It was a summer of green plateau and turquoise ocean when I had my first, and possibly last, Acadian crush. He was a married man with a pair of the clearest blue-hazel eyes I’d ever seen in a person, and dark curly hair with slight golden tips hidden underneath a grey hat that made him look much younger than he actually was.
Luca Gauthier and I ventured into the Acadian, boreal, and taiga forests of Cape Breton Highland that morning of July 13th. He brought an apple in his blue backpack, and a tiny container of almond, ham sandwich, and celery sticks that his wife had prepared for him. “How are you?” He asked me. “Great, can’t be more thrilled,” I said. “It’s my first time in the region and I’ve been looking forward to this trip for months.”
Luca Gauthier was a student majoring in Ecology at a university in Halifax, which I would guess to be Dalhousie University. He would name every tree, every bird species, and every flower that we encountered during our hike to the unmapped portion of the mountain. He would stop at every footmark that the bears had made, or to examine some moose’s bones or holes on the dead trees created by bears or woodpeckers to show me how fascinating those footprints of the wilderness are. I would pretend to be equally interested and I guess I did a pretty good job because he kept introducing more and more of those sorts throughout our hike. Or maybe it was just a part of his job as a national park interpreter, which would make perfect sense too.
Luca Gauthier picked three wild berries for me on that day. Oh, I love berries, I said. I’ve just never had ones while contemplating over such idyllic views of cliffs and rugged coastlines. This is new to me.
Yeah, I’m a huge fan of the sea, too, he mentioned. He proceeded to tell a story about how he owned a wrecked sailboat that he never had a chance to repair, but promised his best friend that if he finishes his Ph.D. thesis of Paleontology he would take him on a tour with it onto that fringeless beach that expands into the Atlantic Ocean.
Luca Gauthier told me to try to chew the yellow birch leaves. While munching on those minty-flavoured au naturel snacks, I took a moment to notice the lush greeneries that were surrounding us, the mild sunray that was soaking in between the leaves, and the flowing crystal clear river to our left. But aglow in the deep woodland was his pale skin, and so was his contagious grin. The whole scenery was a delight.
Luca Gauthier took me to the top of the plateau to see the small town of Chéticamp underneath our feet, and a small channel between two enormous valleys amidst the expansive boreal jungle. We then had our lunch in a flatland that almost looked like a prairie, with a scenic view of pine forest ahead of us, separated by a massive cliff. The wildflowers and dandelions touched our feet as we sat on top of a giant outcrop covered partially by some moss.
July 15th was the last day I saw him. I was reading Anne of Green Gables when I saw him across the table in the visitor’s centre, seemingly occupied with his guests–possibly the reporters from the National Geographic he told me about the other day. That was, indeed, my last sight of him.
In the following couple of days I would be heading 3,000 miles west to Alberta, and in a year I would be flying home 8,000 miles south. By that time, Luca Gauthier would probably have had a beautiful baby boy named after his favourite French author. I would probably have forgotten about the brief attachment I had for him, but certainly not the memorable hike that we did together. Luca might forget, or might not. After all, not too often you get a chance to guide a young brown lady visiting eastern Canada’s hidden gems all wrapped in a long scarf despite the summer heat, I guess?
I departed from Nova Scotia the next day, and left behind all that I would remember about Luca Gauthier. He was a summer fling that lasted for a weekend, and that’s simply all the abrupt yet endearing story of him there ever is.
P.S.: Parts of this post are fiction while some others are not – I guess I’ll leave it to you readers to decide which part is which. 🙂