Followed by a magician for fifteen feet. He holds a small, plastic “v” in his hands, which he rotates in his hands—I don’t understand even the suggestion of the trick. What’s his angle? Think we’re going to be Just For Laughs–gagged. There’s a camera set up on a tripod by the barrier. He’s not wearing a mask. We keep walking but he won’t leave us alone. What kind of reaction is he hoping to get from two people wearing masks?
The streets are packed. There’s a long line to get into the haunted house—one of several. Above this one a Frankenstein smiles as he considers eating a Whopper. I’m a sucker for all of these false facades—the Rainforest Cafe, the casino’s castle, the Wizard Mini-Putt—but I’m not really sure what it means to be so swayed by them. What the consequences are—I am only momentarily awed. I spend no money.
I tell a friend it feels fucking surreal. Another comes over the next night and I expect there to be a gap in the conversation long enough to describe the feeling, but it never comes. The pandemic and its long silences has made us talk over each other. On ever more urgent topics. It’s hard to imagine exiling myself again—but then I think of the anxiety, think of why I went out there in the first place. Who I brought there. What I was hoping to build and what I failed to. What held me there and why I couldn’t seem to leave. It’s all so confusing. Why couldn’t I be who I wanted to be? Why did I retreat so far into—wherever we went.
The I Ching keeps mentioning “inferior” influences and I think it must mean in myself. Everything inferior. But I wonder what else it could be.
On the Hornblower we stand with our backs to the churning water, away from the unbearable waves. Soaked everywhere but through the pink garbage bags they ask us to put on before boarding. The decks of American Maid of the Mist VII are packed—it’s just like the meme, a wall-to-wall upper deck in blue ponchos waving at us across the river. “COVID-19 is real!” I yell, immediately ashamed of myself. I don’t know if anyone heard me, certainly not the Americans waving at us cheerfully from the other side. Long before then there was a couple in front of us in line, one wearing an Arizona Cardinals sweater, and I wondered aloud if they were really Canadian. “Really?” I say, “The Arizona Cardinals?” Just as in Atwood’s Surfacing, I see Americans everywhere. But I’m my own American, in more ways than one. I like all of the photos as we take them, but at home I hate every one in which I appear.