When I first got there, I thought it was ugly. Ugly, dirty, busy, crowded, noisy, and the list goes on. It was nothing like I believed it'd be, and I felt so let down. The lights against the clouds in the darkening night sky didn't look as nice as the ones at home. Home, where there were people that loved me. People I wouldn't be seeing until I went back for the holidays. Holidays that were over four months away.
Five short hours later, I was standing at the window of the hotel room I'd be in until I moved into my apartment. My mother had come along to help me move in. She was still asleep, which was something it seemed I just couldn't do. I hadn't slept since arriving to the city, and the city hadn't slept since I had arrived. I'd laid on the double bed for so long, but my mind wouldn't stop racing. I was finally here, I was supposed to finally be happy. This was my dream city. Why can't I just be happy?
I blinked then, and realized the sky was gradually getting lighter. The sun would rise soon, and the clouds from last night had drifted off to the east. I hoped that, at least, the sunrise here was pretty. Lake Ontario reflected the deep blues on the horizon, I was sure, but I couldn't see the water from here. The skyline was in the way.
Without giving much thought to it, I grabbed my camera and scribbled out a note to my mom, using the light of my cell phone to see what the hell I was doing. Snatching one of the keycards on my way out, I shut the door behind me as quietly as I could, then walked down the hall to the elevator. My heart skipped a beat and I looked down at my clothes to make sure I wasn't unknowingly wearing pajamas. I wasn't. Just old ratty jeans, an over sized teeshirt, and the flip flops I'd had for five years. It was amazing that they'd lasted. The blue polish on my toes was chipped, but I didn't mind. Who really cared, anyway?
In the elevator, I paused and stared at the buttons. I was on the ninth storey, and there were twenty three in all. I wondered if I could get out on the rooftop. I pressed the button that read twenty two, and stepped back to lean against the gold metallic wall. I could sort of see my reflection opposite myself, but it wasn't clear enough to tell how messy my hair was. After taking it from its ponytail, I tried to finger comb it. There were a few snarls, but it really wasn't too bad.
I was putting the elastic around my wrist when the button for twenty lit up. The elevator slowed and stopped, and the doors slid open, revealing a scruffy looking young man. His hair was dark and wavy down to his jawline, and it seemed he hadn't shaved yet this week. I realized I was staring and flicked my attention back to the closing doors. I felt him watching me, probably amused. His eyes were pale. Oh God, why must I always be so awkward?
He stepped in front of me and jabbed at the twenty three button, before he too leaned against the wall, blocking my reflection. I looked down at my camera and toyed with the neck strap, fiddled with the lens, messed with the settings. We were slowing again, it was time for me to get off.
I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye as I stepped through the doors, and then kept walking to where I hoped the stairwell would be. It was easy enough to find, and I made sure the fire alarm wouldn't be triggered by the door opening, then began my ascent. Hopefully the man would be wherever he'd been headed by the time I got to twenty three.
The obnoxious noise of my flip flops echoed in the cement and steel stairwell. I looked up between the railings to try and see to the top, and I only had a flight to go. With a sigh, I sped up. Even though I knew I wouldn't be able to see the lake, I still didn't want to miss all of the glorious colours. I heard someone else on the stairs, and my breath hitched. Coming to a halt on the steps, I tried to make absolutely no noise so I could hear what was happening. It sounded like somebody was trying to unlock something. Maybe they were trying to get out on the rooftop, too.
I took off my shoes and kept going, soon rounding the last corner, then stopped again. There, at the top of the last flight, was the man from the elevator. He was kneeling at the door marked "ROOF," attepting to get the lock open with a paper clip. A few seconds passed before he turned around and looked right at me, "...Hi."
I nodded to him and put my flip flops back on. He was watching me again, and this time I raised my eyes to meet his, "Do you know how to get on the roof?"
"Aren't there cameras out there or anything?" I was surprised that I was keeping my voice even. Normally I stuttered when talking to handsome strangers.
"I'm allowed to be up here, I just forgot my key. The girl at the front desk is my sister." I nodded again, though it didn't really make sense. I couldn't remember who had checked me in last night. He gave one more stab with the bent up paper clip, and I heard it unlatch.
To be honest, I was a little skeptical that they truly allowed him on the roof. I decided to assume that he meant she'd convinced security not to come running if they saw him on the screens of the little televisions in their office.
He pushed on the door handle and it swung open, cool air and faint street noise rushing into the stairwell. Standing, the man turned to me, "You going on the roof too?"
"Yeah, I guess I will." I put one foot on the next step, unsure. He smiled and motioned for me to follow, and I hurried up the stairs.
At the doorway, I hesitated. He was striding across the roof towards the edge, having propped open the door with a brick. I didn't even know this guy. We hadn't properly met yet, and I had no idea he existed until less than ten minutes ago. I realized that I didn't truly think he was going to abduct me or anything, so I slowly made my way to the eastern edge some metres from where he stood.
The sky was beginning to turn a lighter blue shade, and I turned to look to the skyline. The CN Tower jutted out from the landscape, and it would have been almost silhouetted, had it not been lit up with many, many lights. I turned on my camera and held it up to eye level, twisting the focus and zooming in, then pressed the shutter. The man looked over his shoulder at me and caught my eye as I lowered the camera. I attempted a smile. It probably didn't look like one.
I glanced east again to find the colours were intensifying, and so I began snapping photos of it, jet trails suddenly turning a vibrant magenta. I grinned at the pictures for the few seconds they were displayed for review, and then continued focusing on and shifting to other subjects. Then I found the man in my viewfinder, and it surprised me a little. He was watching me, the early light dancing across one side of his face and leaving the other in shadow. Without another thought, I clicked the shutter.
He was smiling as he walked towards me, "Could I see it?"
I pressed the button with the tiny triangle in the box, and turned it so he could see the screen. He was still smiling when his eyes met mine again and he nodded, "Nice. Now get back to work, Miss Photog."
A little laugh escaped me, catching me off guard. He calls you that because he doesn't know your name, I reminded myself. Following his command, I raised my camera and turned back to the glowing sky. The blues were getting lighter still, and a bright orange was beginning to stretch behind the smaller buildings, with pink and purple in the middle. It look like there was a rainbow spreading from horizon to horizon, and honestly, it was gorgeous.
Then the man was beside me, gazing out over the landscape. A breeze caught at my clothes and the chill made me wish I'd remembered my jacket. It may have been summer, but it was still a bit brisk standing atop a high-rise at daybreak.
"The wind's kinda nice, actually." He raised his arms above his head, basking in the faint early morning light. I made an affirmative noise in my throat as goosebumps washed across my skin, which he noticed, and chuckled at.
Some minutes later, the sun was hovering above the earth, so I took photos of the reflections it was making on the windows of skyscrapers downtown. I felt its peak had passed, so I shut off my camera and put the lens cap back on.
"Winter sunrises are neat here, too. They're a different kind of pretty. Cold and frozen, but pretty," He let his head roll to the side to look at me, "It's a shame you won't be here when they are."
"No, I will be."
His eyes widened and he turned his whole body to face me, "Really? I figured since you were staying at the hotel you must just be on vacation."
I shook my head, "I'm staying here until I can move into my new apartment. However, I just got to the city yesterday."
"Oh." A slow grin broke across his lips, "A couple of days ago, my apartment's radiator started leaking so bad that my landlord told me to stay somewhere else. I helped her carry in groceries once, and I think she favours me now. My sister was able to get me a discount for here, along with a rooftop pass."
I laughed, despite myself. I wasn't even sure what had been funny about his little monologue, so I quickly mumbled that the radiator thing really sucked. He sighed and rested his forearms on the little wall at the edge of the roof, and leaned over to stare down at the road beneath us. I joined him, slinging my camera around to my back, where it would be safe. I wasn't taking any chances. The sun was slowly getting higher and brighter, making the shadows of buildings grow shorter.
Then the man's eyes were on me. This was the closest I'd been to him, and we were so close. His gaze dropped to my mouth, then locked with mine once more. I'm not sure who leaned towards who, but the next thought I had was about how soft his lips were in contrast to the scrape of his stubble. What the hell? This wasn't the me I was used to. Since when was I confident about this kind of stuff? Since when did I kiss random guys on rooftops overlooking Toronto?
When he pulled away, my eyes were closed. I heard the crunch of the gravel covering the roof as he took a few steps back. I finally looked at him, looking at me, seeming uncertain. He ran a hand through his messy hair and moved back more, "I'm sorry. I... I don't know where that came from."
I blinked a few times and opened my mouth to say something, anything, but the words kept leaving me as soon as they arrived. I settled on just staring at him. Should I try to get this to continue, or is that a terrible idea? My camera smacked into my elbow, jolting me from my thoughts.
He stuttered again, "I should go now." It seemed like he was considering walking back over to me, but he decided on actually doing as he said. I watched his retreating figure stride through the door, leaving it propped open for me.
I stooped against the cool brick wall and rested my head in my hands. That was strange. I'd just kissed someone for the first time since breaking up with my high school boyfriend, and I didn't even know his name. I didn't know his fucking name. I touched a finger to my lips and realized I was smiling.
Some time later, I was back in my room, waiting for my mom to finish getting ready. She'd looked through the photos of the sunrise and asked who the man was. I'd said I didn't know. She'd scowled at me and continued going through them, clearly upset at the fact that her daughter had been alone with a strange man.
We went for breakfast at the Tim Horton's on the bottom floor of the hotel. Perched on my seat at our table, I glanced up from my coffee and saw a familiar face passing in the window. He peered through and noticed me, then gave me a grin and went on his merry way.
That was the moment I realized that, first off, I'd soon find out his name and would probably see a lot more of him, I'd made my first Torontonian friend, and that the city was beautiful, just like I thought it'd be.