Today on a Friday, it begins to rain. It doesn’t generally rain on Fridays. The rain likes to skip days like Friday, and Tuesday. You know this because you marked these days with blue x’s on the calendar that hangs on the back of the old kitchen door. You stand in front of your living room window in your favourite New Balance sneakers and itchy fleece, zipped all the way up to your chin. You wear them every day, so they must be your favourite. You look at the clock above the sofa: 3:15. The little girl in the pink parka marches passed the house, her backpack sagging down her backside. She stops, turns on her heel and waves. You wonder where her mother is, or her father. Why no one picks up the little girl in the pink parka from school when it rains. You wonder if you should walk her to the place she’s going. Tomorrow if it doesn’t rain and she’s walking to her destination again, you will offer. She turns back around and continues on past the house.
You don’t leave the house on days when it rains. Don’t like the sound your New Balance sneakers make when they get damp. The way wet socks squeeze your big toes. You get the feeling that if Luce were still here, she would tell you to buy rubber boots from the Army & Navy on Columbia street. Maybe that’s why you wear your New Balance year round. Or maybe it’s because the smell of the sweaty rubber and the chemicals the employees use to clean their cement floors makes your stomach turn. If they used nice smelling soap, you’d go buy some rubber boots from them.
You sit back down slowly on the sofa and untie your sneakers. Lately, you can’t walk more than an hour before your hip starts to ache, and your knees feel like they might buckle if you walk too quickly– so you meet in the middle. A slow forty five minute walk, most days. You’ll walk tomorrow. There is enough bologna in the fridge for today. Is there? You’ll check, but first your eyelashes meet softly. Maybe just a short rest first.
“Oh, but tomorrow there’ll be so much to do.” She dips one foot into the river water. You laugh, once with your mouth and once with your whole body, threatening the angry rain clouds above. Her clothes sit on a heap on the rocks. You bend over and pick them up, folding them carefully before hugging them to your chest.
“What if someone sees you!”
She throws her head back, her long hair brushing her waist.
“Then I suppose you’ll have to scare them away!”
You shake your head in both disbelief and amusement, at her beautiful boldness.
“‘Till the bitter end,” you oblige.
“Teen burger combo! Frank?”
You look up at Mary. Or Marla. Maybe it’s Marlene. She smiles from behind the counter, offering you your tray. You feel that you know her. The echoes of children squealing in the food court echo from behind you. You nod.
“Thank you Ma…la…” You murmur embarrassed. Your chin scratching against the zipper of your fleece reminding you that you need a shave. The woman smiles confidently and you notice her name tag; Marla.
You carry your tray away from the A&W, winding through plastic topped purple tables. The old people who frequent the mall are gathered in front of the cafe, stooped over the purple topped plastic tables and paper cupped drip coffee. You wonder if you belong there, playing bridge with the mall men and quiet couples. One of them waves. You look closely at him; a frail looking man who, dressed in a brilliant red sweater and pair of perfectly pressed black slacks, raises his bushy white unibrow at you with a smile. You take a sip of diet Pepsi and turn away, towards another cluster of tables. You might have met him before, but you can’t remember. It doesn’t matter, you decide. You carry your tray up the stairs to the second floor to a quiet table. Stopping half way up the blue staircase, you take a break to look out across the mall. A pink backpack trudges past Shopper’s Drug Mart. You wonder where you’ve seen her before. It bothers you that she walks alone in the mall. She must be ten years old. Maybe she’s a short twelve years old. You should offer to walk with her next time you see her here alone.
“When an irresistible force, such as you. Meets an old immovable object like me. You can bet as sure as you live. Something’s gotta give, something’s gotta give, something’s gotta give.” You use your free hand to turn the stereo dial down as the other holds the remnants of your merlot.
“Frank darling–they’re leaving!” You leap away from crouching at the stereo and a splash of red lands on your crisp white shirt sleeve.
Dean takes the empty casserole dish from his wife as she leans down to slide her patent leather pumps on.
“It’s been great as always, Frank. Thanks for having us. Happy birthday.” Dean leans towards you, bumping you in the chest with the porcelain dish. He wraps his free arm around you anyways in a stiff tap, before stepping back with a red wine stained smile.
“See you both next Saturday at the Darcy’s.” He raises his bushy, brown unibrow and you can’t help but chuckle.
“Dean-o, my man! ‘Course.”
Your wives hug each other goodbye in tipsy squeals and after a some repeat moist cheek kisses all round, you shut the door heavily. Lean into it a bit too far. Luce wraps her arms around your waist.
“Twenty-six has never looked so good, baby.” Her words are strung together a little too closely, but you don’t mind.
The scent of newspaper ink tickles you nose. You must have fallen asleep, because you squint your eyes open to halogen lights in a place you can’t recall. You lift your cheek from a newspaper sitting on a purple table beside a tray with the remnants of a burger across from you. The mall. The chair across from you is empty. You’ll go downstairs to where the shops are and find her.
In the Kin’s Farm Market only busy moms push shiny strollers of children, and more old men poke around the mandarines and grapefruit. No Luce. You search for her black hair in the food court, in a jewellery store, around a kiosk and in a busy store called Walmart where Woodward’s should probably be. You start towards the entrance, head down the stairs to Sixth Ave. and hurry towards home, eleven blocks away. Avoid one, two, three big puddles. You don’t remember all the rain falling that fills these puddles. Your heart pounds a bit faster, and your hands go clammy. You’ve felt this before, this feeling. You recognize it, but still don’t know how to reconcile with it. You stand still, thinking. Nothing to see here, you smile at the men and women who walk past. You remember. The last time you saw her was at the river.
You take off your coat and place it on a rock beside you. The breeze chills you, but it doesn’t matter. She’s here. How could you forget? You unzip your fleece and discard it on top of your coat. You shiver and proceed to unbutton your pants, pulling one pant leg off. You lean on a rock, take a deep breath, and proceed to pull off the other pant leg. You take a step towards the water, looking down at your plump, pale torso and the skin around your thighs that sags pathetically. You worry you’re not strong enough to swim to where she is. She can’t be far. You take another step forward, towards the river’s edge. A sharp chill shoots up from under your foot, flooding between your toes. You jump back and shake off your soggy socked foot, looking around. Your head hurts and your stomach turns in knots.
“You can’t eat only bologna when I’m gone.” You remember.
Holding her mint chocolate chip ice cream cone over railroad tracks in the summer. Dancing after dinner parties–the small of her back damp with sweat. You, Luce and the kids on the back porch naming the stars after dark.
You look down at your white sock in a puddle.
Your pale torso gleams, even under overcast skies. You suddenly feel quite silly. Sick to your stomach looking down at your muddy white socks and veiny, shaky legs. When did it get this bad? How could you forget that she’s gone? You worry what Luce would think if she knew about this.
“Grandpa?” A small voice offers. You turn around and a little girl stands alone, concern across her face. Her pink backpack is cast aside on the grass.
About Sasha Curry
A New West resident (and NWSS 2011 grad), Sasha completed her Bachelor of Arts degree at The University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus. After working in editorial roles for small newspapers and magazines, Sasha co-founded a brand development agency in 2016. West Coast Social’s office is on Columbia street.