City Chronicles

1.04 Pink skies and phantom limbs

There’s a time of day, in the morning, when everything is hushed. I hear only the endless construction of condos near my apartment, across the road a band of children run across the green fields. Their laughter and the sound of metal on steel. This is a quiet moment, a serene moment in the city.

There is also a time of day, say early evening late afternoon, around six pm when the sky begins to blush with pink, the walls of the buildings are blooming with the colours of peonies, the pink light radiates across the city.

I am sitting on my balcony at this time and I am awash in pink. I think about Sebastian. I wish he was here to see this but he’s not. After our night-out at Little Sister we decided to go for brunch at Mars Diner. He sat across from me and I thought, This is a welcome change from the last time we slept together.

It had been six years ago. He was doing his master’s degree. I woke up in his apartment, which joined the living room, the only partition between the two rooms was a flowing white sheet. I drew the blankets up around me while he scurried around the room, trying to find his satchel and books. He was teaching a class that day as a teacher’s assistant.

I watched him, his tall lanky frame, his disheveled blond hair. I never tire of looking at him, I never tire of him. He turned and looked at me. There were rows of books lining his bookcases. I laid in bed in front of the picture window. Why are we always cast in bright light, or is it just my imagination, the nostalgia of memory? But I don’t remember what he said. Perhaps it was a simple “Goodbye,” but I think he just looked at me with a look of relief and shame and I think, pity. He seemed to half-run and half-walk from the room. We never talked about that night, not really.

I had asked Chloe for her advice before she left for her work trip.

“Should I meet him?”

“I wouldn’t do it, no,” she replied.

Chloe rarely makes a decision without thoroughly weighing the pros and cons. Even before I asked her, I knew I was going to meet him. Old habits. They die hard. Or not at all.

I had told her once that if I messaged him, even if we hadn’t spoken in months or years, he would respond within minutes. There was something between us, an invisible thread that connected us.

“Also, you slept together,” she said.

That startled me. In that moment, I had forgotten we slept together. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about sex, but what we had together was more than that one night. It was for me, no matter how I tried to deny it.

Now he was gone, again. He hadn’t run off with his books in hand, like last time. We stood outside my apartment, his car in the driveway. It was the tail-end of winter. The sound of the water dripping and flowing into the street and always the endless sound of the city.

We stood there. He had a bemused expression on his face. Sometimes he’ll look at me and not say anything. Is it not a wonder that we still breathe in and out when all through our bodies, there’s only the throbbing pain of phantom limbs?

He gently placed his hands on my shoulders, as if he was afraid of breaking me. I felt his soft mouth and his rough beard on my forehead. And then, he was gone. I waved to him from the porch but he stayed facing forward. I was already a memory to him.

I am sitting on my balcony and I get out my phone and try to capture the pink skies and buildings. Sometimes I’ll walk along Yonge Street, from Keewatin all the way down to Davisville Station, and I will take photos of the sky. I am always looking up. At night, the pinks of the sky are saturated with deep mauves and purples. It is a living painting above the crush of cars and blare of horns, the lights from moving trucks, and the red flashes of bicycle lights, joggers in the night. I can feel the throb of the city inside my chest. It is a living, breathing beast.

I don’t know what I’m looking for, but I know I’m searching for something, I’m always searching. I am walking down Yonge Street and I am looking up into the sky for some type of revelation.

“Amelia?”

I turn towards the voice. I try to return back to earth, to feel the sidewalk below my feet. Objects begin to take shape again, the streetlights and the outlines of people in the night. A face comes into focus.

“James.” The left side of his body is lit up in red. Cars wait impatiently for the light to change.

“What are you up to?”

“I’m just walking. You?”

“I got cut from work. It was a slow night.” Everything closes early around Yonge and Eglinton.

“That’s too bad.”

“It’s fine; I’ve been working a lot. I haven’t seen you around lately.”

“I’ve been busy … walking the streets.”

We both laugh.

“How’s the job hunt going?”

“Actually, it’s not really going.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s too bad. Are you up to anything tonight?”

“You’re looking at it.”

“Are you in the mood for coffee and board games, maybe?”

“Seems like a good combo.”

“I’m meeting some friends at Snakes and Lattes, the one on College. If you can take time away from your late-night strolls.”

I laugh. “I think I can make an exception for tonight.”

The light turns green and his body is lit up in emerald hues. We are two figures in a sea of bodies walking down Yonge Street, our laughter clear and bright.

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