Andrew's Bike
By LK Shaw


September 1st
Robert and Harbord to Ossington and Harbord

The first time I rode Andrew’s bike, I had only been living in Toronto for about three months.

I was living with Jenn in a weird, dark, box-like apartment with nowhere near enough windows, a three bedroom place that was small even with just the two of us sharing it.

It was a strange summer in which we both spent a lot of time in our rooms and I remember one day after a few weeks saying, ‘This is ridiculous. We’ve been living here for a month and we’ve never even gotten drunk together.’ That night we went to Green Room, a bar that was a couple of blocks away from the apartment, and got moderately drunk on their cheapest white wine. After that, I seem to remember us being better friends and at one point, dancing around the living room to a CD of the Hercules soundtrack.

Andrew lived in an apartment on the East-side with his friend Asante and Asante’s friend Joe. There was a particularly awful looking strip club a couple of blocks away, and one of the houses on the other side of the street seemed to have about 15 resident punks who took it in turns to consume beer and guard the front porch. Asante’s girlfriend wouldn’t walk through the neighbourhood on her own. I remember thinking that a good way to blend in, in that area, would be just to shuffle around in the night time, talking to lampposts or yourself.

At the end of August, we were all leaving our apartments because our leases were up. Jenn was moving near to Kensington, I was moving over to Lansdowne, and Andrew was moving to a place he found really last minute at Ossington and Harbord. His lease at the sketch place, for some reason, expired on about the 29th of August instead of on the 31st like they normally do. All of our new leases started on September 1st, so he came to stay at our house for two nights and brought a load of stuff with him, which he dumped on my bedroom floor.

I know it was two nights because I can remember one night in which he was trying to learn lines for something he was rehearsing for while I was packing up my stuff and listening to jazz music, and I can remember another night, the last night I think, in which he and I walked to Sweaty Betty’s at Ossington and Queen and got moderately drunk on pitchers of their cheapest beer. I remember that we asked Jenn if she wanted to come, and she said no because she was crying in her bedroom. And I remember we spent most of that night worrying about her and saying that we shouldn’t have left without her. I think we may have also sat outside for one drink at The Crooked Star, but that could have been another time.

I had just finished a job contract working at the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities, doing really tedious tasks that didn’t mean anything to me at all. I remember speaking to people on the phone in different parts of Ontario and having no idea where they were. On the day of the 1st, Jenn’s parents came to the apartment to help her move her stuff to her new place. I think her brother or maybe two of her brothers were there too. I remember her Mom cleaning things. I remember sitting in my room and not wanting to come out to talk to anyone. I remember her Mom asking me where I was moving to and feeling like she thought it was a bad neighbourhood.

Andrew was out for the day somewhere. I can’t remember where. I got a call from a place in the mall in Yorkville asking me to go for a job interview that afternoon. I went to the interview and my skirt was kind of creased because I’d already packed everything away and had to take it back out of my suitcase.

I didn’t get the job and I was glad. I had a feeling it would have meant me substantially compromising my personality for minimum wage.

I had a moving van coming to pick up me and my stuff at 7pm. I think it cost about $50 for this guy. I think we found him on craigslist. Andrew had a moving van coming at 5pm to pick up him and his stuff. I got back to the house just before then and he arrived there too and the van arrived also and we helped the guy put the stuff into the van. When all the stuff was in, he remembered about his bike and tried to put the bike in. The bike wouldn’t fit and the van-man seemed averse to moving anything to enable that. Andrew tried to reason with him for a while but he wouldn’t do it. He said he would lock the bike up and come back for it later. I had an hour to kill, so I offered to cycle it over and meet him there.

Andrew was moving into an apartment with a couple who already lived there. We thought it was kind of weird that he was going to be living with a couple and I remember when I asked him about them, he said that they seemed ok but not really ‘our kind of people’. I said it would be funny if he became involved in some sort of menage-a-trois. He said that wouldn’t be funny and that it would never happen. I think he said he had only ever met the girl, or possibly he had met the boy too. I can’t remember. I remember that he told me that the boy was into computers and I thought that sounded boring.
I cycled to his house down Harbord Street which was, on that day, being resurfaced. It was very hot and I was wearing jean shorts. I know this because I was pretty much always wearing jean shorts during that summer. The seat was very high and the bike was much bigger than mine. It felt strange but I guess I didn’t think of it that much or imagine that it would ever seem significant. I called him when I arrived at his new apartment which was only about a ten minute cycle ride away from my place and he came out to meet me and we locked the bike to a railing. His new roommate, Caitlin, came out and introduced herself. She seemed nice but I understood what he meant about her not being ‘our kind of people’. I think we may have thought of ourselves as a different kind of people to who we actually were though, because it turned out later that we all got along ‘swimmingly’.

I said good bye to him and walked back to my place for the last time and waited for my moving-van-man to come.

I moved all of my stuff out of the bedroom and on to the porch and then sat in a wooden drawer in the middle of the empty room and waited. Jenn and her boyfriend came back to the apartment to get the last of her stuff and he helped me load up the van when it arrived. I remember him hugging me to say good bye and his body being really sweaty from cycling.

May 27th
Bloor and Brunswick to Ossington and Harbord

The following May, I had been living in Toronto for almost a year and felt much more settled here. I had a sense sometimes of feeling that I knew a lot more than I previously had done. I had a sense, other times, of going to places I hadn’t been to since the previous summer and realising that I’d been lost fairly often. I remember I sometimes felt nostalgic for the total anonymity that I’d had in those first few weeks but mostly, I didn’t think about any of that. Life was happening quickly. I wasn’t feeling retrospective.

A lot of things happened in a relatively short period of time, and that made it seem like much longer than it actually had been. At the end of May, Andrew and I had been annoying each other for a few weeks. I remember feeling increasingly irritated by him and some other people that I was friends with. Jealousy and not getting my own way. It seems as though I couldn’t really see anything clearly because I was too wrapped up in my own life.

On about the 24th or 25th of May, my friend Nick and I went to a Blue Jays game at the Roger’s Centre. I think we just decided to go after work because there was a home game and we didn’t have any other plans. We got into a routine of finishing work at 6.30, walking to the Pizzaiolo at Adelaide and John, eating a slice and then heading over to the stadium for a 7.07pm start. We would just buy the tickets when we got there and sit in the 500 level seats. I remember sitting along the first baseline that game, which was unusual because we usually sat behind home plate. I also remember that it was kind of cold because we were so high up and it was getting dark as the game went on. I have a vague idea that we may have been playing Cleveland but that might not be entirely accurate. We were going to games about twice a week at this point and the details have all bled together.

After about three innings, the Jays were losing something like 9-0 and a lot of people were shouting and getting worked up and started walking out. We just sat there and watched them go and talked about our lives and how they had no meaning. Sometimes we said things about people we both knew. I remember complaining to Nick about Andrew and him saying something to me about how I had been annoyed with him for ages and how it was may be just time to forget about it and move on, or something. I remember thinking that I was ‘done’ with him and all of the drama and feeling slightly liberated by this but also kind of sad and like that was probably not going to actually happen.

The Jays ended up pulling back briefly in the 5th or 6th innings and it was sort of exciting… but then they lost by a fairly large margin anyway and we just went home. I used to work these strange shifts between 7am-10am every morning and then I’d go back at 2pm until 6.30pm. It was very tiring getting up so early every day and even though there was a long gap between the shifts, it had a weird effect on me and made me overly emotional or dramatic or something. I guess I just wasn’t used to being tired. I went to bed on Thursday 26th May at a relatively early hour and slept solidly until 6am when I woke up and went to work. I had missed a call from Andrew at around 2.30 in the morning, which hadn’t woken me up, but I didn’t think anything of it.

I worked my first shift and went home to eat some breakfast. I had planned on meeting him for lunch but hadn’t talked to him for a couple of days, so I called him to make the arrangements. He didn’t pick up and I guessed that he was still asleep.

A few minutes later, I was toasting some bread in the kitchen and listening to some guitar pop music whilst sort of dancing. My phone rung and I picked it up, cheerfully saying ‘Hello’ to Andrew, despite my prior annoyance. I remember feeling optimistic at this point, probably because it was Friday.
He sounded odd.
’Lucy. I’m in the hospital’
’What… Are you being serious?’
’Yeah. I’m serious. I don’t know what’s happening.’
’What? What happened?’
’I don’t know what happened…. I don’t know… I can’t remember.’

I started shaking. I remember shaking a lot. He sounded like he was out of his mind. I asked him to tell me what he could remember. He said he’d been in a bar and he couldn’t remember leaving and maybe Asante had beaten him up. I remember saying, ‘What?!’ very loudly and then remembering, ‘Weren’t you at work last night?’ He said he had worked but had gone for a drink on the way home. I said I was coming to the hospital. He said they were about to let him out. I said I was coming to his house. He said, ‘If you ever thought I was handsome before, you’re not going to think it anymore’ and sort of laughed.

I said I didn’t care and was setting off right away. I was still shaking. I remember looking at the toast as it popped up from the toaster and just staring at it for a second. I ran into my room, changed my clothes and set off walking to the subway station. I phoned Asante on the way, who told me in a calm voice that he was ‘on the phone to Andrew, and something serious has happened and I’ll call you right back,’ and me saying something like, ‘I know! That’s why I’m calling you!’ in a sort of panicked tone of voice. He said he was going to Andrew’s place too and would meet me there.

I arrived about ten minutes later and Asante was already there, sitting on the front wall. He told me that he’d been with Andrew the night before and that he had been wasted and acting weird and that they had all just gone home at around 2am when the bar closed. They had been at The Labyrinth, which is at Bloor and Brunswick, about a ten minute cycle ride from where he lived. Asante said he had no idea what had happened to him either.

After a few minutes, Andrew arrived on the corner in a taxi. I remember him sort of stumbling towards us with his head all purple and swollen and his eyes looking like golf balls and there being dried blood on his arms and his jaw being sort of misaligned. I started to cry, quietly. It seemed to happen in slow motion. Asante hugged him and then I hugged him and I couldn’t speak. Asante was ridiculously calm and just led him upstairs into the apartment.

The next part is more unclear in my memory. I remember Andrew lying down on the sofa and me not being able to look at him and going into the kitchen at one point to cry, not wanting him to know that it looked as bad as it did. I remember the words ‘plastic surgery’ being said quite a lot. I remember saying we needed to call his Mom and him saying that he’d already called her and that she was worried. I remember saying we should let her know that he was at home now and that we were with him. I remember not being able to make the call and Asante doing it instead. I remember Andrew saying strange things in the background and realising that he was on a lot of medication and not making any sense. I remember Asante leaving and how it was quiet except for the traffic outside while I sat on the swivel chair by the computer and looked at him, lying on the sofa, having no idea what was going on. At one point I remember saying, ‘I’m so angry with you,’ and him saying, ‘Don’t be angry with me. Please not now.’

I remember thinking that being angry would have to wait until he was ok again.

I went into the sun room and looked out the window and phoned his roommate, Caitlin, because I knew that I had to go back to work soon and didn’t want her to come home to find a destroyed human on the sofa. She didn’t understand why I was phoning her from his phone and I had to say something like, ‘Everything’s fine but something bad has happened and I just want to let you know…’ It turned out she was out of town visiting her parents anyway. She asked me to phone her boyfriend, Don. I phoned him. I told him quickly what had happened. He said he was at work and would have to call me back. He called me back a few minutes later. He said that he would be home around 6. I said I could come back around 7. I said I’d see him later on and not to worry. I was really worried.

I phoned work and told them what had happened. I said I would be fine but just wanted to make them aware. I went back to work and cried a bit behind my sunglasses and didn’t look at anyone when I was speaking to them. Eventually Nick phoned me and I cried on the phone to him and he told our boss that he thought I should go home early. They let me leave around 5. I took the subway back to Ossington. I remember the subway feeling too full and hot. I remember buying chili from the Tim Horton’s at Queen’s Park station on the way back, because he couldn’t eat solid foods.

When I got back to the house, Don was already there. I think he’d left work early too. Andrew had been asleep and didn’t know that I’d gone anywhere.

The next few days consisted mainly of sitting in the dark in the living room, putting ice on his head and giving him pain killers. I remember that for the first day or so, the pain killers seemed to make him throw up straight away. A lot of times I had to walk to the kitchen to cry on my own, not being able to deal with seeing him like that. Nothing he said made sense and for a little while at the beginning, we didn’t know when or if he was going to get better.
Don and I sat down and asked him to try to remember anything that he could about what had happened. We went through all the possibilities we could think of. He could have been beaten up. He could have fallen off his bike. He could have been hit by a car. He could have started a fight with someone. We didn’t know. He didn’t know. It was weird at the time, but looking back at it now, it seems even stranger.

I said I would stay at the house with them for a few days and Don took me home to get some things and then we drove to Sobey’s to buy groceries. I remember buying juice and blueberries. I remember Don offering to pay for the things I bought and me saying it was fine. I remember Don being overly friendly to the cashier and me thinking ‘It takes a hospitalisation to bring us together in a supermarket situation.’

Don decided that it was important that we go to see if Andrew’s bike was still outside the bar. We didn’t know if he’d ever gotten on it when he was leaving, or if he’d left it there, or if he’d left it somewhere else. I remember thinking that I didn’t want to go and look for it, but realised that it was the perfect time to do it while we were in the car. Don offered to help me find it but I said it would be ok and he went to Shoppers Drug Mart across the street to buy first aid stuff. I remember that he spent about $35 on various things and that I kept thinking that he was such a nice guy.

I walked around the area outside The Labyrinth and felt conscious that there were about a hundred people sitting on the outside patio at Futures cafe. I was overly aware of the fact that I was just staring at a load of bikes and looked like a bike thief. Eventually I found what I thought was his (all grey bikes look the same to me) and unlocked it. I called Don to let him know that I’d found it and cycled back down Brunswick Street to Harbord, turned the corner and headed towards Ossington. It was essentially the same journey I’d cycled those few months before, except everything was different then. The resurfaced road seemed worn in and unremarkable. It was a warm, May evening and I felt confronted by our mortality. I remember letting myself into the apartment and taking my place again in the arm chair, feeling serious about everything and only wanting to do the right thing.

Those were the two times I rode Andrew’s bike.


lk shaw lives in toronto