When he calls her in the morning she says, “I had this strange feeling that when I picked up the phone you were going to ask to speak to someone else.” But there’s no one on the other end, unless he’d like to speak to the dog. In the car on the way to riverfront lot his parents purchased adjacent to the battle for Fish Creek he makes a note to check to see if everything is okay the next time they speak. Is everything okay? The church that marks the site of the battle is wood, elegant and gray but nearly falling down. Over a hundred years old now. The land is stolen.
After his parents drove him home from the airport it only took him a couple of hours to realize that their lives were just as lonely, or lonelier, than they had been living in the country, where they had lived a twenty minute drive from any settlement. Nearly every surface was colonized with a stack of papers or books, including in the room that he would be staying in. The topmost article in the stack next to his computer reads: “A randomized clinical trail of prophylaxis in a children with hemophilia A.” The television turns on like clockwork with the onset of night. There his father sits while his mother does something in the kitchen. After dinner she joins him. It has been a long time since his parents moved away—seven years—and it has been easy to imagine that their lives were somehow richer in their new city, more cosmopolitan, more lively. But now even the couple they used to complain about seems to be gone from their lives.
For a while now he has been wrestling with a problem—how to live. How to produce art while also maintaining social connections. How to find a romantic partner and navigate professional obligations while giving himself space to do the only work that matters to him. Lately the answer has been: to try and do a little bit of everything, poorly. To lose himself in romance. At other times it has been to ignore the outside world in favour of art. This is what a recent novel he has read suggests, or seems to, clumsily (The Friend, Sigrid Nunez). The answer is not an easy one but it helps to see his parents and how they live: to remember where he comes from in addition to seeing a clear model of what he’d like to avoid becoming.