Pete got home last week.
Once again, three weeks apart and I seem to forget how to live with another person in the house.
He comes into a room and I startle and shriek, I make tea in a mug instead of the pot and, most annoying to Pete, I leave the house without telling him.
Most of my adult life has been spent as a single person, I remind him, and we haven’t been married all that long.
In keeping with being a couple, Pete arranged for us to accompany two other couples to the Liard Hot Springs — a day trip.
The springs are about a two-and-a-half hour drive south of here and very popular with the locals. It is said to be therapeutic, beautiful and altogether an experience not to be missed.
As you know, since the Accident, I am not very comfortable around any body of liquid larger than a martini. The trailer has one of those combination bathtub/showers and I have yet to use the tub.
One of Watson Lake’s charms is that, despite its name, the large lake is several miles from the settlement itself — no shoreline.
Assured that the hot springs are a very small body of water, and wanting to have an outing with Pete and his new acquaintances, I agreed to go.
The condition was I would not be expected to actually get in the pool.
The drive, all six of us in a minivan, was pretty; just outside of the uninspiring landscape surrounding our town, the topography becomes shapely, with low mountains, dozens of lakes and the courses of rivers carving through the endless carpet of trees. The road was declared good, except for some icy patches.
“Icy patches” is a term heard often in the North.
“I hit an icy patch” absolves a driver of all responsibility because everyone knows a patch of ice, once hit, takes over. A driver must simply surrender, praying and cursing, or whatever is one’s habitual response in trying circumstances.
I tried the icy-patch line with Pete to explain the very tiny dent on the rear of my new truck, but he instantly and impressively matched the dent with an equally tiny mark on the corner of the trailer and came up with his own analysis: I’d hit the trailer with the truck.
Upon further reflection, I did have a faint memory of a sort of thud when I was backing the vehicle into the yard to unload my Sears packages one day last week.
Pete also felt compelled to point out that our yard is entirely ice-free. Packed snow, no ice.
This information exchange took place in the yard the day Pete got home.
What is it about people with a Y chromosome and vehicles? Like there is some sort of psychic connection or something?
That dent was so miniscule that I hadn’t noticed it until some Y-chromosome person at the Tags gas station pointed it out to me. Pete was barely out of his own truck before he felt the injury of mine.
Uma, remember that time in Paramaribo when you and I had a rather excessively long lunch and I fell over the chef and had to have stitches in my forehead?
Remember that Pete did NOT NOTICE those stitches? Later, he claimed my bangs covered them, pointing out that my white hair blended in with the bandage.
Enough heat was generated by the discussion about the dented truck (the forehead injury got re-discussed, too; it seemed pertinent to me) that we agreed in future such talks will take place indoors, quietly, and at least a day after Pete has returned from work.
Hence the trip to the hot springs: Pete’s way of apologizing and my way of accepting.
The hot springs are quite a sight to see in the middle of a real winter.
There they are, gently steaming, surrounded by snow and ice-covered trees and bushes.
The short walk from the parking lot to the pool is on a boardwalk. I thought it well-designed, having little sit-down places along the way — handy for someone like myself. There are ashtrays, too, the sight giving me a pang of longing.
At the poolsite there are spacious change rooms, a composting toilet facility, and a wide platform along one side of the pool, with steps leading into the water at intervals.
It’s all very tastefully done, keeping to the natural loveliness of the place.
I happily settled myself with my chocolate bars and my Thermos of tea on one of the observer benches while my companions eased themselves into the water with sighs of bliss.
No one but me seemed to notice the heavy smell of sulphur which hung over the area, so in the interest of being a good sport and a participant, without actually going in the water, I said nothing.
However, a short while later, having eaten my chocolate and drunk my tea, I ventured almost to the edge of the main pool to have a closer look.
Uma! if there are dragons, the stuff floating in that pool would be their droppings: large, slimy and of a suspicious dung colour.
And if frogs partied, the trailing green rubbery-looking substance would be their morning-after vomit. There was also what looked to be giant hairballs.
Calling Pete to the side of the pool, I pointed with a finger at some of this repulsive matter floating close to him.
“Yeah, so what?” was his response. “It’s from the vegetable matter around the pool.” He paddled off to join Sue and Ed who were sitting peacefully on one of the underwater benches, seemingly oblivious to the chunks of goo whirling around their bright pink bodies.
Val and John, the other members of our group, were playing around the little waterfall at the end of the pool, also unthreatened by the mucky things.
Feeling I had done my duty, and getting queasy at the nearness of the water, I retired to my bench, wondering what I could have in common with people who could submerge themselves in water containing such an abundance of unmitigated crap and then relax in it.
Not only did they relax, they relaxed for what seemed like hours. In no time at all, I was wishing I’d brought a book with me.
Finally, they emerged and soon we were all seated in the restaurant, which is across the road from the entryway into the hot springs park.
Now we were in Heather heaven! Delicious hamburgers and french fries and praise whatever gods there be, even milkshakes.
Sue and Val, it turns out, do not enjoy such food, though their partners, and Pete, tucked in with an enjoyment almost matching my own.
Of course, the food was discussed by the other women, the conversation larded with those tiresome words like “cholesterol”, “bad fats” and “sodium” – the new profanity.
I refused to allow this to spoil my pleasure. The men held their own mealtime conversation — about trucks.
Homeward bound, everyone was mostly silent, the general opinion shared was that the springs, while infinitely soothing, caused sleepiness.
I was glad to not have to talk, being busy with the large order of french fries that I’d gotten “to go.” I knew by the way Sue and Val looked at me and my Styrofoam container they were less than impressed with a woman who could eat a large lunch and then get takeout, but the only comment was about the smell of the food in the close confines of the van.
Munching unashamedly, I forbore to mention they all smelled like they’d been visiting in hell.
Love you, miss you.
Heather Bennett is a writer who lives in Watson Lake.