Accra: University of Ghana

Accra Dignified humility. Earnest irony. Gentle strength. We are barely back home when we learn of his death from typhoid.

They tell us the meanings of their names. Abrafo means “warrior.” Adisa means “one who will teach us.” Danso means “reliable.” They laugh when I tell them my name means “wagon maker.”

We are invited to Sam’s house on the University of Ghana campus to watch the World Cup match between the Black Stars and the USA. There is great tension in the room as we all crowd around the TV, intent on every touch of the ball. The tension turns to joy when Damani puts Ghana ahead. Joy becomes despair when Dempsey evens the score for the Americans just before half-time. But despair is short-lived as Stephen Appiah scores the winning goal in stoppage time. The city erupts in celebration and continues well into the night. Reality returns when we gather in a chemistry lab a few days later to watch Ghana’s defeat to Brazil.

She has a passion for cleaning, for disposal. She has a gift for mobilizing people, for covert action. I find quiet satisfaction in meticulous productivity.

I am a character in an Umberto Eco novel, wandering dark corridors past secret vaults and guards with keys who determine which passages will be opened, what knowledge will be revealed.

Ottawa: Britannia Beach

ottawa “Mama, why did you hit Beverley?”

A collective gasp seems to permeate the room along with the smell of red meat. It is only as I add my hamburger hash to the table that I realize I have been invited to a vegetarian pot luck.

My last message to her is written in the snow on her front yard.

I submit my review in the form of an interview with questions but no responses. The questions contain all the information and interpretation but readers think there has been an editorial oversight.

“What the hell are we doing here?”

They spend the night in their orange VW minivan parked in my driveway. The only time they come in is to shower in the morning.

He is like a carefully calibrated time bomb, set to detonate at the moment of most potential destruction. I fall upon him, shielding her from as much damage as possible.

Ottawa: Brewer Park

ottawa They are two androgynous waifs aged twelve and ten. The older boy is the figure of responsibility in the household. He cooks the meals. He cleans the house. He ensures his younger brother gets to school on time. Their mother is named Gypsy. Her income is from home-based massage and aromatherapy services. The boys bring their pet ferret to Brewer Park.

I smell chlorine and potato chips as I lead him down the hall to become a tadpole once more.

Ben, his bare feet on a footstool in front of him, is absorbed in a book. He feels one of the cats lick his toes. He bends forward to absent-mindedly stroke the cat and sees that it is in fact a raccoon who has wandered in the open patio door.

I stand at a safe distance and watch as they take aim and fire at each other. They seem so young. The footing is wet and precarious from so much shooting.

Ottawa: Rideau River Nature Trail

ottawa He has acquired potassium nitrate, sulphur and charcoal to create homemade fireworks on the kitchen stove. He suffers second-degree burns over his face when the compound inadvertently explodes. He claims to be fine as he sits in Emergency shaking uncontrollably from pain and shock.

Homemade shepherd’s pie. Cheese sticks. Tuna sandwiches so long as there are no green bits and not too much mayonnaise.

I arrive expecting to see my favourite tree, an ancient elm whose physical breadth is matched by its depth of character. I learn that the tree had been removed six years ago as it was hollow and a risk to visitors. In its stead I meet a ten-week-old pug.

We are on the Rideau River Nature Trail, heading home. I follow behind but am distracted for the briefest moment. He is not there. He is crashing through the bush toward the river.

Ottawa: The Prescott

ottawa Amongst the comic books and tea cups I find a single boxing glove signed by Shawn O’Sullivan.

I wake groggily in the middle of the night, vaguely aware of an alien noise filling my bachelor apartment. As I become fully awake I realize a bat is zig-zagging through my airspace. Startled and disoriented I dash out of the apartment realizing too late that I have locked myself out.

We meet at the Prescott to drink draft beer and watch Shawn O’Sullivan’s fight. After a few glasses of beer his name becomes Sawn O’Shovellin.