— A short story on Canadian memories
We sat on damp cobble stairs outside Club Amnesia (I used a fake ID) in Gastown for hours. Probably twenty minutes. Alcohol steals time and memory. It can be equally generous and give it back. But it’s mostly a thief.
One, two, three, “JEEP!”. Unison. He had something I wanted. That’s a good start before sex.
The hard top off.
North Vancouver summers are hot at high noon and days on the beaches of Ambleside feel like California. I know this because I went there when I was seven, camped all the way from Birch Bay to Disneyland in a red and white VW van with red checkered gingham curtains. I wanted to move to Cali. Get out of the rain. I went with him to meet his mother, she lived there. I waited since grade two to get there again. She fit her name perfect. Joy. She died.
But the nights.
Creeks and rivers in Lynn Valley topple down every side of the mountain. At night, long twilights linger until far past ten. I forgot that because I lived in New York. The sun drops there. It doesn’t want to linger any longer than I did. So I moved back home to Canada.
I look at the same mountain through my apartment window now as I write this. This took sixteen years and two parents with cancer. They died too.
Anyways, like I was saying, at night the creeks and rivers chill the air, get up in to your spine and shiver you in your shoulders. On rides home in that Jeep, the chills knocked my teeth together but that’s because my outfit was better without a jacket. I’d huddle my head between my knees. It’s not far to get me home. The top of the hill to the bottom. Even now. If I wanted to. But I’m married. So I wouldn’t.
A hill is something you see in Toronto. I know this because I lived there at twenty-two. I starved there, got skinny. People aren’t as nice in Toronto as on the west coast, except for a Chinese boy with a bum foot who insisted on buying me shoes and taking me for dim sum. I’d do the same for him now.
Anyways, a hill in British Columbia is a mountain without an end until it tears in to the ocean past Horseshoe Bay or layers itself on to itself dozens of times to infinity behind our yards on Fromme. This is the mountain I see when I lift my head right now, this minute and look to my left. But I told you that already.
I lost my virginity over and over right there. I can point to where I’m sure the house is from my twentieth floor. Of course I can’t really. So many Douglas fir trees everywhere here. They hide things built by man. I still look tho’, it’s there, just right over that hill. See?
My first lover with a convertible Jeep and my curfew of one am. Shivering is okay when it reminds me of orgasms. I know this because I had my first at eighteen.
Leaving his house was the hardest.
Warm bed, bodies. Out of damp sheets, up the stairs, to the carport. This is what made me late every night. You know when you are at the lake and follow someone else who dunks in all the way but you can’t? It’s always okay up to the knees. Knees to shoulders is my chicken out point since I was little. I always wanted to be braver. Maybe even jump off the canal bridge pinching Osoyoos Lake in half. I’ve been too chicken for those things all my life. I know this because I’m fifty.
Did you know everything rattles in a Jeep?
Everything comes off it like a Tonka toy and never assembles the same again. Rattles. Squeaks. No doors high noon = fun. After midnight? Not so much. Kills sex slumbers. Best to look like I’m alert so it’s okay, in case Mum waits up. She knows.
I don’t like looking in her eyes tho’.
The Vancouver Jade Bearberry bush opens its bell flower at night. (I don’t know if this is true or not.)
The scent is pungent, it overpowers.
It has no prejudice towards the cold.
We’d turn that last corner and drive into wafts of it.
It was intoxicating.
It was sweet.
It penetrated me.
Promised me things.
The hippocampus is a complex brain structure embedded deep into the temporal lobe. It is a plastic and vulnerable structure that gets damaged by a variety of stimuli and holds the memory of a smell forever.
I remember the shivers and the Jade Bearberry the most.