Ice is finally out in the park, and the canoeists are beginning to dribble in. Jerry thinks it’s hilarious that the newbie newlyweds who checked-in this morning are humping in two Coleman coolers and an 18-pound six-man tent from Canadian tire.
“We’re paddling the Petawawa, the man declares. “Class three river. It’ll be good for her to see what the wilderness is all about.”
“Are there loons out there?” says the woman. “I think it would be so nice to hear one.”
I don’t answer. Instead, I’m thinking about their 80-pound cedar canoe the man is bragging about.
“You know, a loon calls for two reasons,” the man says. “To declare his territory, and to let his mate know he’s there.”
“OMG,” (yes, she literally says, “OMG”), that’s almost romantic.”
She smiles at us, then at him.
I used to spend my days flying into and paddling the park to rescue folks like this. Now, my ass is mostly glued to office tasks. But, I’m lucky! I still got a job, as Holly, my wife, reminds me. Here are my key responsibilities: recording animal sightings and scat, stocking permits and maps, checking that the steel garbage bins in the parking lot are securely shut (you wouldn’t believe how people can’t figure out how to open and close them) and performing the glamorous and much-envied toilet paper runs. Sure, for normal people this work is easy. But, when you’re blind simple tasks aren’t so simple.
After I lost my sight from syphilis, Holly notified me she needed a break. It’s not quite clear what she means. Last night, I sat at the top of the basement stairs, listening to her typing furiously online, laughing every once in awhile, then later, climaxing, as a man on the speaker yelped, “Holy crap, we’re cumming at the same time.”
Of course, I realize that this isn’t an ideal arrangement, but I think anyone would see how it makes sense if they stopped and considered her circumstances. Even when I could see, for example, she more-than-occasionally checked-in to the Motel 6, convenient given it’s three blocks up on River Lake Road (and which, btw, was built two years ago after the café — where my wife and me dated, where I asked her to marry me — was demolished.). So, I thought, what the hell, I may as well ask her about her phone activities. She says she’s doing it because she needs space, to get her head around things. Sounds strange, I know, but no one can live in another’s head. When I try, I see this: before I lost my sight often she’d remind me that I suffocated her. Now that I’m blind, how can I not be burden that suffocates even more? She hasn’t come out and said it, but you get the idea when she slams the kitchen cupboards night after night, or leaves objects on the floor that I tend to stumble over. Of course, there are her other needs: no one can expect me now to perform to her expectations, if even she can’t.
“Sex isn’t the most important thing, Jonny,” Holly says. “There are other things.”
“Like love,” I ask.
“Yes, like love, Holly answers. “But, Jonny, remember there are different kinds of love. We can’t all love the same way. We can’t all be like you. Where would the fun be in that?”
I’m trying to put myself in her shoes.
Early this afternoon, my wife and Jerry, another couple (I think they work at Motel 6), as well as myself flew in to McCraney Island, on the south end of Blind Man’s Bay.
“We just had to camp here, buddy,” Jerry laughs. “Blind Man’s Bay, bud? Maybe you’re familiar with the place?”
I hear Holly say, “Don’t Jonny, that’s too cruel.” Then, I hear the octave of her beautiful smile rising in her voice.
“Well, I don’t think I deserve to be hit like that,” says Jerry.
“You do, Jerry. You’re so bad sometimes.”
Of course, as a former park ranger, I’m comfortable in the wilderness. So, it’s OK out here — where Jerry’s lead me, maybe ten minutes from camp, surrounded by jack pine and tamarack — because I needed to take a dump.
“Call when you’re done, buddy,” he says.
And, I’ve called.
I’m not sure how long I’ve been out here. Maybe two hours? I feel the dark now through the cool web of air beginning to spread over my skin, and the special sound it’s making — that it only makes at night — trembling above in the leaves. Sometimes, I get whiffs of the campfire, too, but mostly it’s drowned out by the odour of my shit mish-mashed on my shoes and knees, and streaked across my forehead (after I absent-mindedly wiped my brow). It turns out I’ve had to crawl all over the backcountry, it seems, in search of the toilet paper Jerry supposedly left behind for me. That Jerry, he’s a real shit-disturber, isn’t he (haha)? So, I’ve been feeling out for Polystichum lonchitis leaves (perfect name for wiping my ass.) or some Sphagnum fuscum (moss, which btw means a type of love’), but no luck. Anyway, shit is part of my MO now, isn’t it?
You know, it’s funny (not ‘haha’; rather, ‘a-ha’), it’s become mostly OK to be blind. I see it as a gift. I’ve taken it inside so that I can block out certain faces, people I know; mine too. It gives me a peace I thought was impossible for me. I’m able to tune in to other stuff: the sound a bird’s wings make that makes me imagine a secret code, repeating itself, so that the code itself seems to keep the bird afloat. I hear the humble way the forest breathes. And, I bet if I ever get close enough to someone again, I’d hear her heartbeat, like another secret code, meant for me. This darkness seems to pull in all the silence that’s ever covered the world, like an invisible sea that only I can swim in; only me, and now the loon that I hear touching down on the lake. Its call seems to speak, speculatively and hopefully, to a silence only darkness can give. It makes me not give a shit anymore about all the shit. You know, I hope the woman who checked-in today is hearing it, too.
– ph 29/1/17 Ancaster, ON, Canada