“It is five o’clock yet?”
“NO! Mark, just go watch TV!”
From Ottawa, we usually have two departure scenarios depending on the destination. The first one is to set the alarm at 4:00 a.m., grab the backpacks we spent the night stuffing with all we need and head out to the airport, still half-asleep, clutching our passports, the one item we can’t forget. The second scenario—the common one when going to France—is to take the Greyhound bus to Montreal in the evening and take the last flight of the day, shortly before midnight. In this case, we have plenty of time to pack, check and double-check everything.
In fact, we have way too much time on our hands because the bags are packed, the fridge is empty, the house is clean. We go from room to room, stuck, waiting. Now isn’t the time to start tackling new tasks. No, Mark, we aren’t going to the park. Hungry? Sure, finish whatever is in the fridge, I ain’t cooking.
The hours go by slowly.
“I’m surprised your parents aren’t there yet,” I note.
“I told them to come at the last minute.”
“I’m sure you did, but they rarely listen.”
“Are we going to the airplane?”
“NOT YET! Downstairs. TV. Now.”
Yesterday it was July, today it’s November. It’s pouring rain outside and the temperature dropped brutally overnight. I run to the mailbox. Nope, no cheque. I mutter something unkind under my breath. Some invoices go unpaid for too long and strangely enough, the culprits are usually organizations from the public sectors while my smaller clients pay promptly despite potential cash flow issues.
“MOMMY! Năinai is here!”
“I heard, Mark.”
“We brought clothes for Mark,” my mother-in-law announces, barging into the room.
“Er… we packed already. He… has clothes.”
“Take these pants.”
“Mommy! You speak Chinese!”
“Look, they are nice pants.”
“MARK. TV. DOWNSTAIRS. 谢谢,不要. NO MARK ATE ALREADY! Mark 吃过了.”
“Are we going to airplane? Are we going now? Are yéye and năinai coming?”
“NO!” I replied a bit too eagerly.
We load the bags in my father-in-law’s car, parked in the driveway. My mother-in-law insists to carry backpacks heavier than her—I give her Mark’s small red bag. One bag, two bags…
“Mark, seriously, put your shoes on by yourself!”
My in-laws look at me as if I was committing child abuse. They still don’t believe Mark can himself, we’ve been having this conversation for over a year. Mark puts his jacket on. They clap and cheer. I wince.
“Do you have your passport?”
“There’s something strange… in the neighbourhood… who you’re going call? GHOSTBUSTERS!”
“Drive slowly, it’s raining.”
“Mommy… are yéye and năinai coming with us?”
“No, no, they’ll leave… eventually…”
Feng’s parents don’t just drop us off at the Greyhound Terminal. They wait for the bus with us.
“Juliette! Go sit down! Mark! Sit down! Feng! Go this way! Juliette! Your bag! Don’t lose Mark! Be safe!”
“Okay, I’m taking the bags, you take Mark. Grab three seats. Or two for us and one for Mark at the back.”
“Gosh, remember the ride to Montevideo? Best ride ever.”
Even though it’s only 7 p.m., it’s so grey and rainy that it’s almost dark outside. Many passengers in the bus are sleeping.
“Mommy… are we there yet? It takes a long time…”
“Awesome, I have sandwiches for you.”
“Mark… do you need to pee?”
“Is it some kind of Greyhound tradition we have here? Lucky you’re a guy. Okay, now clean your hands and finish your sandwich.”
“What are you doing on the computer?”
“Writing a story.”
“What does it say? Mark… TV… downstairs…”
“Nothing, nothing. I’m still writing the story.”
“How does it end?”
“I’m…. not sure yet.”