My body flows like the engine of an old car gasping to life. Rusted gears grind together, smoke spurts out, belts slip as they spin. My body is a thousand pieces trying to remember what to do. In the driver’s seat, I smash the pedals and grip the wheel like a madman, ordering, bargaining, and begging for the engine to turn.
Moments feel routine. Moments where I don’t feel my torso rotate, my arm reach out with the paddle, my wrist twist the blade into the water, my back pull. Moments where a hundred different movements slip together and the motor hums.
Each day the moments stretch further and the gaps between them shrink and disappear. At the Angle, they’d last a few strokes. In Baudette, a quarter-mile. Now, long bends in the river fade before the engine shakes apart.
Then I pop the hood, listen to the hiss of steam venting into the air, and bang away until the engine sputters to life again.