It’s finally quiet around my apartment again, except for the birds carrying on outside my windows. The lights are all dimmed, the blinds partially drawn, and the sun is sinking lower in the sky: my favourite time of day. My body is still recovering from today’s migraine, the worst in a long time. Instead of revamping my CV and applying for a job I really want, I spent the afternoon in my dark bedroom, playing solitaire to pass the time. Good thing my mom recently re-taught me how to play, or I would have spent the day staring at the ceiling. Well, it was still an improvement over yesterday, which was spent slowly teasing pages of my thesis essay out of my fried computer. The computer isn’t totally fried, but it’s quickly heading in that direction. Good thing I have a spare laptop, an old reject from my uncle. It’s not as fast, or as light to carry, but it works. And, as I keep learning, poor grad students really can’t be choosy.
A month ago, my parents packed up their truck and headed west. They went east once before, all the way to the Atlantic, and this summer they decided to come out west. They didn’t make it to the Pacific, but they ventured partway into B.C. before backtracking to Calgary to get me. We spent a few days camping around Drumheller, Alberta, visiting all the museums, driving the Badlands, touching the hoo-doos, going into the old Atlas coal mine in East Coulee. A mini vacation for me, a short detour from the Trans-Canada for my parents. They stayed with me in Calgary for a few days after camping, but my dad was a bit sick, my mom clearly missed home, and I was trying to finish up the final draft of my thesis essay, so they didn’t stay long. But it was nice to see them on my turf, if that makes any sense. I’ve lived in Alberta for 2 years (almost), and every time I’ve seen my family, it’s been in Windsor, when I’ve gone home. It was a nice change to have them here, for them to see my apartment, my neighbourhood, my city. And it was nice to get out of the city, too, to finally see the Badlands.
Now, this scene in One Week means a whole lot more to me:
But there’s another story that goes here: A few years ago (or I guess more than a few years ago now), I met this guy back home. Our meeting was kind of random, we weren’t in the same department at university, didn’t share the same extracurricular interests, but we happened to meet one day in the fall of 2008, outside the student center. Five minutes into our first conversation, he said he was from Alberta, and suddenly I was hooked. I have always had a thing for Alberta. Back in grade 5, we had to do geography projects about the different provinces and territories, and I got stuck with Manitoba – I wanted Alberta. I tried to trade for Alberta, but that wasn’t allowed. Anyway, this guy said he was from Edmonton, and I admitted my desire to move to Calgary. A few months later, another friend of mine picked up her life and moved out here, and before she left, I told her that when we met again, it would be in Calgary, and it was. But I was telling you about the guy. We ended up being pretty good friends, and spent many afternoons and hot summer days debating politics (both university politics and national). When he got a car, he started driving me home a few days a week, and our conversations turned to more than politics. I told him when I applied to grad school, and when I didn’t get into the program in Windsor, he believed I would get into the U of C. He seemed to believe it more than I did. And then when I found out I had been accepted to Calgary, it was through email. I was in the campus library. I gathered my books and went outside to scream, then over to the pay phones to call my mom with the news, and then I turned around and there he was. He was the second person I told, and he congratulated me with a great big hug. He knew how hard I’d been working for this, but he also knew how hard it would be to move that far from home. That summer, I started spending more time with him, avoiding packing. Mostly we talked about Alberta. One of those days, as he was driving me away from the university, we stopped at a park by the river just to have more talking time. He asked me what I wanted to see in Alberta, and I said the Badlands. I said I wanted to touch the hoo-doos, I wanted to stand in the valley near Drumheller and feel the wind on my face. He had never been there, despite having lived in Edmonton for almost 25 years. The following summer, he said, when we’re both in Alberta, he would take me there. We would see the Badlands together, and then he wanted to show me the mountains, the hot springs, Edmonton. Except it didn’t happen that way. Life got messy and complicated. I moved to Calgary, and a few months later, he returned to Edmonton, but we didn’t see each other. We emailed, but I was too busy with school and my thesis and trying to make ends meet to go to to Edmonton, and he was too busy working two jobs to come down to Calgary. So I saw the mountains on my own, and the Badlands with my parents. And the whole time we drove those two-lane highways in the middle of nowhere, or acted like children in the museums, or stopped at a roadside attraction, I thought: he would probably love to see this place, but not with me. I wanted to stop and photograph every canyon and hoo-doo, every shack along the road. One day before I left Windsor, he and I went for a drive along Riverside, out as far as the road would take us, and he pointed to all the elaborate houses with lockable front gates and 4-car driveways – this was the kind of house he wanted, big, practical, new. On our next drive, we stopped at a gas station on Wyandotte, a block or so from the house my great-grandmother used to own. We walked up the street to her house, and I said, This is the kind of house I want – small and old, something with a story. He didn’t get the draw. I understood what those shacks along the highway meant, but that boy wouldn’t have seen them.
We looked like giants in the back of my grey subcompact…