Sunday Morning on Bay Street
by, 05-31-2010 at 05:35 PM (1742 Views)
At 8:30 this morning, I step out of the sliding doors of the Marriott Hotel on Bay Street, my resting place after an evening of Bachelorette foolishness in honour of my brother's fiancé. The sun is sparkling, the air is warm and dewy, and the Toronto streets are oddly quiet. Setting off south towards Union Station to catch my bus home, this is my first quiet moment with the city. Ever.
It feels small today, home-y, perhaps like an amusement park feels to a ride operator before opening. Traffic still busies the roads, but now it lacks the frustration and impatience of commuters and day-trippers. There are no horn honks or sirens. Cabs aren't passing each other in one lane. For once, it feels like a place a couple in love could call home.
I'm stopped by a ticking stop sign before I'm able to cross the intersection at Bay and Adelaide. From where I stand on the northern side, I can see a man lying face down on the sidewalk on the corner opposite me. One of Toronto's homeless, he lies in the position of one who was running, tripped, and remained in his fallen position- on his stomach, right leg extended from where his toe caught the uneven pavement, left arm reaching out to break the fall. His head is concealed by a curtain of lank brown hair. I suspect this is where he has spent the night.
As I make my way across the street and pass the sleeping figure draped in a dirty plaid coat, my eyes drift over his outstretched arm. The sun glints off something gold on his hand. A wedding band.
Somewhere, there is a woman who promised to love this man through everything. And here he is, lying face down in the street. Where is she? Is she alive? Does she know he's here? If someone who knew her found her and told her that her husband was here, would she come get him? Would she shake his shoulder, cheeks red from embarrassment, until he wakes from his stupor? Or has she cut ties- left him to his own weaknesses and vulnerability?
I wonder if her ring matches his. I wonder if she wears it at all. I wonder if she pawned it.
I wonder about hers, but I know about his. He wears his on his left hand.
In the quiet of the morning, this is Toronto's only offering of matrimonial possibility. Perhaps the city is not so home-y after all. I despise the thought. Where are the happy urban couples out for a morning stroll? The idea of this sleeping man and his absent wife just does not jive with the "happy young couple" aura surrounding my brother and his fiancé. Did this man and his wife have the same glow when they were first married? Were they innocent once?
I walk on, continuing down the street until I reach Union Station, purchase my bus ticket, and sit down on a bench to wait with my nose buried in a novel.
My eyes catch the movements of two pigeons wandering in and out from behind the pages of my book. Lowering the book to my lap, I watch the pigeons scuttle about the ground around my bench, looking closely at one whose head bobs a little differently as it walks.
This bird has a limp. A closer look revels that her right leg is completely swollen, and she toddles around more slowly and carefully than the other bird. Her companion doesn't leaves her side, though, never moving more than a foot from her on the bus platform. The healthy pigeon moves about quickly, almost in circular patterns, surrounding the injured bird.
It's not often that pigeons care about anything but themselves. They're public-swarming food-seekers. Yet here are two birds showing a sort of commitment to each other. The injured bird is slow and weak. The other stays with it, though it could easily go off in search of its own food and amusement.
Too bad birds don't wear wedding rings. If this pigeon were lying vulnerable on the side of the road, I know where her partner would be.
Is it sad that I wish upon my brother and his new wife the dedication witnessed between two filthy city birds rather than that between a fellow man and his wife? That I'm more unsure of the relationships formed by people than those formed by animals?
My city is exposing to me the painfully naked truth. People change and wedding rings lose their matches. Still, there is one happy couple to be found on this sunday morning. A pair of pigeons, one devoted to protecting it's limping comrade, appear quite content as they make their way across the bus platform. Together, faithfully it seems, they've made the Toronto streets their home. Perhaps a new man and wife can do the same.