November 29, 2006

Get as much as you need.

I go to the store almost every day. I've adapted to this, it's a peril and a perk of city living. Back when I lived in a suburb of Toronto I did one major shop a week, along with popping out for a refill of milk, bread and veggies in between. Now that I live right in the city I've got a whole other thing going on. The bakery, grocery store, fruit and vegetable store....they are all minutes away from my door and I pop out for what I need as I go along. The perks are that I don't have to be organized enough to commit to a plan early in the week and that everything we eat is lovely and fresh, and the peril is the loss of efficiency in shopping for 30 minutes a day. Downside, we rarely have enough in the house to pull a meal together without walking out. (The romance of popping into the bakery each day is largely evaporated by rain or snow.) Upside, my lettuce is never wilty and we eat warm bread.

This jaunt in and out also lets me say Hi to my neighbours, get a little air and forces me to fight my perennial urge to sit in my house all the time knitting and writing. (I would make an excellent hermit.) Since I walk by all of the homes near me on an almost daily basis, I knew that the house on my street next to the alley I take to the grocery store had new occupants. My natural curiosity has had me trying to check them out for a while. All I've been able to divine is that he/she/ they are likely a household of one or two people, since their green bin is almost always empty and they have only one small bag of rubbish. They don't subscribe to a paper, and they put up new blinds. They also fixed the siding where that car hit it. So far, he/she/they seem like nice neighbours. I considered taking them "welcome to the neighbourhood" cookies or something.

Last night as I was walking past their front door to go to the shop and get greens, black beans and some yellow peppers I think I met them...or her. Or possibly a friend that they shouldn't invite back.

As I passed by their door (the doors in this neighbourhood sit only about two metres from the sidewalk) the door exploded open and this woman came out. Well, came out may be a bit of a misleading statement. Sauntered. Maybe Sauntering with a smidge of's hard to say, but the woman was definitely moving with a great deal of aggression and assertiveness. Her chin was up, her shoulders were back, her arms pumped back and forth with each step. She stormed the six or seven strides to the sidewalk, ending up right in front of me, looked me straight in the eye, slapped her hands on her hips and screamed "What are you looking at?"

I was stunned. What I was looking at was a woman of ample curve, perhaps a hard living 50 years old, about my height (5') or perhaps a little taller. She was one of those women who's age is hard to figure. Her hair was yellowy bleach blonde, her dark brown roots were perhaps an inch or two long and she had a leathery face that looks like it's been outside a whole lot and not washed much. She had sort of skinny legs and a small "upstairs", a double chin and a very big belly. If she had been a younger woman I would have suspected for a moment that she was pregnant. Her skin was sallow and loose and she didn't look well at all. Her panties were.....

Sorry did I neglect to mention that? This woman, our new neighbour or an associate of my neighbour had stomped out of her home (or the home of her friend) onto my busy metro street aggressive and unwashed in the chill November air of Toronto wearing only the skankiest of used-to-be pink panties and a completely done in bra to go with.

I was stunned. Stunned enough that I was actually unable to fully answer the "What are you looking at?" question that she had posed to me by evening light on the sidewalk...Stunned enough by this sudden public almost-nudity that I stammered for a minute...helplessly trying to both avert my eyes and sum up the situation, searching for a position that was both polite and....well. Frankly got me the hell out of there. As I stood there with my mouth open, trying desperately not to look at her victim-of gravity bra and wondering what the protocol on this one was, the woman looked me up and down, gave me a sneer exactly like I was the near-naked woman on the sidewalk and yelled "Get a good look Honey....Get as much as you need!"

...and with that she was gone. Not back into the house, which was where I would have gone as directly as possible, were I she...but down the street, boldly and brashly and straight as an arrow. Completely purposeful. She had gold shoes.

I continued to the store then (sort of crooked and shaky-like) got my groceries and came walking tentatively back about 15 minutes later...approaching her house with trepidation and extreme caution, this time with a plan in place. If she was still there (and still lacking the appropriate clothing) then this time I could bolt for my door. I rounded the corner and looked.

Standing at her front door was a clean cut young man with a clipboard, behind him another guy with a huge video camera mounted on his shoulder. They were knocking on the door, looking for all the world like they had arrived to interview her.
I bustled past the camera man, glancing at the door as I went by and saw through the un-curtained windows that she was coming (still not well clad) to answer their knock.
I went home and I wondered. Was it news? Was it an indie film? Was it art? What the hell was going on four doors down? I pondered these things as I started dinner and I realized I only knew two things for sure.

I need to go to the store less often... and a tray of "welcome to the neighbourhood" cookies is right out.

Posted by Stephanie at November 29, 2006 4:14 PM