The pixelboard above the windshield was panning two segments of text from left to right, one and then the other. "23E to Longbranch Station", then "via Port Credit GO Station". We had run through light traffic to catch it. I stopped running, breathless, as Kyle sprinted effortlessly towards the next stop where it was waiting for us.
Luckily, the bus had just turned around at the Clarkson GO Station, at the western far end of its route that went from the southwest corner of Mississauga to the southwest corner of Toronto. That meant that there weren't many people on it yet, so I didn't feel too guilty about lagging behind.
Kyle had no idea where we were headed. That amused me. He'd probably assumed we're taking our usual route to the Square One mall in the heart of Mississauga, which would involve stopping halfway along this bus's route along Lakeshore Road West, to head north at the next GO Station. I decided not to tell him just yet, as it would keep his anxiety in check.
The driver reluctantly handed me a transfer slip when I finally got on board.
A pair of old ladies glared at me as I passed, and I suspected that it had something to do with the rainbow armband that dangled loosely on my left wrist, simply not as kosher as the pristinely white 'MakePovertyHistory.Ca' ones that Kyle wore. As if it made him any less of a sinner.
He smiled at me as I made my way to the back of the bus and sat across from him. The smile, though not as white, reminded me of my own troubles. And this kind of company loves misery, loves to sympathize. The cornerstone of a good friendship in this horrible world, he once mused.
The question was on his lips. I could see it forming, the "Where are we off to, Spence?"
I had to say something first. The last thing I wanted on my hands was an emotionally unstable Kyle. The others never saw it, but I did. How the topic, or even word, would make him look away. And those eyes of his, that he hopes nobody sees dripping sadness, I've seen them.
I used to be envious. I know that sounds terrible, but I once wished I was capable of crying like that. I thought I just wasn't sensitive enough, or that gender roles had made it impossible. Like a Klingon, born without tear ducts. I wished I had something to cry about.
"Where are we-"
And now I do.
"He cut me off," I said.
I reached into my pocket and took out a folded up piece of paper. I unfolded it, revealing to him that it was riddled with holes from when I had put it up on the dart board at home. The text was readable, but the picture was hard to make out. It wasn't just the bad printer I had used, it was my deadly accuracy with the darts.
He looked at the text, "You printed an ad off Craigslist?"
He read it. I winced. The date was three days ago. My boyfriend put it up, 'YOUNG HUNG TWINK SEEKS HANDSOME SUGAR DADDY - m4m - 19'.
His open mouth closed, only to speak, "I'm sorry..." He put a hand on my knee, and it felt completely platonic as it should.
The picture had once been pornographic in nature. However, I had censored it with every angry throw.
"These holes..." Kyle ran his fingers along the ones that weren't so accurate, more spaced out and not on target.
"I threw the first dart at his jugular."
"And you barely hit yourself at all... that takes talent, assuming you were standing behind the line."
I smiled. My voice bitter, I spoke, "I was standing behind the line when I threw those darts."
It was sick. Joshua had used a photograph of us both shirtless, me climbing onto his lap slowly, with my mouth around the end of something now unseen. Now it just looked like me, hanging onto nothing. Fellating nothingness. Tiny holes had removed him from the picture ever so slowly.
"Did you feel any better afterwards?" Kyle asked me.
"No," I admitted. "I felt as unloving as him. And it didn't answer a single question that was on my mind."
"I don't understand," Kyle told me. "I've heard nothing but good about Josh, from you and Lucinda, and I was hoping to meet him. I mean, you've been together for three months!"
"Why are we such fickle creatures?"
"I can't answer that. But one is only fickle by choice. We are not animals."
"The physical description, height and weight are his, as far as I know. And he's the only one, other than me, who has a copy of that photograph. I just wish I knew why, y'know?"
Kyle nodded, "I know..." then he began to mumble, "I can't tell her why until I find out why for myself."
"A break-up, even if he's not decent enough to do it face to face... for gawd's sake, that's all I ask!" My voice rose.
"Calm down," he told me, and then he moved to the seat beside me and put his arm over my shoulder as I sobbed. Back in high school, he'd keep his distance so that people knew we were just friends. Now, Kyle no longer cared what people thought of him.
No matter what I did, I couldn't slow my breathing. And I dared not close my eyes, lest I see Joshua's face in my mind's eye. I wondered, though, was he happy wherever he was? Or would he regret it?
"Why an older man?" I sobbed. "His parents are going to pay his tuition."
Kyle frowned, "Do you believe this is a coincidence?"
I withdrew and looked him in the eyes, as I straightened my spikes of hair with one hand. "Huh?"
"Excuse me, miss, can I borrow your cellphone to make a call?" Kyle asked the young woman sitting in front of us.
She turned around and smiled as she recognized us. I forgot her name, but I knew her face. "Sure thing, Kyle. Tell your brother I said hello."
"Will do," he said as she handed him her iPhone. "Okay, Spence, what's his number?"
"Four-one-six," I said and then waited, "Ummm..." I drew a blank. A complete blank. I had dialed the number almost daily for the last three months, and now I had nothing but uncertain fragments of the other seven digits.
"Nevermind, Sarah's got him on her contact list. Not to mention... my family cottage?"
She wasn't listening.
I put a hand over my mouth, in exaggerated surprise.
He closed his eyes.
I focused, and I could faintly hear each ring. And I too closed my eyes.
White noise. Traffic, wind, open windows. A car horn.
I clutched my book nervously.
I opened my eyes.
Kyle was looking at the screen with his brown brow converging and then rising in confusion. "The phone is on, but it says he's in an area that's not serviced. But that doesn't make sense, because the GPS on it says he's in downtown Toronto."
"Where in Toronto? Got an address?" I asked eagerly.
"Some high rise complex near Yonge and Eglington. Holly Place?"
The bus came to a stop at the Port Credit GO Train Station.
"Holly Place," Kyle repeated as he rose to his feet.
I was in disbelief. "Sit down. Holly Place? Seriously?"
"The name means something to you?" he said, frowning at my command to stay seated.
"Lucinda told me it's our destination."
"That I did," said a melodic soprano voice that came to rest beside us. She adjusted her wavy black hair, tying it back in a bun.
"You're not getting off here, we're headed into Toronto," I told him.
Lucinda smiled beatifically.
"Very well," said Kyle. "Two birds with one stone, into raccoon city we go."
"Oh please, their garbage pick-up strike is over," Lucinda said. "Wait - two birds?"
I handed her the piece of paper I had printed off from Craigslist.ca. "To answer your question, Kyle: I don't think this is a coincidence. Far from it."
He nodded, and looked away toward the window - though the bus was not moving.
"Nadine will meet us at Longbranch," Lucinda told us.
"Who's Nadine?" I asked. And then the chapter ended before she could answer me.