Extraordinary stories from everyday life on the edge of the world

Stories

the best thing about us is the people we know.
 

2nd Street // Wednesday, 11.02am

I'm going to have to be careful, staying here. The window opens wide to Trafalgar Street, a street frequently crossed by tall, slender Vancouverite males with the look of lumberjacks shyly transitioning into urban life. And let us only briefly mention the next apartment, which is shared by five young Irish expats.

Two blocks away is a U-shaped beach with a walkway above it, that leads to what I think is downtown Vancouver. It was full of other people walking, bicycling, and running. I see that I'll have to resign myself while here to not being the PYT just by virtue of jogging down the street in shorts; we are repeatedly passed on the pathway by statuesque women with big eyes, beautiful collarbones, and Modigliani curves.

The tide is high against the escarpment; normally there's a wide stretch of beach, Rachel tells me. There are freight liners brooding on the surface of the water. A lone paddle-boarder is silhouetted against the sunset. People whisper by on their bikes.

---

The first person of venerable age I see in Vancouver is a battered old man in corduroy pants and high-necked sweater, who was pulling a net up from the side of the walkway.

"Is that a crab net?" Casey asked him.

The old man didn't answer.

Casey asked again, and again, and meeting still with no answer, he asked his mom, who said she didn't know. A few paces away, there was a small shark lying still and shining against the low stone escarpment.

"What kind of fish is that?" we all asked each other. A man running past us pointed it out to his running partner--"Look, it's a dogfish." He sounded very confident. But the old man with the net did not lift his head.

---

Now that I'm here, it seems strange that I know nothing about this place at all, except Lululemon and movie filming. Driving into town yesterday, I also learned that traffic lights are not a given. I waited, petrified, at an intersection yesterday until a Rubinesque woman in black stretch pants and cardigan approached in the crosswalk.

"Should there be a traffic light for me here?" I called to her, leaning out. "I'm really confused."

"A traffic light?" She looked at me with an air of faint offense. "There aren't any lights here; the streets are very narrow." She hurried to the other side.

---

Rachel has lived in Vancouver about three years, and in this building for one. Before that, she lived in Montreal. She indicates that the city's culture of wealthy earth-crunch has leached all hippie proclivities from her...proclivities she says were never really genuine, to begin with.

"I like shoes," she says, "the more expensive, the better. And I want a Ferrari, and I don't care about its emissions. I do yoga, but only once or twice a month. And I really don't care what the moon has to say anymore."

But none of that makes her uncomfortable with the city. Maybe, she says, it's because of where she is in her life. She feels fine being herself here.

Even so, the door to Montreal remains slightly ajar. There's a guy there.

---

I wake up and try to answer the "Where am I?" question before I open my eyes, a game I've come to enjoy playing in each place I lay my head.

The light outside is beautiful, especially when you stand on the sidewalk and look down to the U-shaped bay, with the houses piled in mute colors over the water, and the city skyline at the far end.

I look at myself in the mirror and hardly recognize it. My stomach is flat, my cheekbones are cut, and while I probably will never have the balletic sternum indigenous to women of this region, I am pleased to note new architectural ridges that frame my tank top.

Oddly, the physical evidence of how well I'm suited to this life produces a heady fog of fatalism. Like how the swan is Odette only in the moonlight...I'm the good me only when I wander.

A good reason, I think, to go to work.

---

...Or not, because my computer is balking at too much use. While I let it rest and groom itself, I (finally) finish Slouching Toward Bethlehem while I stretch.

This is the first day that my back has popped the way it's meant to. I must have been tense and didn't know it.

It's strange to be alone again.