I could smell it, the vodka, as soon as you sat down. The bus jostled and you bumped off of me, into the plexi-glass divider and back–a tipsy metronome. After a few moments of abrupt expletives and digging through your purse, napkins and a tampon wrapper escaping in the struggle, you pulled out a sizable tangle of wires. You looked at me. “Hey, you know, can you help me out? I can’t undo thes–this shit”. I took the clump of headphones and slowly unwound it. “You know, it’s just better to be able to music while on the bus, right?” You expounded as I handed them back. “Makes it better, like, it goes by faster”. I agreed, putting my own headphones back in.
Hungry as I’d ever been I entered the warmth of the building. Scanning the selections I quickly made my decision: an Olive and Pesto and a Beef and Blue Cheese. While waiting for someone to come to the counter I was showered with a nameless top-forty tune. Then you approached. What I thought was myth, a marketing ploy: The Uncle. You where extremely pleasant and asked how I was doing. I was entranced. From the pizza box to the handling of my order you were now a new sort of tangible. The Pesto and Olive was a little stale but I didn’t mind.
I watched my feet cover the damp, red bricks as I made my way to the train. There was a receipt in my pocket and I was folding and unfolding it. “Hey”, the word echoed through the empty street and off of the steam clock. I stopped, looked up and saw you in the distance waving. “How’re yah?” You yelled. “Not too bad, how about yourself?” I shouted back. There was a pause. You seemed to grow smaller then a short, sharp “Sorry” and you turned on your heel and walked away, footsteps falling heavy on the brick below.
I wandered through the halls of Templeton Secondary during the intermission of Rain City Chronicle’s “Chalk and Lockers” story series. I thought about woodshop teachers in pornos, drank from the water fountain and looked up at past graduates framed and lining the walls. Faces smiled, some didn’t. A majority had a knowing look, a look of pride or finality. Then there was her. The corners of her mouth upturned in what had the framework of smile but in no way was. It was unsure, wavering and made me uncomfortable. I began to worry. Was she okay? Did she triumph over whatever made her feel such a way on that day? Was it just gas?
Was she here right now, ten years later, with the same look on her face? I looked at my watch and made my way back to the auditorium hoping for answers.
I’m sorry. I should’ve let you go in front of me. All you had was a bag of granola. A small bag of granola. We were still in the hollow nether-realm between the lady in front of me grabbing her bags and receipt and me moving the plastic bar that divided her groceries and mine–it would’ve been the perfect time to exercise common human decency. While the woman behind the till rang me up I looked over sheepishly and saw your work boots. Hopefully I didn’t make you late. Hopefully you didn’t miss your ride and had to walk to Surrey or probably Mission. I wouldn’t even be able to offer you a ride since my bike’s rear tire is low and I’m only pedalling home, two-blocks away. I hope you made it out alright.
The host told us it would be another fifteen-minutes before a table would be ready. We sat on a bench by the door. I admired the layout of the restaurant; bare wooden tables spanned the distance of the high-ceilinged room. You were waiting on the bench beside us when you were called to your table. I squinted. It was instant. A forgotten celebrity crush. I saw you telling Louis CK to be honest with you; he was fat and you had no tits. Throughout our brunch I occasionally looked over at your table, at one point a breast-feeding woman sidled up to you and engaged in friendly, animated conversation. At another you pulled out a brick of a cell phone, a relic of the 80’s or 800’s, and covered the receiver as you talked. I leaned across the table and asked if it was tacky to approach someone while they ate, already knowing the answer. As I leaned back, nodding my head I looked over and you were gone.
It was the first time I’d been to a ribbon cutting. Some people were excited. The rest of us were there for the champagne. We’d been called from upstairs to join the event, to make the ceremony more lively, to fill out the photos. The crowd of suits was bubbling. Calls of “Where’s Greg?” surfaced and repeated. Those of us on the periphery asked, “Who the fuck is Greg?” and “Are there snacks?” Eventually, as if on a horribly delayed cue, a man I assumed was Greg rushed past with an arm full of scissors. I imagined him running from class to class, banging on the glass of the doors, his face flush, making a cutting motion with his index and middle fingers to whoever was inside. Then he started handing them out. Women with towering hair grabbed their pairs. Greg looked out over the crowd, an asking look in his eyes. I raised my hand. I would take the last pair of scissors, I would do my part, I would help cut the ribbon. He looked at me, cocked his head, chuckled and said “no”.
I had two glasses of champagne and three shrimp-sliders before I headed back.
I was at my apartment door, fishing through the coins and scrap paper in my pocket on the way to the keys. You, as my neighbor, were at your door. It was hard to tell if you were coming or going. When I entered the hallway you had been at your door and now as I almost entered mine you were still there, fumbling through your jacket as if in a tank of molasses. “Hey Buddy, do you have the internet?” You asked from beyond left field. I hesitantly said yes, holding on to the ‘s’. “My cousin just moved in and he likes the internet, you know? Maybe you want to share yours? You could just string that cord, you know, the firewall–the firewire? Whichever. You could just bring that shit out your balcony door and into our window. We’d give you like ten-bucks a month or something. It ain’t too expensive.”
It took me a few moments of reading your face, watching your eyes narrow and mustache jump as you sniffed back the snot that slowly eked from your nostrils, to realize you were serious. “I’ll think about it.” I said, closing my door behind me.
There were rumblings that you were in town. Sightings. News reports. I was on the look out. That afternoon as I waited in line for my donair, as I watched the tzatziki drizzle over the lamb–you walked in. It took all I had not to stare. I thought about texting someone, anyone, but the man behind the counter was asking for toppings. I had to keep it together. After my order was finished and paid for, with surprisingly minimal fumbling, I sat at the table closest to the door. No way I would miss you. When you walked towards the exit, taking yours to go, l looked directly into your face. Into your eyes. Eyes that were wrong, so wrong. The nose, the nose was off. I let go of a sigh punctuated by a frown. You looked at me quizzically. You were not George Clooney. You were not George Clooney at all.
I hadn’t yet looked over but imagined a maniacal grin stretching and bending your mouth into frightening shapes as you looked around at the others on the Skytrain, cowering and covering their ears in protection from whatever bastardized dubstep cross-breed spewed from your iPhone at maximum volume. I imagined you holding it up like a cursed talisman, threatening to poison the souls of all other commuters.
I imagined standing up, confronting you, putting myself in the crosshairs of eternal darkness for the sake of the other riders. I saw myself collapse against an empty seat as you pointed the phone in my direction, my ears bleeding as you approach. Then, the fates smile, the Skytrain rounds a corner too quickly, slamming you against the doors which G-force had opened just enough for you to slip out of. A small mushroom cloud of inconsiderate shadows plumes as you hit the ground. When I finally look over to you someone shouts, “Turn that fucking shit down!”