss unravelling right before my very self. Yes, I was in the heart of downtown, but from this spot, the rivers might overpowered all noise of cars or prostitutes either soliciting themselves or a car honking and soliciting prostitutes or stuck up businessmen jaywalking at their leisure and at the time expense of those in the cars going wherever it is that they were headed.
The river was rushing, and it was gorgeous. I felt dizzy watching it run as powerful as it was in its southern haste. It was good to see something rushing for a purpose these days. What is a river’s purpose?
Anyways, I will avoid how easy it is for my mind to find a distraction, the river, it was peaceful. I heard a light trickle of the water, and overlooking the fact that this river was likely a full quarter-made of shit, it sounded nice. Watching ice cascading over itself and create temporary dams along the banks was a nice reminder that I am merely a human being, and nature is the one superpower in this world.
“Spare change?” A grubby-sounding voice came from behind me. It was the hooded man with a serious beard. He stood in the trees and was confident through his apparent desperation. His eyes were blue, nearly white, and it was the first time I’d heard his voice. His voice was of an accent I’d not heard before, slightly Scottish, but more so foreign, and other-worldly.
L.A. Dondo is an author from Winnipeg Canada.
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