It was a bright and sunny morning. Suddenly a hungover man awoke. The cat meowed. The door slammed.
Young Geoffrey stepped down onto the warm-lit street, Queen.
Not yet 9:00 o'clock on a Saturday morn, there was little traffic. He stepped lightly, despite the previous night's libations and smiled at nothing in particular as he crossed to the north side, landing just behind a short and slender, very pretty woman.
Always a fast walker, he quickly over-took her and briefly glanced sidewise as he passed her by. She was young, a little dark, and casually-dressed - sneakers, jeans, a loose sweatshirt.
And as he glanced, still smiling, she glanced back and returned his happy gaze. And spoke.
"Good morning," she said, as if she too was simply happy to be alive on a such a lovely morn.
Contact! An unexpected connection with a stranger. And a pretty stranger at that!
Young Geoffrey hesitated - so seldom in this o! so reserved city does stranger greet stranger without ulterior motive, that words failed him for a few steps.
He slowed his pace and recovered. "Good morning! It's a gorgeous day, isn't it?"
"Do you want a date?"
And the bright light seemed to suddenly dim, as if a thin cloud had crossed in front of the sun.
"Do you want a date?" She had a gentle, lilting voice, suggesting intelligence and imagination, which only made her words that much more disappointing. "I'm really good," she added in a detached, professional tone.
"Er ... Uh, no. No, thank you," said Young Geoffrey, and he picked up his pace.
What had been a beautiful morning, was still a beautiful morning, but was now lessened, as Eden by original sin, tarnished by the encounter with a woman whose life he could only image was an unhappy and wasted one, like a maimed bird trapped in a downward spiral.
Speaking of women, later on this morning my telephone rang and - somewhat uncharacteristically (unlike my cell, my home phone has no call display; I usually let it ring through to voicemail, then return the call if it was not from a telemarketer) - I answered it.
It was my cousin Lisa, calling from her home on the west island of Montreal.
My extended family (on my dad's side) has what is (I think) an unusual dynamic. A couple of long-running feuds aside, we genuinely like each other. Often, the word, like, can be honestly replaced by the word, love. There is genuine affection between us and reunions are times of happy hugs, kisses and long, loud conversations into the wee hours.
Yet we are strewn across the continent like so many beads from a broken necklace and so those reunions are few and far between.
But when we do come together, we welcome one another with (literally) open arms, open doors and open bottles.
Lisa was not among my favourite cousins as a child - she was a couple of years older, which can matter quite a lot when you're 5 and 6, and I often resented what I took to be the high-handed pleasure she took from that fact. Nevertheless, as the years have piled up like so many tree-rings, as adults we have become quite fond of each other, if not, quite, as I am to her younger sister, or a couple of other cousins.
But we're family, and I am happy she is part of mine.
She was calling because her mother-in-law, along with 2 undefined relations ("I've given up trying to keep tract of who is a 2nd cousin, who 3rd once removed," she said), will be coming to a Toronto for a wedding, and will be staying here for 10 days or so.
Lisa had done some research via the web and had been unable to find accommodation that was both decent and affordable - did I know of anything that might be suitable?
Not off the top of my head, I told her. "Though there are a couple of bed-and-breakfast sort of places around the corner that I could check out. Or," I added, "they could stay with me. It would be a little cramped, but they'd be more than welcome."
I think the offer genuinely shocked her. I've met her mother-in-law precisely once, closer to 20 years ago than to 15, at Lisa and Dayo's wedding; presumably, I have never met the other 2 women. And I live in an apartment, not a house (which, in truth, was why I hesitated to make the offer at all: I can't put even 1 person up in the proverbial lap of luxury, let alone 3!).
But I made the offer in all good faith. I have enjoyed the hospitality of her parents more times than I can remember; of relatives in Calgary and Victoria for extended periods. I've returned the favour when I've had the chance, but thus far have received far more than I have given.
Nevertheless, I made the rounds after we rang off. The best bet nearby, would be a single room for $80.00 a day, on the third floor of an old house on King Street. Nice enough, I guess, but the 2 double-beds take up half the floor-space, there are no cooking facilities, the bath-tub is shared and actually smaller than mine, and there is only a mini-fridge in the room.
It has a nice view of Lake Ontario, but that's about all there is to recommend it.
My place boasts no lake-view, but no one would have to share a bed (though 2 would sleep on couches), I have a full fridge and a decent kitchen, a teevee and a stereo (if they care to partake in the music I have on offer - and maybe they will, it's a pretty broad array, if I do say so myself), and they would be staying with family, not strangers (not to mention that there would be no rent involved).
After not much thought at all, the correct choice seemed a no-brainer and i called Lisa back to say so. She wasn't in, so I left a message with her elder daughter, then (teenagers being an unreliable means of communication) sent her an email saying, in effect, "They're welcome to stay with me."
And so. It seems a good bet that they will, starting this coming Monday, I will be playing host to 3 elder Nigerian women.
No doubt I'll be happy to wave goodbye when they leave (I like having my own space!), but I am also happy to be in the position to offer them even the limited hospitality I am able to. No only because it will be a plus on my karmic ledger-sheet, but also because I would like to know that very distant side of my ever-growing family.
I can only imagine that it will be very interesting indeed.