I take in the world around me as I move through it. This morning every detail feels more vivid.
A man captures my attention. He stands on the corner of King and Dufferin out of place amidst the morning commuters with their iPods, lattes, and expressions of bitter resignation. I observe him from my vantage point on the King streetcar. He shakes visibly. His jacket is just a bit too big, his pants a bit too short, his shoes worn and misshapen by another man's feet. His face is set with determination as he fights to steady uncooperative hands and open the slippery plastic packaging of a five-dollar ice cream bar. It may have taken him hours to beg the money toward its purchase. The juxtaposition is striking: pure decadence set against a backdrop of need. I wonder about the last thing he's eaten and how long it has been since.
There is a desperation about his eyes and I note my own sense of panic creeping in, so afraid, after all of his effort, he'll drop the bar to the sidewalk without ever savouring a single bite. Time is suspended while I watch, silently cheering him to victory.
And there it is.
He's triumphed over defiant hands.
He's conquered the slick packaging.
The exquisite sweet treat has been revealed.
Even before he allows himself his indulgence, he reaches to discard the wrapper in the trash bin next to him. It's the sort that is divided into three separate receptacles, one each for trash, plastic, and paper. An elderly woman approaches to dispose of her own litter in the same moment and, from the scowl on her face, it's evident she's scolding him for placing his garbage where the recycling belongs. She is oblivious to the struggle that has led up to the moment. She has no idea that getting the wrapper into the bin at all is a coup. She is clearly perturbed and she lets him know it.
He stares back at her in silent disbelief, the reward of his efforts slighted by her anger. Wordlessly, he turns his back to her and takes the first bite, so eagerly anticipated.
As the streetcar pulls away, he stays with me. I wonder if it tastes as good as he'd hoped.
Written: October 31, 2010