And Finally

It was the first day of spring, and Cora was refusing to believe otherwise.  The night before, she had dug her bicycle Pocahontas out of two feet of dirty snow, filled its leaking front tire and splashed oil all over it.  She was wearing her spring coat and stood gloveless and hatless before her bicycle, ready to take the first ride of the year.
She heard a knock on the window behind her.  It was the Ukrainian guy who lived on the first floor with the one-hundred-year-old man.
“What are you doing?” he mimed through the glass.
“It’s spring,” she called back.
They watched a few snowflakes drop out of the sky and the Ukrainian guy mimed, “you’re crazy.”
Cora shrugged and got onto her bicycle.  Her legs ached as she peddled up the hill out of her neighbourhood, but she was in much better shape this year than she had been at the end of last winter.  Last winter, she had had a job.  She had bought expensive cheese and had taken the streetcar wherever she needed to go.  This year though, her job had ended in October, and for the past four months, she had only eaten potatoes and homemade hummus and had walked anywhere that was less than an hour and a half away.
She didn’t have to worry about any of that now though.  Her breath came out in white clouds before her face and her fingers ached on her handle bars, but it was spring and she had a job and she had a bicycle, and she felt the future a bright red bud about to burst to bloom in her chest.  Soon she would drink red wine on the beach and play croquet in the park.  The winter she had thought would never leave was finally zipping up its duffel bag of snow and icy winds.  Spring was opening like an envelope, and she biked forward into it.  She knew it would be the best, the best and most beautiful, the best and most beautiful spring.
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Cora Finally Understands Music

Cora’s twenty-year-old self had always wanted her twenty-five-year-old self to have days like that.  She was in a building that was half ice factory, half studio space and concert venue, and she was watching her friend play improvised electronic music.  There were cables webbing across the stage, and her friend was one of three enormous spiders spinning rhythms while the eighteen people in the audience nodded their heads along in appreciation.

Cora usually got bored at this kind of thing.  The people were too sincere, and her twenty-first century mind needed action, action, reaction, action twenty-four tabs open at the same time, but there was a screen behind her friend projecting distorted videos of what might have been Ghandi and what might have been Rob Ford, and she was a little bit tired and a little bit drunk, and everything seemed to be going ok.
Earlier that day, Cora had left work and walked in the cold and the sun to Kensington Market.  There, she had met a guy in line behind her at the ATM.  He had never been to Toronto before and was only in town for a week, and Cora tried to be extra nice to him so he would have a good impression of the city and the people who lived there.
After the ATM, she had gotten two Jamaican patties and walked up the street in her sunglasses and leather jacket with a patty in each hand.  She had taken a bite of one patty and then the other.  She had realized that eating Jamaican patties and walking up the street wasn’t an innately cool thing to do, but something about the situation, probably the leather jacket and the sunglasses, had made her feel like hot shit.
She had walked to The Annex where a girl she was trying to be friends with but didn’t know very well yet lived, and she’d stopped for tulips on the way because she’d decided she wanted to be the type of person that buys flowers for her friends as often as possible.
And now Cora was at this concert in the ice factory and it was where she had always wanted to be.  She had always wanted to eat Jamaican patties and wear sunglasses and watch distorted videos of Ghandi and Rob Ford and nod her head in appreciation with eighteen other people who were also nodding their heads in appreciation.
The sounds were just sounds to her, and usually she would have been bored watching a guy with a scratchy tape player, a guy with a guitar and her friend behind a computer, but she was suddenly the type of person that wears leather jackets and makes friends at ATM machines and goes to intimate concerts in enormous warehouses, and somewhere in all that she remembered that sound is a wave.  Low sounds are long waves and high sounds are short waves and all those waves were travelling through space from the speakers to her ears, millions of waves and millions of sounds, and they were happening just for her.  There were eighteen people in the audience, and there were sounds for each one of them, waves in the air like the ice factory was a loud and invisible ocean.  They were all under water and they were the water and the water was waves upon waves travelling though them and out the other side.

Coffee Coma

Cora was running late.  It was sunny, and it was Saturday.  It was almost above zero, and her friends Meaghan and Jessie were waiting for her outside The Wren.  As soon as they got inside the restaurant, Cora looked at the waiter and then looked her friends and said, “I’m in love with that waiter.”  She hugged her two friends a second time and said, “I’m so happy to see you.  You both look so beautiful.  I’m so glad we’re hanging out.”  She had gone to high school with these friends, and now they all lived in Toronto, and they met up once a month for a Sex and the City-esque brunch.  Cora had known them longer than almost everyone else on earth.  The bottomless coffee hadn’t even started yet, but Cora’s veins felt like they were elastic bands, ready to go pinging off in every direction, and then the waiter came over, and Cora ordered a coffee.  She decided to drink it black to impress him.
“If we get married,” said Cora about the waiter.  “We’re going to have very tall children.”  She spun her glass of water around and around on the table then drank it down in three sips.
“Did you see how fast I just drank that water?” Cora asked.  “I should have gotten you to time me.”  And then the waiter came back with the coffee, and Cora tried to make meaningful eye contact with him.  Her girlfriend had broken up with her over a month ago, and now she was DTF.
“I’m DTF,” Cora told her friends.
“What is happening to you right now?” asked Meaghan.
“DTF, it means down to fuck.”  Cora took a sip of her coffee and started laughing.  She knew she was acting like she was on drugs, but she knew her friends wouldn’t mind.  She had known them for over a decade, and they used to hang out with her in Catholic School when she wore bright pink tights and a bright pink tutu under her kilt.  She had given up trying to impress them years ago, and now she could just be herself.  She finished her cup of coffee and listened to a story Jessie told about a bad date she went on two weeks ago.  Then Cora’s future husband came by and brought more coffee, and Cora told him she wanted to drink so much coffee her heart exploded.
“I’ll make sure to keep it coming then,” he said.
“We’re deeply in love,” Cora told her friends, and then she told them a story she’d already told them before.  It was about the time she went for brunch at her grandma’s retirement home and how her and her brother said they wanted to drink so much coffee they went into coffee comas.  There was an old man drinking coffee across the restaurant from them, and he kept falling asleep in his eggs.  “Coffee coma, coffee coma,” Cora and her brother whispered every time the man’s head nodded, and when the man fell asleep mid-sip of coffee and spilled all over his plate, Cora was also mid-sip and spat coffee all over her dad.  He wasn’t very impressed.Coffee Coma
Cora was running late.  It was sunny, and it was Saturday.  It was almost above zero, and her friends Meaghan and Jessie were waiting for her outside The Wren.  As soon as they got inside the restaurant, Cora looked at her friends and said, “I’m in love with that waiter.”  She hugged her two friends a second time and said, “I’m so happy to see you.  You both look so beautiful.  I’m so glad we’re hanging out.”  She had gone to high school with these friends, and now they all lived in Toronto, and they met up once a month for a Sex and the City-esque brunch.  Cora had known them longer than almost everyone else on earth.  The bottomless coffee hadn’t even started yet, but Cora’s veins felt like they were elastic bands, ready to go pinging off in every direction, and then the waiter came over, and Cora ordered a coffee.  She decided to drink it black to impress him.
“If we get married,” said Cora about the waiter.  “We’re going to have very tall children.”  She spun her glass of water around and around on the table then drank it down in three sips.
“Did you see how fast I just drank that water?” Cora asked.  “I should have gotten you to time me.”  And then the waiter came back with the coffee, and Cora tried to make meaningful eye contact with him.  Her girlfriend had broken up with her over a month ago, and now she was DTF.
“I’m DTF,” Cora told her friends.
“What is happening to you right now?” asked Meaghan.
“DTF, it means down to fuck.”  Cora took a sip of her coffee and started laughing.  She knew she was acting like she was on drugs, but she knew her friends wouldn’t mind.  She had known them for over a decade, and they used to hang out with her in Catholic School when she wore bright pink tights and a bright pink tutu under her kilt.  She had given up trying to impress them years ago, and now she could just be herself.  She finished her cup of coffee and listened to a story Jessie told about a bad date she went on two weeks ago.  Then Cora’s future husband came by and brought more coffee, and Cora told him she wanted to drink so much coffee her heart exploded.
“I’ll make sure to keep it coming then,” he said.
“We’re deeply in love,” Cora told her friends, and then she told them a story she’d already told them before.  It was about the time she went for brunch at her grandma’s retirement home and how her and her brother said they wanted to drink so much coffee they went into coffee comas.  There was an old man drinking coffee across the restaurant from them, and he kept falling asleep in his eggs.  “Coffee coma, coffee coma,” Cora and her brother whispered every time the man’s head nodded, and when the man fell asleep mid-sip of coffee and spilled all over his plate, Cora was also mid-sip and spat coffee all over her dad.  He wasn’t very impressed.

Beauty was Her Religion

Cora walked down Dundas feeling fucked-up and like she didn’t have enough tattoos.  It was only twelve-thirty, but she couldn’t be at the bar anymore, and she couldn’t talk to humans anymore.  Her hair was wrong, and her clothes were wrong, and her limbs were too big, and everything she said made her sound desperate and like she was eleven-years-old.  She didn’t know who Alain de Botton was, and she’d never listened to Patti Smith, and she didn’t have enough money for another $18 marmalade, black pepper, gin, rooibos, lobster claw, honey, tequila, grenadine, genocide cocktail at the pretend speakeasy under the palm reader sign her friend had taken her to.
When Cora was eleven, she felt she could never be good enough.  Each night she said five Hail Mary’s, one Our Father and an elaborate prayer she’d made up asking God for protection from every disaster she could dream of, rape through to earthquakes, yet she still carried this feeling of badness in her like a hard cigarette butt in the centre of her soul.
The top layer of snow had melted and then frozen again, and there was a thick layer of ice over the city like Toronto was trying to keep Cora out.  She slipped on the sidewalk and bruised her knee, and when she was eleven she could never be good enough, and now she was twenty-five and she could never be cool enough.  She could never eat enough chickpeas to feel full, and Toronto hated her, and the successful artists she met tonight hated her, and if God existed he would have hated her too, and then an old woman at the streetcar stop shouted out to her: “You’re a very beautiful woman,” and Cora stopped.
The woman had a scarf around her head like Cora’s Polish great grandmother, who died long before Cora was born, might have worn.  Her fake teeth slipped around inside her mouth, and her eyes were as shiny as the ice on the streets.
“Thanks,” said Cora.  “So are you.”  And she remembered the feeling of being in church, sending her sins through the stained glass windows and stepping onto the cold concrete Sunday morning parking lot, waiting with her brothers while her dad finished his post-Eucharist cigarette, the light on the icy snow banks on the drive home.  And maybe beauty was her religion now, writing words that would make the world seem better, but Cora wasn’t eleven anymore, and the people she met tonight were not God.  Being stylish wasn’t the same as being beautiful, and here was a woman with no teeth telling her this.  Cora didn’t need to feel the same cigarette butt of anxiety, devotion without a man hole cover.  She could see beauty and make beauty without reading every book and seeing every film.  The city was slicked over with ice, but she used her treadles boots like skates to slide along the top of it.  The streets sparkled and the trees bowed down to her after the heavy winter.

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.

Endless

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.

Break

Cora stood in her driveway.  There was snow all around her, and her two bags of groceries sat on the asphalt beside her.  One of Cora’s hands was in her pocket and the other hand held her telephone.  On the other end of the telephone, Cora’s girlfriend said, “I’m sorry, I can’t be in a relationship right now.  I’m sorry, I need some time to myself.”

“Ok,” said Cora.  She kicked the snow bank in front of her and white chunks of ice flew everywhere.  One of her grocery bags slumped over, and a can of soup rolled across the driveway.  She said ok over and over again, staring at the white snow all around her and the sun reflecting off everything, making her blind.
“Ok, ok, ok,” she said, and she kicked the snow bank again.  She wasn’t supposed to be sad this winter.  She was working on a project that would get her through the cold and the snow and the early nights, and instead she was crying in her driveway and there was snow all around her, and her can of soup was rolling away.  The winter she’d been trying to deny for months was seeping into her, road salt clogging her veins, and her heart slicked over with slush.
“Ok, ok, ok,” she said, only she’d already hung up.  She held the phone out in front of her, her ungloved hand impotent and small against the white weather stretching in every direction.
*
And a week later it was still winter, and Cora hated everything she’d once loved, The Ossington, TheCommunist’s Daughter and the Broken Social Scene sweater her girlfriend always used to steal.  She walked down Dundas through slush thicker than semen and said fuck this, fuck this, fuck everything.  She walked the same speed as a garbage truck, and it was loud and she was tired and the only thing she’d had to eat that day was a can of kidney beans with Sriracha on top.  She was still sad and she said to herself, you are in charge of your own happiness, and she didn’t know why she couldn’t make herself be happy.
When she got to her neighbourhood, no one had shoveled their sidewalks and she said fuck this, fuck this, fuck everything and walked in the very centre of the street.
This wasn’t the first time she’d walked down the middle of this street.  One day that past summer, it was one am, and she was walking home alone, and her new dress shoes bit into her feet.  She had taken them off and walked in her white socks in the very centre of the street.  She had felt sadness then too, a soft loneliness and the general ache of being as the bottoms of her socks went from white to grey and from grey to black.  The stars were gold coins that would never be collected and the houses were faces with their eyes closed.
Cora walked home now in the snow and felt the same great ache that comes from living in a reality where the molecules that make up one person never touch the molecules that make up another.  It was winter all around her.  She was cold and she was tired and she was sad, but instead of saying fuck this, fuck this, fuck everything, she said ok, ok, ok, and she was cold and she was tired and she was sad, but she said ok, ok, ok.

Driving Lessons

Cora liked to listen to the French radio station while she drove.  She was in Waterloo where her parents lived, practicing her parallel parking and three point turns for her final driving test.

The first time Cora had failed her driving test, she had gone into her bedroom and cried for half an hour, but the second time she had failed, she had had a party.  On the greyhound back to Toronto, she’d texted everyone in her phone and a third of them had been available to get drunk with her on a Tuesday evening.
French music blaring, Cora picked up her friend Natalie, and they drove through town toward the highway.
“I’ve tried every pizza topping at Pizza Pizza,” said Natalie.  “Tuna on pizza is surprisingly delicious.”
That summer, Cora had gone on a walk in Toronto, and Natalie had gone on a walk in Kitchener, and they’d talked on the phone the whole walk.
“I see the moon,” Cora had said.  “I’m looking at it across the lake.  It’s almost a full moon.”
“I see it, too,” Natalie had said.  “It’s over this farmer’s field, and oh my goodness, it’s really beautiful.”
Now they drove with the French music between them through the town Cora had grown up in.  It was winter, and Natalie kept saying things like, “That turn was a little wide,” or “You should probably start slowing a little sooner at the lights.”  When they got to the beer store, Cora backed into a parking space, and Natalie said it was perfect.
Later, they went back to Natalie’s house, and their friend Daniel was already there.  Cora drank water while Daniel and Natalie drank beer, and all three of them played cards.  Natalie put on music, and Cora kept saying, “Write down the name of this song for me.  What’s the name of this song?”
The next day, Cora found a note in her pocket which read:
Dear Cora,
I am pleased to present to you the name of the song we are currently listening to at 12:48am, Sunday, December 8th, 2013: ‘Songs: Ohia, Farewell Transmission.’
Love always,
Natalie
When it was time for Cora to go home, she pulled out of Natalie’s driveway and practiced a parallel park behind Daniel’s car.  Daniel and Natalie stood outside watching.  Cora was about to drive away, but Natalie ran up to the car and climbed into the passenger’s seat.
“Try that again,” she said.  This time, Daniel stood behind the car and directed while Cora spun the wheel.  It was minus eighteen outside, and Cora could see the white clouds of cigarettes and warm breath floating up in front of Daniel’s face.
“That was good,” Daniel said climbing into the back seat.  “Now drive around and see if we can find another car.”
“I think I’m ok,” Cora told him.  “I still have all of tomorrow to practice.”
“Just drive,” said Daniel.  It was getting close to Christmas, and they found a house with a row of cars parked out front.  Daniel got out of the car again and made sure Cora didn’t hit the curb.
“Good,” Natalie kept saying.  “You’re doing a really good job.”
When Daniel got back into the car, three parallel parks later, his hands were purple from the cold.  Cora wanted to take him back to Natalie’s house, but he refused.
“I want you to be able to do this and not worry about it,” he told Cora.  He blew into his hands, and his fingers went from purple to white.  “Do three more, and then we’ll go back.”
It was after 2am now, and Natalie directed Cora through neighbourhood side streets past snow banks and unlit Christmas lights.
“Keep driving,” Daniel shouted from the back seat.  “You’re going to pass your test this time.  I promise.”
They still had the French music playing, and the heat blasting from the dashboard smelled like the coat closet at Cora’s parent’s house.  Cora remembered being small and sitting in the back seat of the car beside her two brothers.  It was late and they were driving home from her grandparent’s house.  Cora was warm in her winter coat and she fell asleep with her head on her older brother’s shoulder.
Now, both of her grandparents were dead, but Daniel was there and Natalie was there and they were driving through snow in the middle of the night.
“You can do this,” Daniel shouted from the back seat.
“You’re doing a great job,” said Natalie from the front seat.

Cora backed up the car, slowly turning the wheel as she went.  She wasn’t thinking about driving anymore or about her test, or even about her grandparents.  It was just the French music and the night and the voices of her two friends saying, we believe in you, we believe in you. You’re going to be great.

Peach’s Book of Recipes

Cora only had frozen pierogies and an apple in her fridge.  That would have been ok, except she’d had pierogies for breakfast and dinner the day before, and the apple had been in her crisper for over a month beside a rotting onion and now the apple kind of smelled like onion.

Cora didn’t know what to do.  It was cold outside and she was a little hungover and she didn’t feel like putting on pants.  She sat at her kitchen table and drank a cup of hot water because she’d run out of tea two days before.
A few months ago, a friend of a friend of hers had stayed over and the only food she’d had to give him for breakfast was tomato soup and oatmeal cookies.
“Have you been really busy lately?” he’d asked.  “Is that why you don’t have any food?”
“No,” she’d told him.  “I just don’t know how to be an adult.  I’ve lived on my own since I was seventeen, and I still can’t remember to do laundry and eat vegetables and shower before work.”
Cora stood in front of her cupboard now and opened and closed the door.  She stared at the half-bag of marshmallows, the caramel sauce, the expired soup broth and the almost untouched bag of flour on the top shelf.  She stood there for a long time, swinging the door in front of her face, listening to the refrigerator motor click on and someone walking in the apartment above.  She thought about swimming in the river at her parent’s cabin and about how she’d only gotten 80% in her high school English class.  She thought about her older brother who lived in Seattle.  She wondered if he could drive a standard and if he was growing a beard, and then, in the middle of those thoughts, as though God had lowered the idea down to her from the ceiling, she realized she had all the ingredients to make pancakes.
“Peach,” she called when her roommate came home half an hour later.  “You’ll never guess what I’m doing.”
Peach still had her coat on, and her cheeks were red from the cold.
“I’m making pancakes.  Do you want pancakes?”
They ate the pancakes with their hands, dipping them into a plate of syrup while Cora stood by the stove and made more and more.
“Look at this,” Peach said flipping through the cook book Cora had gotten the pancake recipe from.  “I forgot I was a chef in training.  If you ever want to see the recipes I’ve made up, I wrote them all in the back of here.”
Cora slid more pancakes onto Peach’s plate.
“This one’s called the break-up sandwich,” Peach read.  “And this one’s called the reunion sandwich.  It’s the same as the break-up sandwich except you use whole wheat bread and add lettuce.”
Cora hadn’t been outside yet, but the sun came in warm through the big kitchen windows.  She watched two squirrels fight each other in the back yard and a plastic bag blow across the grass.
Cora ate another pancake with her hands and made Peach read her more recipes from the little book.
“Ok,” said Peach.  “This one’s called spicy salt and vinegar pierogies.  It’s from when I made spicy pierogies and then crushed salt and vinegar chips on top.”
That afternoon, Cora had meant to go to the grocery store.  She had put on her coat and hat and had left the house and everything, but instead of walking east toward No Frills, she found herself going south down to the lake.  There was no one there except for her some ducks and two swans swimming by themselves further off.  The sand was hard under her feet, and the sun was dropping low and red behind the new condos in Etobicoke.  Cora climbed onto a log, washed onto the shore.  She balanced on it like she was a gymnast while the ducks watched, unimpressed.
Cora remembered coming to this beach with her brother and throwing rocks into the water, and she remembered coming here with her childhood best friends and a bottle of wine on Canada day.  They hadn’t even planned it, but they’d gotten to the beach just in time to watch the fireworks shoot out over the Ex, the stars and the spiraling colours reflecting off the glassy black lake.
It was cold now that the sun had set.  Cora jumped off the long into the sand, landing the dismount for the indifferent ducks.  She still didn’t have tea at home, but at least there were pancakes there.  She knew that eventually she would have to get food, just like she would eventually have start looking for a job and file her taxes, but until then, there were pancakes.  She still had pierogies in her freezer and that apple in the back of her fridge that kind of smelled like onion.  Probably, Peach had a recipe for all those things:
Step 1: Combine one apple. Twenty two pierogies and half a bag marshmallows.
Step 2: Bake at 425F for an hour and a half.
Step 3: Add lettuce and crush salt and vinegar chips over top of the whole thing.
Step 4: Enjoy.

The Best and Most Beautiful Night

Cora sat on her kitchen counter eating corn from a can.

“What are you doing?” her roommate Peach asked.  “What is our life right now?”
Cora brought her legs up so she was perched on the counter and Peach got her phone out and started filming.
“Wednesday, November 13th, 2013, 3am,” Peach said into the camera.  “Cora is eating corn from a can.”
“I don’t know if I ate today,” said Cora.  “I’ve been trying to be super thin.”
“You are thin.”
“But I mean like a heroin addict.”
The rest of their house was quiet.  The people who lived upstairs and the people who lived downstairs and the people who lived in the basement all had to be awake for work in a few hours.  Cora and Peach had walked home from the bar down side streets past houses with their lights out and garbage cans brought to the curb to be emptied.
“That was a good night,” Peach kept saying.  “That was such a good night.”
They had gotten separated at some point.  Cora had wanted to go to bed early, but instead of going home after the first bar, she went to Bar Neon and then Three Speed.  When she finally did make it back onto the street after last call, there was Peach, watching her friends smoke outside Duffy’s like they’d planned on meeting up all along.
“Look at the moon,” Peach had said.  They’d walked home past warehousesturned lofts and the Nestle chocolate factory at the edge of Toronto.
“It looks like a soft boiled egg,” said Cora.
“You’re right, it really does.”  It really did.
At Bar Neon, Cora and her friend Danielle had pretended they were successful artists living in Brooklyn.
“There’s some art party we were invited to in Manhattan tonight,” Danielle had said.  “I think Tao Lin is going to be there.”
“I don’t know,” Cora had said.  “It’s a bit of a trek, and I’ve got a meeting with my publisher in the morning.  There’s a lot of pressure now that I signed this half-a-million dollar book deal.”
“I know what you mean.  Promotion for this new movie I’m starring in opposite Ryan Gosling is taking up so much of my time.”
But now Cora was home.  She was living in Toronto, and Peach was still filming her.
“Turn that off,” said Cora.  “It makes me feel awkward.”  She was done her corn now, and she spun the empty can on her spoon.
“But I want to remember this,” said Peach.  “We should have a record of this best and most beautiful night.”
Outside, the streets of Toronto were stretched as cold and flat as the palm of a hand.  Cora could feel the snow rolling in.  Soon the city would be a white fist in a winter glove, and everyone’s heart would be hidden under sweaters and zipped into goose down jackets.
She held onto the counter and looked directly into the camera and said, “Wednesday, November 13th, 2013, 3:28am, the best and most beautiful night.”