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TO, ON

This feels like one of those mornings.
Probably because I am up before everyone else which, let's face it, hasn't happened very much in the passing twelve years.

I would wake, hungry, and wait. And wait. And sometimes wait a little longer after that. Then after a short eternity, everyone else would wake up too.

If it was one of our weeks out in Mississauga, we would usually go somewhere mediocre, like Frankie Tomato's or the vast Chinese buffet across the street, go back to our room to rest, then venture into the city later.

But if we woke up early enough and our appetites could hold, we would ride or drive into the city before lunch, and eat at the Black Pearl or some other place the (paper) city guide suggested.

(side note - yelp & urbanspoon are god sends)

The Black Pearl, which I now understand to be closed, was a dim sum place a few blocks down Spadina from where I worked. Upstairs there were various Chinese merchants selling trinkets and cheap clothing, and I can't recall that I ever bought anything there. The restaurant itself was stuffy, a bit dated, but excellent food, minus the desserts (gelatinized egg, anyone?) and the jellyfish tentacles I once tried. Only once. They are now the low bar by which I judge all food. Better than jellyfish tentacles? Well then, not the worst thing I've ever eaten.

On the weeks we were lucky enough to be staying in the city, I would sneak out of my room, out the front door, and go a block down Carlton to buy some donuts or bagels for everyone. My roommate had mono that summer, and would fuss if I opened the heavy hotel curtains even a sliver, so I often found myself in C's room, or in the hall, or just sitting in the bathroom for a couple of hours.

I realized, just now, that I had managed to block C from all of these memories up until I remembered the mornings, sneaking into his room, and the awkward conversations that ensued. Maybe it is better that way, to just block as much of him out as I can. To remember the high points, to forget everything that came after.

One week my close friend, who happened to be C's girlfriend at the time, came to visit, and we collectively decided to go to a Russian Restaurant. Made reservations and all. The bus lines weren't running out that way, as it was a Sunday evening, but we decided to hoof it. All six of us. We walked for so long, walked until it didn't make sense anymore, and kept walking. We failed to realize, and I can't remember what street this was on (maybe Queen?) that at a certain point the street numbers started over. So while we thought the restaurant would be a few blocks down the road, it was actually several miles. After sometime my roommate, the one with mono, gave out and we finally (thankfully) flagged one of the few cabs operating out our direction.

We arrived at the restaurant an hour after our reservation. It was cozy, but I could never recover from the sense that there was some sort of old world KGB presence there. We had ice waters and the best black russian bread I have ever had before our meal, and I honestly can't remember anything else about the food except that it was wonderful. I just remember that bread. Oh, and the giant gong. The main room of the restaurant was small, with a bar in one corner and near it a stage, where a young lady played the classical acoustic and mournfully sang russian folk songs. When she suddenly switched to an uptempo number, an ear splitting crash came from the bar. I don't know how one manages to overlook a four foot in diameter gong, hanging from a tiny bar, but I did and so did all of my friends, so it caught us off guard to hear it beaten over and over in time with the song, drowning out the song, and the possibility for all conversation or even thought until the song was over.

That night, and I am straying back into this area where I said we wouldn't stray, but that night it rained. We walked the city. C held her hand, and I couldn't help but feel jealous, not for his affection, but for their collective attention. My two closest friends, and their relationship had shut me out. And then I thought about the boy I left back home, and how I never felt close to him in that way.

The next day we saw Phantom of the Opera at The Pantages. It ran there for ten years and we caught it during the last few months of it's run, before the theater shut down for months to prepare for a run of The Lion King. Paul Stanley, no lie, from none other than the band Kiss, was playing the Phantom during that six week run. I know what you are thinking and, yes, he IS a shitty actor. Every time he cried it sounded like the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz, and it became an inside joke amongst us for years to come.

After the movie we split up for date night. The married couple went in one direction, C & M in another, leaving my mono-roommate and myself on our own for a girl's night. For some god-awful reason she decided she wanted to go to the Hard Rock, a restaurant which I have never understood the appeal of, but as providence would have it they sat us down in a KISS themed booth. Afterwards we went to Urban Outfitters and I bought a hulu girl push puppet, which sits on my bookcase now.

I try, I mean I try REALLY hard, to push him out of these thoughts. But the fact is, I can't erase what was. I can't erase him from the eight years of my life he occupied in some capacity, and I can't erase everything that came since, the revelations, the lies.

I think of that summer, and I think of this: sitting in Kensington Market, on the boat, everywhere, with him. He was my best friend, how could I not? He was the only person who truly understood me, and he twisted that understanding into something perverse, and I have never felt so used.

I think of the day that we first saw the phrase 'Speak French or Die' written in English on the side of a bank building downtown, and the Fine China t-shirt he was wearing on the day he finally made me take a picture of him with the graffiti. That I could remember him, always, as he was that day, that is all I ask. That time would soften the rest, and take the sting out of all of those memories. Time has been kind to me once before, in a similar situation, and even been so kind as to provide an eventual reconciliation of sorts.

Rabbit trail: Is it just me that has been majorly, and I been Caesar level betrayed by two of the three closest people in their life? Show hand? Just me?
Oh, that's right, people are shitty and it probably happens all of the time. Doesn't make it easier.

I need to go back to that city because it has a piece of my heart. But the other reason, and almost as important, is that I need to go back with someone I TRULY love, who will NOT hurt me, to reclaim all of those memories. And maybe, just a little, to feel young again.

8:43 a.m. - 2012-07-21

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