Early morning. Birds chirp, garbage trucks squeal as they labor to lift huge metal bins and disgorge the smelly contents into their innermost parts. A knock at the door. Father has arrived.
“Hello, Michelle. We only have 3 hours to move your brother out and he hasn’t finished packing. You’ll help us, right?”
Guilt and conflicting emotions swirl within. Do I help, or do I shower and head out on the road? My friends are waiting for me at the Port Hope service station, ready to begin our epic trek to Halifax. Should I stay or should I go? Should I accidentally quote The Clash? The answer is clear.
“Okay, Dad. Just a few boxes, then I have to go.”
One hour later, a few boxes are packed. Dishes are unexpectedly heavy, and my plastic mat under my desk chair keeps sticking me with its pointy bits. A tiny little hummingbird is trapped in my head, and keeps smacking my skull as it tries to escape. I wait until Dad and Jesse are down at the moving truck and then make a break for the shower.
Clean and significantly more alive, I emerge. One more hour later, I have wrestled all my belongings into my car. Tetris masters have nothing on me. There’s even room for two boxes of alcohol, courtesy of my new roommate — fun times will be had when we reach the coast.
Off I go down the road, sniffling and wiping away a few errant tears. I’ll miss my family, especially my brother. He may wake up at 4pm every day and lecture me on military history, but he’s awesome and I love him. He’s not much for emotional displays, so it’s a good thing the tears hit me once I’m in my car.
A few traffic jams and muttered curses later, I’m on the highway. It’s moving swiftly, and I turn on the radio and try not to swerve wildly off the road as I consume my breakfast sandwich. Brief stop at Cambridge for gas. Then I hit Toronto. Traffic, traffic, traffic, and not the good kind. The troll kind, where you’re stop and go for half an hour, then up to 100, finally think Hermes has blessed you with boots of flight to get you out of the quagmire, and then back to stop and go when you realize it’s all a cruel lie.
Finally, I reach the Port Hope service station. My travelling companions are finished lunch and about to continue onward. I was late, and the caravan waits for no one. Don’t worry, they say. I can catch up easily — just look for the UHaul truck lumbering along in the slow lane. I scarf down a slice of pepperoni and hurry after them. For two hours I speed along, eyes peeled for a glimpse of the elusive truck. It’s gone.
Panic sets in. What service station are we stopping at next, again? Port Mallory? No, that was Port Hope. But Mallory something … or was it Melissa? Don’t be ridiculous, there’s no town called Melissa. Mallory … ville? Mallorytown? Yes! I see the sign, coming up on my right.
But I also see the blinking fuel gauge light — I’m almost out. 38 kilometers left. Will I make it? The needle sinks lower … and lower … and then the turn off! Sweet relief! The tank greedily gobbles up gas, and I force my shoulders to un-tense.
Finally our caravan is in the same spot at the same time. After a brief bathroom break, we’re away. I’m the rear guard, cruising along behind the UHaul truck while my friend leads in her car. I feel a curious sense of unity — like I’m part of something greater, something with a purpose. Is this what it feels like to join a religion? I may be thinking too much into this. I focus on driving, and on ignoring the cars tailgating me.
We reach Quebec. It looks exactly like Ontario, except all the signs are in French. This is awkward, as we do not speak French. It is surprising to me that a province of the English-speaking Canada would not at the very least have bilingual signs. I’m torn between irritation and resignation.
Onward into Montreal. As we hit the off ramp, an eighteen-wheeler swerves wildly toward us, then hauls itself back onto the highway at the last second. Not sure if it’s just lost, or was trying to play an extremely ineffective game of chicken.
A few more turns, and my mother’s home appears on the left. We stumble out of our cars, guide the truck into the driveway, and then let out a hoarse cheer — we’ve successfully survived day 1 of our three day trek. Mother furnishes us with smoked meat and coleslaw, red wine and chocolate. We are satiated, and ready for Day 2.
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