Lana Hall recounts the kindness she encountered working in a massage parlour in Toronto’s Finch Alley. She recalls the camaraderie she discovered among her fellow workers and others — such as cab drivers and convenience store clerks —who too worked through the night in low-paying jobs to serve the needs of others.

At night we’re just animals, I was reminded. The clients, yes, seeking release they couldn’t admit during daylight hours, but also the workers who manned the various portions of the strip mall after dark. The way we cared for each other, sometimes more in silent gestures than anything else, felt connected to our deepest instincts as pack animals. No matter how much I wanted to go home, there was some comfort in the simplicity of that connection.

Women filled my Styrofoam cup at the twenty-four-seven coffee shop across the street from the parlour, glancing wordlessly at the strip of bare skin between my coat and the tops of my stockings, but still making sure my cup was full to the top, passing me extra packets of sugar, sometimes a muffin from the day-old basket. Kids in their early twenties manned the counter at all-night fast-food joints, where I’d go between clients on slow shifts, needing something to wake up my neurons: salt, heat, grease. The shock of cold air on my legs at midnight. We knew so little about each other’s lives—how could we?—but forced into this strange cohort of ragged work hours, I felt we sometimes shared a look of recognition: of people whittling time away as we tended to the incessant hungers of others.