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12:13

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Rarely did I find myself alone on weekend nights as a teenager. Back when I attended that slum of a school Lester B. Pearson down near Regent Park, I spent every minute of those late nights with my friends. Being a bunch of seventeen and eighteen year olds, we were perpetually bored and hungry, always looking for something to do, somewhere to go, something to eat. Most of the time we lazed around in the basement of one of our low-income housing units, or stayed late in nearby fast food restaurants, buying the minimum amount of food necessary so that the management would let us stay. We would always end up making a mess of paper straw wrappers and salt packets on the table, and running from the booth, leaving the strewn pile of tidbit garbage for the elderly part-time workers to clean. Then, as a tight unit, anywhere from five to seven of us, and almost always all male, would steal any available liquor from our parents, sit in the park and drink until the cops would show.

The night of May the 2nd was different though. For starters, it was surprisingly warm for a spring night. Warm enough that all I was wearing was a slightly stained grey t-shirt and a pair of jeans with worn through knees in both pant legs. As if the weather was taking a cue from my social life, my friends had all deserted me for the night. In a strange, and what seemed at the time grossly unfair turn of fate, all of them were involved in some sort of relationship that offered se**** activity. I knew full well if I was in their position I wouldn’t spend a free Friday night with them either, but still, sitting on this park swing, I resented their abandonment of me. The smooth rubber seat cushioned my thoughts of loneliness, as I pushed lightly against the gravel of the playground with my shoes. This community had supported me since my early childhood, yet I felt little sentimental connection to the surrounding greenery and external brick walls. I sat alone in the “public recreational area”, as the city liked to call it, on that swing set, designed for children much younger than me. However, because of my size, at the time I was about 5’5’’, and because the streetlights focused all of their light in constricted and artificial circles on the pavement, no one would have been able to tell I didn’t belong. It’s for this reason that I think I saw her before she saw me.

She was standing half beneath the street lamp, a little to the left of its circular beam of light, in front of the streetcar shelter. Her dangerously high heels and vibrantly coloured clothes revealed her profession to me immediately: she was a prostitute. This didn’t surprise me. I had lived in this area of public squalor my entire life, so I was used to seeing the occasional h***** or drug addict walking the side of the road late at night. It was when she turned to me and spoke which took me aback.

“Excuse me, do you have the time?” she said in a casual, yet slightly nervous voice. She took a small pull from the cigarette in her hand, while brushing her straight ebony hair out of her eyes. As much as I had seen prostitutes and other forms of depravity in my neighbourhood, I was unaccustomed to communicating with them, and found myself at a loss for words. The way she had turned her head to me, with such ease and grace for someone of her profession put me in awe. Her striking features – the high cheekbones, the pale, translucent skin, the raven hair – all came together to form this striking figure standing before me beneath a streetlight. It wasn’t just her appearance, however, that had struck me. Her words, those sounds that came from her small, elegant mouth, drew me into the dilapidated life we shared. I wanted to say “It’s 12:13”, but found my mind was unable to will my mouth to form the words in her presence. I sat still on the swing and stared in her direction, as a state of calm washed over me. Somehow, she had turned me into an amnesiac, forgetting my lack of friends, my lack of love, my lack of money, my lack of a future. Sitting there, I was frozen in that moment.

I suppose a significant period of silence had passed, because she eventually turned and left, never receiving her answer. I didn’t notice her leaving though, as I was still stuck in that moment, at a standstill of complete harmony, sitting peacefully on a swing. For the remainder of the night, I stared at the spot where she had stood, but never once felt my eyes sting and burn with lack of sleep. That’s how my mother and the two police officers found me the next morning.





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