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.