After a few weeks of this valley paradise, living in the cabin that was accessed by crossing the river swollen with snowmelt, a new friend, Christine, who lived in the more populated part of Crescent Valley, appeared at my door and asked me if my name was Susan Wadds. The RCMP were looking for me. When I arrived at the station I was told that my uncle, Bob, had enlisted their help in finding me. He was a Wall Street banker with a brownstone in Greenwich Village. The summer before I had asked to stay with him so that I could write, but his stepdaughter, Nancy Castleman was staying there then. He was in the valley to see if I’d like to come for that summer. He arrived the next morning in a RCMP cruiser at Christine’s, the house with the giant OM painted on the roof. He stepped out of the car in a three-piece pinstriped suit, complete with watch and chain and briefcase.
The raging river had swept away the footbridge, so we crossed by fallen tree, a rope strung between trees on opposite banks for stability. The tree petered out before reaching shore. As Uncle Bob stood in the middle of the river clutching his briefcase, the tree bounced under him. I don’t know about this… he said. I bounded back to him in my long flowing cotton dress and took the briefcase, bounded back and steadied the fallen tree so he could jump to safety. When we got to the cabin, he clicked open his briefcase, Martini anyone? he asked. It was 9 a.m… Everyone said yes.
I spent a week in New York, shopping and walking and chatting with the beautiful gay men on the Morton Street Peer. Barbara and Steven Eisenberg lived downstairs. We were having dinner one night when Steven received a call from George McGovern asking him to work with him on his campaign.
My uncle sent me home because, as he told my father, I was too friendly, meeting too many people on the streets and in the parks. I went to London, fully intending to head back west, but Susie sent me a letter saying that our house had been burnt to the ground.
I was sick. I’d been sick for a while, but thought I could fix it with meditation, whatever that was. I sat on my bed with my eyes closed. But the pains continued. I thought it was my fault. I just needed to find the mechanism, the button that would switch me back to healthy. I got a job in a fabric store. I have always sewn crooked, backwards, cockeyed. I didn’t know chintz from wool. I called in sick a lot. I lay on my bed and tried to sleep. I had no curtains. I called the cops when a man’s face appeared at my window. The police looked in the toilet when they came to investigate.
Alec came back into my life when I was on prednisone for ITP, a rare blood disease that gobbles up all your platelets. He was learning to fly. We met on the corner of Dundas and King streets in the pouring rain. When I looked into his eyes I saw that he still loved me. I needed him. He made me laugh until I cried. He loved good food and good wine, flying and me. And his mom. In December I had my spleen removed. When I woke up I had a hose in my nose and a giant slash right up the middle of my belly. Alec had to constantly run out out of the room because he couldn’t stop making me laugh. It hurt when I laughed.
A month later he took me to Paris. We stayed in the Latin Quarter and ate steak frites in a cafe at four in the morning. I never adjusted to the time change. I wore platform shoes through the cobbled streets, but not for long – he picked me up as I lay sprawled in front of the restaurant we had chosen for lunch.
He went to work on the Trans Canada gas pipeline in Northern Ontario and I learned how to knit, play the recorder and how to cook Chicken Kiev. I was trying to be a wife. I wasn’t very good at it. By the following winter I was making plans to go back west. Alec was flying helicopters. I was just flying.