When I was eight my mom took me to New York City as a birthday present. For some reason, as a young girl, it was my dream to live there. Something about the lights and the noise seemed comforting at the time, but now when I look back I realize it wasn’t all that. It’s simply a city. A city with people who are going through the motions just like I am every single day. As a child I didn’t notice it, I thought everyone grew up eventually and kinda just figured it out. Almost like you turn a certain age and then someone hands you a book with instructions and says “here you go kid. Do this and you’ll be fine”. Turns out there’s no book of instructions after all, or at least I haven’t gotten mine yet.
Although the trip wasn’t the most memorable thing, I do remember one thing better than the rest. We were walking down Broadway and before crossing the street my mother turned to me and said “don’t let go of my hand sweetie, you’ll get lost with all these people”. So I held her hand tight and continued walking. After a few minutes of walking and seeing some obscure looking people in New York City, I spotted a cat. It was a grey cat, a little on the chunkier side and it had the most magnificent eyes I’ve ever seen. One blue and one green staring right back at me. So like any seven year old I ran towards it as fast as I could, pushing through the crowd of people ahead of me. I remember my mom screaming my name, but I didnt care. I followed the cat into an alleyway where it disappeared. Before I could return to my mother in disappointment a man sitting against a dirty wall spotted me.
“Hey kid” He said smiling, “Do you have any change?” I knew he was homeless but before this I’d never actually seen a homeless man in person. I was intrigued. “No sir, I’m sorry” I said shyly. Before I could turn away I spotted a canvas beside him with a few lines of paint on it. “What are you painting?” I said as I began walking closer. He looked at his own canvas and then back at me. “I don’t know yet, I haven’t figured it out yet” he said laughing. “Do you have any ideas for me?” I was confused by his response because I didn’t understand how you could start a painting without any idea of what it might be. I looked at him seriously and said “Why would you put paint on it, if you don’t know what you want it to be?” He laughed at me followed by a gentle cough. “Sometimes you have to start things without knowing what the final product will be. You can’t just sit there and wait for it. You gotta just do it, and figure it out along the way.” I didn’t understand how that was possible at the time, but I found myself thinking about the conversation many years later.
“Parker, are you even listening to me?” I snapped into reality and looked around remembering that I was at lunch with my friend. She looked at me waiting for an answer as she had a sip of her lemonade.
“Of course I am.” I stated blankly.
“You worry me when you look like that. Where does your mind even go?” She continued taking sips of her lemonade with a concerned look on her face. Coming up with the only excuse I could think of, I said “I was thinking about tonight, that’s all.”
My best friend Cecilia recently started seeing some guy and she invited me to go on a double date with them and one of his friends. It was an unofficial double date that truthfully I could care less about going to, but I promised her I’d go and maybe it would be nice to take a night off of work for once.
Cecilia smiled at me. “Are you nervous about tonight? You really shouldn’t worry about it, his friend seemed nice when I met him last month”
“It’s not that I’m nervous, you just know how I feel about dating.”
Cecilia sighed and looked at me intensely. “It’s been almost a year since Rob and you broke up, maybe it’s time to start seeing what else is out there. They can’t all be as bad as he was. Besides, that’s the whole reason we moved out here. We wanted to get away from all of it. Your mom, Rob and every other shitty human being is way behind us now.”
I laughed softly and smiled at her. My beautiful best friend Cecilia, what would I have done without her. Although she lacks common sense sometimes, she makes up for it with her big heart. The summer after we graduated we decided to leave our homes in Toronto. We always hated it there, and were thrilled when we finally could afford to leave it. When we were 14 we decided to start saving money together so that we could go to Europe after we graduated. For a long time it felt like that was our only hope at happiness, but once senior year strolled around and our lives both got intensely even more shittier, we decided to use the money and move to Bridgeton Bay. It was small and it rained a lot, but we loved it. We found a small place near the water, and thankfully our neighbour Rick offered us a job at his ice cream shop. Rick and his wife have owned the shop for over 40 years and when his wife passed away it hit him hard. After she passed we found ourselves spending more time with Rick. We slowly became good friends with him, and eventually he became family to us. Me and Cecilia both never knew our fathers, and for some reason we finally felt that we had a fragment of one. He looks out for us, and I can’t even count how many times he has helped us with our rent when we were short on cash.
Cecilia looked at me waiting for a response, but I wasn’t sure how to get out of this one. “I don’t know if Rick will let me take the night off anyways, I told him I’d show him how Instagram works.” I shrugged as I picked at my fingernails.
“I saw him this morning and he said it’s fine. He told me he actually thinks it would be a good idea for you to get out and have some fun.” Cecilia smiled brightly at me.
“You’re not going to let me get out of this are you?”
“Absolutely not.” Cecilia laughed. “Now let’s pay the bill and go home, I want to have extra time to get ready.”
“Where are we even meeting them?” I questioned.
“I told them to meet us at Dandies.”
“Dandies? I didn’t realize we were going to a bar.” I said a bit in surprise.
“Well technically we are only going to be there for a bit, and then we’ll go to this party that Noah said he knows of.”
I groaned at the word party. “A party? We couldn’t like take a walk to the docks or something? You know something with less people.”
“It’s more of a small gathering apparently. Just him and a few guys from his band… plus like 20.”
I laughed a bit as I picked up my coat and began walking out the restaurant beside Cecilia. We hopped onto our bikes and began riding them towards home. It was a windy day but surprisingly no rain. The ride home is a short ride through town and then over the bridge. Our house was on the left after the bridge, right against the water. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a beachy area, but more of a cottage-like town surrounded by water. The beaches here are a bit more rocky, and definitely colder but I don’t mind it much. It’s quiet here when you want it to be.
As we passed over the bridge I looked over the side and into the water remembering our very night in town. We had almost no furniture in the house but we managed to slide one of our mattresses into our living room so we would at least have a bed for the night. Cecilia and played games all night until we decided it was time to turn in. Before I could get settled into bed Cecilia turned towards me looking upset.
“We should check out the beach tomorrow!” i said with excitement.
“Yeah i guess we could do that” Cecilia said as she sighs, indicating something was on her mind.
“What’s wrong?” I asked concerned
“Nothing, I just feel like a horrible friend.”
I laughed slightly and looked at her. “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. You’ve been the greatest friend. You know that right?”
“It’s just, I knew Rob was hurting you and I didnt do anything. I just let it happen. I’m so sorry Parker, I should have been there for you. I was too busy dealing with my mom and I just forgot to check in on you.” A tear slipped from her eye.
“That wasn’t your fault. I was the one who didn’t realize how horribly he was treating me. Well, I knew but I guess I couldn’t admit it to myself at the time. But none of that was your fault, and you had so much going on. Your mom was your priority at the time, and I completely understood that. Cecilia you helped me move away from all that bullshit, and there’s no way I would have done that without you. And who cares about Rob, I never have to see him again. I have you to thank for that.” I hugged her tightly and smiled before closing my eyes and letting myself fall asleep.
After our first night we decided to both move on and start fresh from our past. Cecilia’s mom passed away from cancer months before, and after I finally left Rob we both knew it was time to leave. My mom didnt notice I left until a week later. She called me and demanded I came home but I defied her entirely. I could hear how high she was in her voice when she called and I knew I made the right choice of staying in Bridgeton with Cecilia. My mom cried and screamed about how much she loved me, but I knew she didn’t mean it. She stopped loving me when I was 11, or at least I stopped feeling like she loved me. She loved the drugs more, and she made that clear to me when she started using all our money to buy it. I would cry to her and tell her how hungry I was, or how cold I was because she wouldn’t pay the heating bill, but she didn’t care. One night I left the house hoping to find some food on the streets. I walked for hours until a woman pulled her car to the side of the road and stopped me. She asked me if I needed a ride home, but I told her I didn’t have a home anymore. She helped me get into her car and she wrapped a coat around my shoulders. I sat silently in her car as she drove me to her own home.
As she continued driving she looked at me and said “You can stay here for tonight if you’d like, I have an extra bed and I even have extra takeout food if you want to join us for dinner.”
I turned my head to look at the backseat where I saw a bag of chinese food sitting nicely. “I like chinese food.” I said with a slight smile.
“Oh good! My daughter Cecilia loves it, we basically have it every week.” She said as she laughed.