FICTION preview

Lifted at Honest Ed’s

Jennilee Austria


"Philly" by Jezreel Apelar (Credit: TAYO Issue Three)

"Philly" by Jezreel Apelar (Credit: TAYO Issue Three)

 
 

When Delmar Bayani woke up, the air in his grey bedroom was so cold that he could see his breath every time he exhaled.

Puffing in and out, harder and harder, he tried to make it a game, pretending he was a steam engine or a gangster who could blow rings of smoke into the air. He stopped when he realized that it only made him colder than ever. 

Drawing the thin blanket tighter around him, he glumly remembered that back in Manila, the air conditioners had always been on full blast. He imagined walking into his old bedroom in Project 6, switching off the noisy air-con, opening the windows, and watching the dense tropical air bring out the beads of sweat on his skin. It all seemed so luxurious now. Back home, his pa kept the air-con running all day because he liked it cold enough for him to wear his suit indoors. But in Canada, everything had changed: now he lived with his mother, and he had become the son of a caregiver who couldn’t afford to turn up the thermostat. He was sure that when Filipinos back home thought about Canada, they would never imagine anything as depressing as his new life in Toronto, at Bathurst and Wilson. 

Delmar heard his phone buzz across the room. Pulling the blankets around his body and over his head like a cocoon, he clumsily shuffled to the door. He stubbed his toe on a math textbook, sending him stumbling forward into the thin wall between his bedroom and the couch where his mama slept. He was glad that she had already left for her employer’s house in Forest Hill.

The phone buzzed again. It was his new friend, Apollo. As he blearily tapped the cracked screen of his mama’s hand-me-down phone, he realized that in his private school in Manila, he would never be friends with someone like Apollo. At twenty years old, not only was Apollo the oldest student in all of his classes, but he was also the least likely to graduate. If Apollo didn’t want to go to school, there was no one to stop him from staying home. His parents were shift workers, so in the off-chance that they were actually home, they were too exhausted to notice that he was spending his days sleeping, smoking weed, or putting snarky comments all over YouTube, particularly on videos of babies, puppies, and anything with the word “cute” in the title.

Delmar knew that back home, he wouldn’t even be allowed to socialize with Apollo. But in Canada, everything was upside-down, and Apollo was his only friend.

“Hey bro. You gonna go to school today?”

Delmar hugged the blankets tighter around his body. “Yeah right! I’m so cold, I can’t go outside!”

“Lemme guess: your mama didn’t turn the heat on yet.”

“Aps, I only have t-shirts! What am I supposed to do, wear all of them at the same time?”

He heard Apollo groan. “Newbie, you think it’s winter already? It’s only mid- October.”

Delmar pulled the blankets closer. “Aps, I can see my breath! And I’m still indoors!” 

After a long pause, Apollo said, “Okay, tell you what: skip classes with me today. I’m gonna help you out. Meet me on the Bathurst bus in thirty minutes. We’re going downtown.”

Delmar sighed loudly, a cloud escaping his chapped lips. He shivered as he buttoned his thin jean jacket up to his neck. He hoped that wherever Apollo was taking him, it would be someplace warm. 


 [ END OF EXCERPT ]

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