Even on a sunny day, the air in Vancouver smells like rain. It’s musty but pleasant: grey droplets tinged with new spring mulch, moisture-laden and lined with unfurling fern leaves.
We walked quietly, the baby quietly practising his newest skills.
“Pah, pah, pah,” he breathed quietly. Bye, bye, bye to the squirrels. Bye, bye, bye to the limping mailman.
He was leaning cheerily out of the backpack; three chubby folds punctuating his waving arm, so enormously proud of his latest mastery of movement. I could smell his warm, milky breath hitting my cheek and was acutely aware of this snapshot in our shared lives.
We reached the crest of the street that paves gently toward the wharf; smiled at the round man smoking a cigarette against the door of the pizza joint.
I stood in line at the bakery and craved egg, cheese, and bacon on homemade potato bread. Determined to shed that last bit of baby jiggle, I ordered an iced latte with soy and negated my discipline with two spoonfuls of sugar, watched the granules cling to, and then dissolve on the ice.
“Excuse me?” a tall, lanky man stood by the barstools, one hand on a newspaper and eyes betraying his wish that he hadn’t opened his mouth.
“Yes?” Startled, I dropped my spoon and instinctively grasped a baby foot in my palm.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.” He was handsome in a pretty way, the kind I appreciate at a distance but have never coveted. The handsome I like is dirty, grimy, punchy.
“That’s okay, I’m jumpy.” I smiled now and then looked closer, because I don’t forget a face and I knew this one.
“I, uh. I think I might know you. Do you have a friend that looks like Charlize Theron? Jeez, I can’t remember her name.”
I stared at him, memory flooding back with smoky bar music and Gucci Rush perfume. “I do. You mean Carrie. Oh. Oh!”
“I met you, was it about ten ye — ”
“I remember you.” I confirmed. “After the bar one night you shared a cab with us back to — ”
He smiled and I willed away the color that was spreading from my chest and encroaching on my face. The land of debauchery, of choosing a man from a barstool, of too many vodka sevens, was so very far away, trapped in a parallel space. I remembered his eyes that night, the curve of his abdomen, a shy smile.
“So how are you?” He glanced quickly at the baby. “Married, I guess. A lot can change in a decade. Hi, little guy.”
Nolan smothered his head in my ponytail.
“Things are good, yeah. Good, though I’m happy not to be 20 anymore.” As soon as I said it, I realized with surprise that it was true.
He nodded and there was a silence. I took my latte.
“I’m going to eat my sandwich in the park,” I blurted. I didn’t have a sandwich, but bumbling didn’t matter. I knew I’d never see him again.
“Good to see you.”
We walked past the playground populated with gossiping Australian nannies and ponytailed rich kids, and I caught my reflection in a glossy storefront window.
“Ma, ma, ma,” murmured my baby, slowly gathering my hair. Bye, bye, bye. The water at the end of the Pier was quiet and grey as we stood and listened to the seagulls.
I don’t remember his name.