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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 19 page 20

memoir

Strong Girl

by Emma Ferguson Carriere

When I was born, my father had already passed away. As a child, I was always told how strong I was, but growing up without a father was all I knew. I didn't feel like I was stronger than the average child, I thought I was an average child. When I was seven and my mother passed away, I don’t think I had a complete grasp on what happened, but I didn't cry at the funeral — I never cried at all until recently. I figured that my emotions had formed a callus. I felt like nothing could affect my emotional or mental state. I thought that I could be the cornerstone of every situation, the one who stays unaffected.

The alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. Averee and I both instantly regretted the decision to leave so early in the morning. Hamilton was 2 hours away and we planned on staying the whole day with Averee’s old friend from work, Bailey, at his college, and we would return that night. Averee jumped out of bed and went to the washroom. I, on the other hand, didn't move. By the time she returned it was close to 5 and I figured that if I didn't move soon I’d have to face the wrath of Averee, since it had been my idea to stay out late the night before. I slid out of bed and quickly washed my face and brushed my teeth before throwing on jeans and a sweater. I threw my hair up in a ponytail and pulled a hat over my unwashed hair. I had no one to impress and had never met this guy we were visiting. It was too early in the morning to care what anyone thought of my looks. We crept downstairs and piled into my car. It was cold, wet and still pitch black outside. Averee had a faltering look, sometimes she sank into her thoughts. We both knew that the implicit meaning behind this visit was for Averee to close things off with her ex-boyfriend Tris at the same college. She had spent the summer dodging his texts. Anyway the trip was quick after we ate and began to wake up. By the time we reached Oakville, I was blaring music and Averee was screeching out the lyrics as loud as she could.

By 7 o'clock, we were pulling into the parking lot, we called Bailey to come down and let us past the front desk of the residence. As soon as Averee sees him, her eyes light up. We were reaching the age that weakens friendships. Time starts to go by faster, the workload piles up, and people move away. You try to keep in touch but gradually lunch every day turns into lunch when you aren’t busy in the library, constant texts diminish and eventually you haven’t talked in weeks, you text on birthdays and holidays and people that used to be the biggest part of your world are now just the past. Friendship takes a lot of work and college shows you who really cares enough to put that work in for you. Averee was putting in that work for Bailey.

We had no set plans for the day: hang out, talk, eventually head out to Six Nations reserve and maybe watch the Chiefs lacrosse game. But first, everyone was too tired. Averee and I crawled into Bailey’s bed and took a quick nap while he lay down on the rug at the foot of the bed. Nothing started to pan out until about 10 a.m. When we woke up we thought a hike might wake us up and help us get the day started. We all got in my car and headed out to the giant Albion Waterfalls and searched for the start of the trail. It was clearly a high trafficked area for the youth of Hamilton by the state of the environment: beer bottles and fireworks littered the ground on both sides of the falls. To get close to the water, we had to slip and skid down the side of a steep clay cliff, clinging to the tree roots growing out sideways.

The trek and the time spent playing by the water drained the energy we had acquired from our catnap. We dragged ourselves back to the car and agreed on lunch. Averee and Bailey were joking and catching up, including me in the conversation when possible. Lunch was quick. We pulled into the Pita Pit parking lot and ran inside to order, he paid for everyone.

Back in the dorm room, exhausted again, we lay down again. I curled up on the bed under the covers and Averee plugged her phone in and sat on the floor to use it. Bailey was moving around from room to room in the dorm cleaning up various messes he had left. I started getting sleepier. Averee didn't have any blankets or pillows, so I assumed she would crawl into the bed beside me. Ten minutes later, Bailey came back into the room. He sat on the edge of the bed. I was facing the window with my back to him. The sky was dark gray and I could hear the wind blowing outside. I was looking at the desk below the window, it was cluttered with knick-knacks and junk. I felt the bed shift and a body slowly lowered down next to me.

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