A taller, male version of myself.
The shuffling feet and hurried backpacks and bags rustled through the train car, or the LRT as they knew it. Jon, a young man, sat with his head down trying to avoid eye contact and stop his emotions from latching onto the chaos, until a woman bumped into him quite aggressively and broke his bubble. She mumbled a quick ‘’scuze-me” and scurried off to join a blue-collar man lounging in a seat in front of them.
The young fellow had to curiously look up, and watch the old baba, who wore a dark blue scarf on her head that held down her wild grey locks. The old woman met the old man, they made eye contact, and he pulled out a tomato from his burlap tote. She reached into her large purse and also pulled out a tomato. They quickly exchanged, nonchalantly, and continued to pull out tomato after tomato, exchanging one after another. Jon laughed to himself, “What are they doing? Tomatos? Is that the same tomato? Jesus christ, they just exchanged the same tomato! That’s the same tomato as before!”
After a few moments of this, the man and woman stopped, she spoke a few words, he sat as silent and still as a statue, and she walked off, just in time as the LRT reached its next stop. As she left, Jon sat in bewilderment. He lowered his head again to go back to being a content recluse, and in that split second a young woman in a white shirt caught his eye getting onto the train (so he had to raise his glare once more). She was one of those perfect height and build girls that he would fantasize about, not necessarily who you would see on TV, not overly thin or even curvaceous. Not a Hollywood body, but more of a backwoods beauty. He watched her walk on, and she scanned the car to find a spot, laying eyes on him, to which their eyes intensely met.
The awkwardness got even worse when he CLEARLY looked away like he was in deep thought, rolled his eyes around the car and shifted his body. She giggled to herself, as she could see his awkwardness from a mile away. She moved to a seat, but thought ‘what the hell’ and went to sit beside him in a newly emptied seat. She sat down, and he turned bright red- in total disbelief that his awkwardness could ever attract a woman. As if the LRT travelled into a parallel universe where women loved men who were weird, odd, sensitive and the color of freely exchanged tomatoes.
She looked over and smiled, “I hope no one's sitting here.” Obviously no one was, and he was tempted to point that out at the expense of looking like a complete know-it-all ass.
“No, go right ahead.” He made a weird gesture. She smiled even deeper into her chest, and was thinking of her next step. Her name was Kara, and she was not a confrontational go-for-it type girl. She always let men be the first ones to connect and flirt and engage. She was sick of it. She wanted a real exchange of roles, and was ready to get her feet wet.
Before she could come up with another response he said “Hey, I like your shoes.” “Oh, thanks.. .they were so cheap.. But I like them...I like your watch.” “Oh, yeah, thanks.”
She was about ready to give up, even though nothing had really started. Is this what dating is like now in the real world? Tinder failed her, and finding men at the Library was like finding a needle in a homeless hay stack. And she was not about to look in clubs or pubs or whatever they are called, or even at Chapters. She liked ordering books online, not like she could find a man on Amazon. But image if you could! She smiled at that thought.
She turned her head to his, “Have you ever ordered anything off Amazon before?”
He was caught off guard. “Uh, yeah. Like, books and I got a calendar once.” He chuckled, realizing the absurd and random nature of the question. “Why?”
“Hmm.. I was just thinking...about ordering..” Insert random thought here- “a portable toilet.” She turned her head and stared directly in his eyes.
His mouth turned from soft smile, to open gawk, to large, roaring grin. “Hohoho!” He laughed like Santa, which made her smile and laugh back. “Why? I mean,” he realized it could be rude to be so abrupt, “Like, well, why?”
“You know,” she said kinda coy and shy, “I think that when you’re camping and you gotta go, wouldn’t you rather do it in a bucket near the river? Instead of some stinky fart box?”
He couldn’t have been happier to hear those words. But before he could respond, they reached the next stop.
She looked over at the doors about to open. “Anyway, I gotta run! It was nice talking to you. My name is Kara.” She picked up her bag and darted off the train before he could respond.
That feeling of pure bliss was quickly dissolved and replaced with anxiety, regret and self loathing. “WHY didn’t I ask her for her number? Or tell her to.. Not leave?! Maybe she would have stayed to talk?” He closed his eyes and grabbed his head like he was hit with a frying pan “Jesus Christ. I. Am. An. Idiot.”
There was little time to mourn as it was his stop next. He thought about maybe running off at this stop back to the first stop to see if he could find Kara. But it probably wouldn’t work. She was probably just messing with him. She was so beautiful, she probably just thought he was a horrible loser she could fuck with. He didn’t have a chance.
He got off the train and walked up the pedway to the afternoon sun. Friday afternoon is a sweet time to venture downtown, with the weekend excitement in the air that comes without fail and never gets old. He stepped under a beam, squinted and felt a little weight being lifted. Jon was always struggling with something or someone. Things never came very easy. And when they were easy, he knew it wasn’t going to last. He liked to think of his words like money in a savings account, exchanged with the people he talked to and always having to borrow back what he would put out. His whole life was a loan he could never truly pay back, like the I.M.F. borrowing pennies on the dollar. He was in debt and it constantly kept him down.
However, when he was roaming free in the urban jungle he felt more alive. He could go and do what he wanted within reason, excluding too much conversation he would have to pay back later, when he was alone regretting. He walked over to a nearby park and sat down to fetch a book from his backpack. He was especially fond of this book a friend lent him, it was a book about the history of Witchcraft. So far the book hadn’t touched much on the study of witchcraft at all, but the persecution of women throughout history, accused of witchery in the name of Christianity to give excuse to torture, rape and mass murder.
Alternative history was really cool to him, knowing there isn’t one way to view the world. He didn’t feel as alone when he thought of the world in the view of the oppressed. In the middle of this thought a man, clearly homeless, staggered up to him. The thought cut through his mind to dig for change for the guy, but he knew he didn’t have any. Ready to give him his clear reason why he couldn’t offer the man change, the man looked at him and smiled.
“You look like you’re having a great day!” The man shouted.
Jon smiled and replied, “Yeah, I am.”
“Well, that’s great! A great person such as yourself deserves a great day!” Jon felt uncomfortable getting yelled at, but he appreciated the sentiment. He looked back down at his book assuming the conversation was over, but the man just moved in closer.
“What are you reading? Is it good? I bet you know a lot of good books! I bet you always get asked that a lot too! Must be because you look like you know a lot about books, or good books, like great books!! Because your great!” He laughed, Jon sat as still as a squirrel on a perilous branch.
“Hah, thanks.” Jon said with a chuckle. He hoped the man would leave now. His anxiety was quickly percolating. He looked down at his book and pretended to read, but not able to, like not being able to pee in public. He just couldn’t perform with an audience.
“Have you ever thought… that the pigeons know more then we give them credit?? I mean, of course the magpies do. And we all know that, right? Obviously, right? And the crows- Oh I saw a raven! Always on the same pole!”
Jon sat silently and stiff, head down, eyes fixed on the word “Malicious”.
“But-” the man continued, “Pigeons!! Pigeons!! Pigeons!!” He threw his arms in the air. “They know! They- they…” He stopped and whispered…”coo”
Jon looked up.
The man threw his head back and yelled, “COO! COO!” Like he was a giant robot bird, about to eat a worm the size of the world. He laughed and walked away, laughing, cooing, clearly very pleased with his outburst of pleasure.
Jon was dumbfounded, for the third time that day. He realized that maybe this was an especially horrible day, and maybe things were going to get worse before they got better. And maybe he should just go home to hide and be alone and be comfortable.
He picked up his book and bag and stood to leave when he saw a white shirt with long hair swoop into a coffee shop door adjacent to him. Without thinking, he rushed with all his body across the park to the building, and flung open the glass door; immediately realizing he must have looked absolutely insane doing so, but he didn't care if it meant another chance to see Kara.
As he flung the door open and flung himself in the shop, he saw the person with the long hair was a teenage dude with hippy locks, definitely NOT Kara.
“Jon?” Said a voice to his left.
Jon turned to see a familiar face, an old friend Mackenzie. Her eyes were lit up at the sight of him, and he lit up as well. “Oh hey!”
“Hey! How’s it going?” Her face was uniquely beautiful, a button nose and slender eyes, perfectly pouted lips that he always adored. But, she was a prolific artist who was clearly out of his league.
“It’s good- actually, kinda’ a weird day… but good.” Jon was lying. He was covering up the sinking feeling of missing Kara, but the sight of Mackenzie helped.
“Oh, weird. Mine was weird too.”
“Oh? Why is that?”
“Well,” she looked down, licked her lips, as if struggling to find the words. “Well, my morning was good! I finished a grant proposal I had been putting off. But then I had to talk to a lawyer…” Her voice went a little funny on the word lawyer. Like a curious question, leading Jon in.
She sighed. “So, I was looking in this Alberta Fashion Magazine, like last edition, and saw this Ad for this store on Whyte. Immediately I was like, OMG that is my art! Like, it looked exactly like a piece I showed last month at Latitude. With the lion head.. The spaced-out sketchy background…the ONE shooting star! Like when I saw that shooting star I almost lost my shit!” She laughed, but was clearly uncomfortable.
“Woah! Thats wild!”
“Yeah! And so I thought, OK, who is this guy doing these designs? So I looked it up online and found the company and the designer, and on some blogs it said he ‘borrowed’ artist’s styles all the time. So I thought THAT FUCKER, he completely ripped me off! And then I thought, you know, maybe it was a coincidence. Like, my art isn’t even that original sometimes anyway. AND THEN I thought, like, I should just be lucky my art is even getting this kind of exposure. It’s a big magazine published across Alberta! So I should be happy right?”
Jon stood silent, dumbfounded once again.
“So I kinda went full circle,” she paused to laugh and lighten the intensity of the conversation, “And then I called some people and they referred me to this lawyer who does this kind of stuff in the city all the time. Apparently. He thinks I have a case, but all I was thinking was, Oh sure, you just want the work.”
“Hmm..” Jon was quickly buzzing to think of great advice he could give, but had none.
“So yeah, I guess we are going to go forward with suing them!”
“And like, I don’t to sue anyone. I don’t want that at all. I don’t even feel comfortable telling the waitress when she fucks up on my coffee, let alone sue someone for it!”
Jon chuckled. “I know what you mean, but, yeah. Sounds like you definitely should at least try to get your name on your work, if it is in fact your work.”
A light went off in Mackenzie’s mind- “Oh, here!” She pulled out her phone. “I’ll show it to you…” She scrolled through photos of selfies and pictures of her dog. “Here- this is the ad.”
Jon peered over her shoulder at the image. “Yeah! That looks… exactly like your work.”
“I know, right!” They both paused to let that moment sink. She took her phone and put it back in her pocket. “Anyway, enough about me. Why was your day weird?”
Jon smiled briefly, “Well, I had a random girl on the LRT tell me she’s going to order a portable toilet from Amazon!”
Mackenzie roared with joy, “Really?!”
“Yeah! She was really hot too.” They both laughed. “And then some people on the LRT were exchanging tomatoes, completely random! And in the park some homeless guy was yelling at me about pigeons…”
“Woah! Sounds like an awesome day! That sounds like a story you could have written in a book! You write stories, right?”
“Yeah, I do.” Jon was surprised she knew this.
“Yeah! Like that one about the guy living up north, working for that MLM scam thing?”
Jon laughed, “Yeah, he was a door to door salesman in Fort McMurray.”
Mackenzie was over joyed “Yes! That one. I loved that story. You could totally write more like those, stories like today.”
Jon chuckled, but became a little reserved. “Well, I actually thought it was a horrible day, until just now.”
“Really? Why?” Mackenzie was surprised. “It seems like, random and fantastic.” She looked at Jon and could tell he was clearly hiding something. She took a step back. “Well, what I mean is, it seems like a day meant just for you. Like all these funny characters doing weird things, they are just characters on the stage of life. A stage for a play that is meant just for you to enjoy. We are all just watching a play or a movie, you know?”
“So, that means that you're just an actor.” Jon quickly retorted.
She chuckled, “Yeah, and so are you. You're an actor in my play. And our plays beautifully intertwine, but they are both just for us, for our enjoyment.”
Jon smiled at this thought.
“For example, you could go home tonight and pick up a book and see your Fort MacMurray story written in it - and be like, WTF I have to call Mackenzie to get her lawyer!”
Jon and Mackenzie were laughing, and he was feeling uplifted. “Yeah, I know exactly what you mean.”
“Yeah, it would be meant to be, like most things in life.. Like little lessons to let us know we are on the right track.”
Jon nodded. “Exactly.”
Mackenzie looked around at the cafe. “So, are you getting a coffee?”
“Oh no, I just thought I saw someone I knew come in here, but I’m going to go wander around a bit.”
“Cool, well, it was nice seeing you!”
“Nice seeing you too.”
The two of them hugged, like old friends would, with Jon holding her slightly longer than usual to show her he cared. He then left and looked up at the sun again. He loved the day he was given, like a gift from some watchful angel, letting him know life is still magical. He started to walk down the lane, seeing a squirrel perched perilously on a branch and a few pigeons cooing on the grass. Their coo was like a low rumble, like the rumbling of his stomach, and wondered if that was what the man from earlier was trying to describe to him. The rumbling also reminded him it was lunch time and when he got home he would need to make something delicious.
He kept walking, heading to the pedway, in a blissful moment of peace he rarely felt. He was looking, listening and smelling all the world around him, being in the moment, enjoying the stage. Looking over near the pigeons was a couple, staring into each other’s eyes and falling deeply in love. He sighed, and wondered if that could have been him and Kara, if it wasn’t for him being so awkward and horrible.