It was the news that I received from my editor-in-chief Paul that got me on the 2pm train from Windsor to Toronto. It came right out of the blue. It has been so long since I’ve seen her, but it felt just like yesterday since our last conservation. Now, I’m rapidly approaching my fifties. For a while, I thought walking out of her house was the best decision I ever made in my life. The “Greatest Breakup of All Time,” I would dub it. But life out West has never been easy. Between switching jobs across countless cities and spending my nights making love at the local bar, I’ve never found the happiness I had with Kelly.
We used to do almost everything together, like having a picnic in a Scarborough park, watching the latest movies at the local theatre, helping me study for exams, and even hitting the bar together! Ever since I’ve met her after my father’s death, Kelly was the woman that helped me put a smile back on my face. It was so goddamn foolish of me for wanting to live with another girl and move to BC. I eventually regretted leaving her in the first place. All the proud anger and rage I hurled at her had now come back to haunt me. I’ve been drowning in the ocean of regrets for the last twenty years. I’d do anything to relive those fifteen happiest years of my life. I’ve been contemplating reuniting with her and making up for all the wrong I did. But everything I’d pick up the phone, I would always end up losing my courage and back out like a coward. I kept asking myself whether she would still be mad at me. I wonder if she would forgive me for all the insults I yelled in front of her face. Either way, when I learned she was hospitalized for severe angina, I knew I had to rush back to her and start all over again. It was the only time I could ever forgive myself for all the misery I caused.
I was seated next to the right-side window. I tried making myself comfortable, but the butterflies wouldn’t let me rest on the 4-hour journey. I wore this same grey suit Kelly bought for me during my first-ever TV appearance on the CBC. I had the indigo “good luck charm” tie that used to belong to her stepfather. I had brought a copy of the latest issue of The Globe and Mail. Nothing really interesting about it, except their same old coverage of the SNC-Lavalin affair. I tossed it aside and watched the scenery instead. It was a sunny day in Southern Ontario. The red barns and the rows of lush green potato fields were so bright and shiny. It reminded me so much of the time Kelly and I spent playing tag and hide-and-seek amongst the Kitchener wheat fields. The blue sky reminded me of that day when we watched that Toronto Blue Jays game at the SkyDome. I could still hear the cheering crowd that celebrated the Jays’ victory to this day.
I still had a picture of her in my wallet. The only one that did not go up in ashes. Every once in a while, I would take that little 2 x 5 black-and-white photo out just to remind myself how she looked, even though she was a teenager back then. She was so young and beautiful in her black dress and flipped-bob hair on that 1970s Mississauga beach. Back when I was with her, Kelly was very young for her age. I swear you could’ve put her as a high school student, and no one would ever notice anything out of the ordinary.
“She’s quite a nice looking lady,” complimented the gentleman who was sitting on my left.
“I know. She was the prettiest lady I’ve ever met…” I admitted.
“Who is she?” the gentleman asked.
“Just the woman of my life,” I answered.
“Heh, she looks just like you,” he chuckled, “I bet any fella would be lucky to have her!” He was so right. Why the hell on earth did I ever decide to cut all relations with her? I wonder if she ever found another boy like me to keep her company, even if I hated the thought of her getting along with some other bloke. She always told me I was her treasure. Maybe after all I said, that title now belonged to someone else…
By the time I arrived in Toronto, the few bands of clouds had gathered together to cover the city’s skyline. I took a cab to head towards the Etobicoke General Hospital. Toronto has changed so much in the last twenty years. I haven’t set foot in it after moving out of Kelly’s house. But many of the landmarks were still present. Every park I passed by was home to where we walked together with our dog Banjo. Every restaurant was home to where we went out to eat every Sunday night. Every mural was one to at least one of our graffiti. Yeah, she’d let me do these kinds of activities and even help me improve my “drawings.” She was an art teacher, after all.
I stopped by a flower shop and bought a bouquet of oriental lilies. She always loved oriental lilies. It was her type favourite flower. I slowly approached the entrance of the hospital and broke out in cold sweat. I was breathing so fast. It felt like a dream. I would’ve never believed it was the day I would finally be back together with Kelly. I was lighted-headed when I approached the reception desk.
“Hi, my… m- my name is… uh, Martin Davidson… I- I’m… I’m here to s- see… K- Kelly… Elliott, please,” I stuttered. I’ve felt this nervous, excited and scared at the same time. I was carrying my briefcase on my right, and I had the bouquet in my left hand.
“Just one second, please,” the nurse responded. As she searched for her name on the computer, I grabbed the bouquet with my right arm just so I can wipe the sweat off my forehead above my glasses. After a few moments, the nurse left her chair and went out back into the little staff room. A few minutes later, the nurse came back with a doctor. He was a very tall and young fellow. He couldn’t be more than thirty-five years old. They exchanged a few words for a few seconds, all the while looking and pointing at me. I was starting to get confused. The doctor soon came to the front desk.
“Sir, I understand you are here to see Mrs. Kelly Elliott?” the doctor asked.
“Yes. I was told she was admitted here for a heart attack. What seems to be the problem?” I asked back impatiently.
“Sir, I’m afraid to be the bearer of bad news; Mrs. Elliott passed away last night.”
And just like that, my entire world shattered like glass. I had just learned my mother had passed away.
By Jacques Wang