I like being still. Quiet. Just being present to the moment. It’s taken me years to learn this. I think of what it might have given me during the worst of those years. When there was no quiet, even in solitude. In there you were forced to listen. Not because you chose to, you had to. Self-preservation is at the forefront of your mind. I sit here with my eyes closed and legs folded, doing my best to still my mind, to not let it wander. I’m present. I can hear the wailing of a siren in the distance. The low hum of traffic punctuated by the noise of their horns. And, if I strain a bit harder, the sound of air ducts emptying their lungs into a night sky.
Is it dark out there? The sun was golden, it was on its way down as I climbed the stairs to the loft I now sit in. I can smell traces of a meal someone has eaten from a nearby kitchen. It’s subtle, though I’m picking rice and fish from the floor below me. How long have I been here? My body suggests at least two hours. There’s an ache in my lower back, a dull pain in my right calf, both of which are related. Their story tugs at my mind, at my mouth, to tell it. To say it out loud for others to hear, to know. I refuse to give into it. I breath deep, deeper still until I can feel the bottom of my diaphragm expanding, forcing my chest up and outward. I follow it with an equally slow exhalation, one that feels good, my chest retreats into itself as it deflates.
Still, those thoughts won’t leave me. I remember how it happened. Of being dragged down a hallway, of losing fingernails as I clawed at the walls, for chairs, for anything to slow my progress. Their laughter as they did that. Stop Kat. Let it go. It’s done. Is it though?
Have you ever been betrayed? Not just lied to over some sort of affair or some stolen possession. I’m talking about a loss of time. A loss of you. Something permanent, that you’ll never get back, no matter how hard you try. The kind of betrayal that becomes imprinted on your skin, that you carry with you wherever you go. Visible scars that those who know you, can’t help but see. Not many know me.
I breathe again, though hold it this time, to the point of bursting, forgetting. I can hear voices now. A quiet conversation next door. My time is up. This room is someone else’s. And that’s okay. I let the air rush out of my lungs. I open my eyes, slowly. My vision is cloudy, a haze as it adjusts to new surroundings. The room is a dark one. A dojo with flat white mats and dark timber, a gentle light that hints at other spaces beyond its closed walls. Two light taps on the door, call time. I unfold my legs, stretch to reach my toes, then bring my hands behind me and anchor them to arch my back. Muscles engage. I’m on my feet, hands outstretched above my head, then I let them fall to my sides. I’m all the better for it.
I leave the room, pay for it and stand in front of an oversized window overlooking Queen St West and Centre Island in the middle of the lake to its left. It’s dark, though Toronto’s city lights are bright. I watch traffic building on the Gardiner Expressway and disappear in a line of bright red towards Etobicoke. The same amount of cars pour into the city under a white glow. I don’t know how I feel about this place. For so long it was all I knew. That’s a lie, one corner of it was all I knew. The institutional side of it. One learns to hate it because it’s all on your doorstep. You can sense it, almost hear and taste it all happening outside those walls, though a lock and an absent key prevent you from doing anything. Am I bitter? Do I sound it? Well, it was a long time ago.
But you’re here, aren’t you? Ready and able to add to the story that they started. Haven’t you tried hard to move on? In so many ways. Let’s just close the book on it, get it done. That way you might be able to manufacture some semblance of a future.
I paid for my session and left. I avoided the reflection of my face in the mirrored lift as I descended. It turns ugly you see. I’ve caught myself staring at it before with these patterns of thought in my head. It’s not pretty. I pull on my leather jacket, helmet and strap my bag to my back. In seconds, I’m moving, awash with the night air as I weave in and out of traffic on my bike. The roar of its engine soothes me, the dashboard glows between my arms. I have a full tank of gas. Good sense would have me heading north, a one way trip into exile and serenity, though I’ve done that already. Stay the course Kat, there’s no turning back now. Soon, they’ll know you’re coming.
The Security – out in March 2020.