So after weeks of putzing and procrastination (or maybe just waiting on cosmic alignment) departure folds together in hours, like some clever kid’s toy.
- Late Friday, Helen’s daughter and son-in-law confirm they’ll arrive Sunday evening, so no more room at the inn (Helen’s floor).
- On Saturday, Henry tells me he’s heading back to Victoria tomorrow and will drop me off at the ferry if I like.
- Saturday afternoon I finally bestir myself down to the locker and rearrange, sort, salvage. Drag a car-load from Helen’s to locker, leaving a veritable snowdrift of my stuff across her living room floor. (Sorry, Hel, you’re a saint.)
- Sunday morning, pack my knapsack and throw what’s left into a conveniently leftover blue plastic tote. For the first time in weeks Helen’s floor is clear, the locker holds all my possessions … and the fact of departure is before me.
Riding shotgun in Henry’s big black truck. Henry’s a talker, fortunately, so I can listen and not abuse my sore throat too much. I suck on cough drops like they are candy. (Yes, I know, they are.) The internal barometer is reading “indeterminate” — like it would be so poetically correct if I were to feel better with every passing mile, but so repulsively cliched too.
On the ferry, I sit at the back when the boat pulls away, thinking it’ll turn around and I’ll be at the front. But it’s the double-ended kind that doesn’t turn, so for a while I watch Vancouver Island, my home for the past ten years, slowly recede over the shiny-grey water. I do decide I’m feeling incrementally better, though. And reminding myself I won’t be going back for two whole months — or ever, maybe.
There are indications I’m out in the wide world. Two women behind me, one saying, “What is it with men and sunscreen? They never want to buy it, never remember to put it on.” Her companion says, “More men get melanomas than women.” Not a likely conversation on the west coast.
Later, in a different seat (this time at the real front), I’m reading photocopied excerpts from a book called The Religion of Technology (1998), in which author David Noble makes the case that, far from being diametrically opposed, our current technological fervour actually has its roots deep in religious feeling. In a nutshell, we are engaged in the project of returning ourselves to our state of perfection before the fall from grace. I’m sitting at the portside end of a long row of empty seats, and at the starboard end of the row a guy sits reading Wired magazine — pretty much the New, Improved Testament of tech boosterism.
Coming into Horseshoe Bay, the ferry stops engines not once but twice, giving the five-blast auditory finger to two motorboats that irresponsibly cross our bow. Welcome to traffic.
So far it feels … okay.
Don’t, just don’t, tell ’em you’re going. Even if you tell ’em you’re going in three weeks, or you’re going when you feel like it. Because once they have linked the concepts “going” and “[your name]” in their whirling, preoccupied minds, you are going to hear, over and over again, these comments:
- Are you still here? I thought you left town!
- When are you going?
After a while you won’t enjoy it.
This is one of those things that, if you get it, you get it. But i have only one objective on this little trip: To get away from the coast for at least two months. Not that Ucluelet is a terrible place to be, but a small town at the end of a long road tends to limit one’s perspective after several years. I hear there’s a world out there, and i aim to reconnect with it.
I have (and this is the part people are having trouble with) no fixed departure date, no agenda, no plan, no destination beyond visiting my mother in Winnipeg and my sister in Montreal. Apart from that, everything is open.
For the record:
- last day of having a fixed address: 31 October, 2007
- last day of work at the Westerly News: 18 April, 2008.
- last morning in Ucluelet: 25 May, 2008.
I am homeless, jobless, and dependent on the kindness of friends and strangers, and the benevolence of the world at large — not a comfortable position for me. But i’m not without purpose; more on that later.