At the corner of Ste Catherine and Creescent sits an Energie Cardio ‘Select’ and a Burger King. They are on the South side of Ste Catherine, separated by Crescent. Both have entrances on the ground floor. Both have large windows facing each other. Burger eaters can watch cardio raisers and sweating exercisers see cigarettes enjoyed with large cups of coffee. The street is reality, the upper floor an escape. The upstairs of the Burger King is filled with smokers eating hamburgers and drinking coffee financed by the generous spare-change offerings of passerby on the street. The upstairs is a refuge from the tough face of the reality of –20 degree weather waiting outside. Stories are traded, alliances are made and warmth is savoured. These people are going nowhere, except back out to the street in search of more spare change.
“What are you doing tonight?”
“That girl come up to me and tells me she’s pregnant! (big laugh) She wanna have my baby…I can just see it now. That baby, when it comes out, a big smile with my big tooth missing.”
Across the street, a nubile young woman strikes an enticing pose on her workout ball. Her tight underwear visible through her tight yoga-style pants.
Inside the Burger King, a hand slaps the table as a bearded wheezing man laughs heartily and coughs loudly, emitting a cloud of smoke from the deepest depth of his lungs.
Each world is oblivious to the other, yet for each, this is an escape.
Through the smoke and din of rowdy stories I see the folks at Energie Cardio stare blankly into up-to-the-minute headline news and stock quotes on TV screens suspended over the front of their treadmills. It’s like a carrot suspended over the head of a rabbit. The rabbit never gets the carrot but continues to run forward in hopes of a tasty treat. Intermittently, a highlight from an NBA game is celebrated with two guys giving each other a big high five. A fist punches the air as a game winning three-pointer hits its mark. A fit woman steps of the stairmaster and slams a specially-formulated electrolyte-replacing drink. The coordinated exercise class stares themselves intently in the mirror as they complete a maneuver using large rubber balls in unison. A heart-rate is checked, a towel wipes down a stationary bike.
“She ain’t pregnant, she just going through menopause.”
“She ain’t pregnant, you shooting blanks!”
The men coffee-drinkers high five each other.
“Yeah, blanks all right: blank bullets.”