Sandra Alland | Toronto

allandThese are the things that have changed about Toronto since I left it. There are about 239 new identical 25-floor condos, where young urban dwellers buy overpriced apartments called ‘cubes,’ which are smaller than the average Scottish closet. There are cameras and microphones on pubic transit now, which my friend who lives in Toronto and used to live in Edmonton and Vancouver thought were air filters, bless her. There are CCTV cameras in more places than before but not in that many places really.

When I was 16 my math teacher was a really grumpy woman named Ms Plaseski. The Ms was unusual but I didn’t bother to ask about it. I wasn’t very evolved when I was 16. Ms Plaseski was too scary anyway. She would yell at students and even call them stupid. I was really into drama suddenly and also into my drama-obsessed boyfriend, Donny. Ms Plaseski did not like this at all.

In Toronto people with money seem into French and Belgian things suddenly. I saw three waffle shops on Yonge Street and two French cafés near Queen and Greenwood. Toronto now also has a fake Times Square and wants an imitation Las Vegas. The mayor is still a buffoon, but a different buffoon.

Ms Plaseski was upset with me constantly because she decided I was a girl who was really excellent at math but too foolish to realize the potential of that excellence. “We need more women in math!” Ms Plaseski would yell at me while I stared out the window at my boyfriend smoking pot outside the drama classroom. “You are the only student to understand trigonometry at this school in 14 years!” But I was reciting lines from End Game and Hamlet in my head. I wanted to be Laurence Olivier.

Torontonians haven’t changed all that much. They are still too busy to meet you until four months from now, and then they will also cancel when that meeting arrives. They still talk about diversity but rarely become friends with people who are not exactly like them. They still aren’t interested in anywhere that isn’t Toronto.

Ms Plaseski and I were from a troubled suburb of Toronto called Scarborough, and she was also from Ukraine, and now she’s probably dead. I miss math like I miss an old friend. Math would have paid the bills, too.

“What use does math have in the real world?” clueless teenagers who were me and my friends used to say. More use than drama, that’s for sure. I let Ms Plaseski down, I let math down.

In Toronto there are more people without homes and also more white men with bushy beards pushing double prams. The sun sets on Toronto gently, though, ever so gently.


Sandra Alland is a Scotland-based writer and artist who has published and presented throughout the UK, Europe and North America. Recent highlights include subTerrain, Feral Feminisms, Gutter, English PEN, Tate Modern, Schwules Berlin and Comma Press Manchester’s forthcoming The Mirror in the Mirror. Sandra has published three books of poetry and a chapbook of short fiction, and is co-editor on an anthology of disabled and D/deaf UK poets (Nine Arches, 2017).