After using the athletic facilities
at the university to shower and change, the crew arrived at the dance late.
Most were drunk, which was all right because everyone else seemed to be in the
same state. Rowers were a work-hard play-hard bunch. The old Lake Street
Armoury was on the opposite bank of the river from where they had enjoyed the
races. All the competing crews from Ontario and Quebec sat at tables
surrounding a makeshift dance floor.
Taylor disappeared when Reid and
some of the crew took a corner table at the far end of the Armoury. The dance
floor was already packed. Since they arrived late the music had already slowed
down in tempo. Maybe the DJ figured all the crews had been imbibing with
schnapps all day, as per the custom of regattas, and many were heading quickly
for exhaustion after the final day of races. Reid was beginning to enjoy a
newfound pride of his rowing experience and the spirit of the crew, as he
surveyed the dance floor, keeping an eye open for Erin. When Taylor reappeared
he had a bottle of Vodka with one of those pouring spouts on it stashed where
he had hid the bowling ball. He had somehow snuck behind the bar and stolen the
"Mix!" he said in his hyper
state. "McFetty we need mix!" He darted back to the shuffling commotion of
the bar again while he and the crew remained at the table and drank. He had
placed a large bottle of vodka under the table. He was thinking of Erin when
Taylor returned with a pilfered carton of orange juice and a handful of plastic
"How?" He didn't bother because he
knew the answer. Taylor really did have a knack. He poured drinks and kept the
stolen bottle against the brick wall in the corner. They all sat at the table
flushed with self-esteem when he spotted Erin. Standing up without saying a
thing he went to her as if drawn by an invisible magnet. He looked into her
sunlit eyes as she embraced him warmly like the old lovers they were.
Inseparable, they danced and held each other for every song. Enjoined and
oblivious to others, Reid couldn't help thinking of how close they had been
before they slept together. After going all the way at her cottage things were
never the same again. Instead of bringing them closer it put something between
them. It was if the smooth glass surface between he and Erin had shattered and
could not be put back together. He was aware that his feelings for Erin never
changed. Erin felt like the panacea for his inner turbulence and the potential
saviour of his unravelling life. After all, she had been his first love, or
what poets call true love.
Maybe he wanted her too much there
on the dance floor, and it was this that scared him, so when there was a break
in the music he went back to the table in the corner for a swig of beer with
his crew. Erin was a bit reluctant to return to her table but Reid was thirsty
and wanted to join the esprit de corps
with my crew. For him it was only a break in the music and a chance to have a
drink with the entire crew one last time.
"Whew!" he said, picking
up his drink. "Intense!"
"Rekindling some old flames are
you buddy?" Harold said. There was fear in his gut. Reid couldn't say why
but it was there.
"I hate commitments." When he
said this he wondered if it was true with Erin. In his emotional state he
realized he did want to commit to her, that he needed her. He was only being
The disc jockey announced it was the
last song, so he walked over to Erin's table but she wasn't there. He found her
on the front steps of the armoury talking to some guy.
"Erin! There you are. It's the last
song, shall we?" He reached out for her hand, bold with booze.
"Reid," she said,
"I'm talking to an old friend."
"But it's the last song."
He took her hand. Carefully, she pulled it away.
"Leave her alone will
you," said the guy. Reid narrowed his eyes on him.
up," he said.
"You ease up you fucking jerk."
"Reid, I'm talking to my
friend. Do you mind?" She gave him a
look so cold a chill blew down his neck. He began to shake. Felt like his
entire world was about to crumble, that there was no one there for him.
"Why don't you take off, guy," he said to Reid, this time
with some bluster. He stepped towards Reid in fighting stance. He looked deeply
into Erin's eyes and saw a distance he feared more than anything in his life at
that moment. Her eyes told him she didn't want to know him anymore. Confused
and juiced by adrenalin, he ran down the stairs and disappeared into the
darkness towards the river. His whole body had the palsy. Blabbering, he
couldn't put a sentence together so he kept running. Like a little boy he yelled
"Why?" over and over. In the darkness
along the river he crossed a street and in his anger pushed over a motorcycle
that was parked by the curb, just as he had been pushed away by Erin. Running
past a house with a freshly cut down tree, the stump still bleeding with the
odour of cedar, set him off so he punched a window in the screen door, cutting
his hand badly. The sound of shattering glass scared him so he ran away, down
the street until he felt blood dripping from his fingertips. When he saw a light on in a little house he knocked
on the door and an old lady brought him inside her kitchen where she put his
hand under the tap. There was blood everywhere but he didn't feel any pain. The
last thing he remembered was telling the woman what his girlfriend did to him,
and asked her to explain to him why she did it. Then the police showed up. But
by then he was calmer and the cops were all right and took him to the hospital.
The Queen's bus waited for Reid
until well after their scheduled midnight departure, but there was no sign of
him the bus left for Kingston without the novice bow seat.