York University, those days was a collection of some tall, disjointed buildings with quite a bit of space in-between. Daniel had made advance arrangements to live in one of the Graduate Residence buildings, which were not exactly the Graduate Residence buildings, it is just that about all the graduate students living in the residences lived in those buildings, and so did the married student couples. Furthermore, York made no distinction between ‘those who were living in misery and those who were living in sin.’ Therefore, all they required for a couple wanting to live together was that one of them be a student at York. The students took full advantage of this rule; particularly those who were ‘living neither in misery, nor in sin.’
Daniel was quite bewildered by the shape of the buildings, which he didn’t find aesthetically appealing, and by such rules. In time he was in for more surprises. For now, he decided to explore the campus. He noticed a ‘pond’ and walked towards it. There he found a female student gazing at the water.
“This is a very strange pond;” Daniel said trying to strike a conversation.
“Oh, it isn’t a pond, it’s a man-made lake.”
“Man-made lake! What the hell is a man-made lake?”
“Builders needed the dirt to use in construction; they dug it out of here and filled the hole with water.”
“Water would go stale soon and stink.”
“They took care of that. You see there; water keeps coming into the lake and drains on the other side.”
“And voila, there is a lake!”
That was another bewildering thing for Daniel; he was used to seeing lakes, beautiful lakes, in the wild made by nature.
“Where do you come from?” the girl had sensed by this time that he was new there.
“I was born in the countryside near Kensington in the Prince Edward Island. Went to the Kensington High; and then did my undergraduate from the Dalhousie University in Halifax. …”
“Now I can understand why you’d be bewildered by the things around here; an uprooted country boy planted in a concrete jungle; must be a culture shock for you.”
“Not sure but bewildering it certainly is. All these concrete pavements and buildings that look like fat pillars! This is all so un-natural, so unaesthetic. Dalhousie is different from Kensington, not exactly a countryside, but the architecture is aesthetically appealing there, pleases the eyes; here it pierces the eyes. … How long can one survive around here!” …
“Have you eaten? the girl asked.
“No. I’ll have to find a restaurant. You should know the whereabouts of some places to eat around here.”
“That will be later; for now, you see that lawn over there. The students have set up a big barbecue there. They are serving free hamburgers. We can go eat there.”
“Free hamburgers! That’s weird; this is more like a country-like tradition. By now I was beginning to believe that people must have hearts of concrete here, and everything is measured in dollars and cents.”
“In fact, this is surprising to me too.” …
“I should unpack now; …”
“After having a hamburger.”
He laughed as he said, “Yes we should look after our stomachs first.”
They walked across the lawn to the barbecue, where a few students were cooking. After eating, they walked back to the residences. Daniel asked, “This is so isolated a place. There is not much here north of 401, except this university. How far will I have to go to find a bar?”
“Oh, they have several student bars right here on campus.”
Daniel invited the girl to accompany him after unpacking, which she agreed promptly to; and parted to go to their respective residences.
“I didn’t catch your name.”
“Because I didn’t tell you. Karina, you may call me Kerry; and yours?”
“What name you go by, Dan or Danny?”
“I prefer my full name: Daniel.”
“O.K. Daniel; see you in a while.”
“I’ll look forward to it.”
He learned that the girl was originally from Milwaukee U.S.A., and she had enrolled to graduate in the humanities, her major being Psychology. This was her second year.
“I might go for my graduate studies in Psychology; will see how things go.”
They enjoyed the drinks, and dances on the patio. Music from the pounding of drums was deafening, making it difficult to hear.
“Why do they play it so loud?” Daniel asked, during a period of silence.
“To prevent people from conversing.”
“That’s odd. What purpose does it serve?”
“If people talk, they’ll only bore each-other, and likelihood of a discord will increase. They want to keep couples interested in each-other. These methods have been developed over time. … It can’t be much different in Halifax, in Kensington may be, but not in Halifax.”
“Apparently they are quite similar, one can even call them the same, but there is something underlying them, that’s different; fundamentally different;” Daniel said after a thoughtful pause.
“You’ll get used to it and believe me you might even come to like and prefer it. Humans are very bored people Daniel, keeping them together takes some doing, in fact a great deal of doing. Bored people form bored couples, come to ‘love’ each-other, or so they think, and tie the knots; and you know the rest: Head to the divorce court. …”
“Not always;” Daniel said gasping for air.
“Yes, not always. I was just being a bit sarcastic together with being truthful, at least partially. You see Daniel, in the name of forming unions, we just maintain the separation. So, the marriages are doomed to fail from the beginning.”
“This is getting depressing.”
“Yes, sorry to have diverted the conversation in this direction. … We may be able to use some diversion.”
“OK., let them start pounding on their drums, and we can go for a dance.
They didn’t have to wait for long.
Daniel was used to somewhat different moves than Kerry. Still, they managed to coordinate their dance. Whatever the case, it did serve its purpose: Diversion. They were now free from the burden of any serious conversation.
By the time the bar closed, they both were a bit tipsy.
They came to the point where they had to part to go to their respective residences.
“I can take a couple of more drinks. I have some scotch; having my drinks with a company will be more enjoyable;” said Kerry, “But the bottle was opened quite a while back; hope it is not gone stale.”
“I have an old bottle of scotch; my father gave me as a parting gift. That can’t be stale. On top of that, it is aged.”
“Alright, we can go to your place.”
That’s how they ended up at Daniel’s place.
“I don’t have ability to consume much more. You can make your drink the way you like, I’ll make a light one for myself.”
“You should let yourself lose sometime Daniel. We are over-burdened by our conscious life; we should part from it at times;” Kerry said as she looked inside the fridge, “You have beer also. We were drinking beer in the bar; may be, we can stick to beer for tonight; that will be light also for you; save the aged scotch for some special occasion.”
Dear reader, let’s leave something to the imagination. All that matters is that they ended in bed together, in each-other’s arms. Kerry got up from the bed and wiped her sweat and lit a cigarette.
“I thought that you didn’t smoke, you didn’t smoke in the bar.”
“I noticed that you didn’t smoke; so, I was being considerate. Had I felt a strong urge, I would have smoked. But after an act of sex, I must have a cigarette.;” Kerry said as she took a puff, “You’ll discover something good in it and start yourself.”
“I was hoping that you might be influenced by me and quit.”
“You are very naïve Daniel. … Humans have a strong tendency to go only in one direction: Decadent.”
“Tell me Kerry, we just met, barely knew each other; and you made love with me, made love with a stranger!”
“You never cease to amaze me Daniel. Where was love here? It was sex, pure sex; we had sex, not made love. … What big liars we humans are Daniel; we can’t admit even to having sex with each other; we camouflage by covering it with ‘making love;’ why can’t we be honest?”
“Oh, and I thought that we just came close to each-other a bit quickly! … Started loving each-other quickly … ”
“That was sex, Daniel; and there will be more; the night is still young; and there are many more nights to follow. Let me tell you Daniel, I believe that a woman should not be without a man for more than three nights; …”
“That is a Bohemian, gypsy, saying.”
“Yes, gypsies got that very right. So, a woman should not go without a man for more than three nights; and Daniel, I have been without a man’s company for about three weeks. When I was gazing at the lake-water, yes, I was gazing at the lake water, but also pitying myself for being without a man for more than three weeks. And the powers that be listened to me, or took pity on me, and there you were.”
Daniel learned that Kerry had lived with a guy during the last year, but he didn’t return this year.
“Even if he had returned, I wouldn’t have cohabited with him. One academic year is long enough with one partner; … that too, if there are some diversions in-between;” Kerry said.
“I’m quite amazed Kerry, that you can form unions so easily. … I met a girl way back, Emily is her name; yes, it was quite a while back, and she stays in my mind, always, to the extent that when I’m with you, I feel guilty. … I went to Dalhousie for four years, and Emily was always with me; in my mind, I mean. …”
“You are a square Daniel. Nature has given us bodies with a purpose; it has given us senses with a purpose; why waste them? Use them to the hilt; glean as much pleasure out of them as possible Daniel; they are at their prime only for so long; after that, their abilities themselves will wane. … Let me go into the mythology. Why did God give Adam and Eve the organs and the sexual urge? It was God who created the apple tree, and who sent the serpent? Who created Lucifer and then the almighty couldn’t control His own creation? It’s all hogwash Daniel; the church has screwed us, the humans. Live as nature has decreed. Love if you must but enjoy first. … You aren’t saying anything Daniel.”
“I’m bewildered, quite bewildered. You are throwing so much at me that digging out of it is a big task for me.”
“My little baby has to grow up;” Kerry said as she twisted Daniel’s nose.
“You obviously don’t go to the church:” Daniel commented.
“What do you take me for, a fool? Of course not. I don’t go to the church. Do you?”
“And you believe in God.”
“All the sexual abuses by the priests do not bother you?”
“They are only a few bad apples.”
“Oh really? All those residential schools? Daniel, church has been an instrument; actually, the instrument. For the cultural genocide.”
“What you call the cultural genocide, it occurred because of our effort to dominate the natives.”
“You are really naïve Daniel, really naïve. Hope I can teach you something before I leave you. …”
“You are thinking of leaving me? I thought we were hitting it well.”
“I’m slippery as an eel Daniel; I’m a tracker, continuously moving, exploring, and I shall continue with my ways. So yes Daniel, you are just a stopover for me, which happened to be there when I needed one for some rest. As soon as I notice a better stopover, I’m gone. … My baby won’t be hurt, will you?”
“I’ll learn to live with it.”
“And you were telling me that Emily never goes out of your mind.”
“I have a special place for her, although I didn’t spend much time with her, after childhood. … Are all girls like you around here.”
“Most are but wear an Emilian mask; I like to call it ‘masque;’ meaning masquerading as innocent Emilies, but deep inside, they are all like me. I’m just honest, most are hypocrites. … Don’t be surprised Daniel, if someday you discover that Emily is no Emily herself.”
“I thought that living together without commitment was for convenience only; otherwise, they live platonically.”
“Some are stupid enough to do that; waste a free company, while they can enjoy each-other, provide pleasure to each other.”
“Will you ever get married, Kerry?”
“Why on earth would I want to get married? … Tie myself up with one man when I can enjoy the whole wide World. … Well, I can have an open marriage; move around as I do now; but men aren’t that open minded. They like their freedom but don’t grant the same to women. … Women want their freedom, but they grant the same to men. …”
“That’s anarchy Kerry. Would you even know whose child are you carrying?”
“For one thing Daniel, why would I want to have a child, the world has too many people as is. When there will be a shortage of people, we’ll see. Then if I decide to have a child why would I want to know whose child it is; would it not suffice to know that it was sired by a man; all men are the same Daniel. … I find a man, enjoy him, and forget him; if I cannot take the second step soon enough or I’m not deriving enough pleasure, I take the third step immediately.”
… “What a stooge I am. Knowing full well that you are using me, I’m going along, with pleasure!” Daniel said after a long thoughtful pause.
“Don’t feel so bad Daniel; we all use each-other because we fulfill each-other’s needs. As for going along, you cannot not do so. … Action binds you; you would not even want to escape that binding force, even if you could at all.”
…. “It’s getting very heavy. Why are you always so intense?”
“You make me so Daniel; in isolation, we don’t exist; we acquire existence in relation with our surroundings, our environment.”
The courses started soon, and Daniel got busy with work. Kerry kept giving him the company. Daniel himself was becoming rather unconcerned with the whole affair. He was in it for it was providing him the release and comfort he needed to focus on his studies. Often, he thought of Emily when he was with Kerry.
He started visiting CN Tower periodically. The Tower was just being built; he followed its construction from the foundation up. One day returning after visiting the tower, he was getting off the bus on campus as a young homely girl with big, beautiful breasts, too got off the bus. The girl spoke first: “What are you studying here?”
“Business administration; and you?”
“I’m in Sciences, Biology. This is my second year.”
“Where are you from?”
“I’m from Peterborough; it is a small city not too far from Toronto.”
“What name do you go by?”
“Lynn, and you?”
Lynn started finding opportunities to get acquainted with Daniel. If she saw him in cafeteria, she would join him. One day he was looking for a seat, Lynn was sitting with another girl; she called out to him: “Come join us.”
They got to know each other well quite soon and started visiting each other. One day Lynn suggested that they cook every Sunday’s supper together; “This will provide us a diversion, variation. The food in cafeteria is so mundane. I can cook some nice dishes, and you might know some PEI Recipes.”
“Not really; I’m not much of a cook. … Well, I together with my friends used to go to the fields at times, dig out some potatoes and grab a fish or two, from the stream. … .”
“Grabbed fish from the stream! You mean fished?”
“No, just grab. The stream was shallow, and fish swam around. Several of us would block their way; use some stones for help; they could not escape; and we would just grab them. After some practice, it got quite easy.”
Lynn was still shaking her head in bewilderment, while Daniel picked up the thread: “Where was I; yes, we grabbed fish and dug out some potatoes. Then, if we found some leaves around, we would wrap the potatoes and fish in them, then covered them with mud; some time we would skip the leaves, just wrapped them in mud; then we would bury them in wood-fire that we would build with wood collected from the fields. What we got would taste like poached fish and baked potatoes.”
“That’ funny, you baked both the fish as well as the potatoes; but the potatoes tasted baked and fish, poached!” “Well, they both probably tased baked but one of us exclaimed the very first day, that the fish tasted like poached; and that’s what we started calling them, poached;” he continued after a pause:
“It was in my childhood; you see, juvenile vagaries of childhood; my childhood was spent near Kensington.”
“I’ll cook some genuine poached fish and baked potatoes for you; and I’ll bring my chess set along; we can play chess also.”
“I’m a very poor chess player, are you good?”
“Oh no; I’m just trying to learn. We can learn together.”
“That will be nice.”
On the first Sunday together, Daniel invited Kerry over as well.
“Are you enjoying your courses;” Kerry asked.
“I’m just getting to know things around here; will find out how things go as the year progresses;” Daniel said.
“The question was addressed to both of you;” Kerry commented.
“Oh, it’s about the same with me. Incidentally, they have a quite good green house.”
“Yes, I have seen that;” Kerry added, “A friend showed me the plants; I liked particularly the cacti; cacti always grab my attention; they cast a kind of hypnotic spell on me.”
“Yes, they have a subtle beauty; they are so symmetrical; we have some, in PEI …”
“Cacti in Canada!” Kerry exclaimed, “I didn’t see any around here.”
“Yeah, variety of cacti grow in Canada, with beautiful flowers. There seem to be none around Toronto.”
“Not around Toronto, but if you are willing to travel to Point Peele National Park. You can find a few around there; not those beautiful ones; cacti, nevertheless;” mentioned Lynn.…
There wasn’t anything spectacular about the evening, just a normal social evening. After a while Lynn left, Kerry stayed behind; and of course, for the night.
On the next Sunday, Daniel didn’t invite Kerry, and Lynn got a free rein on him.
“What’s your purpose in joining York?” Lynn asked while cooking.
“To study and learn, build foundation for a career in business administration. Isn’t it the same with everybody?”
“Oh no, it is with me but not with most. They come here less for education, more for sex and to find a mate; I’m not here to hunt for a husband.”
“More than one activity of life can go together.”
“Do you have a girlfriend?
“What do you mean ‘Not really;’ either you have one or you don’t.”
“Some time it is not so clear cut.”
“You just joined York; so, you could not have met someone to make a girlfriend here yet. … Someone from your past?”
“There is a girl Emily; I knew during my younger days. I was still in the High School.”
“Those are adolescent fantasies; they don’t have a permanent value; Emily may be a very different girl now than the one you knew; you cannot form a permanent bond.”
“Those things happen along the way. Haven’t you heard of the term ‘High School sweetheart;’ they are better left there. … You didn’t meet any at Dalhousie?”
“Met but none lasted for long.”
“You’ll meet someone at York. … The food is ready.”
“This is the second time you have made the same dishes.”
“We won’t continue with that; I just wanted you to have your fill of poached fish and baked potatoes. Now you know the taste of poached fish;” Lynn said while placing the food on the table. … Does it taste better that the fish you called poached around Kensington.”
Daniel laughed rather loudly as he answered, “Yes, at least it tastes like poached fish.”
“Oh so, you know the taste.”
“Of course, I know the taste; my mother used to make some occasionally. It’s just that the one out of us called the fish we cooked poached, on the very first day; so, we started calling it so, even though we knew the difference.”
After eating, Lynn showed a little hurry in wanting to leave, “I have to submit an assignment tomorrow and I haven’t completed it yet.”
“That will be fine. Good luck with your assignment.”
Then she hesitated, “I think it would be impolite of me to leave immediately after eating. I can do the assignment later, or in the morning and hand it in the afternoon; it won’t take long.”
“No, no; you shouldn’t be so casual about the course work; that must come first.”
“I guess,” and she left with “See you next Sunday.” Daniel sensed that she didn’t want to leave, wanted Daniel to ask her to stay a while longer.
As soon as Lynn left, his phone rang. It was Kerry. She wanted to come over.
“Isn’t it a bit too early?”
“This is Sunday; we can relax a bit.”
In time, Lynn told Daniel that Kerry was a social butterfly; she used men and threw away like trash. Then she moves on to her next victim. On the other hand, Kerry told Daniel that Lynn was a frustrated bitch; she plays games: Comes close, dangles a carrot in front of the guy, and the only carrot she got is her boobs and her cooking skills, then pulls away to play ‘hard to get;’ she’ll give you nothing, until you buy her the diamond ring.
“She hasn’t gotten her ring, yet.”
“Once she succeeds. She won’t leave the fellow alone to keep him from drifting away. you see, she is kind of ugly; so, she has to use such tricks to get one.”
Kerry noticed that they were drinking wine.
“Let’s serve ourselves another glasses of wine to get in the mood;” Kerry suggested.
“Alright;” Daniel said unenthusiastically; “Isn’t it beginning to look like pre-programmed?”
“There is no spontaneity in it, no art. Desire should spring in heart; it should be an inspiration.”
“It is springing in my heart, in fact, jumping up and down.”
“You called with a plan, and now following a pattern.”
“Daniel, you are too immature; we are adults. Don’t be surprised if I call you for a quicky sometime.”
“Nothing would surprise me about you anymore.”
Kerry burst out laughing, “I take this as a complement. … Isn’t Lynn getting predictable?”
“Come to think of it, yes.”
“So why complain about me?”
“In our case, there is emotional involvement.”
“Don’t waste your emotions on me Daniel; you’ll be hurt. I told you, I’m a slippery eel. I don’t stay in one place for long.”
“You aren’t showing any signs of moving on.”
“You amuse me; there is an exotic innocence about you that grabs me.”
“With you around, it won’t last for long.”
Kerry burst out laughing, “That’ll serve my purpose. … you see Daniel, coincidence brought us together, and your innocence grabbed me, and it is your innocence that is holding me.”
“I feel so used.”
“But you can’t get out of it, so go along with it. Serve me another glass and come sit beside me; let me smooch you; … . you see, Daniel, I like to play with my pray like cat plays with mouse before pouncing at it.”
“I’m a pray for you?”
“Yup. … You see Daniel, once a mouse is under the cat’s spell, it can’t get out; so, come here and let me consume my meal.”
“What have I become? Trapped between a husband-hunter pretending to be completely opposite, and a black widow, proudly boasting of it. Aren’t there any normal girls around here. Or this is the norm here. … Oh well, I’m paying due attention to my course work; I’ve made a good impression on the professors and my peers;” Daniel thought.
Time was passing between his course work, Lynn, Kerry, and there was quite a bit more. “I should move on; find a new nest to roost;” Daniel thought one day, “Lynn and Kerry are becoming a bit irritating; and I should have some guy-buddies.”
As is said, where is a will, there is a way. Daniel made other friends, both: males and females. Mid-term was over, and the year was nearing its end. By this time, his friendship with Lydia, a new girl he had met was developing slowly, and quietly. Among his male friends, Sylvan, a fourth-year student in Theatre, had come quite close to Daniel. His new friends weren’t wild as Kerry and manipulative as Lynn. He felt calm and peaceful with his new friends, but he coveted an occasional dose of the company of each, Lynn and Kerry. Idiosyncratic individuals often cast hypnotic spells on us. He would visit both, one at a time; and invite them over also, but not as regularly as before.
One day he stopped by Lynn’s place and asked if she was in mood for a game of chess.
“Let me ask Tommie,” Lynn said. She phoned someone, came to Daniel, and said, “He said that it was fine, so we can go for a game.”
“Is Tommie your new boyfriend?”
“The first one?”
“First meaningful one.”
“Life of this kind of relationships is usually around six months.”
“This one is going to endure.”
“I hope and wish so; where is he from?”
“He’s your neighbor; from Charlottetown, PEI.”
“Yes, he is a neighbor alright; but he’s from the city, and I’m from a town, in fact countryside; I only lived near a town. These City Folks are very different from us the country people; but we are neighbors, nevertheless.”
The lives moved on. Lynn started flaunting her new boyfriend Tommie, becoming even insulting towards Daniel. She was knitting sweaters and the like for him; and doing quite a bit more. There was a mild taunt in her mannerism, as if saying, “See you didn’t value me, but I found a beholder.” The fellow was her conquest after years of efforts, and consistent failures. In addition, she started talking about the details of their sexual activities. Daniel didn’t ask her explicitly, but it was quite clear that she had acquired her first sexual experience with Tommie; so late in life. At times, Lynn would comment, “With you I experience intellectual connect only, with Tommie, it is intellectual as well as emotional. …”
“And physical;” Daniel joked.
“Yes.” Lynn said emphatically with a stretched sound.
“This has gotten so intense that it will have to be marriage.”
She had found her holy grail, her soulmate, her man, and that too a ‘hero.’ Daniel felt strongly that she was in for a big shock. In his personal life however, he was quite content with his new circle of friends with interjections of Lynn and Kerry, who had by now become fun-filled diversions for him. Lynn provided him an occasional company mainly because she needed to flaunt her Tommie, and Kerry, for resurrecting her old moments or if she had no one else available.
Exams were upon their heads. Daniel, being a dedicated student, became quite busy and cut down his social activities. To Lynn, Tommie was the prime concern; she had started planning their next year, probably contemplating renting a Married Students Apartment. As for Kerry, there was no change; she carried on with her life as usual; come hail or high water, her primary concern was to satisfy her carnal desires; which appeared to be more for the thrill she got out of it than her carnal urges.
Exams over, all three stayed on campus for one reason or the other. Daniel worked on his project, Lynn wanted to linger on to her Tommie boy, and Kerry found a job in a store on campus. Out of his other friends, some stayed around but some had to leave.
Before the summer was over, Daniel’s prediction came true: Tommie broke off with Lynn, quite abruptly. One day she remarked, “You had even alerted me, I didn’t heed your advice. I understand well now that the love is blind.”
“First thing Lynn, it is you who was blinded, not what you call love; secondly, what blinds you in not love, it is something quite different.”
“I ask myself: ‘What I fell for!’ how could I?”
For the first time, she mentioned, “I’m not pretty Daniel; attracting men is not easy for a homely girl like me. … You never showed any interest in me;” she said in a complaining manner.
“Why should I? …There is a man for every woman and a woman for every man, good looking and bad looking. We aren’t for each-other. As for your failures, it’s not just because of your looks Lynn, some of your personality traits are also in your way.” ….
“You are clearly a hypocrite; you say that you are not here for husband-hunting, while you dedicate most of your efforts to finding a husband. Then you exude a clear message that one can have your boobs but ‘buy me a ring first.’ You bargain. On top of that you play hard to get. … You should allow the relation to grow … or die, naturally.”
Lynn said not a word. Apparently, she didn’t like what Daniel had said, just left.
After that, one day Lynn encountered Daniel on a walkway. They walked along together for a while. She commented, “You Islanders are liars and cheaters.”
“How many Islanders do you know?” Daniel asked after a thoughtful pause.
Lynn didn’t respond; so, Daniel answered himself:
“Two, your Tommie, the wonderful, and I, who didn’t act according to your expectations; … or shall we say, according to your desires. … And you formed an opinion about the whole of PEI, and more!”… “I’m proud of my country culture; my Island heritage, Lynn; you have insulted me in the past; I felt bad about that but tolerated; now you insult something bigger than me; much bigger; that’s different. … Count your gains from my company; and my gains, or shall we say, my losses, opportunity cost, and all that. … Rather than thanking me for alerting you, you started blaming me for someone else’s actions. As for your personal relation with your great hero Tommie is concerned, he treated you like a sex-slave, and you were a willing sex-slave; he didn’t buy you a ring, just dangled a ring in front of you, as you dangle your boobs in front of every guy passing by; you both tried to manipulate each other; he succeeded, you failed; one was going to win, the other was going to lose; he won, you lost. Frustrated at your failure, you started accusing me of what you consider his ‘misdeeds;’ started projecting him onto me; and for not asking you out; cursing me and insulted my heritage! … This won’t do missy, just won’t do.”
After that, there were only occasional casual encounters between Daniel and Lynn.
Summer was over, and the students were returning on campus. Lydia phoned Daniel as soon as she arrived. Daniel invited her over.
“How did your summer pass?” Daniel asked Lydia.
“It was quite fine; … but I missed you.”
“How about you?”
“It was interesting; managed to squeeze in a visit to my parental place also.”
“I’m sure you enjoyed it.”
“Yes, I did. … I think, we should celebrate our return on
That evening, Daniel and Lydia had dinner together. After that, they just sat and chatted. After a while, Daniel asked, “Would you like to go for a couple of drinks? Bars on campus were the first things to open. Some were open all summer long, anyway.”
“You must have some wine.”
“Yes, there is a bottle, in the fridge.”
“We may as well enjoy the evening in solitude and make up for the lost time.”
“That’ll be fine with me.”
Evening passed quite quickly. Lydia yawned.
“I think you are tired;” Daniel commented.
“Yes; I should go to bed.”
“That’ll be fine.”
“Can you walk me to my place?”
“I can, but you can sleep here; I have an air mattress; I can sleep on that; you can sleep in my bed.”
“I can sleep on the air mattress; you should sleep in your bed.”
“You are my guest for the night; so, you should have the bed.”
“Alright; I can sleep in your bed. … But I have nothing with me: No pajamas, no toothbrush, no towel, nothing.”
“I have spare pajamas and toothbrushes, and no shortage of towels either. … Make yourself comfortable. … Here are the pajamas;” Daniel said as he passed a pair of pajamas to Lydia.
Lydia fell asleep as soon as she got into the bed. Daniel turned the nightlight on; and served himself another drink. He got to thinking about Emily whom he had met during his last visit to his parental place. She was working as an accountant in a government office after her bachelors from Victoria, on the Pacific coast. She told him that she was seeing a guy working in the same office in Kensington. She recalled our adolescent vagaries: Roaming in the fields and catching fish from the stream with our bare hands; digging potatoes from the fields, didn’t matter which field; about everyone had a son or a daughter among us, at one time or the other; and yes, the climax - baking them by burying in woodfire; wrapped in mud, of course; ‘our poached fish and baked potatoes.’
“I miss those days Daniel;” she had said.
“Yes, those were the days Emily.”
“We should resurrect them.”
“That’s tempting Emily, but what would the people think?”
“Screw the people.”
Daniel laughed, and then said, “May be someday Emily; but for now, we should just be contended by watching those kids who are carrying the tradition.” …
“How was your year at York?”
“It was interesting. The beginning was the strangest time and the people I have ever met, but towards the year’s end, I met some people I felt comfortable with; Lydia, Sylvan, others; … . How did you like in BC?”
“It was different.”
“Met any interesting people?”
“Yes, but no one stuck around. There is nothing like the surroundings of Kensington.” She had said. …
“How serious is your relationship with this fellow in your office?”
“It’s on the backburner for the time being. Most of my friends are married and they apply pressure on me to join the herd;” she had said.
“Lydia;” he called out in a low voice, which Lydia could obviously not hear, “Mind serving me another drink dear?”
It appeared that he was talking to himself, just imagining that he was talking to Lydia. He was getting somewhat tipsy; served himself another drink, killing the bottle.
“Where was I? Oh yes. So, what have you decided?”
“Nothing yet. … The guy keeps putting the question off, asking for some more time. … What was her name? Oh yeah, Lydia; how is it with her?”
“Nothing. No such thing has developed yet.”
“You think, it might develop this year?” she had said.
“Might, but do we have to look away from Kensington to form unions? … There is a hypnotic attraction in these fields Emily; we can run away from them, but they always pull us back.”
Daniel crashed into his air mattress and covered himself with a sheet.
Year was passing serenely as a gentle breeze, not like the previous year, which was wild stormy like a hurricane. This year Lynn was nowhere in sight; neither was Kerry. Meetings of Daniel and Lydia increased.
“I cannot decide between Lydia and Emily;” He said to himself, “I was going to talk to Emily during this year hoping for a favorable answer; but now I cannot leave Lydia. … and cannot leave Emily. … Hmm, aren’t you taking Emily and Lydia for granted? … What if they don’t want you; one or both? … I’ll be hurt, but That’ll solve the problem. … I’ll be hurt, no matter what.” …
He shook his head as he thought:
“Emily is a product of Kensington’s surroundings; she has grown there; with streams and fish; with potato-fields around; she is your kind; … Should I look away from Kensington? … but Lydia appears to be a copy of Emily. … It was better last year; no decision to make.” …
During the Christmas break, Daniel decided to visit Kensington; and of course, talk to Emily. Lydia visited her parents. It was usual for the students to visit their parental families during the Christmas breaks.
After reaching his parental farm, Daniel called Emily, and asked to see her. They met in a café in Kensington.
“I was going to call you Daniel, but I knew, you would be here on Christmas. This is the time to give you a surprise news.” She flashed her finger with a diamond ring; the wedding will be sometime during the summer; “You’ll attend of course.”
He felt a momentary twinge, but regained his composure quickly, and congratulated her.
“Of course, Emily, I’ll be here for the wedding.” …
“I noticed that you are a bit hurt.”
Daniel took a rather long thoughtful pause, then said, “Yes, I felt a twinge Emily but not hurt. I do have feelings for you; did and always will. That’s why I shouldn’t be hurt by your happiness. Love is not to want the object of one’s love for oneself Emily, not to want happiness for oneself; love is to avail happiness to the object of one’s love. You got engaged with that guy tells me that your relationship with him had matured; appeared to be so. You are happy with him; so yes, I’m happy for you. Even if Lydia wasn’t there, I’d still have been happy for you; that would, in fact, have been the true test of my feelings; but should we strive for a test, or for happiness; can we not be confident and trusting rather than having to prove things all the time. Must one suffer to prove one’s feelings. … Let’s not get into that quagmire Emily; just be happy that the things are turning out the way they are, the universe is unfolding the way it is. …”
“Year is nearing its end Lydia; what are your plans after that?” Daniel mentioned one day to Lydia.
“Will try to find a job; and you?”
“Same. Will you look for job around Toronto?”
“Not sure. How about you?”
“I’ll try to return home.”
“I’ll try to settle around Kensington; …”
“And marry Emily.”
“Oh, forgot to tell you; Emily is engaged now. Even if she wasn’t, there are other factors.”
“Something has happened between us latterly; that has thrown my thought process off track.”
“I have come to love you Lydia; haven’t you noticed?”
“I have; but have you noticed that the feeling is mutual.”
“Yes, and that was the dilemma: I came to love you both, and you both had feelings for me.”
“Are you feeling that way because Emily is no longer available?”
“That you have to ask yourself Lydia. If your answer is ‘yes,’ then we’ll part and be just friends; if your answer is ‘no,’ if the answer is that my feelings for you are independent of whether Emily was available or not, then there are possibilities. … Emily’s engagement has solved the problem for me; but only partially. … I was going to get hurt either way; losing either one of you wasn’t going to go well with me; so, this is not the best situation for me; I have lost Emily but still got you; it could be worse: I could have lost both; but I would still have been happy for both, for you too would have moved for something better. …She’ll always be a good friend. … We can find a job in Kensington and settle around there.”
“What if we don’t find jobs in Kensington, that’s a town of less than two thousand people only.”
“Yes, but there are offices and business buildings there; they serve the surrounding communities, and except the two cities: Charlottetown and Summerside, and about a dozen towns and the like, there is not much there to serve the entire province. So, there is always a need for skilled professionals in places like Kensington; besides, not many people want to go there; so, there is always demand for professionals, and not much competition for them. … If worse comes to worst Lydia, my father has a big farm, which I’ll inherit someday; managing the farm will be quite a chore. We can make more money elsewhere, but we’ll be not be happy; around Kensington, we’ll be happy. … You’ll get used to the countryside.”
“I have gotten used to you; so, I’ll get used to Kensington for sure.”
When the time came, Daniel headed home. Lydia went to her parents; promising to join him soon after.