Was And Now

sunset on a wide street

Ever since I took this photograph, I have been thinking of the north where I used to go with my family every summer until I moved out on my own.

There was a lake so icy that leeches didn't live there and coniferous trees stretched out on all sides as far as your eye could take you. When I was little, I believed that I would live there forever when I grew up and tramp over the small bridge every day that spanned a run-off path just to hear my feet thunking on its broad boards. I promised myself that I would repaint it properly in apple green when the time came.

It was often grey and damp there. Maybe that's why the photograph is triggering these memories. The broad street, bleak and early-spring cool with weak evening light cast long and low, is much how I remember the main drag leading to the town site at the lake.

When I hit puberty, boys used to hoot at me from moving cars when I walked down that strip of road to see what the late movie was at the musty war-time theatre. The street in the photograph is a block from my apartment, and the boys in the neighbourhood here don't hoot at me. They tend to lower their gaze and look away or challenge me with a sharp look and a short jab of the shoulder. It feels the same, though, the aggressive game of I-could-take-you.


I sometimes miss the red jacket with the kangaroo pocket I wore every day and the rimy chill of wet sand on my chubby fingers. The city swallows the musky-sweet smell of foliage limping into the soil, and none of its stones are as smooth and small as the tiny ones pushed up in a fine line along the lake's edge.

It is the time of year when city streets are dusty and old, new potholes revealing themselves at intersections and in the long stretch. It never fails to leave me restless and longing; it unquiets me. All at once I want to lie down to sleep and also to run to the nearest pub and cure my sobriety. The latter is the better bet, because in the end there is at least drunken sleep.

A consistent restless irritability, an off shade of fight-or-fuck, stalks me, and I hold out for green buds and yowling cats and the smoke of barbecues to chase it off. Or maybe I should head north where they're cracking ice off the lake and my breath would still hover all day in the shade. I could find those tiny, translucent snail shells that snap so softly under your thumb that you are surprised every time that someone lived there.