Friday, July 10, 2009

In Canada I (No. I of VIII)



Sarah asked me where I was living and I mentioned that I was renting a house out in V, a suburb some 20 miles from Toronto, She would drive out to get me, to take me to the lake, she said.

She came, exactly on time.

Sarah was the friend of a friend from Brazil, Joeli. Sarah wore sunglasses so I could not see her eyes. She wore a polo-neck, then a v-neck sweater over it. She wore jeans and boots, her manner was brisk, she spoke quickly. She was the manager in an office, but she did not describe what she did. I think she had located her work in one mental compartment, which was distinct and unconnected to others in her mind. I knew that I had nothing to say to her. I knew that instinctively, and it made me feel ashamed, as if her kindness was being rejected unfairly, and that emotionally I was unable to fulfill my part of a contract, the role of the grateful guest...

Sarah was just one person, but she made up a huge proportion of the sample of people I had met there, so making me momentarily unsure that I would have much in common with the people of Canada at all.

She drove efficiently. Her sunglasses made her haughty, they were expensive glasses and one of the lenses had a logo in the corner. There flashed the image in my mind’s eye of my Brazillian friend, and the woman here, and the images did not correspond. Sarah had asked about Joeli politely but it was the civility of a government employee, I could not mistake it for friendliness, and I wondered what duty she might be fulfilling to Joelli. We got to the lake, and parked, and she puit the glasses on the dashboard, but she did not look at me directly and I saw her eyes seemed tired.

We walked along the lake. It dawned on me that I was being taken to participate in a sort of new arrivals ceremony, that Sarah was fulfilling a sort of civic duty, and I wondered if she was returning a duty that Joelli had performed for her: part of a giant international exchange programme, where people took foreign visitors to see certain sites as a sort of initiation ceremony, and in return were taken to sites themselves when they went abroad. Walking there, I could truly say I was in Canada, much as when, staring at a concrete Christ on Corcovada one might truly say one had arrived in Brazil.

Canada was very big- the lake was very big, and Canada was surely full of unspoilt nature, much like the landscape surrounding the lake. And, as we walked I reflected that it would be like this, everything would have this mood, Canada. Such days often carry the air of premonition.

*

When we got to the car the windscreen had been broken. There seemed something excessive about that, as if mere theft was not sufficient- there had to be damage too. But Sarah said that that was probably a drug addict who did not know how to steal simply. They just broke the windscreen and took whatever they could - Sarah's sunglasses were gone from the dashboard.

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