Letters From the Queen

And in the morning, Cora dropped her body onto the pull-out couch beside her friend Stephen who had stayed the night.  Ice storm, polar vortex, frost quake, it had been a long winter.  It was still winter, and it was cold in the living room, but Cora was wearing a thick red sweater with a picture of The Great Wall of China on it.  Cora liked this sweater a lot.

“Do you have anything to lend me?” Stephen asked.  “Like a thing or a piece of advice.”
It was Saturday morning all around them.  In the apartment below, Cora could hear her landlord getting ready for a party that would happen that afternoon.  The party was for the landlord’s father who had turned one-hundred-years-old three days before.
“Keep your pyjamas in your closet,” Cora said.  “You’ll be way more likely to put your clothes away at night.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
One-hundred-years-old, Cora said to herself.  She felt each word like it was an almond in her mouth.  She couldn’t imagine being one-hundred, but she was twenty-five now, and when she was ten, she couldn’t imagine being twenty-five.
“Now you go,” said Cora.  She leaned into the pillows and the sunlight and the faint whisper of the one-hundred-year-old man downstairs singing in Ukrainian.  She waited while Stephen flipped through his phone to find a picture he’d taken of a page of a book.  The book was about John Cage, and it told Cora and Stephen to accept that nothing in life is certain, to accept change and a new way of improvised living.
Cora made Stephen pierogies for breakfast.  While they waited for the streetcar in the sun, Stephen stuck one of his band stickers to the streetcar shelter and took a picture of it.
“Art,” said Stephen.
“Tweet that,” said Cora.
“I’ll MySpace it,” said Stephen.
“Friendster,” said Cora.
When she got back to her building, people were already arriving for the one-hundredth birthday party, and there were two framed letters in the hallway.  One was from the pope and one was from the queen, and they were both wishing the Ukrainian man a happy one-hundredth birthday.
One-hundred-years-old, Cora said to herself.  She couldn’t imagine where she’d be in seventy-five years.  She remembered being seventeen and coming to Toronto for the first time on her own.  She remembered how she couldn’t imagine living in such a big and dirty city, but here she was.
In her imagined future, Cora always lived in Toronto, the people she knew were still her friends and she still spent too much time thinking about her hair, but the one-hundred-year-old man was born in the Ukraine, and one-hundred years of things had happened to him, not only facebook and twitter, but two world wars and television, and now he lived in Toronto, and he lived below Cora, and he was getting letters from the pope and letters from the queen.

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