The only time I'd been to Ottawa was on school trips and on family vacations. I didn't know the city and it was hotter than I had been expecting for late September. My backpack was cutting into my shoulders. It was causing my back to sweat. I headed in the direction that I was told Parliament Hill would be. No one looked at me like they thought I had any good intentions of going there. No one even looked at me like a tourist, just a nuisance.
I was alone. I was hot and I was regretting my decision to come. I had no one to keep me company, no one to encourage me. I felt sweaty and exhausted. I felt lonely.
My backpack was getting too much to carry. Several days worth of clothes shoved into my bag along with a laptop and two books really weighed me down. I sat on the edge of a raised flower garden and glanced down the street, waiting for a bus. I rubbed my forehead with the back of my hand and closed my eyes for just a moment.
"Do you have any change?" a man's voice interrupted my thoughts. I opened my eyes to see a man with a wild, bushman beard standing in front of me. Despite the heat, he was wrapped in several layers of clothes. He didn't look like the temperature bothered him at all. His hand was extended in my direction.
I dug my hand into my pocket and realized the only change I had was for the bus. When I told him this, he nodded and began to walk away. I called out to him, asked his how far to Parliament hill. He told me about eight blocks. I gave him the bus change. If he could wander around all day in the heat I could make 8 blocks without a problem.
He walked along next to me. He smelled like piss and dirt. His knuckles were scarred and dented. I tried not to stare at them, but he spoke with his hands. He told me he just wanted a coffee and now he could get one. I listened and nodded my head. I told him it wasn't a problem, that I hoped he enjoyed his coffee.
At some point he noticed my backpack. He asked me where I was staying that night. I told him I would be taking the train home that night. He asked if I was backpacking. He had backpacked when he was younger. He had tried to climb Mount Everest when he was younger, he told me. He had walked through most of South America in his twenties, he boasted. I smiled and told him I was just there for a protest on Parliament Hill.
"Good," he said, "Tell those fuckers what's going on."
"Call them out on their lies."
I told him I would do my best.
"Why do you think the flowers here are so healthy? It's all the bullshit the politicians are spewing." He raised a clenched fist into the air. He pumped it a few times before saying, "Solidarity."
As we walked I listened to him talk about the protests in his day. He told me not enough youth cared to revolt anymore these days. He complained that everyone was too comfortable behind their cellphones and computer screens. I just nodded and listened as he ranted about police brutality and the way the government took his house and how his wife left him and evrything fell apart. He told me voting was a joke.
"If it really changed anything then voting would be illegal!" He shouted this. People turned to stare at him, to glare at this crazy, dirty man. I walked beside him proudly.
He was in the middle of telling me about his protests out west, about his time with E.L.F, when we reached Parliament Hill. There were police cruisers parked along the side of the road. He stopped speaking to me and didn't continue walking any closer to them. I thanked him for the company. He nodded before I turned around, heading towards the chanting voices, the waving banners, the bouncing signs. I was almost at the top of the stairs when I heard him shout out "So-so-so-solidarity!"
I turned around to see him with his fist raised in the air. He nodded and said, "Give 'em hell." I raised my fist in the air too and gave him a smile. This time I was the one who stood, watching as the man walked away. I was glad I'd come.
© Copyright 2012 In Your Dirtiest Pants (UN: mourningkisses at Writing.Com).
All rights reserved.
In Your Dirtiest Pants has granted Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.
|Log In To Leave Feedback|