Another beautiful summer evening in the Big City. As the orange-colored sun sets behind large cumulus clouds, it creates a kaleidoscope of warm tones enhanced by reflections from massive glass towers on Bay Street. The Financial Center was eerily calm. Employees had rushed home after the bell. Only tourists, joggers and restaurant goers sparsely occupy the streets of downtown – eagerly taking photos of skyscrapers and landmarks.
On such a warm night, I decided to take a longer route back from the gym. With the sunroof and windows down, and jazz music playing on the stereo, I drove through the quiet streets of downtown. During the day, the traffic and crowd would make driving or walking quite challenging. There were even parking spaces available and so I decided to pull over and marvel at the buildings myself.
There he was, The Architect. I had seen him around the city and recognized him instantly. In fact, I once purchased him dinner after seeing him outside the restaurant I was dining at. He sat very respectfully on one of the many benches in the city square. All of his life’s possessions sat next to him in two small bags. One bag of clothes, the other had books. Never begging, never has a sign, never a cup with change. He simply sits, sometimes muttering to himself quietly and constantly fidgeting with his outfit, as if to ensure he’s presentable to the world.
I got out of my car and approached him, “Such a lovely night isn’t it Sir?”
“Yes, quite nice today.” He responds.
“Have you had anything to eat today?” I asked with concern.
“No, nothing much.” He says.
We carried on making small talk about the weather and such. The conversation was very normal and he stopped fixing his clothes. He continued to tell me that he used to be an Architect and Interior Designer but lost his job after the company shut down. And that his family are all back in India and he wants to go back. He says he will go back one day but he may not return. We chatted for five more minutes and I sensed it was time to get him food, so I pointed across the street at the local takeout, “Do you want some Shwarma and Water?”
“Chicken please and a 7-Up.” His eyes perked up.
“I’ll be right back!” As I quickly checked for oncoming traffic and darted to the other side of the street and into the restaurant. Within a few minutes I was back out and in front of the bench. The Architect glared at his meal with delight and accepted it graciously.
“And here is something else for you tonight, so you can get into a hostel and get some rest.” I handed him another $20 and bid him farewell. “Have a good night Sir, and I hope we meet again.”
I got into my car, sat there momentarily and watched him devour his meal. Alone in the big city. People passing, cars passing, and life passing him by. Once in a while, someone stops to show him love.