[PAUSE] "I got a haircut today," a 30-something man wearing a sedate expression, panhandling outside of Lawtons replied.
A few days later...
"Hey! Tell me something unique about yourself".
The young man takes a few more moments this time.
"Right before I light a smoke, I do something, the same thing 10 times," he says after igniting the cigarette I just gave him.
"What thing did you do 10 times just now?" I ask.
"...I don't remember".
Although I was genuinely curious to learn of Matt's quirks, my prime objective was to find a subject for my film. It's so strange. This was just a one minute, amateur film, and already I was looking at people as products - the original premise for the project was quickly becoming foggy.
I run into Matthew only once in a while panhandling on Spring Garden, sometimes Barrington. He now expects two cigarettes from me, it's been our custom, but I am sort of grateful for that.
Whenever I see him, his face forms the brightest smile you've ever seen, and he calls "Come have a smoke with me!" I sit down on the pavement with him as he asks people for change. Most people wear blinders and don't hear his quiet voice say "Spare any change today - thanks, have a nice day".
He usually borrows seven to ten dollars from someone at the beginning of the day and pans enough to pay the guy back by nightfall. I think sometimes he'll buy cigarettes, other days peanut M&Ms. It probably depends on if the shelter he's staying at is able to offer a substantial meal.
Matthew is usually pretty calm. We don't talk much, but he always asks how I'm doing. I try to make him laugh so I can see his smile. My corniness usually doesn't translate very well.
One day I ran into him up by Coburg and he was pretty erratic, going on that he needed to come up with a plan and that most people didn't know the truth about the world. He said he hadn't taken his meds, he keeps forgetting.
Sometimes on those less stable days, I get a real kick out of his theories. Like once when I was small talking about the weather (Nova Scotia text book talk) he said, yeah all this rain is due to a collective conscious human force. I asked, "Do you mean like a group of people got together to do a rain dance?". "Yeah...something like that," he said.
I sometimes wonder if he really has family in New Brunswick and if so, why aren't they involved in his life. Maybe he doesn't want anything to do with them. I get the feeling sometimes that maybe he knows more about the world than most of us and that's what drove him to his breaking point. Who am I to judge? Maybe he's completely happy. Somehow I don't think so though.
"You want a cigarette for the road?"
"Good to see you Matthew".
"Good to see you too".