I’ve said my goodbyes and so longs, cramming as much into the past week as I possibly can. I’ve seen the friends it was important to see and connect with before I left and eaten in the restaurants I knew I would miss.
I walked down West Pender Street last night on my way to one such dinner, looking intently at the faces of the people around me. Not a single person returned my smile, looked me in the eye or acknowledged there were other people around at all. Buses screamed to a stop, beeping loudly as they lowered themselves to the curb, disgorging passengers rushing off to evenings in the city, classes or second jobs and then attempting to cram twice as many new people on. “Move back! Everyone back! C’mon people!”
No one looked happy. Frowns, unhappiness and traces of impatience raced from person to person, covering everyone with a fine layer of black dust. If you weren’t looking for it, you might not even notice it was there. That ethereal black dust reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere creatures that scuttle about in the underground, affecting the lives of London Above, or perhaps of Dead Like Me’s Gravelings. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine small creatures and demons on shoulders, slung about people’s necks like a scarf.
The city itself is still beautiful with it’s glass towers and high rises standing side by side with heritage cathedrals; mountains still dusted with snow rising in the distance, the cut visible down the face of Grouse. What unsettled me, almost as much as that layer of melancholy, is the din. If you stand still, anywhere in the city, you will find yourself completely surrounded by noise. Just as the glow from street lights cancel out any stars, the ubiquitous clatter of city life cancels out any suggestion of peace. There’s always something—buskers, car horns, sirens, conversations conducted over one another. Even now, midnight in East Vancouver, well removed from city centre, it’s noisy. An ambulance races away in the distance, weaving through Wednesday night traffic. The upstairs neighbors settle in for the night, a baby cries, dogs bark. There’s a fierce turf war going on in the street by marauding cats, West Side Story style. Even the skytrain, just over 20 blocks away, can be heard pulling into the station and accelerating away in the night.