The other day I was in a cab heading east on Bloor Street.
It was a beautiful, sunny day in autumn, a lucky day, even, but I was preoccupied by petty grievance. The driver was a smoker, and in order to air out his car before he picked me up he’d opened all the windows. You’d think I’d appreciate this, but I couldn’t get past the heavy, permanent smell of smoke, and the open windows were just serving as conduits, breaches through which all my seasonal allergies might stream. Somewhat unkindly, I asked him to close the windows, which he did, and with that it was like a wall went up between us.
As we approached Varsity Stadium he reopened a couple of the windows I had asked him to close, but before I could protest, music thumped into the car. A marching band–glittering in red and undulating like a flag– was in the stands performing the Battle Hymn of the Republic while a football game unfolded beneath.
Somehow this ignited a million unanticipated things at once, and we drove through the music with our heads out the window, as if it was weather we thirsted for.
On the field U of T was playing Queens and the crowd sounded like a tiny ocean. The athletes, all perfect, all aimed from birth to this moment in time, stood about like gold and blue statues. And one of them was going to make the best catch of his life, something he would return to again and again over the course of his life. Somebody else was going to get injured and never be quite the same. And in that crowd another person would see a beautiful young woman smile and feel nourished. A woman in a wheelchair felt the sun, and parents from small cities and towns, drove in to see their now grown children– now so terribly missed, now just beyond their protective reach.
The driver, whom I had forgotten about for a moment, startled me by speaking.
“I am not from here, so none of this is familiar to me,” He gestured toward the football stadium. “But still, when I hear that music and see all the people, it calls me in my bones. It is a kind of nostalgia, but for what I do not know.”