“In the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer.”
As the scalding summer that had plagued Windsor, Ontario came to a close in September, I sat at a dimly lit bus stop with a book in hand; The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky. This is a book I had been carrying around for days, but it was also one that I never actually got around to reading. In a spur-of-the-moment decision- likely induced by one of many manic episodes -I had told my family I was spending the night out at a friends house. I packed my things, and began wandering this forsaken city. It had brought me to this bus stop at five in the morning, where I awaited a bus that would never come. Dawn was creeping into the horizon, and with it my eyelids became heavy.
For hours before this I had wandered. My journey began by leaving Forest Glade by bus and travelling to the downtown area, where EDM blared through the streets and teenagers and adults alike swarmed to its source like flies to honey. I followed the noise, and found myself staring from behind a fence into a show of paint and light. An otherwise bleak and vacant riverfront had been filled with sweat, vomit and alcohol. But, above all else, it had been filled with life; something this city was foreign to. Windsor, Ontario is regarded as the Cancer Capital of Canada, as well as the Unemployment Capital of Canada, and so such electric bodies were very rarely seen wandering the streets with shawarma fresh on their breaths. In their place were the mental vagrants; people in whose minds left to places of their dreams as their bodies would partake in blatantly shitty nine-to-fives in call centres and banks and factories. “The pay is good!” they would declare with smiles, but the crows feet in their eyes never surface. These smiles were empty, much like this city’s soul.
Windsor was, once upon a time, a city of wonder. It was a frequent and much favored stop of the infamous Al Capone. It was rich in history when it came to the War of 1812, but it seemed that all of this had been forgotten. It was replaced with a crumbling municipal economy and fool for a mayor. Windsor is often revered as the “asshole of Ontario.” I would be obliged to agree if it weren’t for this night in which I wandered and found the beauty buried deep within this husk. Windsor is a rotted corpse, and the beauty is found in the skeleton; something that holds true in spite of time’s cruel strength, and contains years of memories in its marrow.
After I finished observing the festivities, I made no attempt to get in. Tickets were expensive, and I was a disgustingly broke student. Plus, no change of clothes could remove the scent of paint from my skin that would surely come with joining the blind frenzy at the riverfront. Feeling tired, I made my way to the Starbucks- it was still open, thankfully -for something caffeinated. Along the way I could hear the clouds shout against the city, and with their roars came a howling wind that ripped between the buildings. It was a howl of both malice and disparity, reminiscent of the cities people. I entered the Starbucks in a hurry, and found it lightly populated. There sat a girl at the bar; one with long blonde hair and big eyes. She was not dressed as the folks at the riverfront were. In fact, she was dressed quite modestly for what her personality and desires would entail. I ordered my drink after a few moments of bewilderment at the menu, and sat down a seat over from her.
I listened to the conversation at the table behind us between a ginger man and a woman of fair complexion. The two spoke of philosophy. They spoke of Friedrich Nietzsche and Nihilism; how they themselves were nihilists. It was to no one’s surprise that they wore discolored hair and glasses reminiscent of the ones they grant you at a 3D film. I snickered and turned my attention to the blonde girl next to me, whom looked to feel about the same. After some light conversation with the girl, I was on my way. It was raining when I stepped out of the coffee shop, and as I walked aimlessly through the storm, I could not help but think back to the two hipsters in the Starbucks and their discussion.
They reminded me of empty nesting dolls, those two. They sought to fill themselves with whatever bullshit smelled the prettiest, and settled with making a farce of Nietzsche. It was both entertaining and irritating. The fact of the matter was that within their hollow shells were merely more hollow shells, boiling down to one single pebble of silver. This, perhaps, may be the best way to describe Windsor. A shameful toy, twisted by the hands of fate into something less than it once was. But deep within there lied fortune, and I met mine in the form of another bus stop. It was now only a bit past eleven o’clock at night. I didn’t know what bus was coming, and I didn’t quite care. All I knew was that the rain- which no doubt managed to soak even the river we at next to -became less of an aesthetic, and more of an irritant.
The bus came, and with a swipe of my transfer card I was off into the depths of Windsor. On the bus sat a few more aggregates. A number of them were clearly intoxicated or doped up. I found a seat near a window, and stared at the passing lights in buildings and homes. We descended into the suburbs of Walkerville, where for every five houses whose lights were off, there sat one with a single window- or all of them -bright and glaring into the street. There were very few reasons to be up past midnight for anyone; these early hours of morning were typically the most haunting for any human. Either someone was suffering, or they were preoccupied with something that shut their brain off for just long enough to forget about their problems. I wondered what wandering the city at such ungodly hours would be classed as. Was I suffering? Or was I merely distracting myself? I wouldn’t be able to answer such questions, for the medication I have been provided makes me into an empty slate of granite. You may carve your words into me, but you may never find them again in the blackness.
The bus had erupted into chaos as I had lost myself in my train of thought. Harsh words were exchanged after a drunken man gripped the bosoms of a woman. A man- presumably her significant other -found himself infuriated and sent a righteous blow crashing upon his temple. The drunken man, with a chin of steel, saw his blow and raised him with a right uppercut. Before anyone knew it, they were swinging at one another like rock ’em sock ’em robots. They fought their way off the bus, with the woman left crying in her seat as it pulled away from the shitshow that was unfolding on the sidewalk. I felt poorly for the woman, and invited her to sit next to me.
She very blatantly told me to “go fuck myself” and, confused, I nodded my head and looked back out the window. I considered saying something witty, like perhaps remarking on her sleazy attire, but decided it was socially unjust and just flagrant of me to do so. I also decided not to say anything on account of natural selection likely eating this woman alive in the near future. It is now that I write this that I wince at the crudeness of my thoughts. Such primal and vile things had come to mind, and over what? A woman projecting her anger onto myself? How absurd. In any case, it seemed as though the storm was transient, and so I got off the bus and began a march through the local forest. I was conscious of the risk of this, and felt my heart rate escalate, but marched regardless. As I walked, I attempted to distract myself with thoughts of what occurred on the bus.
Masculinity was a fragile thing. This much I could conclude. Misogyny, however, was very much present in that whole scenario. These things run rampant in Windsor, where your intellect socially is classed by how much testosterone you have. It is a vile and unfortunate truth. To elaborate, the man had felt obliged to defend the woman that he saw as his own property; he made as much obvious in his speech. He even referred to the woman as his “bitch.” A truly sickening human, no doubt, but one of honor at the same time. I wondered how this city had returned to something so feudalistic in nature. It was odd how something so ugly on the surface could be so irrevocably beautiful within.
I got to the other end of the forest, and stepped out to find another bus stop. The path had lead straight to it. This would be the one that I rest at. It was here that I began to mull over the events of the night, and more specifically my thoughts of the city. It was, without a doubt, dead. A shambly corpse with nothing left for it. But it’s skeleton was pristine and maintained perfectly. The shell had been battered, but what lied within remained in tact, albeit damned to a similar fate at a later time. You can only dig so deep when it comes to this city. The beauty can be found, but it is shallow and arbitrary in nature, and equally as transient as it’s past self. Time is cruel and elusive, and it has made Windsor an example of such a thing. What was once an economically and socially explosive area of Ontario had become the province’s renowned asshole, and yet we as the peasants are strangely okay with such a thing.
The city cries for help, and we hear it, but we do not act. We let it suffer and die, and we let the crime of our neighbors seep in with open arms. The cancer capital of Canada has been torn asunder by the cancer of time, and it’s people have gone mad at the thought of being apart of it all. They, like myself, look beyond the city for life without realizing that they had lived seventeen full years within its walls. Whether the city is a death trap, or it’s people are too fragile is unknown. All that is known is that the city, as I have stated time and time again, is a graveyard with towers for tombstones, and we are merely paying our respects to what it once was, and what it could have been.