Updated: Jul 27, 2022
On the Saturday of Canadian Thanksgiving in the parking lot I encounter a solo female road-tripper with a trunk full of camping gear - a metal coffee cup clipped to the backpack next to a fold-up paddleboard - asking if she can wear Chacos,
All the way from D.C. via New England to "peep leaves," she smirks. "When trees turn colors in Fall tourists 'peep leaves.'"
Came through Montreal then down to Toronto, a mostly unenjoyable trip so far, she admits. A touch lonely she'd reached out and booked my tour - each of us, I quickly determine, the cure to the other for the moment.
Can't stop talking cuz she's been alone so long. Her talk is keeping us from starting so I say, "I'll go to my car and wait for you there. Find your Chacos. You can't concentrate with me here."
She rolls up and the day rolls out. "We have so much to talk about!" I say within minutes of meeting her. And we do.
A homosexual civil engineer, she is, "loved by clients but hated by bosses." I laugh because, in so many jobs I was the same.
Born and raised in the Hispanic neighborhood of Omaha. Her musician father rocked his band till death when she was just four. Mother didn't take it very well nor parented very well the family of five girls, blaming troubles on her loss then inflicting pain upon the family.
Talks on, along the path, her wit uncensored and unceasing except when I concur or laugh like when she mocks "Soccer moms with opinions." At no point do I want to escape, the two of us the perfect social match - in agreement on so many subjects.
"I don't understand marriage," she says. "There's no way a heterosexual man is going to fill all my needs. How do women think that a straight man is going to fill all their needs?"
Heavy September rains have raised the river but we walk against the current alongside the salmon on their annual run. She leans over and touches one after which we stop for a break.
No complaints about the climb up the escarpment into Thanksgiving Festival at Balls Falls. We meander through crowds and vendors toward a craft brewery tent and order pumpkin ales. The festival adds the perfect backdrop to our stroll, sip and conversation. Hundreds of folks yet not one at Upper Falls. We sit while the river tumbles about us drinking Riesling chattering on and on like the river. If someone were to look at us three hours into knowing each other they would have guessed we were married - something we'd both avoided yet fell into somehow.
It's hard to leave the moment. I can't get enough of her hilarity and insights. She is so full of amusement and thought-provoking biography that she arouses my entire mind and spirit. She talks of a tour she'd booked lobster fishing in Boston and after catching one in four hours she and her sisters giggled with the guide about paying $75 each for bread and butter.
"We had so much fun though!" she says.
I stare at her energy, attitude, outlooks, strengths, comedy, personality and integrity.
Each of us dominating by turns she lets me add to her speeches for perfectly balanced banter. Having lived in the U.S. I can relate to her complaints about identity-confused and unpredictable American women. So different yet so identical. She has the lingo of a twenty-year-old but the perspective of a fifty-year-old having pulled herself out of the ghetto with scholarship money. Paid off her student loans, she says, and now owns a condo in D.C. - self-consciously.
"If I sell the condo I could live in my car for three years."
That's my kind of person.
I'd bond on some level with every guest if they came alone. But they don't. They come as a group, a family, a couple. Older couples resent my seemingly perfect job and spouselessness believing they're weighed down by everything I'm not. My biggest barbell is loneliness which weighs as much as all theirs put together - not that they realize that through rose-colored sunglasses.
Four hours in nature on a balmy Autumn day before arriving at Cornerstone Estate for an hour's worth of tasting after tasting.
At Rockway Vineyards we have the new patio to ourselves at dusk. She's talking again as if we've lived several lives together - today.
Pays for dinner and beer and we talk another hour-and-a-half then meander into the sunset through the vineyards to the road and back over a cigarette.
We stand in the parking lot where we first met.
She gives me a baseball hat with maple leaves on it, her "peeping hat", she calls it plus two strawberry ciders she'd bought in the States.
We talk a bit more to keep the day alive.
Hugs me again before we separate into cars.
Sitting in sadness on my patio in the night of Thanksgiving without friends or family a text comes at 7:27 PM: "Thank you so much for a glorious day and lovely connection. You really filled my cup and renewed my feeling of humanity."
I reflect on our non-stop conversation and wish she were still talking.