Night walk

Christie Pits, 1920 / Toronto Archives


“The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.” – James Joyce, Ulysses

It’s spring, but the night air still seeps into light jackets and tiny sweaters. I’m in Little Italy and this Friday night College Street is lit with alcohol and high of expectation around the corners. Very little new mixes with the old in this neighbourhood. South of where I am walking is the lower part of Grace Street, named after a Grace who helped immigrants who first came to the city. Plaques are sporadically placed like tiny hints of important ghosts that still haunt the spaces they were active in. I used to dj here.

I turn north from College to upper Grace Street. It’s a place I know very well, as my family lived almost at the corner of Grace and Harbord just diagonally of the park. Bickford Park is a covered part of Garrison Creek. The giant bridge that existed at the intersection is buried under soil and trees along with the river that extends north and south into the tall buildings of the city. The park tonight is quiet for a bit. I look up and tree branches have hesitant buds peeking in the moonlight. They long for warmth too, like I do. My stockings are way too thin for the night air. The white buds on the branches of the small trees are in sharp contrast with the darker trees that cast a silhouette in the sky as if just existing they were a tattoo against the indigo coloured sky. A spattering of stars just above their branches reminds me to make more wishes on top of the one I made when I blew out my birthday cake candles.

I had three birthday “cakes” tonight. One the kids surprised me with (a black forest cake, the kids and I have been calling DeForest Kelly cake), the other a slice of carrot cake I promised myself earlier in the week, and the last a tres leches confection my friends bought me after dinner. I’m full. My heart is too, with gratefulness.

As I trundle along, a bunch of kids are at the bottom of the bowl of Bickford Park. A small, probably illegal bonfire burns in the middle of them. The haze of smoke and smell of bad pot reaches my periphery. I’m high on the idea of my city made of tiny other cities. Looking over I see the house my family lived in and thoughts of the other house by Christie, and the other house in The Junction fill my brain.

Just before Grace ends and turns into Christie as it is cut by Bloor Street, there are two little libraries perched in front of homes. They are right across from each other. I reach into one of them old with a peeling blue paint, but it is full of willow wisps and spiderwebs. Maybe it’s filled with words that people have spoken and I’m just letting the life dust out. I close it quickly. Stars, dust, books in the head. Stars are dust on fire, we are stars contained. Books house our reverie. You can let out supernovas or monsters that way. Better not take a chance, so I thought better of it, closed that little library because I needed sleep.

I walk over to the other one which is bright yellow and it’s half full with Eddings sci-fi, a Batman colouring book, a book on Islam, and some old Frank Herbert novels that someone must have given up on because there wasn’t a crinkle on them. Then again I am not good with my books. I live in them thus they end up beaten and torn like an overused dogeared emotion.

As I hit Bloor, I realize the quiet has stopped and there is more activity around me. Laughter in one corner, footsteps in another, and the endless stream of cars along Bloor. Christie Pits calls, but I am tired. The old mine that housed one of the biggest riots in the city is now just a park to play baseball and to bake pizza in the communal oven. Families mine connections there.

Just before I enter the subway with thoughts of fictional future witches, I remember that Bickford Park, besides being a river, still houses the wooden swings that hang in the trees along the alley in the west end of it. I should have remembered earlier, but alas another year has gone by and new things to create because there are new hands to grow, a mind to feed, a life to continue living. I retreat into the subway station and try my best not to fall asleep before I get home.


“yes and all the queer little streets and the pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.” – James Joyce, Molly Bloom’s Soliloquy at the end of Ulysses



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