Monday, August 18, 2008

Our lives are better left to chance.

I mentioned that I had recently moved (again), this time to the lovely city of Ottawa. My bags are unpacked, the boxes have been broken down and recycled, and I have a bump on my head where I used it to break the fall of a bathroom cabinet that I was attempting to screw into the wall.

So, I'm here.

This is not the first time I call Ottawa my home. I lived here many moons ago while I pursued my degree (ie, went to a lot of bars, ate cold cereal like it was a food group, and then showed up one day to collect a piece of paper that said I was a grown-up now, and good luck with that). But it's been five years since I've been anywhere near Ottawa and though I'm no stranger to being alone in a new city, it's still a little intimidating.

The first week I tackled my aloneness with this ingenious strategy: I went to the market, wandered around until I found the busiest, most packed-with-warm-bodies patio that existed, then sat down at the table with the highest ratio of cute boys and said 'Mind if I sit here?'

No one ever said no.

Mind you, when I was talking to my friend K about my system, he told me that only a person with breasts could get away with it. Breasts and balls.

The second week, however, was even better. I was touched when old friends, people I hadn't physically seen in years, began calling me up for drinks and dinners and general going-outness. They probably have no idea (well, other than the fact that I'm posting this on the internet) how much that meant to me, to feel like I have friends here. One friend, a brand-spanking newlywed, has even made herself available to me despite the fact that she's still technically honeymooning.

Another friend and I fell right back into the same easy relationship we'd always shared when I sat down at lunch and ordered the white peach sized. After playing catch-up for a bit and giggling over some of our more embarrassing common history, I interrupted:

I'm too distracted to eat lunch! Your luscious lips are mahhhhvelous. What gloss are you using?

And do you know what? Apparently Ottawa has vastly improved since I've been away, because Ottawa (brace yourselves) has a Sephora now. Youpee!

So the very next night I am at the Rideau Centre, stalker-like, hunting apricot souffle and a piece of chocolate cake (apricot souffle being the not very imaginative name ascribed to the gloss, and a piece of chocolate cake being the one thing my sweet tooth had really been craving). It took me some time to even locate the store, since it's hidden in a corner of the third floor amid stores selling dresses only old ladies could love and hideous shoes only old ladies could afford. But find it I did.

Sephora, if you don't know, is a mecca of makeup. It's thousands of pots and tubes and tiny jars all bearing big price tags containing things to paint faces. So finding one particular shade of lip gloss is like finding a needle in a haystack (and I move that we get rid of that antiquated phrase and replace it henceforth with "like finding a tube of apricot souffle in Sephora"). Anyway. Long story short: I didn't find it.

But against all odds, I did manage to find the hole labelled Apricot Souffle that would normally house the tubes of lipstick if they hadn't already run out of them.

So that was a bust. But all was not lost; there was still the matter of the chocolate cake.

Except clearly this shopping trip was doomed. The market still had wraps. It still had sushi. It still had fruit\yogurt parfaits. But chocolate cake? Get real.

So I was nearly dejected as I made my way from one end of the mall to the other, passing by all the other possibilities because when you're in the mood for chocolate cake, onion rings and ice caps just don't cut it.

But then I stumbled upon something far better than chocolate cake and the perfect shade of lip gloss combined (hard to believe, I know).

What I found was Jamie, my very dear friend (yes, of the same name), who lives in Medicine Hat. The very same Medicine Hat that is normally found in Alberta (which is 3637km away from here, fyi). Just like that!

Now, to tell the truth, my eyes had not been peeled just in case old Albertan friends who happen to go by the same name that I go by. She, not yet aware that I was living in this city, was similarly not exactly looking out for me, or for anyone, since it's safe to say that you don't know many people in a city you don't come from or live anywhere near. But somehow, in one of life's amazing serendipitous moments, we found each other, and were soon hugging and crying and embarrassing ourselves in the lower level food court.

And I realized then that had I found the apricot souffle, I would have stayed to track down the perfect complimentary blush. And on that shopping high, I would have chased down the bronze stilettos that I've been hungering for, and having located them, I imagine eschewing the cake in favour of a post-shop drink or two away from the mall, and away from Jamie.

Had I got what I wanted, it's unlikely that two friends crossing in the night would have ever connected.

You never really know what's out there, what you're about to miss, what you might have experienced had you chosen x over y. Sometimes it's even as trivial as a tube of lip gloss, but life is full of surprises, and minor disappointments can become tearfully joyous reunions in mere moments.

Life is beautiful, and random, and wonderful.
And the next day, a new shipment of apricot souffle arrived.
What more could a girl want?

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