Wednesday, February 15, 2012


"I'll fix his tooth and waive my fee."

Dr. Chen is a generous man. Livingston has been a friend for 30 years.

"It will change his life," I said. "Thank you."

Dan and I would have to trek to Thornhill though, past Bathurst and Steeles, over the threshold into Vaughan. That meant the subway to Finch, bus to Bathurst and a 25 minutes walk.

It meant getting to know Dan.

I first met Dan moving Wink out of his marital home and into a basement apartment. Dan, the man with the van, the white van, vans that stir a psychic murmur. 

Slight and agile, he handled bookcases, chairs, mattress and bed frame elegantly, symmetrically arranged objects down to the last inch and sliver.
He wore a toque, protective glasses and smelled of dust and work. He was anywhere between 30 and 50.

I would take him to see Livingston. Compelled.

Our knees touched on the subway ride to Finch. I pointed out a sports story in the daily free rag, hoping he'd say something. I leaned in to hear him, his voice a soft breath. He covered his mouth when he smiled to hide his chipped front tooth.  I thought about Japanese women, the origins of politeness and his rough hands.

The crowded Steeles bus lurched and jostled the passengers, most heads down into IPhones. Two students got up to exit. Dan and I slid into their seats, the sun brilliant and forcing me to squint.

I asked Dan if he had any photos of his work on his phone. He scrolled the screen until he found his portfolio. Then he took me through his oeuvre, page after page of exquisite, high-end cabinetry and furniture, sleek custom-made kitchens, bathrooms, dens. Occasionally he mentioned a kitchen was featured in House and Home and the Globe and Mail. He put the phone away and leaned back.

The sun lit his white skin  I could see his eyes behind his glasses. He fixed on me. I wanted to, but I couldn't look away. His eyes were a glacial plunge, clear bracing aqua. I felt my heart expand and my body lift and float and dissolve. There was nothing but light.

When Livingston finished his work on Dan, and Dan came into the waiting room, this unassuming, slight and modest man smiled.

In a flash, years of solitude and pain, of getting by and just enough, blue veins of grief and subterranean longing vanished.

He was transfigured.

I thought, you've returned to me.