By the end of my first year in Ottawa, I was living in an apartment on Riddell Ave. near the northern Maitland exit off the 417. It was the biggest room I’d had since moving out of my parents’ place. I moved in with a young lady I’d loved in high school, whatever that meant. We’re no longer friends.

I’m in here, please take me home
Starla dear, I’m all alone

I lived on Riddell for a year. I spent much of the time living by myself, save for a kitten I purchased from a friend of a friend. I named her Dorothy. We’re no longer friends, either.

The tiny kitchen had a nice little ledge under the window. Half of my Ottawa dwellings bring to mind the west side of the city, neighbourhoods I never see anymore, winding streets that form cobwebs south of the Ottawa River toward the Carling Avenue stretch of strip malls and gas stations.

I remember one particularly frigid night spent trekking through those streets, finally cutting across the Transitway between the rarity of active bus routes battling the encroaching 3 AM blackout. Sitting on a bench, overlooking the water, taking in the far-off twinkling lights of Gatineau. Hearts swelled to burst.

For about three weeks I had a shoebox under my bed stuffed with five-dollar bills, and plans in my head of seeing Europe at age 25. Studying my face in the bathroom mirror and wondering what I’d look like when I was older. The careless release of a cigarette dropped from the fifth floor balcony onto the hood of a car parked in the lot and the fear that it would start a fire. Notes outlining money owed taped to my errant roommate’s bedroom door for periodic pickup.

Considering where I’m headed, it’s funny to think I haven’t spent nearly as great a deal of time looking west since those nights before slumber, when the Carling traffic had slowed to a quiet and the last 85 had trickled on toward Carlingwood Mall. Parts of Ottawa simply are, lying perfectly serene, deserted and expectant at midnight. A punk band thrashes out its final chords at the Dominion Tavern and the 19-year-old Nepean crowd stumbles back to Rideau for the westbound transit, back to the suburbs, back to their parents’ basements for one more lonely stretch of weeknights.


About Joel Crary

Joel Crary is a 30'ish 21st century writer living in Vancouver, British Columbia. He enjoys films, mostly. View all posts by Joel Crary

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