Bill had entered Toronto’s underground PATH system through the Eaton Centre while searching for a Jamba Juice. He never did find it nor was he able to find a way out. Yes, he had been picked up by security a few times and told to get out. But no one had ever taken him to a real exit, only doors that lead to another part of the PATH. Then he would get lost again.
Eight months later, he was living between two white pillars in the corner of a winding corridor. Each night, the soft buzzing of the Grande And Toy sign would lull him to sleep and each morning he woke to the smell of fresh baked goods from Mmmuffins. He brushed his teeth in the water fountain and worked out on the show floor Swivel Chair at the Seen On TV store.
Each day he would explore the PATH, adding to his napkin map. He had lost hope of finding his way out months ago but exploration had become a habit. He thought of himself as an urban archeologist, documenting parts of the PATH that others had never seen, Mmmuffins locations that no one had ever eaten at.
Today, as he was exploring the deeper catacombs, making observations. He noted that the order of stores was not totally random. There was always a Bentley within three stores of a Body Shop and a TBooth Wireless within two stores of a Blacks. Why? What did it all mean?
“Bill?” He was startled to hear his own name and turned to see Julie, his boss. “What are you doing?”
He became away of how disheveled he looked, still wearing the same suit and tie. He tried to brush out the wrinkles of this shirt and tuck it back in.
“You left work eight months ago to get a smoothie. Your family and the police are out looking for you.”
“I…I got lost.”
She was hesitant to approach him but she held out a hand. “Let’s go.” She took him to a part of the PATH he did not recognize. Sure, there was a Blacks and a Mmmuffins and a Bently but it was definitely a corridor he hadn’t been to. “Where are we?” he asked.
“We’re leaving,” she said pointing to an exit sign.
“Those are lies! The exit signs just lead to more exit signs!” She shushed him and brushed his face.
They rounded a corner and there before him was an escalator. As he rose up to ground level, he shielded his eyes against the sun. He was in Metro Hall. He knew this place. It was full of people in nice clothes walking quickly, talking on phones. He was back.
“Come on,” said Julie, guiding him toward the front doors.
“Wait!” Bill walked to a sign next to the escalator which listed all the stores in the PATH below him. “Look, Jamba Juice. It’s not far from here.”
“You’re going home, Bill.”
“But I never found it. I never got any juice!” Bill took a step toward the escalator.
“Bill…” She grabbed his hand.
“Julie, I never got any juice. It’s so good.”
She nodded in agreement and waved goodbye as Bill took a step back and descended underground.