4 min

Cougar sighting

Adventures in Drumheller

Credit: Xtra West files

You showed up even though I forgot to call and tell you I was in town. The audience was small and well dressed, so I was glad to see you.

You whisked me away in your Jetta as soon as I had the cheque in my hand, halfway through my second beer. You took me to the party of a red-faced poet/clown and I promptly broke my toe on a doorjamb when the graduate student with the attentive nipples hid my leather jacket in a possibly obsessive-compulsive attempt to clean the living room of a house not her own. I don’t know for sure because I had just met her and she didn’t talk much.

I went in search of my smokes when I found out we could smoke inside and found the front door akimbo and my jacket missing, and while calmly panicking I whacked my left foot on an oaken baseboard corner and it swelled up to resemble a large gooseberry.

We smoked too much hash for medicinal purposes only and I slept on your couch and was awoken painfully early by your parrot, which you swore, until I almost believed you, that you had never heard squawk that loud that early.

You made coffee and put golden scented beads in my bath and said you’d drive me in your car to Drumheller to make a poet’s pilgrimage to the Hoo Doo rock formations, to smoke cigarettes and walk on the bones of dinosaurs.

I would go anywhere with you to avoid spending the day in my sister’s new house in the suburbs; the dinosaur bones were just a bonus. You had never been to Martindale, even thought you were born and raised in Calgary, because up until two years ago it was a hayfield. I read the directions out loud over the heater in your car and we laughed as we turned left at the new-communities sign and left onto Martin Valley Boulevard and onto Martin Valley Road, past Martin Valley Road Street and Crescent, past Martin Valley Bay and onto Martin Valley Way, where my sister and her boyfriend had just purchased their own piece of postage-stamp lawn paradise complete with an anemic 14-month-old birch tree jerry-clothed to a stake in the front yard and a cement pad out back in the mud to park the company truck on. Everything everywhere shaded beige, ivory or grey to house the middle echelons of mediocrity.

My sister’s neighbourhood makes me want to take a nap. The land developer had plowed the hay under and slapped up a second part-time-job-and-first-child-starter-home scrabble board subdivision, and the thought of my sister waiting with the stew on for Barry to come home dirty makes me feel sad and strangely ashamed of her in front of you.

“Oh for chrissakes, give me a break,” you comforted me. “When my mom comes out to my gigs, she shellacs her hair up like a helmet, and she once actually said to me: We didn’t just buy a condo, we purchased a lifestyle.”

I felt immediately better. We notice that the glass in all the houses is cheap and thin and warps in the sun like Plexiglas, lending a house-of–mirrors twist on the reflection of your sports car as we slink by.

“Its like a trailer park for houses,” you whispered as we pulled up in front of my sister’s house. We shuddered, picked up my toque, scarf, and borrowed mitts, and hit the road.

There was only one place in Drumheller with an espresso machine. We ordered chicken salad sandwiches and cappuccino from a woman named Annalise, who for some reason was painfully polite to me, yet treated you like you had just walked in with shit on your boots and had a little tiny Satan sitting on your shoulder. You pondered this as you picked the crust off your sandwich and I suggested it was because of your Che Guevera hat and red jacket.

“Maybe she’s got a thing about serving communists?” I posed. It all changed when I went to buy smokes. The guy at the corner store across the street asked me for ID, and I had to come back for your keys because my wallet was in my bag, locked in your car. Annalise was pouring us more coffee.

“I just got ID’ed to buy cigarettes,” I said with a blush, and you laughed out loud.

“She’s 34 years old,” you explained to Annalise, who snorted, then slopped coffee into my saucer and stood back, narrowing her eyes at me.

“Well, of course, you cut your hair that short, what do you expect?” She shuffled judgementally off to load the dishwasher and wouldn’t even look at me after that.

Our tables had turned, and I had fallen from favour, but she smiled and waved at you now when we left.

You sat back in the driver’s seat and I lit your cigarette for you.

“Ohhh … I get it now,” you said slowly, exhaling and studying the red end of your smoke. “She thought you were a boy at first, a boy too young to even buy his own cigarettes.”

I nodded and smiled.

“And that means at first she thought I was a…” I nodded again.

“And then she realized you were … and then she thought we were … and so she thought you were the … and then that means I would have been the…”I nodded, slapped my leg and pointed both forefingers at you. “You got it.”

“Hmm…” you looked pensive for a bit. “You’d think she’d of liked me better as a cougar.”