This is the ninth of many excerpts from Heather Lowe’s novella titled Catharine. It explores her love affair with downtown St. Catharines through a series of shamelessly exaggerated vignettes.
Soon after the old brick factory was chosen as a location and the donated funds were gaining interest in some forgotten bank account, it was now time to sit and wait for the rejuvenation to take place. However, the more the fat suits from city hall ferociously pulled at the red tape, the more bureaucratic bullshit seemed to spiral out. To the naked eyes of the revolutionaries and local residents, the tape appeared to be exhaustive and endless. Plans were drawn, erased and then redrawn over the still visible pencil lines beneath. Meetings with extravagant sandwich platters and pickle trays were held, forgotten about and then held again. Beautiful structures were designed, reshaped and then blotted out. All the while, the garden city seemed to slowly fall into the coldest winter to date, or so we thought.
Day after day the sky looked as though it had been printed in grayscale on an ancient printer found in your Grandparents’ dusty basement. The air was blisteringly cold and dry and the gray skies seemed to match the collective mood of the Garden City. Deep, freezing puddles pooled along the sides of the streets in the downtown core disguised as slick patches of ice. If you were unlucky enough to fall for this icy facade then you began these already gray days with a sopping wet foot. The cold water seeps up through your soaking sock, numbs your ankle and dampens your already frosty disposition. I can’t help but notice that the residents of our garden city appear downtrodden, discouraged and despondent. Like lonely vampires they seem to stumble through the winter months lethargic, defeated and inexplicably sad.
The grim weather causes me to question my every action and emotion. I feel decades older as my bones freeze, rub against each other like cold metal and hurt with every movement large or small. I drown momentarily but deeply into an unexplainable depression that I seem to share with the rest of the downtown core. Even the cheery revolutionaries seem to glide past one another on the sidewalks and share a sombre nod rather than the usual excitable chitchat that we’ve all come to expect. We all seem to be waiting for something to come and cure our country music blues, something to motivate us again, something to validate our choice to stay and create in a town that is currently hanging in a freezing cold limbo. As we wait for the sunshine to return the only hint of warmth and light seems to be found at small local music shows, potluck holiday parties and of course, the pub. The same wooden walls of the pub that made us sweat in the scorching summer months keep us safe and warm in the winter.
A cold iron fence surrounds the property in question and on our way to the pub we peer through the holes of the fence in hopes of seeing some sign of movement and construction. Towards the end of the winter the developers hang blueprints of the planned interiors along the iron fence and this little bit of productivity generates a bittersweet buzz among the revolutionaries. We stand for what feels like hours examining the layouts, perusing the designs and I can feel my heart skip and beat faster. I watch as spirits rise, the sun peeks through the gray clouds and I can finally feel my dusty imagination come out of its winter hibernation.