come down here at all .
I’m so busy debating whether I should just go home that I don’t notice the broken glass on the road when I ride right through it. I hardly hear the soft hissing sound of my back tire deflating. Nope—I don’t notice anything until the thump of my rim riding the pavement jerks me back into reality.
I get off my bike and drag it onto the sidewalk to inspect the damage.
The back tire is completely flat. When I run my fingers around it, I find a tiny green shard of glass lodged in the rubber.
Shit. Shitshitshit .
I start walking, dragging my bike beside me like an awkward, clomping, injured horse. It thumps along beside me, but I try not to slow down. As dodgeball has taught us: Slowness shows weakness. Weakness means a ball in the face.
I don’t think I need to elaborate any further.
A couple more guys on bikes reel past me, carrying bulging garbage bags full of empty pop cans on their backs.
“Hey!” I shout after them. “Where’s Columbia Street?”
The one on the left turns his head. He’s wearing a denim jacket with a black hoodie underneath. With the trash bag on his back, he looks like a punk-rock janitor.
“Two blocks thataway.”
He gives me a lopsided salute, and they disappear around a corner. I hurry my bike in the direction he pointed. When I see the green sign that says COLUMBIA in white letters, my knees go loose and weak. I recognize this place. I don’t know why, but I do. Something about the red brick buildings makes my memory spit and cough like an engine that can’t quite start up. I stand still, straining my ears, as if someone might whisper the answer.
Nothing. Just car sounds, tree-hush, the hoots and squeals of police cars two blocks away.
My hand moves to my pocket for the piece of paper with the address, but it’s not there. I check the other pocket. Empty. I rack my brains for the street number, but draw a blank.
Suddenly, this doesn’t feel like an adventure anymore.
Actually, it feels a lot like I’m standing on a sketchy block in the Downtown Eastside with a flat tire and no idea where I’m supposed to be or who I’m supposed to be meeting.
Nice work, Kiri. Way to be a badass .
I’ve stopped in front of a Chinese grocery store with a metal screen pulled down over it for the night. There’s a bakery next to it, and across the street there’s a six-story brick building with an old plastic sign above the door that says IMPERIAL HOTEL . There’s some classy-looking buttressing around the first-floor windows, but whatever its former glory, it now looks like a National Register of Historic Places building crossed with a meth lab.
Where are you? I plead silently, but Sukey doesn’t answer, and Doug doesn’t appear.
There’s a pair of crouched figures in the doorway of the hotel who look at me and mutter to each other in a way I don’t like. A moment later, one of them takes out a needle and starts shooting up right in front of me.
Just when I think things can’t get any more messed up, the yellow-haired homie who asked me for a cigarette at East Hastings rolls up on his bicycle and hovers next to me, his body so close I can smell the stale sweat on his jacket.
“Can I ask you a personal question?” he says to me with breath so thick with liquor it makes my head spin.
I strangle my handlebars.
“I’d rather you didn’t, dude.”
His face twists up.
“You’re an uptight pussy.”
That’s it. That takes the freaking cake. I grab my bike and run the hell away from Columbia Street.
“Got a flat?”
The guy who just spoke to me is standing outside a club where a speed metal band is thrashing away. I can hear the muffled bass and shrieking vocals, like they’re murdering something onstage. I nod without making eye contact, thinking, I’ve dealt with enough sketchy dudes for one night . I feel like I’ve been trudging along for hours, but I’ve only just made it back to the part of East Cordova Street where I can finally stop pretending to be holding a can of pepper spray.
His voice wafts after me. “I’ve got a spare tube at my place. If you need it.”
I tell myself this is some kind of sleazy trick to get me to go home with him, but I can’t help glancing back just in case.
He’s huge. Hagrid-esque. A bulldozer crossed with a gorilla. So big you can’t take him in with one glance. He’s like one of those enormous Group of Seven paintings at the art gallery—you have to
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