I got a look today that I did not recognize. A total stranger stopped and stared at me. Openly stared. But there was a look on his face that I didn't quite recognize. I don't think he realized that he was staring, didn't even flinch when I glanced up and caught his eye. Didn't look away. Just stared.
We had parked at my new favourite spot on Yonge Street, there is a coffee shop with a patio on the street. We headed there for a cuppa and when we arrive we found that there were no tables out. It was not raining but they were anticipating a storm. Joe went in and got us each a tea, as a surprise he picked me up a Rice Krispie square. Joe sat on the stairs beside me. I'm not really allowed to eat too much sugar so I ate a bit but picked it apart and began to feed the birds.
On my first toss there were only a couple of pigeons and a few small brown birds. A couple tosses later there were hundreds of birds surrounding us. These were city birds, man, they had no fear of people at all. One flew up and landed on my knee, another kept trying to draw attention to himself by flying up just inches from my face. I could feel the strength of his wings in the breeze as he hovered in front of me.
I became obvilious to everything but the birds, oddly, a few became my favourites and I would toss specifically in their direction. Then I felt the gaze, that feeling you get when you know you are being watched. I looked up and saw him standing there. Stopped as if in mid stride and he was intensely looking over at me. I didn't feel a sense of embarrassment or discomfort as I usually do in these circumstances because there was no hostility or even curiosity in his eyes, his face showed something else. Something I couldn't identify.
Then I remembered my University years in Victoria. I used to escape from the campus and go downtown to the cathedral. There was always a woman there, elderly, with one of those walkers that you could sit on. She had a bag full of old bread slices and she'd sit and toss the bread to the birds around her. She coo'd to them, talk to them, and by God if they didn't coo and talk back. I remember seeing her for the first time.
She sat there in deep communion with the birds. Tossing bits of bread first here, then there. The birds flapped around her, scurrying after the bits of bread. She seemed so incredibly in the moment, so incredibly peaceful, and in a way, incredibly rich. I remember her looking up at me, where I stood transfixed.
With envy on my face.