We left during second period, knowing the game was finished, that the Cup was lost. In hindsight, that might be considered strategic.
Our mistake was staying downtown. I had taken Dylan, Lorna and Mark to one of my favorite restaurants on Robson, savoring two aloe vera and vodka’s, sharing Tuna Tataki. I felt pride that they were enjoying the food in a city I haven’t seen in over a year.
Since I’ve returned, the Vancouver that met me has been a dose of pleasant. I walk down the tree-lined streets, inhaling musky droplets after a sprinkle of rain. It always reminds me of a load of laundry coming out of the dryer. Clean, fresh, new. I’ve revisited memories, places that made me ridiculously happy.
That night, it changed.
I could recount moments after our dinner when we looked towards the skyline, as smoke billowed upwards. That was Georgia, at least two cars burning to blackened, twisted metal.
I could recount our walk towards Granville, where Dylan and Mark were staying. We had little knowledge of what was unfolding. Our banter and gait was a pause. That moment when an intake of breath happens and you wait, unsure what will come.
I could recount the crowds as we approached closer, the screaming, a high-pitched scraping sound as someone toppled a newspaper stand or howled in unbridled angst. Against what?
Lorna, ever the documentarian and calm presence, snapped photos of the riot vans parked. We observed them suiting up. My attention was elsewhere when I heard Lorna gasp.
“Oh my God, look at the cars!”
Glass sprayed everywhere, as though dispersed by a hose. Two vehicles were flipped on their backs. I pictured two helpless beetles, taunted by naughty kids, who snickered as the insects struggled to right themselves. The actions of the rioters are eerily similar. Mockery and coldness are key personality traits to commit unthinkable acts.
I stared towards Granville, at the clumps of people running towards us. The cheery, yellow vests that police wore contrasted to their impenetrable faces. They barked at bystanders breeching the perimeters. An acrid smell stung my nostrils. My first tear gas. It makes your eyes water, much like real tears.
I had walked that street thousands of times, people-watched, giggled with friends over a joke, or peeked through store windows at items I’d never buy. I even held hands with my ex-boyfriend on that street, many years ago.
While some of my international friends wanted to document this important moment, I was limp, could not bring myself to take pictures of the destruction. It’s just not how I envision my city.
What seeped into me was fright. Watching the madness, I had never felt so scared to be in my own hometown before. I imagined large objects flying at me, or crowds surging and crushing us.
When you know a place inside and out, to witness a viciously dark side, one that was inconceivable, it leaves you awash in surrealism. An electric, aggressive energy surrounded me, when I’m use to the laid-back attitude of Vancouver. It was difficult to witness. I have to accept it happened. No matter how much it jarred me to find it changed for one night.
When I realized my fear, it suddenly rendered the rest of the world less scary or intangible.
And that’s a good thing.