Did you ever have one of those therapy sessions where you leave the office and your head is in a swirl of confusion, yet clarity? You stumble down the street and you’re not so much weaving in and around the rush hour foot traffic, but stealthily navigating successfully in an unconscious haze?
Maybe it was just me.
I wandered into the bookstore at the corner of Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue, taking in all the new fall books, but not really paying attention to anything. My mind was elsewhere. Deserving of a self-present, I purchased myself a newly released book by an old favourite author of mine. I didn’t even know he was releasing a new book. I hadn’t noticed. I hadn’t been paying attention to a lot of things lately.
Heading south towards the subway, an unusual thought entered my head. Not something new or especially salacious. Something I used to do all the time. When I got to the entrance of the subway, a tiny voice in my head said, “Keep going, let’s walk for a bit.”
It looked like rain. I didn’t care. I figured at some point, I’d duck into a subway station and take the train the rest of the way. So, I stuck to Yonge Street just in case my out of shape feet were about to give way. As I approached station after station, that tiny voice kept saying, “Keep going.”
I passed cemeteries and went up and down hills. I stopped in the Reference Library at Bloor Street just for the hell of it. Cut west along Bloor Street and through the back paths of the University of Toronto. Fed my eyes along Augusta Avenue and Kensington Market. Took a shortcut through Toronto Western Hospital pretending I was there for a visit down one hallway, creating the illusion I was a patient down another. Split the difference down two side streets from Dundas, choosing to connect them through a maze of back alleyways.
At Queen Street and Portland Street, I stopped for a rest. The Denizen is a barbershop I’ve been chopping my hair at lately. Run by Gene, I go for the haircut, but hang out for the conversations about cryptocurrency, relationships, and art. Outside The Denizen is a wooden bench bolted into the sidewalk. This was where I chose to take my rest.
A crowd formed at the stoplight at Queen and Portland. The longer I sat there, the more I realized that the stoplight was stuck on a green light going east-west. Pedestrians stood waiting for the light to change, while cars impatiently lined up. We are such a law-abiding and rule-following people. That is until I felt the change in the air. How quickly things change. The apprehension with the waiting crowd grew until they couldn’t take it anymore. Pedestrians, thinking safety in numbers, decided en masse to take over the street and cross to the other side. Cars waiting on the red light pulled out on to Queen in front of unsuspecting vehicles in the other direction. People just couldn’t take it anymore. They had had enough.
How quickly and unsuspectedly it comes. I joined in the chaos, crossing the street with the mob, horns blaring, middle fingers declaring. I thought about the chaos in my mind. The unsettling feeling that I was losing it, my mind that is. How I was stuck on the people who I’ve hurt, those that I have caused pain. Wondering where I am in all this - aren’t I also allowed to be wounded? Hurt? In pain? Do I not deserve to be easier on myself? Yes, I’ve pushed those people away, but if they could only know that it was not them I was pushing away. It was myself. My undeserving self. If I am to be free to love and accept love, I have to learn to love myself. To be grateful to all that I have, instead of dwelling on all that is not.
Further down Queen Street, a man sitting on a bench called out to me, he said, “You are a very lucky man!” Confused, as I seldom felt lucky, I stopped. “You are lucky. You are holding an incredible amount of pain inside of you. From the outside, your friends and everyone else think you are happy, but they cannot see the inside of you.”
This gave me pause. He continued, “The last two years have been very difficult for you. Lots of ups and downs. There has been a lot of negativity in your life, and you are holding on to it. You have to get rid of that negative energy.”
“How do I do that?” I asked.
“I can show you. You are in pain right now, but you are lucky because in six months everything will be better. It will be as though you are a different person.”
“How do you know this? Where did you come from?”
“I came here from India to speak with you. I walk around and am never in the same place twice. Also, I am psychic. If you show me your palm and twenty dollars, I can tell you what will happen.”
Maybe I should have stuck around, paid this guy, and heard what he had to say. Not this time. I hit King Street and two and a half hours later after that tiny voice said, “Keep going,” I limped up the stairs to my third-floor apartment. My feet were not used to all the walking. As I entered my place, I remembered that I had once written a book called The Walking Man, which ended with these six words: Be light! Be smooth! Be open!
I’d like to add four more: Be grateful! Be free!