So, twenty-five years ago today (or, technically, twenty-five years ago tonight), it was May 9, 1991, and a Thursday, which was the day after final production day at the Georgia Straight, where I toiled at the time. The Straight was (and remains) an alt-weekly paper, meaning that every Thursday was the day after production day, which meant that Thursdays were the days where you tried to get all the crap done that you hadn’t had time to do on the production days that had just passed. And though I have no memory of what those things might have been on that particular week and day, I know the list of them must have been as endless as usual, because on this particular Thursday it was 7 p.m. or so, and I was at the now-defunct Bread Garden at Robson and Bute getting something to eat, which meant I hadn’t gone home yet and must have been planning on going back to work.
I didn’t make it back to work that night. Because as I was sitting and eating by myself, a redhead caught my attention by asking if she could take the empty seat across from me, because the Bread Garden was packed to the rafters as it often was. I said words to the effect of “Help yourself,” and we exchanged some pleasantries, and I remember my thoughts wandering vaguely toward wondering why people always insisted on “being sociable” and “talking to me” when all I typically wanted when I was out in public was to be left alone.
But the redhead who sat down across from at the Bread Garden that night didn’t leave me alone.
The redhead and I started talking. Then we kept talking. And while we talked, we ended up walking around Stanley Park. When we were done walking around Stanley Park, we came up Denman Street and she asked me to come into Shoppers Drug Mart with her so she could buy nylons for a job interview she had the next morning. I remember thinking about how that had never happened to me before as we exchanged numbers, and then she got on a bus, and the redhead who wouldn’t leave me alone vanished into the night.
At the moment earlier that night when the redhead had asked me if she could share my table at the Bread Garden, I had been pretty happy sitting alone. At that point in my life, I was pretty happy being alone, because up to that point in my life, I’d gotten used to the idea of being alone. I’d gotten used to a sense that a lot of things I had wanted once out of life had already passed by me, and were going to keep on passing by me. I’d gotten comfortable with that feeling. Without really understanding how, I’d figured out a way to not let it bother me anymore. Over the course of a number of years of the usual degrees of lingering adolescent emotional upheaval that make up so much of our lives (or my life, anyway), I’d gotten used to the idea that being alone was maybe the one thing I was really good at.
That night, even as I watched the redhead and her bus disappear up Denman Street, a part of me understood that being alone was something I was never going to be good at again.
The redhead and I got in touch with each other over the few days after that. And even though we didn’t see each other face to face again for a full week or so, over every single day of the twenty-five years since the night I met Colleen Craig in 1991, I’ve never been alone.
Colleen, you are my life, and I love you. You are my light, and my sanity, and my muse, and the core and heart and foundation of every good and amazing thing that’s ever happened to me. I worship you for the person you are, and for the person you’ve helped me become. Because if it wasn’t for you, I’d be nothing.
If it wasn’t for you, I’d be alone.
And I will spend the rest of my life doing everything I can to show you what that means to me, and what you mean to me, and to thank you for sitting down across from me that night.
To thank you for not just walking past me, like everything and everyone else before that night had done.
To thank you for giving me this day, as I have every year for the past twenty-five years.
The day my life began.