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Purgatory - Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019
Friday, Oct. 26, 2018 @ 1:53 pm
An engineer invites me up north with her to visit three communities. I'll be spending the winter designing water and sewer projects for these communities, so it makes sense for me to see the sites in person. Now is the time, before the weather shifts and snow blankets the ground.
Travelling to that part of the province from this part of the province is convoluted. I drive into Kamloops, stay a night in a hotel. I meet a consultant from Calgary in the hot tub - classic, right? - and we talk about the structure of my company and how it differs from others. The company that I work for is unique and known for being different. The man is clearly intelligent. His three children are beyond smart. He sends them on missions in the pool - four laps, two minutes of treading water, etc. - while we talk about employee retainment. Me alone in the hot tub meeting interesting men - call this the theme of my 30's.
I go to the airport in the morning. Planes are delayed across the province due to fog. Eventually we are called to board. Walking across the tarmac, climbing the narrow stairs into the plane. Single row of seats along each window. This is a puddle jumper.
We land in Prince George. The airport so familiar from when I lived here. I want to take a taxi and drive past my old house. See how the garden is doing, see the rowan tree that I planted. Eventually the plane arrives, and we fly up across the Rocky Mountains into the prairie part of BC.
That afternoon we head out to a community NE of the city. The landscape is all brown grasses and hard hunks of clay soil. Res dogs come up to sniff my hand. Later, at a tailgate meeting outside an Atco trailer, a dog jogs past with a fisher in its jaws, the animal's pelt glossy and luxe in the late afternoon sun.
Dinner that night in town with the client. An elder talks passionately about natural resources in the Northwest Territories, expertly drawing a map on a placemat showing lakes, rivers, oil sands, and diamond mines.
I retire to the hotel. Fancy and over the top for this town, hinting of the oil patch economy. Heated bathroom floor. Plush, white robe.
Tim, my ex, messages me. We message back and forth, and eventually video chat. We are still in love with each other, and we have these moments of being together - but not together - that we both accept as being exactly what they are.
In the morning we head southwest of town. The second community lies on a lake, set in a sparse pine forest. I do my work and head to the band office to warm up. I meet the band manager - a towering man with a coastal look - Haida? His long hair pulled back in a pony tail. He walks with an ease and carries himself with relaxed confidence. When we shake hands, my hand is enveloped entirely into his soft clutch, and it feels like a hug. My insides soften, and I want to know this man.
In the afternoon we head to the third community. The engineer is troubled by the politics of this community, and I take a back seat at the meetings, trying to get a sense of our future here.
We drive back to town at sundown. Rippling golden grasses, the Peace River flowing across the landscape.
"I have a proposition for you," she says. "I'd like you to think about taking over these clients from me. We need to start thinking about succession planning."
We have dinner at a local pub. This is the real deal in this town - cheap food, trivia night, half the women pregnant, the parking lot full of leased trucks.
I fall into my hotel room, in a near zombie state from exhaustion.
Chris messages me. He's on call for a visit up here later in the week. "Will you still be there on Thursday?" he asks. We plan to go for a hike together in November.
I fly home via Vancouver. I step onto the tarmac and am overcome with the smell of the ocean, the smell of home. Back in Kamloops, then driving out east to my house in the mountains.
I recall a conversation with the housing manager of one of the communities:
"Are you from the Kamloops office?"
"No," I stammer, "I'm from... well... I'm complicated."