On late Thursday afternoon I walked downtown to meet a friend. As I crossed from the jumble of flat-roofed apartment blocks and prewar two-story houses into the downtown core, I couldn't shake the feeling that the city seemed displaced somehow. I felt as if I were walking in a larger city, a place with taller buildings and darker, deeper streets, with a greater density of people walking through them.
Part of the displacement came from the sheer fact that I have been working out of my house for about a month, and the downtown core, which used to be a part of my daily routine, with its network of lunch places and stores, had become slightly foreign. I was aware for the first time – the first time in twenty years of intermittent living in this city – just how wide the sidewalk on the east side of Hamilton is once you hit the main banking and shopping area, and the expansiveness of the plaza by the Toronto Dominion building.
The people who crowded the sidewalks seemed reduced by the dimensions of the streets. Men and women sat and smoked and consulted their cell phones on isolated benches, eddied by parking meters and wandered, as if they were trying to remember something important. They felt the oddity of the moment as well.
After a few minutes, I realized that the conjunction of light and temperature was making everything strange. It was five o' clock, and the streets were crowded with people leaving their offices and heading home. But the weather was so unseasonably warm that everyone was dressed in light clothes, as if it were midday in, say, early September. At this time of year the sun dips below the buildings by five and leaves everything in a pale, undifferentiated shadow, but the shadowed streets had a noon heat.
The effect made downtown Regina look briefly like the urban canyons of Chicago or Toronto or some equivalent city. Thursday at five on Hamilton Street in Regina was, for a space of about fifteen to twenty minutes, utterly specific in its strangeness. That time of year and that heat maybe occur once a decade – if that. Unless global warming permanently turns up the thermostat on autumn, I may never experience that street again in that same way. And I probably won't. That was it: a few minutes on a single day in the last autumn of my thirties.
I don't yet know what to do with that bit of information. It is mine, and it immensely valuable, but on its own it is worthless. It is like ore, sought after for what can be made from it.