Annie and Chad left Thursday afternoon, because she had to go to work the next morning. We all played one final game of volleyball and then said our goodbyes.
After they left, a group of us decided to head out for one last exploration of the lake. Corb and Tiger hung around back at the camp. Corb wanted to pick up supper, and Tiger just wanted to play video games.
After about ten minutes of canoeing, we set down on an island that we had not yet explored. It was around five in the afternoon, and the sun was still shining brightly in the sky, dancing in shimmers upon the rust colored water.
We all jumped out of the canoe and weighed our options. Pauline decided to drift lazily on one of the inflatable rafts, and I decided to kayak.
I ended up making slow circles around Pauline’s raft, about 400 feet from the island. She rested, her eyes closed, soaking in the sun. I circled around and around, like the Grand Inquisitor, humming “Slow Boat to China.”
“Are you all set for your performance tomorrow?” I asked her. Pauline was going to drive back home from the camp, and then rush out the door to appear in a stupid sex farce. It was their third weekend of performances.
“As ready as I’ll ever be.”
“Did you study your lines at all?”
She shrugged. “Not really.”
“Well, maybe Amber can help you in the car.”
“Maybe. But I usually don’t have trouble remembering my lines. Bob taught me this trick. I put all the lines down on tape. It works pretty well.”
“I’ve only done that once,” I said. “For The Mikado , because the director wanted every line that I spoke to be exactly what was written. It worked pretty well, although, of course, I did throw in a few lines that Sir Gilbert hadn’t written.”
Pauline laughed and wiggled her toes.
I glanced over at the island. Ashley was squatting in the sand, making mud castles. Amber was busy exploring. “Do they talk about us at all?” I asked, figuring we were a suitable distance away.
“Chuck. The people at the theater.”
I sighed, exasperated. “No, silly. About Josie and me.” Both of us had performed in several productions with this theater group.
Pauline dipped her hand into the water. “Well...I think everyone knows. There have been a couple of comments, but nothing really negative. I know that Chuck said that he heard that people say you really seem a lot happier now.”
I snorted. “Really? I never thought I acted especially unhappy around them.”
“Are you happier, though?”
I continued to kayak. “I think I am. I think I have fewer episodes were I get really down. But in other ways…” I paused. Should I talk to her about my big problem? I really had only mentioned it to Corb, and to Josie.
Maybe I should.
“Well, it’s strange, but ever since this whole thing happened…and I kind of know that more and more people know about what’s going on in my life. Well, I’m not ashamed, but I’ve noticed that…I’m not sure what it is. Maybe I just feel nervous, I don’t know…but I have trouble…well, forming sentences sometimes. I feel as though I stumble over my words, that I can’t get them out exactly right. I feel like a deer in the headlights, like I’m being watched constantly, and as a result…I slip up, and then I get angry at myself for slipping up, and that just makes things worse. Does that make any sense?”
“Sure it does.”
I kept rowing, not looking at her. “Haven’t you noticed I’m not as quick on my feet as I used to be? Sometimes I feel as though I’m getting something…like Alzheimer’s, or something…”
Pauline laughed. “Ted, I really don’t think that you’re getting anything like that. You’re a bit too young, you know. And for the record, I haven’t noticed anything like that about you, at all. And I kind of notice things like that, with my job, and with my father’s condition. I mean, maybe you feel a bit self-conscious, because you’ve had to keep this all a secret for so long…”
“But I haven’t noticed anything like that from you.”
I sighed, and bumped against her raft. “I just feel like I was able to break free, but it came at a price. It’s like, somehow, I couldn’t get out of the castle fully intact.”
“Ted,” asked Pauline, pushing me away from her raft. “Once again. Are you happy now?”
Shortly after, we packed up the kids, and headed back to the campsite. We got a bit lost on the way back, but finally found our way.
I could smell supper before we reached the campsite. The trip across the lake had been great, but it was an even better experience to reach shore and see Corb cooking away, on both the grill and the campfire. He had prepared marinated steak tips, corn on the cob (cooking on the campfire in tinfoil), and squash and zucchini. Even Amber, who is so strict about roughing it, caved in and didn’t say a word about eating a gourmet meal during a campsite.
Happy? How can I NOT be? It's hard to complain when you've found such a wonderful place to land.