writing sample: waking up to a Wandering world
Disclosed herein is an unedited excerpt from an upcoming book:
Middle of March, middle of Ottawa.
Middle of times.
It was one of those days where the sky couldn’t quite decide whether it wanted to rain or to snow. One of those ridiculously grey, overcast days with just enough sunlight that it could trick you into thinking it was actually quite nice out. If we're weren't standingin the honest capital of "shitty weather-ville", that is. It was one of those days where you walk past your neighbours front lawn only to see the raindrops turn into little pellets of snow before your eyes. One of those days where the clouds seem close enough to stick your head into, yet ever distant.
I remember as a school child being told one morning that it was a very cloudy day.
“What do you mean it’s cloudy?”, I asked my teacher.
It was in the early morning and the sky was bright – if the sky was bright then how could it be cloudy? Truthfully, I could not see a single cloud in the sky… and how could it be cloudy if there were no clouds in the sky? Of course, I was quickly corrected as my teacher demonstrated that the whole sky had in fact been covered in clouds. To my surprise, the normally-blue sky hadn’t decided to take on the slime-grey, overcast shade that I now recognize as the theme song of Ottawa… it was just a collection of great big clouds blocking my view.
As an adult – and especially as a scientist – I realize while putting this instance into text that this discovery was quite elementary.
In the moment, however, it was a real ‘Eureka’ moment. I couldn’t tell that the sky was cloudy because all that I could see was cloud. Gazing up at the sky later on that day, I could make out the faint blue tints of the sky behind the clouds… yet it still didn’t feel cloudy. Not for me, at least. In that moment, I couldn’t see beyond my own perception – all that I ever knew was that the sky had clouds in it… I never thought it possible to have a cloud with a sky in it.
It was one of those days – one of those days where the clouds outweighed the sky.
It was one of those days, and I found myself walking down an absolutely desolate Rideau Street. Cars passed by me as I passed by others, yet the atmosphere remained static. Movements occurred yet the image remained static; in that moment it was as if we were mosquitos skirting across standing water, generating independent ripples upon the surface of a media that exists for miles below.
It was mid-March, and the weather was cold. But it was Ottawa, so the weather felt warm.
The sounds of construction lined the streets of the capital, and by the Lord himself I’d pay a hell of a lot of money to take a torch to that pile driver down the street from my apartment. Rideau Street was painted with that greyish-brown hue that you can only truly get as the last bits of snow melt after a weaker-than-usual winter. Located somewhere before the time that the flowers start to bloom yet after that which you’ve put away your scarves, you can find me. Under this light, it becomes easy to think that this city could easily lay claim towards being the concrete capital of the world.
As the sun battles through the clouds only to fall upon the blurred-out-façade of the buildings that line Rideau Street, steadfast nothingness lies in the haze.
And strangers don’t make eye contact as they walk by.
Unusual ways in unusual times. An older gentleman skirts by in an electric scooter, wearing a medical mask. Unusual times in unusual ways. The snow turns to rain as I meet the doors the local shopping centre.
The setting changes, yet I am still greeted with the same mosquito-over-standing-water atmosphere that lingers over the streets. More people, more medical masks. More medical masks, more people. To my right, store workers wipe down shopping carts. To my left, an old man begs for spare change. All around me, the smell of a cold-warm March street is replaced by the smell of Lysol.
I came for onions, but I leave without them. How can a store be out of onions? Even the ones that come prepackaged in that orange wirey-mesh-type shit – the ones you only buy if you have to because you know for every 10 onions there’s going to be at least two that are rotting from the inside out – even those are gone. Onions gone; potatoes non-existent? What kind of shopping centre runs out of potatoes? Onions, potatoes, bread… chicken, all forms of sanitary towel – all gone. Canned foods… milk. Eggs? Nothing. The store is empty, and the drab, grey atmosphere of a mid-March in Ottawa is ever-intrusive.
I feel a scratch in my throat, but dare not cough. Grab the groceries and go. $66.52 – sure, I’ll donate a couple bucks to charity. And I'll toss a couple into the Tim Horton's cup of the homeless man at the door. I walk out of the doors with the feeling, for the first time, that something’s really going on.
Thinking to myself. No longer are the troubles held beyond the gate – they’re in your own city. While the world panics, the immaterial feeling of the blurred-façade of a concrete building lining Rideau Street as the sun bears down through the clouds bleeds over the living.
Walking down the street – more people, more medical masks. More medical masks, more people.
Something’s off – perhaps it’s something small, but perhaps it’s the slow crawl of something to become monumental. Borders close, and schools are shuttered. As the world falls ill, the universe watches on. For now, everything remains drab – everything remains featureless. The eternal yawn of a soul with no sense of time. The blurred-façade of concrete capital, personified.
What is the feeling?
The faded blue-purple hue taken on by the blood in the veins of your wrist.
The feeling is anticipatory - not in itself a feeling, but the prelude to feelings vast.
As I wait for the traffic light to turn, I notice that the rain has turned solid. The sounds of tiny pellets of hail can be heard rebounding off of the roofs of nearby cars. As my shoes slide over the painted crosswalk, the snow turns back into rain. Microscopic phase changes in a macroscopic wasteland.
Just one of those days.