A view of Jasper Avenue
from the ground up

A few hours on the pavement reveals just how cold the world is when you’re homeless.  (Photo by Sarah Spisak)

By Ishita Verma

I LEANED AGAINST the building, shifting slightly over the rough concrete. My legs were sprawled out in front of me. People walked around me giving me a wide berth. They didn’t see a student, let alone a reporter. They saw a girl, maybe homeless, maybe drugged up, sitting on the disgusting Edmonton street. I suppressed a shudder as I thought about the germs. I doubted Jasper Ave’s “cleanliness” because, I was surrounded by cigarette butts, small pieces of paper and leaves.

From my spot on the ground, everything seemed just a little bigger and just a little older. Downtown was a mix of old buildings crumbling slowly and glass apartments reflecting light. I could see the Knoxville Tavern, just shadow of its former self.

I had stationed myself opposite Audrey’s Bookstore on 107th Street. To my right, by the Corona LRT Station, a homeless man was digging through the leaves collected on the side of the road.

Cars zoomed down the road, driving past him, never slowing down.  He was dressed in a red jacket and blue jeans. When he turned towards me, I noticed a zip tie clenched tightly in his right hand. When he turned toward me, I looked away and pretended not to see him. Looking back now, I am certain he was missing two fingers of his right hand. He was oblivious to the world, just as much as the world was oblivious to me.

People passed me, carefully avoiding my eyes, pretending they didn’t see me.

“…and so, I was telling her about like, Monday and stuff…” a man in a suit walked past me talking on his phone. He didn’t break his stride when I didn’t pull in my legs. He walked around me like I was invisible.

A woman in grey wrapped her sweater tighter around her. When I smiled at her, she walked away faster, her eyes on the horizon. Sighing, I muttered my observations into my phone.

“Drugs,” said a woman with frizzy, orange hair as she passed me.

“I’m not sure if she was offering me some or complaining,” I joked to my phone.

After an hour, I knew I was cold, and there was a Second Cup nearby. I got up and dusted the city from my clothes. Ready to be a person.

As I walked down the street, I saw a boy perched on an LRT station ledge. He couldn’t have been older than 15. All in black, with a brown beanie on his head. Like me, he was watching the world drive by. Probably thought he was cool kicking his legs against the wall. Listening to music. Just a teenager.

I stood behind two girls at a crosswalk, waiting for the light to turn red. They were average, in the way they dressed, and the way they talked.

The only thing that made them stand out was the fact that, on this dreadfully cold day in a dreadfully dull city, they were the only ones laughing.

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