Toronto is grey.
I hopped a plane to Toronto; mainly just planned to have a change of scenery for a bit – a different view out of a different window. Hoping to change that and get out to do a few things.
I’ve got a story from today running around my mind. Not sure of the significance, really – just feel like I need to write it down.
It starts when I almost lost my passport.
I had just finished shoving my oversize Adidas gym bag in an overhead bin six aisles away from my seat. Turns out overhead space comes at a premium on Toronto flights.
I swam my way upstream and back to my row, realizing I’d have to cross over the guy sitting in the aisle to get to the window.
“Sorry, I’m in 5F.”
We haphazardly shuffled around in the narrow aisle, he getting up and turning sideways, I bumbling past him with my equally oversize backpack, stuffed with my computer, an external keyboard and enough cords to descend the side of the CN Tower (or so it seems).
Sitting down, I went to tuck away my boarding pass and passport – only the latter wasn’t there. I did the frantic, “Shoot up, pat your pockets, make frustrated little noises” dance. Making things worse, the floors of WestJet planes are virtually the same colour as the outside of a passport.
I’d need to crawl around on a thousand dirty shoe prints looking for it once we’d landed.
Nervous resignation. I half tuned into the conversation of the guy who I’d stumbled over like a drunk trying to get to my seat.
“…..and I’m thinking, it ain’t mine, how did it fall out and… oh, are you Joel?”
My passport had fallen onto his seat. He found it when he sat on it.
“Yeah. Yes! Is that my passport?”
It was. He handed it back. We shook hands, introduced ourselves. He said it was “A pleasure” – I liked that formality.
“Toronto home for you?”
“No, I’m from Calgary” I replied, still relieved at his find. “You?”
“What brings you up here?”
“Pain,” he laughed.
I knew he was only half joking. Nobody answers a question like that without a story behind it – or the expectation of a follow-up question. He wanted to talk. Needed to talk. He had his opening.
“I’m up here for legal reasons. A custody battle with my wife. It’s real messy.”
And so here we were – two people with a relationship two minutes old, and he was about to indulge deep, personal pains like it was a chat about the weather.
“Messy court case. And the lawyer, I just got this feeling about him. As I go to leave, he grabs my hand and pulls me close, and you know what he says?”
The most pregnant pause of all.
“I’m marrying your wife.”
How do you even respond to that? I got M. Night Shyamalan’d, all from asking where he called home. I laughed. What else can you do with that?
“That’s terrible. I’m sorry.”
“Gets worse,” he said, eyes wide. “My ex, she’s been known to cry wolf. When she got pregnant with her first kid – not mine – she told everybody she was raped. Didn’t say nothin’ until she knew she was pregnant.”
Holy crap. Heavy.
Do I believe this guy? Why not? I have no reason not to – but a moral twinge of doubt.
“Anyhow, she told the judge I was molesting the girls, beating her… see, I started to put the pieces together now when I heard that lawyer say he’s marryin’ her. They been coachin’ the girls on what to say, turnin’ them against me.”
I decided in that moment to believe everything he said.
In three hours we’d never see each other again.
He went on with his story; how he was going to investigate new options now that he knew about the conflict of interest, how the mother had lied to him about the daughters being too busy to see him. How he didn’t care about his job or the cash, he just wanted to see his girls – the same girls who had lied on the stand about him asking them to bed.
The conversation came to a close.
“I’m still processing all this, I guess.”
A few minutes later, just before take off, I leaned over and tapped his shoulder to point at the Bow Tower, the tallest in Calgary.
Now I was the one who needed to talk. I wanted to catch him off guard. I was in love with the idea of a conversation with a stranger – or maybe just a conversation with someone new. New scenery.
I wanted to spill my own secrets all over that ocean-blue floor.
“Most people don’t know this, but there’s two panic rooms in there,” I said meekly, pointing at the tower.
“Really? Huh.” he said, eyebrows cocked.
“One for each CEO. My Uncle was one of the head guys on the project.”
(That was it.)
The plane took off and the conversation came to a close. He pulled his jacket over his head to block out all the light and fell asleep.