Early Sunday morning, we got out of our dragonfly infested beds, packed everything up, and began the nine hour drive into Canada. I don’t remember a lot here, because not much happened before we got to the border. Once we got there, I took pictures of people in my van pretending that we were in trouble. We created a scenario in which one of us was actually born in Uganda, so they were going to keep us here overnight and not let us use the bathroom—Amy made up that part, she really had to pee.
We did get a bathroom break, at a Dairy Queen. Had a conversation with some funny Canadian ladies in the bathroom. But afterwards, it seems that toilets stopped existing. It’s true what they say, there are no rest stops in Canada. They don’t believe in bodily functions, apparently. And it is a long drive up there. We found just one rest stop, in the middle of the woods. I didn’t use it. But it was pretty there, aside from the so-called toilets. There was a granite picnic bench, and a sandy little creek. I hopped around on stones, taking pictures. There was this bending log reaching across the creek, and people were walking its rickety length.
The younger Garrett was trying to convince Karah to go across. She stood with her arms crossed, laughing and refusing. So I wrapped my camera strap around my wrist and said with a voice resembling the tom-boy I was in childhood, “I’ll do it!” I climbed atop the tree and made my way across. But as I continued, the log slimmed, and went higher above the creek. I panicked, not wanting to fall into the water. So I leapt from my spot, onto the sandy bed.
I misjudged the support the sand would give me. I stood there for a moment. More than a moment. I didn’t want to move ever again. In my landing, something had moved in my ankle. Or perhaps it was my ankle that was motionless and the rest of me was trying to leave it behind. Whatever it was, I knew that the first step I took would tell me just how badly I was hurt.
I dislodged my feet from the sand, and despite the dullness of the pain, I knew that I was still in shock. I limped slowly towards the creek, hoping no one was watching. I took some pictures while I was down there, so as to look casual. But once I tried to cross the water, I had a problem. There was no way I could jump on the rocks as I’d done before. Thus, I began to walk through the little currents, getting funny looks from Garrett. I managed to climb back up the little hill. As I scuffled my way to the vans on the path of round stepping stones, I heard Dennis and Neil, our videographer, call out to me. Asking what was wrong. I was making sloppy wet footprints in the dirt and on the cement. I gripped my camera tightly in one hand as though it were a crutch, keeping me standing.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said flatly, finally reaching the open door of the van. I sat down on the floor and took off my soaking shoes, my soggy socks, and stared hopelessly at my sprained ankle. At least, I thought it was sprained. It could be worse. I ignored the questions, and scrambled into my seat. Everyone piled into the vans again, I rested my foot on my sweatshirt, and for most of the remaining ride I slept away the pain.
I woke up just long enough to watch a policeman chase a motorcyclist down the empty Canadian highway. What a thrill! And then I went back to sleep.
We reached Shuswap Lake sometime around six o’clock. We were parked in this huge dirt lot. The kind of dirt that’s yellowish and would make the best mud. Everyone around me left the vans, taking nothing with them, racing across the road and down to the beach. I reached below my seat for the ace wrap I’d purchased for my injured knee, and with no small amount of cringing, wound it tightly around my ankle. I got out. Closed the door. And I stood there in the dirt for a minute. More than a minute.
What was I going to do? So far, no one even knew I’d sprained my ankle. I hadn’t told anyone. I hadn’t wanted to. I didn’t want it to be a big deal. But now that I wanted help… I was all alone. I had sudden visions of myself hobbling across the highway and getting bulldozed by an SUV. But then I saw Dennis and Neil, and they saw me, and I figured I was safe. But my tongue was twisted. What was I going to say? I thought about just shouting 'help!', or pretending to cry--which I would have failed grandly at. Thankfully, Dennis said, "Come on!" so I was able to reply with a plaintive, "I can't!"
Dennis was all chagrin and comfort, trying to be my crutch, while Neil was smiles and sarcasm, “So that’s why you were limping. Why didn’t you tell us?” I explained the importance of not making a scene, I didn’t want to look stupid. So now, of course, I looked stupider than ever. And Dennis alone was not a good crutch because of the dirt. It rose around us in clouds of dust, layering on my swollen foot and my tattered jeans. You'd think that nothing more awkward would happen. You'd think that I was burden enough just leaning on him. But I was having trouble hiding the pain on my face, thus, Dennis got a new idea.
He made me ride on his back. I must tell you, Dennis is not an young man. He's not old, but he spent his youth torturing his body with soccer and horses, and then middle age. I cannot count the times I’ve seen him in leg braces and crutches and slings. So when he told me to get on his back, I pretty much refused. And to add to the problem, I’m not exactly the lightest person in the world. I said no. I told him I wouldn’t let him do that. But he insisted. So while he was carrying me on his back across the highway, the previous vision of being run down by an SUV was looking pretty good. I was thinking, I’m dirty, and smelly, and heavy, and embarrassed, and Dennis is just… carrying me.
Upon reaching the beach, I was immediately interrogated. “What’s wrong?” “What’d you do to your leg?” I realized that in trying to be inconspicuous, I just created more attention in sequel to my silence. After the first few explanations, I designated Karah as my spokesperson, so that the next thousand idiotic questions could be directed towards her. We sat around for several hours, eating odd Canadian pizza—everything is underneath the cheese? Eventually we were allowed to get onto the houseboats—the reason we’d come to Shuswap. I sat there at my picnic table, watching everyone carry their stuff down the hill from the vans and then walk the ramps into the boats. They were far away, they didn’t see me. I was alone on the beach, with this creepy hot-dog man behind me, scratching his beard and talking to himself.
And I stared out at the beach, at the enormous lake, stretching out across the landscape, seeming endless and ominous. I felt very small and invisible. Alone in a foregin place. I am timid when it comes to the unfamiliar. Stuck there, I began to see the world changing around me. This was my last summer with the youth group. High school was over, and with it some friendships. I had to get a job. Think about college. And like so many girls my age, thought about marriage and aloneness. It was out of my control, crashing at the doors of my mind like the night-dusted lake.
And the thing I’d been trying to do for a week, that thing I’d wanted to write for Lucas, came to me. Grabbing a pen, I looked around frantically. Nothing to write on but a pile of napkins. I took one off the top, and the wind scattered a few others. And as the sun sank into the lake behind me, I scribbled out a song, in tiny black letters softened by the rough texture of the paper.
When they came to help me to the boat, I stuffed it in my pocket. Once I reached the road again, they took me to the dock in a wheelbarrow, and I deposited myself on the couch in the front room of the boat. Around me there were people putting setting up the kitchen and picking out rooms. Amy was shuddering on the floor, eyes glazed over—she’s terrified of water, boats, and the like. Across the dock there was a boat with a bachelor party, young Canadian men laughing and dripping with beer. I could tell it was going to be a long week.