An acquaintance approached me in the street the other day. She appeared friendly, but she had a concerned look on her face.
“Hello!” she called out. When she walked towards me she seemed wary, as if I was a possible threat. “How are you doing? Are you feeling well?”
I was touched by her concern, but confused. I was not aware I appeared out-of-sorts.
“Yes, thank you,” I replied. I returned her friendly smile. “How are you?”
“Fine, thank you. Yes, I’m fine,” she said rapidly, like she wasn’t really interested in her own welfare. She brushed aside the topic with a wave of her hand. “I’ve noticed — actually, not just me, but a group of us — we’ve noticed … well, when I say ‘noticed,’ I mean, we’ve been reading and we’ve taken note and we kind of mentioned it to each other, so that’s how we all noticed that we had all noticed it …”
She was losing steam. Obviously, she had some generally agreed-upon criticism to impart, but was nervous about my reaction. Since I had no idea what she was talking about I had no way to help her along, so I remained silent and smiled. I nodded my head encouragingly.
“Well, I’ll get to the point. I mean there’s no point in beating around the bush, is there?”
She paused again, looking uncomfortable.
“Well, you see, we’re concerned and I was chosen to tell you …”
I was beginning to think she’d been chosen at gunpoint.
“… to tell you that we’ve noticed you seem to be writing about …about …”
This was getting awkward.
“About what?” I asked.
“About Nalcor!” she finally blurted. “You seem to be writing about Nalcor a lot! I mean, really … almost every week!”
“I know!” I exclaimed gleefully, so loud I startled some passersby. “Almost every bloody week! Nalcor this! Nalcor that! Aren’t you tired of it?”
I was quite excited, so relieved someone else had noticed the problem. It felt so good to unburden myself and discuss it with another person. She helped me see that I wasn’t suffering alone. I had friends — well, acquaintances — who were willing to reach out to help me. I confess, however, that I really didn’t give this particular acquaintance the opportunity to answer my question.
“Nalcor! Nalcor! Nalcor!” I continued eagerly. “Oh, how I wish I had something else to write about, but Nalcor is everywhere in central Labrador these days. All those humungous pickup trucks with their bouncy orange flags! All that heavy machinery and all those safety vests! All those stories in the newspapers, on the radio and television and Internet: Nalcor, Nalcor and again Nalcor!”
Talking to the sky
I realized that I was rudely expounding these words to the sky and not to my acquaintance, so I turned towards her to show that I was addressing her concerns and not just raving to myself. Oddly, she seemed to have moved at least a meter away without me seeing.
“I really don’t want to be writing about Nalcor all the time,” I assured her. “I want to be writing about nice things, about true economic development that benefits everybody and also preserves the natural environment, not about huge destructive megaprojects. I want to write about happy people, not angry protestors. I want to write about progress, not regression. Do you understand what I mean?”
I found I had again been shouting at the sky, so I returned to her. She seemed to have added another meter to the distance between us. She had a strained smile on her face and she nodded shortly.
“All that money being spent! All those unanswered questions! Everything being lost! Every time I turn around, there’s Nalcor, and what can I do but write about it? What can I do? I don’t know what to do!”
“You can take a vacation,” she called from a safe position around a nearby corner. “You can do travel stories for a while. You can write about the nice people you meet and the pleasant things you do!”
Her final words faded as she ran out of sight, but I heard them well enough. A vacation, I thought … somewhere where there’s no Nalcor. Now, that’s a nice suggestion.
Michael Johansen is a writer
living in Labrador.