It was a sudden impulse. He bought his ticket in downtown Vancouver and now watched the little towns of B.C.’s Interior roll by. Memories rolled by, too. The old blue Volks van and the heater that quit at Manning Park, just as they were driving into the mountains. Picking up fishing tackle in Hope. Just the two of them at Corbett Lake. Fishing under a harvest moon out on the lake. In later years, an orange Westfalia and the hot, dry crispness of the land. A stop at Princeton for popsicles that melted instantly in the 113-degree heat. “Where’d my popsicle go, Daddy?” one of his two daughters had asked, and “Dad, were you around when the dinosaurs were here?”
Maybe he was a dinosaur now, he reflected, glancing now and then at the wild assortment of humans who shared his journey. No one made this trip often. He’d started out at 2:30 in the afternoon. At Kamloops, he waited an hour, impatient for the Greyhound to resume its trip. The light faded and he dozed off, mountains looming all around. Finally, daybreak. He tumbled off the bus in Calgary, cramped but relieved.
Quarter to six. She leaped up from her warm, cozy bed. Was he at the station? Or was he still some ways out, just coming through Banff maybe? She grabbed her cellphone and called Greyhound. “Look, I just want to know if my husband’s arrived. Maybe you could page him?” “This is Dallas, ma’am,” the friendly voice at the other end drawled. “I’ll give you the service number in Calgary, and maybe they’ll be able to help you. Good luck.” Urgently, she poked out the number. “The number you have dialed is not in service.” She tried again, the Blackberry’s tiny numbers a challenge in the early morning light. Six-thirty now. Maybe I should’ve taken a taxi over to the depot, she thought, guessing the sum required and comparing it to the change in her bag.
Suddenly – a phone call! “I’m on my way over, “ he said, happy to reach her. How long had it been – five months now?
He’ll be here in five minutes, ten at most. She ran her fingers once more through her hair, her makeup already in place. I’ll meet him outside, she thought excitedly. A light rain threatened to frizzle her hair. She climbed up the neighbouring flat’s worn stairs for a bit of shelter, hoping they wouldn’t mind. Movement! What’s that? “Ah, there you are! “ she exclaimed. “What are you doing over there?” she queried. “I couldn’t find the address”, he laughed, as only he could do.
A huge hug and several kisses later, they headed arm in arm over to Subway for a breakfast sandwich and yoghurt parfait. Then followed a brief walk and a visit with the youngest daughter, the other still being out on the Coast. The morning passed all too quickly. They wandered the University of Calgary grounds, the grass and shrubs fresh from the rain. Misdirected, they ended up in the Earth Sciences building for a time, their professorial contact eluding them. Finally, after a brief lunch in the Faculty of Education tower, they moved on to Essentia.
A huge walleye painting caught his eye as he entered Essentia’s orderly space. Artist, Vince Vandurme, answered his questions about the fish, and then left, to be succeeded by photographer, Larry Semchuk.
She saw that her husband was tired now after his long journey. “Why don’t you have a little rest?” she suggested. He tried the extra Essentia bed in the back room. “It’s mooshy,” he said, used to a spring bed. “And soft,” he went on. She covered him with jackets, and he went out like a light. She looked longingly at the space beside him, but didn’t want to disturb him, for he was already deeply asleep. Tired from the long walk and day’s excitement, she thought maybe she’d try one of the beds in the showroom, just for a minute or two. No, that bed is not quite right for me, she thought, getting up from one of the beautiful Essentia beds. Then she spotted her favourite Essentia bed. Just a few minutes’ lie down – it couldn’t hurt, could it? Oblivious to the passersby, she dozed peacefully on, and on, and on…
Later that day, he would leave. A quick Westjet flight, and he’d be back in Vancouver. At night, she would sleep once more on her inviting bed in her small room in Kensington, and dream of him. One day soon, they would both share a new Essentia bed, king-sized, she hoped, and live happily ever after.