Skip ahead twenty minutes. Stephanie and I have rocked our Moment to sleep, the natives are getting restless, standing outside is the hippest new thing. So suddenly we’re tumbling down the stairs, we’re an interlude between one venue and the next, out front the Railway, trying to manufacture some sort of plan. Shane stands at the centre of our group, a gentle figure of authority, trying to convince us to taxi-pool to the Brickhouse, the semi-hidden pub on the south edge of Cracktown where all the writers quietly go to drink. People are agreeing, asking directions. I want to wait for Mike, who’d already taken to touching my arm when he speaks, so I don’t speak up. I know if they leave, I will girlishly stay, a supplicant curled on the stained sidewalk next to the van, head bent into a book, waiting for him to finish upstairs and find me.
And so I turned every time the doors opened and smiled at the way he eventually spilled from them, concerned, anxiously scanning for my unfamiliar face. (Obviously, I was lost, I had left, never to be found again!) Gratifying, how his worry split gladly into relief as soon as I was located. It punctured something inside my chest, right there, like sunlight. Before I could react, Shane interrupted, scooping him into an enthusiastic hug. (They’d worked together at the Winnipeg Folk Festival). The exodus had gone critical. “Come with us!” An open, easy grin beneath his clumsy black hat. “Yeah, alright.” Quickly, I volunteered to navigate. The van was crammed with stuff, an entire life trapped in four metal walls, it made me smile down to my toes. He seemed nervous, but not overly so. Though I felt presumptuous, I felt okay.
Turn right here, right again again. The same way Vegas is bat country, this is where our junkies congregate. There’s architecture here, under the violence and grime. That used to be a theatre, that’s the crazy studio where some of us used to live. It’s a safe injection site now, maybe.
As some of you know, I’m a regular little history guide, full of odd knowledge knick-knacks, but that night I was only using it as punctuation. Instead, I was explaining as little as possible about my dead boyfriend while still attempting to accurately outline what the rest of my evening had been like. Sometimes it’s hard to be tactful, but I’d like to think I still managed. “Wow, that’s intense.” I had him agree to sit between me and the mystery woman with the socially devastating entrance. Do you ever see a precipice coming, but instead of thinking, deciding to tread carefully, just break out running? I find it borderline precious to waking up after you thought you already had your eyes open.
Worried we might part ways at the bar, I gave him my card as we pulled into the camera-protected parking space out back. Little things. Ink on paper. Another moment of good impression, of making sure we had contact. He reverently cradled them in his hands, red hair and angel wings, delicately painted lips, a cathedral framed against a skyscraper, sincerely thankful. I tried not to feel too delighted, I didn’t want to press my luck. Already, I liked him. I could taste the edges of it. I thought of all my poetry I wear as scars, of a heart made of plastic, how slowly it might beat. I thought, “I am rinsed of my worn places, I am free to do this. Really, it’s about time.”
END OF PART THREE