Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Kindred spirit

The day after Boxing Day My Beloved and I went into Toronto on a mission to retrieve 11 empty giant Tinker Toy tins from his office. It's a long story, but they were scheduled to be ousted with the other office garbage and he thought they'd be perfect Christmas tree ornament storage containers.

Just to clarify, we don't have 11 giant Tinker Toy tins worth of decorations, but we hate to see useful things go to waste, so they're in our basement now awaiting further instruction. I'm not sure what those instructions will be, but in the event of a giant Tinker Toy storage emergency I know we're covered.

Anyway, after loading the tins into the back of the car we decided to walk up to Kensington Market to see what we could see. Although I've lived just outside of Toronto my entire life and worked in the city on and off for over 10 years, I've never actually been to Kensington Market. It's about a 15 minute walk from My Beloved's office and it wasn't a very cold December 27th, so off we went.

As we navigated our way through the bustling streets, I realized just how very suburban I've become since leaving my downtown job the week before Thomas was born. I haven't seen that many people all in one place in a very long time, and I'd forgotten how territorial pedestrians can be when they're on a mission.

I found myself shuffling, dancing and jumping in and out of foot traffic all the way to the market. And some of the owners of those feet (including a Food Network chef who breezed by us in full superstar mode) were definitely what I'd call interesting. I was mostly amused and intrigued - until we passed a woman in tears.

She was dressed in some sort of goth/punk/1980s retro outfit. Her hair was blue, I think. And as she clutched at the front of her jacket with one hand, the other rested helplessly on a face twisted in agony.

I heard her before I saw her. It was an awful, animal wail that literally shattered the noise of the city. I only saw her for a brief moment before she stumbled around a corner as we passed by, but instead of doing something or offering some kind of help, I just stupidly watched her go, my heart breaking.

I was stunned by how much of her pain I seemed to absorb - and by how quickly I felt it flow through me. It was almost like seeing a physical representation of my own intangible sorrow and it shocked the hell out of me.

For a second I wondered if maybe she'd lost a baby too. I wondered if she was crying out in agony for a lost boy she cradled just once. It suddenly struck me that what she was doing was almost logical if that was the case.

I mean really, doesn't it make a whole lot more sense to scream and sob rather than to smile and pretend? I've always opted for the latter when I'm out in public, but some days I think screaming and sobbing makes infinitely more sense, even if society tells us we should talk in muted voices and look on the bright side.

The bright side can be very hard to find and soft voices can be deafening.

Maybe the girl with blue hair is onto something. Or maybe she's just crazy - I'm certainly in no position to judge.

But I do wonder where she went after she turned that corner, or who she went home to. I hope she has a beloved who strokes her hair while she cries. I hope she has friends who listen. I hope someone understands.

I hope she'll be okay.


Shannon said...

You know when you watch footage of funerals in the Middle East, and the women are rolling around on the ground and flailing their arms? It's so foreign to "restrained" America, and yet I sometimes find myself wondering if those women aren't grieving exactly the way grieving was meant to be done.

I'm a frequent lurker and occasional commenter here, and I just want you to know much I appreciate your writing, and your courage, and your honesty. I have hopes that 2007 will be a very happy year for you.

crazydaisy said...

I didnt know you were that close to T.O. I am 30 minutes East of there.
I find walking in T.O. always an experience of sorts.. btw what chef?
I too sometimes don't understand our restrained public emotions. as Shannon said such a difference from others parts of the world. Smiling on the outside while breaking on the inside, Seems silly really.
To put on a brave face to make others around you more comfortable.
I too am wishing all the best for you in the year ahead. You so deserve it!
I have been keeping up with you since you were on IV
you have such a talent for writing. thanks for letting us follow along in your journey.

MB said...

Wouldn't it be nice to feell free to just let it all hang out? I'd cry everytime I saw a woman with a child who would be Audrey's age, or someone who has a baby, or someone who is pregnant...

I'd be screaming and crying all the damn time.

delphi said...

"If I were doing well with my grief,
I would be over in the corner
curled up in a fetal position crying,
not standing here acting like no one has died."

-- Doug Manning
in The Gift of Significance: Walking People Through a Loss
taken from http://www.griefhealing.com/grievinghearts.htm

One of my favourite quotes.