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Five Years Ago And Three Thousand Miles Away

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When I left Ray and returned to Canada...

Even now, I find it surprisingly difficult to say.

When I left Ray and returned to Canada as I did, in a fit of madness and blind panic, the last memory I took was of him standing in the middle of his apartment, our apartment, looking lost and alone.

It was much later before I could bear to take that memory out and examine it, to realise how completely the two of us, as a couple, had taken over that space and displaced his old life. His band posters replaced by battered maps: King William Island, Beechey Island. His closets full of waterproofs and mukluks alongside t-shirts and biker boots. A pair of snowshoes mounted on the wall. An array of whalebone and antler carvings crammed into the shelf above the television. A framed photograph of the two of us standing on the ice of the Beaufort sea, bearded, grinning like fools. A shelf full of the books I had made him read before even leaving Chicago, wishing to impress on him the hardships he was letting himself in for.

He had incorporated me into his life seamlessly. So seamlessly I hadn’t even noticed it.

When Francesca sent me the photographs this year, of the Christmas party she had bullied him into holding, I finally saw it. The walls now were bare, the shelves occupied by a few CDs and police procedural manuals; apparently preparatory for a new career at the Chicago Police and Firefighter Training Academy.

I confess it: I took out a lens and scanned the room, looking for relics of our adventure.


And when I turned the glass on him, he was smiling for the camera but his eyes looked haunted. Haunted, and as empty as the shelves.