A kid showed up at my door selling chocolate-covered almonds. "To keep me off the streets," he said. I bought two boxes, because that's my weakness. The streets.
When I was a kid, that was where I wanted to be. That was where I was. In the summer, on my bike, 10 or 11 years-old, finding new neighbourhoods. I'd bike around until I found a bunch of kids my age or older, call them some names, like "fatso" or "wheezebag", and then let them chase me until they got bored. Sometimes I'd wheel around their block again, if I couldn't find any other action. I never got caught and I never worried about what might happen if I did.
One time, some kids nearly had me, I think they might have been faster than me. But I was in my own neighbourhood, and I just tore up onto the lawn of a family I knew and started screaming until Mrs. Leversoll came out and chased the other kids off. Of course, I knew where to find them again.
Charlie Drabinsky was two years older and went to the same school. He grew up around the corner from me and we'd known each other as long as either one of us could remember. There weren't a lot of kids on his street, so he had to come over to ours, and we were all younger and smaller than him. Sometimes we looked up to him, because he was older and faster and stronger. It bugged him, though, to have to hang out with us younger kids all time. Like it was great that he could be his own team against three or four of us in football on the lawn of the apartment building across the street, and it was great that he could always beat us. But no one ever through a touchdown pass to him. No one ever gave him a high-five when he scored. He was with us, but he was apart.
At school, especially later on, he didn't say much to me. The first little bit on the bus in the morning, he'd be friendly enough. I'd say, "Hey Charlie! Did you catch that Jays game last night?" and he'd say, "No, I wasn't wearing my mitt."
I'd laugh, not sure if I was supposed to. And then the bus would pick up the Sawatsky kids and Frank, the oldest, would sit with Charlie at the back of the bus and they'd both ignore me. The kids at school who weren't from the neighbourhood called him Charles, and eventually everyone called him Charles. He stopped knowing the entire spoken intro at the beginning of The Six-Million-Dollar Man. He stopped taking me on bike rides out past the university, to wild, overgrown riverbank. He stopped telling me I was all right, "for a total nincompoop." He stopped being Charlie and started being Charles.
mp3: "Caravan of Love" by Arabesque