I made a lamb stew, some bread. I opened a jar of the hot peppers I’d put up and she ate a handful. I poured her a cup of cherries I had preserved in sugar and brandy and gave her some Walker’s shortbread to drag through the mix of that for her sweet.
We chatted about nothing and everything and she’s now asleep in the cabin out back. We drank a bottle of red Spanish wine I’d been hoarding for a couple of years. She is beautiful in an almost not believable sort of way. Not flashy, just put out there in a manner that belies some practice.
During the latter stages of this evening, she got quiet. I think this happened for maybe the first time in her recent adult life. It was a complete change from her onslaught of news and emotional material when I first met her a few days ago. She was not withdrawn, it was a sudden letting down of some guard, or electricity.
Nobody knows where she is. How the hell could they? She, herself, has only the vaguest of notions, pointed out to her on a paper chart as we came up here after our meeting in Tofino. We covered the last several nautical miles in complete darkness. There is no phone signal here. I have a satellite Internet and I refuse to set up a phone on it. She is literally lost.
This, then, made her appearance this morning just magical, as she had no idea what this place looked like as we originally arrived in the pitch black before the moon came over the mountain.
It was a day of pure delight. We did not do a damn useful thing in terms of work. On a Wednesday, no less.
Tonight, I had the small eating room good, warm and dry as we partook.
The hot food made us too warm and I opened the doors toward the water. The wind was northwest and freshening.
The sea lapped at the rocks down the hill when I exposed us to the outside and, then, without warning, the wind shifted and quit (as usual) and it became so still we could hear ripples splashing on pebbles down the gentle slope. We could clearly hear the dogs softly breathing as they slept. They lay at her feet, adoring their new friend, and I had to close the door, as it was 3 C. outside and we swiftly felt the chill of the wet night move in. I poked up the fire.
She tilted her head back, shook her hair from side to side gently and, with her eyes closed, took a sip of the wine.
She said, “I am not supposed to be drinking this.”
I said, “drinking what?”
She said nothing and smiled.
The bread tonight was particularly sour and bubbly. A firm crust marked it outside and a soft crumb was perfect for soaking up the gravy of the stew. My prized carrots were a stirring addition, I think, as well. I like carrots. I did not seek any report from her on them, but she ate them all off her plate.
The stirring of the bread bits in the juicy remnants of the plate, without fork or knife needed, is a delight. Take bread, tear it, swirl across bottom of bowl, place in mouth, softly chew and savour the sensations and odors.
Rinse with deep ruby Spanish Rijoja. Bliss. Toothy, gummy delight. Tongue tingling wine.
I had all day to do this. My shop presently has no boat scorning me for my slothful ways of not carrying on with determination. I am in food and drink for the winter.
And, at least tonight, I live a ridiculous stiuation. This complete stranger is sitting in my home, eating this delightful fare, with a nobody like me. I can’t tell her about the fish chats. She’ll become scared. I’ll stick to tides and food.
The bread is inspired this night, I have to say, even if it is the wine and brandy writing at this second (and it is, I fear.) I got lucky, I suppose. Usually, due to my oven, I burn one bit of it by not rotating it around so the heat hits it evenly. Not tonight, however. I was out to impress. I am not fancy. I make bread and build small boats, therefore, here was my chance to show off.
I have a Frankenstein’s lab of sourdough culture fermenting in jars on a shelf in the kitchen, which is little more than an extension of the dining and living area. This collection appears to be disgusting, but it makes a fine loaf, or loaves. I have several types, I do. Sweet. Salty. Less sour, more sour. Rancid (French Ferguson’s favourite.)
Tonight, it was my sweet starter – pungent, with bits of rosemary I put in it prior to baking in the wood oven that often burns some section of the loaf due to my inattention (usually connected to my seeking another beverage.) The firebox is central and the oven is to the left. You must rotate the bread clockwise as it bakes and quickly, lest the heat escapes the box.
She had a bite. She leaned forward toward me and sort of nodded her head in a sharp, almost manic manner, eyes getting wide, as if to infer, “Oh, my goodness, this is wonderful!” or “Dear Lord, I am choaking on this shite!”
I found myself going Japanese on her, wordlessly nodding back in anticipation of what she was trying to say (even though my mouth was empty), except she could not speak, due to the fact her mouth was full of the bread and she was chewing. She must have had parents who drilled the table manners into her, for she would not say a blessed thing until she swallowed. We nodded at each other like two Tokyo bussiness people who had just struck a big deal. It had to have been a laughable sight.
“This is amazing,” she said.
I nodded again. “You like it?” I asked.
“Like it? This is the best bread I have ever had.”
“Oh, it’s good, then?” I asked. (I am an Irish, Newfoundland bumbling social outcast.)
She ridiculed me. She said, “Are you kidding with me, or are you really this vulnerable?”
I said, “What? In what way am I vulnerable?” I peered down at my pant’s front to see if my zip was undone, or what I might have missed.
She said, “Never mind. I love the bread.”
I was happy to hear that.
We discussed the rosemary. It really has taken on a prodigious footing on the property. You’d think I was a Greek. We discussed the swirling rain clouds she saw all day from the porch, sitting for hours, watching, drinking tea and simply being there. The rain came and went and the sucker holes, for which I think my place is notorious, opened tunnels to heaven and the peaks that comprise it.
I spied her looking up all the time.
I took her in the shop and showed her how to jig up and build a dory. She leaned in and looked at the plans and got them right. She put her right hand on my left shoulder and brushed my long hair out away from my left eye.
I noticed this sweet gesture, but said nothing.
After this day of my letting her be, unless she wanted to talk and see things, I felt a boundry was established. She is from a place I can’t fathom and I am from a place, currently, she has no idea exactly where it is!
This is a totally improbable stance we are in. Yet, I think she can breathe for a bit and I have decided to like her, despite all her complicated things she has underway. I invited her up when I’d had a few, and I was nervous and unable to say, “maybe this was a silly idea.” She could not say it, either, and she came along home.
I am not interested in what might be here. I am simply amazed this person is actually here. I sincerely do not know what to make of this.
Her smile tonight was often warm, then troubled and distant – at that, a crumple, not a grin. I did not pursue it as it danced along its latter mysterious path. I feel this woman needs a sea of room around her and I suppose this is just the right spot to land, for that is what she has here – a sea of room around her, not to mention towering slopes of woods and skys of wonderous shape-shifting mist.
I sat at the table looking at her as she gently and peacefully fell off to sleep, almost in mid-sentence. She was telling me about a rude guy named Felix who brought her out to a place in Los Angeles…..sleep. Just before I lost her after sweets, she’d looked around at all the crude little things I have collected and placed all over the house. She kept muttering, softly, words like, “beautiful, sweet.”
I think the wine got her and maybe I am not a good person for providing it. I just don’t know.
It was quite endearing, though, as my junk consistes of bits of odd driftwood, shells, a couple of fine wood carvings from a First Nations friend of mine and some small pictures and whatnot.
I felt at that moment she let go and trusted this stupid, improbable thing the two of us had done, meaning me bringing her up to the channel. Her literal escape from what I do not know was now happening.
Stupified by this situation, the sleeping stranger at my small table, I got the brandy and drank quietly as she nodded her head in slumber. One particularly hard jerk of the head got me concerned and I coaxed her to the sofa and put her there under the big Hudson Bay blanket I got in Vancouver last year. The dogs raised their sleepy heads, nodding them up and down and looking up at me as i grabbed her chair.
I turned it around and sat there with the canine approval permeating the room, sipping the brandy and running my right index finger through the cherries like a small kid stealing a taste.
I added two logs to the fire. She slept like a rock.
I am not sure what has lately allowed me to clearly see into other people’s hearts and understand their place they occupy. When Maddie Higgs left, I did understand, although I still feel the ding.
I kissed this woman in Tofino when she dragged me into her world because she and I wound up two silly centimetres apart when she pulled me to her. What else was there to do?
But, I determined early on, as we took Big Boat all the way back up the long run from Nanimo, that she was better off not talking, just looking around – and even better off not necking, because we do not know each other at all.
I will say, she was tender today in the shop. Considerate, respectful, curious and sweet.
My plan, upon arrival, was plain and clear. I decided I would cook for her a bit, show her the area, regardless of the weather and the price of diesel. So long as the sea is not set to make her scared or ill, I’ll take her out.
I am lucky. The hillside is still so green. The trees sway in the swirling winds. As far as she knows, she has come to the literal end of the Earth, which I suppose for her, she has. I have a metled person here, now.
The dogs have licked her feet.
I got her up and out to the cabin. She’s suddenly blessed, I sensed in her grateful, relaxed limbs, for however short a time this will be. I got her down and well covered. She stirred up and we said “goodnight.” I left the dogs with her for company.
Tomorrow, she’ll wake up, not knowing where she is, or, really, who I am. How deeply odd.
Then, I suspect, in a few days, she’ll vanish in the mist, as did Maddie Higgs.
A whole person again.
Then, I’ll start another dory.