This place reeks of me, and I’m tired of the stench
“Ow! Stupid table!”
I’ve stubbed my toe on this god damned hardwood table leg more times than I can count. Having lived in this house since I was six years old, this coffee table hasn’t moved in twenty years. As it seems, neither have I.
“Will I ever learn?”
A fleeting thought, but nothing to dwell on at 2 a.m. — it’s time for some sleep. I head into my travel souvenir-laden room and slump into a twin-size bed, toes slightly touching the wooden footboard. I really hate this bed, it always knew how to knock me out before I can get a couple last thoughts out.
A rap at the door awakens me to my Monday morning. With a jump out of bed and a quick brush of the teeth, I’m already in my makeshift corporate office for my introductory 9 a.m. video call with a new senior manager:
“Good to meet you, I’m Matt.”
“Great to meet you as well. How was your weekend?”
“Nothing too special. Spent most of the time helping out in the garden.”
“I’m jealous, I don’t have a garden in my apartment! Hey, is that a Peloton behind you?”
“No it’s not, it’s my parents’ stepper machine. It’s older than I am actually.”
“Oh? You live with your parents?”
“Um… I do.”
“You must be saving a ton of money, huh?”
“Yeah, I guess you can say that.”
After a few more baseless pleasantries, the call ends. In anticipation of a flood of emails, I take advantage of the limited free time left to open my rightmost window. Taking a deep, meditative breath, the suburban air fills my lungs as I close my eyes. Opening them to reveal the lush front yard, I witness a young father biking with his infant daughter before a ping from my laptop brings me back down to Earth.
My mom knocks on my door, beckoning me to the kitchen island for lunch. I comply.
“Hey, do you remember Connie?”
“Connie, Hunter’s mom. From Grade 8.”
“Oh yeah, what about her?”
“I ran into her at the grocery store! We caught up quickly.”
“Cool. They still live a couple blocks away?”
“No, they moved to Toronto. Hunter’s in Copenhagen now.”
“Wow, really? Didn’t peg him as the international type.”
“Yeah. Hey, let’s go for a walk! Haven’t done that in a while with you.”
“I can’t Mom, I’m working.”
“Come on, it’s 12:15 now, you’ll be back by 12:30. Pleeeeease?”
We both slip on our running shoes and we’re out the door, opening the gate to the front yard — the same one where my parents hosted my ninth birthday party.
“Hey Mom, you remember that Harry Potter-themed birthday we had out here?”
“Oh yeah, that was your greatest birthday party ever. Remember that arts and crafts bus we had come up and you guys made those fortune teller globes?”
“I do. I think the highlight of that day was pulling Gryffindor from that hat.”
“Y’know what, I think your Dad cheated the system. I think he made sure you pulled that because he knew that’s what you wanted.”
Without even realizing, I’m smiling ear-to-ear.
We commence our local excursion, soon making our way behind the school I went to for Grade 9 and down a familiar forested path. Almost immediately, the howling of what sounds to be pubescent boys echoes amongst the trees. My gaze pierces the foliage towards the direction of the sounds, confirming my suspicions — three, maybe four, grade school bike riders hanging out right in front of a small ravine. My attitude turns sour.
“That’s my spot you little-!”
I stop my thoughts before I get too vile. Memories of a grade school me crossing that ravine on his mountain bike with a merry band of now-distant friends begin to flood my senses, recalling the moments like it was yesterday.
“Where did the time go?”
“Hey, you OK?”
Onwards. Passing by a tennis court where a young Chinese kid from Mississauga was preparing for tennis camp, we duck into a road I haven’t been on since I was sixteen years old. Grade school me whizzes by down the street, my Mom and I follow.
At the end of the street, grade school me jumps off his bike and heads towards a large corner house. He’s soon greeted by a young Caucasian boy and his golden retriever as they head inside. I observe, my Mom stretches.
“Wonder what Tyler’s up to now.”
“He’s in Toronto now. Law school.”
“Nice. I think his family moved away too. You came here a lot didn’t you?”
“I did. You didn’t trust me to be on my own when you and Dad we’re working all the time.”
“Does it look the same as you remember?”
“Pretty much. Except there used to be a large shrub here, at the corner. We would hide under it at Halloween to scare kids passing by. We got crap from a cop about it once.”
“God, even the shrub has moved on.”
I begin to laugh, masking the tears that I’m beginning to well. I wipe them away before Mom and grade school me notice, the latter getting back on his bike and riding away. My Mom and I follow.
Home is now within eyeshot, but why is there a multi-coloured bus by the front yard? As we get closer, the door bus swings open followed by an outpouring of excited pre-teens with decorative globes in hand. The last one to step off, a young Chinese kid from Mississauga, presents his globe to his mother.
“This is so good honey!”
They embrace, holding hands as they head inside.
“Alright, time to go in.”
“Time to go in?”
“Thanks for the walk.”
“No, thank you.”
As I walk from the back door to my desk, variations of a younger me begin to scamper around the house, each in their own separate instances. The memory of when I got into my university of choice. The time where my Dad threw me on the couch for causing a ruckus. The moment of eating pizza on power towels when we first moved in.
I open my laptop to notifications galore, but I only can seem to focus on my metaphysical revelations.
This neighbourhood, this space, is me. This place birthed my disposition and groomed me into the man I am today. Not only did I lay the foundation of my experiences onto this place, like seeds in dirt, but this place laid its foundation into me. Maybe it took a Monday afternoon walk to realize, but I’m eternally grateful.
Then why do I feel a notion of disdain?
Maybe this feeling is natural for the last one standing. Turning to the still-ajar window, I take another hit of the suburban air — this time it hits different. It smells like me, and I hate it.
Maybe I’m just that guy who never leaves his hometown. Or that coward too afraid to leave the nest.
Nonetheless, my childhood and current home will always be cherished, but I know my days in this place are numbered.
When I lay the next phase of my foundation on a new space, I’ll let you know.