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Year of the Chick

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“Seven eighty-six please.”

When I handed the latte boy his money my hand grazed his palm. I cringed and quickly wiped the clammy residue on my pant leg. Peter’s hands weren’t slimy. HIS hands didn’t need a dehumidifier.

My eyes bore deep into his.

His eyes stared blankly back. “Your latte’s waiting at the bar.”

Right.

Peter had left Canada two years ago, but here I was in the place where it all began. The place where you flirt with English baristas on temporary work visas, then whisk them away on ice skating dates to Nathan Phillips Square, then snuggly dates, then “leave the rest to your imagination dates,” then …then…

Tearful goodbyes.

Promises to reunite.

Frequent phone calls.

Less frequent phone calls.

E-mails instead of phone calls.

The final e-mail that says “I’m sorry Romi, but yes I’ve found a ‘ho.”

I mean a nice respectable girlfriend.

Sure.

With my latte in one hand and a sack full of snowman cookies in the other, I headed to the corner table for a seat. In seconds I was chomping on the cookies in a sucrose bliss, as the multi-coloured icing dirty-danced its way along my tongue.

Two women at a nearby table were deep in conversation, heads lowered and intense. I noticed them whenever my eyes unrolled from the back of my head, the pit-stops in-between my cookie-induced ecstasy. They suddenly burst into laughter, and buoyed by the “ha ha ha's” their strands of blond hair began to bounce.

Oh sure, it’s all fun and games when your world is one big hook-up.

My hook-up opportunities required a Batman costume for anonymity, just like they did for every Canadian girl with Indian parents. In front of our parents we were robots with the “horny” button disabled, but when the moon shone bright our howls of desire could be heard across a hundred miles.

Provided we were well-adjusted girls who’d been dating like the pros since age sixteen.

Umm…

I shook the memories of dateless years and “dry spells so long I could practically be a monk” from my mind with a swig of latte, but arranged marriage thoughts took their place. No matter how many times I searched for the logic it escaped me, and why not? In what world was it normal to never look at guys before marriage, then have sex with an almost-stranger when arranged-marriage day arrived?

“Pfft.” The sound emanating from my mouth would’ve seemed a lot more normal if I wasn’t alone at this table. In reality the blondes seemed disturbed by the escaped mental patient to their left. I shrugged my shoulders and twirled a long strand of hair between my fingers. Thoughtfully. Worriedly.

I’m twenty-seven.

I haven’t had a date in two whole years (phone-calls to English guys don’t exactly count).

On the other hand I’m not fat.

But on the OTHER-other hand I’m not exactly skinny.

Back to the other hand: being five-foot-seven means the weight gain tends to stretch.

My twirling hand relaxed at the endless dating options that Toronto would deliver. All I had to do was be a little patient. What choice did I have? Desperation was ugly. And smelly.

My thoughts must have carried away, as I found myself guzzling the last of a tepid latte. A glance at my watch confirmed the unscheduled daydream.

Four-fifteen p.m. Time flies when it’s a party of one.

I squeezed through the revolving doors, and raced to catch the four-thirty train.

***

Four twenty-six p.m. and I was standing on the train station platform. A broad-shouldered woman hit me with her giant satchel, an “accident” that conveniently pushed me to the back. I’d never messed with a broad-shouldered woman before, and wasn’t about to start to today. Besides, my hair was silkier than hers, so karma had done its work.

The train bell clanged and for me it tolled a somber tune. My afternoon of pondering was about to be replaced with a nightly confrontation.

My sister.

I took a deep breath and boarded the train.

***

If there’s one thing I learned from family sitcoms growing up, it’s that sisters, despite their superficial squabbles, have a superglue-level of a bond. I wondered though, about the margin of error for this bond. Like what about the sisterly bond which is only sealed together with Scotch Tape? Or worse, sealed with only the cheap and sticky edge of an envelope?

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