"Why I'm off the Pill" Day THREE: Canoe Part Two. May 2010
I did drift off but woke up shortly thereafter in a coughing fit. There was something in my throat. I opened the tent to let in the morning and realized it was a spider I was choking on. To my surprise, the light also made something else perfectly clear. In the night, Michael had repositionned himself lengthwise on the boards. Unreal. I hope Captain Canoe had a peaceful rest. Between the pressure from the barrel in the canoe and the crooked floorboards, my back was aching and my knee had turned black and blue. I was determined not to complain. Stay positive. Surprises. This is what good trips are all about.
I came back to the tent and decided to be brave. After all, I was in one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen in my entire life. A quick shower'll do me some good and some Dylan. Afterwards, we can take our time reading a bit, maybe talking a walk and a nap before hopping back in the canoe. From the looks of the map, we had already done a good leg of the race.
I ran into the man who gave us the sleeping bags at the top of the hill. He frightened me a bit because the day was still blue and while I had gotten in the habit of waking up bright and early, I didn't know many other people who took pleasure in the silence - being able to hear leaves move and the river down below. There is no greater pleasure for me than existing while the rest of the world is asleep. I'm starting to wonder if our conscious minds, our way of life doesn't just drain the world of its innermost beauty.
He called me over and pointed to the sky. It was an eagle, soaring above us, making his rounds of the campsite. It was so beautiful and we didn't speak for quite some time, just watched and enjoyed the moment. Then he said something I didn't understand at all and, like I often do in this country in these types of situations, I just smiled. Partly because I was awkward. Partly because all the good intentions of the day made me happy. Partly because I really had to pee. But mostly because I didn't want to cloud the moment with voices. I asked him if there were any hot showers or if they were all cold. He told me morning was better and that the showers were hot. I wished him a good day and headed directly to the showers, certain that today was going to be different.
The showers are cold. Ice cold. No wait. For a second there, I can feel it warming up. Nope. Still cold. The worst part is that it's a button that pumps the shower for only a minute so I'm doing a freaky naked dance all by myself in a stall dodging the cold water from above and the spiders down below. Oh God. What I wouldn't give for a hot bath.
Back in the tent, Michael is waking up. He's already packing his stuff into the barrel and asks me if I'm almost ready to go. I want to stay. A hike, then? He asks. All I want, all I really want is for there to be no more talking. And to not have to do something that someone else wants to do. I just want to see where the day takes me. This is a holiday, after all. I want for everyone all around me to cease to exist. Not for my own sake but to prevent what's going to happen when I snap. This perpetual feeling is exactly why the vacation was so very required.
I can already feel the tears welling up inside of me. There's no way out of becoming a complainer and I'm ressentful because I'm in no mood to be a bitch. I'm too fucking tired. I find a picnic bench under a tree and I lie there a bit just watching the leaves against the sky, listening to Blowin' In the Wind. The truth is, the moment is perfect and in a sense, sitting here balling my eyes out under a tree feels wonderful. It's the ticking clock that's eating me alive.
Countdown to canoe-time. Michael comes over to the picnic table and I can see that he understands. He patiently tries to calm me down and encourages me to have a nap in the sun. He is being perfect. I look over at the fire he made the night before and imagine what it would be like if I was there, all alone. It would be cold and all I'd want to do is to come home and tell him about everything. Here I am with him and unable to enjoy it. I come to my senses. I apologize and know that I'm probably just exhausted. I can do this.
We pack up and head down to the canoes and set off. The water is way colder than yesterday but I'm actually excited about hitting the first rapids. Michael, however is not happy. Fair enough. It's his turn. We've hit the team of English youngsters and they're taking their time. All the talking is killing him too. We both really need some good old fashioned peace and quiet. You'd think a river in the middle of France would be the solution but not today. Michael has found his own solutions. We have to beat the English guys.
For fuck's sake.
We speed up and do the rapids first. I'm instantly soaked again and today there isn't the sun the dry us off. Michael's becoming quiet adept with the steering. So much so that he is perpelled to take more and more chances. Of course we should go straight for that rockface. Of course.
I try so hard to hold it in but I'm not going to make it much longer. My knee is so sore now and my shoulders exhausted. What on Earth makes me think I'm tough enough for this kind of stuff? I can take just about anything if I know there's a comfortable bed and a shower waiting for me at the other end. Today, however, everything was up in the air. Our differences are shedding more than a little light on the reality of being in a relationship. I want to be comfortable. He wants to suffer some more and live by the seat of his pants. He's suggesting we sleep on a beach tonight or that as soon as we end up back at the dock, we head on a big hike. I'm thinking I'd like a beer and a pizza. Then I'm thinking - and I have every right to. Or do I? I am seriously losing my mind. I'm not sure what is real and what is over-exaggerated and all I want to do is cry. For anyone who knows me, you know this is not my style.
There are several rocks accompanied by naked men others by couples having picnics. Everyone looks so at peace and I'm a bit jealous that they're living my dream but I know that after the emotional outbursts I've forced onto our holiday so far that you can't always get what you want but if you try sometimes...
We could see the dock from a ways away. It was laden with colourful bikinis and tanned torsoes drinking mojitos. When we set off yesterday, we were instructed to dock at the end of the campsite. We paddled away and I was ecstatic knowing that there was a cold drink and the possiblity of a hot meal awaiting me here. That the Hell was finally coming to an end and my body could rest. But Michael sees a rapid to our right.
He just asks.
And that's when it happens. I lose it.
"This is the worst trip I've ever been on in my life! Here I am canoeing! Can't you ever do anything for someone else?"
I'm hysterical and hearing my own voice makes me want to mock me. I hate myself. I head to the nearby bushes to take a pee and then tell Michael I'll be back. We're out of cigarettes. Of course there is only one vendor on this beach open. At least she sells coffee. If there's one thing I love in France, it's the smell of coffee in every establishment in the country and two euros will always buy you a hefty cup of hot happiness. I ask for two to go and sit down beside Michael and tell him that in fact, I may have over-exaggerated. It isn't the WORST trip ever. We talk and he asks the couple docked beside us if they have a cigarette. I'm always amazed at how even the most fit people in France are smokers. The guy gives us two. I feel relieved. The worst has got to be over and at least I've got it all out of my system. Michael makes me smile and asks me what I'd like to do next. We decide we'll get a B & B for the night, eat a nice dinner, play guitar and relax. I'm so happy, I almost don't care that I don't have another pair of shoes.
A new Australian-type shows up to load up our canoes. The others who were privy to my one-man hysterics show had only been going a couple hours. Everyone seemed quite shocked at the descent we had just done so early in the season. The van was warm and when the guy offered me a glass of peach juice I wanted to throw my arms around him and thank him for understanding me. We made it back to the car in one piece and decided to head into town to the tourism office to find a place to stay. I keep repeating over and over that I already found some in the area. That we could call them. That they don't have animals. I think Michael has learned to tune out the sound of my voice now. We're walking through town and I'm feeling like I should buy myself a proper swimsuit since I left all of mine in Italy a couple summers ago (the avid swimmer I am) and the one I've brought with me is for a twelve year old girl. Michael looks so bored just waiting a second while I ask at the first store we cross that I can't bare it. There's nothing worse than shopping with someone who hates shopping. We go for a beer instead. It's the best demi I've ever had and the best cigarette I've ever had and things are finally starting to look up. We walk by a place in town - Vallon Pont d'Arc, that is advertising canoe rentals. Michael sees a sign for 'speleo' and looks at me with wide eyes.
Oh - you mean adventure climbing through caves on a rope? There's no way. You should do it, though. I can find a rock like those old men we saw today and just be naked in the middle of France. Sounds wonderful. He reminds me that we're here to spend time together. I feel incredibly guilty for what I've said but wonder why couples find themselves so compelled to do everything together. It's no wonder most of them are constantly fighting. No two humans can spend that amount of time together without a 'dispute'. I'm going to save myself from one right now though and shut my mouth.
We find a B & B. Go there. They've got dogs...HUGE dogs. Leave. Call a couple more and finally settle on one with a pool in a vineyard outside of the village in a town called St Remeze. Michael is angry with me because I didn't ask on the phone if they had pets. I try a few more - hard to find people with no animals in the south of France. Maybe we could call those ones I just told you I've got in my bag. No no. Apparently my voice is still not making a sound. We find another one called Le Martinade. Michael is convinced it's a more pure, less touristy place. I am doubtful as it's part of the tourist guide. We don't ask the price. We just drive silently.
We arrive and it's stunning. The woman is there in front of her house - a mansion that sits upon hectars of property and vineyards. It's Heaven. I never, ever want to leave. I hear Michael tell the woman that we might be interested in staying a few nights and then I hear her complain about all the maintenance she has to see over, having such a big property. I'm wondering when we're going to get the punchline for the joke. She's not seriously complaining about living here? Is she insane. When she tells me that she won't touch the swimming pool unless it's at least 30 degrees, I walk away reassured that there are bigger bitches than me. That I'm not so high maintenance and that I've just missed feeling like a woman a bit. I'm so excited I could scream. We have our own patio, with a table over looking the vines. The sun is setting. It's romantic and perfect. And there's a hot shower and a place to plug in my blow dryer. Unbelieveably LUXE! We have a little cuddle and this is starting to look like a legitimate vacation.
After we head into town for a little dinner at the place our host recommended. It's called 'Barry's' she said. Michael really wanted to eat some food from the area. My eyes lit up when I found out it was a pizzeria but only for a moment. Of course I can't order a pizza when the menu is this wonderful. I want everything. I'm so hungry. All the plats sound delicious. So do the desserts. This never happens. I'm so used to picking through fatty digestive parts that I've never been faced with such a choice. I settle on the Entrecote (steak) with potato galettes, tomato salad and cheese fondu. A little pichet of red from the vineyard next door goes down nicely. I am officially a happy camper.
We are alone in the restaurant except for a group of six southerners mowing away on their steaks. It's a nice atmosphere. I apologize again for my behaviour and we talk about what we'll do tomorrow. I tell Michael I'm not entirely sure but that I'd like very much to not do much. Lie in the sun if it's nice out, explore if it's not. Just no canoes or rafts or mountain climbing for a day or two. I need a break. He looks at me again with those puppy eyes, like this is going to be the most boring vacation of his life. Poor guy. I try to cheer him up but end up weeping again. I know it's the pill because this is coming out of nowhere. He's sweet and keeps repeating that all he wants is to make me happy. I know it's not true but it sounds so sweet I hold his hand and kiss him on the forehead.
For dessert we have a crepe with honey and almonds. Walking back to the car the wind has started up again and it's quite cold in Ardeche. We're both physically spent. Come back to the room and crash immediately. There is a note reminding us that check-out is at 10:00 if we don't plan to stay a second night. I know I've already decided I don't want to go so I don't worry about making the most of it: lights out. I fall alseep instantly.
This time, it's Michael who can't sleep.
Posted by Julie Jolicoeur at 9:45 AM