Trucks roar through small streets as hipsters pose against walls and bicycles, shouting song lyrics.
Under a tree, a young man sits. A little girl on his lap. He’s reading a picture book.
She is leaning forward, enthralled and wide-eyed.
There’s a big pile of books on the ground next to them.
Hot summer Friday.
I see a six year old girl.
Striding down the sidewalk towards a woman, she holds a small red flower up. “Mommy,” she says, “This is for you.”
Her mother smiles and holds her hand out, and the little girl gently puts the flower into her palm.
Hot summer Sunday.
I see two sixteen year old boys standing by the door.
They are silent, but they keep catching each other’s eyes and their gazes linger.
Until finally one boy says, “You did a good job.” And he holds the other boy, who, eyes closed, wraps his arms tightly around him.
The subway car rocks from Spadina to Bathurst and the boys stay locked in each other’s arms and no one gives them a second glance.
And I think about my dad, reading page after page of Where The Sidewalk Ends as we giggled together.
I think about swimming in sweat, finding a leaf on the sidewalk half-red with a promise of winter and putting it in an envelope and sending it to my mom.
But mostly. Mostly what I think about is the boy at my elementary school and junior high and high school who was funny and brilliant and not allowed to be gay, so he wasn’t, and how he studied chemistry at Yale and how he died of a heroin overdose or despair or loneliness at age twenty six and how much I wish he could have been there on that subway car.
Photo Ashton Pal