Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – May 17, 2004
How Did He Know?
Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – May 17, 2004 – Many years ago, during the “Living With An Actor” phase of my life, I shared a big house on Homewood Avenue with Wally. Homewood is a short street running north-south between Allen Gardens and Wellesley Street. Homewood had known happier times, especially when Jarvis Street was a grand promenade in the late 1800’s.
But when I lived there – the street was home to drug dealers, male and female prostitutes, glue sniffers, ne’er do wells, transvestites, the odd criminal on Canada’s Most Wanted list and a few upstart “yuppies on the verge” like Wally and me.
At the time I was in the midst of my Corporate Goddess Days, and as I’ve already confessed, I was quite a serious young woman. Let’s see, is ‘anal’ a word that comes to mind? You bet! Other words that have been tossed my way over the years, by people who only had my best interests at heart, are serious, rigid, inflexible, uncompromising, grave, severe, austere and unbending. Can you imagine the emotional impact of such vexing labels?
The fact that it was true only exacerbated my distress at this barbaric name calling – and these were my friends! At one point I wanted to approach total strangers, picked at random in some of Toronto’s upscale restaurants and say., “Excuse me, do I look uptight to you”? I never got around to the little exercise in creative personality discernment (CPD) because Fate, in all her glory, intervened.
I was up very early on a Monday morning getting ready to attend a sales meeting at 7:30 A.M. (how ungodly), but remember I was a business goddess at the time. I pondered my professional wardrobe and selected a cream coloured silk suit with a black blouse and my trusty black leather pumps. My hair was “cabbagetown short” (a term Wally used to describe this particular one inch long hair style for which I had a penchant at the time) and I actually put on foundation make-up, blush, eye liner and mascara every morning. A goddess has to look her best!
By six-thirty I was standing in the kitchen with coffee cup in hand and a slice of brown bread in the toaster. With breakfast finished it was time for me to start my day. I slung my trusty trench coat over my shoulders and opened the front door.
Our house was right next door to a rooming house and both were owned by a man named Joe Lipp. Joe wasn’t overly “particular” about who lived in the rooming house, and at the time there was an odd assortment of people, their friends and hangers-on who shared our common front pathway. Walter sang opera in five languages, Michael couldn’t quite decide if he wanted to be a man or a woman, and he played Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” twenty-four hours a day.
Phyllis and her boyfriend Tom kept the entire block apprised of their daily sexual escapades, and an odd little man whose name I never knew, spent his entire day peeking out between his window curtains, and then pulling them shut if he thought anyone had seen him.
It was impossible to predict who might tumble out of the door next to mine, so when I went to work that morning I wasn’t at all surprised to find a man sprawled across our common front step. He had a half empty bottle of Canadian Club in one hand and a pack of cigarettes in the other. I had to step over him to make my way down the steps to the pathway. As I did so he groaned and tried unsuccessfully to sit up.
Realizing that he was fighting a losing battle in his attempt to rise, he bent his elbow and brought the whiskey bottle up to his mouth, dribbling rye down his chin. I managed to get past him and walked out to the end of the path. I turned around to look at him as I left. He stared back at me with bleary eyes and slurred this exceptional one liner – “There goes one tight-ass bitch”.
At the time I was quite offended. Miss Prissy herself in a perfect little suit with matching accessories. A neat little hair cut, pristine make-up and a tight-ass little walk. Now I look back on that moment and wonder, “How did he know”? I’d never seen him before and he was gone when I got home. But somehow in his drunken stupor he took a measure of me and nailed it bang on.
I must have been incredibly obvious in my quest for corporate perfection. I hope I’ve loosened up a little since then, and I’m ever hopeful that at some point in my life, my serious nature won’t be so completely conspicuous. Hey, even a gal from small town Ontario has to let loose every now and again. So, fair warning, the lighter side of me is bubbling just under the surface, waiting for an excuse to let loose!