Archive for March, 2009

It’s Always Snowing in Nova Scotia: The Long Road Home

I turn 20 on the car ride home. Danielle, Benji and Jon break out into song. It’s still snowing hard, and Jon’s dad tries his best to ignore us and keep from careening off the road.

After being gone for so long my greetings with everyone were oddly perfunctory. I said hello, people said hello back. Hugs were exchanged. We stood by the luggage belt in silence while Benji and Danielle argued about whether I needed help with my bags. When the four of us finally do start talking, it’s mostly about stuff they want to show me on the internet.

The car ride back comes off like an unending stream of hotlinks; Stephen’s blog, my blog, webcomics I should be reading, videos I should be watching, songs I should hear. I mentioned the Washington video; Danielle suggests Johnny Wander. When we get back to Danielle’s we will watch Metalocylpse until 3AM rather than talk. Before that happens Danielle mentions the only important thing I’ll hear tonight.

“You’ll have to meet Rachel while you’re here,” Danielle tells me.
“Your friend Rachel? I already know her.”
“Oh,” says Dani. “Well, anyway, she’s pregnant.”

*****

Though I haven’t talked to her in years, I’ve actually known Rachel for longer than I’ve known Danielle, Jon or Stephen. I met her back in my first year of high school, when it was just me and Benji and a school full of enemies. I had moved to Amherst two years before and didn’t have many friends. Many of the people I did hang out with were the kinds of kids who only kept you around so they’d have someone to pick on; the kind who would throw things at you in class and try to pants you in public. It was not a particularly happy time in my life.

Benji was significantly better off; having lived here his whole life he had a large group of friends. But they were mostly skaters, and I never really fell in with them. There was no overlapping interest, and to be frank I found them huge and intimidating. Benji was still roughly my size, and a huge enough geek that we could talk about video games and television shows we both liked. It was the closest thing I had to a niche.

Rachel was another friend of Benji’s; not one of the skaters, just a girl he happened to know. I remember her being short and having some kind of medical issue; a surgical chest scar, or a hearing aid. Maybe both. Maybe neither. Though Rachel was around a lot over the next couple of years I never really got close to her or became friends. I think she was sarcastic a lot of the time. She may have had a good sense of humour. And now she was pregnant.

I try to figure out what I’ll say if I see her; “I see you’ve made some bad decisions.” “So, what have you been up to, besides getting pregnant?”. I ask Danielle for advice, and she tells me to act as if I don’t notice anything unusual.

*****

We’ve made it to the house now, and there’s still a few minutes left between when we walk in the door and when we start watching TV because we have nothing to say. Danielle gives me two and a half years worth of birthday and Christmas presents; plastic dinosaurs, sticker books, mix tapes, a DVD copy of “Once Upon a Time in the West”, and three bags of BBQ chips. I give her comics, a ring and a rock I found for her at Stonehenge. Jon gets a beret; Stephen will be getting one too, when he arrives. The two barely take them off over the course of my visit.

At 3AM, when we’re done watching TV, Jon goes home while Danielle and Benji go to bed. I’ll be sleeping on the spare bed they have set up in the living room. Danielle and Benji have an apartment next to a tattoo parlour, and the ceiling leaks in at least five different places. An intricate array of pots and garbage bags keep the floor dry, but the water pours down all night. There’s constant splashing from all corners of the house, in every part of the room.

It’s like sleeping behind a waterfall.

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March 11, 2009 at 3:08 am 4 comments

It’s Always Snowing in Nova Scotia: Prologue

“Have you every heard of the Wordsworth trail?”

I’m overcome by intense revulsion. Every nerve in my body shudders in disgust and dehydration. I don’t reply, hoping he takes the hint, but it’s to no avail.

“I’m hoping to get out to England next summer to walk it. Either there or South America.”

My fellow passenger Dave launches into a long monologue about the hiking he does, the trails he’s been on, the ones he wants to visit, and how old age is slowing him down. He’s been at this for while now; he spent nearly an hour asking questions about me and my film major. I spent that same hour downing glass after glass of water in an attempt to forestall a hangover, desperately wishing he’d leave me alone. Now it’s his turn to talk about himself.

I am very worried that this man might be hitting on me.

It’s not that I have a problem being hit on by men; indeed, it’s something I’ve dealt with before. But this guy has to be in his mid 40s, and it’s creepy as hell. How do you politely tell someone decades older than you ‘no’? I’m 19 now, just a day shy of 20, so what he’s doing isn’t actually illegal; it’s just a clear violation of the half-plus-seven rule.

He mentions that he teaches high school. I worry for his students. I flag down a passing stewardess.

“More water, please.”

*****

The water is more of a precaution than a necessity. I’m not hung over now, but I fear that at any second I could be. A few of my friends threw a small farewell party last night. It’s the closest I’ll get to a birthday party on this side of the continent. Not coincidentally, it’s also as close as I want to get to one.

“I booked my flight for tomorrow because I was incredibly bitter. I didn’t to be here for my birthday.”

This is true but in retrospect kind of cruel, the kind of thing you don’t tell your friends. 2008 was a very bad year for me, a year in which I was at points starving, disease-stricken, seriously depressed or just an abject failure. When I got to the end I decided I just wanted to be anywhere else, so I booked a plane ticket to see my friends back east. I even told my roommate Alyssa that I might never come back.

And then, things got better.

Running away from your problems is much more difficult when you don’t have any.

*****

Dave has stopped talking, but what he’s doing now is even worse. He’s broken out a packed lunch and eating his vegetable dip with his fingers, licking it straight off the flesh. Whenever a stewardess walks by he asks them for floss. I can’t help but hope this is all the licking he plans to do in the future.

As the plane lands my brain goes into high gear. What am I going to do if he propositions me for bathroom sex? Can I just lose him in the terminal? Will there be a confrontation? Will security be called?

After we touch down Dave grabs his bags and walks away. He doesn’t even say bye.

*****

It’s Toronto to Moncton now, and the going is rough. The sky is thick with snow, and out the window I can see the wind bouncing the wings up and down. It’s like the plane, in a desperate attempt to stay aloft, has decided to flap like a bird.

We touch down, and the plane skids on a patch of ice. For split second I’m sure we’re all going to die, and I’m ecstatic. It’s not that I want to die; I’ve just always suspected I’d go out in a plane crash. It would be nice to be right about something for once.

Instead the plane’s wheels find their grip. We slow to a crawl and inch our way to the terminal. When I finally get out I can see my friends waiting, one of them holding a sign reading, oddly enough, “McNeil”. They’ve come to get me. I’m home.

March 3, 2009 at 7:04 am 5 comments


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