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Haunted - Monday, Oct. 18, 2021
Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021 @ 5:43 am
Newfoundland Part I
A quick stopover in Toronto. Graffiti and massive highway interchanges. Riding a train from the airport to the Junction. The air is oppressively hot and stagnant. The rush of traffic. Litter and broken concrete and weedy patches of dead grass. I don’t want to be here. We don’t stay long. A beer. A visit. Then into a car and back to the airport to reboard the airplane.
We arrive late into St John’s, so late that it’s verging on early. A taxi ride to Todd’s house, the driver’s local accent so thick that it’s hard to understand that this is English.
Jet lag sets in the next day. Despite the raw feeling inside of my body and the pull of the bed with the soft duvet in the basement, I go along for a drive and short hike. We park near a scenic bay. Gulls dot the rocky cliffs and hover above the bay riding upcurrents. Their calls are different from home, more mournful in a way that tugs at my heart. The sea air helps sharpen my mind, waking me up. Of course, I want to be in the ocean, to feel it against my skin. And so I remove my boots and roll up my jeans and wade into the Atlantic. I gather and admire a handful of small starfish that have been rejected from the ocean. The everpresent wind. The thunderous whoompf of waves pushing forth into rocky caves. The water is warmer than I’d expected it to be, and I regret not having worn my bathing suit.
We begin drinking* early, sitting around in the living room strategizing over layering and rainwear. Two drinks later, we head downtown to the street festival. At the entrance gate, a woman fastens a wristband on me, and I’m giddy with the excitement of outdoor music and a mob of people. We head towards the main stage. Of all of the things that I’ve missed over the course of the pandemic, this is among the top five. I push towards the stage. Bodies pressed against me. A mist falling from the sky. The band is playing, and I can feel it in my body, and I am euphorically happy.
The night progresses. Drinks keep appearing. Mostly Todd, I think, over and over, pressing a cold can of beer into my hand. I’d guessed that we’d have chemistry - I’d thought I’d sensed it over family video calls - and I was right. I’m nervous around him, but also bold.
When the headliner begins to play, we all move in up to the front of the crowd. He’s behind me, standing on a step above to have a better view. I’m being jostled from the right. I’m not sure why, and I don’t have much place to go, and as I’m trying to sort out what to do, I feel his hands close protectively around my arms, steadying me. I freeze.
Who has ever stood up for me like this? It feels like love. I instantly fall in love with him for this gesture. I don’t know how to separate this feeling from desire. All I can do is pretend that it’s not happening. My instinct would be to lean into him, but I know that’s not the right response. I’m surprised to find that I’m still hungry for these scraps of attention.
He touches me several more times through the night. Maybe it’s just him; some people get like this after a few drinks. He’s protective, a pappa bear, and he keeps us all together in the ribald crush of drunken bodies.
After the show ends, we go into an Irish pub that reminds me of the one in Dingle, or maybe more like the one in Doolin. We push onto the dance floor, and it’s sweaty and glorious and there is a fiddle and a bodhran and all of the familiar songs that I’m surprised are still being played. That’s tradition? Living in a city so prone to trends, this is all very comforting and familiar. Like going home.
We taxi home at nearly two in the morning. Rain pours from the sky.
The others go to bed, exhausted and tipsy, while Todd and I stay up drinking whiskey.
I don’t remember the entire conversation. We talk a bit about work, as our fields cross over closely. And then he changes gears.
“I wanted to give you feedback, because I’m not sure that you know how much we like you and how good you are for Russell. I want to welcome you into our family, and I hope that you are around for a long time. He’s blossomed with you in his life. His previous… well.. I won’t talk too much about that other than to say that there was a lot of negative energy. You are bright and engaging. I feel like Russell’s come into his own with you in his life.”
While he’s saying this, a blush rises from my chest up across my face. I stare at the rug, pleased and uncomfortable at the same time. I know that what he’s saying is true. It’s the intimacy that is difficult to deal with. I’m not used to this - this open expression of affection and appreciation.
A short while later, we say goodnight and head off to bed, him heading upstairs and me heading downstairs..
In bed, I pull the covers over me. A wind whistles through some part of the house. I feel warm and included and appreciated. Things inside of me have softened. Things inside of me have healed.
I’m still fragile, at times, but mostly I am healed.
Love healed me.
*Forgive me, Flood.