the sweet escape
I dig my head into a fashion magazine and don't lift it up until the train stops in a town an hour away.
When the train comes to a halt, I stumble out with two heavy bags. One is filled with books, and one is filled with Mexican food, fine ingredients for tonight's feast.
I spot my proud Northern Irish grandfather standing in the distance, wearing a long jacket, a smart cap and sunglasses. My grandmother is in the station, her blonde hair glowing, lips lit up with lipstick, and her entire outfit co-ordinated in green. After embracing she picks up her cane and we walk to the car. We drive to Port Hope, the small, heritage town my grandparents live in.
I have come down to Port Hope to make a feast. My brother, living in a neighbouring town, has just turned 25. I haven't seen him in months and demanded we celebrate. What better way than a Mexican feast?
My grandparents are confused. "What are we making? Burritos? What is that?" They ask, the Northern Irish accent dancing through their voices. They've bought two loaves of French bread to go with the meal, and argue about whether or not I drink ice tea, and how my grandfather forgot to buy pop. I smile and tell them wine and water is all I need.
In their small kitchen I cut up avacado, make guacamole, blanch tomatoes, and make my first fresh salsa. I heat up Mexican re-fried beans, vegetarian burrito meat for my brother's girlfriend,and tortilla shells. I caramelize onions and fry orange and red peppers. My grandmother mixes a salad with fruit and nuts and poppyseed dressing. My grandfather moves slowly around the room, sets the table, and pours me a glass of red wine.
By the time my brother and his girlfriend arrive the feast is ready. Over the evening we laugh and eat until our stomachs hurt. My brother says his cake is too sweet and so I eat his icing, forever the little sister. The pack of candles only has 24, but looks like 25 lit up on the cake, and he wishes for world peace.
They leave before it gets late, and I scrub refried beans and meat off dirty pans while my grandmother watches the news. The small TV in the kitchen is always on, my grandparents absorbing news every moment they can, muttering and cursing different politics.
I slept soundly that night. More soundly than I have in months. My grandparents home is the only place I can sleep through the night without waking. It's something about the large size of the house, the safety, the antiques, the old throw pillows which tell me to relax.
The next day the sky was blue, and I walked through the town and the small shops, before coming home and making my grandmother lunch, then heading back to the train station.
It was a quick stay, but necessary. Family is more important than anything to me, and I'm learning how to express it. In the end, it probably did me more good than anyone.
Back in the city I went to work, and spent the night as bartender, shaking cocktails and pouring wine, a black apron tied around my waist.
At the end of the night I took a taxi to a hotel where my other, older brother was staying. He's in town for work and flies out this morning. We drank in the stylish lobby, spilled our hearts, and I left him with a hug and a wave.
It's been a sweet few days, a celebration of life and family.