The Westbound Train 🚉 Pt. 4

From the downtown train station, I’ll walk over to the bus stop and take the 51 to St. Patrick’s. When the train rolls in and the doors open a wave of hot air hits me in the face. I break out in sweat, and regret this entire endeavor. I take off my jacket and unbutton my vest. I have to roll up my sleeves, as I begin to walk down the street I pass my old apartment. I had a lot of good times in that apartment. The best had to be the night of the super bowl in 4th year. That night there was a ridiculous snow storm and there was a potluck at my place. That was the year I blew out my knee, so I was still on crutches so not only did I not cook but I had nothing in my house but ramen and mac and cheese. Oh and beer, I had beer. Everyone came over and brought various dishes, I ordered 3 large party pizzas 2 hours before the game due to the storm. They never showed up. The next morning, we heard on the news that there was a pile up right outside our favourite pizza parlour and two people died. Naturally my friends kept joking about the fact that we didn’t get the pizza because I probably killed the pizza delivery guy. They still hold it against me, even though we don’t know who died. It was morbid but those were some really good times. I smile as I walk by the old building. I stop by a Tim Horton’s and grab a cold drink, I decide that I don’t want to wait for the bus so I hail a cab. Its not a far drive to the church. The driver is a nice Afghan man, named Masood. He asks if I’ve ever been to Hamilton? I tell him that I lived here for 5 years when in University. He looks at me through the rearview mirror and says, “It feels like home, don’t it?” I nod my head, “Yes” We pass Locke Street, I remember going there after a battle of the bands that my friend was playing in and just getting absolutely hammered. I don’t remember how I got home but the next day but I woke up with someone’s number written in lipstick across my forearm so it must have been a good night. We’re stopped at a red light and I can see the the outdoor rink. I took Anna my first girlfriend there to tell her I loved her. I planned it all out, we’d finished our exams and we went for a late night skate, I led her over to where the mistletoe was and kissed her, then I told her that I loved her. I looked her right in the eyes and told her I’d love her forever. I think back to that, I was so young but I meant it. I remember the fight we had that ended our relationship, the one where she told me that if she ever got pregnant with our child she’d kill it because I wasn’t going to be a good father. I remember her telling me years later that thats exactly what she did and how sorry she was. In so many ways that was the beginning of the feeling I’ve walked around with, the broken feeling. I never brought myself to tell anyone that, its scribbled in a journal somewhere on a whiskey stained page. We’re moving again and I can see the Scottish Rite,. One night in my last year I got incredibly drunk at the art science formal, they’d given evey table two bottles of wine and I may have had a bottle or 3.  Everything brings back a certain memory. Most of them are good, some of them are bad but that was a part of me growing up in Hamilton.  It was the first time I was on my own, I wanted to leave and get as far away as possible. In the back of my mind I didn’t know if I could do it but here I was, almost 10 years later, alive, with a passport full of stamps, a hard drive full of memories, and going to a wedding where I’d watch the woman I love get married to another man.

Inside the church I can see that its already been adorned with the flowers and drapery, I take some photos when I hear, “Excuse ME!” I turn around, Father Daniels is walking towards me. “Young man this is a closed ceremo…”He stops and takes a closer look,  “Sasha?” He recognizes me, salt and pepper beard, no more long luxurious hair. I give a big smile, and he gives me a big hug. “Sasha, it has been too long! I didn’t know you’d be here!” He sees the bag, “But it makes sense, you’re the best photographer I know.” I wouldn’t know about that, but I give a faint wave of my hand. When I was in university I did a project on the restoration of St. Patrick’s. I wrote an article for the university paper and added a bunch of really cool photos that he loved. “You’re early.”

“Yeah, just wanted to get some time alone I guess and there’s no better place in the city. Would it be okay if I sat here for a bit?” He’s a short man but places his hand on my shoulder, “Remember what I told you before you left, God is always listening. He’ll always forgive you, you just need to forgive yourself.” I shake my head and smile. When he walks away I ask myself. “Is he really listening?” I take a seat at the front of the church. I look at the alter, the stain glass window, and the cross. Its been years since I’ve been here, hell its been years since I’ve been inside a church. I don’t consider myself as religious but its always nice to just sit in the quiet. It’ll change soon, in about 20 minutes I’ll have to go outside and start taking photos. Actually now that I think about it I’ll get some photos now of the church and the chalk board sign outside that says, “Nora and Jamie tie the knot” Outside some of the guests have arrived, many of them I know from when I dated Nora.  Some of them look surprised to see me, other give me a sort of sad look. You know that bullshit half smile “oh honey” smile, I get a lot of those. I knew it was coming, I’m Nora’s ex. I’m the guy that bolted for Sweden when we broke up, I’m the guy that broke her heart, I’m the guy that moved on with someone else 6 months after we’d broken up or maybe it’s because they were all at my mom’s funeral 2 weeks ago.

 

The next few hours go by in a blur, by the time the reception has begun I’ve had to change batteries 3 times. I’ve taken thousands of photos, lots of the happy couple, of her parents, her brothers and sisters, it truly is a beautiful service, beautiful everything. When I take my seat at my table I’m sweating like a mad man. Dinner is outstanding and the open bar is a nice touch because they’ve got expensive scotch and whiskey. The father daughter dance is beautiful; they dance to My Little Girl by Tim McGraw. I always loved him, we shared a love for the same hockey team, and for a good scotch. I get down on one knee and get the perfect shot, a tear is streaming down his cheek and Nora has her hand to wipe it away. Later on after the dance floor has opened I’m taking to Katie one of her friend’s form work when Nora goes up to the mic, “So I hope you’re all having fun, tonight we’ll have a midnight buffet.” I know what its going to be, chicken nuggets. “We’ll be having chicken nuggets and fries!” Everyone’s laughing, I give her a smile and tell Katie I’m going for some air. “Sasha, it really is good to see you.” “Yeah, you too.”

I get a whiskey and head outside. I pull a cigar out from my jacket pocket and light it. Blue suit, whiskey and a cigar, I feel rather classy, or maybe it’s the alcohol. I’m looking out over the field and I feel a hand on my shoulder, Nora. “Sashie.” She looks up at me and gives me a big smile, “I’m happy you came.” Then the smile leaves her face and is replaced by some sorrow, “You know you didn’t have to. I know its been a hard few weeks for you. I’m so sorry about Maria and mom. I miss her so much, I wish she was here.” She takes my hand and I put my cigar down all I can do is shake my head. “These things happen and at least moms not in pain anymore. She got you a gift, but I haven’t been to the apartment so I’ll FedEx it to you.” She squeezes my hand and I remember the last time we held hands. It was when I was leaving for Sweden, I promised her I’d come back to her. I was sure that we’d get back together, but when I got there something changed. I didn’t want her to wait around, I wanted her and thought about her every day but I just didn’t think I was what she needed anymore. Maybe I should’ve just asked instead of assuming. She takes the drink from my other hand and drinks some, “Do you know why Maria…?” She tales off and I look at the camera, Property of Sasha Dobson, I pick at the label. “I don’t know.” But I do know. She’ll find out soon, but tonight’s her night.  I look at her and finish my whiskey, it burns a little going down. “One day at a time. I’ll be fine, promise.” She knows I’m lying but she doesn’t want to fight, not now, not ever, and neither do I. “Please don’t let what happened the last time happen again. Sasha, promise me, please.” When we broke up I honestly just wanted to darkness, maybe I even thought about killing myself. I felt that I’d done so many things wrong, that I’d hurt Nora. But no, the hurt came later. I was sure that the pain I was feeling would eventually get better but I got tired of waiting or it to happen. That’s when I started drinking. I drank on the train to work, after work, if you saw me with a cup in my hand it was alcohol. It didn’t make me feel good, if anything it made things worse. It made the pain unbearable but then something changed, that pain, it became my normal. It’s like I was okay with being miserable. “Okay Nora. You don’t have to worry about me. Please. Thank you for the invite and the job…See?” I gesture to her, everything around her, “I told you you’d get your fairy tale.” I smile and give a little squeeze to her hand, “I better get going, the last train is in a hour.” For a moment she continues holding my hand, I let go and go back inside. I say my goodbyes and take my camera bag from the table.
No ones on the train when I get on. I decide to start editing photos, best to get it out of the way. I take the SD card out and begin uploading the photos. There are thousands of them, so I begin the sift through them. There’s one, Jamie has Nora pulled close, his hand is on her lower back and her hand on his chest. I remember taking that earlier in the day, he said “Make sure to get my good side.” It made her laugh and that’s when I took the photo. It’s a silly but perfect shot of the two of them. I’m so focused that I nearly miss my stop. It’s a short walk back home, I don’t even bother hanging up my jacket, I dump everything on the floor. I sit at the edge of the bed, rest my had on the side that used to be Maria’s. I desperately want a drink but I know at this point I wouldn’t be able to stop. That picture I was editing on the train, hurt. When I finally decide to try and sleep I stare at the ceiling fan, “Make sure to get my good side” and then I hear her laugh. I turn over to Maria’s side and grab her pillow, I clutch is tight and scream into it, it’s the last thing I remember.