Semi-Fiction

After

Photograph of a glowing yellow outline of a heart hanging in a window with window panes in front of it. Outdoor window frame with a dusting of snow around the window. It is dark outside and all illumination comes from the heart.

I’m on a date and it’s awkward and uncomfortable, but I’m grateful because I get to be around other people and meet a new person. There won’t be a second date, or maybe there will, just because we’ll want an excuse to go out again. That happens a lot these days. I look into this person’s eyes as we speak and I don’t see a potential partner there, no, but I do see a human, and I’m enraptured by the beauty of another human being’s non-pixelated eyes.

I’m at a party and the music isn’t any good and the beer is swill and the people are just okay, but I’m having the best night of my life because I get to be around other people and some of them are new and that is amazing. We’re shouting over the unfortunate music and no one is listening. Our eyes and voices are animated. You’d think we’re all high, but only a few of us are. Someone tells a joke that isn’t very funny and we all fall over laughing.

I’m walking around a mall looking at the pretty lights and colours even though I hate malls, but I’m having such a lovely time because there are people, people everywhere, and I have no reason to be afraid of them now. As I move, I catch bits and pieces of mundane conversations that are made interesting by over a year of isolation. I go into stores and don’t buy anything and the shopkeepers smile and say hello. I get an ice-cream cone and sit on a bench in the centre of it all and breathe in the stale air with a sigh of gratitude.

I get on a bus and then a train and both are delayed, so it takes a long time to get to my destination, but I’m not irritated in the slightest. I’m going somewhere, somewhere I’ve wanted to go for ages. I watch pavement disappear and then I leave tracks behind. The buildings grow taller, taller, taller until they enter the mist. The train arrives at the station and then we must wait to walk down the stairs because of the crowd that pours out. I am overjoyed. The city is a place of fun again, not fear, and I can come here for a day without worrying about fatal consequences.

I’m sitting in a cafe writing and the noise is actually helping me work. It was difficult to find a chair. Lots of people go out for no reason now. The seats are uncomfortable. I’m typing away on my computer. My latte is burnt and lukewarm and delicious. I’m happily writing nonsense. Someone bumps into my table, spilling my drink and disturbing my focus. I love them for it. “Sorry!” They say, reaching out a hand to steady my situation. I smile up at them. They smile back.

Semi-Fiction

Quicker Than a Streetcar Can Say Surprise

Content note: this piece contains references to the COVID-19 pandemic.


I miss sitting somewhere in public and writing even though I never did that. I want to go to Fran’s All Night Diner at some ridiculous hour and eat greasy food and pull out my notebook and write about it. I’ll ask if they have decaf and they’ll have to put on a pot and I’ll feel bad, but don’t worry, I’ll drink a lot. The refills are endless. I’ll get through the whole pot. They’ll ask if they should put on another and I’ll say, no, that’s alright, thanks, it’s time to go visit my brother. And they’ll say their shift isn’t up yet. And I’ll say, no, not you, silly, me. It’s time for me to go visit my brother. And they’ll say, oh, yeah, isn’t that that guy who works at the café? Yeah, that’s the one. I’ll get the bill, please. Oh, certainly…You know, I’ve never visited my brother before because of the pandemic. What pandemic? Oh, have we forgotten already? Thank goodness.

Then I’ll be up and outta there, quicker than a streetcar can say surprise. I’ll be crossing that old town at lightning speed just to see the only other redhead for miles. Now that can’t be right, we use kilometres in Canada, but you know what I mean.

I’ll cross that old town and be haunted by its memories, but hey, at least I’ll be there without the fear of catching my death and spreading it. No one will look directly at me because they’ll know I’m not from around there, and I won’t mind one bit. I’ll keep quiet, and we’ll all agree that it’s better they don’t look. But you wait, just wait until I get to my brother’s place because then, I’ll talk. They’ll all talk. Not about anything specific, not about anything that matters, just the kind of talk you use to make everyone feel better. You know the kind. You use it all the time.

I’ll get to my brother’s place, and I won’t have the door code, so he’ll have to buzz me in. The building he lives in is 83 floors tall. It rivals the CN Tower. No, it doesn’t, don’t make me laugh, but the CN Tower is right next door. He’ll buzz me in from above, and I’ll walk into a lobby I’ve never seen. It’ll be unremarkable. Elevator doors will open, and my brother will step out. Where’s the red hair? I’ll wonder. It’ll be dark blue, but he’ll still be my brother.

Would you like some coffee? He’ll ask.

He brings his work home with him (quite literally).

Would you mind putting on a pot of decaf?