He found a place on the map just west of Halls Stream Road, upstream from Beecher’s Falls, where the road bends left and the stream bends right and the border lies just west of both of them. Where the stream is wide and shallow, hidden in the trees, and you can see the farms in Canada so clear and near you could high arc a baseball and hit the bright white side of the closest one.
His pack holds his passport, chlorine tabs, matches, phone, tarp, and Clifbars. A flashlight. Water bottle and meds for a week. He considered packing his father’s fixed-blade Hunter knife, though he had no coherent picture of why, or how, he might use it if the need arose, nor what that need might be. What if he was stopped by a patrol and they found it?
He’d once before felt the need to leave. In Nixon’s War. In the draft. Quakers handed out pamphlets from platforms and wished him well. The fear to him was visceral. In his gut and the options were to him like trees in fog. The language of 4-F, 2-S, and 1-A made it seem that way. So too, the muddily ill-defined illegality of it. As was, he thought, the war itself. The moral dilemmas. Was there honor or safety anywhere. He waited, considered what would happen to him at the border, so he never left. He aged out in ‘69. No decision being the decision.
The waves of dread and worries came with the seasons. Daily, almost. Diffuse, becoming sharper. Oppressive. Accreting like rust and corrosion. Kent State. Reagan. Bush. Bush. Iran Contra. Iraq. Iran. Afghanistan. Columbine. Sandy Hook. “How’s that hopey changing thing working out for you?” Tea Party Two. McConnell. Proud Boys. Q. Trump’s odd inchoate internecine war. The great carbon bootprint. All that is solid undermining all that had once seemed so certain, so solid. Marx, vilified unheeded: “All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned…”
“Why are you doing this?” she said to him. “We’re okay here. There’s no danger. Is there?”
I worry every day, he told her. January 6, new-breed warriors. Waiting for Kristallnacht. “That won’t happen here,” she said.
Then January 6, again, he said.
But, it’s more than that. He told her, I don’t want to live anymore in a country like this. The oily grasping. Condoned. Encouraged by corrupting militaristic capital. They own it all and still want more. We bleed debt and blood in the streets. No one cares for long enough to do anything. I want to feel free. I don’t want to die never knowing better.
He left a note. Wait to hear from me.
In Queechee, in the parking lot near the gorge, he met a man with a car. I’ll give you half now, he offered. They drove north beneath an August-green awning.
Stop here, he said. The stream there was slow and shallow. The white-sided farm across the way. Quiet, like a softcover children’s book.
He paid the driver the other half. He lets the car turn and leave.
This is not El Paso. He knows that. He is no Nicaraguan. He is only who he is.
It is all relative in degree. He could no longer live the American life. Dumbed-down, consumer capital-driven life, politically oligarchic corporate greed. A duplicitous mythical monopoly game of liberty and justice for none, where people go hungry, unhoused, profiled, drugged and hopeless.
In the stream up to his knees. He walked with the current, along the slow edge.
A mile or two. Then south along the Canadian side of the road. Vermont over there to the left. He was free. Sort of. He tipped up a sip of water in the shade. Alert for what or who might be lurking. Following.
Let them stop me, he thought. No one did.
He pressed open the door of the first café he saw. The first town. Ordered a Tim Horton’s and a roll. Took a seat by a wide window. Watched people come and go. He’d planned nothing further along than this. No more than sitting right there. Passing unmeasured minutes. Unbothered. Maybe this is how it will be. He doesn’t know. He will soon gather his things, step outside. Call home.