Sunday, August 05, 2007

purple city

Last night I was invited to a party while Sugar D stayed home with a feverish, teething and hopefully sleeping Swee'pea. It was hosted by some old friends that I really only see a couple of times a year anymore -- in a good year. In my head, I think of them as my bohemian single friends, although they're in relationships, and labelling is stupid. But anyways, two of them live in a lovely little house with a gorgeous backyard, and they'd strung up all kinds of funky, coloured little lights. It felt so festive and summery and good.

Since we've started thinking about moving and I've been poring over the mls, I've been thinking a lot about how much I've changed in the four years since we bought our house. Four years ago, I was embarrassed to be buying a house, and bought the ugliest, cheapest one we could find that would allow us to walk downtown and the park and me to work. Each house we looked at, I would imagine having a party that included those single bohemian friends, and whether I would be embarrassed by how nice the house was. Looking back, I realize we bought our house because it felt comfortable: it was the kind of divey student house I was used to. Now, those same friends own a house much nicer and more expensive than ours with a kitchen and bathroom that make me drool, and my other friend (one of my partners in crime with the Trucker Hat Caper of 98) has just purchased a house with her partner, twice the size AND price of ours... it's funny how things work out.

And me? Well I'm looking at houses that cost more than I could even have imagined vomiting at four years ago, and I'm no longer ashamed at the thought of a finished house with a nice kitchen and all; I'm excited if it's even remotely in our price range.


After reminising about the Trucker Hat Caper and discovering in a wine haze that I barely knew anybody, I walked my friend home and then walked the rest of the way myself, probably not the most advised move. I went past the big cathedral on the hill no doubt shocked at the folks' debauchery on the streets below, past the big orange sodium lights where I played Purple City when I was a student (if you stare at the lights long enough, when you look up, the city looks purple); in fact I remember the first night I met one of my single bohemian friends -- a night much like last night but a touch warmer, the kind of summer night when you still don't need sleeves -- and we hung out on the front steps of the cathedral and looked at the downtown spread out below with the excitement of meeting a kindred spirit.

It's a strange thing to become a home-owning, cube-working, car-driving, married mother in the same city where you sowed your young wild oats. And strange to be assaulted with all these memories, all the time, as we consider leaving and the opportunities that could await us elsewhere.

A cop car sped by with its lights blazing, and I as I crossed the street after it, another one roaring in the same direction nearly mowed me down. I wondered where they were going in such a fury.

The downtown sidewalks were packed with drunk kids loitering and smoking. I felt pretty vulnerable because I was carrying my camera; I walked big and strong to compensate. At one point a man called out to me, "Hey Big Red!" I didn't respond but felt dismayed nonetheless at the resurrection of my high school nickname, especially since my hair, which was up, wasn't the big thing he was referring to.

It was a nice summer night, and every once in a while I'd hear a voice on the wind or see movement emerging from a shadow: people sitting randomly on dark patches of abandoned grass. The couples made sense to me, but I wondered about the few people I saw all by themselves, just sitting. Crossing the tracks and starting down my own dark road, I noticed a guy walking out to nothing but a stretch of rough grass next to an empty parking lot, and another guy wandering aimlessly who eventually just sat down on someone's lawn. It felt weird. I got my cell phone all set so I'd only have to hit send if something weird happened. I figured Sugar D wouldn't answer but at least they'd know where to look in the morning.

A third kid suddenly emerged from his grass seat in a shadow and walked towards me with a sandal dangling from each hand. I felt nervous as his bare feet clapped faster and faster on the pavement behind me. I hit send and listened to the ringing phone echo in my sleeping home, wondering what would happen next. He ran past me, stopped and turned around, cutting me off at the pass. I waited, tense, ready to fight or flee. He looked like a fresh faced farmboy, and being in the capital of postsecondary agricultural education in Ontario, he probably was. Slur slur slur... my friend ... Alex? he slurred.

"I saw a guy back there," I say, referring to another stranger just sitting by himself. I think they must have been tripping. The boy trailed away, finally harmless.

I got home safely to notice the neighbour's curtains open outside our kitchen and a big creepy looking doll suspended from the ceiling. I didn't need to see that.

Happily, Swee'pea's fever finally broke after two days.


Christine said...

first of all--this was a really good post. this was just so sin. . .

and that fear, that moment where you think that the dark isn't as safe as your brave self thought--i know this too.

slouching mom said...

i loved the description of your walk home.