Once upon a time, the universe knelt to spill oak, elm, fern and cedar boughs at my feet.
My father couldn’t resist showing his little girl the magic he knew. He shook off the fears of being cited for using his gifts in a superfluous way by focusing on the brilliant light that came from within my heart when I was delighted.
As I grew older, he showed me more and more of the magic he knew.
Waiting at the corner of Jane and Finch for the TTC, he assured me that I wasn’t alone by conjuring a great gust of wind which blew the trash on the sidewalk far away from me.
It became a habit. I’d call for joy without restraint, and he’d respond.
One day, though, as we were playing our game, we were too occupied by being in two places at once to notice the violence escalating down the street.
He later told me that his boss had called the very moment the young men started to come up behind me.
(My father spent months watching the replay from all angles.)
There was some kind of emergency at the plant in Illinois, he didn’t say how bad, but I saw an image of a bent over man on his knees with his arm twisted, blood pouring, screams that I couldn’t hear coming from his open mouth.
Because my father had always been there, and because we’d spent time at the Jane and Finch mall where my aunt and uncle owned a shop, he never told me there was any danger in my catching a bus to school on that corner. There was no need in his mind to scare me.
I heard the yelling before I saw the young men behind me or those across the street.
In my fear, without knowing what I was afraid of, I found myself in my father’s office at the plant across the city.
The pea-green carpet was plush, his metal desk was pretty big. On his desk was a large, heavy glass ashtray. One of his cigarettes still burned in it. I thought of trying a puff. Then I remembered.
And there I was, back on the corner. A woman had pulled me down. A man had covered us with his jacket just before the shelter was shattered, glass or whatever those things were made of back then, raining down on us.
My family decided to move. I never saw my cousins again.
In the new city, the universe didn’t once bend a knee. I lost interest in the world around me. I found solace in books.
It was like my mind was erased. My memories of life in the city, as people in the new place called it, left me.
Deep down, I knew there was more to life, but I couldn’t look at a tree or a bird the same way again. I couldn’t look at a flower that refused to sparkle and dance. The dollar bill and coins didn’t leap or make me laugh in the new city.
And the lakes were just a reflection of never ending depression, the only stillness that felt like shelter in a chaos I couldn’t know anymore whether it was real or man-made.
It felt like the whole world had changed. I felt more alone.