Shadow People

Downtown Vancouver is pretty much the same as downtown Los Angeles, much the same as most every downtown in any major city.

Bright tourist areas. The business district. The buildings that lost their prominence to suburban malls. And, then there are the streets that nobody talks about. The dark streets.

Odd midday shadows serve as a warning.’ You, are not welcome here.’

It is on one of these, Shadow Streets that I find myself.

It happened all of a sudden. I was wondering the streets of Vancouver, enjoying her sights when I tuned the comer. I can’t tell you name of the street, I didn’t look up. I just stared down the dark street. Dark, at one thirty in the afternoon.

If the shadows and stale smell of urine weren’t enough of a warning, (You, are not welcome here.), the stares of the people that live of the street were clear enough.

People living in the shadows of the skyscrapers. Shadow people. I met their stares and continued walking the dark street.

The tall man with the torn off sleeves, reveling skinny arms covered in tattoos.

A few more steps.

A woman sitting on the steps of a forgotten building. No tattoos on her arms, no her arms were covered with needle marks. I have never seen so many needle scars.

A few more steps.

An old, no ancient black woman sitting on a folding chair, chanting. She looked and sounded like something out of an old B voodoo movie.

A few more steps.

Children. Too young to be runaways, no these children were born to the shadows. I could see it in their eyes.

At times in my life, I have felt helpless, but having looked at these two young boys, I doubt I will ever know true hopelessness.

Their eyes are still on me as I step in to the light. With a few steps, I walked out of the shadows, back to civilized society, back into the light.

A few steps into the light, the sights of the bright and airy city lay in front of me. Small, young eyes behind me.

I turn back to the shadows. The tall tattooed man steps towards me.

It’s one thing to venture on to their street by accident, but to walk in to the shadows on purpose? No.

“You’re not wanted here. You, do not belong here.” I hear in the old lady’s senseless chant, in the tears in the needle-tracked woman.

There right of course, there is nothing I could do for them. What would twenty bucks do for them? But, there must be something. The Children.

I squat in front of the boys and take out a couple of coins, the tall man sneers, I ignore him.

“Hiya, do you believe in magic?” I ask.

My mind reels. Starving, lost children and I ask them if the believe in magic.

I make the coins dance across my fingers. The coin vanishes, reappears here and there. The coin changes in to a chocolate kiss, the kiss is split in to two, I hand the boys the candy. For one brief moment, the fear is gone. The hopelessness is gone. For one moment, the light from their wee eyes pushes the shadows back.

I stand, the tall man gives a slight nod, and I walk away.

For one brief moment, they saw magic. They now know there is magic. And, I know they will look for more magic, just as I know they will find it. Their children, and magic is hope. Maybe, just maybe they will find the magic to banish the shadows, forever.

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