Vancouver
4 min

Like fresh-cut grass

Memories of a flower in spring

Credit: Xtra West column

Spring is supposed to be coloured new-growth green and cherry-blossom pink. The very word spring is meant to conjure up a warm breeze, subtle sunshine, a bike ride with a new lover. If you look up the word “spring” in the dictionary, its first definitions are to arise, originate, appear, shoot up, leap, bound, or dart.



All of this was decided by people who never lived through a thaw up north. Spring in the Yukon does not leap, or bound, it creeps and trickles. January’s postcard wonderland becomes March’s mud-coloured mush, as dirty snow slowly disappears to reveal six months worth of dissolving dog shit and litter, their original owner’s tracks having been well covered at the time. The trees are left without a blanket, leafless and shivering skeletons.



This lasts for about a month, and then one day you wake up in the middle of a glorious summer, announced by the trumpet of a mosquito in your ear.



Several years ago, I left a pink and green Vancouver on an almost hot April morning and drove home to Whitehorse to landscape for the summer.



The Alaska Highway became a seasonal time machine, the frost and cold soon slipping under my short sleeves and making my nose run. One day out of town I had to retrieve my jacket from the trunk. Two days gone I was back in my long underwear. Three days later I was home, and wearing gloves for the first couple of hours of work in the morning.



We were planting sapling trees and tender perennials in icy and reluctant earth, and I felt almost guilty leaving the plants behind to fend for themselves. Our knees creaked and complained, so we had to leave the heater on in the truck during coffee breaks.



My boss kept talking about how things were going to get busy soon, about how fast things can grow under a midnight sun. He bought a brand new John Deere lawn tractor and put me in charge of it. Its paint job gleamed Vancouver spring green and scratchless, its blades sharp as puppy teeth. I set out to keep it that way. It was my tractor. The two guys I worked with all day were not permitted anywhere near it; being prone as they were to kicking things and backing into stuff, I felt they couldn’t be trusted with such a pristine piece of equipment.



We were sitting in the truck with the heater on, eating lunch the first time we saw her. She was wearing one of those power-suit-but-with-a-skirt ensembles, and she winked at us as she walked past our pick-up and headed into her building. Jason spoke first.



“Guys, did you catch that? She winked at me. She wants me,” he talked right through his sandwich.



“Dude, I believe that was me she was checking out.” Doug was better looking than Jason was, and knew it.



“Guys, sorry to disappoint you both, but that wink was definitely aimed at me.” I interjected, just to liven things up.



“She’s not gay,” they both said in unison, all of a sudden on the same team. „”he is too good-looking,” Jason added, shaking his head.



“‘Fraid she is.” I actually had no idea, but I love to tease straight guys. I can’t help myself sometimes. “We don’t all look like me, you know. Besides, we have a sixth sense about these things, you see. I wouldn’t expect either of you to be able to tell, as you’re both, you know, 100 percent heterosexual and all.”



I got no further argument from either of them.



She always smiled and waved at us after that first day. Summer appeared out of nowhere and the lawns grew and the long sleeves disappeared and our muscles bulged and bronzed under a relentless sun. I began to notice things about her: she drove a very well maintained pick-up truck. She carried no purse, and always ate lunch by herself. There was a baseball glove on her passenger seat, and hanging from her rearview mirror was a Rosie the Riveter air freshener that said We, Too Have a Job To Do.



Maybe I had been accidentally right about her.



One dusty Friday afternoon, I came back after lunch to find an orange Gerber daisy on the seat of my tractor, and a note, signed with her first initial. I slipped both into my backpack before Jason or Doug noticed. The note wasn’t addressed to anyone, but it was definitely my tractor. Would she leave Jason or Doug a flower? I didn’t think so. It said to meet her on the Miles Canyon Suspension Bridge at eight o’clock.



I wore sandalwood oil, and my best jeans, and brought my flask, full of single malt, for courage.



She was almost 10 minutes late, and I started to panic. What if the note was meant for Doug? Maybe she assumed that the boys would drive the tractor. What if she was really a straight girl who just liked trucks and softball, and had six huge brothers? What if she was hoping I was Jason?



She wore a cotton dress that wrapped around her thighs in the warm wind.



She had brought a bottle of wine and a fleece blanket. She smelled like vanilla, and her lips tasted like coconut. She was 20 minutes late for baseball practice the next morning.



The following Friday, she walked past us and winked at me. On her way back into her building. She brought me a frosty bottle of mango-pear nectar. She kissed me full on the lips, right there on the lawn outside her building, resting one hand on my tractor for balance.



The guys said nothing at break, until they couldn’t stand it any more.



“So, spill it already.” Jason was pulling up little clumps of grass and smoking. “Tell us everything.”



“What’s to tell?” I savoured the last of my juice. “She was just being friendly.”



I patted Jason on the cheek, and smiled. Straight guys, I figure, should be forced to use their imaginations more.



Spring in Vancouver smells like fresh-cut grass. So I think of her every spring, even though she kissed me first in July.



ELIXIR: A CABARET FOR WHAT AILS YOU.

Sat, Feb 28. 8pm.

Lick. 455 Abbott St.

Tickets at the door, $12-$15.