I have typed the word “fuck” today more times than I have spoken it the entire year

He was an ______. Everything hateful about the teenage brain. Ignorant yet opinionated, hateful, and crude. “You want to be remembered? Find some fucking ten year old kid with an ice-cream cone and shove it in his face. Bloody his fucking nose if you can. I guarantee you in fifty years, he’ll still be telling that story. That’s fuckin’ immortality, yeah. That’s being famous.”

It was easy to dislike him, even on sight. The semiotics of his clothing said he was aggressive, stupid, and mean. His uneven buzzcut matched his acne scars, matched the half smoked American cigarette that sat behind his ear, (looking like he’d fished it from the floor of a dirty men’s room), matched the cheap nylon sports jacket, matched the greasy whine of his voice. His accessories all looked stolen.

I was sitting across the aisle from him on the bus, on my way to see Michael for the last time before I left town, trying to concentrate on reading my lovely new book, and instead building up a quite justifiable loathing for the redneck prick loudly mouthing off beside me. He sat facing backwards in his seat, feet braced against the backrest, all the better to dispense his wisdom to the lapdog thug-kids he was talking to. Within reach, I thought.

“What you do is you shit on the pile of coats, fucking piss all over them, then fade back into the party. Someone will come out, say something fucking stupid, like, “hey, I think someone’s maybe shit on everything,” ’cause no one wants to be the fucking guy who says there’s shit, right? And you don’t say a fucking word. No one will know!”

My first impulse was to spook him, my second to drag him off the bus and pop him in the head. The story I was reading spoke of redemption, hatred, the torture of self-knowledge laid bare. I opted for my first idea. Less messy. Only gods and brave doctors know what he might have, anyway. One split knuckle is all it takes. Yuck.

Back in the day, I used to work for this six foot five Russian cowboy ‘from Old Country’ named Boris. A secretly teddy-bear NYC bouncer turned Toronto nightclub owner, he could be easily be the scariest man you might ever meet. I’ve only got one photograph of him, sadly, but in it, he dwarfs everything. It wasn’t his size, though, that was so intimidating, it was how he used his voice.

As the bus pulled through the intersection at 14th and 11th, I stood up, borrowed every actor’s trick of body I know to make myself seem as solid and immovable and as confident and nasty as possible, and I put my hand down hard on the boy’s shoulder. He looked up at me, rattled, surprised, people don’t touch strangers in the city, and I leaned down, met his widened eyes, conjured that wonderful Russian terror and very quietly said, “In my country, we kill children like you.”

Then I got off the bus, met Michael, and we had a lovely pot of tea. So there.

I don’t know where Lethbridge is, but the name is nice

Standing on the C-train, I’m looking out the window, trying to pinpoint what stop I need to be closest to the bookstore, (I had accidentally left my book, The Best of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, on the floor of the taxi we took from the airport to the temporary hotel), when she taps me on the arm. “Excuse me,” she says, and asks a woman’s name, something with multiple syllables I don’t exactly catch. “I’m sorry, no. You’re mistaken.” I reply, shaking my head. She’s somewhere in her fifties, well dressed, slightly expensive. The top of her head comes up to my chin. “I’m sorry,” her voice catches, “for a moment.. you reminded me of my.. my daughter.” Suddenly, she’s crying. I reach forward, take her in my arms, and let her lean into my body as she crumples. What else is there to do?

We stood like a statue of women welded together until the train slowed into the next stop. “Are you alright?” She nodded into my chest, took a deep breath, shakily stepped back, and thanked me. “Would you like to go for coffee?” I asked, “Talk about it?”

I bought her a dark hot chocolate and sat with her in an oversized chair, our knees touching. “She was the sweetest thing in my life. We had the same colour hair, but her voice was her father’s, do you understand that?” I said that I did, and she continued, “I was wonderfully young, around your age. Such a nightmare. I felt so stupid. We searched the whole place, got security to shut down the doors, check the parking lot. Didn’t matter.” Her story was sad, terrible, simple, and not unexpected, considering how we met. About twenty years ago, she said, her nine year old daughter was snatched from a Lethbridge grocery store.

“This is only the third time I’ve ever mistaken someone for her, you know, and the other two people wouldn’t give me the time of day.” I put an arm around her and she rest against it, warming her tiny hands on her cup, and we sat, silent, with our heads together. “I’m glad you found me,” I said. “Me too.”