Returning home over winter break, everything seemed awfully subdued. Everything was quiet, warm, a little hollow. Individuals I remembered as fiery and spirited, I now could only see as tired and withdrawn. Retreating from life somehow. Others, ironic and hard-edged, now low-key and distant, a pensieve of memories. My father was nurturing, more expressive than I’d ever seen him.

It was strange. I couldn’t comprehend how everyone could change so completely in such a short period of time.

From two weeks of rushing about I remember most distinctly cloudy late afternoons in the orchard library. Generic ambient music, probably some local artist getting promo, playing in the background. Dull grey light bleeding in from the floor to ceiling windows.

I feel like that’s a pretty succint summary of the entire trip back. It should’ve been calm, sluggish if not comforting, but it wasn’t. It was unsettling, stressful and emotionally overwhelming. I ate at my old favourite burger joint, which closed down at the end of 2015. I went out with my family and old friends, made pancakes, walked around the city, chose random Starbucks joints to have mental breakdowns in. We had a barbecue, and I watched my mother tell stories in an over-enthusiastic way that was completely foreign, but somehow heartwarming. My brother’s eleventh birthday came and went, and my family kept up its unblemished can’t-agree-on-anything record by getting five slices of different cakes — one for each of us. It probably should’ve been an intermezzo, but felt more like a dying breath.


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