There’s this three-storey apartment building at the corner of Caldwell and Merivale, on the edge of the Experimental Farm, right by the path where I go for walks. There are nine balconies facing the Farm, and sometimes, if I’m lucky, I catch glimpses of people living their lives.
There used to be an old woman who lived on the second floor. She dressed in the same clothes every day: a shapeless black house dress and a worn grey sweater. She wore thick hose and sensible black shoes. She was stooped over and her old grey hair was always pulled back in a bun.
I imagined she was an immigrant from some eastern European country and that she still spoke very little English even after all these years, and that she was a widow and poor, and that her middle-aged children didn’t visit often. These things may or may not have been true.
Her life seemed to revolve around the makeshift clotheslines she’d tied out on her balcony. Whenever I passed by, she was hanging items on the line, or taking them off, or checking to see if they were dry yet. Mostly dish towels and wash cloths, but sometimes small garments. Nothing too personal, mind you. One time I smiled up at her and said hello, and she scowled back at me.
She’s not there anymore. The day the makeshift clothesline came down, I knew she was gone.
Also on the second floor, but in the apartment to the right of the old washerwoman’s, I once saw an angry middle-aged woman with bleached blond hair throwing power tools off her balcony into the back yard. There was a drill, and a circular saw and a chain saw. She was moving fast and hard and she wasn’t just dropping these things off the balcony, she was hurling them. I imagined the tools belonged to her good-for-nothing, two-timing, free-loading boyfriend.
This morning, on the third floor, directly above the old washerwoman’s balcony, I saw an old man throwing things off his balcony into the back yard: cushions and mats and a dog bed. And then I saw him pick up the little white dog and move towards the edge of the balcony and I felt like my heart was being squeezed by a panicky fist. I was just about to shout “No, don’t do it!” when I saw the man cradle the little dog in his arms and kiss him on the head. I still don’t know why he threw the cushions and mats and dog bed off the balcony, but I was relieved the dog didn’t follow.
There are birthdays today! My niece’s daughter, Chelsea, is three years old! Here’s a picture of her wearing the outfit I made her for her birthday. I made this. Can you believe it? I don’t like to brag, but I don’t often impress myself this much. (Chelsea named the toy zebra Marty, by the way.)
Also, it’s my friend Astrid’s birthday. We’ve been friends since high school, even though she only lived in Canada for that one year. We had our first conversation on her 16th birthday. She turned to me on the bus and said, “Today is my birthday.” And that was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.
And it’s MikaArt’s birthday!
Happy birthday MikaArt, Astrid and Chelsea!