The photo above is of Ambleside, a lovely beach in North Vancouver.
It felt amazing to be speaking with Alexei again. After going through a few emotional roller coasters over the past few months, it felt good to be able to talk to someone familiar – someone who was in my life before the pandemic. He apologized for blocking me back in February, explaining that he didn’t think it would be right seeing me. He didn’t specify why – I didn’t want to know why. All that mattered was that we were making plans again. After work one Friday, we met up downtown. We hugged under the warm sun. It was amazing finally seeing him when we were both sober in broad daylight.
We walked to English Bay – I showed him the way since I’d done that walk several times before. We lay in the grass by sunset beach. I noticed how quiet he was – coming from me, that’s saying a lot. I always thought it would be nice to be with someone who I could be comfortably quiet with. All the male protagonists in my books had a quieter disposition at that point. By the beach, we talked about what we’d been up to since we last saw one another. He had plans with his friends later that evening, so we headed back after the sunset. He’d parked downtown and drove me back to Burnaby. When he parked in front of the Air BNB, we kissed each other goodnight. I felt like I was floating as I walked back inside. Having such a nice evening with someone I liked for a long time was just the pick-me-up that I needed.
As the weeks passed, he distanced himself a little – messaging me some days and not messaging me on others. I tried not to react, even though it hurt to feel like he was really interested some days then not so interested other days. I was finally able to find a room for rent and it was in North Vancouver. I always wanted to try living on the north shore since most of my favourite hikes were there. I remember talking about wanting to live there all the way back in 2014 when I was in Banff. Now would finally be my chance. Alexei lived somewhere in North Vancouver as well. It’s the honest truth that I didn’t plan it that way – it just worked out that there was an affordable room in that area. Regardless of what was going to happen with him, I was excited to spend the rest of the summer in North Van.
I was so ready to leave the dorm the morning I was scheduled to check out. Matt came out just as I was leaving and asked if I needed help with my bags. I politely refused, wished him well, and wheeled my suitcases away. By the afternoon, I’d arrived in North Vancouver and checked into my new room. The area was so quiet and the air was fresher. I felt a weight lift off my shoulders the moment I walked down the street. This was going to be a peaceful place to stay for the summer.
After I’d unloaded all my bags, I walked back outside and took a little walk through the forest which led to Capilano River. I was so ecstatic to be there that I twirled around in my dress. I skipped along the rocks then sat on a big boulder and watched the sunset. A new, happier chapter of my life had begun.
The bus from North Van to downtown was only about 30 minutes so it worked out quite well. One evening, I walked along Lion’s Gate Bridge at sunset. The best part is that the company decided to have everyone work from home, so I wouldn’t need to commute anymore. I will say it was so strange being on the office on that last day. A once thriving workplace had been reduced to only a few telephone surveyors. Everything was in boxes and out of sorts. I once supervised at the place and there was always coffee in the pot or someone buzzing around on the phone. I looked once more out the window at the amazing cityscape view. It was great to be able to work there while it lasted.
North Vancouver is so beautiful and I felt almost as light as air knowing I’d be so close to all those hikes I loved – and I’d get to discover new ones. Even the walk to the grocery store was on a nature trail. I was about one week into this fresh new life when Alexei messaged me asking if I wanted to meet him at the beach. I told him that I’d recently moved to North Vancouver so I could meet him at Ambleside. He was surprised, but happy that I was living a lot closer.
The photo above is a view from Lion’s Gate Bridge at sunset.
I met Alexei at the beach at sunset. It was wonderful being able to see him in this new, quieter chapter of my life. That’s what I always liked about him – there was no pressure to force a conversation. From what I understood, he enjoyed the comfortable quiet, too. We could sit together in silence for an hour and it didn’t feel weird or awkward. He drove me home after a couple of hours and that was when our relationship began.
The next day, I met with him and his friend and we lounged on the dock playing music and having a few drinks. Alexei and I swam in the water and his friend seemed happy we were together.
“I’m glad to see you two children in the water having fun. Just don’t drown!” He called.
As we talked more on the dock, I mentioned how we met dancing. His friend softened a little when Alexei left to go use to the washroom.
“You know, there’s Meetup groups that you can go to where people want to enjoy the music and dance – not just hookup.”
I wasn’t sure where he was going with that. Alexei didn’t just want to hook up with me. We hadn’t been together in that way yet. If that was all he wanted, wouldn’t he have tried that by now?
After the beach, we ate some dinner then his friend drove us back to each our of homes. Our third date was also at the beach – we lounged on a towel, talked, drank, and watched the water. It was nice that it was just the two of us. When we went swimming, I always wanted to go further, but he worried I might get too tired if we swam too far. One weekend, his parents were away visiting their friends in Ontario and we got to stay at their beautiful North Vancouver home for two nights. It had an amazing view of Vancouver and English Bay. The first night, we watched some movies cuddling on his couch. I loved how we could snuggle and kiss and there was never any pressure to take it further. I wanted to be cuddled properly for so long, and he always knew how to hold me. I felt safe. Every so often, I’d kiss him on his cheek. He was such a beautiful boy.
He was once the ghost from my book of poems. He always felt more like an apparition than a person, but in this moment, he was very real. After so many days and times of uncertainty, I knew I would be seeing him again beyond the weekend. That night, we slept in the guest room. I didn’t ask as to why. Maybe he just wanted to try it out. I’d never been big spoon in my life when it came to cuddling, but as we fell asleep, I hugged him from behind. I thought I heard him choke back a sob. Despite his good life in North Vancouver with his new family, I could sense he still had a few scars from the past. I wanted to take care of him in the best way I could. I strived to make him happy, but I was deathly afraid of not being able to do well enough at it. I was going to do everything in my power to try.
The next night, he invited his friends over and we had a party. On Sunday, we lounged all day watching movies and recovering from our hangover. He drove me home Sunday evening; it was a little sad leaving our homey bubble together, but all week long we went to the beach after work. It was so much fun. I remember getting ready the moment my shift was finished in my room then I’d rush outside. He’d be waiting in his car every with a smile. We’d listen to upbeat music as the wind came in through the open windows, rustling our hair. It was summer and we were happy. Some weekends we’d hang out with his friends – either at the beach or at the park. It was nice he had such a close network of people he’d known from high school. I had my cousins and sister back home, but I never had a crew like that growing up. I was home-schooled for the first two years of high school then the last two years of high school I went to a Christian school where there weren’t many people to make friends with. Alexei’s friends were all nice and one in particular always made me feel welcome and at home. I will always appreciate the efforts he made to help me settle into the group.
One evening, him and I were sitting alone on the dock at sunset. We were listening to music – this time I was showing him my playlist. It was an assortment of Rezz, Deadmau5, Alison Wonderland, and Billie Eilish.
“Why don’t we listen to ‘Lovely’?” he suggested.
“Oh …” I said as shivers rushed down my arms and spine. “I don’t usually listen to that one.”
In truth, I always found it too sad, so I avoided it. How interesting that he’d suggest that one. I put the song on as he held me tight from behind. I leaned against him, feeling safe in his grasp, watching as the sky turned from blue to pink to violet.
Isn’t it lovely, all alone?
Heart made of glass, my mind of stone
Tear me to pieces, skin to bone
Hello, welcome home
Since the song was playing on Soundcloud, other versions and remixes of the song played. I couldn’t help but feel it described our bond a little. In some ways, we were both afraid to get too close, preferring to be alone at times, but also desperately needing connection and love. It was a beautiful moment.
One evening, we went over to Alexei’s friend’s house in West Vancouver. I’d been out that way many times to watch the sunset at Whytecliffe Park, so it was cool actually going inside one of the nice houses along the sea. The house was like a perfect blend of west coast cottage and modern edge. I found myself wishing I could have a house in that area one day. It was also a great sign that Alexei was comfortable having me around his friends.
“I wish you were here a few months ago,” said Alexei. “We had a sick party and the hot tub was open.”
On the Labour Day weekend, Alexei booked us a night at a really nice hotel. It had a gym, pool, and hot tub and the room was fancy. We made use of all the amenities – we worked out, swam, used the hot tub, got some drinks and snacks, then cuddled together in bed watching a movie. I was humbled he’d put in so much effort to give me a night like that. It was magical being in a hotel room with him. It felt like a little vacation. I woke up the next morning and smiled as I looked at him sleeping then out the window at the city. Once I wrote a poem called “If that day happened” shortly after he blocked me earlier that year. We got to have so much more than one day. We were having a summer together.
We went straight to the beach for the whole day after leaving the hotel. It was a hot one so we swam many times in the cool northern Pacific Ocean waters to battle the heat.
After the amazing weekend with him ended, he didn’t fade away. We still messaged one another everyday. Since it was raining the next weekend, we went to see a movie at the theatre. It was amazing being able to chill with him in any environment – at his place, at the beach, at a theatre. Getting ready was always a fun process for me, too. I’d choose something he’d like to see me in and do my makeup while listening to happy music.
A lot of times when we would drive around, the song Watermelon Sugar High by Harry Styles would play on the radio. I’d listen to that song a lot while getting ready to meet with him. It really captures being high on love in the summer at the beach.
Thank you. 😊 It really was!
North Vancouver looks amazing, especially the beach.
Yes. I usually go there for the trails, but it was amazing being by the beach that summer.
I love Vancouver..thanks for sharing this. Anita
Me, too. :3 There are so many amazing spots.
I’ve never been to any of the places you wrote about, but I want to go now after reading. Thanks for sharing! I’m so glad good things are happening to your heart!
Ooh I’m glad that you want to go there now. You will be stunned. It’s really gorgeous in Vancouver & North Van.