This is an excerpt from my novel, June is Dreaming. Please support my work by purchasing my novel, available on Kindle & Paperback internationally, and leave an honest review. Thanks!
June Meets Sly
It has been twenty-something years since I’ve been trapped in my head. I try to distract myself by walking through the streets, but it has been too long. Everything familiar has been stained by time and altered by memory. I have become indifferent to changes because it always ends up like this: strange yet familiar.
After my meandering, I sit and watch. I observe people closely like objects in a petri dish. I observe them: the way they laugh, hold conversations; stares that linger too long and hands that get rebutted ever so softly. I observe them so that I can absorb their idiosyncrasies. I want to learn the movements of human beings so that I can become a better actress and act how human beings are supposed to.
The unspoken cruelty of ordinary lives. I find myself sitting above the great hall of Union Station, intrigued by the suffering of everyday people. A crease in their smiles; the balling and unballing of fists as they realize their train has been delayed; the terrible pain of waiting for the next one. All of them want to go somewhere else, but they’re all stuck here.
I like the idea of being among them and yet not being one of them. For a moment or two, I can escape the present and observe things like a cosmic bystander. I see close friends hugging, lovers chirping sweet nothings into each other’s ears, and people who are waiting to escape.
I look up at the large, domed ceiling. The lights make the sawdust floating in the spotlight of the sun look like tachyon particles. The smell of recent construction; the clanging of metal that has a strange ring to it; suitcases half the weight of their carriers; grey men who look like they have been war-torn by life; women who carry themselves with litheness and yet are burdened; shopping bags, hair-curled buns, and little wheels making sounds like small locomotives. The voices reverberate and the pool of conversation gathers into a flood that spills everywhere.
I go for a smoke. The sun is still up, even though it’s late afternoon; the early signs of summer. The corner isn’t littered with cigarette butts, so I leave one behind with my red lipstick marks, letting the big city know I was here. There are large faces of buildings that look down on me, making me feel small.
Bloating with empathy for the suffering of everyday people, my shoes yellow-calloused from walking around in these white flats. I hobble across the street. The cars rush by me in transit. Pedestrians jaywalk with deftness, and I see a homeless person sleeping near the entrance of the building. In my peripheral curiosity, he becomes part of the city landscape rather than a living, breathing organism.
I feel guilty for that thought, and I pivot to draw out some change from the bottom recesses of my purse. I fish out some coins and place them in the coffee cup that is lying adjacent to the sleeping homeless man. I give him a smile. I hope he is having better dreams than his actual life. And I wish that for myself, too.
I detach from my surroundings, walking onwards, and I then catch a glimpse of my reflection in the green-tinged glass windows, and I can’t help but look. I gaze at my black flowery dress, billowing with my body, and finally my hair, untethered and straight, flowing in the pristine weather and caressing my face—skin unblemished. The Radiating Black Rose. “There are a lot of reasons to smile,” I tell myself to provide excuses for my unearthly grin. As I walk along the sidewalk, the sun dips at an angle that gives life the color of fading polaroid pictures.
“Ma’am, would you like to gain some knowledge?” shouts a small, dark man, with long, unkempt hair. He waves flyers with crescent shapes, stepping in and out of my path. He wears glasses that blind men wear and his scarred, white stubble makes him look even more malnourished.
“No, thanks,” I say in a barely-audible speaking voice. I’ve learned to ignore men with flyers. They just want to sell you something.
I’m beginning to realize that the city makes me a little cold-hearted, but, at the same time, aware of people’s naked self-interests. The odd thing is that on his other hand, the man is fiddling with a large wad of what looks like crumpled aluminum foil, almost like he is performing some kind of ritual.
I continue walking down Yonge street, avoiding the subway grates. I’m floating on the smell of baked bread coming through the open windows. The steam howls from the belly, the raging of the southbound line, trembling with unrestrained ferocity. If you look at the pavement closely, you can see the small shoots of grass jutting out of the cracks.
I feel a little woozy as I notice the bubble gum carcasses and bird droppings that have formed small pot marks, infecting the street like diseased skin. I retrieve a pack from my purse, dangling the cigarette on my lips, as I walk past the theatre playing Alan: The Horse-King, near Wellington.
I wonder what my agent would say if I told her that I wanted to do more theatre. Nonsense, you have to aim for more! Probably something along those lines. She isn’t talking too much today.
I fidget with the lighter that I have concealed within my pack. The fire dances as I light my cigarette. There is a certain buzz in the air. I’m finally meeting Sly.
She insisted on meeting up after our audition. My agent is actually suspicious of her but I regurgitated the benefits of networking, even if it’s with a rival. My agent wasn’t happy that I used her words against her: Don’t come crawling to me once she betrays you were her last words before she gave me the silent treatment. As I approach the intersection of Dundas, I signal for a cab.
“Ossington, please,” I say, depositing my purse on the seat beside me.
“To hear is to obey,” the driver replies. “And now we shall travel west.”
I laugh at his tone. He makes it sound like a mythological journey. It turns out that he might’ve actually believed it. He drives with a sense of recklessness and, in that eight-minute drive, I see my life flash by several times. I take a sigh of relief as I arrive at the doorstep of Ossington, somehow intact and yet changed.