I check my watch for what must be the tenth time. I’m not sure where Allison is but I hope to hell she shows up soon. Not that it’s an unpleasant day. There’s not a cloud in the sky, and the calm breeze makes the temperature just right. I don’t like waiting though, that’s all.
I’m planted on a bench facing the main walkway. I’m people watching I guess you could say. There’s a large green space behind me filled with activity. People are chatting. Children are playing. Making all sorts of annoying noises.
I’m distracted by a pair of long legs in a short skirt so I don’t see the projectile coming for my head until it’s too late. I rub my temple with the palm of my hand, trying to massage the stinging sensation away. A memory from the past comes to me. I hear my mother’s voice, something about a clout to the ear. A young kid comes running up to retrieve a small red and black ball from the path in front of me.
“Sorry about that.”
“Yeah, it’s ok.” Sure I’m lying but what am I supposed to say?
The kid is just standing there staring at me. He’s scrawny with a messy ginger mop hanging down into his freckled face. He’s wearing shorts and a t-shirt with a cartoon T-Rex that says ‘Rawr means I love you in dinosaur’. The socks and sandals are a nice touch. He’s got a weird sparkle in his eye, like he’s a little touched. As soon as he opens his mouth I know I’m in trouble.
“Wanna know something cool? I have an owl collection. Snowy Owls are my favourite. I have two stuffies, the bigger one is Snowy and the smaller one is Snowy Junior. My Grandpa has a real Snowy Owl on the wall of his basement, I haven’t named him yet but I will one day. Did you know that Snowy Owls aren’t all white? They have brown bars and spots on their backs, and the males are smaller than the females, weird right? My Uncle Steve, he’s my Mom’s brother but my Uncle, he went to Nunavut once and got me a little owl made of seal fur, it’s called an Ookpik, he says that’s the word for Snowy Owl in some other language. I love Snowy Owls. Do you know that one time I was having a picnic in the living room with Snowy and Snowy Junior, and we were drinking Tang and we each had our own cups, but I knocked the pitcher over by accident. Everything was orange! Mom wasn’t happy because her new couch and fuzzy carpet used to be white, Dad says that’s what you get for having a white couch and fuzzy carpet, and then Mom got very quiet and they went upstairs to talk, they do that a lot. Did you know that…”
The kid just kept going. I felt like I had been sucked into a bad Abbot & Costello skit. At one point I think I even said “who’s on first?” The kid didn’t seem to notice. I manage to break my attention away to see Allison scurrying up the path towards us. She looked flustered, flabbergasted even. I didn’t even know the word was in my vocabulary. I think the kid must have used it once or twice.
Allison stops in front of me and the kid’s story trails off into silence. We’re both rendered speechless by the vision standing before us. Allison has that effect on people. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it, but it never hurts to get a reminder once in a while how lucky I really am.
“Jesus Dan, I’m so sorry. My roommate had a meltdown just as I was trying to leave and then the train was running behind because of some accident downtown…”
“It’s ok, really.”
“Hey, who’s this?”
“I look over at the kid. “Him? Just a friend. We were having a chat.”
The kids eyes light up and a big toothy grin, or gaps where teeth should be, fills his face. I stand and take Allison’s hand in mine. Our eyes lock and all my cares fade away.
“Come on, let’s go.”
I turn back briefly as we move up the path. “See ya kid. Good luck with your owls.”