Thursday, 24 April 2014



"The oppressed will always believe the worst of themselves." - Frantz Fanon


"Thanks," he said as Jimmy handed him his second beer. "This is nice, man. Glad I came."

"Yeah," Jimmy agreed, raising his bottle and clinking it with Marty's. "We can smoke one ting later maybe."
The news was playing the footage of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's latest press scrum. "He's always running from them now," Marty said when he watched the large man run from the cameras across a football field.

Jimmy mumbled bac, typing away on his laptop, talking to some young woman on a dating site.

"Yo, you want to go for a walk after? It's a pretty nice day out and we only got a few of those left."

"Yeah, sure," said Jimmy. "I was watching stuff on youtube all day, just movie reviews mostly, so yeah. Where do you want to go? There's nothing to do really, unless you want to walk to a bar down Keele Street or something."

"Ew, hell no," Marty groaned, taking a sip of beer. The only bars around were either sports themed full of jocks, or shady ones filled of haters.

"Okay, what else we going to do?"

"I guess we could go down to my area," Marty said. "I mean, it's maybe a two hour walk, but we could light up a blunt on the way down, get some Tim's every few miles and then go to a bar in the Junction."

"Mmmm," Jimmy sounded unsure. "I don't know, that's a long walk still."

"First pitcher's on me?"

Jimmy shrugged, closing up his laptop on his little corner desk and then turning his chair to face where Marty was sitting at the end of the bed. He clinked his bottle against Marty's a second time, then took a deep swig.

"Too bad we don't bike, although I never really liked cycling high."
"Same," said Jimmy. "I can get us some bikes. I know a guy who has enough."

"I don't want any that are stolen.  I'd put some good money and invest in a really nice one, maybe three or four bills, although I got to put some money aside. It's not worth it now since it's fall.  By Spring, I'll have way more money by then," said Marty, thinking about the impending cold season. The winters in Toronto hadn't been so rough in the past few years, so Marty held out some hope that global warming would give more of the same this year. "So, what you saying then? Let's go walk, guy. I'll even buy the coffees."

Jimmy shrugged. "I don't know. Are there a lot of girls at the bars?"

"Yeah, obviously," Marty said. "I've seen a lot of young women in the area, mostly generally closer to our age too, more so than here. Everyone here is under twenty-three."

"Well, it's the Village," said Jimmy. His neighbourhood was built more or less for students at York University. It was all cookie-cutter housing, maybe with overall six models of house, all jumbled together just south of York University's Keele Campus. Marty always thought it looked like a piece of Brampton transplanted to North York.

"Yeah, so let's go," said Marty as he finished the rest of the beer in his bottle. "Usually it's me who doesn't want to go places and you who wants to go out."

"Okay fine!" Jimmy replied, seeming peeved. "Give me a minute to change. Go outside."

Marty, excited for the long walk, ran out of Jimmy's tiny room. "That room is worse than mine," he thought as he made his way up the beer-stained stairs to the ground floor, entering a kitchen filled with red plastic cups scattered all over. He checked his cell-phone. It was still early in the day, just a bit passed noon.  Marty had worked the past five days and had just started a three day off period. At midnight of the last night off he started his new shift. Then he would have four overnights ahead of him. Today was the first full day off so he intended to enjoy it. 

In the evenings of the past week Marty had finally finished up the greenhouse with Richard and Jordan. The project was complete, the entire structure secured with industrial glue and coated in a layer of plastic shower curtains all duct-taped together. Inside the little space one could see a myriad of rainbow-spectrum light rays criss-crossing and walls glowing white. It felt surreal, like being inside of a shampoo bubble. Marty had also gone over the holes and seams with the sticky foam he had purchased from the Deal-Mart over at the Stockyard Plaza near St. Clair on the northern side of the railroad. Marty felt excited as he thought over the different plant-seeds, planters and over-the-counter earth he planned to buy. It would be a mini-jungle in there if all went to plan. The vegetables and fruits would save money for himself and his room-mates. He would even share with Ivan and Nicky, even though neither of them did anything to help. Marty felt being a socialist was a lifestyle as much as it was an ideological belief.

Jimmy came out the door then, a hand in his pocket. "Okay, go it, let's go. What route we taking?"

Marty looked ahead of them as they started down Jimmy's street. "I guess we can go down to Shephard along Sentinel, then go straight east over to Keele and down. There's a Tim just before the highway near Wilson."

"Alright," said Jimmy. They walked without saying anything for a bit. It was sunny and the street was filled mostly with teenagers along the streets as they neared a high school. Jimmy pulled out the blunt about then. 

"What are you doing, Jimmy? You want to bring trouble on us?"

"They're used to smelling it," he replied calmly.
"Yeah, they're used to robbing people for it too," said Marty. "Man, you don't know, you didn't grow up in this area."
"No," Jimmy sneered sarcastically, putting the blunt back in his pocket. "I just grew up in Scarborough where no one gets robbed and weed is unheard of."

"Just wait till we're away from the school. Stop acting like a thirteen year-old."

Jimmy laughed as they moved along the road to a quieter area down a slight slope of the sidewalk. Marty shook his head when Jimmy looked over at him.

"Not here?" asked Jimmy.
"No, too many old people live in these homes," said Marty, noticing the familiar small detatched and occassional semi-attached brick houses. These were largely made in the fifties and sixties.
"Nice area," said Jimmy. "I hardly ever come down here."
"I used to walk through here and visit friends back in high school days," said Marty, remembering being inside some of the houses. 
"A friend of mine, I remember, lived down the street and I went over the first day his parents got him N64. We played every day after school for the rest of the semester. Good times."
"Ah yeah, I remember those days back in Malvern," said Jimmy. He pulled the blunt out again. Marty was about to object, but then he noticed that they were approaching a ravine that sloped down to their right. A bit of an ad hoc pathway with less grass than the rest of the hill led down into the woods. 
"Black Creek," said Marty. "Let's go smoke it down there."

As they went downward the sunlight became blotted out by the over-hanging foliage. They were in a thick wood now, the trail getting steeper and less grassy as it lead them to the creek. To the right the path veered to a well-lit clearing with some picnic benches. Marty knew that led northward, so they went down a thin path that went to the left.

When they came to a wooden bridge they decided to break and Jimmy lit up the blunt. They stopped at the middle of the little bridge, resting their elbows over the ledge. "Too old for this," said Marty, seeing himself looking up at him through the greenish water. Some dark shapes flitted among the outlines of rocks where the surface was more transparent than reflective.

"Too old for what? Exploring?" Jimmy asked as he handed the blunt over.

"Thanks," Marty muttered, not taking his eyes off the man he saw below him. "I guess yeah, the weed. I would've thought four years ago that I'd be having a job in Ottawa by now, or at least in the City Council. Maybe by now I should be with a non-profit group that still gets paid decent enough. I should have a fiance, if not a wife, or at least a stable girlfriend that I've been with for a few years. I wanted to have kids before thirty when I was younger. I don't think that's happening in the next three years."
"Okay, well, you don't always have to plan it," said Jimmy.
"I guess."
"It is what it is.  Only God knows."
Marty gave the blunt back after he had his fill, coughing.
"What's that?" Jimmy asked, putting the blunt between his lips.
"Damn, you put cigarette crap in there."
"Smoother," said Jimmy, inhaling. As he blew it out he put the blunt back in his pocket. They moved on from the bridge, soon coming into a sunnier area, a green field among wooded hills. The river was thinner and shallower here. They could have easily crossed on some rocks if they had wanted, but the land on the other side looked uneven and the underbrush too thick to see through further than a few feet. Marty suddenly imagined a homeless man living in there. It wasn't impossible.
"There are some places in Toronto where you wouldn't know you're in a city," Marty said, feeling relaxed at the sights around him. The birds were singing, making the scene more serene. After a good twenty minutes Marty was starting to feel a nice chill feeling going on and only part of it was from the weed. He was experiencing a nice natural high from the exercise and sunlight.  At a point they reached an asphalt trail that ran through a wide space of the park. After a few yards it led up a steep hill, leading to a road crossing at it's summit.

Jimmy, huffing a little because of the hill they just scaled, asked Marty what street it was as they crossed. "If it wasn't so empty I'd say it's Wilson. I think we have to go, uh, east now." He turned left, double-checking the directions in his mind.
"Is that eastward?"
"I think so. If it is we'll reach Keele Street soon."

Once the Tim's and the other plazas were in sight Marty knew he had made the right choice. There was some heavy construction going on across the street, a new shop at the plaza on that side. Thankfully the Tim's was on the side that the two speed-walkers were on, so they never had to cross. There were a bunch of teenagers outside and inside the Tim's, but their school uniforms seemed to make them seem less intimidating.
"How's your feet holding up?" Marty asked his friend as they lined up.
"No need for a break, take the coffees to go."

"That's what I was thinking," Marty replied, feeling on a roll.

Once they had their coffees they made their way south to the huge concrete bridge over Highway 401. Marty remembered cycling down from his old home to this place. It always made him nervous, crossing oncoming traffic turning on from the highway at near full speed. On foot it made him anxious too. At the middle of the bridge they stopped to look over the side and sipped their drinks.

"Look at those cars. How many are there? Hundreds in the past minute?"
Jimmy shrugged, looking to his feet as a behemoth of a truck sped under them.
"It's all ugly, but serves a practical service," Marty muttered, shaking his head. "People need to move from their work on one side of town to their homes all the way on the other end. The highways are the rivers, the trade networks of the city." In the distance Marty could make out the two twisty condo towers that stood over downtown Mississauga, the west beyond that clouded over.
The smell of gasoline, mixed with the noise from horns and construction, made them decide to start walking again.
"Everywhere just south of this bridge is where it gets more interesting," Marty said once they had crossed to the other side.

By the time they reached a street called Rustic Road they found themselves surrounded by square-shaped houses and gray-white high-rises. It looked like any other street in North York. The only thing different that Marty noticed here were the awnings over some of the doors, particularly the little stores. The striped fabrics looked faded and weather-beaten, but were clearly very sturdy. It gave the neighbourhood an older look than what was north of the highway.

The ground started feeling steeper as they were reaching the corner of Keele Street and Lawrence Avenue West. Jimmy wanted to go to the plaza on the south-east corner, but Marty wanted to press on, reminding his friend about the pub. They turned westward down Lawrence, eventually turning away from the road and down another park trail.
"Now that we're back in the woods let's smoke," Jimmy said when they came to a space where the trees suddenly ended. Up ahead of them was a big open field, the park sloping uphill to the left to another field with baseball diamonds. They smoked quickly, finishing what was left of the blunt and tossing the ashes to the bushes.  They then continued south into a residential area with calm two-lane roads only.
"So, how is your place?" Jimmy asked.

Marty shrugged.

"Did you say you had cockroaches the other day?"

"Yeah, we do. I started mopping with vinegar and wiping down the counter-tops in vinegar too."

"Your landlord should be doing it, but whatever, you'll never get rid of them."
"I think I can. I don't know. My landlord won't do anything. I talked to him and he said he knew but that exterminators were expensive. He gave me some spray, but there was hardly any left."
"He won't do shit?"

"I guess I'll try to just be neat," Marty shrugged, now letting Jimmy lead by following his random right-hand turn down another side street. "He also did something weird the other day," he went on. "I went down the laundry machine in the basement and I just see this guy standing in his underwear, guy looks like a male model, probably Latino or something, had an accent. I asked him how to get into the laundry room and he told me I needed a key. I found a key on a shelf in a tin right beside the laundry room and it worked; so I put my stuff in, my security uniform for work, some pants, whatever, and then let it clean for a while. When I come down later my stuff is clean, but then there's my landlord's work pants, all covered in paint and plaster, just sitting there, soaked with the rest of my stuff."
"Ew," Jimmy groaned, shaking his face a bit. "That's creepy.  Move out."
"No, well, I don't know. Where can I go?" Marty asked, feeling unsure of that idea. He didn't really have first and last month's rent to be giving to a new landlord.
"You and me can probably get a two room place," Jimmy replied. "I mean, with my job at the kitchen, now we could do it."

"Yeah right," thought Marty, shaking his head instead of saying what was on his mind. "Every month you get a new kitchen job and get fired. I'd be left with the bill every time."
Jimmy could tell what he was thinking. "Okay, fine! Man, it was better when I had the place in the other house."
"Oh yeah, that place," Marty remarked, thinking back to Jimmy's formerly commandeered house. He had been one room-mate in a student-filled house not too far from his current place. Some guy, a guy a bit older than Jimmy moved in after Jimmy had been living there for only a couple of months. This guy seemed like bad news to everyone else, but Jimmy didn't mind him because he always had weed. The man was at the place for only about a month himself, all the time bringing through people from the local areas. These guests definitely were not students. By night the living room on the ground floor was either a party with people coming by and drinking and doing weed and worse drugs, or a bunch of people lounging on the chairs or sofas, usually spaced out or hungover.  The sketchy people made the students start leaving one by one. Eventually the guy left, but his guests didn't.
When Marty had started coming through to that place the only student left was Jimmy. The two would sometimes have the living room to themselves, save the odd loafer dozing on a sofa. They'd do a few bong hits, then watch a movie, at that time period favouring the older Hitchcock flicks. One of those times they were lounging some guy, looked to be around Marty's age, came inside from the door from the backyard. He was a tall black man wearing dark pants and a black hoodie.

"Fuck," he muttered, looking down at the floor-mat as he came in.
Marty looked at Jimmy, giving him a face that said: "Who is that?"

Jimmy took a hit of the bong, probably too high to have noticed Marty's face. When he breathed out the newcomer was looking at them. He shook his head again. "I'm so cheesed right now," the man said.

"Why? What happened?" asked Marty, trying to be friendly.

The new guy suddenly glared at him, his eyes closing halfway. "Who's this guy?" he asked, turning to Jimmy, who just sat there and shrugged meekly.
Marty, confused by his so-called boy's reaction, stood up. "Nevermind, I'll go."

"Nah," said the other man. "Don't go outside. It's hot outside. You never saw me though." At the time this comment confused Marty, but later he understood that he meant there were cops. He also realized that at first glance this guy probably thought Marty was a cop, being a somewhat big, clean-cut white guy.

After that experience Marty told Jimmy through text messages that he didn't want to chill with him anymore if people like that were coming around. Jimmy told him that the guy wasn't a bad guy, he was just trying to "show off". Marty ended up going back and met the guy another night. His name was Spades. Marty was happy to at least get some weed off of him for a decent price. Marty rolled up a huge communal joint for the three of them that day. Spades seemed a bit aloof at first, looking unsure of why Marty was sharing the weed. After the joint made a round he opened up a tiny bit. Apparenty Spades and Marty had gone to the same high school, just they never knew eachother. Marty was giving the names of lots of the people, mostly the black guys, that he had known back in the first few years of attending. Spades knew almost all of them. Jimmy just sat back, not saying much, likely just mellowing. He usually did that when smoking.
"What's up?" Marty asked him.
"Just here," said Jimmy calmly.

"Yo, aren't you that guy from the other night?" Spades suddenly asked. "The guy who ran out after I came in."

Marty shook his head, not wanting to admit anything.

"I don't know, man, you look like him," Spades said, bringing the joint to his lips and sucking. "Nah, this guy's gangsta. That guy was a punk." He passed it across a glass coffee table to Marty.

"Pass that shit here son," said Jimmy after Marty had taken in a quick drag.
"I can't blame you," Spades said.

"Hm?" Marty asked as he puffed out what he had just taken in.
"Can't blame you for hating niggers."

Marty shook his head again. "I don't," he said, starting to cough lightly before he could protest again.

"Nah, you know what? I don't blame you. You know why?" he asked, leaning back, his eyes still on Marty, who in turn tried to look away from his stare. Spades laughed. "Cause niggers don't like niggers."
Marty shook his head, looking ahead down the road as he thought over the episode. "What was up with that guy, Spades?" he asked Jimmy.

Jimmy looked back to him. "Spades? I haven't seen him in enough time. I hear he got arrested again."

"Sounds right," said Marty.

At the time he didn't think it was funny when Spades had said that. Marty wondered how someone could have such an outlook. He wondered if Spades had ever had any pride in who he was. How, he wondered too, could anyone live in such cynicism and self-loathing? Marty imagined if there were white boys who thought like that, who spoke of other whites like Spades spoke. He had never met any. There were always the left-wing white people who felt a sense of guilt over colonialism (a category Marty fell into), but never did he meet a white person who actually saw their own kind as worthless.

"Eglinton," said Jimmy, looking up at the street sign above them. The smell of roasted corn on the cob floated to them.
Marty woke out of his thoughts. "Oh yeah. Smells nice and fresh here"
"Halfway, kind of," noted Jimmy. "Time for a coffee and a new blunt." The Junction was still a while away.

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