ON SUNDAY, the rain yielded briefly and so I stepped out of my house into the muted world, softened further around the edges by a gentle grey. The hood of my raincoat protected my ears. What was already quiet became a low hum, and we trudged downward, into the hazed city and toward the farmer’s market.
Out of their shells, like snails, came other people. People in hoods with soft smiles and scowls. Muted like the day. Colours behind a tinted lens. A silent film. We all wanted something fresh and flavoursome and exotic that could transport our tastebuds and minds.
Bathurst street is where tents sagged and leaned, and people queued. Figures in uniform. I watched a woman eat congee for breakfast and I could feel her discomfort. The hair clinging to her forehead and the Velcroed edge of her sleeves against wet skin. The food was too hot and the cutlery too flimsy. The moisture in the air clung to everything. I looked away.
The usual market chatter was less distinct, and the flower ladies had sold fewer bouquets than last week. Blooms lay freshly cut. Patient. I needed potatoes. I kept my stipulated distance from the stranger in front of me, wary of the slow procession of shufflers. Then, with sudden urgency, a shrill cry pierced through the muffled day.
It was a dog. It sounded run over by a car.
For a moment I stood motionless, paralysed, and listening. So did the rest of the market. Hushed beneath the flood of wails. Time slowed. It hurt to hear the suffering of what turned out to be one creature locked in the jaws of another. Two dogs in a ferocious embrace, only broken by the kick of a man with all his force thrown into the swing.
Close by, people gathered, fearful and fascinated. The screams had stopped. I couldn’t see the dogs. I don’t know if I wanted to. Their angst had been real and painful and urgent. A man squatted on the ground and held something tight and sad against his body. The fight was over. The people withdrew again.
I bought bread. We left.
On the uphill walk home the heavens opened, and the rain came down in punishing waves. It was hard to see. I dropped my loaf in a puddle. My hands shook. Nothing would feel nicer than stepping through the front door and closing it firmly behind me.
How is it, that on days like Sunday I pray for the rain to stop and simultaneously wish that it will never end? I feel like a shirt pulled inside out. Next weekend, I’ll try again, regardless of the weather. I’m tired of looking at the world behind glass.