Love Story: Page 10
October 11, 2015
Late September, 2005 – Toronto, ON
It was autumn, the beginning of my final year of undergrad. I was two years out of a tough relationship, had some solid heart friends and felt like I was finding my feet. I lived on the 19th floor of a high rise just off campus and had nearly perfected the precarious art of biking with several large canvases tucked under my arm. I spent most of my time in the Fine Arts building, sustaining on cellophane tainted “cereal squares” and styrofoam cup coffee. I loved the bright, arid studios, with their years of cracking overpaint, pungent art room smell and mismatched kids coming and going. It was the perfect introvert’s social space, an equally acceptable place to chat or just sit and work, quietly enjoying the company. I got a little job as a lab rat in the new media studio and spent late hours tinkering with a few other creative night owls. I’d finally tapped into a spirituality that meant a lot to me, and although I was still often on the brink of existential crisis, as well as perpetually broke, late, forgetful and messy, I felt hopeful and full of life.
Early one morning, I got an email. “Hi Elena, we haven’t talked to each other in a while…” My sister had passed on my email address. He was coming to Toronto, he told me. He would be here in a couple of weeks. “…I would be really happy to see you then sometime. Achim”.
I wish I could say that I had a feeling. That this email carried some kind of gravitas in my heart. And maybe it did for just a split second, but I was a little shellshocked from my dating experiences thus far, and if I’d had an inkling, I ignored it. I cheerfully agreed to meet for dinner and resumed my ever distracted life.
I do remember talking to my sister on the phone, aloof, mentioning we were going to meet up at some point. “Elena, I don’t think he knows anyone else in Toronto,” she said meaningfully. I brushed off her comment.
He wanted to meet the day – three hours after! – he arrived, but he accidentally left his passport in the scanner (responsibly making a copy!), missed his flight and was delayed a day. Then he had problems at customs and was delayed again. And I did my part by somehow giving him the wrong phone number. We were giving fate, if it exists, a real run for its money.
But finally, we connected. Despite my purported indifference, I still recall the difficulty I had finding something to wear. I ended up borrowing a pink t-shirt with a cartoon duck on it from my roommate, an incredibly weird choice, and possibly another futile attempt to foil the gods. Who knows. It didn’t matter.
We met at King and Spadina. I saw him standing across the street, pink cheeked with the same wide open brown eyes I remembered. In contrast to my goofy t-shirt, he was dressed nicely in a black, subtly striped button down shirt. “You’re so small!” I said, “your so big!” he answered laughing, and we hugged. His comment was a joke, but mine was honest. Truthfully, we were both about the same size as we’d been, but it was like he’d come down to Earth. Now we were standing on the same plane, staring at each other. He was just a boy my age. Something registered. It was on.
We walked to Hey Lucy for beer and pizza, and when we finished we kept walking. We walked and talked, all the way to Trinity Bellwoods, through the park and up to Bloor. We walked across to St. George and found another bar and talked until I had to catch the last subway home. We laughed and filled each other in on our lives over the past years, but I was also hard on him. I didn’t try and make myself likeable; I was ruthless. Two bites into our pizza I looked him in the eye and launched in. “So, why are you here?” I asked abruptly. He answered quickly, something about martial arts training and seeing nature… A little too quickly. Gotcha. After that, I unabashedly seized every opportunity to slip in my parameters and shortcomings, setting out a blue print for the obstacle course that awaited him, willing him to walk away. I watched him carefully. He seemed unfazed.
I rode the subway home with my head full and my heart on high alert. I wasn’t used to this. Some fearful part of me had the warning bells clanging, almost drowning out the very quiet whisper telling me that this could be good.
Page 10/15. In case you missed this post, I’ll be writing and illustrating our story over the course of 30 days. It’s a true love story that spans 17 years. You can expect new “pages” posted every second day, from September 22 –
October 21 the end of the story.
p.s. Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4, Page 5, Page 6, Page 7, Page 8 and Page 9, if you’ve just started reading!