Register Thursday | May 19 | 2022

Cut From the Same Cloth

I didn’t get to the National Magazine Awards afterparty at the Comrade until around 1 a.m., and I briefly stood in line for the men’s room, eavesdropping on Ian Brown, before I decided to leave. It was a long trek back to my friend’s house in the Annex. As I walked along a certain stretch of Queen, alone and wearing a suit, a young woman with a crutch approached me.

“Hey, these guys”—she gestured at a group of oblivious men across the street—“are trying to rob me. Will you stay here with me until they go away?”

I said I wouldn’t, but offered to walk her somewhere she’d feel safe, and we started down Queen together. She repeatedly asked me to slow down and took occasional breaks on the curb. The men in question—they tried to take her morphine, she said—were nowhere in sight. We kept walking.

“You’re not going to hurt me, are you?” she asked.

Of course not, I said. I’m going to walk you somewhere you’d feel safe.

“Do you want to touch me?”

Um. No.

“Do you have money?”

No, really, thank you.

She left me and stalked across the street, back in the direction we came, muttering. I didn’t mean to lead her on. Maybe the suit fooled her; it was borrowed, as were my shoes, which were a size too small and bought from a nursing home after their previous owner died.

The suit got a lot of reactions during my early-morning hour-and-a-half walk, especially along the part of Queen where young people drink. “Hey, where’s the funeral?” (Beige linen suits and striped vests are, apparently, only suitable for mourning.) “That guy is tall. Where’s Waldo?” (The stripes again, I assume, plus height and thinness and thick black glasses.) I also got several outright laughs, two sincere compliments and something in between. A young man, presumably sober and returning to his fraternity house, yelled, “Nice suit, buddy!” from a moving SUV, before adding, “Seriously, I like it a lot.”

I was reminded of the half-hour I once spent in Albany. My girlfriend and I were on a bus from New York City to Montreal, with a short dinner break in the state capital. By the time we found something to eat, we were far from the bus station with only a few minutes to spare, so we ran back. Nearly everyone we passed had something helpful to say, like, “Run for your life!” and “You’ll never make it!” “Run, Forrest, run!” was popular, which indicated that the good folks of Albany, unused to the idea of using one’s legs to move rapidly, were at least not deprived of mid-nineties popular culture.

The question I asked Albany: Have you never seen someone run before? The question I now ask Toronto: Have you never seen a man in a suit?