Rebecca M. Jaremko: Shangri-La:
Articles » June 2002

On Families, Care and Equality

The Shangri-La Café

Shangri-La. A place of holy perfection. It is a little brown trailer shack alongside Highway 1 on the windblown outskirts of the city. It blends into the bleak yellow prairie vista as if camouflaged. The only thing that stands out is the name on the sign. The Shangri-La Café.

Drawn in by the strange honesty of the place, I took a job here for the summer. In Shangri-La, five years of university qualify me to subserviently offer fries to truckers, road workers and transients. I came here to taste the acrid flavour of grease on my tongue. I came on a minimum wage existential quest for authenticity; came seeking a hiding place from the growing fear that all I am learning to be at law school is a vampire, Robin Hood's perverted evil twin who is also a prostitute.

Outside, rain is falling. Cold silver slivers of liquid sky slip slickly down onto the black tarmac and yellow grass. The chair is pulled back at an odd angle from the green vinyl covered table. Six cigarette butts lie crumpled in the ashtray like fallen soldiers. Above them, a cloud of smoke still lingers, gradually spreading out across the empty café, blurring the yellow light. Country music crackles wanly out from a dusty stereo in the corner. The only other sounds are the hum of the refrigerators and the tapping of the rain on the roof. The sky is darkening blue behind its shroud of grey clouds. As night descends, the rain falls harder.

It is Bill's chair. Or was, I guess, before his battered Impala swished off through the rain down the highway to another town. East because he came from the west. Two years ago, now, fresh from a nasty divorce and his brother's death. He came through the

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