It had been dark for hours by the time I finally parted ways with my coworkers and got in my car. Once-warm mini donuts sat untouched in my bag on the passenger seat, begging me to take a bite, but my stomach was spinning too fast to truly entertain the idea of eating anything. I was trying not to speed, but my foot felt heavy as my heart raced.
I expected to hit Toronto traffic, something to slow me down, but the roads were clear. It was just me, with the air conditioning on high, unsure whether I was sweating from the late August heat or nerves. While the rest of me reddened, my icy hands gripped the steering wheel, ready to make a left turn any minute now.
Driving under the sign for Greektown, I felt my heart start to rattle inside my chest. I took a deep breath, checking for any cars behind me before slowing down to the speed limit. It wasn’t even midnight yet, but the empty streets made it feel like 3am.
Coxwell. The sign passed and I knew my turn was coming up. I’d looked at the map a hundred times to plan my drive, and now I was nearing the end. It was the only time I’d drive this route, but three years later I still know every direction, every sign, every cue.
I turned towards my final destination and was met by a street lined with cars on both sides and rows of houses with no lights on. I drove slowly, eyes wide open, searching for a parking spot in the dark. I reached a makeshift dead-end of construction vehicles and barricades and pulled my car over just on the wrong side of a No Parking sign. I checked my phone; no new texts.
At that moment, I couldn’t feel my heart at all. I tapped my fingers against my collar bone, like a slow substitution for my heartbeat. I was suddenly sure it was all a joke. No one was home. No one was coming to meet me. I looked up at the dark roof of my car to try to stop the tears from leaving my eyes. I swear my car got smaller with every breath I took, the roof getting closer and closer until I felt my phone buzz in my hand. One new message.
I turned my car around, heading back the way I came. This time my eyes searched for movement as I rolled slowly over a speed bump. Then I saw it. I came to a stop in the middle of the road, rolling my window down, letting the fresh air into my car and my lungs like I was breathing for the first time. That’s when he bent down, smiled, and said, “Hey.”