Watch Your Step

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Past 1am on a Toronto summer morning, the 501 streetcar stopped at Queen and Ossington.

‘Watch your step!’ the streetcar driver bawled, exposing square buttery teeth as he watched a man step down into the street.

‘Gotta make sure folks don’t get hit,’ the driver said to those behind him. ‘They’re too excited by this weather, y’know! Not watching where they’re going.’

‘Watch your step!’ the streetcar driver yelled out, as a girl made her exit. ‘Take care, y’hear!’

A man in a suit that was long in the pant and short in the sleeve got on the streetcar at Queen and Bathurst. He exchanged a spirited ‘hello’ with the driver and sat.

‘Watch your step!’ yelled the driver.

‘Watch your step!’ the man in the suit echoed.

‘You copying me, son?’ asked the streetcar driver, as if he was talking to his very own child. ‘Well – thanking you! I could do with some help. Gotta make sure people get home safe.’

‘Sure man, I’ll give you a hand! What’s the world without people helping each other out, I say.’ The man in the suit beamed his face natty and shining.

‘Watch your step!’ they both called out, at Queen and Spadina.

‘Watch your step!’ they bellowed brightly at Moss Park.

‘Where you from my friend?’ the streetcar driver asked, near the corner of Queen and Parliament.

‘The Dominican Republic, my man.’

‘Ah, the República Dominicana! Your English is good, brother.’

‘You know us well!’ The man laughed. ‘Yeah. I learnt English at school. I’m here to get a job.’

‘Boy oh boy ­– a job? Ah, man, it’s hard to get a job here these days. Ontario’s all dried –‘

‘Yeah, I know. I just walk around in my suit each day.’

‘That suit, my brother?’

‘Yeah, this suit right here. I just head into any place I think looks like somewhere I could work and I give them a smile.’

‘Well it’s a nice suit brother. Good luck eh.’

‘Thank you, thank you. Your wishes mean a lot.’ The man’s voice was full, like a recently picked peach. He scratched his head. ‘I guess I should ask where you’re from. Where’re you from?’

The streetcar driver laughed.

‘I probably should’ve told you that first, eh?’

The man in the suit grinned.

‘Nah, nah, it’s okay. I just want to know, now that we’re talking. I’d like to know.’

‘Well I’m from Toronah. Toronah born and bred, my man,’ said the driver.

‘Yeah, I thought you must be, what with being so friendly. Canadians are friendly.’

‘Yeah. I love this country, man,’ said the streetcar driver

‘Yeah, you know, I like it here too. ’

At 2am, the streetcar stopped at Queen and Broadview.

‘This is my stop. So I’ll say goodbye,’ said the man in the suit.

‘Peace be with you, my brother,’ said the streetcar driver. ‘You watch your step!’

‘And peace be with you,’ said the man in the suit, as he hopped down the steps of the streetcar, his jacket a billowing pinstripe cape behind him.