I WONDER WHERE HE IS.
He has not been there for a few days.
For months he sat on the bench inside a covered bus shelter, a shopping cart, ‘borrowed’ from some grocery outlet, packed high with his belongings.
Bearded, usually wearing a cap, he sat for hours, both day and night. He couldn’t venture too far, not with everything he owned left unattended. Not that anyone would touch, never mind take his stuff. He slept on that bench. Occasionally I might see him exit from nearby bushes where he had relieved himself.
I saw him when I drove my car passed his land claim. He was on 64th Avenue just west of the intersection at 200th Street at the south side bus shelter. It was one of the busiest and noisiest corners in the area. I asked him why he had selected this location given the high traffic and he responded that he has tuned out the noise and he finds activity interesting. The shelter afforded him a shield from winds and rain with glass walls on two sides and overhead and from the sun as it was positioned behind a large building. It was enough. Clearly it was home. I wondered why authorities whether transit or police or anyone else did not move him. He didn’t cause a disturbance but certainly bus riders were reluctant to sit there with him.
On some of my morning walks I began to carve my route so I could meet him. Then recently I stopped to introduce myself to him, sat down on the bench, separated only by a large paper cup of Tim Horton’s. Dressed in my shorts and T-shirt I noticed that he wore several layers of clothing and that he was relaxed and comfortable. He did seem a bit startled that I had stopped. We exchanged first names and I began to chat, ask questions, to which he was quick to respond, as if he was eager for conversation. He carried a 5X8 inch notebook and it was worn and clearly filled with his thoughts. I could see on the page open to me that he had been recording some more musings as I arrived. He was thoughtful, talkative, philosophical and interesting. He had been living this life for some years. He had come from a large family that learned to live on the little that a small farm could produce to sustain them. He had moved from the simpler life to the city where there was employment. He had worked at some responsible tasks that never became specifically identifiable to me but the seemed to be responsible for the disillusionment that may have led him to this place in his life. He did not sound as though he was unhappy or that he regretted where he was. He felt convinced that society is preoccupied with materialism and that the ordinary pleasures of life are lost to them. We talked for twenty minutes. I plucked a Toonie from my pocket and before offering it to him, asked whether he would be offended if I gave it to him, to which he said, “No, your advantage, my disadvantage.” I deduced that he would take it but he was aware that the gesture placed me in an advantaged or superior position. I hastily said, “no, no, no advantage, no disadvantage, just from me to you.” We shared “see you laters.”
Another day I stopped again, this time with a small agenda. I often purchased some fruit before heading home and I wondered if I he might enjoy that. I asked whether he liked fruit and he said, “selectively,” and then began to expound on the downsides of so many fruits that are imported. It appears that fruit was not his favourite thing to eat unless it was seasonal and local and tending to organic. I wondered just how selective he could afford to be and not be hungry. Someone later told me that the government provides money into accounts accessible to people who live on the street. I have yet to confirm that.
And then, this past I noticed that he was no longer at the bus shelter. I don’t know whether he has relocated or become sick or died. If I notice him somewhere I will be sure to stop to say hello to see how he is doing.