Updated: Jun 26
I write this as that all too familiar nagging loneliness that accompanies each midnight I spend alone slowly approaches. I sit with my carefully curated playlists and much less organized thoughts: insomnia coerces me to ponder questions like why I’ve never been in love, and why the embrace of potential partners promptly perishes upon my opening up emotionally. I usually end up using my various miserable attempts at acting with my heart to justify what appears to be a laissez-faire or blasé attitude toward dating. I am neither, really. My interest is piqued by an intimate relationship not because I think I would be happier with commitment but moreso because I'd like to definitively say that I’m happier alone; whether or not this is true remains to be seen. Sometimes I call myself a piece of shit until I fall asleep, other times I tell myself I have yet to meet the right person. Either way, I wake up on very little sleep and go about my day without once being disturbed by anything to do with relationships until, of course, midnight rolls back around. Twelve. One. Two. Three AM. Writing hours. Thinking hours. The perfect time to convince yourself that it’s not dramatic to think you’ll die alone.
There are eight months of accumulated emotional tension relevant to the events of this story. Never in my life have I seen an overwhelmingly negative first impression blossom into so much. Like plaque in an artery, the build up would eventually force us into action or we would suffocate each other with the peculiarity of our relationship.
A few days before was our first kiss. I met her after work and we walked over to Granville Island. I moved with the bumptiousness of a ‘50s made man: both because I had just finished my summer term strongly but much more because she was recently single. She was adamant we take a blanket out and sit under a very wide, low hanging pine tree. I pointed out that guys tend to piss on or near trees so we ended up on a patch of grass nearby. I fished the cookies that I’d baked for her out of my suitcase--I had just taken the ferry from the Island--and we got to our normal talk. We bounced from topic to topic and intricately woven throughout the few hours of conversation were flirtatious glances and innuendo. Finally, I was strategically positioned to make a move. She was sprawled across the blanket looking right through me. After months of conversation, I took a moment to indulge myself in the unparalleled and mythic beauty of the woman lying in front of me. Dark, just shy of shoulder length hair contrasted with the bright red backdrop provided by the picnic blanket we had been lounging on. The detail of her brown eyes illuminated by the stray god rays creeping through the conifer behind us; their depth communicated through a piercing gaze that sent the tempo of my heart prestissimo. And taunting me was her gentle movements to accentuate the fullness of her hips.
What really forced me to pause was the orange that she had balanced on her forehead, temple and then her deeply distracting ass. Lying there in front of me, at an angle she knew would force me to really commit to any slick scheming was someone who I was comfortable around. Someone who over the prior eight months had come to appreciate the insecurities behind the unwavering ambition and eccentric self-indulgence that lay at the heart of my character: an exterior meticulously contrived to communicate mystery, (over)confidence, wit, and just a hint of dangerous intrigue. The perfect image to draw attention to myself but intimidating enough to dissuade people from attempting to interact with me--perfect from a distance and too preoccupied with myself to be bothered by people trying to get to know me. Here lies this woman, on our red picnic blanket, who over the preceding eight months had inspected this character façade and decided to poke, pry and prod me with questions until she knew exactly who I was and why I’d become so efficient at evading any further emotional questions.
She had her own propaganda to push. She certainly wasn’t the sweetest person who wanted to be kissed over and over on the cheeks, spontaneously hugged tightly on the SkyTrain and have her hand held while trailing behind our group of friends--or while too drunk on her birthday, or while waiting for the last molecules of acid to disappear from our brains. She’s an emotionally detached, real life baddie with eyes for only A$AP Rocky and bemusingly, Harry Styles.
I kissed her. Lightly caressing her butter-soft lower lip with mine.
After the briefest of pauses she kissed back though not returning the finesse of mine. She gripped my lip with her teeth and pulled me into her and we got a little carried away. Her crop top had started riding up so I tugged it back in place, kissed her on the cheek, looked her in the eye for no longer than a moment and shut my eyes tightly while facing away because I was overwhelmed. Following this exchange were several minutes of me blushing and stuttering like a waterlogged engine. All of a sudden I was no longer slick and in control.
Beneath the bluffing, we are very alike. If she also had insomnia then the same troubles would keep us up at night.
The Second Act
Downtown Squamish is an unremarkable place. The initial urban planning must have only consisted of an uninventive checklist of obligatory activities for residents and passersby.
Serviceable park with playground? Check.
Public Library? Check.
Local Microbreweries? Check.
Pathways to very domesticated nature? Check.
Handful of local restaurants? Check.
Handful of corporate chains? Check.
This certainly was not the place for the Young Ethnic Minorities--Sarah, Ayo and myself--to have a meeting for mushroom-motivated mind melting. At around eight PM we ambled to the other side of town because the other two needed gummies. We saw one or two cars on the road during our ten minute stroll, a typically busy Squamish weekend, really. After settling on Sour Patch Kids we quickly scoffed down three quarters of the Ziploc bag. We were missing a member of the expedition so the leftovers were left in a denim pocket and promptly forgotten about. We decided we would take a second, more colourful, lap around town before walking back to my house which was an hour or so away as a lucid pedestrian.
We looked suitably ridiculous for the odyssey we had chosen to undertake. I was wearing still new white on white Air Force Ones with white tube socks, a bright yellow oversized hoodie and black trousers with an Azure charm hanging from my belt loop. I say charm but it was a crucifix, or, “my boy, JC,” if you were to ask my very excited amygdala. I’d forgotten my phone at home but I had my camera on me to blurrily document a very vivid experience. Ayo was in grey checkered suit pants that may as well have been mine and reclaimed converse. The shoes were an off-white from being bleached clean after a year or two of arduous service in the rain, clubs, and a few house parties. The neon orange laces complimented the maroon sleeves of his hoodie. Sarah was wearing biker shorts, my forest green sweatshirt and a denim jacket. The disruptive zig-zags of my little brother’s boonie hat really tied the whole fit together. This may simply be the shrooms talking but everyone else in Squamish was wearing all black. Grey and black if they were feeling whatever passes as fashionable in a town of 15,000 people.
Within a couple bites the other two were whining about the flavour. Fair enough, it did taste like dryer lint. Just after finishing our respective shares of the excitable fungi, Ayo walked off to relieve himself in the woods. I took the opportunity to take Sarah into my arms for one last time before the world became much more vibrant. We held each other tightly before I loosened up briefly to tell her I was happy she was here--with me, not Squamish necessarily. She said she was happy to be there and thanked me for inviting her.
Ayo hovered back into frame and we started our mission of aimless wandering. Sarah soared through the arbitrary levels of the trip: from 10 to 15 to 30 before myself or Ayo had noticed any effects. It was her first time so we just played along. After hitting 31, she just laid down in the middle of the road to, I guess, appreciate the asphalt. “Sleep anywhere! Like a Disney princess,” she would repeat regularly for most of the trip. By the time she was on the ground and I had started taking very poor photos, a wave of serenity and euphoria overcame me. I was happy. After all, for the second time in three weeks, I was on hallucinogens with the two people I was closest with in the world. Is there more to life when you’ve just finished your 6th straight semester of courses and desperately need to decompress before starting your final two terms in the personal hell of a city you inhabit for university? That being said, I still don’t know which Disney princess sleeps in the street. Mine, I suppose.
Sarah led us towards the very caucasian concert a few blocks away. Now, the cacophony of foreign sounds was not at all appealing to my ears which were firmly tuned to generous helpings of rap, R&B and, more recently, afrobeats. Her, “Maybe country is lit,” was met by two deathly glares. To be frank, my body always screams “flight” when I see a crowd of white people with their hoods up. The country music and psilocybin added a sense of urgency to the situation. We walked away from the caucasity into a playground nearby. I sat with Sarah on a wide horizontal tire swing, though it was so heavy it may have just been a seat. We weren’t talking about anything particularly relevant to the motifs of the rest of the night but it was comfortable. She was easy to be around and her presence elevated every experience for me. Ayo was staring either off into the darkness of the mid-August night or at a stationary swing. Regardless, we were all clearly on drugs at this point and while deciding if it was time to start walking home, Sarah felt her stomach turn. She stumbled just out of sight. I walked over to rub her on the shoulder and keep her hair out of her face. Nothing came up but she felt better and I felt useful. We started walking home.
Just before leaving downtown the most significant motif of the night had materialized. We’d just circled the town a 2nd time. The park was where we had been dropped off by my dad and the route home took us past the Shopper’s, i.e. the end of downtown. In good company, shrooms enchant the world. Every stimulus of your senses is worth a second, third, and fourth thought. Is the street lamp across the street slowly strobing or are you just blinking too long? Is “dripping” an appropriate descriptor for a beat you heard two years ago? Has it really only been an hour and a bit? Has it already been an hour and a bit?
Squamish had been undergoing significant redevelopment in the years I’d been off at uni. Much of the old town was being demolished and replaced with condos and townhouses. They were, quite literally, restructuring the area into a bedroom community to accommodate overflow from the mess of a housing market in Vancouver. Now this long march home was the one, prolonged, moment of our trips being synced. We were all mesmerized by the prefabricated structures. We theorized that Squamish was the result of someone playing SimCity and creating a “perfect” small town.
Our admiration slowly turned to anxiety as the identical rows of townhouses all blurred together and we began to feel our legs tire at the sight of walking through suburbia much longer. Our cheer and enamour returned quickly at the sight of the cutest bus stop I have ever seen. The pole with the schedule and sign looked like they’d been scaled for an elementary school student. Even the bench was smaller than usual. We pretended to wait for the bus briefly. Beyond those superfluous details, the rest of the slog was rather uneventful. Right up until we crossed the highway.
We were playing our ethnic music off my bluetooth speaker as we walked behind a commercial area so when a marked squad car creeped to a halt behind us and rolled down his window. What we were not expecting was for him to put on his reds and blues and stop. This chubby white man hopped out of the Enforcer and waddled over to us. I think he forgot his hairline in the car. He asked for our IDs before beginning to explain the situation. Sarah handed him a credit card with her name on it because she forgot her wallet. Ayo had his wallet out and in his hands but only handed the cop a student ID. When asked for something government issued, Ayo just said he had nothing on him. My Service Card was on the bottom of the pile.
Apparently we had been reported for peering into cars and testing door handles on Mamquam road. By, “we,” I mean the two black males in hoodies--myself and Ayo. Sarah was not mentioned in this “report” at all because 10 minutes after being pulled over, another two Enforcers parked across the street and then a fourth and final car joined the fray. This time the officer was a woman. The first officer told us the description of the perpetrators, “a... uhhh... someone in a yellow hoodie... and uhhh... someone in a white hoodie as well.” He seemed certain of himself and who am I to question the racial sensitivities of Squamish’s RCMP. Keep in mind, the stakes were very, very high for the three of us because Sarah still had a couple grams of an illicit substance in her pocket and we were still tripping. After the yellow hoodie comment I had to turn away and look at the floor to stop myself from laughing because I was very aware of what shitness was being perpetrated towards us as we hurtled towards midnight.
The two officers shared a look. Mr. Man had gotten to my ID.
“Oh you’re from here?”
“Yep,” I replied while rotating my focus to his face.
You could hear the gears clicking in his head as he came to realize that not only was my address in Squamish, it was in that part of town. The one with the homes of the bourgeoisie. Needless to say, they wrapped things up pretty quickly from there and sped off in the direction of my house. If only I could see him lift off the throttle to cruise past the largest, newest house on the block. I only got to feel smug for a couple hundred meters before succumbing to a waterfall of tears.
After finally making it home, I clumsily hobbled up the front step and, with a light drizzle down my face, fumbled