Six minutes into my early morning run I started to cry. I dabbed my tears as I ran along MacKay Park creek where Monty had cooled off for nine summers. Past the fence where the West Highland Terrier barked before we had even appeared. Now silent. I ran across the road where an invisible leash had yanked us back as we watched a beaver galumphed across the industrial street and slipped into a pond. I ran through the linear dog park where Monty had once greeted Labradors, shepherds and seniors. Two-legged and four-legged.
Every stride opened a story and I sprinted to flip the pages faster.
Half hour later, I reached the shared pedestrian/cyclist asphalt pathway beside Bridge Road -- underneath the Lion’s Gate Bridge -- and approached Kwumkwum Street, the entrance to the Squamish Nation Reserve. I darted between the crosswalk barriers and obeyed the painted warning:
As I ran, I looked right – painted Owl eyes that covered a single garage door of the first house on the reserve. Left -- a makeshift shrine on a chest-high green pillar of the bridge.
Ten feet past the shrine, I stopped. I squirted water into my mouth as I walked back to the shrine.
An engraved rock the size of my running shoe -- Nathan Baker, December 23, 1962 – February 18, 2013. A yellowed James A. Michener paperback, The Drifters, sealed in a Ziploc bag. Four empty Brava 5.5% beer cans – the cheapest you can buy. Cigarette butts. A card wrapped in plastic -- “Thank you for all your love and for loving and being a friend to my son. Marlene”. A black neoprene and mesh mountain biker glove. Eight separate Primulas in green flower pots. Dead. A wrinkled page ripped from a spiral-bound notepad and taped to a beer can -- “Rambo, thanks for being my friend, miss ya.”
The thump-thump-thump of cars on the bridge deck high above reminded me of my goal. I stuffed my water bottle away and plodded up the west side of the bridge and dashed down the east.
Twenty minutes later, I was back at the shrine.
A native woman was squeezed into her walker’s bench seat. A 50-something native man was sitting on the low, grey cement ledge adjoining the shrine, beer can in hand. A 20-something native man, dressed in an oversized hockey jersey (local team?) was the final mourner. A Molson Canadian beer can in his left hand and a crushed one in his right.
I stopped, grabbed my water bottle and joined the unexpected twist in this running story.
“Hey, that doesn’t look like beer!” said the older native man.
“Oh, give me a few more hours!” I said.
“Okay then, cheers!” he said, and laughed as we clinked our mismatched beverage containers. The younger man grinned, his middle tooth missing.
“Hey, did you guys know this fellow?” I asked.
“Yeah, Nathan, he lived under the bridge,” the woman said.
“Over there,” said the older man and pointed towards the Capilano River overpass, leading to the Park Royal Shopping Mall.
“His mom, Marlene, was so thankful for all the love, that’s her card, there,” said the woman.
The younger man grinned and held his beer can to his mouth for long sips.
“And the book?” I asked.
“Yeah, Nathan loved to read, he’d share all his books at the shelter,” said the woman.
“Sounds like he was well loved,” I said. “And what's the story of the biker glove?”
“Oh that, I found that on the ground so just stuck it up there,” said the woman.
My giggles caused her to release a rowdy smoker’s laugh. The young man snorted out beer from his nose.
And the older man held out his beer can for a departing *clink*.
Copyright © 2013 Michelle Sevigny. www.michellesevigny.com. Reprint permission granted with full copyright intact. Photo by Michelle Sevigny