The Lake

It is a place we go at the end of a special day, following dinner in Chinatown or an afternoon spent in the dim and spooky light of the museum. We will retreat there for an evening walk, ice cream in hand and sandals off if we complain about the sand getting into them for long enough. We can look at the lake, but to wade in to the water means certain doom: pollution to make us sick or perhaps an undertow to drag us down. The thought of either is scary and romantic but we stand far enough down into the spongy, cold shore that the slight waves will wash over our bare feet anyway, sinking us down into the sand. We can play on the beach if we find a place in the sand that is not too littered with shards of broken beer bottles, the discarded ends of smoked cigarettes or refuse from fast-food meals. We will comb the beach for tumbled glass and interesting rocks and proof of a nefarious world that we have heard inhabits the beach late into the night – condoms perhaps or even a syringe, though we never find evidence of that kind of dark and dangerous life. We point across the lake, trying to make out the horizon of what my father says is New York, though we don’t know how that can be true since the lake is called Ontario.


The house in the beaches is called The Embassy, but since we suburban interlopers were not around at the genesis of its existence, we don’t really know why. What we know is that it is messy, smoke-filled freedom where school and parents are replaced with weed and Deadheads and a truth that cannot be found in the hallways of our schools or the manicured streets of our neighbourhoods. Our legitimacy as visitors worthy of entry to The Embassy is unquestioned by some, viewed with suspicion by others. Eventually, after a spring and summer of constant arrivals, our lives begin to intertwine. Boyfriends are procured. Unmade, unkempt beds are shared and the unstated knowledge that just because we go back to the suburbs to change our clothes but they no longer have to, can not remain a strong enough barrier against our invasion. We still don’t swim in the lake, but we can go down there at night to smoke and fuck.


The bohemian gentrification, and with it the cleanup, is complete. It is all gray-haired women walking purposefully with yoga mats tucked under their arms, and young mothers strolling together with diaper bags attached to expensive strollers attached to chubby babies. It is new boutiques and gelato stands and the old dives now shrinking back from the blinding gleam of its newly scrubbed neighbours. It is where I take my 10-day old baby on our first outing together. We live a short drive away now and this place, one neighbourhood removed from my own, is more familiar to me than the streets of my new home. I walk down the street, diaper bag attached to stroller attached to baby, and I need the layout of a familiar place, since the role I now find myself in is utterly alien to me. I look into my daughter’s clear, wide-awake blue eyes and can see that she understands my need to be in this place. We head south, where the sky opens up above the lake and the warm spring sun casts diamonds on the water. I take off my shoes and throw them in the basket beneath the stroller, and push forward a little bit more until the wheels sink into the dry sand. I take my daughter out of her seat, and we sit on the beach and I pull her close to me. As I nurse her, I wonder if the water remembers what it has witnessed. I look out across the lake and I don’t have to strain my eyes. It is a clear day and I can see New York. 


1 comment:

  1. Yes, Karen. Yes.
    I learned to walk along that boardwalk and then my parents sold the house in 1980(just before the neighbourhood took off) and we moved to the west end.
    Smoking and drinking and kissing and puking all along that rocky shore. Yes.


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