The Path

A photo of Union Station in Toronto

A pre-pandemic experience of a commuter student

I peel my tired eyes open as I stand at the unwelcoming doors of the train. The bag on my back weighing me down. I feel the throng of people pushing beside and behind me to reach their destination as I step out onto Union Stations’ platform. I can’t help but take a moment to crane my neck upwards and discover the same view I see nearly every day; the CN Tower stretching far into the sky. With a small smile, I find my footing again and feel the cool brisk air hitting my face as I round the corner of the platform and run down the stairs. 

I tap my Presto card as I leave the station, and I begin my walk to school. The cool air means that walking outdoors to campus would be too painful so instead, I begin following the impossible maze known as “The Path.”  I walk through the Union Station food court and into the subway tunnels. From there I walk towards the overhead sign that reads PATH and push open the doors only to see men and women in their business suits, clutching briefcases, and talking amongst themselves with hands full with salads, — or whatever else high salary workers eat for lunch for that matter. I see the Danish pastry shop, with their popular Viking slice on full display. The scent filling up the hallway fills me with happiness and hunger, I pass by giving myself a mental note to get one on my way home. “Excuse me!” I mutter under my breath as I try to pass through the crowd of people blocking my way through.  I continue walking, listening to my feet tap against the tile floors of Union Station. I finally reach the true beginning of this long trek.

 I nod to friends and familiar faces as I continue walking through the dingy and dimly lit subway station. This part of the walk to school is the most confusing. I see the same familiar Starbucks and know that when I push open those doors I will see something unexpected. The walls change from a dingy mould colour to a pristine white. The tile floors are so shiny I can catch my reflection in them. I can see my disgruntled demeanour and my unkempt hair as I walk up the stairs between the middle of two escalators and find myself amongst beautiful shops. A gelato place, artisan sandwiches, handmade chocolates, and more are confusing my sense of direction. I only wish to be one of those ladies in line for a specialty coffee right now, but my 8:00 A.M class is calling, and I am running out of time. I breeze through the rest of my walk, and finally, find myself in the Eaton Center. The Eaton Center is still closed but it is still open to walk through in the mornings. It’s almost peaceful to know that you have so much space to occupy alone in the early morning. Each step I take propels me forward and as I finally see the H&M store indicating I have nearly reached my destination I feel calm. I may have 15 more minutes to walk to my class, but I am mostly there.

As I open the doors from the Eaton Center and step out onto Yonge-Dundas Square I can’t help but notice that the corners of my mouth lift into a smile. I see the familiar people singing, the hotdog vendors, and the people selling bibles. I can hear classical music blasting loudly and while it is 8:00 am and I have been awake since 5:00 am I feel a sense of relief in the familiar. My feet begin to match the rhythm of the music and with it, I find a bit more joy in each step that I take.

This is my everyday adventure. I cross the street and head towards the student learning center. I catch a glimpse of the comic bookstore and fill with fond memories. As I walk past David’s Tea, I think of all the times I surprised my boyfriend outside of class with a drink from there. I walk past the street food trucks and groan with hunger at the smell of churros and burgers, and yet I can’t help but be happy. I am exhausted, but every day because of this commute is an adventure. Whether I am alone, or with others, there is always something special in this trek to class. I round the corner past the Ryerson bookstore and see the all too familiar Tim Horton’s, which means I have neared the Victoria Building.

As I sleepily nudge doors open, I hope my feet guide me in the right direction to class, I think about how each step I take is a journey and applaud myself silently for not getting lost yet again in the path.