The day after you left, a biting wind brewed in the city. I walked down familiar streets, the streets parallel to our route two days prior, with my black jacket on, the thin metal butterflies on my earrings tinkling violently against each other, gold against green against gold.
I exited campus, passed by Grange Park, veered around the construction that I had noticed when we first met, all to the sounds of this wind, which was voiceless and mindless to me. When I finally arrived, I did not wait long to be greeted by R, who brought me what I had asked to take care of. He carefully took out the small bonsai tree from his plastic bag to fit it into my tote bag, and handed me a spray bottle— “I believe you have to mist it everyday.” I wished him a safe flight home.
The pines were shedding, they stung too. I crossed the street to the coffee shop where we had our first date, opened the door to be met by a wave of afternoon chatter. I stared at the table where two ladies now sat and where once you were waiting with your then-cropped hair and wide hazel eyes, as I rushed in with my bike helmet still on.
I kept on walking back up the street, gripping the tote bag carefully away from my body so that the wind would not veer it into my legs and break a branch of the bonsai. Past the Park I arrived next to the AGO and entered, took off my jacket and stuffed it in my backpack and got it checked, like you had done with yours the many months ago (it was only three… only three). I carried my notebooks and I carried my tote bag, walking quietly past the Canadian Art to the expresso bar overlooking the street through wooden patterns. I ordered a mint tea, found a table and placed the bonsai on the table. The light outside was the white light of light grey clouds, a dream somehow. I called you for a short while, imagining the night in front of your eyes.
Before the gallery was to close I made my way to those gentle, twisting, wide wooden stairs you had voiced wonderment for, and as I trudged upwards I felt a stifling heat, and I felt my body giving way to something tearful and visceral. When I reached the top, I folded my arms on the wood and hid my sobbing. The city still looked beautiful, and I was still at the beginning of my loss.
I left the gallery hungry, and walked with an almost fated purpose to the Korean restaurant across the street, where we had eaten three days prior. I made my way through two glass doors and gestured one finger to the waiter. I placed the tote bag on the chair in front of me, and ordered pork with broth, which came, as usual, with five side dishes. (I made sure to eat the sweetened potatoes the slowest, you had liked those the best.) We texted and I used many napkins, even though the broth wasn’t that spicy.
The final walk back to campus was a blur in a falling evening, 5-second heavings that I would suppress with a hand to my mouth. The wind was ever-looming, and the temperature was dropping. When I finally made it to my door, I stumbled in my room, looked at my empty bed, and lost myself to a heavy desperation, an offbeat wailing that blindingly demanded, “Why did you leave—Why did you leave—Why did you leave…”
Eventually my pacing lightened, and eventually I called my mom, and eventually I called you again, for longer this time. It was Day 1.