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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

There Sure Are A Lot of People

Come to the city, my brothers and sisters! We have people in all shapes and sizes! Eight feet tall, four feet tall. We have elegant women in beautiful shoes, handsome men in Italian suits, babies in daycare strollers for eight. We have teenaged boys with one hand on their girls and one hand holding up their pants.

And we have a strangely greasy man in black jeans and a black leather jacket, unzipped to the hairy belly button, no shirt. I’ve been seeing him around lately, and he’s gotten stuck in my head. He’s in his mid to late 50s, I suppose, his salt and pepper hair brushed back from the forehead, held in sticky, congealed place by its own unwashed weight. He walks like he owns the streets, like a much younger man. I can almost see him as he used to be, cock-sure and beautiful. I wonder what this guy’s life has been like.

I wonder if he knows that he’s looking a bit shady, like he might take the waitress’s tip when no one’s looking.

I’m not saying that’s what he’d do, but he looks like he might, you know?

I wonder about all of the people on the sidewalk, actually. Not just the ones that look like they slept outside last night but the ones carrying covered cake pans, people with bags and boxes, people with headphones, people with bells braided into their beards. iPod on, I watch, staring out the bus window while people put mail in mailboxes, get on the LRT, shop at the Farmers’ Market.

And you know what my current take on all of this is?

All those people? Leading their lives. Going to work, mostly.

Well, unless they’re not going to work. Some of them don’t really seem to be going anywhere. But what do I know? Maybe the guys sitting passing a joint in front of the IDS just got off work. They’re just going to catch a buzz, sit there for several hours, talk loud, stare at women, and spit…

When you first move into a city, it’s astonishing how many people there are – and that most of them seem, somehow, like they might be up to no good. Why is that guy staring at me? Because I’m missing a button… Is that guy over there talking to himself? No, wait, he’s got one of those headphone phones on… Is that guy talking to himself? Well, yes, that guy actually is…

I live across from a park, on the second floor of a house well over a hundred years old. I can sit on the enclosed porch and see everything that’s going on. It’s really quite funny how few people look around them. I’ve watched people break up (the chick in the purple skirt was right, Martin, you’re a jerk), I’ve watched people throw garbage out of their cars when they think that no one’s looking, I’ve watched truly sweet moments between people and their children.

Every day, I come in contact with new people.

Just a few days ago, I watched a man on a bicycle ride slowly down my street, pausing to look into cars. He found what he was looking for – an open window – in front of my house. He pulled up alongside the downstairs’ peoples’ car, looked around, reached in…

“Hey!” I yelled from the second floor.

He jumped back from the car, knocking over his bike, looking around frantically. “What?”

“What, what?” I said, “Did you lose something in someone else’s car?”

“Ah, no, I was just, ah…” and he jumped on his bike and sped away.

Lovely man. Lock your doors.

On the other hand, I met a new woman in my neighborhood this morning. Her name’s Jasmine and she’s a teacher from Philadelphia. I was picking up litter when she crossed the street to join me at the bus stop. She thanked me for caring about the environment.

Fresh off the boat from Philly just three weeks ago. A new face in the neighborhood, someone who sees you when they look at you, a “Bus Buddy”, another light against the darkness.

Don’t you love it when someone new looks you in the eye and says, “Hi. Would you like some hand sanitizer?”

And I think that’s all any of us ever ask for: a little recognition as fellow human beings, a little hand sanitizer. Well, that and for other people to stay out of our stuff.

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