Don’t Stay in Vans with Strangers

Part Two of How it Feels to Travel for Love.

Back in Calgary we spent summer solstice on our bikes chasing obscure bands in venues across the city, drinking beer and whisky behind dumpsters with your friends.

Back yard hipster party
Ridiculous people at a Sled Island party.

We did not get on. When it rained during the festival and the van was our only shelter, the place seemed too small even for a mouse, let alone two people tentatively getting to know each other. While the rain poured every afternoon we sat in Starbucks, tired and quiet, wishing we had somewhere else to go.

That first rainy night sleeping in the van, I rubbed your shoulder, “Dirk*, I need the bathroom. Dirk.”

Silence. “Dirk?”

“Hmm?”

“Dirk, bathroom.” I tugged at my t-shirt.”

Your voice was thick as you rolled out the words, “S’good for treesh.’ ‘What?’ I said, sharp.

“Shh good for trees. Cam fine with it.” You rolled over on the deflated mattress and fell back asleep.

“For fuck’s sake, we’re in the middle of the city in your friend’s garden.” I shook my head and slammed the door closed as loud as I could, hating you, and peed in the dewy dawn of 7am, peed in the garden of your best friend where we were parked, praying that no-one would be awake to see me deflowering their roses.

Often we would go to after parties at your friends’ flat, cycling across town in a big midnight bicycle gang. You entertained everyone. It made me smile to see, and I groaned whenever you said we had to cycle back across the city to the van, parked at Cam’s house an hour’s bike ride away, me always toiling behind you as the sun slipped warmth into the dark horizon beyond.

Yet when we pushed our bikes up that last big hill and the cityscape turned pink behind us, the promise of sleep and warmth so close as a new day broke. I was happy, just you and me. I liked that I had you all to myself again, liked that I got all your stories and felt fine to share mine, because I’d been meeting dozens of people a day in filthy Central American hostels for the past couple of months, and was reminded once again that I’d one million times rather get to know one person properly in all their beautiful, humbling complexity, than meet fifteen or twenty or thirty people a day.

*I changed ‘Dirk’s’ name so he doesn’t get mad at me for writing all about him.

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