About the Author

Evelyn Lau

Evelyn Lau has been publishing poetry and prose since she was thirteen. Now eighteen, she has her poetry appear in Prism International, Queen's Quarterly and Canadian Author and Bookman, among other literary magazines. Her prose has been published in MacLean's, Vancouver Magazine and The Antigonish Review. And she has won six awards for her poetry.

For two years, Evelyn lived on "the streets" in a world of drugs and prostitution recording these experiences in a journal. She left the streets in 1988 at the age of seventeen and extracts from this journal became the best-selling Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid, which stayed on bestseller lists across Canada for months.

Evelyn is now a freelance writer for the Province and the Globe and Mail as well as working on a collection of short stories. She lives in Vancouver.

Books by this Author
A Grain of Rice

A Grain of Rice

edition:eBook
More Info
Choose Me
Excerpt

Zoe stood in Douglas's bedroom, the one he shared with his wife. Outside the wood-framed window the afternoon was silver, the sky the shine of the inside of an oyster shell. Snow drifted through the air, and narrow icicles hung from the trees. The houses dwindling down the block were heritage properties, fronted in brick and stained glass; each resembled the house she was inside.

Douglas had invited her in so calmly. After she set down her bags in the hall with its high ceilings and polished floors, he pushed the keys to his home into her hand, two skeleton keys dangling from a loop of twisted wire. Then he motioned her back out onto porch, where he wrapped his fingers around hers, demonstrating how to work the locks. Their breath showed in front of them, but his hand pulsed with warmth. She learned to shove the keys in smoothly, to jiggle them, to listen for the muffled internal click that signified the lock had been turned.

"Will you remember this?"

He repeated the code to the burglar alarm by the door, half-concealed by the winter coats hanging on the wooden rack.

"Yes. I think I'll remember."

His wife appeared on the landing at the top of the stairs.

"Ellen, this is our visiting poet, Zoe. She's been on campus all week working with the students, and I thought it'd be nice for her to stay in a real home before she leaves, especially since we won't be here."

Ellen came down the first flight of stairs, bending to extend her hand; her arm was long, her palm warm.

"Welcome."

Zoe held his wife's hand in her own and swallowed past the catch in her throat. His wife continued to lean down from the landing, bending her body from the waist, one hand holding the railing, the other clasping Zoe's as though to help her up. Douglas kept his eyes fastened on Ellen's face. Their two children were clamouring around her, tugging and demanding; the girl jumped up and down, whining, while the boy pulled down his trousers to reveal buttocks as smooth as cream.

"Jason, I said no. Look, we have a guest. Say hello, Jason, say hello to Zoe."

The boy ignored her, burying his face in his mother's thigh, squirming his bare bum in the air while his sister hid behind them both.

"Zoe will be staying here while we're at the cabin. You've got to be good and say hello."

After a while, just when it seemed he could not be persuaded, Jason lifted his face and grinned winningly. His eyes were like his father's, only clearer, the colour of amber.

"Hello. Hello!" he shouted.

Douglas pressed the keys once more into her palm. She looked at him then in a moment of terror, the weight and light of the house around her suddenly there for her to both protect and invade. He sensed her fear, mistook it for concern about burglar alarms, difficult locks, the house burning down.

"Got it?"

He repeated the code again.

"Is everything all right? Are you happy?"

He had given her the keys, his hands were empty. At the top of the stairs his wife was saying, "No, no, no," to the children. "No, you can't bring that. Look, you already have so much."

"I'm happy."

She stood in the doorway and watched him leave with his family. Ellen was weighted with the children's clothes, warm and puffy jackets that were awkward in her arms. Jason and Julia ran ahead, the tops of their heads bright and new in the winter light. Douglas paused before following them; he placed both his hands on Zoe's upper arms and kissed her on the cheek.

"One more."

He kissed her on the other cheek just as she was pulling away.

She looked over his shoulder and caught the blur of Ellen's face. She felt the sudden tension, her body electric with watchfulness. But the moment passed quickly -- it was only a kiss, friendly, sociable. Ellen beamed and waved.

"Have a good time!"

"You too!"

She eased the door shut, the house was hers.

close this panel
Grain of Rice

Grain of Rice

edition:Paperback
tagged : canadian
More Info
Inside Out

Inside Out

Reflections on a life so far
edition:Paperback
tagged : women
More Info
Excerpt

The Shadow of Prostitution

I used to say that if the girl in my first book, Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid, showed up on my doorstep, I would not let her in. But who was she? Now, more than a decade later, I find myself still unable to read more than the occasional passage in Runaway, and then wincingly. It exists in the world as a document of an actual period of my life, available to any stranger with a capricious interest, and yet I am barely able to crack its covers myself. It seems as vulnerable as a fleshy, pulsing thing without a shell. I want to throw clothes over it, encase it in a suit of armour, cover it up. I want cool distance rather than the raw, stormy moment. What a different book it would have been had I waited to tell that story from the detachment of a decade later, through the clinical gaze of a professional writer rather than the urgency of a teenager. Yet even then I was something of an observer, a reporter dispatched into the explosions and turmoil of my own adolescent life. The writing was always larger than I was. I felt it to be a force for which I was merely a mouthpiece. My diary, in which I recorded every conversation, every ingested drug and flailing emotion, was the shield between myself and that life, though oddly it would later be what left me open, unprotected. I remember recording my life compulsively, forsaking sleep in order to do so, even if it was my first night's sleep in days. If I could just pin those events onto the page, all that had passed before my eyes, they would cease their clamour inside me. The evils would be harnessed and coaxed back into Pandora's box, which would be shut up tightly the moment I finally laid down my pen. They were no longer confusing events and emotions I could hardly bear to reconcile as my own, but words as neat as pins. They had happened to someone, but surely not to me. The despair, the shame, the scorching rage—later, I was surprised when people referred to the anger in the book. I could not remember feeling anger myself, but it had poured onto the page like lava.

This stranger whose life seems in so many ways foreign to mine is still inside me, her experiences knit into the fabric of all the other lived experiences before and since. But the drugs, the group homes, the constant running away—those events seem firmly consigned to adolescence, behaviours that have scarcely left a mark on the rest of my life. Recently I was in the pharmacy, and there was a man in front of me who was trying to get his prescription for Valium renewed. He was perhaps in his late twenties, with messy hair and wild eyes, and extremely agitated. In a rising voice he kept insisting to the pharmacist that he was going through a rough spell, he really needed the drugs. He said he had changed doctors, and he mentioned the name of a doctor I thought I recognized as one known among addicts for being generous with prescriptions.

Once, I must have resembled this man. I caught my reflection in the mirrored post, my expression judgmental and detached, as if what he was experiencing was nothing I had ever been through. Yet I, too, had gone from doctor to doctor, concocting ailments that might result in a scrawl on a slip of paper that could be exchanged for a handful of painkillers or tranquilizers, for hours of starry elevation or cozy blankness. But I felt no empathy for him. It occurred to me that it was harder to go from day to day in the "straight" world than it had been in his world, though the melodrama of addiction had lent each hour a kind of urgency and crisis that seemed real. I remembered staggering down tilting sidewalks high on methadone or some candy-coloured cocktail of pills, sneering at the blunt, boring faces of the ordinary people with their jobs and their houses in the suburbs and their families and what seemed their unutterably dull lives. Now those were the lives that I craved to understand, to describe in my work. Those were the lives with the shading and the subtlety, the heartbreaks and triumphs, the cruelties as well as the moments of hope.

close this panel
Living Under Plastic

Living Under Plastic

edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
More Info
Runaway

Runaway

Diary of a Street Kid
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
More Info
Tumour

Tumour

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
More Info
Show editions
close this panel

User Activity

more >
X
Contacting facebook
Please wait...