Sunday, November 13, 2016

On Melancholy Hill


The election.

I didn't have a TV, so I religiously refreshed the New York Times website, following people's reactions in real time on Twitter and Facebook. As the hours ticked by, we all watched the map grow redder.

When the results were official (I think it was about 3am EST, so about 4:30am here) I got so keyed up I knew I'd never sleep. After a half an hour or forty minutes just sitting there, alternating between numbness and sobbing, staring at the tweets of shock and rage zooming by on my glowing rectangle of a screen, I finally stood up. I knew I couldn't stay in that room anymore. 

Somehow I got clothes on - I don't remember any of this - then the next thing I know I was by the graveyard on Bonaventure Avenue, which is a ten minute's walk away from my apartment. It was about 5:00 in the morning, the sun hadn't even risen, and there was thick, soupy fog everywhere. 

I knew, I just knew that I had to get to the top of Signal Hill to watch the sun rise. It's not like I thought that would make anything better. It was just something I had to do.

Signal Hill on an ordinary day...
...but Signal Hill felt more like Silent Hill on this particular morning.

I hadn't dressed properly. It was cold. I was wearing this thin water-resistant jacket "shell" which was nice for repelling the mist but had nothing in the way of lining, and I'd forgotten to bring a hat or scarf. But I kept walking, and my constant motion and turbulent emotions kept me relatively warm. It's about a 3 mile walk from my corner of campus to the visitor centre below Signal Hill. I made it, pausing only once to watch three birds land on Deadmans Pond, tiny black specks on the patch of rippling dark water I could make out through the white. I had been the only source of noise for miles around and when I stopped all was thick, exquisite, unbroken silence.

Up past the visitor centre, up the path where I sprained my ankle my first week here, up to the barracks and cannons where I took pictures with Rebekah when she had visited. I hadn't even made it to the tower and already the fog was so thick I couldn't see my hands held out in front of me... which was a problem when I realized I was no longer on the path. I knew from my time here before that these cannons were near the edge of quite a tall cliff, but couldn't tell how close I was to the drop-off. I'd lost my bearings completely. I ended up crawling back to a safe jut of rock and sitting there, waiting for the mist to part so I could find my way.

I'd like to say this was a profound experience, but mostly it was just profoundly miserable. I had to wait nearly an hour. The chill from the rock I was sitting on crept through my clothing and settled in my bones like an ache. I felt too nothing and everything to cry anymore. I just stared out in the direction I guessed the ocean would be, waiting for a sun I couldn't even see to somehow break through the awful choking fog. In my head this was supposed to be beautiful, I thought, but now nothing's clear. I'm literally trapped by uncertainty. Subtle as a sledgehammer, as metaphors go.

But this story doesn't end in that same over-the-top manner, with the clouds suddenly parting to reveal a glorious sunrise over the water and our heroine realizing that things aren't completely hopeless. No.  In our tale, the weary, benumbed traveler manages to find the path again and staggers back down the hill to a world just as bleak as she had left it. But at least there was a cafe at the bottom of the hill, its sign flipped to read 'OPEN.' I went in and bought myself tea (in my crazy numb state I had still managed to grab my keys and wallet), and soon was warmed enough to continue, and by the time I stepped outside again the sun was fully up, the mist a mere smudge around the edges of reality. Early morning commuters were already up and making their way about the city. 

I hiked back up to campus, collapsed in my bed, and slept through class.

And that's how you react, ladies and gents, when you come to the realization that the world is about to enter (or perhaps has already entered) a very dark chapter in its history, and that all your attempts to stop it have failed. Mark my words: 2016 will be an important date in future history books.... But if this election is anything to go by, I'd much rather read history than live it.

No comments: