September 29th, 2004

Baby and me

Urban Drama; or, Violence Interruptus

Waiting outside the Portuguese take-out joint, where Vern stood at the counter, awaiting 2 quarter-chicken dinners to go, I stood out on the sidewalk, 24 Redcap Ale ale me feet.

Dundas Street West is crowded in the early evening, busy with cars and streetcars battling for advantage with bicycles and SUVs. On the narrow sidewalks too, space is at a premium.

While I waited, keeping an eye on the pedestrians and the small crowd of aging Portuguese men hanging out to my left, from my right hurled a pasty-faced brat hurtling along on his stylish 2-wheeler, dodging legitimate strollers with all the concern one might show video-game obstacles.

"Get off the fucking sidewalk!", I muttered, pointlessly, with only myself for an audience.

Our teacher late to class, Vern and I took advantage to pop out - me for a week's supply of beer (or so I hope), he for the chicken dinners (and never mind that one of those was for me) - before our math class, to take place on Vern's back balcony.

Soon, he emerged from the restaurant and we headed east, chatting idly but with passion, as old friends will.

Suddenly, he was there again, approaching at speed. Slack jaw and young, dead eyes glowing with the dull arrogance of coddle youth, who has had everything given to him, from material to spiritual - you could see he had never had to work for, or think of, anything at all in his life.

He looked me straight in the eye as he approached. His fingers, tight on his handlebars, moved not an inch toward his brakes.

I kept walking, refusing to give ground.

At the last instant, our spoiled cyclist swerved to my left, but a parking meter gave him little room to maneuvre.

I squared my shoulders, bracing for the inevitable impact. (Vern says that I moved towards him; I'll grant the possibility, but I don't remember making the decision to do it.) I tightened my grip on the bottom case of the 2 twelves I carried before me like a fat man parading his belly.

The fucker still didn't even try to slow down.

His shoulder hit mine and I held firm, determined I would not give in to the bully; that narrow, pitted ribbon of dirty-white concrete is called a sidewalk for a reason.

I had considered the fact the 2nd case was balanced, loose, atop the first, which I held firm in my hands. Yet, I had not counted upon so violent a collision.

His shoulder struck mine. He jerked to my left and passed me by. I stumbled to my kneees and struggled to keep the top case from sliding off the bottom, then tried to (gently) drop the former to the ground, in hopes I would have time enough to let it go and catch the latter before it crashed to earth.

Like the proverbial train-wreck, I moved in slow-motion, while - only slightly faster - my treasure tilted, then slid into free air, to crash with high-pitched resound upon the man-made stone.

Inside the cardboard, inertia had its way. Glass shattered and the box itself crumpled in surrender to the law of gravity. Like blood flowed its golden treasure, as from the broken body of a suicide off the Bloor Street Viaduct.

Too late to save my charge, I stoo and turned toward the mindless agressor.

He was off his bike, looking a little shaken up, but more concerned by possible damage to his machine than to the flesh and blood victim of his ego. To my disappointment, he did not seem to be hurt.

Yes, I was (in my heart of hearts) hoping he'd been hurt, that he'd hit a parked car, or a flower-box. Sadly, it appeared that a dislodged chain was his only damage.

He looked at me, fear and anger (no remorse) struggling for control - Was I crazy enough to fight him? Could he take me? Should he fight or flee?

I took one step toward him - contemplating the mayhem for which he was clearly preparing a response (at least, the feel of my boots upon the spokes of at least one - only one! - wheel of his fallen machine), but opted instead for verbal, rather than physical violence.

"You fucking ASSHOLE!" I roared - and I can roar with the guttural best of the - "Stay the FUCK off the sidewalk!"

(From behind me came the voice of an aging Portuguese man, holding court with his cronies outside - no doubt - a poolhall or cafe chimed in, "Yeah! You not supposed to be on sidewalk!")

The kid paid him no mind, but kept his eyes on me.

I'd like to think he was afraid, but it may be he was only awake (at last), preparing for once to deal with the consequences of his (in)action.

But I'd shot my load. My rage was half-feigned at best (it was only beer, after all, that was harmed; I was not a father in Fallujah, bearing the body of his child, murdered by an American warplane.

I turned back to my ruined 12-pack and to it open to assess the damage. 10 of 12 precious bottles remained intact, and I decided I had had the better of the exchange.

Vern took up the unbroken case, piled upon it the 2 quarter-chicken dinners, and I took the now-empty plastic bag and gently laid therein the surviving bottles, then took them up and held them to my chest like a farmer carefully taking in that day's fresh eggs.

Vern and I proceded to the corner, then crossed, and found our way to the back alley that leads to his apartment.

* * *


But what about the math? I hear you, Gentle Reader, cry in vexed frustration. What are you, o! brilliant Young Geoffrey, doing sullying your noble mind with the arithmetic arts?

What indeed?

As some of you will know - the rest, I realize, will be shocked (shocked! to learn - I am both a high school and a university drop-out. Though I have a fair command of the Queen's English; though I dabble in history and philosophy; and though I maintain an interest in the sciences; despite all that, the truth remains, I am subnumerate at best. I can add and multiply, subtract and divide, with the best of them, such beasts as algebra and geometry - not to speak of calculus or advanced statistics! - are far beyond my ken.

Having long had the aforementioned interest in such things as physics; approaching my 40th birthday; and, having had a friend offer up herself as tutor, I have decided it is time (and more!) that I exchange my ignorance for knowledge.

As of yesterday, I am about done with fractions, and look forward to decimals and more.

Naturally, I'll keep you, Gentle Reader, abreast of my progress as best I can.