It was your best friend asking you if you got your day, trying to persuade you to take some time for yourself, to meet up and go swimming. You covered your eyes with your hand and projected a picture of that onto your shadow-blackened palm. Swimming? Yes. Sure. Good idea.
The fruit bowl on the counter was also from your mother. It had a pregnant woman with full breasts and a hairy vulva scratched into the ceramic inner surface. The pear you lifted from the woman’s belly was ripe and juicy. You wiped your mouth on the sleeve of your second favourite hoodie. You’d given your favourite hoodie to your ex- —your again ex- —who was studying music in Montreal, who had read the script for the video you were now shooting and criticized it and planted some snaking, invasive vine in your gut that was choking your confidence.
Your bike’s back tire was flat so you fished four dollars worth of dimes from your change pile, two for your left pocket and the ride there, two for your right and the ride back, then walked to the station, your pockets heavy and jingling. The sound when you put your left pocket’s worth into the fare box was a chinkling cacophony.
On the subway train, you sat down beside a sleeping black man with a shining navy-blue jacket and a black hat with the Trinidad and Tobago flag embroidered into the brim. Under the seat across from you was an envelope sealed with a heart sticker. You got up, took a step across the rocking car, put your hands on the seat and got down on your knees. It was a smaller than average envelope and it was addressed to ♥David♥. You sat back down and held the note for a while. You wouldn’t open it, though, in part out of respect for whatever intimate confessions it contained, but also because your grandparents, maybe—or maybe your parents—always impressed upon you that it was a federal offence to open someone else’s mail. There was a booth that the conductor—or were they called engineers?—sat in at one end of your car. You approached it to knock and to hand him or her the envelope, but the door was open and the small room was empty. You left the envelope on the seat. Later, you imagined that the driver’s name might be David and that made you smile.
The Athletic Centre was closing as you walked up to the glass façade. Somebody your age, some trainer in training wearing white shorts, a blue golf shirt and a whistle on an orange lanyard mouthed the word, Sorry, to you as they locked the door, then stood off to the side and waited for the people who were finishing up their workouts to come to be let out. You could see the pool where the director of your program was doing laps in a bathing cap, his remarkably abundant body hair flattened against his back and forearm skin like careless shading from the pencil of a high school art student drawing Bigfoot.
Your best friend arrived and apologized for being late. You explained the situation.
Giant rocks had been installed around the shallow decorative pool at the centre of the campus. You and your best friend changed into your bathing suits behind one of these rocks. Your friend wasn’t worried that the only things that ever swam in this pool were seagulls up from the lake, wasn’t at all worried about being caught. Your hands were shaking.
The water was cold. Your friend stepped in with mock seriousness, exaggerated movements, tight lips, wide-open eyes and raised eyebrows. You laughed. When your best friend put their hands together and dove in, skimming the bottom of the shallow pool before starting a lap of front crawl, you joined out of solidarity and out of joy.
Once around the pool was enough, though. You both got out, cold and laughing, and hurried back behind the rocks where you had left your clothes. You got dressed, your right pocket jingling.
You decided to get a drink at a karaoke bar just west of Bathurst Station. Pat’s house was nearby, so you and your best friend agreed to knock on Pat’s door. Pat answered holding a putter and wearing yellow and black plaid plus fours. The pants had been Pat’s grandfather’s, Pat explained, and the putter had been Pat’s aunt’s. You could see golf balls on the carpet between Pat’s couch, a hand-me-down from Pat’s mom or dad, and Pat’s TV, which had been given to him by a neighbour who was upgrading.
“I’m teeing off tomorrow at eleven sixteen,” Pat explained.
“You’ll need to practice more than putting,” your best friend said.
You abandoned the karaoke plan. Your best friend knew a golf course in a valley just north of Pat’s place, so you all got into Pat’s Lincoln Continental, which had been Pat’s Uncle Henry’s.
You lay your head over the top of the back seat and watched out the rear window as streetlights streaked past.
Pat parked on a residential street and your best friend led you through someone’s backyard. Their porch light came on and you flinched. Your best friend reassured you that whoever was inside would just think it was a raccoon passing by. The three of you hopped the short fence then navigated down the treed slope of the ravine, Pat’s golf clubs rattling together as you descended.
There was a creek at the bottom of the hill and you all had to take off your shoes and socks to cross the stream. You and your best friend had to roll up your pants, but Pat’s plus fours were the perfect height. On the other side, once you got up the bank and crossed the path, the grass was so nice on your feet that you didn’t bother putting your shoes back on. Your best friend stayed in the creek as Pat put down the clubs near the tee box and you walked around the fairway.
Your best friend came out of the tiny river with two handfuls of balls. One was cracked and covered in algae. You grabbed it, but it slipped easily out of your hand and made you laugh. Your best friend dropped the rest onto the tee box and grabbed a club—a seven iron—out of Pat’s bag. Pat was getting a tee for your best friend when your best friend brought the club back and swung it at the ball. A large piece of sod drifted up then dropped over the edge of the raised tee box. You got the divot and put it back where your best friend’s club had torn through the surface. As you were using your foot to flatten the grass, Pat was trying to explain to your best friend about using a tee. Your best friend saw you nodding and said, “Of course you know about golf too.” Class could be a sensitive topic for your best friend.
You smiled. “My Mom was very good.” And you used to caddy for your grandfather. And you went to golf camp. And you were on your high school team for a season.
You grabbed the one iron out of Pat’s bag. Pat grabbed a driver and handed you some tees. The three of you all set up shots and drove balls down the dark fairway. When you were done the pile from the river, Pat pulled out some extra balls and you hit them into the dark, too.
The three of you were out collecting the balls when a golf cart rounded a bend by the green and its headlights swept past you. You ran for your shoes by the tee box, the cart gaining on you. You saw Pat gather the clubs into the golf bag then run towards the stream.
It felt like the golf cart was right behind you as you ran up the hill towards the tee box, grabbed your shoes and headed down the hill, across the path and down the bank of the little river. You didn’t have time to roll them up, so your pant legs got wet and this was maybe what distracted you, prevented you from noticing that you were headed towards the outside curve of a bend in the stream where the water was deeper and the bank was a steep, eroded five feet tall and obscured by hanging, delicate tree roots. When you noticed, you panicked and turned around to see the golf cart on the path beside the river. You noticed that one of people in the cart had a flashlight that they were using to sweep the river so you took off your glasses and held them above your head with one hand and held your shoes above your head with the other hand and you submerged yourself in the water. At first you left your glasses and your shoes above the water, but you realized that if the people in the golf cart saw your shoes and your glasses they would see you, so you pulled them under too.
You counted to twenty before you cautiously emerged, nose and mouth first. Without your glasses, the moon was a bright blur. Your ears drained of water as you allowed your head upright. The golf cart’s engine, distant now, buzzed more quietly than the sound of the water running its gentle course. You put your glasses on and looked for the cart in the distance, but saw no one, not even your friends.
Your shirt was heavy. Water drained from the toe of your shoe. You slipped as you climbed the muddy bank and you went back into the water to clean your pants.
You put your wet shoes on because you didn’t want to hurt your feet on your climb out of the ravine. Each step landed with a squelching squish and your pants’ wet denim was rubbing you uncomfortably.
The fence you had hopped to get into the ravine seemed higher from this side, so you walked along it, hoping to find some easier way over when you discovered a gate. It opened with a squeak and you flinched. You were careful to close and latch the gate before you walked through the back yard. This time when the motion-sensor light went on, you scurried to the edge of the yard and rushed along the perimeter.
Your best friend and Pat were waiting by Pat’s car. You were soaked. Your best friend laughed. Pat seemed more sympathetic. You explained what happened.
Because your bathing suit was still wet, you sat in the back seat naked and shivering under your towel as Pat drove you home.
You carried your wet pile of clothes through your front door and into the apartment. Your roommates were asleep, most likely, or maybe still out. You hung your pants and shirt over the curtain rod and by the time you were finished brushing your teeth, small, brownish pools were forming on the edge of the tub below the lowest points of fabric.
That night you dreamed you were in some finished basement using twenty homemade mallets to euthanize twenty golden retrievers with the help of a person you knew you were married to. The process was easier than you imagined, easier than it should have been. When you woke you felt sad. Who was this dream person? Then you were upset, mostly because you realized you should be.
Not that you had long to be upset. You were meeting people at ten at another friend’s parents’ place and you had to get your gear and yourself there. That shooting day you drank too much coffee and you felt more behind than usual, which maybe wasn’t annoying anybody, but you felt like it was, so when you lost the tiny change purse you used as a wallet for everything but your change, you didn’t even bother looking for it and you tried not to think about it, but when Tiffany, this girl in your class who was your producer on this project, came up to you with this pink and worn thing and was like, “Chad found this in the bathroom,” you took it and you barely choked out, “That’s mine,” and had to forget about saying, Thank you, because you would have started to cry.
Still, that night before you collapsed into bed, you called your best friend and told them, “Thank you for last night.” And when your best friend tried to brush off the compliment and started telling you about Pat’s day of golf, you said, “No, seriously, I appreciate it. That was just what I needed.”
Toronto, ON, October 2015
Story: Lee Sheppard
Note: This is part one of at least two stories. Couldn't get all of Rhya's emojis into this one story.