It's the last year of university, and...to add a bit of irony I don't notice at the time, we seem to have housing problems again. My own current place has no place to cook, and it's so far from the university that I've started spending more time at the boyfriend's apartment. I can walk there after classes, hang out, and then maybe make something for us for dinner, in Danny's pots and served on Danny's plates, before the long subway ride home. Danny is hardly ever there, but I know he's not crazy about my hanging around. I don't think he's too crazy about the boyfriend either; I suspect he's behind on the rent.
So one afternoon after class, I walk to the apartment. It's a nice building, but it's right near Jane and Finch in Toronto, and Jane-Finch is always in the news, usually in stories involving police and fights. It does make you walk a little faster. Anyway, when I get there, there are two coffee cans sitting on the kitchen counter. Just plain cans, not decorated or anything, but full of seven-layer bars and those sliced cookies with little coloured marshmallows in them. The boyfriend's parents live several hours away, but they made a visit, probably not a strictly friendly one (I think he owes them money too), and his mother left these cookies. He doesn't want them. I'm homesick, and hungry, so I eat them.
Then instead of heating up something in Danny's kitchen, we decide to walk over to the restaurant at the Jane-Finch mall and partake of the daily special. Over our festive fish and chips, I look around at the dozen or so other tables. There are harried parents with fussing children. Lonely old people. Scruffy-looking couples.
I look at us. We fit right in. Just another scruffy-looking couple, sitting on duct-taped seats, eating fries, whacking the ketchup bottle, scrounging in the bottoms of our pockets for enough change to pay the bill, that's us. I'm not. Happy. With. That. In fact, I break off with Mr. Christmas Cookies a few weeks later.
But this is the point: what bothers me is that I don't see grace that night. I see need, lack, tiredness, vapidity, jammed ketchup bottles. I thought we were so unique, but really we are just part of the crowd.
And outside the restaurant is a whole mall full of people just the same. And the whole Jane-Finch neighbourhood. The whole city, if you want. And I think...is this what He came for? Are we who He came for?
Is that Advent?