On the first weekend I lived in Edmonton, in September 2004, I didn’t leave residence. But I kept looking out the window at buildings surrounding me and the construction, and noting the sound of night time sirens coming from the U of A hospital just a mere parking lot away, hearing my mother’s voice on the phone which sounded eons and eons away whereas just a mere month prior, I had never been away from home longer than about a week in my life. I considered all of this and realized just how much possibility there was out there for me in the “big city” and just how “old” I had suddenly become, with my rubber mattress cot, a couple of bins of clothing, printer, a computer, and a small selection of only my favourite books and movies. When you start your life over again, everything surrounding you seems so huge and unknown, all the strangers around you offer you such scant comfort, everything you knew, no matter how close, feels non-existent and drifting like particles in your own intimate pocket of air.
About a month later, I had to drop my laptop off at a computer store downtown for repairs, and I got hopelessly lost on a dusty, sunny 30 degree weekday afternoon. After walking about 30 blocks, I managed to locate this store, which isn’t too far from where I work now, only a couple of mere blocks, and never a place where I could even imagine getting lost. However, the store ceases to exist now; a new strip mall and high-rise condominiums, restaurants, walkabouts and parkades shroud a place that almost seven whole years ago, I was lost wandering to.
When you’re afraid of the unknown you’re an extremely small figure lost among a background of wide open space and in turn, terror and uncertainty. And I’ve since claimed this place as my own; I fight for it, respect it, love it, defend it, know its ins and outs, weaknesses, strengths, pros and cons, bus routes and through-routes and shortcuts and trails and unique places to have coffee and best-kept secrets. Only seven years ago, I was afraid to get on a bus by myself, for fear it would take me to the wrong location and I’d never find my way back and be lost forever.
Today it’s an immense, burdening -33 outside, hard-packed snow accompanying harsh, chilly old Northerly winds. And I find myself used to this. It’s something every Edmontonian wears as a badge of honour (worn right beside their Edmonton Oilers fan badge). I’ll wear both of those badges for the rest of my life.
But I refuse – REFUSE – to stay here.