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Friday, July 29, 2005

Two dollars worth

Dressed in jeans, an unbuttoned shirt with a singlet underneath, I am with my friends striking out after dinner into the sleepy Orchard scene, already folding her doors as the hour approaches ten.

Entering the underground connection between Shaw Centre and Wheellock Place, we cross a busker, his guitar and his daughter, squatting quite comfortably in the hollow of the open guitar case. He appears Eurasian, his dark complexion reminding me of gypsies and other wandering foreign types.

One of my friends stops to drop a two dollar note into the case. Immediately, the girl, perhaps six years old, seemingly untainted by insecurities, unrestrained by the imposed rigidities of formal schooling, comes bounding towards us as we start to walk on.

Her father smiles as he continues strumming on his instrument. The girl shouts a string a 'thank you's that reverberate along the tunnel walls. We are alone in the quiet underground on a quiet thursday night watching a little girl radiate positivity.

Without warning, she bounds forward and hugs us, each of us in turn. We're pleasantly surprised at her energy.

When she turns to me, she asks a question that I do not quite catch at first. I bend down a little and she half-whispers her question again.

"Are you a girl?"

My thoughts stray to the wax greasing my hair and my dressing. A part of me laughs, another feels as though caught in the proverbial cookie jar. My friends do not seem to hear. I stoop down and answer "Yes," unconsciously mimicking her conspirational tone.

She nearly knocks me over with her embrace, arms around my hips. We do a quick twirl, stumbling, extending like some lopsided dance couple before I motion her back to her father.

As we walk away I am wrapped in layers of feeling: flashes of bemusement, a grey mass of mixed discomfort and ease. Swimming somewhere is that tiny yet tangibly present and persistent knot of shame.

en at 4:57 pm