Thursday, February 02, 2006

Home sweet home

There is no wooden stand spilling mangos and melons and ripe peaches and you do not wave a daily hello to the smiling vendor. Your name brand gym bag is not slung over your shoulder. You are not on your way to a yoga class or Pilates or lunch in a place with plate glass and plants. You will not order salad with raspberry dressing from a waiter who tells you his name. Coffee comes in coffee flavor.

It’s fish and chips and KFC. Transfat cardiac arrest on Styrofoam dishes. Shrieking in primary colors: red & yellow prefab huts wearing red and yellow clowns with terrifying lips cuddled up to playgrounds with Tupperware slides on poison green indoor/outdoor carpeting. You are on your way to the bingo or the video lottery terminal, ready to throw in your last five bucks, hoping you can catch a break because the government doesn’t send cheques until next week and the beer has run out.

And it’s not park benches under swooning tree branches. And the wild rose bushes sprout foil bags and candy wrappers, cigarette packages, moldy Tim Horton’s coffee cups.

Outdoor sports: Buddy over there waltzes down the road pushing his stolen grocery cart as if everybody does that and everybody does. That same cart turns up, later, belly up, wheels in the air like a rusting, stranded beetle in the water of Mac Run where the ducks no longer live. Abandoned carts and smashed glass at the bus shelter are the dominant d├ęcor.

And the ambience is sirens screaming down the street and babies pushing strollers full of babies. Girls who fight dirty and don’t expect life to be anything else but a lowdown fight. It’s kids with cell phones and iPods trailing from their ears and no dinner, no father, no anything waiting at home or any other place. It’s Lawrence in the same thin jacket, hands and neck bare, pacing the street even when it’s thirty below muttering back at his voices and Scary Sherry following the Scorpio home to announce, “The last time I had an orgasm, I saw a rainbow.”

It’s memorial crosses duct taped to crosswalk islands for the hit and run dead and the drive-by dead and dollar store flowers on the lawn of the headline mama who dealt crack around the corner. It’s regular mortgaged working stiffs with big heating bills and the gay couple who bought cheap, painted the house and planted a garden. It’s all of us stuffed on the number twenty bus, trying to make room for the woman with ten bags of groceries and trying, if not to love, at least to stand our neighbor.