A short story by Sha'Tara...
I Remember a Young Girl
a short story by ~Sha’Tara
I remember a young girl sitting on a rock overlooking the Fraser Canyon along the Trans Canada Highway on an August day, forever and a day ago. A hot south wind was blowing and ruffling her sun-bleached unruly hair even though her mop was tied back with a faded sash that had once been a belt on a dress. Typically she wore a tie-dyed loose blouse and a long jean skirt fashioned from a pair of jeans, the legs having been ripped open and sown roughly together. The dry air was saturated with the scent of pine and sage and it made her drowsy. She looked up at the cloudless smoky sky and noticing the sun beginning to drop towards the high rocky tops in the west, reluctantly got up, picked up her pack and returned to her place along the highway, sticking her thumb out.
She had come out from the east with a friend but they had separated at Cache Creek, the friend heading north to Prince George and perhaps beyond (she said), with a casual acquaintance who had given them a ride from Golden and was heading into the Yukon. Now she was alone and not so certain about this hitchhiking business, but she had to get down to the Lower Mainland, to Chilliwack where a group of friends were renting or crashing together in a large old house near a small river whose name she knew to be significant but couldn’t recall. But she knew she’d find them because they had an impromptu band that got together downtown every Saturday night. They called it ‘Five Corners’ and there was an old clock there. That part was cinchy.
A dirty white Ford pickup with “G&F Logging” painted on the door rattled past her and stopped in a cloud of dust on a widened sliver of unpaved shoulder a few yards beyond. There were two men in the truck and one got out to motion to her to come with them. She hesitated only for a moment, remembering how cold it can be in the mountains from a night spent just outside of Banff. She hitched up her pack and ran to the truck. The young man who had stepped out took her bag and put it in the back of the truck amongst a veritable dog’s breakfast of cables, blocks, axes, pry bars, shovels and buckets. The cab smelled of grease and sweat. The seat and dash were covered in thick dust and splotches of dried mud. She got in and sat as primly as she knew how between the two men.
“Hi, I’m Tim,” said the driver offering her his greasy hand. She shook it to demonstrate she was ‘cool.’ “I’m Darcy,” said the younger one on her right. He stared into her face but did not offer his hand. Instead he let his eyes wander down the front of her blouse where the missing button revealed some cleavage and the nipples against the thin fabric showed her to be braless. The truck jerked off and down the highway.
“Where you headin’?” asked the driver.
“Chilliwack,” the girl replied. “Oh, and my name is Suzanne.” It was Susan, but she loved the song and changed her name accordingly.
“Chilliwack… you live there? You don’t sound like it.”
“No, got friends there. I’m from back east, Ottawa actually, but originally from Moncton.”
“New Brunswick? From sea to shiny sea, eh? How long have you been on the road from Ottawa?”
“Just a couple of months. A friend and I took some waitressing jobs along the way. Needed the dough. I had to sell my guitar in Calgary just to get a motel room and a place to clean up. How far down the highway are you guys going?”
“We’re going down to Hope, to Cascade Supplies for new chokers and Hope Machine Shop to get a couple of tail-hold blocks welded up before Monday. I’m afraid we aren’t going as far as Chilliwack, not this trip.”
“How far is it from Hope to Chilliwack?”
“About thirty-five miles. But it’s going to be late when we get to Hope. I wouldn’t recommend hitchhiking then, not on a Friday night.
So the conversation went. They reached Hope and she stayed with the truck as they hauled their supplies and dropped off the blocks to be welded. She was uncertain now what to do, confused. The men did not make her feel uneasy, but the thought of going back on the road alone, and at dusk, for the first time frightened her.
“You could stay with us, if you want,” offered the driver. “We got rooms at the Hope Hotel, compliments of G&F, cheap bastards.”
Before she could answer Tim ventured, “If you’re hungry, I’d like to buy you a meal. If you like Chinese, we usually go to the Canyon Restaurant on Fridays. All you can eat smorgasbord. Nothin’ like it with a few beers. You smoke?”
“Oh! Huh, yeah, yeah sure, if I can get it. Can’t afford it though.”
“We got some, eh Tim!”
“Sure do. Stick around girl. It’s going to be party time tonight.” He winked at her, but didn’t leer. She surprised herself by nudged him playfully with her head.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what came next. She slept with both men that night and enjoyed it.
Was that really me? I wonder what made me remember. Darcy was my first husband. Both my kids are from him. We had good times and rough ones. I go smacked around a few times when he drank, but I think I evened up the score on occasion. Josh was thirteen and Libellule (that’s French for dragonfly – I’d been toking and drinking when I named her) was sixteen when we split up. He moved to the Island with his girlfriend and I ended up here, on Sylvester Road in Mission where it rains ten months of the year, or so it seems. But it’s OK, I got used to the rain long ago and living with a dentist means we have disposable income. Acreage, so I keep a couple of horses. I learned to ride and now I like it. The kids went with Darcy for a while, then came back to live with me but not for long. Too soon, they ‘hit the road’ as I had done, only they used jets. Libby is a curator in Montreal. Josh makes movies. I think he’s in London these days, though I’m never quite sure where he is. We aren’t close and he’s not good with email or phoning. Doesn’t matter, I let them have their own lives long ago. Libby visits at least once a year, or she flies me to Montreal and drags me all over. Her life seems to be little else but high talk and parties, but not the kind of parties I remember, although these have more sophisticated drugs, and more of them.
I like it here. I got to meet and know my neighbours. They’re good people, old school farm folk who also remember those years when we were so sure we were going to revolutionize everything and make the world a place of nothing but love, love, love. Flower Children, that’s what they called us then. Now? We’re Yuppies on the outside. But inside?
Let me tell you about inside. We are in pain. Why? Because we blew it. We ‘rebelled’ against our parents’ conservative and stifling ways, but we did not catch the true spirit of our time. We were soft. We thought that if we wore non-conforming clothing, sang together, talked about love and handed out flowers, had lots of “free” sex and did benign drugs like pot, the feel good we got from it would be enough to push the change globally. We thought the whole world was in it with us. We didn’t know then that we were the spoiled brats of the world, a tiny minority, that the majority would not even hear of our ideas, except derogatorily. We were idiots, perhaps innocents as well, but accomplished nothing our parents’ didn’t do better any day of the week.
I remember sitting on that rock, that August day in the canyon, looking down at the River snaking far below. I remember wondering if I should throw myself off the edge of that bluff, see if I could really fly. I know now I would have died of course. Because in order to fly you need wings. And there is nothing more painful in life than the experience of growing wings. Love, sex and childbirth, they give you the template. But not the wings.
Remembering the young girl I was, and the bits and pieces that happened until today, I think I’m ready for the pain of transformation. I want my wings now. It’s time.