It’s Nice to Go Home, and It’s Good to Come Back

I arrived home last night, at around 3 am. When I walked in, Riel meowed with a voice that sounded either parched or worn. For the next three hours, he kept bunting me, in between rubbing himself all over me. I didn’t get much sleep last night.

I’ve been away for about ten days, visiting Victoria and Calgary. It was a scheduled trip but I hadn’t booked my flights until about three weeks before I was set to leave. I set off to Victoria to visit my sister, who had recently returned from another trip to East Africa and who has also been appointed to a prestigious position within the religious community we were raised in. After four days there, my parents and I loaded into my dad’s car and drove to Calgary, our hometown. My father, to my surprise, drove most of the way.

You gotta drive through the mountains from BC to Alberta.
You gotta drive through the mountains from BC to Alberta.

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Victoria. Sure, I appreciate it’s natural beauty, but it’s not enough of a city to hold my interest. The people are rather friendly, which I was a bit put off by. I found it hard to care to continue a conversation with an elevator-mate beyond a nod of acknowledgement.

This is the breakwater at sundown across the street from my sister's place
This is the boardwalk at sundown across the street from my sister’s place
There's a gap in the breakwater across the street from where my sister lives.
There’s a gap in the boardwalk across the street from where my sister lives.

For all that’s the same, Calgary just isn’t. I’m not the same, either, I guess. Whenever I visit, I always do more than I hope to and less than I plan to. There are only a few people that I’m compelled to see, outside of my folks, and a couple of shops that I always want to visit.On Wednesday, while waiting in a coffee shop to meet a friend for lunch, I ran into

On Wednesday, while waiting in a coffee shop to meet a friend for lunch, I ran into my high school girlfriend after about 15 years. After arguing – just like old times – about buying her a tea latte or something, she finally let me. After that, we sat down to an hour’s long conversation. She was kinder than I remember her being and even more beautiful.

My performance, if I were to rate it, was subpar; she carried the conversation. I would compare it to a first date that was alright but one you both leave knowing that you’ll likely not talk again, unless you happen to swipe right on each other six to eight months later. I was a 33-year old rational, stoic, clear-skinned, bearded man overwrought overcome by the emotions of an 18-year old boy. I can’t be placed in such a predicament with the expectation that years of practised social diplomacy will help see me through.

But, we weren’t on a date. Far from it. We were just two people catching up, in the age of social media, during a chance encounter. And, for all that it was, it was wonderful. I left feeling like I had more to say, having left much out, and hoping that luck will turn up more sevens in my future.

Around 12:15, 25 minutes after my parking had expired, I left to go meet my friend downtown for lunch. She’s one of those few people I’m compelled to meet whenever I visit Calgary.

We sat down for lunch at a new casual-fine dining restaurant in town. She’s pregnant now, like so many others, so I gave her a gift I had arisen early to purchase, thinking the store much further away from my parents’ homestead than the nearest shopping plaza. (I only had time to get coffee which led to the chance encounter cited above because I woke up early to buy this gift.) It was a teddy bear. She had set up a registry.

Praise be the gift registry.

We often don’t meet, her and I, during the day, because we like to be out at night with one another. This was new for our friendship. It was tamer. More subdued than the nights we’ve shared together in the past. Still, it had all the same elements as our previous raucous adventures together: a nice restaurant, just the two of us with an open invitation to others to join, and a choice menu for quality cocktails, wines, spirits, and beers.

About half way through our lunch, I had to leave to pay the meter. When we were finished, we both ventured out into the rain onto Calgary’s most popular street, and after a warm hug, we both went our own way. Our conversation hadn’t ended but was merely put on hold.

That evening, but still on Wednesday, I met my cousin – another of the select few – at a coffee shop in Calgary’s most hipster neighbourhood, Kensington (of course). I think we’d both take slight offence to being referred to as hipsters, but to look at us, you might think we are. If I were to rank my cousins in terms of my most favourite, he’d top the list. I just like the guy.

We sat down for coffee for him and tea for me for a couple of hours, just chatting. He’s one of those people in my life that I really enjoy listening to. I’m interested in what he has to say, how he says it, and the bullshit-free approach he takes to our conversations. After a conversation with him, I’m left with my mind abuzz. It’s rejuvenating, in a sense.

Anyway, I went straight home after that because I really had to pee.

I think I bought a pair of jeans on Thursday.

Friday evening was fun. I met up with a friend of mine, the brother of a good friend of mine here in Toronto. We had a few drinks at his place before heading downtown to Cilantro, a restaurant I used to work at. The quality of the food and the service makes it a great spot to continue to revisit. It doesn’t hurt that I know a few of the staff.

We had great wine and great steak. We shared stories and talked to each other about the things that were on our minds.

A couple of hours in, my good buddy – another of the few – joined us. At some point, after my clock stopped and head started spinning a bit, I lost my friend and was left with my buddy and the company of two other friends. For me, the conversation transitioned seamlessly.

The entire week was like that…things just kind of came together nicely.

Even my folks made the week easy. They let me sleep when I wanted to. We had home– mom-cooked meals together, which we rarely do anymore. They adjusted their schedules so that I’d have access to a car or a ride. My mom only mentioned my grey hair and bodyweight once during the week and told me to exercise when she dropped me off at the airport. My dad only brought up the issue of my singleness when we were alone in the house, earnestly suggesting that I consider my sister’s friend who we’d met in Victoria. On separate occasions, my sister and mother suggested the same, however. Even still, as parents go, this was by far the best week I’ve spent with them in a long time. It felt like we were actually connecting as people with separate lives, in between the small spurts of parenting.

Just one of the home-cooked meals I had with my folks.
Just one of the home-cooked meals I had with my folks.

Through it all, though, I missed my little buddy, Riel. I missed being in Toronto, bored during the summer despite everything that I should and could be doing. I missed sitting in my chair with a coffee and watching my 19-inch TV. I didn’t miss this summer’s heat, though.

There’s a strange comfort I have in Toronto. It’s in the polite unfriendliness. It’s in the work I have and the worry about paying my rent. It’s in the friendships, failed relationships, and aloneness that are mine. It’s in the marionette that has become my life.

I woke up like this the morning after I returned to Toronto. (He's not fat, it just looks that way.)
I woke up like this the morning after I returned to Toronto. (He’s not fat, it just looks that way.)

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