I jumped off the train at the next stop, practically running to the bookstore to buy a copy of The World Almanac. My research had to begin instantly. At home, giddy with excitement, I began my to-do list:
–learn more about Canada.
–get rid of furniture and other worldly belongings.
–give notice on apartment.
–give notice at work.
–find home for cat.
–buy plane ticket to Toronto (for authenticity).
–have going away party.
After months, no…years of comfortable boredom I felt downright electrified. Finally, a project I could feel passionate about! I spent the evening reading my almanac in a hot bath until long after my skin had turned pruney.
The next day I hinted to the office gossip that a good opportunity came up last night. And this was particularly good because I had been wanting some sort of big change.
I sent a text to a good friend that said Do we know anyone that lives in Toronto because I’m interviewing for a job there?
I gave my notice at work the next week. I’m going to be writing for an up-and-coming music magazine. I can’t give many details yet. I wrote a letter to my landlord, requesting to end my lease early. I’ve received a ONCE IN A LIFETIME opportunity. I researched the process for obtaining a Canadian work visa (employer sponsorship was key) and average salaries for writers in the Toronto metro area (surprisingly in-line with my current job). I’m not going to be rich there, but I’ll get by just fine. I was prepared to answer every question. Occasionally I would feign ignorance, like when my downstairs neighbor (aka my drug source) asked me about how the socialized health care worked. I’m not so sure about that but I hope it doesn’t involve long lines. And here’s hoping it covers those cheek implants I’ve always wanted. It was best to not appear to be too knowledgable. Because that would raise eyebrows.
Everything was moving right along. I congratulated myself on my brilliant planning and organization.
But I was feeling strange things.
For so long, I had been using my commute as my special planning time. And that time was just as important as ever because there were still so many details to cover. The train was a perfect place to sort it all out. Where and how to donate all of my furniture? Should I have a yard sale? Would anyone want my clothes? Well, actually giving away my clothes would have be an obvious red flag. I didn’t say I was moving to a nudist colony in Canada. I laughed aloud at that thought. I looked up, making accidental eye contact with a guy sitting across the aisle from me. He smiled at my laughter. I felt a hot blush cascading across my face. He was cute. I mean, REALLY CUTE. Blue eyes that belonged in Keane painting and unruly curly hair. He was probably twenty-five, tops.
This was when the strange feelings happened. Suddenly I was overcome with this sense of longing, an excruciating urge to leap across the aisle and climb into his lap. I wanted to drag him off the train at the next stop, into the nearest dark alley or unpruned privet. I wanted to taste his breath, smell his hair, feel his skin all over mine…my toes were literally curling into themselves at the thought of it all. I closed my eyes, trying to block him out. I wondered if he could hear the pounding of my heart. When I opened my eyes again, he was still watching me. This could really happen. I was excited. It had been so long since…no, wait! I had a mission. Even a few moments of fervent groping could undo it all.
I moved to the other end of the train.
I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt even the slightest inkling of lust.
The next afternoon I took a walk around the neighborhood. I was really going to miss this place. I watched a woman water her garden for a while, envious of her expression of calm focus. Her hard work had produced tremendous results, from foot long zucchini squash to photo perfect tomatoes. It must be so satisfying to make something out of nothing, I thought. Would Toronto would have much of a growing season? My good friend The World Almanac had told me that there would be warm, humid summers and very cold winters. Maybe I could get one of those community gardening plots that they sometimes offer in urban areas. I was envisioning myself with cute little gardening gloves and one of those big floppy sun hats, plucking heirloom cherry tomatoes from a vine. I could be that person that brings extra produce to the office. That person was always well-liked and respected.
Well, except for how I wasn’t actually moving to Toronto. And I didn’t even have a job there.
Yes, I had purchased a plane ticket to Toronto, merely for the sake of authenticity. And yes, I had fished my passport out of a dark corner in my underwear drawer. Just to have it around.
And then there was the problem of my cat.
I had sold my furniture and electronics on Craigslist. And cleared through most of my books, records, and kitchen nonsense at a successful yard sale. Leaving the country…everything must go! The bridesmaid dresses and ironic Christmas sweaters had been dropped off at the Goodwill. I filled a trash bag with the dusty old lipsticks and half-used lotions that camped out in my bathroom closet. Very little remained. But the cat was still wandering through my empty apartment, snuggling me on an air mattress at night.
I just didn’t know what to do with him. I couldn’t surrender him to an animal shelter. I couldn’t even bear to give him to a friend. I couldn’t imagine him with anyone but me because I had the strong feeling that he thought I was his “real” mom. I toyed with idea of setting him loose in the streets–or alternatively on a farm–but I knew he wasn’t the outdoor type. He appreciated the comfort of couches and bagged kibble. And honestly, he had been my only source–and outlet–of affection in years. He deserved something great just for convincingly feigning excitement night after night when I came home from work.
And so I researched the documentation he would need to gain entry to another country. I took him on a hellish trip to the veterinarian for updated vaccinations. I bought a fleece-lined, airline-approved cat carrier. I knew that this was foolish. I had no idea what would really happen to him, but something would work itself out before the end. I had to have faith in that.
My going away party was a drunken blur of hugging and reminiscing. My friends and co-workers seemed to have far fonder memories of our times together than I had. As far as I could tell, I had spent the last five-or-so years waiting for something to happen. And obviously nothing ever did. Meanwhile they remembered it as a non-stop parade of wild nights and hilarious misadventures. I was sad to say goodbye, but not devastated. I had always felt like an outsider anyway. They would forget me very soon.
Finally it was THE DAY. The day I had been working toward. All of that planning. And research. And bold lying. It had been no easy project. THE DAY was today.
You know that cliche “it’s first day of the rest of your life?” Well, that’s how I felt this morning when I woke up. For so long, I had been feeling, I don’t know.. half alive. I had been literally going through the motions of being a grown up human being for as long as I could remember. But today was different. The world felt wide open. Like I could just go out there and do anything/have anything I wanted. The sun seemed brighter. The sky was little bluer. And I felt powerful.
I think that’s why I’m so puzzled about what happened next.
I took a shower and got dressed.
I finished packing up my suitcase of Toronto-appropriate clothing and super essential toiletries.
I stuffed The World Almanac into my carry-on bag, with my passport tucked inside. I coaxed the cat into his expensive carrier.
I locked up my apartment one last time.
And then I took a cab to the airport.
So now I’m here, with a boarding pass stuffed into my pocket. I can’t explain how or why I am here. This was obviously not my plan.
But I’m so excited. I’ve never been to Canada. I could fall in love there. Or write a really amazing book, like I’ve always dreamed. Maybe I could do both. I think I want to grow out my bangs. And actually garden. I’ve always planned on learning both French and the piano. I haven’t done that yet and it would be a shame to call it quits on life without accomplishing any of this.
Much like every other day of the past uncountable years of my life, I know exactly what’s going to happen if I get on that bus out to the desert. But I have no idea what could be next if I board that flight to Toronto. I like the unknowing. I’m ready for it.