Here is DeVotchKa’s “How It Ends”:
One grey afternoon, I am wandering around Toronto and taking photos. I head east along Queen Street West and turn north onto Bathurst, camera hanging heavily from a strap around my neck and swinging like a pendulum to the beat of my stride.
Right on the corner, there is a shelter. The courtyard is filled with men and women smoking, shuffling about and kicking the dirt, yelling out various things to each other. They may comprise the rougher edges of the social fabric, but they are nonetheless interwoven throughout the city.
As I pass by, a tall man in a navy winter coat who lingers at the periphery of my vision tries to catch my attention. “Excuse me, miss! Is that a camera?”
At first I try to ignore him, quickening my pace, but he is persistent. “Don’t worry, I’m not gonna hurt ya. I just wanna know, what do you like to take pictures of? What kinda stuff?”
I stop to size him up, touched by his curiosity. He is a thin, gangly guy, over six feet tall, wearing that bulky coat and a green toque. He has straggly brown hair and a beard and only two bottom teeth, as far as I can tell. He shifts around in the large coat uneasily, as if he cannot quite remember how to coordinate his body’s movements. He reminds me of a wooden marionette, loose-limbed, strings attached to nothing.
His true age is indistinguishable, a common characteristic of those who have had a hard life. He could be 35, or he could be 55. Time seems to wear them down, somehow eroding their faces and hands faster than other people’s bodies.
We are a little ways past the shelter gates, by the entrance to an alleyway. “Well, I just moved here, so I like taking pictures of the city. Buildings, graffiti, that kind of thing,” I explain.
“Are you a tourist?”
“No, I just moved to Toronto.”
“Oh, right. Where are you from then?”
“Oh!” His eyes light up. “I’m a Newfie, myself! I miss that rock so much.”
“They are pretty nice in the Maritimes. So why are you living in Toronto, then?”
“I’m kinda stuck here.” His gaze drifts to the road, contemplating something farther away. “I moved here a long time ago, and I just kinda got stuck.”
“What’s your name?”
He scrunches up his face, trying to pronounce it. “Ee-bee?”
“Ah, no, Aaaa-me.”
“Oh! Nice to meet you, Amy.”
“Nice to meet you as well, Dwayne,” I grin. We shake hands solemnly. There is an almost formal overtone to this introduction.
I hesitate for a second before asking, “Would you mind if I take your picture, Dwayne?”
“It’s not gonna get me in trouble with the police or nothin,’ right?” He asks suspiciously.
“No, I promise.”
He considers my request. “Okay. I can do my signature pose!” He gives a fierce look and holds up both hands, fingers contorted and spread wide.
“Sure!” I shrug, holding up my camera.
“No, wait – I have a better idea.” He pulls out a scratched pair of sunglasses from a gaping coat pocket and fumbles to put them on. “These make me look like the guy from that show Magnum, P.I.!”
“I never watched that show. I think it was before my time.”
“Well, it was a good one,” he assures me. He leans against the brick wall behind him, and I take a photo of Dwayne looking strikingly like Tom Selleck from Magnum, P.I.
“What are you gonna do with that picture?” He asks again. “Maybe – maybe… you can just look at it and make it a nice memory of today,” he suggests, almost shyly.
“I think I will do that, Dwayne.”
“Could you maybe give me a dollar? I have to make a down payment on a beer.” He throws the request in casually, although I knew it would be coming at some point. “I’m honest. I like to drink beer, and beer costs money. People don’t like you telling them that when they’re giving you money, but I like drinking beer,” he confides.
“I like beer too, so no worries. But right now I have to go meet a friend.” I root around in my purse for change, but I only have a five-dollar bill. I hand it to him.
“Hey, thanks! If you come by here again, I could take you on a tour of the city. A real tour. You could get some real nice pictures.” I tell Dwayne that maybe I will run into him, although I probably won’t ever see him again. “You are beautiful,” he says earnestly, just as I am turning away, “so make sure you have a beautiful day!”
I thank him and continue on my way up Bathurst. Dwayne shuffles the few metres back to the courtyard, probably to go find that beer.