After over four months in Brisbane’s punishing heat and humidity, packing and unpacking, I arrive in Vancouver.
I sense Karl close to me, as before.
I can have this
My arrival surpasses all my imagining.
A Chinese angel named Ken appears at the airport in a porter’s uniform and cap and helps me gather my luggage.
Already inside the arrivals hall, I find myself inhaling the misty Vancouver air. I whisper: I am home. I am home.
Becky and Eddie are waiting with their pickup truck. As we drive to Vancouver’s West End, I exclaim, “I can have this.” I see spring flowers blooming everywhere. I even glimpse a bed of marigolds, with a few flowers beginning to bloom.
Built in 1911, the West End’s iconic Strathmore Lodge is one of Vancouver’s significant old apartment buildings.
Gordon Price, a planner friend quips, “A grande dame for a grande dame.”
My friends have furnished my tiny ground-floor studio suite down to the teaspoons. We’ve shared six weeks of delightful internet collaboration: selecting an IKEA sofa bed, a recliner chair, carpet, and linen. As we arrive, I delight that my doorway opens directly onto a shared, pedestrianized laneway.
The original oak floors have been polished, all walls repainted, new heating installed, and the bathtub refinished.
My rental suite is much more spacious than I expected, and spring sunshine is streaming through the south-facing windows, illuminating the whole space. Becky and Eddie have washed my bed linen, hung things on the walls, placed candles and soft cushions everywhere. My bed is made up with crisp cotton sheets and a summer quilt; the fridge overflows with my choice of groceries.
We stack my suitcases and boxes in a corner and sit down to lunch. After a glass of celebratory wine and a few more hugs, my friends depart, with my blessings and my gratitude.
A prayer of gratitude
I lock the door behind them, draw the curtains, and light my red candle.
As I whisper a prayer of gratitude, I remember Karl’s words, spoken a few weeks after his death:
When you feel that whisper of happiness, let it in. It’s really me — just loving you with all my heart.
Then I take a long, luxurious shower, wrapping myself in a soft, sweet-smelling towel that smells of sunshine.
I unpack a nightie, slip it on, turn off my phone, blow out the candle, and fall into bed, snuggling into feather pillows also scented with sunshine.
As I tug my down quilt around me, I can feel Karl fitting into me, spoon fashion, his warm penis gently nudging me.
I feel comforted and loved.
I am home. I am safe now.
After 10 hours’ sleep, I wake to unfamiliar northern sunlight slanting between the curtains.
A new day.
I make some new friends, including Jenn, an artist my age, who lives nearby. I buy one of her paintings.
I feel secure for the first time in years, nesting in my bedsitter. No need to move any time soon. I’ve paid my rent for six months. I feel optimistic.
I unpack my clothes and tiny treasures. I arrange my ornaments and sacred stones. I buy flowers, essential oils, an oil burner, a small CD player, some lamps, and a printer. The beauty and convenience of my new home astonish me.
I am familiar enough with this neighborhood to find my way. My outdated mental map of Vancouver is adequate for navigation. I get lost a few times, but it doesn’t matter. I discover new pathways as I seek out new destinations.
Now I can do more than one thing each day.
Nobody ever asks me if I am an American.
My social calendar is filling up with dates with new friends.
The spring weather is dry, warm, and sunny.
I spend some of the first days in my jammies. I sleep 10 hours every night.
Now a sense of opportunity imbues my every decision, my smallest act.
I begin the formal process of repatriation to Canada. It’s not that complicated.
I wonder what will happen tomorrow?