A___ and I promise to quit drinking and smoking and chewing and pills and pot and coffee and overeating and impatience (where applicable). We draw up a plan, which reads largely like this: we get in a canoe with two fishing poles, a tarp, two paddles, some worms, a flashlight, and some matches in a ziplock bag – our homemade detox.
We put in up above Tionesta. That first night, the sky closes in fast and we’ve never seen so much rain, and, once we hit the island, we can’t decide whether we should make a shelter first or build a fire. We can’t decide whether we should wade out in the deluge to find some crayfish for dinner or whether we should eat the worms. The short version of the story ends with us hungry and soaking wet, wrapped up in the tarp like so much meat inside a big blue burrito. In the middle of the night, I catch a fourteen-inch Maglite with the back of my head, because A___ woke from a dream in which I was a bear, sleeping in his tent. An honest mistake; we think no more of it. Next morning, A___ catches a crayfish and we can’t agree whether we should eat it or fish with it. In the meantime, I notice a Maple tree about two feet in diameter, shaped like a U, the trunk running horizontal for about twenty feet along the ground. A___ cannot fucking believe I’m worrying about trees at a moment like this – seconds after he’s baited his hook and I decided we should get on the river. We get on the river and there’s not a cloud in the sky, not a drop of sunscreen in the universe, and the minute I get my hook baited, Ange decides we should try to row like hell, the forty or so miles downriver to the camp. We throw up our hands in frustration. A___ decides he’ll agree with whatever I want to do, and that pisses me off, because I need his input, not his fucking approval.
I decide to act like I’m the only person in the world on the river, and I’m not sure what A___ does for the next couple hours, even as I steer us to shore under a bridge and watch him walk up over the hill. Now I’m the only person in the world on land, and when he gets back down the hill, I don’t know A___’s opinion about us carrying the canoe up to the road, and when D___ gets there I act like I’m the only person in the world tying the canoe to his roof, sitting in the car, walking into the restaurant. We smoke D___’s cigarettes while we wait for our omelets, acting like we’re each the only person in the world in that booth.
D___ asks us how our trip went. We stub our smokes and don’t look at each other and don’t talk about that canoe trip for more than six years at which point we’re good good buddies again, chewing tobacco and drinking our beer and smoking our pot and popping our pills and drinking our coffee and impatiently overeating (where applicable) and having a laugh about the tenure of our friendship, and A___ says, “You know, sometimes, when I think about that canoe trip, I still get pissed at you.” I set down my beer and lean forward a bit and say, “You? Get pissed? At me?”