A sharp night, all of late January stuck in my throat. The gray of the day has been replaced by dramatic black. Funny. Somehow, this night confirms an obscure hypothesis of mine; one that surfaces only under certain conditions, within certain frames of mind. That hypothesis is this: Ambiguity is the square opposite of light and dark. A gray sky is a worse fate than a black night, and a gray day is always opposite a sunny one. The night that I currently inhabit is definitely black.
I’m out walking and taking in what I call “living lights”; those ephemeral midnight lights from living rooms and bedrooms. For reasons I can’t really put a finger on, the yellow rectangles of a tall apartment building or mundane bungalow as seen at midnight are a source of endless fascination. That tiny, fleeting glimpse into someone’s life is a comfort for some reason; like the night is not so troubling after all.
The street has that orange sodium color that is far too common in the squint of winter. My heavy leather coat and woolen sweater prove too much for the mild weather. I roll my collar down and open my jacket for a bit of ventilation, my watch cap gets rolled up past my ears. I notice that I am wearing runners. Bad form, I think to myself. I try to not wear them after 5:00, but today was a busy day and in January things don’t always fall together as perfectly as they should.
Three-storey walk up across the street. The corner apartment has its patio door cracked open an inch or two. The slat blinds are gently swaying, dodging the yellow kitchen light behind. I see a woman standing in the door with a pensive lean. I can’t make out any features. In fact I’m not sure if I’m looking at her back or front, but I can tell that she has long hair. My runners…I knew I shouldn’t have worn them. Too late, I guess. Her picketed silhouette hangs up there for a moment before turning away. Her hand trails on the slats before she fades out of view. Somehow and for some reason, that small event imprints itself. I wander around for a few minutes holding some misplaced hope that I’ll see her in the window again or maybe someone else in a similar window. There are plenty of lit windows, after all.
Her window is vacant a few minutes later and a few minutes later still. I catch myself a minute later. What are you, some kind of peeping Tom? No. Not a peeping Tom. Not a letch or any other slur for a curious observer. Just a nighttime hound with an ear and eye for the shifty and indiscernible; loving the night in all its darkened certainty. Just waiting for a shadow in a door way, like the rest of us.
StreetRag ::: An Urban Notebook
StreetRag is an urban weblog and podcast about the city of Edmonton, which is located in the province of Alberta, Canada. It is authored by Edmonton-based writer, web advocate, and poet Michael Gravel and is updated frequently with written urban vignettes, amateurish photographs, deuteronomous audio material, barely coherent musings and rambling ecumenical treatises. StreetRag is a love letter to a lonely prairie burg struggling with its big city ambitions and small-town feel.
The city is Edmonton. It's a subject, not a passion. E-Town is almost universally derided by outsiders as an unlivable tundra wasteland populated by oil-hungry redneck conservatives who despise the arts. All of that is true. But it's not the whole story. There is beauty here. Dusty snowfalls. Brilliant summers. A stunning river valley. A diverse arts community that flourishes. It's a place that inspires a gray relationship - not all good, not all shitty. For that reason alone it is lovable, for what is life but a grayscale?