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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 12 page 05


The other option Annie was weighing was to buy a house, which would be an especial prize because back in Shanghai nobody lives in houses anymore, everybody is in buildings. Only farmers in the countryside can still have a house. Annie’s problem was that all her yuan converted into dollars wouldn’t go particularly far in Toronto’s perpetually hot real estate market. So she would have to take on debt and in the meantime she would still have to find a source of income. Thru the Chinese grapevine she had an offer of what sounded like a labcoat factory job, some sort of packaging and quality control job for a cosmetics firm in the Niagara area, but that was another decision she was holding off on. All her options pulled in different directions.

I was not keen on the possibility of Annie moving off to Niagara, leaving me in the dust, so to speak, but I was not about to pipe up with an alternative idea. You can have sexually interesting and intense times and have real affection for each other but at the same time sense that living together would be a disaster. Especially with the age difference. No matter how agreeable and considerate the relationship is at first.

The tracks curved and emerged into broad daylight to cross the Avenue Road overpass. We gazed south to a hazy view of Queen’s Park. The afternoon auto traffic approached and passed under us. Turning to look north we watched the traffic climbing the hill toward the clocktower of Upper Canada College.

We continued east, once again in a tree-lined corridor with occasional glimpses into leafy back yards and workshops on small sidestreets. White butterflies flitted before us. They were so pale and slight that maybe I should call them moths. The Italianate tower of Summerhill liquor store came into view, which indicated Yonge Street ahead. It’s a liquor store now but historically the CPR put the building up as its North Toronto passenger station, and I understand it was a snazzy place to catch a train in the 1920s. From our perspective the tower poking over the trees seemed hopelessly deracinated, as if some eccentric had erected a scaled-down imitation of the Venetian campanile of San Marcos here in the North American wilderness.

Past Yonge, the railway right-of-way was wider and was flanked mostly by concrete block walls covered with graffiti. The gravel road had disappeared so we slogged along the tracks, a chore because the ties seemed to be deliberately spaced in such a way as to prevent humans from striding smoothly from tie to tie. We encountered some fellow humans — finally! — an Eastern European family posing for a group photo on the tracks. I thought Annie seemed a bit dispirited. It was time for a change of scene.

Ahead of us the railroad crossed another trestle — from here the tracks would pass over the Moore Park Ravine, through Rosedale, across the Don Valley, into Scarboro, clear out of the city. All the way to the Pacific, you may as well say. Instead, we went down a plank stairway that led into the ravine.