We're in my old 'hood, driving north on Bathurst, and almost every corner triggers a memory. In one, I'm riding my bike up -- and, whoo-hoo, down -- my old street, Briar Hill. Or I'm eating chicken soup in my bubbe's apartment at Glencairn, long since expropriated to make room for Shoppers Drug Mart. Or I'm driving our Chevy up to Coleman's deli at Lawrence to meet my father, who worked in the offices above.
"My mother called," says my girlfriend, interrupting as I'm pointing out (not, I admit, for the first time) key points of geographic interest. "She's worried."
Daydream over. It's the tense present now. My mother-in-law lives just blocks away from the site of David Rosenzweig's killing, and she's feeling the shiver of insecurity that's rippling through the entire Jewish community.
My revery turns to my years at Forest Hill Collegiate and how, when we moved in en masse, the WASP contingent pulled their kids out and plunked them into private schools. Despite this sign of our pariah status, things seemed a lot simpler then.
It was a time when Jews were aching to assimilate, and what better place to do that than this lakefront city with its history of embracing immigrants and its future as one of the world's polyglot capitals?
It is a hard thing not to trust Toronto. I can't claim to know what was going on the minds of Rosenzweig's killers. But it's easy to doubt our collective safety as we pass the now notorious strip mall, festooned with the yellow tape that screams crime scene, and head to Lawrence Square on an otherwise normal evening's shopping trip.
As we arrive, I get strange comfort from the thought that if I am a minority, so is everyone else here. At Zellers we need help in the linen department and gravitate toward the sound of a woman talking on the phone in an easy Jamaican lilt. We're pretty used to being a Jewish dyke duo buying sheets for our, obviously, double bed, but at the moment I feel just a hint of hesitation as we ask for a price check on two pillows.
"I'll do it right away," she smiles, putting down the receiver and fiddling with the price scanner. She's only getting beeps of the not-very-encouraging kind when she's interrupted by a couple in a big hurry. She's smooth as silk as she asks them to "wait a moment, can you please, while I take care of these ladies."
And I do feel taken care of.
Next, to Remy Leather, where the South Asian owner pulls down something like 20 bags while we two girls dither. Too big. Too little. I like this. I hate the colour. OK, let's get this one, whereupon the guy goes to the back to dig out a new one. But no. Maybe we want two small bags. In his shoes I would have lost it. But he shrugs, his eyes crinkling into a smile. We could take all night, if we wanted, but we don't.
We choose Oakwood for our return route, and Rogers Road, where some custard tarts catch our eye. As we walk into the Portuguese bakery, my eyes light up at the sight of the stand-up bar -- fully loaded. Only Mediterranean patisseries offer this particularly pleasurable combo of alcohol and sweets.
By the time we leave, we've been persuaded by the way too convincing saleswoman to purchase one of just about everything.
As we emerge into the street, reggae booms out of the laundromat and the Italian kids are hanging off the wrought-iron porch railings.
We walk to the car and I touch my girlfriend's hand.
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