The difference is, between an apartment and a condo:
“I own my unit.”
After Susan parked, Walter struggled to raise himself out of the front seat, while Susan pried and hefted his bag out of the trunk. “That might be easier if you’d put on some weight.”
“You should lose some; you’re wheezing just getting out of the car.”
“I’m wheezing because there’s no air.”
“Oh, right, the altitude,” said in a no-big-deal kind of voice – as if an easily explained lack of oxygen wasn’t as serious as a mysterious lack.
Susan pushed a button to summon an elevator.
“A strange way to come home. Feels like a hotel.”
“You would you know? Youve never been in one.”
“I do watch TV.”
…Walter glimpsed a sign that said “downtown” as Susan exited. “Why are we going downtown? I’ve been traveling all day. I don’t want to go sight-seeing.”
“I live downtown. I told you when I bought the condo. Remember? You asked why I wanted to live downtown instead of buying a house with a yard.”
Walter stared out the window. Scrub-grassed hills gave way to fences, behind which houses sprawled. Then more roads and traffic lights. At the bottom of an overpass that spit them into the downtown, the surroundings severely degenerated. A bunch of scrubby old men lounged on the sidewalk outside a run-down hotel. Some pushed shopping cards. Kids in baggy pants with steel spikes poking out of their skin smoked leaning up against walls. Boys with falling-down pants skateboarded up and down steps. “No wonder you can’t find anyone decent.”
“I don’t pick up men on the street.”
Susan careened onto a ramp that sloped down into a parking garage. … “You said you bought a condo. This is an apartment building.”
“It’s a condo complex.”
“What’s the difference?”
Today, I have more time than is left on the computer, so this will be brief. I may cont tomorrow
Walter has just gotten in Susan’s car; they’re on the way to her downtown Calgary condo
“What the hell about this place made you want to pick here to live?”
“Civilized places have fancy-assed computer jobs. Your only tree doesn’t even have leaves, and it’s May.”
“We never get leaves till after Mother’s Day, and this year’s been cold.”
“It’s supposed to snow.” Susan merged onto the highway and pulled into the left lane, blipping past cars on the right like they were parked.
“You’re going to get a speeding ticket.”
“You don’t care?”
“Doug usually takes care of them.”
[Susan has come to pick up Walter in the airport. He is paying for his several martinis after having told Susan he’s had one.]
“You left two.” [twenties] Susan pointed.
“Airport prices.” Walter dismissed, shoving Susan away as she tried picking up the bill that wasn’t extra. “Tax and tip.”
“Alberta doesn’t have sales tax. so that’s a pretty big tip. Where’s your coat?”
“I didn’t bring one. We don’t need coats in May.”
“We do. If you would have bothered checking the weather before you left….It’s two degrees.”
“They said four on the plane.”
“That was hours ago. It’s cooled off.”
“In the middle of the afternoon?”
“It’s after six.”
“It’s still bright out.”
“Days are longer here. This time of year, it’s light till around ten.”
“Great. Longer days,” Walter muttered, following her through a maze of corridors lined with stores. Even an airport looked like a shopping mall. Something else masquerading as something it wasn’t.
“Wait here. I’ll go get the car.”
After about fifteen minutes, Susan pulled up in a toy. He stepped out the automatic doors into wind that bit. Susan popped the trunk open from inside, but still got out, probably to make sure he didn’t scratch her paint putting in his suitcase. “What the hell’s this? Looks like something a couple of kids should be playing with. You’re always bragging how much money you make.”
“This is a very expensive car.”
He let Susan contend with the stuffing in of his suitcase and opened the passenger door. When he sat, his ass didn’t stop when he expected it to and he dropped another half foot, leaving him looking up at the curb. He had more room on the plane. He choked on the dry air. “You got any gum?” he rasped.
“You? Want gum?”
“A desert would seem humid compared to this.”
Walter is at the airport being served martinis. He is struggling to read the Calgary paper without his reading glasses and sees a volcano on the front page. He is most disturbed bcz he didn’t think Canada had volcanoes. He checks out the window for smoke on the horizon but sees none. He is further puzzled bcz the volcano is surrounded by office towers. He is then able to read the caption:
“The Lava Rock Cafe.” A restaurant!? “Explodes at yesterday’s opening.” Which, judging by another picture, referred to the crowds lined up outside the door. Figures! A restaurant built to look like a volcano. Worse than a bikini bar. People didn’t care about good food anymore – only gimmicks. If he opened a new business now, he’d be ruined bcz he’d have nothing clever to offer; just good, old-fashioned food. To succeed, he’d have to compromise. Do something he didn’t want to do. He shivered at the thought. Or because he sensed Susan’s presence? Walter combined the martinis into one glass, and set the empty two upside down on a clean stack behind the bar. At least he didn’t need to earn a living. He’d saved.
“You could have mentioned which bar,” Susan impatiently snapped.
“You didn’t say anything when I said THE bar, so I assumed the airport had only one.”
“You said a bar.”
“Same thing. And even if I had known of more, how would I have known which one I’d find, or what it’d be called, when I’ve never been here before?”
Susan’s mouth opened, then closed. ‘How many have you had?”
“One.” Though four plastic swords guarded his cocktail napkin. “With extra olives. I was hungry.”
“You didn’t get lunch on the plane?”
“I must have slept through it. Looks like you skip a few meals.”
“I’ve always been this size.”
“My point. Middle aged women usually don’t stay at their high school weight.”
“I’m thirty-three. That’s not middle aged.”
Walter has arrived in Calgary & is at the airport waiting for Susan. But not where he was supposed to have been, so Susan went home. Walter phones.
“I thought you were picking me up at the airport.”
“I was just there. Why weren’t you on your flight?”
“I was, obviously, because I’m here. Look at your fancy phone. I’m calling from a 403 area code.”
“Then where were you? Screwing a flight attendant in the bathroom?”
“That would have made the trip a little more pleasant.”
“I’ll come back and get you. Wait there.”
Where’d she think he’d go? “Does this place have a bar?”
“I’ll be in it.”
Guided by instinct, he found it. .. [description]
“Do you make martinis?” Walter perched on a padded bar stool with a back-rest.
“Of course. Gin or vodka?”
“Gin! Vodka wouldn’t be a martini.”
“Some people like a twist.”
“Of lemon? Figures.” He shook his head. Another new trend, like bikini bars. He watched the bartender stir vigorously. “You’re bruising it!”
“What do you mean?”
“Never mind.” Walter grabbed his murky drink and stared at the TV.
[He has another while deliberating whether or not to open another restaurant himself. orders another. ]
“You know these are doubles,” the bartender cautioned.
“Martinis are, yes. I worked in this business longer than you’ve been alive. Do you have a newspaper?”
Ok, I don’t know when I’ll blog. Just more regularly than before.
So, we last saw Susan, deserted by Rob/d, expecting her father’s visit. So here he is, on the plane.
“Stupid seats.” Walter fidgeted, trying to put distance between himself and the man on his left, which brought him too close to the man on his right. An airborne Scylla and Charybdis, though the plane still sat on the ground. What was taking so long? Maybe the airlines, with their delays and confined seating, meant to make passengers impatient and uncomfortable so they wouldn’t panic about the possibility of plunging into the prairies and so made take-offs late on purpose.
As soon as the plane backed away from the gate, Walter’s stomach constricted, though if the aircraft did go down, at least he wouldn’t have to worry about what to do with the rest of his life. Just taxiing, the wings wobbled.
Finally, the plane slowed and stopped at one end of a long strip of pavement. A sudden rumbling of thunder from beneath him would have startled him out of his seat had the seatbelt not been holding him in. The whole cabin vibrated when the craft lumbered, the hurled itself down the runway. Vomit rose halfway up his throat. In mere seconds he’d lose touch with the ground. He felt his seat recline backward. Hell, the entire interior tilted. Only mere inches of industrial plastic was keeping the atmosphere out.
…[MORE AIRPLANE DISCOMBOBULATION]
He dozed off [and woke up when the pilot’s fuzzy voice announced the local time & temperature]. Four! Walter didn’t know Celsius very well, but that couldn’t be right. Not for May. “How cold is that?” he asked the man on his other side, the one whose nose had not touched him.
What kind of place was he coming to? At home [Southern Ontario. Remember, he’s on his way to Calgary] he’d had the air conditioning on.
…the wings flassped like a bird’s. Fine for a real bird because their wings couldn’t snap off, but all wrong for metal, which could. Flight wasn’t the effortless floating it seemed from on the ground.
So this was Calgary – a sea of brown grass, a clump of tall buildings on the horizon, nad beyond those, little purple bumps topped with snow.