"I'm in my M6 Beamer, this is no 645. Like a pigeon in the sky, I just shitted on your ride." - Gucci Mane, "Dope Boys"
Today I leave Toronto. I'm looking at a blonde woman chew the remaining non-crust elements of a multi-grain sandwich. She stares off into the distance until resuming attention across the booth at her nerdier friend. Well, I'm guessing the friend is nerdier just from the back. I see thick-framed glasses and an unfortunately placed, short brunette bun. The back of her shirt reads: "How to destroy angels." I see some tour dates for a band that I've probably never heard of.
Oh wait, the blonde has a whole other half-sandwich to finish. Damn, she was really acting like someone who had just finished a whole sandwich when she polished off that first half. My sandwich end game observation skills are clearly falling apart, as are bits of this second half-sandwich as she fumbles with the final bites.
The friend looks around to see if this coffee shop is closing. It is and she is definitely as nerdy as I had imagined.
The lights get turned off methodically, half of them at a time to signify, passive-aggressively, that it's time to get the fuck out.
I'm the last one to leave and, as I walk out to Dundas St., which has been described to me as the smaller version of Times Square, I realize two things: 1. that I'll never see her deal with a sandwich again, 2. that she'll never know how I felt about the way she deals with sandwiches and 3. that I have no idea where I'm about to go. I just realized that third thing. Sorry if you expected the two-realization list to be an inflexible limit.
You don't fully know how you a feel about a trip until your final hours in it and mine are anti-climactic. Two nights ago, strangers were doing coke lines off of each other's bodies next to me as I tried to read the travel guide. I wanted to see Niagara Falls.
Of course, I never saw Niagara Falls. I stayed at the hotel. Something about hotel beds puts you in a heroin sleep. Maybe it's the thread count. Maybe, as my friend suggests, it's the fact that none of the bullshit you're dealing with back home has physically followed you to your current location.
Now, I've migrated to another coffee shop, Starbucks. I know this place. A baby is staring at me from a stroller. I stare back. I'm not scared. Babies sense fear. He's holding a Louis Vuitton wallet and wearing the tiniest of Adidas Superstars. These are facts of which only one of us is aware. We're in Toronto, I remind myself. The baby probably doesn't know that either.
Most of these cities are pretty much the same, but the only way to prove to yourself that you're not in a Truman Show situation—where every location, every day is a copy of the previous—is to revel in the details.
For example, I'm spending money that is worth about 87% of my currency back home. It doesn't wrinkle. It has holograms. It has women on it. There are rail cars. Restrooms are called "washrooms." The people here seem to have a slightly different take on how to say the word "about."
But a street still looks the same: light grey, concrete sidewalk followed by a slightly lower, darker grey asphalt, followed by another identical sidewalk. Humans, cars, buildings. God, life is redundant.
It's funny how we run around. It probably looks funny to God or whoever is watching. We'll do anything to escape the various monotonous aspects of our existence. The baby probably doesn't feel that yet. This might be his first time in a Starbucks. Sandwich girl definitely feels it. She's probably had several sandwiches just like that one. We do every drug in an attempt to run around in our heads, but none of them really seem to do all that much. What we really want is a drug that turns us into a baby for a few hours, in awe of surroundings that we can no longer contextualize down to the most painfully boring detail of what kind of branded pattern is on the wallet we're holding or what kind of sandwich that girl over there is eating.
Maybe people really were never supposed to live past their teens. Adults just seem to spin their wheels over and over again, through every emotion, every sight, every sound, like hamsters in a slightly more complicated version of those plastic exercise balls they run around in. This must be why we went through all that trouble to go to the fucking moon.
But maybe I'm just being dramatic. I'm in the throes of an emotional lull as I wait to board my red eye bus back to New York, a city that I couldn't wait to get to and now can't wait to get out of.
Right before my bus pulls up, an old man at a vending machine motions for my help. Bottles cost three Canadian dollars. He has a two-dollar coin and a one-dollar coin. I show him where to put them, then try to explain with hand motions that he can make his selection. He presses the picture of a Diet Coke instead of the obvious button below it. I point at the button. Success.
Earlier that night, my grandmother texted me about a romantic getaway she's having with her new boyfriend that she found online, Don, a strapping 80-something who built his own house in Virginia. If she's still willing to give Don a chance after a lifetime of volatile relationships, and random old people are out here unfamiliar with how to operate modern vending machines, then there must be some hope for my bored generation in terms of surprises that the world can still offer us.
In poetic fashion, as I'm about to take my first step onto the bus, and literally as I'm finishing up this paragraph on my phone, something wet falls from the sky, painting my jacket and the back of my neck. It was a gift, and possibly a sign, from a bird above. At least this has never happened to me before.
Alex Russell has yet to wash his Siki Im jacket or his Margiela sweatshirt. You can follow him on Twitter here.