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Nancy and I became neighbors when I moved to Prince Arthur Avenue for my undergraduate study at the University of Toronto in 2010. When I first met Nancy in the hallway of my new apartment building, she was around seventy-five years old with short grey hair. She wore a light blue jacket and greeted me with a calm and soft voice: “Hello, my name is Nancy. I live in Apartment 404. You look new here. Where do you live?”
“Hi Nancy, my name is Ling. I live in Apartment 401. I just moved here for my undergrad study at U of T,” I said.
“Oh, that’s great. I used to work there as a librarian. They were a good employer. I’m retired now,” Nancy said with a smile.
“It’s good to know that you worked there. Did you study there too?” I asked with images of stressful student life in mind.
“Did I study there?” Nancy kept her quiet tone even when she was questioning.
“Yeah. I was just wondering. I’m a bit nervous about what student life will be like.”
“No, I actually came from B.C. Don’t worry, you’ll do fine. It’s a good school,” Nancy encouraged me with an affirmative smile.
“Thank you. We’ll probably see each other often in this hallway,” I said with a sense of relief.
We both laughed. Nancy left, holding a small blue handbag and a concert ticket. Her pace was so soft that I could barely tell she was walking by.
After our first conversation, I was impressed by her tranquil manner and caring personality.
From then on, we saw each other at least three times a week. We chatted about weekend activities, predicted the weather, and held elevator doors for each other. I noticed that Nancy was always on her own, always wearing the same blue jacket that I saw on the first day we met. However, she appeared to enjoy her freedom and independence.
One day during my first semester, when I was rushing to school with my disorganized knapsack in the morning, Nancy walked by placidly, holding her bag and a concert ticket. “I’m going to a Mozart concert at the Conservatory,” she said, showing me the flyer for the event.
“Looks interesting. I hope you enjoy it.” I took a quick glance and ran off to school, leaving Nancy behind.
When I returned home with a huge bag of groceries that night, I met Nancy carrying a Swiss Chalet takeout. “I don’t really want to cook, so I ordered chicken dinner. The portion looks big,” she said with some excitement. “There will be new activities this weekend at our community centre.” She handed me a new flyer.
“Wow. There is a variety, from BBQ to golf lessons to book club. Unfortunately, I have to study this weekend. My midterm is next week,” I said apologetically. “Are you going to some of these events?”
“Oh yes. I’ve been to many concerts. I’ll definitely check out some of these events over the weekend. When you have time, come and join us. It would be good for you to meet new people,” she nodded with her familiar smile.