I’m downtown in Toronto, enjoying the sites after having had a meeting with my indie film’s sound designer. (I sound pretty impressive, don’t I?)
Stiff from carrying my laptop around on my back, I sit down in a coffee shop called, “Country Site Donuts” — a name that makes me shake my head and sigh in disappointment at how the owner must have just given up on life, settling for such a cheep rip-off of the Canadian chain, “Country Style”. Although it wasn’t nearly as sad as the “Donkin’ Donuts” I once saw in Prince Edward Island. At least “Country Site” could be passed off as making some degree of sense. And at least they sold donuts. Donkin Donuts was just a kiosk that sold caramel corn.
As I’m sitting, resting my weary shoulders from the weight of technology and finishing up the last three pages of a novel, a lady comes waddling in and motions secretively to the waitress that she wants to speak privately. Privately, but loudly, she stage whispers, “Pssst! You can just get me a Coke this time, because I don’t have any money.” She sits down, nods at the waitress and shoos her to ‘snap to it’. She repeats several times, “It’s ok. Yeah, I don’t have any money, so shhh. So it’s ok. Go ahead.”
It was to be under the table – real covert-like.
After a few more requests for a free Coke, I jump up and approach the counter myself, slapping down a toonie (that`s a Canadian 2 dollar coin, for future reference). <
“How much is that Coke?” I ask, gleefully. Too gleefully. I enjoy gifting.
“Genie! This lady is buying you a coke!” says the waitress behind the high, protective counter.
“Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh, dear dear! You’ve saaaaaaaaaaved my life! Oh you’re an angel in disguise. Oh, you lovely lady. There ARE some nice people in the world! You’ve SAVED my LIFE!!”
If I had known it was a matter of life and death I might have gotten her something more substantial than a bubbly sugar beverage, but hey. I’m glad to be of service. Gleeful, even.
“Oh, honey. Thank you, thank you… and I’ll have that dutchie too.”
She points to a plump donut.
Me – “…oh. Well… yeah! Ok, sure! How much for the dutchie?” And I slap down another loonie.
Genie boldly continues, “…And I like the look of that muffin too, and an orange juice and…”
Way to milk it, Genie! Good on ya!
Both the waitress and I interrupt and insist that I don’t have enough money for any more things. …How the waitress would actually know this about me, I’m not sure. I think my personal fashion style is a bit more “poor“ than the “bohemian“ I`ve been aiming for. But Genie doesn’t question her inside knowledge of my finances.
Because I saved her life, she comes up to me for what I think will be a hug, but turns out to be a one-year-old style kiss, with lips turned ¾ of the way inside out and is more wet than anything you’d ever like to touch on another human being. Even though Genie doesn’t seem the type to pick up on social subtleties, I try to refrain from wiping my cheek clean after the *shudder* …kiss. My right cheek is nearly dripping.
I head back and sit down to my book once more and Genie, taking her coke and donut to-go, dotingly follows me.
“Yep. I know. I saved your life. Really, it’s ok. It’s ok, Genie. It’s not a problem.”
Smiles, smiles. Happy happy. Smiles and nods. More smiles.
Genie – “Now, listen. They don’t feed me at that home. I don’t like it there. They neeevver eeeever feed me there.”
Me – “Never??”
Genie – “NEVER! I can feel the baby kicking because I’m so hungry.”
Genie pats her poochy belly. She’s got to be at least 60 years old, but it’s hard to tell. She’s a woman-child and has an air of eternal youth about her. Very few wrinkles on her puffy face and no white hairs that I can see
“I can just feeeeel that baby kickin’.
She sees that I’m reading a book. I must be smart.
“Now, let me ask you. Are you studying Biology, like me?” (Pronounced, “Bee-ology”)
Me, – “Nope.”
Despite my one-word answer, I am being very attentive. I mean, I could easily leave if I wanted to. I’ve finished my coffee and my book. I have every right to stand up and go. But I don’t.
The waitress leaves the safety of her donut-filled counter to tell Genie that I need to finish my “homework” (I like looking young, but hate being mistaken for a student). She tells Genie that she should probably leave me in peace — let me work.
Genie shoos her away with an,
“Oh, I’m just explaining Beeology to her. It’s ok. Leave me alone.”
“It’s ok.” I mouth to the waitress.
“Now let me tell you what I’ve learned about Beeology.” She says with great emphasis on every single syllable.
“You know your digection system, right?”
She pats her baby belly again.
“Well, in your digection system, you’ve got a tube running this way,”
She runs her finger horizontally across her stomach.
“and a tube running this way.”
She runs her finger vertically down her stomach, drawing an invisible cross.
“Now, if theyyyy faaaall out…”
(My attention had been starting to wane, but this sentence quickly catches my attention again.)
“Now, if thoooooose fall out, they`ll just start to ROT!”
Me – “Really?? …Wow.”
“Yep. They just start to rot and everything begins to SMELL! All your parts start to smell and you just start to SMELL! It just smells Horrrrrible.”
She pats my knee for comfort, so that I won’t be too frightened by this news.
“But if you have cells, like these…”
Genie points very carefully and slowly to five specific spots on the top of her head – she tilts her head towards me so that I can clearly see the five points on the top of her balding scalp that have “cells”.
“then you’re gonna be aaaaaaaaaaalright.”
I get another pat on the knee.
“Oh, good. …That’s very good news.” I say.
Genie then leans in close, much like in the covert operation upon which she embarked, when she first arrived.
“How would you like what they did to me? Oh no. I don’t like that one bit. They don’t feed me there. You have to visit me every day, ok? Every day.”
I ask her if she had friends at “the home“, trying to get her focus off of my sudden responsibility for her well being.
She mentions a name or two and I try to keep her attention there.
“But my father. Oh, what he did to me… Ohhhhhh, what he did to me. How would you like to be tied down…Oh no… How would like that?”
I didn’t see that coming. I didn`t sign up for this. Gleeful expression, fading.
Curling up my eyebrows with great concern for her, I agree and nod that it is horrible, horrible, horrible what her father did to her, whatever it was.
I hope she gets back Beeology soon. …for her sake. Just think about Beeology, Genie. Remember Beeology??
A few seconds go by,
“On Mondays I get my money and I like to go to Tim Hortons. I don’t suppose you could buy me something at Tim Hortons, could you?”
Me – “Oh…. No, no, no. I just bought you some food and look! You’re still holding it! You haven’t eaten it, Genie!”
A flush of pride wells up inside me as I realize I am capable of saying “no” to people. I`ve been working on that.
After more prompts to visit her every single day, I try to end the conversation without making any promises. I give multiple hand shakes and a, “Weeeelll, it was good to meet you Genie. …yup. You have a good day… aaaaaalright then…”, as well as other subtleties she refuses to acknowledge, until the waitress, watching all this time, orders her to go sit at the patio table with her yet untouched donut.
She slobber kisses me four more times during this transition. By the second of these goodbye kisses I find myself too traumatized to pretend and I begin to unapologetically wipe them off with my sleeve, right in front of her. She’s not going to notice. And she doesn`t.
Not too long after Genie sits down outside, I leave the building and wander some more through the Great and Mighty Toronto to find the art supply store I had been looking for. I wipe my cheeks with an obsessive-compulsive vigour for about the next half an hour. I can still feel a phantom slobber and those cold, clammy, inside-out lips pushed against my face.
All-in-all though, I’m glad I met Genie. Even if she did forget me the second I left the Country Site Donuts, which is likely. I won’t forget.
Maybe I’ll go back there some day, just to meet her again, for the first time. I’m very curious about how to keep my digection system from falling out.