My Terrible Friend

The Brooklyn Blacks (formerly the Parkdale Blacks) were in Toronto for a bit, so us Danforth Quins joined them for pho at Golden Turtle. It had been another lifetime, pre-stability (or something close to it), since I’d experienced Ossington or Parkdale at night.

Walking west on Queen, we passed by a businessman and his date, likely going someplace much more expensive for dinner. We discussed newer, taller, less affordable buildings, and an old Portuguese chicken joint where a friend used to have shows.

 “What was that alley where all those parties used to be?” I asked.

It was the Milky Way. We all used to get spaced out there, before we knew one another. Today, it functions as a community garden.

We rolled our eyes at the tacky “Vegandale” brandings that I’d only seen photos of on @parkdalelife’s Instagram. Those restaurants were packed.

The Coffee Time at Queen and O’Hara used to have an after-hours take out window. It’s since been made over, and now it closes at 11pm.

I thought about you when we walked by the Cadillac Lounge. Just for a moment.

Parkdale was where I found you. More than a decade ago, I jumped into a cab with two guys I barely knew after the lights came on at Lee’s Palace. I can’t remember much, except for the dark apartment and the queer roommates, and a glow that was coming either from a TV screen or a streetlight through the window.

Back then, a streetlight shone through the window of my Annex bedroom. It seemed like a ghost or a flying saucer and it gave me the creeps.

You and me, we’d hop around to bars that don’t exist anymore, if they ever did at all; The Beaconsfield, The Social, White Orchid, Terenga, Press Club, Crooked Star and the notorious Club 56. Less so at The Drake, The Boat, The Rhino, Sweaty Betty’s and what Sneaky Dee’s used to be. Sometimes a warehouse or a house party. The playground in Kensington Market or a stranger’s apartment after last call.

Thursdays became Saturdays and Wednesdays Fridays. From time to time, weekdays were no longer work days.

The music was better with you. Nelly Furtado, Akon, Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and, of course, Britney, Bitch! We would get sweaty together on dank dance floors, chunky and sticky, but still fun. You’d tag along to my shoddy DJ sets, whether I was cuing CDs for a crowd, or punching in numbers at the jukebox at my local.

Amnesia was my local, and most of the nights there were actually unforgettable. Some were downright wholesome. Those were the nights you weren’t around.

You were a friend of friends and you introduced me to new ones, too. The rag-tag gang at the Dundas and Ossington apartment where the pre-game often turned into the end-game. The strangers-turned-BFFs for the night, whom I’d add to Facebook and forget in the morning.

Some of our best times were at the Paris to my Britney’s King and Dufferin apartment. You’d be by our sides, among the boxes of cosmetic powders, the ashtray full of lip gloss-dewed cigarette butts, and the Lindsay Lohan CD. You’d listen in as she dressed me up and did my makeup, while I tried to give her advice about all of the heartbreakers in her life.

Paris and Britney lost touch. She lost touch with you a couple of years before I did. Eventually, she and I lost touch. I’ve learned to miss her less.

You were frequently at the old Bathurst and Dupont apartment, the one above the pet food store. Those nights, you and me and my boyfriend were inseparable. In September of 2006, there was a kitten in the storefront window. The next day was my boyfriend’s birthday, and we asked, “How much is that kitty in the window?”

Today, the pet food store is a tattoo shop. Today, that boyfriend is my husband and that kitten is 12 years old, all giant paws and fluffy body, snoring in our Danforth apartment.

You’ve never seen this Greektown apartment. You never will.

Taking the subway under the Bloor Viaduct was a new fear when we moved here. I would imagine the bridge collapsing, and the rush hour east-west commuters sacrificed to the traffic below, on the Don Valley Parkway. But I’m not afraid anymore. I’m not sure if it’s because my anxiety is properly medicated, or because I’ve been across it almost every day for the past five years. Maybe it’s a combination of both.

Biking across the Viaduct was scary, at first. The suicide crisis hotline signs were my new streetlights, haunting me as I cycled through. Eventually, the signs didn’t bother me anymore.  They just kind of disappeared. Kind of like you.

I’m sure you can be found out here. But I doubt I’ll run into you.

One of my last run-ins with you was actually in Brooklyn. It was long before the Brooklyn Blacks were even the Parkdale Blacks. We were on Bedford, Brooklyn’s Ossington, and the night was ours. Nowadays, when I’m in Brooklyn, you can find me with friends, exploring museums or admiring the lights of Manhattan across the East River. Bodegas are my new bars, alleyways and warehouses, full of fringe seltzer flavours and not-available-in-Canada chips and Oreos and M&M’s.

The last time I was in New York, I had to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to get from one museum to another. I did not shake.

The Bloor Viaduct isn’t as iconic as the Brooklyn Bridge, and I’ve walked across both several times. The Viaduct, in a way, bridges my past with you and my present without you. Though I’m afraid of heights, I learned to trust the metal structures that guarded me from the Parkway below.

I took a walk across the Bloor Viaduct not long ago. The weather was mild, the sun was setting and the plants were in bloom. I took a pic of the neon lilac-lit Luminous Veil for the ‘gram. Ashlee Simpson was playing in my earbuds, a ghost of my west-end years, a ghost of you. I didn’t think of you then.