Canada has more comics than we do, it occurs to me, as I walk through The Beguiling in Toronto. It is the best comics shop in Toronto, and perhaps in all of Canada. I pause to admire what appears to be an actual original page of a Tintin comic, framed and on the wall. Tintin in the submarine that looks like a shark, with Snowy.
At the border, the guard had questioned me. Business or pleasure? When I said “pleasure”, she said, It’s a terrible time to come to Toronto for that. She raised an eyebrow, genuinely skeptical.
Most of what I like to do is indoors, I say.
As I walk out of the Lululemon store in Toronto’s Eaton Center, I’m looking for a place to stop and put on the shell I just bought. I’m there for the weekend and the temperature has dropped so quickly, the air is like a lash. In the Eaton Center, it’s warm and nothing is on sale really, unlike in the US. Also, everyone looks happy and healthy. It’s almost like traveling back into the American past. I feel a little doomed by it and put the bag down.
As I pull the tags off, I notice someone standing near me, leaning back over the glass railing a little while he reads a row of text messages on his iPhone, smiling. The smile is familiar. He’s young, dark-haired, handsome, has a kind of effortless casual chic—dark slim jeans that are still a little loose, a sort of dark car coat, boots, a long scarf wrapped close to his neck, and scruff, of course. He looks like the boys I saw in Paris. His coat is even a little tatty, but on him it’s adorable, not sad. His expression changes—and I realize I’m watching him closely because he’s Dominic Cooper, the actor from the History Boys who made it one of my favorite films.
He looks at me sideways and I say, Excuse me, are you an actor? I start soft in case I’m wrong.
I am, he says.
I was, he says. Did you see me in the play or the film?
The film, I say.
Not many people have seen the film, he says, and smiles.
I compliment him on his work, ask him about future projects. The person he’s with appears, I let him go with a “keep up the good work.” About fifteen minutes later, he walks past me as he leaves and gives me a big smile. Cheers, he says, and nods his head.
By now I’m standing with my friend Juliet, who I’ve come to visit. She smiles at me. He didn’t have to do that, you know, she says, teasing. He loves you.
Later that night, at Baby Huey’s, my new favorite club in Toronto, as the dj gets the crowd moving, I realize Toronto is like if New York and Portland, Oregon had a child.
I dance and then leave.
In the Toronto airport, I imagine writing many, many things that could be made into films starring Dominic Cooper. It seems to me the second novel, for example, most certainly has a role for him. And as I write this, I realize he could be in the first one also. I get into the smallest plane I can imagine, a twin-prop, and my flight races the snow back to Hartford. I drive north to Amherst, even leaving the storm’s edge on the highway, but it catches me by the time I get home, and as I sleep, covers the ground around my house with snow.
Only Canada Air, it occurs to me, when I hear of all the flights that were canceled. Only Canada Air could have gotten me home.