Facts & Arguments is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.
July 2nd sounds great! We’ll get there around noon. See you then!
My dear friend. Contrary to everything I wrote in my e-mail – no, I don’t want to go to your cottage.
But I go. I go because I am Canadian and because I live in a large urban centre, and therefore all summer culture, conversations and commercials burden me with an artificial sense of cottage entitlement; of cottage urgency.
How can I say no? It’s the cottage. Indeed – I see this now – man is not truly free until he has access to a secondary residence in a densely wooded area, preferably within stumbling distance of a body of water.
I don’t mind driving the four hours north to get to your cottage. On the way, there are lots of trees to look at. I love nature at 120 kilometres an hour.
Also, there is such an inspiring variety of watercraft attached to people’s cars – jet skis, tubes, kayaks, small yachts – that I am truly encouraged about our economy. It can’t be so bad if this many people own this many vehicles for circling on small lakes, six weekends a year.
If I finish my student loan before I retire, I too will probably indulge in a light watercraft purchase. I want a lifeboat. I’ll patrol the lake, blowing my rescue horn, calling out to other cottagers: “Help! I’m trapped in a beer commercial!” or “I miss ethnicities!”
Your friends seem nice and bland – your basic white hetero non-urbans. Most of the guys have started that little thirtysomething pot belly, and perhaps some light male breast development. Inexplicably, their girlfriends have all maintained the figure of the average svelte 12-year-old. My cottage weekend is a Judd Apatow movie.
One of your friends, sitting alone on the dock, calls me over for some friendly cottage chit-chat. At the time of his invitation, I can’t tell whether his isolation is self-imposed. I plop down next to him, alcohol in hand.
“Do you work for the government?” he asks immediately, in a jovial way. No, I do not. “I was just asking because a lot of people here work for the government,” he says in a lower tone.
I look toward the shore where alleged government employees are innocently playing horseshoes. I didn’t notice, I want to say: I guess I can’t quite see their fangs from here. But I don’t say this because he is already eager to explain that they get their jobs because of “whom they know” (so, basically, like a lot of us).
This conversation ends eventually, replaced by lots of other conversations on lots of topics – professional sports athletes, professional sports franchises, professional sports media coverage and the three breasts in Total Recall.
Your male friends do most of the talking, I’ve noticed. Their girlfriends generally smile in the sunshine and delicately pull out the blond hair that’s caught in the corner of their mouth.
As the sun sets on this paradise and the skies melt into a tender, peach-coloured dusk, that’s when the AC/DC comes out (didn’t we stop listening to this music 20 years ago?). And, of course, the mosquitoes. They emit a special frequency when in proximity to a pear-shaped, rear-fleshed female with a city dweller’s immunity to bus exhaust and apartment living but special allergies to northern insects. They circle me like carrion birds, hissing in lusty excitement.
I manage to escape the group with my fiancé. We sit and drink in the wooden shack you’ve assigned us for sleeping quarters. My friend, calling this small pine coffin a “bunkie” makes it sound more hospitable than it really is.
You explained that we couldn’t sleep in the main cottage because of our dogs – your parents have recently laid down new flooring in the living room. No problem. I dearly love my dogs. Your parents dearly love floors.
While you and your friends play cards in the warm glow of the cottage, we sneak out of our bug-infested shoebox and sit on the dock with our two quiet, loyal sentries.
The lake is a serene expanse of dark glass. I look up. My God – it’s full of stars! Billions and billions of points of light. My eyes blur and attempt to refocus, and again it strains credulity.
And suddenly I have my cottage moment. A full yellow moon rises from behind the trees, and for the first time my neurotic inner narration falls into a hush.
We exchange whispered “I love yous” by the lake, in the middle of a dark Canadian landscape, under a sky crowded with stars.
The next morning I am fairly sick. I eat an apple, digest it briefly, then bring it up again behind our shack.
There you are, my friend, standing on the end of your dock, arm stretched above your head, BlackBerry held high like a torch of freedom – a homing beacon receiving the distant transmissions of past lives. “I have reception!” you are shouting.
I give you a hug. We herd the dogs into our borrowed minivan and start the four-hour journey back to my sweet, filthy city. Thanks for inviting me.
Nina Dragicevic lives in Toronto.