This piece is featured in Issue No. 1 Love in the Time of Corona

short story

Old Bones

Stubbornness is hereditary, particularly if you trace the X chromosome. Mothers especially love to pass stubbornness onto their daughter. My own Grandmother had four boys until she finally settled on my mother. My mother had me. I could have married Jason but chose Jane instead. Stubborn. I'm sure there are other people in other cities. Toronto is no New York, let alone a Hong Kong, but I'm quite certain I'm the last one here. The bloodline ends here, The Strike was successful, and as always straight women gave themselves far too much credit.

As I arrived, a small herd of deer was passing through; they barely rose their heads in acknowledgment. Grandma said the first time she saw a deer in the city she yelled "holy shit!" so loudly she scared the both of them. I have seen photos of the old Honest Ed’s building, my Grandmother even had one of their hand-painted signs in her house. She showed it off with the smugness with which one might hold themself when passing through a Degas exhibit. It was literally cardboard. 

Honestly when she first forced me to look up photos of the old building my first impression was that it looked garish, and that truly is the kindest adjective I can come up with. But the way Grandma spoke of it, it must have been something special. To her at least. Nostalgia has a way of making the horrid seem whimsical, but you need to know what you're missing in order to feel it. The condo that replaced it was now in its second glassy iteration, much smaller to accommodate a rapidly declining population. I like coming here to try to feel the same way about the first replacement condo, as Grandma did about its predecessor. My mother never cared for it, but she was direct and unsentimental. Garish things are for sentimental folks.  But I liked this new one much better in fact. They chose to build a beautiful edifice in brick,  for posterity I guess. Not the whole thing mind you, the back and sides were as reflective and shiny and heartless as ever, but on the face of it, it could stand like the pyramids. Nostalgia. It haunted the builders, and now it haunts me. 

There used to be a Pizza Pizza on this corner facing the Honest Ed's. It had lasted longer than anything in the whole neighborhood. It wasn't particularly nice, in fact as far as Pizza Pizzas go, it was small and grubby and only second from the bottom after the location at Queen and Bathurst. When the aliens come, I hope they try to figure out how the Pizza Pizzas lasted so fucking long. Let me be clear, I don't weep for lost humanity or even for myself. I had sixty long and wonderful years with my Jane. I just really hope aliens find us. I hope they study us, cause we were pretty interesting if I do say so myself.  Anyway, I took Jane to this Pizza Pizza for our second date because I had an apartment nearby and hoped she was as slutty as I was. Sixty years we were together what the fuck. She was lovely, and a lesbian, which made me feel better about my personal decision to consciously end the bloodline.

The conditions for The Strike were quite perfect really. Climate change was producing unseen tornadoes, hurricanes, heat waves - it was the apocalypse from what I know. In my Grandmother's astute words: "it was all kinds of bullshit." On top of that was the global quarantine, because that's what happens in dense populations, pandemics. Finally, rape was already well established as bad in theory and not to be condoned by politicians publicly.  There were laws and everything. So when the First Women proposed The Strike, they had both science and morality on their side. For once. When the First Women started publicly declaring their participation there was naturally pushback. The Christians were loudest of course, because anyone without a religious calling quickly found themselves morally dumbfounded. 

Participation was entirely optional. Each woman chose for herself whether and when she’d participate. Some women had already had eight children by then, but once they declared, they were welcomed into the Movement with open arms. The Movement was incredibly organised too, if you wanted to participate but circumstance meant you couldn't declare, no problem! Secret tube ties for everyone. You even got a little ribbon to wear in your hair afterwards to let other women know you were safe, if they also needed the help. Genius. And if you hated your period enough, you get a hysterectomy! You get a hysterectomy! You get a hysterectomy! And the men quickly followed suit, there were literal lineups of men rounding the street corner to sign up for the vasectomy. And once that made the evening news, all of a sudden the politicians were on board publicly with The Strike.  Funny, the order in which these things happen historically.

It takes longer for me to get places at this age. Ugh age. Even the word is clumsy at best and cumbersome at worst. But I'm making my way at my own pace and no one can say anything. I've walked this city my whole life, I'll be damned if I don't walk it today. See, stubborn. I'll go east along Bloor, I've always liked this stroll. When I was younger there were still a couple of Japanese restaurants that had clung desperately to life as the population dwindled. They were run by the loveliest people, so kind to me. I think they were just happy to see a real child.


You can see the streetcar tracks in Spadina. Another relic of pre-Strike days, the TTC. Another piece of nostalgia which had no real particular excellence in and of itself.  However contextualised with people, I suppose it was pretty curious, or even delightful if nothing else, to see what was essentially a trolly system carrying the burden of public transportation well past its expiration date. Jane lived down Spadina, so me and this car became quite close friends in those early days. I lied to her and told her I wanted something casual, then fell in love with her anyway. My propensity for counter productivity and jealousy were truly astounding back then. But she was older and wiser and god love her, stupidly patient with me. I hate that I knew I was hot. I wasn't particularly pretty, just demand was low. I was the youngest person I knew throughout my life, and she was already in her thirties. What an asshole.

We moved to the waterfront when we got married. As close to the Yonge dividing line without going over as one could possibly get. As two self-respecting westenders, neither of us would be caught dead east of Yonge. It was a nice place, a sky box like all the others. It was hers but became ours. She had a good job, a history professor. The poetry of being a history professor keeping the memory of the past alive amidst the most significant change in human history in the present, was never lost on her. Her body was flawless. Fuck me we used to be so hot together. Ugh age, AGE. I miss being able to make others around me laugh. Something happens when you're the youngest in the room in that you are always the funniest. Something about the juxtaposition of wanton disregard for the wisdom that surrounds you, and the entitlement to further poke fun at it, is just intrinsically hilarious. It's the politician practicing physics. I miss lacking perspective. Anyway, Jane always laughed at my jokes. And she was funny too. But actually funny in a way that was quick and clever, not just absurd by nature.

Final destination,  the ROM. Perfect for an old relic such as myself. I shouldn't say that, I feel guilty already. Though I shouldn't, I am a relic.

I go inside. Walk around. I only want to see the dinosaurs. It always upset me that once you reach a certain age you're no longer allowed to voice your love of dinosaurs because it's childish. They were literally giant monsters and we have their bones, how is that not the most compelling shit you ever heard of. Whatever. I'm going to go look at the dinosaurs.  Jane and I used to have memberships but never visited often enough to make them worthwhile. No matter, it didn't take long for everyone to collectively decide to just make everything free for the Remainers.

I take my seat at my bench and look up at the t-rex. I wish I had a more niche favourite to really flex my intellectual curiosity for dinos, but the t-rex is tried and true. I'll stay here for a bit, and then go home for the day.

Pax Santos

Pax uses her formal education to continually disappoint her Immigrant Mother by committing herself to writing nonsense. She spends her time wrestling with how much to water the 32 plants she currently takes care of. Pax laments over the days when she was cool and had an eyebrow piercing.