For Jackson and the Chase

“The trick,” she told me, “is to always keep moving. And if you do look back, for whatever reason, be ready for the commotion.” When no one else was watching we covered our ears with our hands, elbows angled outward as if to ward off double-fisted blows, keeping our eyes wide open. This is how Jackson taught me the necessary escape from the past by facing it down.

In the kitchen steaming with heat, working as dishwashers and short-order cooks, we leaned into memories. Both of us another Angelus Novus, in obligatory hairnets and knee-length aprons stained to a fade, tucked over tank tops and old jeans, bare feet in our fluorescent sneakers from BiWay or Thrifty’s, squealing across the linoleum floor, then a year later, tougher, lace-up combat boots, worn even in summertime.

“Like a fucking sauna.” The first thing Jackson ever said to me, as she wiped the wet edge of her face and jerked a thumb toward the end of the kitchen facing out on a crumbling parking lot behind Yonge Street. “Even with that back door propped open.”

I watched the manager look me up and down as he hired me.

Published in TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Book 6. Purchase the book to read the full piece.

Toronto locations referenced in this piece

“I didn’t know the difference. High school was it for me, but now Jackson had me dreaming wild about going to chef school at George Brown College . . . ” —George Brown College Chef School

“‘Like a fucking sauna.’ The first thing Jackson ever said to me, as she wiped the wet edge of her face and jerked a thumb toward the end of the kitchen facing out on a crumbling parking lot behind Yonge Street. ‘Even with that back door propped open.’ . . . ” —Yonge Street