Every corner of the city — every building, every storefront, every tree, every signpost, every crack in the sidewalk — is a repository for memories. Our experiences are not just tied to time, but to place: when we think of the moments that mark our past, whether fondly or with regret, we often think of where we were.
We remember those moments, those memories, as we walk through the city and see those spaces.
One of my favorite ways to learn about my city, about Toronto, is to take walks with people who have lived in their neighborhoods for years, who have a wealth of stories about their communities, each tied to a particular place. These place-bound memories create a rich story — the story of our city and the people that bring it alive.
Imagine my delight, then, when I discovered the Toronto Kiss Map earlier this week.
The Toronto Kiss Map lets users tell stories about their first kisses, last kisses, memorable kisses in 500 characters, and map those stories to locations in the city. It is an excellent exercise in collaborative storytelling, and lets you explore Toronto through tender, sometimes-heartwarming, sometimes-heartbreaking moments in the lives of strangers.
I love it.
I added three short, 500-character stories to the map, and I’ve shared them below. I will perhaps add more in the near future. I encourage you to add yours, and then tell me so I can go searching for them.
First friend, first kiss.
I met her, for the first time, on the school bus to my kindergarten class. I had just moved to Toronto and didn’t know anyone; she became my first friend in the country, my first confidante, my first schoolyard crush. She kissed me, firmly on the lips, in the back of the classroom, near the hooks where we hung our jackets, a few weeks after we had first met. The other children laughed at me, or told the teacher in admonishment. I was only five years old, but I had butterflies.
A last goodbye.
We told each other that this was temporary, that we would see each other soon; we both knew that this was goodbye. The February air was cold, and even our full bellies after our last dinner together couldn’t provide any warmth as we held each other. We tried to convince each other that we’d work something out, that it would be okay. She had fallen in love with someone else; we both knew, then, that this would be the end of our magnificent story. It was a furtive kiss, cold as the air around us.
Before it all began.
This was before we moved into a shared home, before any mentions of I love yous, before we spent weekends together, before I had even seen the inside of her apartment. This was before we were “us.” Instead, we were tentative, cautious. We returned from our second date giggling, smitten. She waited at the door of her building before turning around to head upstairs; I hesitated, but only briefly. It was our first kiss — it was our “before” that has led to our glorious “now” together.