Sun-up, Valentine’s Day, and it dawns on me that Family Day holds no promise either. I’m no loner; yet, I live alone. Donna took ownership of the girls and asked me to leave. Three years ago. I reach for the lamp, but it doesn’t respond. Another black-out. I get up, light a candle, an unromantic glow. I peer out the smudged window of my basement room on Lark, a few semis from the corner of Kingston Road. Thank God, no ice. I couldn’t face that again. Four days of blankets wrapped around my 3-season sleeping bag, feasting on Pringles and warm canned ginger ale. Looks like just another temporary outage that justifies a temporary outrage.
I kick-start my routine: a stretch along the water and back; mid-morning attempt conversing with strangers; chores and errands; some take-out that alternates between Pizzaiolo and Jody’s Deli on the corner; then evening security work crosstown. Part-time, no benefits… a job none the less. Donna gets to wrap her claws around most of the earnings. Ain’t complaining, just explaining the life of a 50 year old who shouldn’t have married a 23 year old when he was turning 35. The girls are teens. Maybe they remember my good points… my mantra, as I head out the door.
Creature of habit. Always south on Northern Dancer, conjuring up the track that once dominated here. Across Lakeshore. Eschewing the boardwalk, I choose the paved path, freaking out the cyclists, skateboarders, inline skaters, and other wheeled beings wearing flashy splashes of lycra. Past the pool. Past the gardens. Past the Balmy Beach Club. Then north along Silver Birch to Queen, where the green Valu-Mart sign repels me to the left.
I’m a city kind of guy; Queen East is my beach. A bow of respect for the Fox, then my daily toll of turnovers along the commercial strip. Nostalgia stirs at Beacher’s, past the corner of McLean: tumbled head over heels for sweet Jackie McLean my first time in Toronto, age 19. Though caffeine-addicted, I bypass Starbucks at Hammersmith to save the sweet tooth for a place with superior baking. Yet, the aroma starts me salivating for what used to be home on Wineva. I pray for a glimpse of my kids on their way to school. Hallelujah! There’s Catherine waiting for the streetcar. But she’s smoking a cig with Donna’s new boy-toy. Avoiding eye contact, fate has me staring right at the sign for ‘Pass the Peace Pipe’. I mumble, “no way today, José!”, and slither past.
Still ahead of the Rocket with its commuting horde, I pause before the public library, a dependable home away from my basement bachelor. Then just past Kippendavie, I yield to the assorted temptations of Dufflets, the icing on my morning constitutional. An uplifting door chime offers hope for 15 minutes of companionship. C’mon. Who’s willing to chat me up for the sake of Saint Valentine? I promise I’m no loner, though I walk in lonely-hearted.
by Richard Ellen
Richard Ellen, a retired professor from U of T, with his decades of passion for creative writing, is the creator of this series that we will share with you in the coming issues of Beaches|Life. Stay tuned to find out who’s next?