High Hopes

There is grit from Bloor Street floating in my coffee and in my contact lenses, and I can feel a layer of dusty residue stuck to the sunscreen on my chest. The daylight streams incessantly into my face, and despite my SPF 60 habit, my wintry pallor has flushed pink almost immediately. A thin thread of sweat is beading between my breasts — “Mountain Dew”, we used to joke, because women’s natural bodily functions are cuter via euphemism.

To my left, a man sits half slumped on the steps of St Anthony’s, his chin resting on his chest, open Coke at his side, left leg extended into the path of oncoming pedestrians. He is wearing three jackets, and his loud exhalations suggest he is sound asleep. Passersby see his leg and actively avoid it, but most fail to look at the body from which it protrudes.

To my right, a man in a wheelchair rolls furiously backwards in pursuit of a piece of paper which has escaped his grasp to the fickle clutches of today’s stiff breeze. The sheet dances further out of reach, and I make a move to grab it before it hits the street, but his speed and agility surprise me, and he reaches it first. We share a smile in acknowledgement of his victory.

Straight ahead, someone exits the apartment that I almost rented a year and a half ago above the shawarma place. I’m glad that didn’t work out — windowless living wouldn’t suit me.

Someone SPRINTS past me. (I hope you get there in time.)

Big dog, small dog, mid-size SUV, repeat. Denim cutoffs with winter Sorels. Red suspenders and a granny cart. Hey, I have that dress. Do your heels hurt from those shoes? Where are you going right now? Are you happy?

Lately I have been plagued with uncertainty over the differences between hope and expectation. A discussion with bandmates while stuck in highway traffic en route to a gig last weekend offered some clarity, though it is still something with which I struggle.

When you hope, you have a wish or desire. You want something to happen. When you expect, you believe it to be true — a passive versus an active state.

To me, hope seems calm and reserved, an optimism and a best-case possibility. It is not blind ignorance, but a benign longing.

Expectation is the more concrete older sibling. It is almost an action, a decision made — hope’s committal to a desired outcome.

Expectations may be unfulfilled, but cannot hopes be dashed? “You did not live up to my expectations”, or “I had hoped you would react differently” — disappointment may greet either, as anticipation is mutually present.

I feel that hope sells short, and expectation asks too much. Certainly there is a time for dreaming and an equal time for action, but what is the middle ground? I am searching for mine.

I had expected my coffee to stay upright on level ground, but did not take the wind into account.

This time, I should have just settled for hope.

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