Something Lost

First published in Haibun Today 12:2, June 2018. Prose originally written in December of 2004, with the haiku added in June of 2005. Gratitude to Theresa A. Cancro and Cyndi Lloyd for their insightful comments on my “Something Lost” haibun in Haibun Today 12:3, September 2018.       +       +       +


I had to stay back from the water. Not just any water, but Niagara Falls. Underground. Inside the waterfall. A white bandage around my head.
        My brother and sister got to go to the edge, my mother and father holding their hands in the wet stone tunnel. Though we’d each been given thick yellow raincoats, I couldn’t get my stitches wet and had to stay about twenty feet back. The roar of the water made it hard to hear, but Mummy had yelled to me to stay back, holding me there before going forward herself, to see the back side of the great waterfall, to become drenched by the spray, to marvel in the thunderous shaking of the bedrock.
        I don’t recall how long they stood there, getting wet while I stayed dry. I don’t remember the tunnels or steps (or was there an elevator?) that got us there. All I remember is that ache of staying back, the frustration of not getting the full adventure—the moment of losing that experience.

                scuffed boots—
                the rippling puddle
                cold to my finger

        I still have the scar. Above my left eye. Seven stitches. The summer of 1967. Our family newly transplanted to Canada from England, visiting Expo 67 in Montreal. We had a Starcraft tent trailer, parked on a wide hill overlooking the French-Canadian city. My father relaxed on a lawn chair by the trailer door, his feet extended out in front of him. For some reason I had to run into the trailer, to get some toy, or maybe my mother. I never got there. I went sprawling, tripping over my dad’s outstretched feet. Head first against the trailer’s iron step, narrowly missing my eye, deeply cutting the corner of my forehead.
        I don’t remember pain. Or blood. Just walking out of the doctor’s office with my head bandaged, and climbing into the Mercedes. I remember getting a tick in the back of my neck in Bergen, Norway, 1972, my parents “operating” on me with unsterilized tweezers as I bent over, face down, between them in our Commer Highwayman motorhome with the yellow British license plate number of KTW 866J. It never stopped me from seeing any fjord or stave church.
        But I didn’t get to see Niagara Falls, inside. I had to stay back. I’ve wanted to return ever since. If you can still go inside, down the stone tunnels, I don’t know. But someday I’ll go and see. Someday I’ll try to get it back, to get back whatever it was that I lost.

                toddler’s birthday—
                I run my finger
                along his first scar