My aunt had invited me to her place to celebrate my uncle’s sixty-eight birthday, which fell on Victoria Day this year (why we are still celebrating Queen Victoria’s birthday is a bit peculiar but Canada is all about ensuring at least one stat holiday a month, or at least attempt this record with some success); it was a big family luncheon, for those of us still in Vancouver.
“Big” is being ironic; the remaining family here constitutes my aunt and uncle, my gran, my mum and dad, and myself. Everyone else has either flown the coop (to Calgary, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco, respectively), or has died. There were never very many of us, just my grandparents (who immigrated from Venezuela, though they were from Poland originally, and had met en route to a UNRRA camp in Germany after the end of the Second World War); my aunt and uncle, and my two cousins; my mum and dad, my dad’s mum, my brother, and myself. We did have additions of my brother’s wife a few years ago, and a year ago, the little one, and the girlfriends of the cousins, but it’s never been more than an apostolic twelve around the table.
My aunt always jokes that I can’t leave Vancouver, as it’s on my shoulders to take care of them and my parents when they turn into doddering seniors. I think she is only half joking. The positive side of that is that my gran just turned 95 at the end of May and is still as sharp as a tack, so I am hoping those good genes passed on to my mum and to my uncle, to save me the eventual and painful decision of when to put them in a care home once the changing of the diapers kicks in (I jest; I will try to keep them independent for as long as possible).
The lunch was nice; my uncle cracking inappropriate jokes, and my mum and I picking up on random double entendres throughout the conversation. Dirty minds are apparently genetic.
So it was with satiated appetite and good humour on the mind that I came back home. There was a fellow in the parking garage lobby, who was also waiting for the elevator. We started chatting, as one does with one’s neighbours. He mentioned that he had been out walking twice that day, as the weather was so nice. I asked him how the rest of the weekend had passed and he said that he had gone cycling out to UBC, taking the long route over the Second Narrows rather than over Lions Gate Bridge. He asked if I cycled; I said no, and said that I preferred to go for walks. He introduced himself to me, asked me my name, then he got out on the second floor, I think, and I kept on to the eighth. I like the people in my building; they’re all quite friendly.
This innocuous tête-à-tête took place on Monday.
My morning routine during the week tends to be quite regimented, and I’ve gotten it down to a comfortable pace, as I hate rushing in the mornings), so that I almost always am out the door by 7:50am. This morning I was a bit ahead of schedule, so left at 7:45am, and saw my neighbour, Bezhad, an engineer, by the elevators, as I pulled out my keys to lock the door. I called out to him to hold the elevator, and he asked me something which I took to be if I was catching the same elevator – Bezhad has a thick Persian accent, bless him, so I wasn’t one hundred percent sure of what I’d heard. But no, as I walked over, he asked again, “Did you see this envelope? It’s got your name on it. It’s been here since last night.”
I confessed that I hadn’t, but there it was, a white envelope taped to the elevator button console, with ‘ALEX’ written on it in large block letters. I opened it, not sure what to expect. Bezhad joked that I should be careful of opening strange envelopes in case there was poison inside; I think Bezhad takes the news too seriously. Inside was a business card, for the fellow from the elevator. On the back he’d written, “Perhaps you’d like to go for a walk sometime?”
I smiled, flattered.
Bezhad looked at me. “I wasn’t sure of your apartment number,” he said. “Oh, it’s just the first one on your left over there,” I gestured down the hall.
I’ll be honest, the little card made my morning, as that has never happened to me before. The worst thing is, however, that I can’t even remember what the fellow looked like. I have a vague recollection that he might have looked a bit like John Hannah, and probably the same age – so likely almost 20 years my senior – and Persian, but that was it. How terrible. I felt a bit guilty about the whole thing, because it was a bit bold to do something like this. I thought that I should at least email him to decline, as he was simply not my type, but the girls at works said not to, as that would just open the proverbial door for him. I tossed the envelope and card the next day.
Like it had never happened.
The whole episode is a happy thought; I just hope that when (notice, not ‘if’) this happens next time, the man will not remain invisible in my mind.