If you ever find yourself in St. Catharines, Ontario, follow Bunting Rd. to Queenston st. and head east. You'll see some townhouses and a field on your left. You'd hardly believe there used to be a school there.
A Kindergarten to Grade 6 establishment known as Consolidated Public. A building made of short steps for little legs, now a puzzling phantom for old eyes paying a visit.
I swear there was a school there.
I swear 8 years worth of my memories stood encased in red brick, surrounded by paved playground, swingsets and a field that stretched eternal to elementary eyes. Where winter would see the formation of a sheet of ice for students to simply slide across at recess, because who had the time to lace up skates? Where the best day of the year was the day the janitor took a push broom up on the roof, and for a moment, it rained tennis balls.
And suddenly, days became decades, and the student body became incorporeal, ghosts haunting halls torn to rubble and cleaned to make way for new homes. For new families. And I understand that populations need room to grow, but I can't shake the feeling that the evidence of my existence is just gone.
There was a kid with a friendly disposition towards teachers. A kid with a mercurial temperament. A kid who didn't quite fully grasp that a chemical imbalance translated to an emotional one. So this kid had a lot of trouble coping with a lot of things. He was known for crying at every opportunity, for writing endlessly, and for lying his ass off just for the sake of it.
Consequence is a vague notion when you're a kid, so when I came up with stories like "My parents made me play a baseball game at 10pm last night, which is why I'm so tired." I just wanted to be pitied by teachers. I wanted the attention. What I didn't want or expect was an inquisition to be brought down upon my family. This continued for a while, and when my mother was approached by staff and Children's Aid, asking through grave expressions why Daniel said he and his sister would get locked in the laundry room for a week any time they misbehaved, she could only roll her eyes, and ask "How many times are you going to be duped by a fucking 8 year old?"
So I'm sure teachers had some problems with me. I'm sure a lot of them didn't appreciate being told "it's your job" by someone wearing velcro shoes for purposes of practicality, rather than style. But I'm also sure every one of them hoped that I was going to be alright.
It ended with a kid on crutches, wearing a cast that matched the school colours to help mend a broken ankle, delivering a valedictorian address in 1997. And there's a graduation photo to prove it that hangs in a hallway that no longer exists.
The only remaining details of those 8 years lives in a small bachelor flat just above my eyes. Bits and pieces are scattered in other heads, but the entirety lives within me, and me alone. And to a set of guiding spirits who knew me by name, who knew me by my lies both on and off paper, teachers and faculty who may still remember today and wonder if that kid is doing alright
To Brown, Van Geest, Nield, Gosen, Findlay, Harris, Williams, Belzil, Tebbutt, MacMillan, Scarry, Quinland, Gilgunn, Telford - to every one of you who may still hold proof of that red brick structure and the lives within it - Please know that he has grown, learned, loved, risked, lived, and never stopped writing. Know that he has survived the worst the world could throw at him, that his name has been chanted on a national stage, that he has not forgotten you, and that God Damn it, he's alright.