LONG Path Road is dead.
Dad and I sit on the front deck of our sandy bungalow, 11 p.m., him smoking and me trying to adjust to darkness without streetlights.
“Why on earth would anyone build a cabin when you already live in the middle of nowhere?” he says, taking a haul on his cigarette.
I didn’t know Dad had a sense of humor until two years ago, when my relatives and I gathered in my Uncle’s shed, eating homemade beef-jerky, listening to fiddle music, and drinking Black Horse ale.
Dad picked up an old rope tied to a snowmobile and started using it as a skipping rope. Later, when my Aunts and I squatted in the grass to relieve ourselves, I looked up at the glittery darkness and wondered when I had been created equal to my family.
“Don’t let that dog lick your arse!” my Aunts screeched as I toppled over.
But there are no age boundaries, no social constructs here. Among these hills and inside the bay, you’re forced to create bonds. I ride my bike around town and people holler, “HELLO, CANDICE!” I completely forget who they are.
The town is overgrown with alders. My path to the old Catholic school has disappeared. My friends and I used to chug beers on that path before we all graduated high school and moved away.
This year, 28 new homes have been built, and plans are set for a multimillion-dollar government building. The marsh across from our house is being drained to facilitate a new road and a cul-de-sac for more houses. Who in their right minds would build a house here, six hours from the nearest city, a million years away from good healthcare? Travelling halfway across Canada is more bearable than a trip home.
The next evening I run into an old classmate, Kyle. Not yet graduated from University, he and his brother have bought a modern two-storey house among the trees for less than $40,000. They have invested in a tourism business, taking wanderers around the bay for overnight camping trips, windsurfing lessons, and explorations of the many untouched beaches and coves. Around the wind-beaten, freezing coast of southern Newfoundland, Kyle has perfected surfing.
Surprisingly, the pub is filled with people in their twenties and early thirties. A cluster of older people stares at me as I approach the bar for a drink. “Judging by your red hair, you must be a Walsh,” says one man, leaning forward, and his hands gripping his beer.
One can only remain without an identity for so long.
When I awake on my last day in St. Alban’s, I spy Dad’s rucksack sitting by the front door. He’s in the kitchen brewing tea, and he plants a bottle of homemade bakeapple jam on the table for me. The room smells like evergreen trees and wood smoke, and I’m reminded of the time we spent the afternoon hiking through Dad’s trail, pausing to boil tea over a fire in the snow. The best tea I ever had.
Suddenly the city is deader than this town.