A wife looks across the breakfast table one morning at her husband, back from his 7th 28 day shift in a row managing construction on upgraders since they arrived in Alberta. She knows that two days from now, he is heading back to McMurray in the trailer he bought so that they could pocket his per-diem allowance. She looks at the kids, too young to understand what she is saying.
"You shouldn't come back after. I can't do this anymore."
Four years later, I walk beside him as he is leaving the courthouse. The warm inside stink of old paper and fear-sweat giving way to a cold blast of stale cigarette smoke and diesel fumes.
"It's over, no more fighting... And you succeeded on a lot of issues..." I offer...
"Doesn't feel like that."
We wait in silence for the light to change on our way to the parking lot. I pretend to check the cross-light to see if it has gone yellow. Really I am taking a sidelong glance at this man. Good looking, charming, intelligent, articulate and successful, his eyes are slit shut against the cold wind. For the first time in three years, I see him fish out a cigarette and light it up. He takes a deep drag and looks out at the tips of smokestacks, gas flares and cracking towers visible in the distance from behind the courthouse. The wind snatches away the smoke from his cigarette. From the parking lot behind the Army & Navy, he sees the cold, cruel unforgiving bitch who took his wife and kids from him - Alberta Oil. "Come on out, come make your fortune and head home with a million in the bank and take it easy, teach the kids to fish at your new place by the lake..."
He sees the reality now.
"I hate this place," he says, turns, tosses his butt, and heads for his truck.
I get in my car, and just drive.