Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Mixed emotions

My last day of work was on Friday, four days ago. In some ways, it already feels like eons ago, but for the most part, it hasn’t sunk in yet. Although I’ve been going to bed later and later, sometimes not till three in the morning, I naturally awaken at six-thirty still. It still takes a few moments to convince myself that I don’t have to drag my sorry butt out of bed.

On Sunday, one of my dearest friends in Inuvik left permanently to return to the East Coast. I wanted to take her to the airport and help her with her heavy suitcases, but I just couldn’t do it. As I was helping her pack up some of the last things in her apartment, I was suddenly overcome by a torrent of emotion, not as much a sadness, but a kind of hurt and despair, an “I-don’t-know-what-to-do-now-ness.” I’ve seen many people come and go in my five years here, and I always felt somewhat emptier with the departure of each friend. Maybe I’ve reached my limit. Or maybe it’s different this time, knowing that in a few weeks, I’ll be the one leaving permanently. There will be no exchanges of stories this coming September, no comparing of suntans, no setting up of my classroom, no nervousness over meeting new students.

So, I went and flew the kite that my friend M had sent me from the East Coast two summers ago. I had only known her for a few months then; she had come up to Inuvik halfway through the school-year, and had just gone home for summer vacation. Yet, she already knew me well enough to send me the perfect gift. That was two years ago, yet I had never flown the kite until Sunday afternoon, after seeing M off. I wish M could have been here to see her kite over the “moonscape field.” In my mind, I imagined her seeing it from the window of her jet plane as it ascended eastward toward her home.

I’ve been getting irritated by all the little things lately. I think I’m looking for justification to leave, so that I try to be bothered by every lack, every inconvenience in this town that I’ve grown to love.

The beginning of summer has been rough though, regardless of my personal outlook. On Sunday, I found out that the high school had been broken into. Yesterday, I accompanied a good teacher-friend to go have a look. Although I was somewhat prepared, what I saw just broke my heart. The damage and loss were immense. I steeled myself when I saw the broken computer monitors, the graffiti on the walls, the paint poured over the woodworking shop equipment, the smashed guitars and drum-set. What finally knocked the wind out of me was when I opened up the piano to see all the keys smashed beyond repair. That feeling of despair returned. I just could not imagine such seething anger and hatred that must have been pent up in the individuals who did this.

Today was Canada Day. I woke up bright and early to have breakfast with two friends, one of whom would be leaving tomorrow to return to BC. Then, I went to catch the parade with my friend R. I had cleaned out my cupboards and assembled three bags full of food to donate to the food bank. The North Mart had a cart on their float for donations, and the store was going to match all donations. Alas, poor R got an earful from cranky old me as I carried one bag down to the parade route. He had two bags, and was just too good-natured and cheerful for someone so weighed down by canned goods. As the North Mart float came by, I ran up to try to dump the bags into the cart, but the float was not stopping for anyone or anything. We literally chased it down the main street in order to pass the items off to the people on the float. I was already in a huff before this, so throwing cans and bags of rice and pasta onto the back of a moving vehicle certainly did not help.

The day was bright and sunny though, and I just could not be emotionally down for long. I went and sat on the bleachers in the park and watched a couple of great fiddlers play on the outdoor stage. Then, a couple of friends and I went down by the river to take in the canoe races.

My friend C said that it’s the good memories that stay with you. I believe that whole-heartedly. Through the mixture of joy and sorrow, elation and despair, what will be burned into my memory will be the bright blazing days, the children marching along in the parade, the community coming together to celebrate.

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