I yelled at my husband on the street today. A stranger stopped and asked us for directions. I kept walking. Matthew, my husband, paused to help, standing less than six feet from the man. “Oh my God, stand back!” I shouted. I grabbed Matthew by the arm, pulled him away, and suggested to the stranger that if he was lost, he could use his smartphone. When I apologized to Matthew at home, I explained that everything is stressing me about Toronto these days: opening the door to our condo lobby, touching the buttons on the elevator, passing people in the halls. The virus could be anywhere. It’s a conversion we have had before, like after I called Matthew “reckless” for picking a stray nickel up off the sidewalk. “Try to relax,” he told me. I said, it’s hard. I feel nervous every time we go out and the scores of shuttered storefronts depress me. “I want to leave,” I said, referring to our vague plans of escaping to our cabin in the Laurentians. “We can’t,” he replied. A simple truth. Quebec has closed its border to Ontario. Fine. I will continue distracting myself the same way everyone is: eating too many carbs, watching too much Netflix.
I remember the exact moment when I decided that I would never go back to my family’s cottage ever, ever again.
It was August 2000. I was 16 and sick of visiting the dusty, drafty old place in Quebec’s Laurentian Mountains. Its incessant mothball smell was getting to me, especially because it never seemed to keep out the moths.
Four years ago, when my partner and I bought our first condo, we decided not to spoil our new space with the old, worn-out Ikea futon we had in our rental apartment. We were both happy to leave the couch on the curbside when we moved, but it was a full four years before we agreed on the style and budget for the replacement. He likes Danish-made, authentic mid-century-modern furniture, whereas I like affordable.
We didn’t actively search the whole time; no relationship needs that kind of aggravation. In fact, in most of our sofa-free days (during which we still had chairs – in case it looks like we spent years lolling haplessly on the floor), we were similar to the 15 per cent of Americans who avoid visiting furniture stores with their other half because they know that they’re more likely to come home frustrated with each other than toting new decor,
Slow is not my normal speed. So, when I signed up for a two-day woodworking class to learn how to make a memento box, naturally I showed up late, running in with my headphones blaring a podcast, one hand holding a spilling coffee cup, the other hand checking my e-mail.
When I had signed up for the class at Heidi Earnshaw’s Junction Workshop in Toronto, we were told by e-mail to arrive at the studio early to get settled in. It was a Saturday, but I was rushing in from a work appointment that morning and was already stressing that I might be late for another appointment afterward. I was off to a great start.