The Man Who Built Walls and Tore Them Down

It was the first time I’d sat down with Frank since moving out five years earlier. More might have passed were it not for Yuri killing himself. I recall thinking spring was the season I would’ve chosen, too. It was the first time in a long while that I’d relinquished my resistance to thinking of Frank as my father, instead of simply a man whose existence was parallel to mine, and only incidentally connected through people I loved.

We had faced each other in the crematorium of course, two months before. We’d watched Yuri’s mother gather up five pieces of her only son’s bones with disposable wooden chopsticks—not wanting his bones to feel the coldness of metal—with such dexterity it seemed she’d done it before. She hadn’t, but she would do it a few more times, outliving her widowed sister and even Frank. She performed in calm, in silence, except near the end when she whispered Yuri’s name as if to coax him from his hiding place. I’d always found it ironic, my father giving my older half-brother a name that sounded both Jewish and Japanese when Yuri was the full-blooded one.

Published in TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Book 2. Purchase the book to read the full piece.

Toronto locations referenced in this piece

“I would’ve fled, run outside to the deck that ringed around us and finally looked onto the waters into which Yuri had silently plunged off the ferry to Ward’s Island . . . ” —Ward’s Island

“He had left the family home on Fallingbrook and my mother and moved into the penthouse suite of one of his buildings on Queen’s Quay . . . ” —Queen’s Quay

“‘Saw you once,’ Frank was now saying, pointing down to the street, his finger circling around an area. ‘Cleaning the windshield of a car ahead of me. Foot of Spadina. You didn’t see me.’ . . . ” —Front & Spadina

“I met Frank in his office with its floor-to-ceiling windows and the CN Tower—the jewel in his crown and his sceptre—right there behind him amid a blanched royal blue sky . . . ” —CN Tower