March 2nd, 2005

Sea cow

Have You Stopped Beating Your Wife?

Last night was a good one - no cigarettes, no dope and only a couple of beers. For some reason, going to bed at 9:00 PM seemed suddenly like a very good idea.

Despite strange noises - sounds that resembled nothing so much as three or four very talented children banging on an equal number of very small drugs, while another person entirely dragged a piece of furniture across my ceiling at apparently unrelated moments - that came most likely from the apartment above, I slipped away to Slumberland within a half-hour or less.

And slept a good 10 hours, waking more refreshed and energized than I have in some while. Children, this may sound outrageous, but there's something to be said for waking up with no hangover and no fresh layer of soot in your esophagus.

But I digress.

Despite feeling so chipper, by the time I had eaten, showered, dressed and taken out the most pungent of the bags of refuge hanging from my kitchen cupboard doors, I made it to the street with no more than a middling chance of making it to the office on time.

For once, there was a streetcar idling at Roncesvalles, so I set off at a trot for the stop a block east of me. Dodging a couple of slow-moving oafs pedestrians I made it to the stop and stepped into a snow-bank to await my ride.

Sudddenly, a cap stopped right in front of me, passenger window rolled down, driving leaning my way.

"You know where is mumblemumblemumble?" the driver asked in a heavy accent that might have been African, but might have been something else entirely.

"Sorry, what?"

"You know where is mumblemumblemumble?"

I shook my head and bent towards the car, conscious that my streetcar was closing fast. "What are you looking for?"

"Beatty. What know where is Beatty Street?"

I could feel the rumble of the streetcar now, hear the steel wheels on steel tracks.

"It sounds familiar," I said, and looked up to see the streetcar's nose sails past the rear of the cab.

"Beatty! Beatty!" the driver shouted.

And I realize the streetcar, my public transit chariot, is flowing by like an red, white and black aluminum land-whale - and the cab is directly in my way.

"I don't know!" I shouted, waving desperately at the streetcar's side-mirror, but if the driver saw me, he wasn't stopping.

"Shit!" I roared.

"Beatty! You know where is Beatty Street?"

"No! Jesus Christ, get the fuck away from me!" And I scrambled down the snowbank to chase after my ride, but it was too late.

Meanwhile the cabby - with that profession's notorious sensitivity to human emotion - seemed to realize he had, perhaps, been too demanding while making it look to the TTC that I was negotiating a fare. He pulled away from the curb at a rate that ought to have had his tires squealing, had the street not been slick with slush.

"Fuck! God fucking damn you!" I shook my fist at the disappearing streetcar, at the fleeing cab and at my own lack of humour about something that - really - wasn't such a big deal.

And for the next 5 or so minutes I was strode the streets of Parkdale cursing the air and bemoaning my fate at the top of my not inconsiderable voice. It's just as well I do live in Parkdale; in most other neighbourhoods I would have been considerably more conspicuous.

* * *

Despite that, work went well enough - and Laura paid me a visit at the end, so that we could steal a few schoolnight hours together.

We found our way to the return streetcar and found seats near the very back, where we were forced to sit opposite one another, talking and flirting across the aisle without benefit of physical contact.

Laura, unfortunately was battling a virus, and so found herself rubbing her eyes.

Not so bad, you say, but she managed to pull back the bottoms of her eyelids in such a way as to present to me (and sundry eve-droppers) great dollops of eye-whites.

"Aughh!" I remonstrated with my usual aplomb.

"What? Did you blacken one of my eyes again?" she wondered loudly, but without cracking a smile.

I, of course, was left speechless, as I contemplated the nearly all-female audience, each of whom was studiously pretending to ignore us.

My normal urge to shake my fist in a menacing, Homer Simpson like manner was stayed as the old, unanswerable question (see subject-line) played through my mind.

I decided silence was (barely) better than denial and was greatly relieved when our stop came a few blocks later.

We descended the steps and took each other by the hand.

"You know," I said, "I'd really rather you don't loudly suggest I beat you in public."

Laura grinned broadly. "And almost everyone back there was a woman," she said, and I shook my head as we approached my apartment building. After a while, I allowed myself to laugh.

She squeezed my hand. "At least I didn't call you 'Daddy'."