Modern Time Travel

At 2am I am awake and at 3am I finally give up and get out of bed. I am fragile and disorientated, like I’ve napped too long and woken up after dark, which I have done the equivalent of in my timezone. It’s the early evening at home right now, about dinner time, and I’m hungry because my body-clock says I should be.

I take my computer downstairs. The night clerk, a friendly, bear-shaped man, looks up when he hears me coming down the stairs. He checked me in when I arrived, fresh from the plane and tied up in my bags. Vancouver was newly dark, flat wide streets, and walking to the hostel I wasn’t sure if I should be nervous on my own at night. He had assured me I shouldn’t be.

The hostel is cheap, creaky floorboards and lighting that closes in the hallways, and I don’t know the implications of a cheap hostel in Vancouver yet. That I’ll find out in the morning. When I checked in and dropped my stuff in my room, it was just a place to sleep for the night and I figured I’d go exploring and find something better in the morning.

The night clerk had recommended Granville Street as a place to go for a meal and something to do, so after dumping my bags I took his advice and wandered out towards the Skytrain.
“Hey. Hey! Hey, can I ask you a question?” The girl was smoking out front of the pub next to the hostel. She had brown skin and a fuzzy expression. She was swaying lightly.
“Uh. Yeah. Sure.”
“What do you think of guys?” She asked, slurring her Ss out into long wet Zs. Behind her, through the window of the bar, people hovered and leaned around the lights above the pool tables. I paused, not sure how to respond. “Ok, alright,” she paused to rephrase. “Or, when was your last ex-boyfriend then? When was your last ex-boyfriend?”
“Uh, well. I just left one behind in Australia.”
“Oh! You’re from Australia? I’d like to go to Australia. Australians like First Nation people – people tell me that. Is that right? Do Australians like me?”
“Uh, yeah, I guess. I don’t really know what that means,” I said, though I had already guessed.
“Oh, I’d love to go to Australia. Really. It sounds like such a nice place. I’d really like to see Australia some time.”
“Yeah. It’s a good place.”
Then, “I just broke up with my boyfriend of five years.” Her frame fell forward slightly, as if retaining that piece of information had been helping to hold it rigid. “Five years!” she went on. “Because he was lying to me about doing coke. I’m like, ‘you don’t do that stuff,’ and he tells me he’s not doing it but he’s lying you know. And I know he’s lying but he just keeps doing it and…” She kept talking but I found a pause, touched my hat and told her to have a good night, smiled and ducked away. She stared after me, and then turned to look at something else.

I had a few more conversations with strangers. I got the impression that people are quite friendly and open here, especially the beggars, who have learnt that conversation wins coin. There are a lot of beggars. The comparatively temperate climate of Vancouver means the homeless tend to drift here from the colder climates. I was surprised at how articulate they seem to be.

One struck up conversation with me outside the pizza place where I’d bought two slices too big for me to eat and a can of Dr Pepper. When he noticed the accent and found out where I was from but  that I was born here, he welcomed me home.
“Welcome home,” he said. “We’ve missed you.” He said this a few times.

Granville Street seemed very much like any central, strip-mall street in any Australian city. It seemed like Swanston or Bourke Street in Melbourne, or William Street in Perth, or Adelaide Street in Brisbane, except the people have funny accents and nobody jay-walks. By the time I got back to the hostel there was 45 minutes left of my 39-hour Sunday and nothing left to do but try to go to sleep against the jetlag.

But jetlag won and it’s 3am and I’m sitting in the lobby of the hostel with my computer, wide awake but dazed. Over Skype, Tim tells me that for such a sinner, I’ve certainly spent a lot of time with God. I ask him what he means and he repeats what I said about my 39-hour Lord’s Day. I say that I may be a sinner but I’m good, Really. Everything I do is well-intentioned.
“Whatever,” he says.
He asks me if I’m OK and I tell him I don’t know yet. I tell him everything feels funny, I feel funny about all of this. He says we use that word, don’t we? What does that word even mean, anyway. I say that it’s when there’s too many adjectives and none of them really fit and most of them are contradictory anyway.

Outside, the night is still and warmer than it should be. Tomorrow I will wake up, after not really sleeping, to the sound of seagulls. There will be a rash of bedbug bites across my back, which will be madly itchy for nearly a week. I will walk across the city and back again and by the time I check into the next hostel I will be so delirious with jetlag I’ll be hallucinating.

But for now, I sit on the sidewalk with my back to the building and watch the cars sweep past, feeling funny and wondering where those people could be driving at such at such an hour, where it is they could be going.


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