Saturday, May 9, 2015

Working in a Distillery in Labrador

My neighbor is selling most of her stuff, spread out across her tiny front yard like a life-museum exhibit: bike, lamp, boots. She's 38, single, tried to buy the little cottage she's lived in for seven years, but ran into a glitch, the owner (not my favorite person) wouldn't budge, and she's gotta be out by next Saturday. All this so quick.

I'll miss her, flat out.

Miss her gregarious nature, her boisterous guffaws, her generous neighborliness. Miss the sound of her music floating up to my second story bedroom when she has lawn parties into the night. Yeah, we're facebook friends, but that's different, you know?

Like I said, it all came down very fast, when she was fairly certain the sale was going to go through. She told me it's all pretty surreal, unreal, she loves it here on this street and doesn't want to go.

The rug's been yanked out from under her, and it feels like stepping off a cliff. Takes a little while to realize that there's only about an inch of air between her feet, the missing rug, and the floor. At some point: the soft thud back to earth. When the shock wanes, she'll check for missing body parts and realize that they're all still present.

Off to a new life.

It's warm out today, and all this sudden-moving stuff was swirling about in my head, when I suddenly thought about my late husband — Mark — and how on an early warm spring day, he'd get out a pair of too-small shorts and t-shirt and stretch himself into them to accommodate his annual winter weight gain. Good god it really bugged me. And for a moment (I was pulling out of the cramped parking lot of the fruit stand), the memory of this crushed me. I thought of his knees, for god's sake, his legs in their ultra-white coming out. And I missed those ridiculous short shorts. They were blue. I hated them and there I was missing them. A pair of shorts. A husband. Pulling out into traffic, my heart with that burning ache that can come on out of the blue, out of a blue-sky day when I'm not expecting it.

And I thought about my life eleven years on, about the friends I treasure most now, who were never a part of that previous life. Thought about that next blip of a marriage — that one that ended so suddenly and sent me reeling in much the same way my friend next door is reeling. How, without warning we get shifted into a new square on the game board and we want to shout But it wasn't my turn!

After the hundreds of dreams I've had where Mark shows up without explanation, sheepishly, and won't answer my queries, finally this week he did answer up to the long absence, and this is what he said:

I've been in Labrador. Working at a distillery. With fifteen other men. We lived in tents.

Well damn if I didn't wake up immediately, with about a million additional questions that of course must go unanswered. Who goes to Labrador? (If you're not up on your Canadian geography, it's the northernmost region of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, has a population of around 26,000 people, and is home to the indigenous Inuit of Nunatsiavut, the Inuit-Métis and the Innu.)

I think the last time I thought about Labrador was in 5th grade. That's 46 years ago. WTF?

How long must I wait for a few more details? 

(And I'm going to miss my neighbor.)


  1. Oh, I love this post. It made me think of Bob Dylan's "Girl from the North Country." Perhaps you could sing your own version of "Boy from the North Country?"

    1. Elizabeth, I listened to that song after I read your comment, and teared up a bit. Sigh. (I've always loved it.)

    2. And this version is particularly lovely (Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash):

  2. Sorry to hear about your neighbour; good one's are hard to find!

  3. It's so sad losing a good neighbor. The commonality of where we live means it's been constant attrition of good neighbors on the street, the block, in our building. In some ways it seems making good new neighbors takes longer than making good new friends. Thank goodness though, a very old good friend and colleague, has moved to our block, and of course is also a good neighbor.

    I wish to wish you a happy Mother's Day!

    Love, C.