Crossing the Burrard Bridge and driving into the downtown sprawl of traffic, I flinched as a wave of nervous energy buzzed through me. I was on my way to see my daughter and felt conflicted about the visit. Not so long ago she was twenty-three and happy, on top of her world. After college, Leah had found a job downtown and moved into a hip neighbourhood nearby, finding a small apartment that she could just afford with the help of her boyfriend. Everything seemed to be falling into place for her: she was bright, popular, a talented designer, and striking to look at.

But recently she had begun to flounder, unable to keep her head above the surface of a dark despair. She had split with her boyfriend and was now basically alone. I was worried–it wasn’t the first time. As I crawled along Davie and over to the West End where she lived, a sense of panic overtook me. She’s let everything slide, I thought. She was supposed to be moving out, getting a less expensive place to live, but couldn’t get it together to clean up the one she was in.

I crossed the entry courtyard and stood for a moment taking in the fountain gurgle and lush of green planting before seeking out the elevator to reach the third floor and Leah’s apartment. I let out a long sigh. I really don’t need this.

“This place smells like dog pee,” Leah said to me as I entered. She was lying on her bed, burrowed deep into the covers and, it seemed, deep into her inner shell.