I’ve had nothing to say for myself lately. A life built from gastric reflux and work isn’t terribly interesting, so I’m reporting on my neighbours instead—or on their voices floating up to me as I recline on my balcony. I’ve been working out there since the weather got warmer, cocooned in fuzzy blankets, my laptop on my knee. The acoustics are wonderful, so here. Some choice eavesdroppings.
[the sound of a phone ringing, very soft]
So you’ll answer a blocked number, but not your own kid?
Pick the movie.
Uh-uh. I picked last time. And you always just—
Pick a movie!
Fine. Terminator 2.
Not a joke one.
Well, pick again.
(They settled on something I either couldn’t hear or didn’t understand—maybe in a language I don’t speak. They repeated the title several times, but what I heard was Boofalo, which is funny, because that’s how I used to think you pronounced “buffalo.” But I don’t think there’s a movie called that.)
RACIALLY UNCOMFORTABLE PASSERS-BY
…no. I can’t repeat that. Just, someone yelled something racist down Kingsway, a generic slur turned personal. Racial insults—or gendered ones, or gay ones—it’s like there’s an extra layer of contempt baked in. You haven’t earned a proper jab, so they’re pointing out your most obvious trait, reducing you to that. But this guy, he did that part, then he added a personal touch, so it was like…I hate what you are, but also, fuck who you are, just you, no-one else. The worst of both worlds. I think I’ve located the snidiest cunt in Canada.
Ketchup…you want ketchup? The sriracha kind. No, tabasco? What’s that sauce?
[traffic sounds. Insects buzzing.]
I think you mean chili sauce. The…no, with the seeds. No, with the—
I’m going inside now. I gotta hang up. Hope you like [red mayo? Is that a thing?]
(I live above a supermarket. I hear a lot of these conversations. Like these guys, confused about milk.)
Two percent? Two percent what? What’s two percent of?
Water. It’s how much they add water. Whole is all milk, skim is milk but no cream, two percent’s mostly water.
That doesn’t sound right….
So get them all, let her choose. You drink the rest.
(I think two percent’s where they remove most of the fat, like ninety-eight percent of it. Skim, I think they’re right. They just whisk the cream off the top…but that can’t be right. Skim has less fat than two percent. Maybe it’s a different sort of milk, like…the last milk of the day, when the cream’s all sucked out of the udders. Jesus Christ. I don’t know. I’m mocking these guys, and I’m clueless as they are. Whatever. I don’t drink milk.)
THE FASHION POLICE
…and what’s with old men with their socks on the outside of their pant legs?
What, like tucked in? Who does that?
I told you. Old men. You see them in the T&T with their ankles like they’re smuggling [goiters?], big donut ankles, those athletic socks with the puma stretched out….
I swear I’ve never seen that.
Well, I’ve seen it. I saw my dad try it, but [hydraulic noises; one of those express buses, I think, not the trolley kind, but the other ones]. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a Chinese thing.
Ha…you can keep it. We already have those hats….
(I’d just like to interject that I’ve never seen an old man with his trousers tucked into is socks, but I did see a lady using cut-off socks as arm-warmers.)
[night sounds; someone coughing]