That first summer I arrived at the Lake, I’ll tell you what: Magic. Glorious days, fishing and sailing, moonlit swims at night, campfires, fireflies. First time I ever saw the Milky Way. Pinch me, I said. I wished it would last forever, I was all in—gave up my apartment in the city, worked out all the details, moved up with a whole heart. The air smelled fresh, almost too fresh for a cityslicker, like it had been scrubbed clean, disinfected. The water was so clear, when you looked straight down, you could see the bottom and all the million-colored stones. You could drink me, the Lake said, I’ve got nothing to hide.
Come autumn, the rain started. It was not torrents, not buckets and storms, just a smooth, even drizzle. Funny because with a good hard rain you can hear the rain itself, hitting the ground, drumming on the roof, but with this constant spray, this gray noise dripping off the trees, and drop by drop down the aluminum downspout, like a percussion section with the sniffles. It got so wet and muddy I started to think the world was raining rather than the sky, like the mist was a condensation of the Earth, raining in reverse.
Anyway, down or up, the Lake swelled with that drowning rain, crept over the beaches and banks, swamped roads and docks. Someone’s boat washed up in my front yard, and I tried rowing around past other cabins, checking out the damage and expecting someone would wave and say, “Hey! Thanks, I was looking for that,” but no one claimed it or knew who it belonged to, so I tied it up to the porch post—that’s how high the water got. And it kept rising until, by the time the cold weather arrived, the cabin was practically in the Lake, and I was not exactly stranded, but always damp.
Winter hit hard. “Coldest in a generation!” Now, the Lake was known for its ice-fishing, so a good hard freeze was expected. But you should have seen them on the ice trying to chunk out a hole. One guy was at it all day, early in the morning until sunset, hacking and bashing, but he never got through it was so thick. He actually tried starting a fire in the hole, and it melted alright, but just along the sides, and pretty soon the water snuffed out the fire and he packed up and left. As he was stowing gear in his truck, he showed me half a fish he chopped out of the ice—the other half of it was still stuck head first in the wall of the hole. By next morning, the melted water was frozen again, with the charred wood and bits of burnt paper and matches frozen solid, like the Ice Age hit while someone was cooking his dinner. The end of the half a fish stuck in the ice looked like a steak shrink-wrapped in the freezer section. I kinda wondered if the fish was dead now, or whether it would die later when it thawed out and realized it was missing its bottom half.
I’d like to say that in the spring, everything melted and everything was green and the world was young again, birds and bees doing their thing, but spring never came. Winter stayed for six long-ass years, and I just got colder, and slower, and sleepier. It was a trudge, no bones about it. I envied the fish.
Finally I said “Screw this, I’m out” and moved to the desert. Found a real nice Oasis, lots of neon and palm trees. Wonderful. The Oasis didn’t say anything to me like the Lake did, no Hey Sailor (obviously,) just shimmered and smoldered, the sand glittering. Since it was quiet, and no seasons in the desert anyway, I didn’t give it much thought when the Oasis dried up and the families all cleared out. I still had the swimming pool to splash around in, so it all just seemed normal until the water was gone, and even the pool was empty, the taps coughed sand, and I had to start buying bottled water by the truck load—sponge baths, paper plates and plastic forks because no water to wash the dishes.
Anyway, the air conditioning still works good, so I’ll take my time and give some thought to where I go next because this is getting nuts. Maybe something by the deep blue Sea.
Maybe it’s me.
Troy Ford is a lifelong writing enthusiast living in Sitges, Spain with his husband and AmStaff terrier. Twitter: @MrTWFord Instagram: @mrtroyfordauthor FB: @MrTroyFordAuthor Website: mrtroyford.com