The hardest part of driving school so far has been the cold echo of homesickness that blows through my chest whenever the instructional videos or slides feature Toronto. Trying to concentrate through the ache feels like trying to swallow the rattle of stones. Young Drivers of Canada is based in Ontario, so the majority of their materials are shot in towns and cities near their main office, very near where I used to live and love.
A new image on the screen, near the X, facing downtown. I have been on that highway, I think, when I was younger, before so much damage. The pink freeway lights were new, newer than in that photograph. I was with my boyfriend, met only the night before. He was sweet and smart, handsome and talented. He might be shorter than I am, now, but then he was two inches taller. His black-red hair was as long as my arm. His eyes were gold, so unlikely. He made me laugh. He gave me some of the best advice of my life. I had never been so happy before. I wish he would still talk to me. How many times have I felt like that since? A copy of his old band poster still sits, rolled and ignored, on my bedroom floor.
Later he stood with me on the roof of our strange apartment building, leaning into the hot, summer wind of a lightning storm as the sky flashed and thunder rolled so hard it made the sheet metal walls shake with fear. I laughed, though he worried and eventually lured me down. It was okay. We were together. We were safe.
The next shot: a residential street, coincidentally near a favourite bakery. The chocolate icing, one inch thick. I’d smear my finger through the top and lick it off, sitting in a nearby park, watching little girls dance in bathing suits next to a shallow community pool, copying some music video, all in time, singing along to the new Spice Girls track. The birth of prostitots, I thought, examining the parents, who clapped along. I wondered if it was a new trend or simply something that had been there all along. The chocolate frosting was so rich that it was almost black, the same colour as rich soil or well tended earth. The sun was bright, and I had my bike. I could go anywhere. And I did.