“Believe!” the wall-eyed man shouted, raising Bible in one hand. A couple of tourists laughed nervously, uncertain how to take the clearly disturbed street preacher. Anne continued on down Dundas, this was nothing new – he’d be there the next time she used the subway, startling another group of Asian tourists or moon-eyed suburbanites.
“Believe in what?” she thought to herself, cutting across the busy street. “It’s not like that’s any sort of argument – who would be convinced by that?” Christmas lights began to wink on in the drawing gloom, casting green red blue reflections in the icy snow crusting the curbs. A gust cut threw her light coat – time to change to something warmer.
Across the way, plastered on the side of an office building the other side of Yonge and Dundas Square, was an advertisement for Suncor – “The Oilsands, powering Canada’s economy into the 21st century and Beyond!” it proclaimed, above the smiling visage of a man decked out in heavy industrial gear, standing arms folded in front of a mammoth Cat 797 truck.
“Ha, might as well believe in that as anything else,” Anne thought sardonically, reflecting on the latest reports of the disastrous spill at Kitimat. Anne was born the year the Exxon Valdez ran aground. Kitimat made that look like a stain on the garage floor. Suncor, Syncrude, Enbridge, they were running some serious damage control now, for all the good that it would do them. The shipping channels were devastated, the Natives had been occupying the roads and important buildings since the spill, demanding an end to the destructive practices. There had been violence. A Mountie had died, and dozens had been arrested. Great stuff for the current news cycle. No, it didn’t look like the oil companies could provide a future, any more than a crazy man with an old book and a bad case of halitosis.
Anne got back to her Annex apartment, perched over a franchised coffee shop. Mug of hot chamomile in hand, she cleared her desk of pencil nubs and soiled paper, sweeping it all to a side. Sitting down, she looked out into the night – snow had begun to fall, big, fat wet flakes. Heavy weather due for the weekend, the news had said – lake effect snow squalls to start Friday evening and carry through till the middle of next week. Maybe it would hold out until the 24th, for a change.
Christmas. No chance to see her family, this year. No chance to get back to BC, not on this budget. Her dad has just lost his job, and both her parents had always been terrible at budgeting their money, so no hope they could fly cross-country, either. She shrugged off the spasm of guilt – she had come to Ontario to escape the doldrums of Vancouver Island, to get away from the hum-drum sleepiness of it all – to start her future.
A car lazily drove down the street below her, leaving slushy tracks in the newly-fallen snow. Left to start her future, and now here she was, in snowy Toronto, while the whole country held its breath and looked back home. British Columbia, where tomorrow was being decided.
Did it really matter, though? The damage had been done, would continue to be done, whether or not the Natives won this one or not, whether or not the public had had its fill of petro-company crude or not. There would be no change, not any real one. Things would continue to grind down, the sickness would spread.
Anne looked around her apartment, the scattered, half-finished canvasses, her current work, the pile of laundry growing with silent reproaches. Her eyes fell on the easel, where the painting sat, waiting for her. Waiting and writhing, or so it seemed – eager to be enfleshed, eager to be realized and shout its ominous message. A great hole – swallowing the future. Shouting from its horrible encompassing maw, there is no tomorrow. No improvement. These are the end times.
She looks beyond the partially composed omen to her bed, left rumpled from her quick exit this morning. It would be easy to climb under the sheets, lying open for her. Easy just to slip away for a few hours, and leave the painting to itself, leave it alone with its needs and hungers. After all, isn’t that the point? Isn’t the objective of this freeze of progress, this suspension of movement, just that – to just stop? To leave things stuck, unfinished? Why go through the trouble of it, what’s the point, if there isn’t a tomorrow where it can place itself, and have it’s own time? No tomorrow…