It Began With A Collarbone Kiss (West Coast Girl, Pt 15)

The photo above is of a beautiful Vancouver sunset. I love the palm trees along English Bay. It gives it a Californian vibe and an undeniable west coast mood.

I dyed my hair red as a way to cope with the memories and dreams, but of course changing up your look won’t heal you from something like that. We still had to work together and due to our seating arrangement, we’d sit together. It was very hard seeing his professional persona out in public knowing who he really was behind closed doors. Sometimes the wickedness would bleed out, like when he would make references to things from that night with a sadistic glint in his eye.

I confided in my friend Vlad, but he brushed it off as the guy just being young and experimenting. I didn’t tell him everything that happened to be fair. Maybe he just wanted the ugly event to disappear from his reality. It must not be easy hearing that your friend was drugged and assaulted. At least he was someone I could hang out with outside of work; his hilarious humour helped keep my mind off things.

A few weeks after the incident, I realized that I needed to put myself out there and meet new people or I was going to go insane. I went back to Celebrities and the music was amazing as always, because Yurie was the DJ there. A few minutes after I walked on the dance floor, I caught sight of a guy who looked Russian. He was laughing at one of his friends dancing like a leprechaun. I laughed with him then focused my attention on the DJ and her music. I could feel that it was going to be a good night by how good the remixes were. When I opened my eyes again, the same cute guy I was looking at before was standing in front of me.

He moved closer to kiss my collar bone. A part of me hesitated. There was something about him I didn’t trust, but there was also something about him that looked lost. After going through a terrible incident weeks before, I just wanted to hold someone. He seemed gentle. I wrapped my arms around him and he did the same to me.

“Where’s your friends?” he asked.

“Oh, I think they went to another club,” I lied. “What’s your name?”

“Alexei. What’s your name?”


Our gentle dance was interrupted when he steered me away from the dance floor. I stared at the smirk on his face until my back hit the wall. He kissed me and we made out for the rest of the night at the edge of the dancefloor, a world away from the crowd. I needed someone else to occupy my mind after weeks of torment. This was something I was choosing for myself – and it was a good interaction I could remember for that summer.

When the club was about to close, I gave Alexei my phone number so we could keep in touch and maybe “dance” again. Usually I would run away after a few dances, but there was something about him. I kissed him on the cheek before I left.

While the amazing night felt like a magical reprieve from having to see Sven in the office (and all the conflicting emotions that went along with that), I couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting to move. It’s not that I wanted a nicer place, I just wanted a change – a new energy.

I looked around my room that was once so beautiful. My air mattress popped a few days ago and I was sleeping on the floor. A mess had formed. It wasn’t as tidy as it once was, because I was letting the stress from various things affect me. The way your room looks is often a reflection of your emotional state. All it needed was a little revamp, but the homey feel it once had was gone. Everything felt weird after what happened with Sven. I still loved the city just as much as ever, but the event had put an eerie filter over everything. Little did I know that this was just the beginning stages of PTSD.

I don’t believe the drugging and assault happened to me because I was a girl alone in a big city. An event like that could have happened anywhere. Even if I never left my parent’s condo, something like that still could have happened a block away from them. Opening yourself up to people will always leave you vulnerable to bad things potentially happening. You just have to be careful to get to know them first before trusting them with your life. At least I was where I wanted to be – Vancouver, my dream city. It always gave me the energy I needed to get through things. I’d taken trauma and recovery as a course in counseling school. I could go back and read the material and heal myself again. I’d overcome things before. I could get through this, too.

I met up with my friend Dustin for the first time all year. While we wouldn’t see one another for months, when we did meet it was just like picking up where we left off. I told him about Alexei and he seemed skeptical.

“It doesn’t seem too fucked up … yet,” he said.

“I swear it’ll be better with this one.”

“I really hope so,” he said, worried about my choices in guys.

I put in my notice to leave the apartment building then started looking for other rooms. I hadn’t been able to find another job yet, but I’d take care of that after I got into a new place. At the same time, we entered the slow season at work so my manager gave us two full weeks off unpaid vacation. It was horrible timing. I wouldn’t have enough money to get a new room and I couldn’t back track my notice to leave, because my building manager found a new tenant for the room. I was stuck. While Vlad and I were friends who hung out every week, I learned that he wasn’t the type of friend who would let me stay with him temporarily during a hard time.

I bit the bullet and applied for staff accommodation jobs around Canmore and Banff. I tried Whistler, but they didn’t seem to have as many jobs as the Bow Valley area did. It was my only option under the circumstances. At least I knew I would be safe with a room that was supplied by my employer. I considered being homeless for a couple of weeks just so I wouldn’t have to leave the city, but I’d accumulated too many things. I didn’t want to lug suitcases all over the place until I saved up enough money for a place – and where would I sleep? I’d been through enough stress lately. I didn’t need to add that to my plate.

As a last resort, I booked a couple of weeks at a hostel to wait out the slow period at work – once things picked up and I received a full pay cheque, I could then get a room. It was quite a process moving two of my suitcases from
my apartment to the hostel – I didn’t want to spend money on a cab, so I took a bus there. It didn’t drop you off right at the hostel so you had to drag your bags about 15 minutes to get there. I figured it was all worth it in the end since I’d get to stay in Vancouver.

A van pulled over and it was a couple of people in their 60’s. They offered to give me a ride to the hostel since I was going the same way. They were a happily married couple who met when they were both traveling in Europe.

“I actually met my hubby doing what you were just doing now,” she said whimsically. “I was in Germany lugging my bags to the place I was going to stay in, then he saw me and offered to help. We’ve been together ever since.”

“That’s so amazing,” I said, smiling at them as they talked about their happy memories living abroad together.

It was like a classic romance you’d see in a cool 70’s film. It was really nice to listen to. 

“I’ll bet you’ll meet a guy during your travels, too,” she said brightly.

I thought of Alexei. If he only knew how much of a pickle I was in, but if I could get ends to meet, we could have an amazing summer together.

Once the cute couple dropped off at the hostel, a cute guy in his late 20’s/early 30’s offered to help me with my bags, but I admit I was already pretty taken with Alexei, so I didn’t say anything other than “thank you”. When I checked in, I was told that locals aren’t allowed to stay at the hostel – it was some new bylaw for the city. I could not believe that the worst possible situation happened – not only was I unable to stay there, I had lugged my bags all the way there for nothing and I’d have to lug them all the way back to my apartment. I still had a couple of more nights there before I had to officially move out.

Alexei and I had planned to go to Bowen Island for a day about a week earlier, but with me being unable to stay at the hostel, I had to move to a new staff accommodation job as soon as possible. Thankfully, the new job in Canmore wanted me to start right away so I didn’t have to stay at a hotel and waste the little money I had.

It broke my heart having to cancel plans with my new friend, especially when all I wanted was to return back to normal life after experiencing a traumatic event. Leaving my apartment was a bad decision, one that would send me spiraling for the next year. I got to test my resourcefulness all over again, but it was a lot harder this time. To come so far only to go backwards was a tough pill to swallow and I could have prevented it all if I stayed in my room.

On the last day of work before the two week break, Sven was staring at me as though he knew what I was planning to do. I hadn’t told anyone that I was leaving yet. Since he’d recently been promoted as a supervisor at the office, I had to tell him something about the survey I was working on.

“I thought you were going to confess something to me,” he said. “Oh, my heart.”

And just like that, the weirdo put a hand to his heart. Those were our last words.

When I got on the bus to leave Vancouver the next day, I wept. It was incredibly hard leaving when I didn’t want to go. There were no other options but to take a breather elsewhere. All I could do was get back as soon as possible. I let Alexei know why I had to cancel our plans and he texted me back saying he understood why I had to leave under the circumstances. He said that he wished he had his own place to help me.

Life is hard. He texted.

It can be, but I’ll be back soon! I texted.

Once again, I was on my way back to the Bow Valley – only this time it wasn’t planned. Of all places I could be going, at least it was beautiful and familiar. When I returned Vlad, Alexei, and Dustin would all be happy to see me again. There was a silver lining to this abrupt departure from my dream city – I would have some space to heal after what happened with Sven. He couldn’t toy with me anymore in the office.

The unique thing about this trip is that only three people knew about it. I didn’t post about it on social media (I didn’t want to advertise that I was leaving the city of my dreams willingly when all I wanted was to work enough to move right back). It had such a “slipping away in secret” vibe to it – and the road trip there was going to be beautiful.


“We’ll sneak off while they sleep 

And sail off in the night” 



  1. This was quite unsettling to read. Someone very close to me has been in the exact situation with their colleague, really hoping you get through this. More power and strength to you!

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