Vignette: “Ghosts on the Street”

By Dave Hood

I’m strolling to the bookstore, down Yonge street, the main drag of Toronto, a metropolis, the biggest and most populated city in Canada. The stroll to the book will take about 15 minutes, where I’ll browse the poetry, fiction, short story sections, as well as investigate the magazine racks, read some of the current event publications, such as Time magazine. Perhaps I’ll pick up a copy of the New Yorker, my favorite weekly read.

It’s a cool autumn Saturday, the kind of weather that makes you shiver, wish you’d dressed warmer.  After wearing an ill-fitting navy suit, a tie that strangles, and shinny, uncomfortable oxfords all week, I’m free from the grind and uniform, dressed casually in a baseball cap, windbreaker, jeans, sweat shirt. and cross-trainers, which feel like walking on cushions of air.

Moving along, I notice the skyscrapers, stretching to the clouds, casting long shadows, standing in silence, in the distance. On every block, there are mom-and-pop retailers, who hawk everything you can imagine, clothes, musical CD’s, games, baseball caps, souvenirs, comic books, porno movies, shoe stores, art supply stores, framing outlets, fast-food restaurants.

Passing one of the countless greasy spoons, I smell pepperoni pizza.  My stomach growls, like a hungry bear. I ignore my desire for food, walk along the sidewalk, pass the Sally Ann, where a countless homeless, who are out of luck, live at night.

Nearby, ragged men, desperate for money, perhaps on disability or mentally ill, hold out their hands, post signs that are like billboards. One of the signs reads, “Please help me. Any donation is appreciated.” As I pass, a sad face asks,” Any spare change?” Not wanting to touch his dirty hand or get to close, I reach into my pocket, pull out a loonie, drop it into his throwaway coffee cup, one from Tim Horton’s. He coughs and says, “God Bless.” I move on, trek down Yonge Street, toward the book store.

I smell exhaust fumes and hear the distracting noise of a loud bus engine and honking horns of automobiles. I think this sound must irritate anyone who prefers silence.

The cold motivates me to pick up the pace, so I move briskly, dodging crowds of strangers, like riding a bike on an obstacle course. I see old newspapers full of yesterday’s news, empty glass bottles, plastic containers, cigarette packs strewn on the sidewalk, beside an overflowing garbage can.

Standing next to the strip joint, there’s a young, attractive woman who’s wearing a black winter coat, unzipped. She’s adorned in a tight tank top and mini skirt, with enormous breasts that are like magnets. As I pass, she asks, “Would you like a date?” Ignoring her, I stroll on, in and out of crowds of strangers, who are lost in thought. Many are gabbing or texting messages on their smart phones or listening to iTunes.

I think the crowds of people float past like ghosts on the street. Or perhaps, I’m the ghost on the street?

I trek on, a few more blocks, arrive at the bookstore, open the glass door, feel the warmth in the air, glance at the books lining the shelves, hear the symphony on the sound system. A pretty face smiles, and asks: Can I help you?


About Dave Hood

Lover of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction. Professional photographer and writer. Without the arts, life would be rather mundane, like a walk down the same old path on a dull day.
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