You Showed Up Wearing Pants
By Lindsay Zier-Vogel
When I think of a harbour, I think of boats and long thick rope tethering them to the long wooden docks. But here there are no docks, just a single fishing boat heading out to the mouth of the bay and this long finger of ocean that pushes its way into the town. This narrow stretch of blue is the reason you were here all those years ago—it really would’ve been a perfect runway.
Before I left, Pat and Mike, who run the B&B I’m staying in, said it’d take just over two hours to get here and made me promise to keep my eye out for moose. “They’ll total your car,” Mike said before Pat shushed him. She called me duckie and told me to be safe. “Just keep an eye out,” she said and squeezed my arm. I thought they were being overprotective, but the highway was lined with caution signs that had aggressive moose silhouettes. On some stretches of the road, there were even lights that promised to flash if there were moose, but I didn’t understand how they worked, so I spent the whole drive scanning the forest.
Eventually the trees disappeared and I sang along to Fleetwood Mac and tried not to be freaked out that there were no hydro lines, no telephone poles and my cellphone had no bars. Nothing. The ditches were filled with thistles and Queen Anne’s lace and occasionally signs for worms and fishing licenses and I tried not to picture my little red car accordioned into a moose, panicking that I didn’t get roadside insurance when they asked at the rental place.
I stopped in at a gas station where everything was covered in a layer of dust and the cans of Orange Crush in the not-plugged-in-cooler were ancient. The guy behind the counter asked where I was going. “Trepassey,” I said and he told me it’s named after the French verb, trepasser, to die. It can’t have felt very promising to be taking off from a place with such a dire name.
There are pots of marigolds everywhere and there’s a museum that overlooks the harbour—a small house with peeling blue boards and a faded stenciled sign. The door was locked, but the windows were open, curtains licking the wind. Daisies grew in clumps around the perimeter and I had to step over them to look into the front window.
Apparently, your curling iron is here—did you know you left it behind?—but all I could see was a glass case of teapots and silverware that washed ashore from the Titanic.
I walked across the street to the post office to see if they knew when the museum would open for the day, but the woman behind the desk said they didn’t bother opening the museum this summer. They’re going to move the museum down the road to a new building, but she didn’t know when.
I turned to go, but the guy behind me asked where I was from. I didn’t feel particularly chatty, but he stood between me and the door and I couldn’t leave without being rude. Toronto, I said and told him about your curling iron. Turns out his gran met you when The Friendship got fogged in. She went to the school up on the hill, she was one of the students who ran out of class to watch The Friendship land. The nuns were furious you showed up wearing pants.
He told me you would walk along the top of picket fences with your arms outstretched. Do you remember that? You’re quite the legend in Trepassey because of it. They still talk about you like you were the tallest woman anyone had ever seen. I didn’t have the heart to tell him you were only 5’8”.
Herb and the post office woman tried to sell me on a place in town that serves a hot lunch, but Pat packed me a corned beef sandwich, so I’ve pulled the car over to the side of the road where there’s a good view of the lighthouse. The beach isn’t sandy, but made up of tiny smooth stones that look like black sesame seeds.
The horizon doesn’t seem as clear as it is back home on the edge of Lake Ontario. Here, the degrees of blue alternate light, dark, light, dark and the top line was hazy, not defined or distinct. Maybe it’s that it’s too far for my eyes to make sense of, or maybe the water isn’t really sure where it ends.
There’s no way you’d have been able to see Wales from here with or without fog. Not that you even knew that’s where you’d end up 20 hours and 40 minutes from here. You didn’t know where you landed until a man working on the railway told you, his accent thick, thicker even than in Trepassey. It sounded like a pretty awful flight, all headwind and heavy rain and snow, and Stultz hungover and stinking of the black coffee you insisted he drink before hauling him into the cockpit.
What I can’t understand is how you managed a 20-hour flight on just oranges and malted milk tablets. I would’ve been so cranky I’d probably have thrown a tantrum off the coast of Burry Port, waiting for someone to tow the plane into the harbour.
The tide is coming in, the water creeping up to the pile of driftwood I’m sitting on. I don’t want to leave, but I should really be heading back. The last thing I want is to be driving that stretch of road without cell service in the dark.
P.S.: I wish you were here to listen to the Fisheries Broadcast. It’s on every afternoon at 5:30. I don’t really understand anything they’re talking about, but the best part is where they sign off, “Wishing you calm seas and tight lines.” Funny, right?
Lindsay Zier-Vogel is a Toronto-based writer, arts educator and love letterer. Her work has been published in various publications, including Where the Nights are Twice as Long (Goose Lane Editions), Watermarks: Writing by Lido Lovers and Wild Swimmers (Frogmore Press/Pells Pool, UK), The Toronto Star, The Lampeter Review, Taddle Creek, room of one’s own, Grain and Descant, and she is a contributor to the Swimming Holes We Have Known blog. Her hand-bound books of poetry are in the permanent collection at the Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library at the University of Toronto. Lindsay is the creator of The Love Lettering Project, an internationally-acclaimed community art project that has been bringing anonymous love letters to strangers since 2004.