In 58 days I will be 30 years old
Mordy and I walk over the 401. It’s the only quick way out of my parents’ neighbourhood.
It is 7:30 AM. My computer crashed yesterday so my usual 4 AM wake up call was met with purposelessness. Now I am walking Mordy. We are taking a long walk.
At the base of the highway, beside the ramp, is an apartment complex. Two men sit in a dark coloured truck. Both of them look down, past the steering wheel. We see each other. I imagine the driver tapping on the window.
Something is happening.
I have to go to Math today. I am in eleventh grade. It is my first day at Lawrence Park Collegiate. It is my first Lunch. After Lunch I have a spare period and then Math. I survived the morning. I have one more class.
I chose this Math class. This is “the harder” math class. “University math”.
I can’t do math.
I plan to sit in the front row. The front row will insure that I am better at Math. I will accomplish the harder version. From the front row. Otherwise, what is the point…of anything? Choose Harder things. Finish the day.
I get through lunch by sitting on the ground directly beneath my locker. I stare at whatever food I am holding in my lap. I do not eat. I am too embarrassed to eat. I have been embarrassed all day. The embarrassment is atypical in that it is strongly pervasive and generalized. I am naturally embarrassed to be in my own skin in a new school in eleventh grade. This is a small school. Everyone knows each other. No one knows me.
I look strange.
A year ago, I used chemicals to straighten my hair. Now my natural hair is growing in and I have small curls springing from my scalp. The shaft of my hair is still straight. I look like a wet poodle dressed in a pathetic collection of oversized vintage finds. Stop feeling sorry for this poodle for one second to include the detail: She is missing a front tooth. I was born without an adult incisor. In one year I will be eligible for an implant. Until then, I press my lips together and wonder what the point of Time is if it doesn’t move quickly enough to make survival feel worthwhile.
Lunch ends. I decide to find freedom in my spare period. I leave school grounds. On the way to freedom I hear, “HEY NO TOOTH GIRL”.
A bunch of boys I recognize from this morning’s geography class are walking towards me.
“HEY: NO TOOTH GIRL”
I keep walking until I suddenly sit down on the ground (for the second time today). I cry for 75 minutes.
The twenty dollar bill from my pocket is missing. I put it in my pocket earlier so that I could buy a coffee.
I have been taking my phone out of my pocket frequently on this walk. The money must have fallen out. I look at Mordy and wonder if he noticed the cash fall to the ground.
I wish he were human, the same which I had last night, and all day yesteday and all day every day.
My eyes are bright red when I arrive in Math class.
I walk to the far corner.
A girl who could be Lindsay Lohan’s body double is sitting in the second row.
”Can I sit here?” I ask the floor. The day is almost over.
”I think you can sit wherever,” she says. Her half-smile tells me she hates math but she has no problem helping me.
I sit in front of her.
At the end of the class she asks me if I am new. She tells me her name is Mere, short for Meredith.
“What school did you come from?”
“A Jewish one.”
“Yeah, I’m not that Jewish,” this is probably the first time I apologize for being Jewish, a habit that will persist for another fifteen years.
“Do you live around here?”
“Um. Over the highway.”
“Oh. Do you walk home?”
We are walking down the hallway. I don’t know how to get back to my locker from here. I had been sitting in Math thinking of all the ways I would get lost just looking for my locker eventually just going home, or maybe: Circles of thoughts will kill me and I will just be a dead no tooth girl.
I use the Starbucks app on my phone to buy a coffee.
Two men sit in the Starbucks. One man wears a hat. His eyes bulge and his dry lips pucker as he mentions the weather, points to the paper and says “Who fucking needs it?”
I’m not sure if he means the weather or the paper but his friend answers, “You know what, everyone needs something and it’s here so ok.”
I congratulate wine for making a community out of men.
Mere and I exit the school.
She introduces me to her friend, “Rachel”.
We all walk home together. Mere lives on the way. Her parents are never home. Rachel and Mere go there everyday after school.
As we walk, Rachel smokes a cigarette and Mere packs a bowl in a tiny piece that slightly resembles a very short, fat pencil.
“Do you smoke weed?”
“Yeah. Yes. With my brother.” I have smoked weed exactly one time.
I take one hit.
“A guy called me No Tooth Girl Today.”
Rachel laughs, “Who?”
“I don’t know. He has red hair and a bunch of friends.”
Mere thinks about it, “Oh, it’s Eric.”
Rachel laughs again, “Oh fuck yeah, Eric. Whatever. He calls me Avril Lavigne Girl.”
“I guess he just doesn’t like girls,” I reason.
“We could call him Homosexual Boy but it would be an insult to homosexuals,” Mere concludes with effortless Who-Cares breathing.
We make it to Mere’s house.
I say bye.
I walk home feeling accepted.
For months to come, I will do this every day.
Mordy eats a burger off the ground. He is my best friend.
Mere and Rachel introduce me to their friends.
I feel uncomfortably lame around everyone here. They all seem to know the same people. They all do the same things. The drama they endure, they share it with one another.
There are two other girls in this group of Cool People I’d Like To Know Forever who are Lawrence Park ex-pats: Catherine and Alex. They also smoke weed.
We are sitting around someone’s patio table. It is the middle of the day. We have not been in school. I am sitting at the end of the table, behind the group of four I long to be a part of one day. We are sitting across from a clan of boys, all of them younger than us. They are our drug dealers. Mere rolls an F-pape.
I have tried to give Mere and Rachel money for the weed they have shared with me but they won’t take it. I have tried to give them weed, they won’t take it. I continue to smoke their weed but, after months of time, I feel like I am a foreign exchange student, being hosted by cannabis experts. They wouldn’t dare ask me contribute to their household but they are organically resentful of my persistent, apparent Need.
For some reason, Mere and Rachel have been taking care of me for the past four months.
I do not know them well.
I have learned that Rachel is a cutter and Mere has academic ambitions. She also has a dog and a step dad. Rachel tells me one day that she steals money from her parents and she can’t stop.
I like knowing interesting girls. I don’t fit in at this table. I feel very uncomfortable at this table. But, I’m here because I was invited which is a very new sensation for me.
I take one hit off the blunt. I hold it, about to hit again.
“Are you going to fucking pass that?”
The coked out younger kid beside me is eager to smoke.
I pass over the blunt, sink in my chair and decide only to hang out with Mere and Rachel from now on.
The three of us get high and watch Dr. Phil after school every day. I have friends.
Mordy and I walk home on the same side of the street in case I find my twenty dollar bill. I don’t see any money on the ground. I also don’t see anyone who appears to have found money on the ground. I learn a lesson without worrying too much about the loss.
Someone else can buy coffee today too.
In February Mere and Rachel go missing.
Mere isn’t in Math.
The teacher asks me where she is and I have no idea.
I don’t have a phone. It’s 2005, one really has phones. No one knows where anyone is. She just: Isn’t here.
Time flies as I preoccupy my mind with circuitous thoughts regarding Mere and Rachel.
People keep asking me where they are.
The media teacher, the drama teacher, we had those classes together: Where are they, I don’t know.
My drug dealer, Vacille asks where they are and when I start to cry he gives me a free lighter with my weed, “Yo, I have like five million of them it’s no big deal.”
I don’t need a lighter. I don’t even need the weed. I have no one to smoke with. “Thank you so much.”
“Yo it’s no big deal.”
A couple in their sixties walk by us.
“GOOD MORNING” says the woman.
I look up from the ground, still searching for my money.
“Oh, hey,” I reply without knowing her.
It is May.
I run into Catherine on the subway.
“OH my God, hey.” Catherine can’t remember my name.
“Oh hey, you don’t…Sorry. Hi.” I can’t speak because I am too embarrassed to be who I am in this exact moment in front of this exact person.
“How are you?” She asks, standing in front of me, watching the subway doors.
After leaving Lawrence Park, Catherine had switched to an alternative school. She had only attended it for two months before her mother called Mere’s mother to impress that Mere should also switch schools, that the switch is worth the money.
“Do you miss Mere and Rachel?”
No one told me about the switch. No one even told me they were considering transferring schools.
“I don’t know where they are. No one…like, are they ok, where are they?”
“Oh no one told you?”
“No. No one told me.”
Mordy tries to pull me to the pet store.
I tell him I have no money and they aren’t open anyways.
His tongue flops happily but he tucks it back in.
Years later I see Rachel working in an Aroma near U of T Campus.
I buy a coffee from her.
She is very thin.
The truck in the parking lot of the rundown apartment building is gone.
We walk past.
No one is richer.
Mordy rubs his body against the wall of the highway ramp.
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