I’m starting to getused to the sound of my new life in Squamish. Every place has it’s own sound; it’s own flavour of normal noises. Part of making this new place home for me is teaching my ears what familiar should sound like. There are big trucks with engine brakes that growl around the corners on the highway.
There are country-and-western-slash-classic-rock-inspired parties in the building next door, and thus whooping noises and hollering are somewhat commonplace, and for the most part are to be ignored.
A siren, once an auditory backdrop in my place on Victoria Dr, will now bring me along with the rest of my neighbours out onto our balconies, coffee cups in hand, just to see what all the excitement is about.
Everything sounds different here, but mostly it’s the sound of kids playing. I’m not talking about the fevered cadence of a fifteen-minute recess across the street. Kids can still really play outside in Squamish. I’m talking about the sun-ripened drawl of kids with a whole summer stretched out in front of them, and nothing to do but ride bikes in the courtyard or catch bugs in jam jars.
Squamish is the outdoor recreation capital of Canada, or so the sign on the highway proclaims, but not if your parents can’t afford rock climbing gear or kite-surfing lessons.
One rainy day I listened to six kids amuse themselves all afternoon by tumbling Matchbox cars and Barbies down the stairwell, and opening and closing the door for anyone who came in or left the building. My little dog could have ten walks a day, if I said yes every time one of the little girls knock on my door to ask if Goliath can come out to play.
The kids build bike ramps out of rocks dragged up from the river and worn-out bits of plywood, and then ride around in endless aimless circles popping wheelies and taking jumps. The lady who leads up the strata council dismantles the ramps one night after bedtime, and then the cycle begins again.
I’m starting to learn their names now, who is who’s little brother, and which building they live in. So far, Kristy and Mouse are my favourites. Kristy is the oldest I think, with her T-shirt stretched over her plump middle and her arms often crossed to hide her tiny boobies.
Kristy watches everything all the time, and doesn’t miss a thing that goes on anywhere. She is definitely the one to ask if you want the goods on anyone. Then there is Mouse, her other half.
How can you tell a tomboy before she even opens her mouth, from inside the car with the windows rolled up? It was something about the way she stands, how her jeans hang below her hips and the cuffs are long enough that she wears holes in them with the heels of her Bay sneakers.
Maybe it takes one to know one.
Mouse watched me pack stuff out of my car into my apartment one day.
“That a microphone stand?” She asked me out of the corner of her mouth.
“Sure is.” I told her.
Mouse squinted into the sun. “You gotta microphone to go with it?”
“Maybe can I borrow it one day? I’m extremely responsible, ask anyone.”
I scratched my chin, pretending to think about it. “Let’s see…should I lend the amplification equipment out to the children?”
Silence hung between us. Mouse opened her eyes really wide, hanging there for an answer.
“Sure, I can do that.” I tell her, and a smile explodes across her face. “But I have to meet your mom first, and ask her if it’s okay with her, too.”
Mouse nods like a hammer drill. My heart warms, and then remembers to go cold at the reality of it all.
This is my big fear, you see. I’m pretty sure I’m the only queer residing in the Westway Village apartments, and for some reason I pass as a young man a lot more here, at least with the grown-ups. Children, in my experience, are far less likely to be fooled by shallow gender stereotypes than their parents are; kids hardly ever mistake me for a boy or a man, or maybe they just care a lot less what gender I am.
They’re more interested in whether or not I will lend them my microphone or play street hockey with them.
What I worry about is that the kids will go home and tell their mom the nice lady named Ivan lent them the microphone, and the mom will freak out about a homosexual interacting with the children. Some folks have a thing about queers being around their kids. Even though the statistics show that it is far more likely that their new boyfriend or their husband or their brother will be the one molesting their son or daughter, still they worry more about the homosexual up the street.
I never understood this, but it is the way things are. The only homo on the block has to be careful when befriending the kids. Which is kinda sad, when you consider how much some of these kids could use a friend.
“Let me have a chance to meet your mom first, Mouse, and we’ll see.”
All day yesterday the kids were busy furiously constructing a fort in the bushes alongside the little river behind my building. When I loaded my bags and the dogs into the car to head into the city, they popped their heads out of the blackberry bushes to inform me that if I could guess the password, they would open the trap door and show me their fort.
“Open Sesame?” I guessed, feeling old and kind of lame even as the words left my mouth.
“Ppfhhh.” The nine-year-old who is the older brother of Brendan snorted and scoffed at me. “Open sesame. How gay. It’s Yo Mama, dumbhead.”
Kristy stood up for me first. “Don’t call her that. She’s cool. She lives in my building.”