Click: West End East End

Click: true moments, stories too short for the stage.

I’m sitting next to a stranger in her sixties.

“Oh, you’re on the west end of Toronto?” she says. “I’ve lived on the east end my entire life. In fact, I never went to the west end until I was twenty-five years old.”

That long? I say.

“Well, when I was a little girl,” she says, “my mother always told me, ‘Never go west of Yonge Street. That’s the west end, and everyone there is so poor.’ So I never did.”

What happened to change it? I ask.

“One day I was talking to a new friend who’d lived on the west side her entire life. And she said, ‘The east side is so much nicer than I ever thought it could be. Everyone always said never go east of Yonge Street, because it was the east end, and everyone there was so poor.'”

I am laughing.

“So I thought, well, I should find out what it’s like over there in the west. And you know, it’s pretty much just like the east end.”

And I think of being twelve years old, eyes open at two a.m., waiting for the USSR to drop their nuclear bombs on Amurrica, on California, on me.

Lying there with the covers over my head.

I remember watching the news, Communist soldiers marching, marching.

I remember listening to the radio and hearing this silly singer, known mostly for being young and pretty, say dreamily, “what might save us, me and you, is if the Russians love their children too”, and feeling ridiculous as I burst into sudden tears because I’d never thought about families over there. I’d never thought of a twelve year old girl named Aleksandra lying awake at night. Listening for the American bombs.

Load up Google Maps and walk down a city street in Russia, in North Korea, in Iraq. There’s the coffeeshop. There’s the convenience store and the streetcar tracks and the towering apartment building. There’s the young woman, holding a little girl’s hand as they walk down the sidewalk.

There’s us. Talking another language and grocery shopping and wanting to be better than we were yesterday.

Pretty much just like the east end.

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