I’m re-reading Dickens, for the 4th time because I don’t know how else to study for this exam. But I’m reading not just Dickens, yet also Woolf, Spark and that overweight anthology of poetry. I’m flipping through passages, reiterating quotes and scanning with my eyes faster than the speed of the bus I’m on.
It’s too early to be on a bus, too early in the day, too early in the month. Didn’t I just have my last lecture a day ago? Didn’t I just finish 4 papers and over 10 000 words last week? How am I here? Did I even sleep? Life is passing me in broken moments I can’t seem to grasp onto, I blink and time has already moved on to the next scene. I look at the screen for the upcoming stop, it flashes Clarke. Blink, blink, blink. Suddenly it reads Cambie. How am I halfway? Is Cambie even halfway? Why have I always thought it to be? Why am I thinking and not reading? Read, I tell myself but just as my eyes divert down to the book in my hand, I hear a voice.
This is the 99 right? To UBC?
This is no ordinary voice. I can sense the unfamiliar and foreign. My ears are suddenly attentive and my eyes abandon Dickens and settle on the specimen seated across.
You are a boy, for starters. A boy too golden for this town. Was that too cheesy? I meant too tan. Your skin is that glowing brown I have an immense phobia of getting myself. It’s why I wear SPF 30 in winter. But you clearly don’t and you aren’t from this rainy city. All you’re wearing is a brown t-shirt and jeans, and you have ruffled blonde hair that could use a trim. Then there are your eyes, another pair of blue eyes that always remind me of something distant and unattainable like the sky. Bags surround you, overstuffed heavy duffel bags and a suitcase at your sides. It’s a good thing you’re seated in the middle of the bus, in the awkward transition area. It was meant for travellers with too many bags and for girls like me with too many books.
I am on the right bus, no?
I am lost in my analysis when suddenly you ask again. I scramble to find my voice and confirm a fact you already know.
99 to UBC, spot on!
Spot on? Who says spot on? Some terrible character in a 90’s sitcom that’s who. Why is my intellect perishing at such a critical moment? Why am I talking to myself? Rectify! Say something smart.
You’re not from here are you?
As if the scenery didn’t already answer that question. Fail. Fail. Fail.
You answer with a laugh. Your head tilts back slightly to the left and you say, Am I that obviously out of place?
I can’t answer you. My voice has embarrassed me enough so I give you a mere nervous nod.
You laugh again and begin your tale. I let my books fall to the sides and let your voice, and that foreign accent serenade me into your story. You tell me you’re from Australia, you tell me you’re not supposed to be here. You tell me the brochure to Vancouver said it would be sunny, I tell you that’s a common lie. You laugh and tilt your head to the right this time and continue on and on. I hear details of your childhood, you rant about the expensive nature of commodities in Australia and confirm what I learned about economics in Professor Farkasch’s IPE class last spring. You try and try to get me to talk with questions but I dodge with minimal answers because I just want to hear you talk. Every word sounds rich, more pronounced and well articulated in your accent. You paint language with beauty with that rhythmic accent of yours, I could listen to you talk forever and forever.
The 99 doesn’t last forever though at times it may seem so. Our time is limited and you have a premeditated purpose because like you said, you’re not supposed to be here.
Why are you here, I ask, for what reason?
Wrong question, you say, for whom is what you should ask.
You have blue eyes for a reason, I knew it the instant I placed my eyes on them. I always say blue eyes aren’t meant for me, they just epitomize unattainability. Of course you’re taken, just like that first boy on the 99. But a story is a story, and I for one cannot pass on yours. So I ask you for her name.
Julia, you say her name with such intensity in your eyes.
Julia is why you came. Why you boarded a last minute plane to this end of the hemisphere. Julia, the girl you met at some summer trip in Kenya. Julia, a girl from this rainy city who goes to the very school we’re both headed towards. Julia, the reason you flipped your world and are now sitting on the 99, colliding with my plotline in this early morning December day.
I smile at you and tell you this is unheard of in reality, sounds like something from a book or movie. You laugh at me and tilt your head left now and say, irrationality comes with love I guess.
Why are strangers so wise? Why can’t the everyday cliches of life be this eloquent and articulated? I am left in dismay by your words when you ask me if I’ve ever been in love. Now it’s my turn to laugh and even somewhat snort. I shake my head and you ask if there are prospects and I merely smile and say nothing. Before you can pound away with more questions I deflect and ask, all of this for her, all of this change for her, is she even worth it?
You look directly at me with a stern look of certainty and reply to my question with words that ring in my head to this day. I don’t know. But if she is a mistake, then she’s my mistake.
Instantly I think of that song from the sibling duo from your land. The very duo whose one member shares your girl’s name. It would have been only more fitting if yours was Angus but it’s not. I believe it was Matt, or why is my mind remembering Mike. Something with a M is all I can pinpoint. I’ll just refer to use the ambiguous second person, you. You and your answer remind me of these particular lines. Some call love a curse, some call love a thief but she’s my home. She could be a mistake, a youthful lapse in judgement you will regretfully laugh off twenty years from now. She could waste your time, she could strip you of opportunities and people back where you came from. But she is your mistake. You have made the decision to be here, to chase her in this deplorable rainy city. And as blissfully ignorant as that may be, there’s something admirable in your decision, there’s a bravery and courage in the way you love.
In that last post about the boy on the 99, I ended on grim prospects. I threw in quotes from Thucydides and emphasized some deep connection with the tortured soul that is Fitzgerald. But this time, I see things differently. Maybe it’s the early timing of day, maybe it’s the predictable hope that a sunrise aspires at 6am. Maybe I finally see the idealism Dickens and my professor kept emphasizing in all those lectures but this time around, I am left smiling at the conclusion of our interaction. The 99 meets its end and you ask me for directions to Marine. I tell you and we both walk off in opposite directions but not before you tell me, good luck with your exam and then run off in haste. I never got to reciprocate in that moment so here I am doing it on this post. To the Australian boy on the 99, good luck with her. I really hope you found her, I really hope your affirmative way of loving succeeds because it’s the type I believe in despite how rare it may be.