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Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006

The Longest Day of the Year

Globe and Mail
Tuesday, Jun. 27, 2003

Kevin Chong is the author of Baroque-a-Nova, a novel (Penguin Canada, 2001), which has also appeared in France and the United States. Born in Hong Kong, 1975, and raised in Vancouver, where he presently lives, he attended the University of British Columbia and received an MFA at Columbia University.

 

THE LONGEST DAY OF THE YEAR

On the longest day of the year I picked up a pair of lawn chairs from my parents' house and got my hair cut. Then we went to the post office so she could send a letter and then to set up a monthly term deposit at the bank.
Neither of us had any wage work for today, and boy oh boy, had she set her mind on running errands. While she had her back turned to face the cashier, I ogled a woman in line. The woman in line had on cut-off jeans, her thighs agreeably pale, white the colour of sliced turkey breast. It was muggy that day. We went home, got changed, and ran twenty-five minutes along the dirt trail running next to the railroad tracks.
If the sixteen-year-old me were here to see the twenty-six-year-old me running in his white socks, in his swishing track pants, I would no doubt have given myself the finger. Then we went to a friend's. We drank pink lemonade and listened to the radio at the home of this friend, who once survived a four-story fall from a grain elevator and who happened not to own a TV. In the news that day, a sitcom star and a blues singer both died, of natural causes. Then we ate chicken strips served with honey mustard made by our friend, who also happened to own a toaster oven.
Once we got home again, I remembered to bring my lawn chairs from the car to the back patio. She went to take a shower.
The phone rang. It was a woman calling for someone with my first name.
Speaking. It's me, she said. Are you at work now? I told her I didn't know who she was, she thought I was joking. For we had just spoken on the party line, the one that is free for females, and the guy she was talking to wanted her to call him at another number-where he did his graveyard shift.
It turned out she had called the wrong number. The both of us marveled that she nonetheless got someone with the same, albeit common, name. We chatted some more. The woman on the phone was eighteen and worked at a grocery store in an outer suburb. Calling the line, this woman confided, was done out of boredom. We nervously anticipated the end of our conversation. The woman asked me if she should call me again. I said, only if you're bored. And then she emerged from the bathroom inching the towel around her bust, and I looked outside and could see our neighbour's kitty cat in the twilight.



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