Past Oka, Quebec – July 14-16, 2013
The bus races along the waterfront and I watch the St. Lawrence sweep by, remembering little pieces that I passed a few day ago. That marina. The park. An old church. I buy groceries at a small market and catch a second bus. It drops me a few blocks from where I left the boat.
The scratched yellow hull leans against a fence. It grins at me. I flip it over and drag it into the driveway. I load it with gear and roll it a quarter-mile to the water.
I loved being in Montreal. I stayed with a friend’s cousin and her husband, two wonderful people, and they made sure I saw as much of the city as I could. They taught me the subway and the buses, told me the streets to walk down and things I should see. They made made feel at home for three days.
The city felt fantastic and alive. French filled the air and covered every sign. Pastries and bread crowded bakery counters. There was poutine by the bucketful and bagels hot out of an oven. Parks spread across every block. People seemed joyful and full of summer. I walked the streets soaking in the celebration.
But there was a moment, staring up at the Expo ’67 dome from a crowd of people while salsa blared over loudspeakers, that I felt homesick. I wanted my friends there with me. I wanted to dance with someone I knew, not a stranger. I wanted to feel that comfort of belonging.
I stood there for a moment, watching the crowd move with the beat, watching couples and friends, watching familiar moments feel distant, then I ran away, disappearing into a metro station, fleeing from that emptiness of being alone.
The boat feels tight as I slip inside and push off the beach. The Ottawa River yawns open, big and full of water, like a sheet of glass sliding toward me. Frank and Frank Jr. hang off the back of the boat. Ali sits on the bow. I paddle upstream, the kayak’s hull slicing thought the water, yellow against the grey-blue.
It feels good to be on the water again. It feels comfortable. It feels like home.