Photo Courtesy of peterspiro
On the sunny days of Autumn in Toronto, Canada, I would always ride my bike.
I rode my bike to go to school and speed through the neighborhoods of Forest Hill and Rosedale until my legs would feel as tired as a worn-out shoe.
There would always be a new sight to see in the midst of taking the same neighborhoods. There would be houses that are painted in different colors and had the same white designs placed behind large grasslands and budding bushes.
There would be a house that would always have a stony round tower with eight windows on both floors and black bricks on the roof that surpassed the height of the chimneys. There’s even a house on Rosedale that has intertwined rectangular walls with different sizes that would make the house diagonal. It had more divided windows than bricks.
Yet there was no house like the treehouse in the suburbs.
I would always slam my breaks to the smell of spices sautéed with onions and garlic alongside cooked chicken. I would hear the growls of my stomach and rubber tires squeaking on the flat roads with multicolored street paint. Smoke would always emerge from the brick chimney and I knew it was from the house.
The house was covered by oak trees with orange leaves that would smoothly descend onto the stoned roads that led to the front porch. The trees would sing with the windchimes that would be heard from afar, and chandelier lights would be lit inside of the bay window to show the silhouette of a woman cooking.
I would take note of the linings of the black front balcony and wonder what kind of life can be found within the only house that hid inside autumn canvases and furnished oriels. The house would gloat in pristine, and I would keep pedaling my bike to stamp out my rising heart rate and short breaths.
I ended up coming back.
It became constant. I would bike to the same spot and stop to the smell of curried chicken stew. It reminded me of the dish my grandma gave me every day as a child before she passed away and I lost the only connection to my family.
I would see the same woman cooking and the same leaves gliding away from the trees. She was an elderly woman who wore different aprons and leaned on the same handle of her stove.
She would be the only person I would see in the house. It made me wonder how a house that big could belong to a woman so small and frail. I would never determine the answer to that question though, I would run away as soon as I became uneasy.
One day, she actually saw me.
I went to the house on a Saturday and stood in front of the gate. I looked at the leaves that were attached to the trees. My ears took in the whispers of the wind and my body embraced the chills that caused the leaves to rustle above me. The leaves must feel so free once they’re able to let the wind take them.
They get to soar with no fear of any forces trying to shove them to the ground. They don’t have any adult tell it where to go and they don’t have to be reminded of the fact that they are living a life of false hopes and constant attempts to escape.
They don’t have to face the rest of their lives in a foster care system waiting for a family to have enough compassion to raise a troubled teenager. They get to fly from trees and bloom for the season. That’s all they’re good for, and it makes me sick.
“Would you like some chicken stew?”
I jumped and almost fell on top of my bicycle. The voice belonged to the lady in the house. She wore a baby blue housecoat, a white apron, and had white hair that was lighter than snow. Her arms and hands had wrinkles, and her legs would wobble as she would adjust her posture on her metal cane. She had light skin and blue eyes.
“I just made a fresh pot if you would like some.”
Her voice was soft and weak, you could hear the kindness that lived in her heart. My heart started to ache as I would look at her. Seeing her posture and her expression reminded me of my grandma. I wanted to run back to the foster home and hide inside the rotted covers of my bed.
I can’t imagine what she must be thinking as she saw my hair bouncing in all directions, the bruises on my pale face, the ripped holes on my sweater and stains on my blue jeans. I don’t want to hear her input on being a 15-year-old boy with no life, and most importantly, I don’t want to hear her pity.
So, I escaped from her sight, and I didn’t turn back.
A couple of months had passed, and I couldn’t stand the constant what if’s that would form in my mind anymore. I couldn’t stop thinking about the older woman. Her voice would replay in my mind, and I would keep imagining the smell of her chicken stew and what could have happened if I stayed.
So, I decided to ride back to her house.
The house was empty when I arrived. I couldn’t smell the chicken stew. The leaves were disappearing as winter was starting to appear, and there was no smoke coming from the chimney. There were no lights in the house, and my heartbeat started to quicken.
I raced to the front door, which had blood stains that traveled to the welcome mat and a paper that labeled the house as abandoned property. I became a bottomless jug that could never be filled, and I walked back to my bike with drooped shoulders and a new set of false hopes.