The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

Retire early, be passionate, don't worry, die poor

Friday, February 11, 2011

Farm Boy in the City

It all began once upon a generation when I was young and not merely youthful, before I embarked on what Jordan and I referred to as "The One Way Ticket into the Unknown."

At the time, I was a 19-year-old farm boy attending York University in Toronto and discovering books, ideas, freedom, sex...in short, everything a young man can inhale in one deep breath, at every breath, all the time and without a care.

Playing the role of a serious philosophy student, with a new haircut

In my second year, I switched from Sociology to Philosophy. I also moved into a third-floor studio apartment on Bathurst Street with Yui, a Japanese foreign student.

The apartment had a porch facing the backyard and was furnished with a mattress on the floor, a small desk, three chairs and a kitchen table where I kept my fabulously heavy Underwood typewriter and a cassette player. I couldn't be bothered with the complications of furniture and Yui was delighted with the contrast with her parents' lavish home in Japan. Yui also rented a dorm room on campus in case her family decided to visit and where we stayed occasionally.

I first saw Yui one afternoon at the Absinthe Pub where I was having a draft and reading "A Moveable Feast." It was a good place to read in the afternoon, especially when the sun shone through the large glass windows. I had gotten into the habit of stopping in for a beer on my way to the Winters College dorm. Normally, nobody I knew came here at this time, and I could sit alone enjoying the pub atmosphere all to myself.

As I read, a burst of laughter from a nearby table broke my concentration. I glanced over and I caught the eye of an Asian girl. Her pearl-shaped face was framed in jet black hair that reminded me of Cleopatra. We held each other’s eyes for a moment until she looked away and turned her attention to her friends.

The pub atmosphere melted into a mute backdrop for me as we stole looks at one another.

Then, she stood up from the crowded table, walked past me and out the door without so much as a glance in my direction. I continued reading, but Hemingway's words had lost their magic. I swallowed my loss, downed the beer and was about to leave when she came through the door and nearly brushed my table.

For a brief moment I studied her graceful body dressed in jeans, white T-shirt, short black leather jacket and a thin red scarf. As she pulled her chair, she shot me a meaningful look, quickly dropped her eyes to the table and raised them again. I looked down and saw the small folded note she had discreetly dropped on my table.

I unfolded it and read, "You can look at me as much as you like, but please smile." The next day she was there at the same time, alone.

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