The House on St. Clarens

Daddy tears at the Styrofoam cup, making snowflakes. I stare out the window at the real snow, longing for the bite against my cheeks.

“How have you been sleeping? ” he asks.

“Every night, out like a light,” Granny says.

“That’s not what the nurse told me. She says you’ve been waking up, screaming out. Like you did when I was a child. Do you remember, Mom? ” He wanders over to the dresser and begins examining her bottles, messing them up, clinking glass.

When I see Daddy get like this, I feel protective of him, as though I’m seeing him through the eyes of a social worker. A neglected child screaming out for attention. Now that I teach grade one, it’s particularly weird. I wish I could help him, but I know from experience it’s best to leave him alone.

“I’ve always slept well,” Granny says.

“That’s not what I remember.” Daddy laughs. His salt-and-pepper hair looks bristly as a scouring pad. “What did you dream about after Kaz was gone? Did you imagine that he was still alive, chasing you around the house? ”

Published in TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Book 5. Purchase the book to read the full piece.

Toronto locations referenced in this piece

“We drive past the yellow signs of Caribbean restaurants, a Goodwill and a wig shop. The dark blockaded front of the House of Lancaster Gentlemen’s Club looks like a mausoleum. “Lansdowne. The old neighbourhood. Want to get out, walk around? ” . . . ” —Lansdowne

“‘Where’s St. Clarens? ’ I asked. ‘It’s a slummy neighbourhood, full of strip clubs, near Lansdowne,’ Daddy said. ‘A lot of Japanese Canadians lived there after being released from the internment camps.’ . . . ” —St. Clarens