So, I went to a party and I’m not drinking and I’m not smoking. I figured I could do a couple of hours without feeling too, well, grown up and so, I decided to arrive around 11. Yeah, I’m a night owl. Wasn’t too long ago, I wouldn’t go anywhere before 11, bitches; so, deal with it. (I am no where near as cool as that makes me sound. Seriously. I’m just a night owl.)
Anyway, I take the TTC and walk into this neighbourhood in North York. It’s like walking onto another planet, for me. No buses dare trundle along these streets. Lots of manicured lawns. The more than occasional Big Renovated House. Almost no traffic on these roads at 11 pm. The sidewalk inexplicably dries up and even more inexplicably returns. It’s empty. Deserted. Most houses dark. Sheesh. I feel safer downtown.
And as I am two streets in, there are noises, uh, I wanna say about a block behind me. At first, I rankle a little but refuse to look back because to do so would admit fear or apprehension – so, if it is some creepy guy, he might be emboldened. Dudes, I have read How to Stay Safe for Night Owls. Rule 1? Don’t walk on quiet streets alone at night. Jeepers.
So, now, I am that chick in a horror film. Unbeknownst to me, scary music has started to creep around the edges of my audience’s hearing, the camera angles become a little skewed and focused on the determination on my face, with some breaks to a shadowy figure or worse an apparently empty street behind. I am not that Vacuous Monster-Fodder unaware of her possible fate. Oh no. I am the Independent and Plucky One, guilty of thinking she can handle herself. We all have our tragic flaws.
Noises increase. There’s more than one person behind me which can be good and bad news. Noises increase. I recognize the sound of a woman’s voice and I relax completely. As I listen, I am aware that the woman is talking patiently. She could only be talking to a, I wanna say, six or seven year old with lots of opinions. So a child.
Moments later, I feel a little swarmed. First passing me is a man in a dark suit and wide brimmed hat, hands gripping (almost white knuckling) the stroller of a sleeping two or three year old in front of him. His face resigned. He does not seem happy. Next another stroller; this child is wee. Fresh, tiny. But I only get a glance in the dark.
The woman’s voice has so entered the background noise of my head that I don’t recognize that she is talking to me until her hand and head positions make me realize she made a greeting. She wears glasses, has an almost child-like round face. Here head is kerchief-ed but I can see a few curls peeking through at her forehead. A second or two too late, I nod and acknowledge and say hello. She is relieved. I am not sure why.
She pushes the stroller with the wee baby. She wears a patterned blouse and long skirt. Running shoes. Beside her walks that child I knew had to be there in full body pj’s, tossled hair, a stuffy animal of some description in her right hand. She asks questions. My guess is she asks them only to hear her mother talk. They are walking because this child will not sleep, it dawns on me. An interesting strategy. At this point in my parenting journey, I would highly recommend children’s Gravol for their predicament but that would be drugging your child and unethical. So, I never wrote that. You never saw it.
They pull away from me fairly quickly, matching the pace of the man’s deliberate step. I get to my street, turn right, and am relieved to see a bunch of cars still there. As is usual with this crowd, there is someone in their car. Lights are on, though I don’t hear anything. I dutifully do not look inside.
I get to the house and walk in.
I go from this desolate, quiet, deep blue to a vibrant, golden atmosphere, full of chatter and bright, happy faces. There is an array of munchies, tons of bottles of booze, lights dancing on the ceiling. The room is warm and engaging but for the moment (for whatever reason), has lost its urban country feel and just seems urban, welcoming, convivial. My friend ND puts on a good party. I hug and am hugged. Thoroughly content, my only problem is what to drink, something I never used to ponder. I choose water from this cool jug. Not sure where to land, I see a group of women who do not have cups in front of them and I go settle. I have a great conversation with JC about women and stress and being alone and drinking a fuck ton every day.
I talk to various lovely peeps. I recognize that I am probably using too intricate a vocabulary and too dry a delivery for the noise level and the alcohol because none of my jokes are landing. I choose to smile and nod a lot instead and answer questions about how I am doing (with the not smoking, not drinking thing). Not long after I arrive, though, I feel the party losing focus and am thinking about leaving when the host starts the group sing thing.
This is one of the parts of this crowd that I love that most. They adore singing. They raise their voices together. It’s unlike any other group of folks I know. I sing with them a bit but never take the microphone. Not because I am worried about my voice (I can carry a tune) but because I do not and have never been able to remember lyrics unless I practice and practice. There are some lovely voices in the room. And some crazy antics that would take me too long to describe here but, surely, have to make it into my next play.
Before I know it, it’s 12:30. I want to catch the last train from York Mills because, right at that moment, I am pretty sure my idea of hell would be the Vomit Comet. I decide to leave. I hug and am hugged. I step out into the quiet blue. I am walking out and I realize the car I thought was occupied when I arrived, has merely left his lights on. I go back to tell them and meet a wave, almost literally, of folks leaving, including the woman whose car it is.
I say good-bye again and walk out, doggedly, toward the lights, the traffic, and civilization, wondering how people live like this. Two streets out, I am picked up by a party goer, who drops me at Wilson and Bathurst. There are lights and traffic and lots of people on the streets. I notice a sweet text from one of the party goers (whom I adore) giving me props for quitting the things. I answer with hearts. The bus comes smartly. I am home in half an hour. Amazing.
There are tons of people on my street when I come up from the subway. The vibe is a little off, though. A couple is having a loud enough fight across the road, the man being so belligerent that I stop and pretend to check my phone until I see a couple of guys intervene, jollying up the man. I move on.
There is a lot of traffic because the bars are starting to let out and because people are still cruising the streets. A group of very drunk early twenty-somethings pass, their voices echoing on the buildings like the sounds of bedlam. But they are happy. There are a lot of people getting food. Even the Golden Griddle (never go there) looks like it’s getting business.
I think back on the quiet streets of North York. I am sure they wonder how I could live like this.
I go home and am told to go bed by my daughter who wants to chat with her friends online. It’s 1:30 am. I do not argue. She will be 18 in mere days. I have done what I have done raising her. I am proud of her. Bursting. I go to bed.
Waking up in the morning is still tough for whatever reason. I used to feel clearer when I woke up hung over. My body seems unaccustomed to so much sleep and either desires more or is a bit pissed off with me. Not sure which.
However, waking up in the morning, I remember the whole night and can record some of its details for you. Something I haven’t been able to do in some time. It’s a good thing.