Toronto may be my mistress, but I still flirt with the idea of making her my wife. Wondering if I can escape the life and the memories I have in Ottawa. I make the trip a few times a year, and sometimes it feels like it’s more often than I see my friends here. If I still call Toronto home, maybe it’s time I should make it my home again. But I know it’s a drastic step for the sake of closure.
It’s strange to have too many people to see and never enough time. Growing up as a socially awkward guy, it’s a problem I never imagined I’d ever have. There hasn’t even been enough time for myself, although I suppose that’s the way I wanted it. I just don’t feel safe when I’m by myself nowadays.
I remember my dad taking me to a hole-in-the-wall Chinese seafood restaurant downtown1 once when I was a kid. It was one of the only things we ever did together, without my mom. We never went again either, although I suspect my dad went by himself fairly often, and it was a small glimpse into one of his private rituals.
Also, my first real taste of lobster. I can still feel the slippery sauce on my fingers as I fished for morsels of flesh out of a lobster’s shell with my chopsticks. Being there, sharing in one of his favourite dishes, was his way of bonding with me, even when there were no real words spoken between us.
So I treated my dad to dinner the other night, and we bonded in the same way again some 20 years later, over an order of two Cantonese lobsters in black bean sauce, and a plate of cashew chicken. I began to wonder if home is where I’ll always have a place to stay. Where I know someone will take care of me if I need it. Where there’s some decent Chinese food.
Sometimes I get plugged into a new circle of friends, ones with lives far removed from my own. Most of them have regular plans, long-term relationships, maybe a child or two. John is especially fun to observe with his son. He’s more of the provider than the caretaker type (a man who doesn’t even know how to feed himself), so he’s awkwardly competent with cradling and other practical baby duties, but he most certainly tries and cares and loves Will to death.
I can tell John tries and cares and loves me too. He once got me extra maple syrup for my waffles at the Picklebarrel, one of those things he didn’t need to do but did anyway. And since he’s usually an oblivious, inconsiderate bastard, an extra blister pack of maple syrup might as well be a new car. I have no roots at this point in my life, and it feels like there are more people who care about me in Toronto than in Ottawa. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to let go of it as home.
The holidays are approaching, and the CN Tower is hung beautifully like a Christmas tree, strings of red and green lights creating a spiral wrap. Even the construction cranes are decorated. But they’re still a construction cranes, and as seductive as she is, Toronto is still a dirty, crowded city. A city I’d rather visit than live in, a place with as much to love as there is to hate. It’s a strange contradiction that’s left me unsure of where I belong.
- Quite a trek when you lived in the suburbs. [↩]