Photos by Jenny Grant
I stopped in Lake Louise to pick up two kids and a dog with a bandana who were hitchhiking; their cardboard flap read “Vancouver.” The boy called me Mister, which made me think he was either from a very good family or no family at all; the girl had a purple cast on her wrist. I never did find out what that dog was about. He just lay there on the back seat, poking his nose into the upholstery where I had my E stashed.
For the first hour the girl sat staring out her window, with that fixed look of a child being borne away home. Silence is not golden, it’s awkward; by Revelstoke I had them educated, but not convinced, on the silkiness of Sinatra, and they had taught me that Snoop Doggy Dogg was a musician and not a character in a comic strip. By Kamloops they were both laughing and volunteering bits of personal information. They were middle class kids, decent and smart, and they were lying: about the jobs they had waiting, her wrist injury in a game of volleyball, their ages and, I suspected by the way they tripped over them, even their names. I didn’t press the issue. I had enough secret baggage of my own. Still, I found myself wanting to know their real lie. Was she pregnant? Had he been threatened with boot camp? How had she really broken her wrist? Or had they maybe murdered her parents? Why did she stare out the window that way? Why did he look in her direction so often, with such tender desperation, as to confirm she was still there, as if the world might break if she wasn’t? An hour out of Vancouver, I pulled into a truck stop near Hope. They said yes to hot apple pie, and yes to ice cream topping, and when I suggested it, she giggled out a yes, yes to cheddar too. For a while that night in the diner I entered their world, where pie tasted “awesome,” where a jukebox was “Like, whoa! Check it out,” the most magical box that ever existed, and the lyrics of B17 were “so totally hysterical” we laughed until everyone in the place was staring at the tears running down our cheeks, then we laughed even more. I picked up a take-out burger for the E guard dog and stepped out of the diner with a lightness, a sense of something lifted. I thought maybe all things were possible, even a return to the place before too much hurt, the place before my heart began its retreat. On the last leg into Vancouver, we were all still ribbing and half-giddy. Then the penny dropped. It was nothing, an innocent declaration by him. Their “best thing,” as he called it, was “to be at a really cool rave and pop some E.” My world snapped back into place. Lemon Morin, 30 000 Es and the undeniable knowledge that these two bright and shiny kids were our eventual customers. I dropped them off near the Y and made them each accept a C-note. Then I drove out close to the airport and parked on the street below The Sheraton, and sat, staring up at the tall tower of rooms. I was in no hurry now. And Lemon Morin would be tired from all the scrubbing and cleaning and spraying he had surely done before relaxing. He was a notorious germ freak, an obsession tolerated by the wise guys, because he was just as meticulous about their business matters. Along with the gun and knife Lemon packed everywhere, he never traveled without tubs of wet wipes, cans of Lysol, bottles of Dettol, latex gloves, his own sheets and a plastic mattress cover. I’ve seen Lemon put a condom on a telephone before he’d use it, and I’ve seen him pull out his own cutlery in a five star restaurant. I was half out of the car when I spotted something wedged in the back seat, the plastic cap on a prescription vial. The name on the label did turn out to be different than the one she had volunteered, but I didn’t feel cheated. The script for the Percocets came from Calgary, where possibly a father, more likely a mother’s boyfriend, had probably lost his temper and put a girl in a purple cast. I was surprised to see a Loomis van pull up to the curb 30 feet in front of me. Only then did I notice the bank. Even so, the hour was late for banking business. One guard carried two bags inside. It dawned on me finally that he was probably filling the ATMs. I noted the exact time, for future reference. When the guard emerged again I saw him read my front tag before he climbed back in the van. It didn’t matter, this car was registered to a legit mob front. I stared back up at the hotel, then spilled four percs into the palm of my hand. I knew at a bone-level I would never be a successful drug dealer. People like Lemon Morin, and the people who hired him, have a quality I’d never possess. They’d grown a thick skin of insulation to keep the dirt distant and the hurt from touching. In a few minutes I would walk into that hotel and leave the keys to this car and a message for Lemon with the concierge. The mob guys would be pissed, but it was a have-the-money-or-the-product deal. They could have their E. I wouldn’t be their first minor disappointment. My life had somehow slipped away when I wasn’t looking. I was an ex-junkie and I knew where it would end up before I ate those Percocets. Most likely, back here in this very spot. Wired-up, unprepared, unprofessional, but waiting for that Loomis van just the same. Perhaps it was the alchemy of my life that had produced the sixth E, a personal one, just for me. E for evanescence. I sat down on the curb, the percs were melting in my stomach, and I dissolved into their spreading warmth.