Cora had made a new friend who lived in St Catharines, and he was taking the bus all the way to Toronto to hang out with her. It made Cora feel like a celebrity, having someone sit on a bus for an hour and a half just to see her.
“I’m not working right now, and I want to live an adventurous life.” Cora had written to him in a facebook message.
“I think adventurer should qualify as employment,” he’d written back.
The first snow of the season had been the night before, and Cora could see her breath as she and her new friend Joseph walked down Queen Street to the corner where there was some sort of promotion happening. A beer company was giving out free beer. This was a real thing that was happening, and although Cora had gotten a free beer on her way to meet Joseph just five minutes before, as they neared the corner where the beer was, Cora became nervous that the free beer people wouldn’t be there anymore, that it was an elaborate prank to make her believe she lived in a world where on very special days a man and a woman stood on a street corners in hats and gloves and gave out free tall cans to everyone who walked by.
Even as Cora and Joseph walked away, Joseph with his first free beer and Cora with her second, Cora was still worried that at any minute someone would stop them and say, “You two are so stupid for believing that someone would give you a free beer on the street for no reason.” But it turned out they did live in a world where free beer on the street from strangers was a real life possibility.
“This is the best time to be living,” Cora told Joseph when they were warm inside Little Nickey’s. They listened to a mechanical doughnut machine make fresh mini-doughnuts behind the counter.
“You’re preaching to the choir,” Joseph told her. “There are so many exciting things happening in technology and film and the world.”
Film was why they were there. After their coffees, they went to see Blue is the Warmest Colour. It was dark outside when they left the theatre, and the plan was to go to the AGO for the free night. When they got to Grange Park though, they had to take a detour to sit on the swings and drink their free beers.
Cora and Joseph weren’t yet used to winter, and their bare hands burned on the metal cans. There was a crispy layer of white ice in the mud by the swings, and Cora did a tap dance on it while Joseph told her about gun violence in Washington DC.
They were both 24 years old, and they had 24 years worth of things to talk about.
Cora thought back to five months before when she and her roommate had each brought home big bottles of dish soap on the same day.
“We probably won’t need to buy more dish soap for a year,” Cora had said. She had looked at the two bottles by the sink and felt her chest opening up. She’d suddenly grown two extra ribs and had a little more space in her torso for all her organs to fit in.
Cora and Joseph had 24 years of things to talk about, and sitting on the swing, drinking her free beer, Cora felt endless. The CN Tower flashed beside them in red and blue and then, as though they were in a movie, David Bowie music started playing. It was Changes and then Heroes and they weren’t sure if it was karaoke or the original played through bad speakers and muffled by the night.
Cora had to stand again. She went back over to the patch of white ice and cracked it with the bottom of her boots. She knew if she let herself be still, if she relaxed her limbs and drank her free beer and looked out at the frozen park and listened to David Bowie and her new friend tell her about his life, her body would keep expanding. She was afraid she’d be lifted and carried with the sound of David Bowie played through bad speakers out into the cold November night, and so she crunched the ice under her feet, and soon Joseph joined her and did the same.
After a while, after their free beers were finished and their hands and feet had turned to claws because of the cold, Cora lifted up her beer can and said, “Look what I can do.” And she crushed the beer can on her forehead.
Cora had never done anything like it before, but there was something about the snow and the David Bowie, the free beer and the rush of finding yet another person on this earth who she found fascinating that had made feel powerful and had made her feel endless.
Cora and Joseph looked down at the crushed can in Cora’s hand. When she tried to do the next can, it didn’t work as well, but it didn’t matter. Even if she never crushed another beer can on her head again, she would always know that once she had done it and that once she had been endless.