“Superstition sets the whole world in flames, but philosophy douses them.” - Voltaire
He set out the drinks in front of Richard on the little table. Two of the four beer cans were brewed in the Junction, the others were called 416 ale. Marty brought out the two bottles of wine next, from South Africa, good tasting and cheap for it's quality. A weird stork-like stenciled creature graced the labels.
"Damn, do the two of us need that much?"
"Sure," said Marty, shrugging. "And we got weed too."
"Not so loud! You want Ivan to hear you?"
"So," he asked, ignoring the question as he sat down in front of his mate. "What should we start with? Wine or beer?"
Richard scratched his unshaven chin. "I'd have to go with the Englishman in me and say beer."
"Englishman in you?" Marty laughed, handing him the Junction brewed beer and taking the other one for himself. He opened it and sipped, finding it too hoppy for his taste. There was some novelty in drinking something local. The past few weeks Marty had spent exploring the junction, it's streets and it's history, so drinking something that was part of it's culture was nice.
"Too hoppy," he said aloud, deciding he wouldn't likely buy it again. Novelty alone couldn't convince him to spend more money.
"Hops are good," commented Richard, sounding refreshed as he sighed. "This other beer is lighter, you'll probably like it better." He picked up one of the 416 ales. They opened up the next pair of beer cans a few minutes later and commenced drinking. Marty did indeed find this one much smoother and easier to swallow. Now halfway done his second can Marty was starting to feel dizzy.
His muscles started feeling loose, the tension of the work week melting away. His mouth loosened up too. "So, how was your week?" he asked Richard. His room-mate looked tired too, having gotten through his first full week working at Deal-Mart. Marty had not seen much of him as a result.
Richard shrugged. "Can't complain. It's a job, right? That's what I wanted. I got a lot of money to pay off, but at least I'm going in the right direction finally. It's a hard job though. I'm constantly working since the moment I get there, stocking appliances. First I bring them out from the warehouse that has no AC, then I take them on a big cart to the aisle I need to be at and start loading them up. While all this is going on customers are asking me questions even though I can only answer anything directly related to appliances and nothing else. They get mad sometimes when I can't answer their questions and point them to someone else, but what can I do? The trainer only taught me my own section. Ah well, that's work, whatever."
"That sounds pretty rough," Marty said, gripping his near empty can of beer. "For everything I complain about in my job—and there's a lot to complain about—at least I am mostly just standing around at the front desk rather than constantly moving. I hate those kinds of jobs, the ones where you hustle the second you walk in there and have hardly any break for your body."
"Security is easy," said Richard, then chugged his second beer.
Marty mumbled something, not meaning to make any words, just a noise of acknowledgement. He sighed, thinking over his run-ins with Harvey Franco and Erin. As he opened up the first bottle of wine he started explaining the story to Richard. "There's this rich venture capitalist bourgeoisie douchebag that lives in the building I work at..."
As he talked Richard got up, looking not even slightly dizzy, and went over to his room to fetch a pair of glasses for their wine. Marty finished explaining the situation after his mate was done filling up both glasses.
"That's it?" Richard asked, grabbing his glass and clinking it to Marty's.
"Well, yeah," said Marty, unsure of why Richard had such a dismissive tone in his voice. He grabbed his own glass of wine and took a sip. It was smooth and fruity, exactly what Marty imagined it would have been when he bought it at the LCBO store further west on Dundas.
Richard shook his head, smiling slightly. "Man, I wish my biggest concern in life was if a girl liked me or not."
"Huh? You don't think of that much?"
"Oh God, no. I haven't even had sex maybe seven years, but still, I don't need it anymore. I had enough back when I was even younger than you. Those days are over. When you get to a certain age you just don't care anymore."
"Heh, well I'm far way off from there then," laughed Marty, leaning back on his chair, the very top of it's back hitting the fridge door. He watched a cockroach scamper up the wall behind Richard.
"Well, you'll get there someday. One day you just wont care anymore. This girl, Erin you said her name was?"
Marty nodded. "She's a woman, probably a bit older than me actually, but not much."
"Okay, well if she's with some bourgeoisie douchebag she's probably not your kind of girl anyway. She's got to be a gold-digger to stay with someone like him, so don't worry about it."
"Well," Marty shrugged, unsure if he believed that. He was about to say so when the door to the side, the one that led outside, opened up and Jordan entered. Behind him was a little kid, looking just like a miniature Jordan like Richard has described.
"Oh hey there, buddy!" Richard called over, turning about to face them. Marty reached for the drinks as if to hide them back in the LCBO bags.
"Nah, don't worry about it," said Jordan, seeing Marty scamper. "My son's seen me drink before!"
"Hi," said the son, smiling as he walked in front of his dad.
"How you doing, buddy?" asked Richard, making his voice higher and reached up to give the kid a high-five.
The little Jordan smacked his palm against Richard's and his smile widened.
The little Jordan smacked his palm against Richard's and his smile widened.
"Where you guys coming from?" the Englishman asked.
"Daddy took me to the Museum today!"
"Oh, did you see lots of dinosaur bones?"
The kid nodded eagerly. "And we saw mummies!"
Jordan smiled, looking quite tired. He moved past his son and pulled the keys from his pocket, opening up his room's door. He carried two gift bags with him into his room. Richard reached out and gave the little boy another friendly high-five before the kid went in to join his father.
Jordan poked his head out before closing the door all the way. "You guys having a good time?"
"Ah yeah," said Marty. "First days off work for a while, just chilling. Want to join us?"
"Nah, I got to bring him to his mom's, then I'm going for a late shift. Thanks though."
"Another time for sure," said Marty.
Jordan nodded, then closed the door.
"Seems like a nice kid," Marty said to Richard.
He nodded. "Oh yeah, that kid's really well mannered. Jordan works his ass off for his kid and I'll tell you one thing, he'll still be out of here before I will."
"Probably me too," said Marty. They went back to their wine.
After a glass each Richard started shaking his head. "You can't be planning to stay, are you? You can easily go to a better place this this."
"I like the area," Marty said, realizing his tone sounded defensive even thought he was consciously trying not to sound that way. "Much better than where I'm from," he went on. "You don't understand, man. When I was up in North York I'd see the same shit, the same things day after day, no change. I'd see my old neighbourhood, my old high school, the old supermarket that's been there since I was a toddler, everything the same. I'd see some people I went to High School with and, for the most part, feel like there's nothing to say to them. It held me back, living there in the same place for so long in a place that isn't me, you know what I'm saying?"
"Sure I do," said Richard. "Moving to another country was a big thing for me, starting fresh in life, but there are still many places, even in this neighborhood, that you can move to rather than stay in this rat-hole."
"We have rats too?"
"Figure of speech."
"Ah, well, yeah. I guess I can move, but that would mean getting two months rent together again. How can we guarantee the next place wont have roaches too?"
"There are ways to look for it," said Richard, starting to point along the walls. "You see those brown spots all over the walls and floors? That's their shit. Just look thoroughly next time before you move in."
"Meh, I'll give this place another month maybe and see how things are by then."
"Another month? This place isn't worth another hour. Trust me, if I was in your place I'd be out tomorrow already. I'd ask Ivan for my last month's rent back and be on my way."
"How did you move in here to start with anyway?"
Richard put his glass down. "After my divorce," he said. "Was just a bit more than a year ago I was looking around for a while. I crashed at a friend's for two months, then found this place. My room is smaller than yours over there, so it's under four hundred a month."
"Ah, so it was the situation," said Marty, taking another sip of his wine, feeling more loose and bubbly than he did five minutes before. He thought it was pretty unfortunate, seeing a man in his middle ages broke and divorced and living in a tiny room. Marty didn't say so, inebriated though he was.
Richard slumped his elbows over the table. "Yeah, but if it wasn't for that I wouldn't be anywhere near this place, and trust me, on the last day I'm going to tell that petty bourgousie dick where to stick it, motherfucker. He's got to be the worst landlord ever and I've seen some shitty ones when I was younger, more around your age actually back in the U.K. My barracks was more luxurious than this place."
"Ah yeah, you were in the military, right? How can you go to war, being a Left-winger yourself?" Marty asked. "I mean, I got involved in politics, or rather in protesting, during the Iraq War. I got to say, September 11th really woke me up, that was the start. I remember being in high school when we heard about that. I turned to the guy sitting beside me and asked "What's the World Trade Center?" For some reason I was picturing the U.N. Building."
"And then by the time the Iraq War was announced back in 2002 in the summer, I was pissed. All that goodwill towards the United States squandered for a bullshit oil grab. I went to so many demonstrations downtown. This was when I first started getting exposed to more parts of the city. Before that I'd only been downtown for Leaf Games with my cousins back when I was a kid and occassionally going to the Museum or Casa Loma or High Park with my mom back when she lived with us. When did you first get political?"
"I was always political," Richard replied, pouring himself another glass. "I guess even before the war I was. My family was always Labour, both being factory workers, strong union people, you know? I never paid much attention though, was too busy doing other things in my youth, like having sex. Younger than you back then, signed up for the marines, pleased my grandfather enough. We landed in the Falklands, got shelled really hard, almost died once. When I got back I got involved in the Labour Party, mad at Thatcher for dismantling all the social services that helped my family get by when I was a kid. She crushed unions hard; more strikes. I got involved in the National Union of Mineworkers strike, went to picket with a group I was involved with at the time. We lost that one bad."
Marty sighed. "I know the feeling. My mom went on strike a lot when I was a kid and only won once. Every other time they were legislated back to work and got nothing."
"You were involved in the anti-war movement here? Was there much of one in Canada during the Iraq War? I was here but wasn't paying that much attention. I mean, obviously I was against the war, but wasn't involved in the protests or anything. I guess I was starting to withdraw from politics around that time, mostly concentrating on my writing."
Marty nodded, thinking back to when he and some friends he had gone to high school with went downtown to demonstrate outside of the U.S. consulate on University Avenue, one of Toronto's main downtown streets. Back then Marty felt more of a nationalist or patriotic feeling, having been disgusted with the antics of George W. Bush and relieved that Canada's leaders had kept the country out of the war.
"The demonstrations in Canadian cities kept us out of the war," Marty explained. "And our current Prime Minister, then leader of the Opposition wrote a letter to Americans apologizing for it."
Richard grunted in disgust. "Stephen Harper, what a douchebag. Man, he's even worse than Rob Ford."
"Ford can't get anything done, he's too stupid. Harper's actually dangerous because he knows what he's doing. He's the most undemocratic leader we've ever had."
Richard nodded. "And then Tony Blair, aye? Can you believe a once progressive leftist party like Labour becoming as bad as Thatcher?"
"I can," he replied. "It happened with the NDP, same thing. Everybody goes to the right. I knew a guy who said that it was natural, that there was a neoliberal, corporate consensus amongst most people in Canada, and the world too. Like, as if it's a consensus that most people want social programs demolished; universal health care privatized like in the states; that tuition fees should keep getting higher, that our tax money should fund petro industries; that unions and worker's benefits should be nixed; that minimum wage not be raised...it's disgusting!"
Marty poured himself another glass, thinking back to the guy he knew. "This guy was in the NDP, just like me, was there back in high school protesting the Iraq War, then we both joined the NDP. He became a party hack, doing whatever the party brass, the behind the scenes people, wanted him to do. He supported even getting rid of Layton early on and putting a more centrist leader in charge of the NDP."
Marty saw this former friend as the epitomy of all that was wrong with the modern New Democratic Party of Canada. He was glad he got out when he did.
"Then there was occupy," Marty went on, his mind turning to more recent happenings. "That was something, the first time in a long while that talk about inequality in society became a mainstream thing. I mean, it was, at least to me, a break from the same old electoral politics, and a break from the usual apathy."
"Canada is apathetic, I got to say," said Richard. "I mean, typically compared to other places. In Europe if the government tries to ram through legislation that screws over working people the streets will be swarming the next day with protests, stopping the cities from functioning. Here the politicians cut and cut and no one seems to mind, or they mind but they wont do anything to change it."
"I know," Marty sighed. "We have marches a few times a year, the same people show up, give out flyers, and then we all go home like nothing happened. With Occupy something seemed different though. It was the first time when people who had previously not been political became involved, which is a sign that people are really starting to feel the squeeze. I remember with Occupy Toronto it started out really good. We had loads of people in St. James Park, all camped out for weeks until Rob Ford ordered us out. The Toronto Police were even nice about it, they didn't want another P.R. disaster after the G20 fiasco."
"Ah yeah," grunted Richard, pouring himself his fourth glass. "Good wine. I remember that. I wasn't downtown that day, but that was nuts."
"I know, that really woke a lot of Torontonians up, I think. But yeah, anyway, as I was saying, the Occupy movement was something else, a worldwide phenomenon that couldn't have happened without social media in this day and age. It was amazing. Unfortunately, after spending some time in Occupy Toronto's tent city I got a bit disillusioned there as well."
"Oh yeah, how so? I never went by myself, but was following it on the news a bit."
"Ah, a lot of things," said Marty, pouring himself a new glass and licking his lips. The deep red wine looked so refreshing. The bottle was done. He reached for the next one. "This one next, it's a bit more sour than the last. Anyways, as I was saying, I found that Occupy Toronto got hijacked itself by the whole pseudo-conspiracy crowd."
"Yep, you know the types, eh?"
He nodded. "I know what you're talking about. Let me guess, they were talking about freemasons, Illuminati, and lizard people?"
Marty nodded. "Not to mention their obsession with Building Seven in the World Trade Center. It's been more than a decade yet people are still obsessed with that. There were a few self-appointed leaders of the movement that emerged, mostly people talking about Illuminati instead of real issues of inequality. It was really bizarre."
"Those conspiracy theorists are nuts," Richard said, shaking his head. "I know people, everyday people who don't seem like ignoramuses, but then they believe in weird things like chemtrails. With all the things going on in the world, all the injustices and inequality, it doesn't need a big conspiracy theory to explain. People are greedy, that's it."
Marty sighed, taking in a deep swig of wine. At last someone understood his frustration.
"Some people would just rather chase shadows," Richard said as he took his next gulp, downing the remaining contents in his cup. "Ah, shall we finish the last bottle then?"
"Ah, game if you are," beamed Marty, tilting the bottle to fill his mate's glass.
Jordan came out of his room then. "Little guy's sleeping," he said, grabbing a seat at the table. He covered his face in his hands, running his fingers down from his forehead to his chin. "So tired."
"You got to work tonight too?" Richard asked. Jordan nodded.
"Have a drink," said Marty.
"Nah, thanks," he replied. "Will just make me more tired." He sighed. "I got to get out of here."
"That makes two of us," said Richard, then he looked over at Marty. "Or three of us."
Marty shook his head, pouring a glass himself. He turned to Jordan, wanting to bring him into the conversation. "Hey Jordan, would you say you're left wing or right wing?"
He shrugged. "Don't follow politics too much. I guess I'd vote for whoever won't tax me too much. I got a kid to feed."
"Well, not sure if taxes are the problem as much as who gets taxed and where the taxes go," said Marty. He sipped the new wine. "Not bad wine."
Richard did the same, nodding in agreement. "Very strong flavour. This would be good with some proper food." He stood up. "Anybody hungry?" He opened the fridge and pulled out some hummus.
Within seconds he was frying it in some cooking oil in a pan over the stove.
"Mmmm," said Marty. "Smells good." He turned back to Jordan. "By left-wing or right-wing we mean, like are you more conservative or more liberal or socialist?"
"I don't know," said Jordan. "I don't really follow politics, as I said. What's left and right wing mean?"
"Well," said Marty, realizing how loaded the question he had asked actually was. It was difficult to explain it to someone who self-identifies as non-political. Quite a lot of people, in fact, the majority of people Marty had ever met had identified in such a way. "It's a hard thing to explain," he confessed, looking over to Richard for help. His friend was too busy frying up the hummus, which by now took on the form of a solid fried substance. Richard grabbed a plate from the counter and put the fried hummus on it and handed it to Marty.
"Yum," said Marty. "Anyways, I guess it started back in the days of the French Revolution, so the eighteenth century. After the king had been overthrown a new assembly had gathered, one that represented the people rather than just the aristocrats and the crown. Some people in the assembly wanted to make more changes to the system, they sat on the left hand side of the room, while those who favoured keeping things as they were sat on the right side. This is how the terms 'left' and 'right' wing first came to being. So, in essence, when it's all boiled down, what it means is the right tends to be conservative, that is they want to conserve things the way they are, while the left wants change. During the civil rights movement, for example, most of the people involved would be considered left-wing since they were fighting against old fashioned rules that needed to be changed."
Jordan nodded. "Oh okay, well, I guess it depends with me. I mean, what does the word liberal mean? I like how it sounds. It means, letting things be, right? Like, liberty?"
Marty nodded. Richard sat back beside him, now with his own plate of fried hummus. He pointed to it, looking over at Jordan as if to ask if he wanted some. Jordan smiled and shook his head.
"I'm fine," he said. "Thanks. Sorry I haven't been able to drink or smoke with you guys. Having a kid, even if you only see him half the time, is still a full time job."
"I could imagine," said Marty. He turned to Richard. "You ever had kids?"
Richard shook his head. Marty got up and got a fork for his meal. The fried hummus was really good, tasting just like hummus paste, just more solid and crispy. Maybe it was the beer and wine that made him like it more than he would have normally.
"But yeah, I like the word liberal," said Jordan.
"Yeah, like let things be, let people do what they want. Let people express themselves, talk about whatever they want in public, let people sleep with whoever they want, even if they're gay."
Jordan nodded. "Well yeah, if that's what they want to do. As long as I don't have to see it then I don't give a shit. So, I guess I'm liberal, definitely not conservative."
"Same," said Marty. "Although there's a big difference between the idea of modern liberalism and classical liberalism."
"Yeah, but that'll have to wait for another day," said Jordan, getting up and checking his wristwatch. "Damn, it's getting late. I got a big shift ahead of me. Later guys." He returned to his room, coming out a minute later with his kid in tow. His son rubbed his eyes, clearly still tired.
Once they were gone Richard poured him and Marty their second cup of the new wine and they clinked glasses. "Yeah, I think Jordan's going to get out of here soon. Lucky bastard. No one stays here for long. It's like a hostel, just not as clean."
Marty laughed. "No man, it can't be as bad as that. I mean, I don't know, just so glad to be somewhere else, I guess."
The wine was halfway done by the time Nicky came in. He was dressed nicely, wearing a purple dress shirt and black pants.
"You guys having a party, or what?" Nicky asked.
Marty laughed. "A bit, want some wine?"
"No, I can't! I have to go out in a minute! I just came home to freshen up!"
Marty noticed Richard was staring down at the table, realizing that he was ignoring Nicky. The younger man went into his room, then came out mere seconds later. "What are you guys talking about?"
"Politics," said Marty, giving a one word answer since he figured Richard wanted him to leave.
"Oh, I'm all into that!" said Nicky, waving a hand through his long, dark bangs. "I am all about the Illuminati. Do you know they control every bank and every government in the world? They're so sneaky!"
Marty shrugged, then looked at Richard. "Oh," he said to Nicky. "I am not too into that."
"I mean, I don't know too much about it, but I know they control everything in our lives! Oh my God, it's so freaky when I hear about them. They're so many videos about them on youtube."
Marty grabbed the remaining bottle of wine and bringing it toward his lips. "Oh, did you want some?" He asked Richard.
Marty grabbed the remaining bottle of wine and bringing it toward his lips. "Oh, did you want some?" He asked Richard.
"No," he replied. "Take the rest. It's yours anyway."
Marty chugged what was left.
"I guess I can see what you mean about him," Marty said, rolling up the joint on the picnic table at Vine Park.
"Yeah, he's an idiot."
"Well, I mean, he's superficial," replied Marty, licking the joint sealed. "I mean, conspiracy theories like Illuminati are a superficial understanding of the world and politics in general. People who believe in that don't take time to learn the real, you know, whole complexity of the real world?"
Richard shook his head. "He's an idiot."
Marty laughed, pulling out his lighter and lit up the joint, passing it to Richard first. "Take the first puff. I guess I got very little I can talk about to Nicky."
Richard breathed in a trail of marijuana. He liked hanging with Marty. It made him feel young again.
"Ah well, can't be good buddies with all your room-mates."
"Yep," he said once he exhaled. "One time he saw the catnip you bought in the fridge and freaked out."
"Oh my God!" Richard made his voice shrill like Nicky's, waving his free hand around. "I'm allergic to cats!"
"He said that? Are you serious? If I had a cat why would I put catnip in the fridge?"
Richard handed Marty the joint. "I told you, he's an idiot and a bloody drama queen."
A train passed by then, engulfing the entire parkette in it's thunderous noises. It took nearly five minutes to pass by, one freight going by after another like an enormous convoy. It held huge trailers, a cargo train with no passengers. There were likely maybe two people on the entire thing, both in the engine at front. Richard imagined himself sneaking onto the train, going somewhere, anywhere else.
"You know what we should do?" Marty asked as the caboose was all that could be seen trailing into the west. By now the joint was almost done. "We should pretend we have a cat that I'm keeping in my room."
Richard laughed, thinking of the cat Laura had brought into the house one day. "Yeah! Let's call her Angie."
"We'll talk to her when Nicky's in his room, be like 'Angie! Angie!'" Marty said, softening his voice when he mock called the cat. He whistled. "'Come here, baby! Come get num nums!'"
"Yeah! That'll freak him out. Then when he comes out we'll pretend he's going crazy."
The younger man smiled smiled, handing the now tiny joint to him. Richard, feeling the buzz of the weed coming on already, waved it. "Thanks, I'm good. You have the rest."
Marty placed the roach in between his two front teeth and sucked in, the fire in the end of it lighting up, smokes whirling out from all sides, and then going straight into his mouth.
"I can't wait to get out of here," muttered Richard. "I've only been here less than a year and I already need to leave. This place is driving me insane, bad enough the situation is as it is. I guess maybe a couple more months at most and I can leave."
"Yeah, you got your job," said Marty.
"Yep, that's it. A few paycheques and I can get out," he replied, thinking of Ivan constantly hounding him for rent. His plan, in truth, was to avoid his landlord and sneak out once he had enough for first and last rent for the next place. When Ivan was sleeping in the dead of the night Richard would gather up his few belongings and load up a taxi to go to his new place.
"Well, good luck to you."
"Thanks," he said, starting to realize how tired he once from the drinking and smoking. He stood up, stretching his legs, then turned to his mate. "I'm surprised you're staying here. You already have enough money to leave, don't you?"
Marty nodded as he got up off the picnic bench. "Yeah," he said, sighing as he turned to the railroad. "I like it here though."
"If I were you I'd be out so fast."
"If I were you I'd be out so fast."