May 20, 2011
Club 41 on King Street West
Walking east on King Street... No. That isn't quite right.
We were doing something different from walking but, it wasn't running. Perhaps, 'scurrying' might be the better descriptive because, when the city has become bizarrely silent, the streets occupied not by cars, vans and taxis but, rather, by abandoned newspaper pages and clouds of city dust driven by the rising wind, it is not one's tendency to walk. Something a little more urgent is required.
I also remarked on how tightly Monica was holding onto my arm while her long, dark hair, which seemed untended and forgotten, blew out behind her. To be truthful, I am quite certain that I was holding on to her more tightly than usual, as well.
A feature of my relationship with Monica that I always enjoyed, was our independence – it was, so to speak, our method of being alone together. I couldn't recount the times that, at parties or in other social situations, we separated only to, after an hour or more, gravitate together again to quip about the interesting – in a positive sense or not – people we had met and be grateful, again, to be in each others presence. For me, it spoke of an overall wellness in our relationship; that trust was implicit, earned and respected. I had, on occasion, asked myself why I was so happy to be with Monica and, honestly, so grateful for her presence in my life: I think the trust was a very big part of it.
On this night, however, with the wind rising under a lowering sky and a deserted city around us, our trust gave way, I believe, to a sense of being the last two living beings on Earth, searching for others of our kind. We headed, as was our habit, to Club 41 on King Street West.
All day, the news had only got worse and even the most staid and reasonable person could have had doubts about what was truly going on.
On rising in the morning and stumbling to the kitchen to make coffee, I had turned on the stereo and the usual 'up' morning show had already switched to constant news.
I heard a muffled response from the bedroom. A moment later, she appeared, pulling on a long t-shirt which, descending over her naked body, did little, for me, to disguise the breasts, belly and hips that I had come to enjoy.
“There's something going on,” I said, turning on the television. Instantly, our eyes and our minds were filled with the shocking satellite images of Taiwan sinking into the sea.
Mechanically, I continued with the coffee ritual while Monica curled up on the couch, hugging a cushion, and reported the details.
“There's a tsunami,” she called to me while I fetched the milk from the fridge. Despite my sweats hanging lose and low around my hips and my naked torso, I felt a prickle of nervous tension, sweating on my skin.
“Where is it?” I answered her while placing dollops of milk in both mugs.
“They say it's already a hundred feet high and growing...”
We could do little but gape as, mugs in hand, steaming and forgotten, the tsunami wiped out the Polynesian islands – already the dead were in the millions – and then raged its way across the Pacific toward the North American west coast.
The feeling of helplessness was inevitable in the face of such a disaster and, remembering back to the Japanese earthquake, I recalled my own reaction to the images of the wave washing away – like child's toys, although I hated the euphemism – everything in its path. This was so much more. It was almost like the end of the world.
At the bar in Club 41, Jack had his cell phone pinned to his ear.
'Astrid, everything is going to be OK.' He paused and listened.
'No, love, we're fine here. I'll call you right back.'
Jack greeted us but he was not himself.
“Not a happy night,” I suggested. Monica still hung close beside me.
“It's been a strange day.” Jack laughed off his evident nervousness. I nodded.
“Two bottles of Chateau Neuf-du-Pape, if you please, my good my,” I said with my best flourish.
“You won the lottery?” His humour, as he departed to fetch the bottles, was evident and I smiled, squeezing Monica against my hip.
Through the day, the news had only got worse.
At two o'clock in the afternoon, the Eiffel tower had collapsed, sending hundreds of tourists to their deaths. It seemed, however, that the sea had decided to have its vengeance upon the land. It was only late in the day that the news reports had flashed, briefly, that the continents were subsiding into the water. Soon, it seemed, the Earth, would be a blue planet only – not a green planet.
Monica and I took the bottles and fluted glasses and, with furtive glances and her advance recon, darted through the female washroom, to the window, and up the fire-escape to the roof.
“This is perfect,” said Monica, leaning against me. My arm was tight across her shoulders.
“It could be clearer,” I commented, gazing up at the cloud-scudded sky.
“No, this,” she emphasized. She squeezed me.
The blankets and sleeping bag had been recovered, at the last moment, from the back alley. They had an offensive smell but, really, that wasn't the issue. On the roof of Club 41, we were warm and we were together.
“I'd be in no other place, Monica.” My hand pushed into the flesh over her hip, drawing her closer. She curved against my body. The wind howled above the parapet.
“How long, do you think?” Her question took me aback – away from memories of more pleasant situations with her.
“First,” I said, smiling, “I thing we should refresh our glasses.”
“Cin-cin,” said Monica, holding up the delicate flute to be refilled.
Across the parapet of the building, the wind had become a torrent and, ignored below, there was the sound of destruction.
“Cin-cin, my dear,” I said, putting aside the bottle and clinking my glass with hers. Looking into them, her eyes were deep, comforting pools of warmth for me.
“Let's make this an annual event,” I suggested, laughing but, on the wind, the scent of saline was rising.