Closeness, proximity and deathball

Trip Start Jul 17, 2014
Trip End Aug 06, 2014

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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Monday, July 21, 2014

I had a talk with a friend recently about the difference between proximity and closeness. I hadn't ever really pondered the difference that deeply before, and definitely not expressed it in as nice a way as he managed to put it. It was a little about mistaking one thing for the other. A little about settling for proximity when you don’t have closeness. A little about watching relationships deteriorate.

I’ve been thinking on it further since coming back to Vancouver, because I’m coming back to a group of people with whom lack of proximity does not at all translate into lack of closeness.

Vancouver is a transient place. A diverse place. A very hard city to crack. You’ll find article after article online about Vancouver’s 'friendliness problem’ (this is a good one:,0). It’s a hard place to make friends, and most newcomers to the city will tell you so. It’s a hard place to be single. On top of all that, it’s gloomy. They don’t call it ‘Raincouver’ for nothing.

I mean, it’s also beautiful. Stunning. Amazing. And while it’s hard to crack, the people aren’t aggressive or mean, it just takes awhile for people to warm up to you, I’ve found. It’s strange to be in a big city, in such close proximity to so many people, and not feel any closeness. It’s lonely.

 I was very lucky when I moved here to have two existing friends. First my love Jonesy, who moved with me. She’s very dear to my heart – we grew up like sisters. And Steve. Steve is a Brit that I met by chance on a bus across America in 2009. We didn’t spend all that much time together that trip but have visited each other at various points afterward across the globe. We’ve also happened to be there for each other at various points of sadness/life-disaster. Fate meant we ended up living in Vancouver at the same time, battling through, and I’m very proud to call him one of my best friends. Despite our general lack of proximity. We manage. 

I was also very lucky to come across so many beautiful people during my time in Vancouver. The Grendas (who befriended us on one of our very first days), my awesome housemates, my girls from Vancouver General, my UBC buddies (who included me via viber in Panini Monday even after I left), The Brits and Irish, netball buds, Sam and Sun… but definitely not that stupid 6"3 Aussie snowboarder I dated because he was 6”3. I was so blessed to meet these people, and they’ve continued to care about and support me, continued that closeness, long after I was nowhere near them physically.  

In the four days since I’ve been in Vancouver, I’ve managed to see a lot of them. I’ve had sunset dinners on English Bay, games and cocktails at the Storm Crow, St Augustine beers and whining, Yaletown brewery times and even tagged on to the end of a hen do. I’ve had a man attempt to seduce me in French, I’ve watched people fall off a bull, I’ve danced with a sunflower and I’ve had my butt grabbed by strangers at the Roxy more times than I’ve had it grabbed my entire life.

And then there was Friday.

Things began in quite the normal fashion at one of my favourite Gastown establishments, Chill Winston. This place is a bit nostalgic for me – Anna and Aussie Steve brought us here our first night in our Vancouver sharehouse.

Chill Winston’s bright red outdoor umbrellas occupy the large space across the cobblestoned way from Gassy Jack (his statue, anyway) – for whom the area is named. Gastown is touristy but endearing. The buildings are old. Old-style lamps line the streets. Which are cobbled. It’s my favourite place for nightlife.

I’m amazed at the number of people that seem to be in Vancouver right now. During winter it’s like Canberra – everyone hibernates. Right now every patio seat is occupied and the buzz of conversation and clinking glasses fills the air. Everyone’s outdoors, soaking up every second of summer like… well, like Vancouver winter is coming.

The evening slowly rolls on and a large ragtag bunch of us congregate under the umbrellas. The sun is shining, the drinks are flowing. It’s lovely. Civilised. I make two new friends – Em and Ros. Tops people. In fact, a few hours later in Guilt and Company – my favourite cave-like underground bar – Ros surprises us all by buying a round of tequila shots.

Well, accidentally, two shots too many.

Oh noooo… who ever will do the extra two?

PFFFFT PLEASE. BEEBEE AND ROS. It was then I knew it. We. Are. Going. To. Be. Friends.

The group peters off throughout the evening. We’re down to four. We drift through Gastown institutions. I remember having a particularly happy epiphany at the Black Frog and standing bolt upright in excitement: "HEY YOU GUYS!! I DON’T HAVE TO DRIVE TONIGHT!!” Before buying a celebratory round of tequila shots.

We drift on. We dance. We make friends. We acquire various random pieces of headwear. Ros buys me a sailor hat. The attached photo shows clearly my pure joy at this happy acquisition.

Several hours later I find myself on the rooftop of a downtown apartment building. In the pool. Playing ‘dangerball’ (or as I renamed it, ‘deathball’). One plays deathball in the water with the giant hollow METAL balls the building’s owners seemed to think would make great pool toys. We are joined by four strangers who also thought the roof of a downtown apartment building was an excellent post-night out choice. Because it is. Kick off your shoes. Play some deathball. Go on.

But as quick as you can say ‘what time is it?’ the black sky begins to fade. To purple. Pink. Yellow… Slowly into blue. I’m gobsmacked.

The nights I have stayed out all night without realising are very few and far between, my friends. But they’ve always ended up ones I treasure.

I’ve had a horrible 18 months. I’ve lost a parent. I’ve almost lost the other. I’ve been ripped out of a city I loved to live in and come home to Canberra. I’ve been treated like dirt by several people I don’t care to name or think about.

But I made it. And here I am. At what feels like the top of Vancouver. After a night of carefree freedom with some of the best people. Watching the sunrise. Feeling amazing. Like none of the bad stuff can touch me.

And so excited to have made the kind of friend you can communicate so clearly with in just a five word text message.

“Dancefloor. I have a sunflower.”

I love you, Vancouver.

Love always,

Your B. xx
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