Maggie Keith writes as follows (reproduced with permission):
My companion and I–soon to be my husband and eventually my ex–spent two years in Toronto running rooming houses. The houses had been appropriated by the government for a future park, or for the Spadina Expressway, but in the meantime were rented by a small entrepreneur, who had several such properties, each with its live-in manager. The pleasures of the position included reduced rent, playing our music as loudly as we wanted and taking the very best of the furniture for our two rooms.
I don’t know anything about how the entrepreneur came to do what he did. I recall his beautiful wife, who was from the south of France, and who regretted parting with her former, very wealthy husband.
I remember the British couple who moved in, moved the furniture and complained about the dust mites, where the bed had been. It had never occurred to me that cleaning a room involved moving the furniture. The beautiful Frenchwoman refunded their week’s rent and saw them out the door.
Stashed in the back of a closet, there were treasures: a pair of heavy glass fruit stands, a chipped Moorcroft inkstand, a silver bracelet engraved, as if with frost flowers. Accompanied by a letter written by someone who would now be seen as a stalker. It was a love gift that was never given, or was given, and refused.
I remember only a few of the tenants. A strange couple–a lovely, soft-faced developmentally handicapped woman, with a much older man who called her “the chick”, arguing that the name truly expressed the essence of female nature. She was his servant. Always mild and good-humoured, she spread chaos wherever she went.
Then there was the beautiful “Jane”: she was a thief. On one occasion she stole the plastic “Loans” sign from a bank counter. At the time, I was shocked by her action, but I wonder now if people engage in pilfering because they feel the world has not given them their due, they have poor impulse control, or they value themselves so little that, for a time, a theft this petty actually leaves them feeling somewhat compensated.
What happens to people who have no resources?
I suppose I might be moved to steal an emerald necklace. Or perhaps emerald earrings, if they were very large.
That house is now a pub: The Madison. The pub where my longtime companion was discovered over a beer, having slipped away from his rehab program, after three months in hospital, and one day out.