I sat in the wing back chair and watched her sleep. Blinking Christmas lights struggle to brighten the room through the frosted window. I can see her chest rise and fall with her breathing beneath the quilt. Her brown hair hides her face completely. She knows that I'm going. I push myself up and walk over to the bed. I can smell wine with her breath as I bend over her. I sweep her hair gently from her face with my hand. Her eyes crack open. "I'm going now," I whisper. "I'll be back in a while." She forces her dried lips open but doesn't respond. I lock the door behind me.
The weather is warm enough to snow. It falls from the sky like clumsy, tumbling children covering everything in a blanket of soundless white. The wet flakes make it difficult to see. The street, lined with colonial style Inns, is empty. It's our yearly pilgrimage to this resort town before we go our separate ways over the holiday. It's our last night together.
Windows are adorned with every imaginable Christmas decoration. Wooden reindeer and cheap Nativity scenes clog the yards of the homes that have been here since well before the war of 1812. I stop for a moment, on the unlit sidewalk, with hopes of catching a wave of this communities painted and plastic spirit. I walk on as baby Jesus' face is buried beneath the snow.
I can hear the faint splash of the waves as I walk into the park. The stairs of the wooden gazebo are hidden by the snow. I bound up the cushioned steps. The roof protects me as I look over the water at the American fort not more than a few hundred metres away. It's engulfed in black. I strain my eyes to see the waves break off the shoreline. The contrast between the snow covered ice and the black churning water is hypnotic. My eyes pulse with the water's ebb and flow. Only a Tom Thompson could capture the simplicity and beauty of this landscape I haven't time for. As I jump from the gazebo rail, I imagine a young Canadian soldier nervously pacing out a midnight sentry duty, sharing this same view, all those years ago.
The snow is plush as I walk towards the water's edge. Each step I take is exaggerated. Almost comical. The knee deep snow pulls my ankles down and holds them before I can break free and move on. The roar of the water grows until it pounds its measured beat into my ears. I'm surprised by the violence of the water. I test the strength of the ice with my foot; it seems sturdy. I slowly push forward like a child approaching a stranger. My boots begin to sink into the slushy ice as I inch ahead. The water breaks over a large boulder and sprays its angry fingers into my face. It's in that second when I realize, for the first time in my life, that I will always be her second choice.
Copyright ©1998 Glynn Sharpe. All Rights Reserved.
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