Monday, July 20, 2009:

In the days that follow, I carry the mysterious letter with me everywhere, pausing often to re-read it and re-examine the envelope. My nightly dreams of fire evolve: I find myself in a maze of cedar shrubbery, with an arched door ahead. As I move toward it, the high green walls ignite, engulfing me in flame and smoke as I run blindly forward.

On Monday morning, I arrange a sitter for my daughter and drive into downtown Kitchener. My old stomping ground. I park in front of the apartment building I lived in for most of university: 52 College Street. A vibrant energy envelopes me as I step out of my car. My current country home offers peace and quiet but this neighbourhood lives and breathes interesting faces.

I stand in front of the dwellings, surveying the architecture. Two twin, three-storey brick buildings with narrow courtyards, each leading to three separate entrances. The building to the left, a chestnut-brown brick with rounded arched entry embellished with the name “Wales Apartments” in white Edwardian letters. My own building, in red brick with the name “Royal Apartments” over the archway.

I wonder, does my old landlord still keep the place? I head under the archway of my old apartment, through the entrance directly ahead and down a short flight of stairs into the basement. The office door is ajar but I find it empty. With no other plan in mind, I indulgently wander through the building despite the sensation that I’m trespassing. Returning up the stairs, I visit the door of my first student abode, a tiny 300-square-foot apartment at the back of the building.

Then, I return to the outside courtyard and enter the front section of the building through the right-hand door. After a year in the tiny back apartment, a roomier two-bedroom had opened up on the third floor facing the street and I had moved up into it. I feel the same comforting creek as the stairs bare my weight up to the door of my second apartment—the one in which I spent six studious years. The same subtle scent intensifies my nostalgia—earthy, but not dirty (despite that it is)—the smell of bricks and mortar and plaster standing stoically for the last hundred years.

I reach the top landing and pause facing my old door, tempted to knock. But, then I hear the squeak of the apartment entrance opening below and I turn tail and retreat; I’ve trespassed long enough. At the bottom of the stairs, a middle-aged female postal carrier has just opened a set of old brass mailboxes that line the wall inside the doorway with the master key and begun stuffing envelopes and flyers into the compartments.

I hesitantly approach her: “Ahem, I hope you don’t mind the interruption. I’m here trying to solve a bit of a mystery. I received this letter in the mail. But, the return address sticker uses this address.” I pull out the letter from my purse and she willingly takes it.

“It was sent from Brazil, not here,” she states the obvious.

“Yes, I figured that. But, I wondered if you have seen anyone in this building using these kind of return address stickers?”

“No, I only deal with incoming mail. I wouldn’t know if they did. Why is the name and apartment number cut out? Looks like they didn’t want you to know who it was from.”

“No, I guess not. Thanks anyway.”

I return to my car none the wiser for my sleuthing. Sherlock I’m not.