Canoeing with Genny in Montreal

By Benjamin

I was looking for someone to go canoeing with because my parents have a canoe they inherited from my late uncle. We’d had it for years (even before my uncle passed away, we had been keeping it for him as he had no room for it), but nobody had ever used it. I had wanted to, but I wasn’t able to portage it by myself.

One day I mentioned the idea to my friend Joanna and she seemed interested. We made plans for to go canoeing the following week. The next day she mentioned that Gen was really into canoeing and wanted to come. We made plans for the three of us to go on the Thursday of that week.

The day before we were planning on going there were some small happenings at the apartment (a small get-together party as I recall). Joanna told me that she was bailing on us because she had to work at the Army the next day, but Gen and I decided to go anyway. I stayed at the apartment that night, and in the morning I went to go wake Gen as per our plans. I woke her up (it was the first time I had been in Gen’s room; I remember seeing a violin in the corner).

I think we talked about it for a bit, then Gen asked if I minded if we didn’t go canoeing that day (everyone had been up very late the night before, so we couldn’t have gotten more than a few hours of sleep). I said that was fine (although it broke my heart; I had been so excited that I would finally be able to use my canoe, and I wouldn’t have been able to portage it myself), but, as I was about to leave, Gen changed her mind and asked me to wait while she got her stuff.

We took the bus together to my parents’ Beaconsfield home (actually at that time I was still living there as well). The portage to the water was probably about 3 km, and we had to take the canoe on an overpass over the highway. We got plenty of strange looks. Gene taught me the proper way to portage.

I don’t remember when all of this happened, but I remember Gen was happy because this was her first canoe “trip” of the season, so it must have been before she started work at for the summer.

On the water we talked about life theory. She told me about the canoe camp she worked at, and I told her about the camp I worked at. Gen taught me about the different types of clouds, and how to do proper canoe strokes.

We canoed down the “fleuve” all the way to the Pointe-Claire peninsula, where we passed a grade school whose courtyard went right to the water. The kids were on recess and ran up to the fence and ran alongside us all the way to the edge of the schoolyard. We talked about children for a while, and about our plans for life.

We came back onto land at a different place, on a beach a bit further down the river than the street from which we’d left. I seem to remember having a sunburn despite all of the suntan lotion I put on. Class had just let out at the high school as we began portaging back and we got a bunch of silly comments the students.

About two weeks before Genny died, I was trying to get in touch with her. I figured that with the weather hitting summer conditions, it was time to take another canoe trip. I knew Gen wasn’t there, but I called the apartment to try to get her number. I had no idea what she was doing; if she was still in Africa, if she was back in Canada, what she was doing . . . . Unfortunately, Joanna was in Poland and Nicole and Agu had already moved out. I didn’t know anybody living at the apartment anymore, and they didn’t know Genny or have her number. I can’t help but think what would have happened if I had been a little more perseverant and gotten her number. I don’t think it would have changed anything, but maybe it would have.

I didn’t know Genevieve very well. I have a theory that you don’t really know somebody until you’ve spoken to them one-on-one for a while. I did that with Gen, which is more that I can say of other people whom I’ve known for far longer than her. The day I spent with Gen was special for me. I don’t think I have to tell you what a wonderful person she was, and it was great to get the chance to know her, even if it was only for a few hours.