We sat on a quiet bench by the ocean, savouring the final blushes of sunshine on our faces before the sun dipped into the horizon, passing a joint back and forth in silence. When the joint burnt down to the filter, the havoc of the crowded downtown Victoria Harbour faded and I looked at the most beautiful scene in the world.
We talked about the seaplane terminal for a while and we took some photos: his, thoughtful portrayals of the parallel lines and angles of the terminal, mine, a shaky rendering of the world as I see it.
A child toddled towards us, trailed distantly by a casual parent, and I stubbed out the joint to be sure. The child climbed on to the bench beside ours and I smiled at him. He had dark, downy hair and a mash of uneven baby teeth. He looked at me with saucer eyes and I stuck out my tongue. He didn’t giggle. We stood up and walked away from the sunset, back into the havoc with what little sun that was left on the back of our necks, like warm breath on a foggy window. We climbed our way back up to the street, away from the seafront, the only people who weren’t gazing towards the sunset or taking fervent photographs, desperate to save the sky in somewhere besides their memories. All sunsets are pretty; not many people don’t like them, but this sunset was particularly stunning. I told him that as he led me up the stairs to the street. He agreed with me.
We walked down Yates Street under a cloud of murmuration, as though we had caught the birds at rush hour when they dive, dip, and swoop. The busy street buzzes with leisurely hustle, all walking with places to go and people to see, but all we had was a movie to catch in an hour, so we stood with our necks craned to watch the birds. They were demanding attention, and no one would give it to them but us.
I thought of narrow, sunlit path framed by vivid foliage that wound from Willow Beach into Uplands that we had wandered earlier; this new urban setting, Yates Street, paradoxically emitted a historical charm and a youthful energy that elicited a feeling that was so familiar… That’s why I thought of that narrow path from Willow Beach into Uplands: that feeling in my chest as I yearned for a moment that was still present. Was this Victoria or him? I didn’t know. One or the other was magic.
We waited for the walk light to blink to the little walking man in a small crowd on the corner of Yates and Quadra; everyone ignored the homeless men slumped against brick buildings and the homeless woman muttering to herself. When does homelessness become so conspicuous that it is deemed appropriate to avoid eye contact and conversation with another human being? Earlier that day, I read the candidate profiles of the individuals running for municipal government, mostly to see their policies on homelessness in Victoria. None of them seemed to have it solved, barring the one man whose profile simply read, I used to be homeless and now I want to be the mayor.
The little walking man replaced the open red hand, and the crowd surged ahead. I wish that he would hold my hand. My partner, not the little walking man, to clarify. That would make me feel a little more tethered, a little less lost in an unfamiliar place. Once we step back onto the sidewalk, we walk slowly, letting the antsy crowd scatter ahead. He checks the time; I’ve decided that he’s in charge of today’s timeline and have never felt better about a decision before. We stayed in bed until 4 p.m. that day. It was exactly what I needed and what I never would have given myself.
He veered into the View Street Parkade, and we climbed the six flights of stairs to stand on the top. I took a picture of him as he walked towards the railing. The ocean sparkled in the distance, throwing the last rays of sun back into the sky. He smiled at me. He knows this place well, and he had the timing right. Which is magic, him or Victoria? I still don’t know, but I figure it’s a bit of both.