Back In My Dream City (West Coast Girl, Pt 12)

The photo above is from the lovely mall on Granville St. It’s one of my favourites. ❤️

It was so good to be back in Vancouver again. I’d been able to experience Banff a second time on my own terms. It was because of this that I could finally close that feeling of needing to go back and put all my focus on my new life in Vancouver. The above photo is of Granville Street. Isn’t it beautiful?

My old landlords helped me find a new place with someone they knew well – it was on the same street that their home used to be on in a brand new gorgeous house, but it wasn’t as private. I knew it was only going to be temporary, so it didn’t stress me out too much. I also got a text from my old boss in New West – they had an opening at their office and he wondered if I was interested in coming back. The timing was perfect and I happily accepted. I missed the old work crew and liked the commute to New West from Burnaby.

The above picture was the outfit I wore for my first day back at the old job. I was so excited and happy. They asked me to work in admin since their receptionist was leaving soon to go back to school, so I was ready to try a new role for the same company. What I almost forgot about was the weird energy that was brought in by the other employees who weren’t there at the beginning. I also heard rumours that one of my work friends was trying to get me fired. I wasn’t sure if it was true or not, but I didn’t like all the politics and gossip spreading around, so I looked for another job once I got back from visiting with family over the holidays. I found a job at a market research firm on Granville Street – I looked forward to a fresh start and to work right downtown. The view from that office was phenomenal. I found the work culture to be professional and no-nonsense. It wasn’t a high morale kind of place, but I’d worked in the industry before and hit the ground running. For some reason, I’ve always had a knack for completing surveys with people over the phone. I met quotas consistently so I got really good full-time hours there.

As odd as this might sound, I didn’t explore the nature trails in North Vancouver until 2016. The first part of my life in Vancouver was all about settling in, knowing my way around the city, thriving, and healing. English Bay, Fraser River, and the seawall captivated me so much for the first couple of years that I hadn’t felt called to go on the trails yet. I think I expected a lot of the hikes to be harder or that I’d need special hiking boots (All of which required money). 2016 was the right year for me to venture into North Vancouver and finally immerse myself in the beautiful temperate rainforest trails. It is a lot quieter with beautiful trails in that area. Lynn Valley was my first North Vancouver hike – and I was amazed at how wonderful it was. Ferns grew everywhere, the trees were so tall, and the stream’s rapids were spectacular. The trail leads to a suspension bridge which was such a fun experience. I suppose I wanted to wait until I was mentally ready to take everything in and enjoy it fully. To this day, the Lynn Valley Loop is my favourite trail. It’s even more beautiful when it rains there. There’s just something about rainforests.

I found a nicer place to live as well – it was close to Joyce-Collingwood Station and there were only three people in the home – my landlord and another renter. One Friday night, there was a great buzz in the city. When I walked through the door, my roommate was spinning, high on life. She was about to go out with some friends from work. My landlord was in the kitchen and she turned to me.

“You should go out tonight, too, Sara. It’s going to be a great night for everyone. I can feel it.”

I laughed at the good energy in the house. I hadn’t been out dancing since I was in Banff. It was high time to visit my favourite club in Vancouver – Celebrities. Yurie is my favourite local DJ – she spins the best remixes ever and she’s heavy on the bass. When I walked into the club to order a vodka cranberry, a handsome blond guy walked up to me. I smiled and we said hello but he shied away when he noticed I was focused on the dance floor. Later on, his friend danced beside me for a little while. It must have been his wing man. When the blond guy moved closer, we smiled at one another and our eyes locked. He was interested, but seemed like he didn’t want to intrude on my space.

Another guy came up behind me and grabbed me from behind. He asked if I wanted to take a sip of his drink, so I did (And I never did this again). After my second sip, I started to feel very light-headed and limp. He had a death grip on me and I was trying hard to focus on staying aware. A beautiful black girl noticed I looked too inebriated so she took my hand and asked if I was alright. Her voice helped me focus. I squeezed her hand and nodded.

“Thank you for checking up on me,” I said. “You’re so beautiful.”

I noticed the blond guy from before was right in front of us, watching. He moved closer and asked me if I was doing okay. That helped give me the strength to look back at the guy who was squeezing me.

“Hey, I need to leave,” I said to him.

“What? No, I want to dance with you,” he said, his voice obnoxiously loud in my ear.

With that, I stomped on his foot and lunged at him. He stepped back and finally let me go. I rushed to the washroom for a breather. When I came back out, the blond guy was waiting.

“Hey, do you feel better now?” he asked with a charming grin.

“Yes. So much better! I just need a water.”

“Okay. Let’s get you a water.”

I was so thirsty. After guzzling down some cool water, he asked me if I wanted to go outside for some fresh air. As we walked out of the club, he pointed to the Donair place close by.

“Are you hungry?” he asked.

“Actually I am!”

We went in and he was kind enough to buy me a Donair. With the fresh air, water, and food, I was starting to sober up. He offered to walk me home and I accepted. We got some Gatorade on the way to help reduce the hangover the next morning. I would normally never let a guy come into my house, but I trusted him because he didn’t try to buy me a drink and wanted me to sober up. I think he initially hoped it would be a hookup, but as I snuggled up to him, he wrapped his arms around me.

“There’s something about you I really want to protect. I want to take care of you, my unicorn.”

We fell asleep together and woke up to my landlord being very angry that I had a guy in the house. She must have heard his voice the night before. She confirmed with me that guys aren’t allowed over ever – not even for one night.

“Last time I allowed one of my tenants to have her boyfriend over, their relationship ended with a terrible fight and he’d broken some bottles. I will never let another guy in this house. If you want to spend a night with a guy, you can go to his place. That should be a guy’s responsibility, not a woman’s.”

I totally understood her point of view and as her tenant, I had to respect her rules. I guess I thought that I could get away with sneaking a nice guy in once, but I would never do it again. It was also a good determinant as to whether he would still be interested in me based on my living situation. It didn’t deter him. He called me every day the week after we met at the club. It was nice to hear his voice and have him tell me about his day. His accent would phase in and out of Russian and Canadian. It was so adorable. We told one another about our siblings, parents, and our hobbies. He also confided in me about his mental health journey. He had gone through quite a hard time a couple of years ago, but had since got a good career in North Vancouver and would soon be renting his own apartment. I told him about my dreams to become a counselor one day and I was probably going to take a course to become certified. While I liked my job, my brain was hungry – even with all the writing I was doing. I couldn’t wait to dig in and learn about all the different types of therapy and study a bunch of different topics within psychology.

“Would you like to go with me, my sister, and her boyfriend to the hot springs one time? It’s a long hike, but the reward is worth it.”

“Yes! When can we go?”

“I’ll confirm a date with them and get back to you.”

I was so excited to have a guy I could hike and explore with. What was really special is that he offered to go with me on one of my sunset walks. I’d never shared any of my sunset viewings with anyone before. He didn’t realize how rare it is for me to want someone with me while I watch the sunset – and he was one of those people. We went for a walk around Deer Lake to start. It was there that he admitted to being on a break with his ex. I knew there was something about the smirk I couldn’t trust, but I wanted to believe he would see the value in dating me. He was the one who approached me at the club and initiated staying in touch.

“You look so good, but it’s not about looks for me. I need so much more.”

I didn’t know how to respond to that. There was so much I wanted to say boiling beneath the surface, but I didn’t know how to defend myself. How do you change someone’s mind when they can’t see you beyond the surface? Will they try to get to know you more, or will they only ever see you as a projection?

One evening when we were talking on the phone, I confided in him about how much I was looking forward to having my own place. Sometimes I found it frustrating when my roommate or landlord would be in the kitchen at the same time as me or they’d want to talk when I wanted to write. I really wanted to have my own apartment after all the work I’d put in at my job and in my life. Andy seemed put off by this.

“Does talking to me bother you then?” he asked.

I couldn’t believe he’d think that.

“No!” I said quickly. “I love talking to you. I look forward to your calls and messages. I just like having space where I live.”

He didn’t seem to know the difference between wanting space and still wanting a relationship. That’s one issue with extroverts – they don’t always understand an introvert’s need to recharge and spend hours not saying a word. When his texts stopped for a while, depression started to set in after a long time of not having it. It amazed me how a guy could come on so strong and make all those promises just to pull away over one misunderstanding. It almost seemed like you couldn’t breathe the wrong way without being misunderstood or judged.

I did my best to distract myself, but depression is something you can’t just ignore. You need to deal with it head on or it’ll eat away at you. I went back to the club to dance some of the stress off and maybe meet someone new, but it only made me feel worse. I couldn’t stop imagining the first night I met him, how he helped rescue me from that guy. What’s crazier is the same guy who held me in a death grip the last time was there and he approached me again.

“I saved you,” Andy would say anytime we’d talk about that night.

I knew I was obsessed with Andy, but I didn’t know how to untie myself from thinking of him. Lo and behold, he got back together with his ex. It was on the same day that I was going in to the Vancouver Counseling College to pay for my tuition. The sight of them together om Instagram was jarring for me – he even had a weird smirk on his face in the photo (It may have been my imagination). I tried to think positive, but on the inside I was devastated. To spend so much time talking with someone on the phone, in person, and on text just for them to go back to their ex felt so violating since I didn’t open up to many people. At the very least, we never became intimate beyond kissing and cuddling. He hadn’t taken that away from me.

After I paid for my tuition, I saw he texted me. Hey Sara, I might have told you that I was on a break with my ex. Well, we’ve gotten back together again.

I texted back. Hey, Andy. I admit I was surprised since you hadn’t told me you were seeing her again, but thanks for letting me know. I wish you’d told me so I could have moved on sooner. It was great meeting you, but we shouldn’t message each other anymore now that you’re taken. I guess we can’t go on that sunset walk after all.

Oh Sara, we can still be friends. I like having a few female friends, actually. And of course we can still see the sunset together!

I was shocked by his trite response. A big part of me wanted to wash my hands of him, but there was a small part of me who wasn’t ready to let him go, so we continued to text everyday. I thought we could at least try making it as friends. Our chats would sometimes get quite deep and he would offer help when he could, which I appreciated.

I hate how when I start to fall for someone, they move on. I texted.

Sara, that only happens because you don’t date enough. It’s better to see a few people at once until you find someone who’s willing to commit to you – assuming the feeling is mutual. If you only focus on one person, you will be sad a lot.

I felt like he was accusing me. It’s not that I only relied on one person, I just thought someone would honour the connection they started with me.

I could never date a few guys at once! That seems so gross to me. When I really like someone, I like them. I can’t just date other people in case it doesn’t work out, can I?

I don’t mean you should date them all at once, but you can see a few people to figure out if you want to keep dating them.

Maybe there was something to what he was saying, because the strategy worked for him. I wasn’t ready to apply that truth to my own life, however. It made me sick to think of dating as some sort of numbers game, but focusing on just one guy at a time didn’t seem to be working. The best dating advice is given by people who are actually in relationships.

We ended up going to see the sunset a few weeks later. He showed me a place I’d never been before – a little island in False Creek. It gave a nice view of the cityscape over the water as the sky glowed behind it. I considered him a good friend to keep his promise like that when he didn’t have to. At least he cared about my feelings.

I’d lost my beautiful MAC laptop by accident on the sky train a few months earlier. Technically it was stolen, but it was devastating for me since my dad and sister split on buying it for me for my birthday – and I was out of a laptop again. I went back to the library and wrote there until my parents kindly offered to buy me a new laptop. It’s not like I just used it for movies or whatnot, I was a writer and I’d also need it for my new school program. I remember excitedly texting Andy about my new laptop. I was so happy to be able to work in cafes again.

Now I’m going to lose you to the hipster crowd. He texted.

Hipster? I’m just a writer who likes to work at cafes …

At work, I got promoted to supervisor and the pay raise improved my quality of life tremendously. I was doing well enough on minimum wage, but making $3 more per hour was a dream come true. I never wanted for anything and I even increased how many charities I donated to. My sadness about Andy vanished and I was doing well at work. I will always be grateful to my supervisor for giving me the chance to be promoted and how she lifted me out of poverty.

“You’re a hard worker so I wanted to reward that,” she said.

It did wonders for my confidence and my bank account. All my hard work was paying off in the job sphere. In writing, I was finishing up my Western novel, The Broken & The Foolish, and it would soon be published. I felt like a boss lady with my new job title and new novel soon to be published.

The photo above is of me writing on a window sill at Trees Coffee! I felt like a queen (and it’s so rare you can do that in a café).

One weekend, Andy and I went on a hike to Deep Cove. It was my first time ever going there and the views from the top of the big rock were incredible. It was a solid hike at 40 minutes one way. I’ll never forget how I slid down a muddy incline on the way back and he smacked my butt once I got up. I didn’t know how to react to that so I kept walking. The fact that I didn’t react was not good. He shouldn’t have touched me there, let alone forcefully.

Afterwards, he insisted on buying me dinner, so I didn’t argue. In some ways, it felt like a date. The server spoke to us like a couple, probably assuming we were together, because why else would a guy pay for a lady’s dinner? I think a part of me was under the delusion that he would fall for me as he got to know me better. I’m not proud of that, but mistakes are a part of our growth. I never claimed to be perfect and trust me, I learned. I admit that I was childish when it came to love and romance at that point in time. I didn’t have the first clue what a healthy relationship would look like, because I’d never had one myself. I could only hope that the next person I fell for would feel the same way and we’d make it work somehow. Isn’t that how it happened with most people?

Because I’d recently gotten out of a short-term but serious bout of depression, I went to therapy for a couple of sessions, which Andy encouraged. It was nice to know someone who’d overcome depression himself through therapy and switching up his life. I found the therapist to be attentive and empathetic. She helped me figure out what it was I really valued. Of course, we all know deep down what we want and need, but sometimes it helps when someone validates it. I’d spent so many years figuring most things out on my own – it was high time that I saw a therapist again. I told her about the one night I went for a run at sunset and my friend Andy was texting me at the same time, encouraging me to reach my goal of 6 km that night.

“Ah, I think I know exactly what you value,” said my therapist kindly. “You love natural beauty and adventure … and a friend to be with you, whether in person or in spirit.”

That about sums it up.

I went out dancing a couple more times with Andy. The first time it was to introduce me to his friends, which was nice of him. He was hoping I’d hit it off with his one friend who wanted to write, but the guy was a little too out there for me. He did this rooster dance when we were on the dancefloor and that wasn’t the vibe for me. I got along a little better with the other friend so we danced together for a few songs. I think Andy wanted to see me happy, or maybe he felt guilty for leading me on. I remember how he paid for my cab ride home and asked me to call him once I was safe in my room.

“Please take care of her,” he told the cab driver.

He had a sad look on his face as he watched the car drive away. It was like having a Vancouver dad. Another time we went out dancing and it was just the two of us. His friends couldn’t make it, but he didn’t bail on me. The DJs were amazing that night. A handsome dark-haired European guy walked up and asked him if we were together and Andy whispered the answer in his ear. I didn’t hear what he said. The guy walked away.

“Ooh that guy likes you, Sara,” said Andy.

I wasn’t there to hook up. I wanted to dance the night away with my friend. We kept a safe distance from one another – it wasn’t like that. We were there for the music and it was incredibly fun. There was one time when he took me by the hand to guide me to the bar. I wondered why he did that. Maybe it was just the alcohol. After the show was over, we walked to the night bus stop.

“I saw some guys making eyes at you. Sara, you really need to look around. You could meet someone on our nights out.”

“Yeah … I guess you’re right.”

Maybe the next time I would be more open to other guys who approached. I knew it was time to grow up and stop waiting for Andy to change his mind.

In the fall, one of my favourite bands at the time, The Birthday Massacre, was coming to Vancouver. It was magical. There’s nothing quite like being around nice goths.

On the nights that I would run, I’d often listen to Jasmine Thompson’s ‘Adore’. There’s something so beautiful and calming about that song. It really captures the beautiful energy of a west coast sunset – and my love for it.

I adored you before I laid my eyes

I laid my eyes on you



    • Omg thank you so much for reading it & I’m glad you like it. 😅 I appreciate your comment, too. I like that you noticed the rawness and I always try to be evocative in my writing so I’m glad it showed.

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