The station is crowded, so I remind my friends to stick together. I have taken the train to Toronto with three others to see a rock band from England. Legs numb from the long train ride, we wade as though through water from Exhibition Station into a dream-world of young people and food trucks, lit doubly by the glare of the late July sunset reflected off the lake. We are blinded a little when we lean out over a railing facing the water.
I look down at the waves, which have been building all day from back home in Hamilton on a southwesterly wind. The four of us took physics last year, and could draw these waves on sine graphs, modelling the motion of particles oscillating up and down or back and forth. We might be swaying ourselves, dizzy with anticipation. It is daunting to think of being in the presence of a famous person, even if they are only famous for their singing voice, or the way their body looks, or other traits to that effect.
On the hazy opposite shoreline, I try to place Niagara-On-The-Lake. This is where my mother grew up on a fruit farm, spending her winters at Catholic school and her summers packing peaches. She finished high school early, moved to Hamilton, and became a mechanical engineer working at a university. She stopped when she had me. Her years have since been spent making me meals, reading me books, and telling me I am beautiful. She gave me her love for science, and rock music, and her astigmatism of the eye, I suppose, among other things. As a teenager, she was never allowed to go to Toronto to see famous people, even though the CN tower was visible from the orchard, just across the lake.
After seeing an opening act we don’t know, my friends and I wander to the merchandise table. Deciding whether or not to buy a t-shirt I am trying on—it is cut off high at the hem—I scan for reflective surfaces. The mirrored convex lenses of my friends’ sunglasses disperse light waves and make my cheeks balloon out, swelling and undulating like the surface of the lake. As a rule, I try not to think too much about bodies. Bodies are all different. Bodies come with different features, in different shapes and colours, and they come from different places, and they wear different clothes, and that is alright with me, but it doesn’t always seem like it is alright with everyone. I change out of the t-shirt, and the four of us walk to the cashier.
We sit down in our seats, only to jump out of them shortly afterward. The lead singer enters the stage in a flash of electric blue, holding a light-up guitar and wearing matching fluorescent shoes for the first set. A crashing clamour of applause echoes off the ceiling, but his voice flows through, clear like water. His presence is god-like; under the spotlight, his face glows in the dark.
When my mother gives me advice, she never says that she owes everything to hard work, toughness, or putting herself before others.
“Be nice to everyone, always,” she says, “no matter how they are or what they look like. That will get you places.”
Where would my mother be now if not for me? Perhaps she would be standing on a stage, in a space so vast you could hear an echo, sending messages in waves at the speed of sound. Perhaps thousands would flock from across Canada to see her in person, to have the very spotlights illuminating her face reflecting off their own skin. What does it mean to change the world? Has she done it? Will I?
Sheets of light roll across the crowd in front of me, which appears to rise and fall in rhythm. Without bodies, we are not so different; we all think and feel and love, it seems. The rolling lights reach us and the bodies before me blend together behind an astigmatic glare, so that we are one swelling, flowing, undulating medium. Waves move us, great waves of culture, from some ubiquitous source that no one can see, like wind, or breath.
“Thank you, Canada, the greatest country in America!” says the lead singer in closing.
Reverberating screams swallow me.
Walking out, my friends stick together, a molecule in the sea of bodies flooding Exhibition Station. It is after one o'clock when I get home, wearing a new t-shirt, ears still ringing with imaginary echoes. I collapse into my mother when I hug her good-night. Her arms bear me up, lifting the whole world, until we are a towering tsunami of people who are nice to everyone, bodies forgotten altogether. This is how the world is changed.
Nicola Lawford is a first-year Engineering Science student at the University of Toronto.