Chapter Six: Constructing Destruction
Day one on the boats. Unexpected perils. Silence and unsolaced moments by myself. Confrontations and arguments. Fears. Amy had slept on top of the boat, and when they started it up that Monday morning, she scrambled back inside, quivering again in the middle of the kitchen. She clutched her pillow tightly. Staring at nothing. There was really nothing I could do for her. Even if I had been able to move, she wouldn’t have noticed my attempts to comfort her.
I spent the morning in front of the boat. I managed to scoot and hop my way onto the deck. Hannah and I took a few chairs out and we sat, looking out at Shuswap. The wind was high and cool, and the sun couldn’t reach us yet, so we wrapped ourselves in blankets. I took pictures of the water, the dragonflies skipping across the green surface. There was a kind of calm, numbness to it all. I don’t know if I had purposely left my emotions at the dock, or if they were just hiding inside my suitcase, but I lacked feelings, staring into that water. It was beautiful, and I accepted that, but where my heart should have swelled in the glory of it all, there was indifference.
Eventually I went back inside. Hannah didn’t want to sit with me forever. So I spent a long day on that couch in the front room. There were two windows behind it, and I opened them up. I could take a nap in the sun that blazed through, or I could carefully lean out with my camera and take pictures of the boys’ boat, or the leaders’ boat, when we all stopped in the middle of the lake and people took turns jumping off the sides. It was gorgeous. It was warm.
But I was alone. I read some, tried to draw. Looked through the 1000 pictures I had taken. I slept if I got too lonely. Eventually I took out the napkin song from the night before, and carefully wrote out the poem. I used my best handwriting. It was intended for Lucas, and I decided that if I was going to give it to him I wanted him to be able to read it. He came onto the girls’ boat at some point, soaked from having been in the lake, and I let him read it with wet hands. He gave me a very distracted thank-you and said he’d make it into a song. He smiled. Handed it back. Went into the water.
That afternoon, we beached. Although the term ‘beach’ is used lightly. Beaching the boats, or anchoring them it might be called, is slightly complicated. Everyone goes to the back of the boat—except the girl with the sprained ankle—and they drive full force into a beach made of rocks. After that, the boat is tied to various large logs on the beach, with ropes cutting through the beach at every angle, dark and invisible.
After the boats were secure, everyone clambered out onto the rocks and began gallivanting in the Canadian wilderness. Still, I sat on my couch. I think that the thing I hate most about sprained ankles is not being able to do anything. The pain is tolerable, as long as I’m not walking on it. But for someone who already struggles with feeling included, being forced to exclude myself was torture. Yet, I didn’t really want to move from where I was. So when Sheila, Dennis’ wife, told me I had to get off the boat, I nearly died on the spot. Perhaps it was how dirty I was, not being able to stand to use the shower, let alone walk to the bathroom. Or maybe it was the fact that Sheila likes to tell people what to do, and she didn’t really think about how emotionally chaotic I was. Or maybe… it was the way that I was going to get out. No one expected me to walk. Definitely. It was impossible. First there’s the step from the boat onto the deck, and then from the deck onto the ramp, and from the ramp onto the ropy labyrinth beach of rocks. No, I wasn’t walking, or hopping, or even crawling.
They were going to get a few of the boys to carry me in a chair. A straight back chair. One of those ridiculously fancy boat chairs, with a green padded seat, all polished mahogany and undeniably Canadian. (I don’t know how a chair can have ethnicity, but trust me, it was a Canadian chair.) I was horrified. It was one thing having Dennis carry me. I trusted Dennis with my life. He could ask me to rip my heart out of my chest and I know he’d do something amazing with it before he put it back inside and sewed me together again. But Ray, Nick, Lucas and Phil were standing at the door, with that ludicrous chair, looking awkward.
The boys kind of flinched. Sheila looked as though I had sworn. “What?”
“No,” I said again, louder, this time feeling that the entire population of Canada could hear the tears in my voice. “I won’t do it.” I could feel my whole body start to tremble and my face was cracked in two pieces by my nervous smile.
Embarrassment gripped me. It was a very vulnerable moment, with the boys staring at me with dutiful impatience, and Sheila getting ready to bare her fangs. I felt as though I wasn’t wearing enough clothing. I’m sure I was completely covered, save for most of my arms and my feet. But I felt exposed there, as though my shirt had lost a few inches on the collar and my bleeding heart was pushing through my ribcage, glowing through my freckled skin. They could all see it.
The boys shrugged dismissively, looking at each other. Sheila nodded to them and they left. She took another glance at me, and left also.
I turned away from the door, then. Completely alone in the front room. A few tears sprung loose from my eyes and a steady path of them trailed down my face. It was thankful I wasn’t wearing make-up that day. Thankful I had my glasses on.
I’d like to say it took every effort to not cry out. But that would be a lie. I’m not good at crying. Even in solitude. I allowed myself a few sniffles, could feel the sobs tightening in my chest but not quite being released. Perhaps if I had broken free at that moment, perhaps if they had seen me cry, they would have understood. But I wouldn’t let them.
Mia came in, her long auburn hair still wet, her boy shorts dripping onto the floor. “How are you doing?” she asked, all sweetness and naivety, as usual. I rubbed away what tears I thought visible and gave her a short smile, though she wasn’t really looking at me.
“I’m okay,” I said. The pain must not have been evident in my voice because Mia was the type of girl to smother someone with love if they were in distress.
“Do you want me to bring you some dinner?”
“Yeah, that’d be nice. Thanks.” I gave her a genuine smile now. Mia didn’t expect me to heal myself, or embarrass myself, and I appreciated it.
As she left, Sheila entered again, and I half turned towards her.
“I talked to Dennis and the leaders,” she said. “Either you can come out now for dinner, or later tonight during the discussion. But you can’t stay inside the boat all week.”
“I wasn’t planning on it!” I defended. Then, I sniffed and nodded. “I’ll come out later.”
Mia came back with a plate of some meat, and oddly colored potatoes. I ate quietly. Some other people came in as well, gathering around the table as I sat alone on my couch, staring at their backs. I ate through the sense of impending doom. That chair. Those boys. The rocks, the water, the darkness that was staring to eat me alive. From the inside out. I had begun a constant dialogue with God early on in the trip, conversing about my fears and expectations. About Lucas. About hurting myself. This wasn’t any more noticed or unheard than our other conversations. But it was darker, angrier, something constructing itself inside me with materials made of fury and pain, nails of lies pulling it all together. I just hoped someone else would see it, before I became a part of it.