Once I drove Kate up to the border. It was my sister’s wedding, the reception. A warm summer afternoon, the sky a royal blue, with just a few brushstroke clouds at the horizon. A perfect day for a perfect wedding and my sister was being a total bitch. She wanted me to make a toast, after the best man, because the best man wasn’t going to do it right. And she wanted to tell me exactly what to say about how they were such a great pair and we were happy to bring our families together and some crap like that, some bullshit I would never say. So I said to Kate, “Let’s just get out of here,” and we got in my old pickup and snaked through all the cars parked along the drive and the county road and got out of there. She tried to get me to stay, and that probably would have been a good idea, since I have to hear about this practically every Christmas and Thanksgiving, but I just couldn’t. I had already made sure her new husband had arrived at the wedding standing up and on time.
I wasn’t trying to go to the border. I wasn’t trying to go anywhere. I was on a county road and it was one of the ones that keeps going through and after awhile I had slowed down and was looking at her again. She was in a very simple but very nice dress she’d gotten in Chicago and she was leaning back against the door post of the truck and giving me that smile, that smile that says ‘I am not going to say anything even though you’re acting stupid and driving me crazy.’ That’s what love is, I think, when someone will do that for you. I shouldn’t have let that go so casually. That’s the stuff you say wedding toasts about.
After awhile I realized the road was going to end soon by the cemetery that’s practically up on the border. And I slowed down and said, “We’re almost to Canada.” And Kate said, “I’ve never been to Canada.” I couldn’t believe she’d never been to Canada, it’s right in our damned backyard. The road ended at the cemetery, an old one that must have been from a church that blew over sometime a long time ago. There aren’t any new stones. It didn’t look like anyone had cleaned it out in a good while. The border was about a hundred yards further up, across a field that had just been mowed for hay. The ground was dusty on our shoes. Then we came to a little patch of dirt and the furrows and tracks from the machinery ran at perpendicular. Just a change in the pattern.
I said, “That’s it,” and pointed. She said, “That’s the border?” I said, “Yeah.” She said, “There’s no fence.” I said, “Well, there aren’t fences, just because there’s a line on the map. Nobody out here needs to be kept on one side of the other.” She stared at it a long time. I said, “You should step across and then you can say you’ve been to Canada.” And I thought, but didn’t say, “And nobody will bother you for never getting out of your own damned back yard.” Because she did look beautiful and she was trying to be nice.