You can’t really find yourself unless you lose yourself first . . . That thought had been making me feel restless for weeks. On a whim, I decided to take the ferry to Hanlan’s Point one Saturday afternoon in hopes of dealing with my psychological wanderlust. I felt relief as I watched the Toronto skyline drift away in the water — I needed to get away. When we arrived at the port, I walked through the grassy fields to the nude beach and laid my towel down between a group of muscle bears and young Brazilians. Some men were naked, and others were in Speedos, but nobody seemed to mind either way; that’s what I loved most about Hanlan’s. After two glasses of wine and a few chapters from Henry Miller’s Black Spring, I soon found myself wandering the through the bushes.
I could still hear the sounds of the beach past the bushes. Dance music was playing through a stereo against the echoes of laughter, rolling waves, the windy breeze and barking dogs. It was the carefree ambience of a warm summer day, something that reminded me of my youth and a time since lost. To the left of the forest was a road that spanned the length of the island, used by young couples and families for weekend excursions away from the city; I could hear lovers loving and children’s voices asking naïve questions about nature. I stopped on the narrow trail between the beach and the road, looked up at the sky and stared at a seagull soaring and squawking through the rustling leaves above me.
The trail crossed through one of the pathways that led from the main road down to the water. As I approached, I noticed Rob, a friend of a friend on his way to the beach, wearing floral swim trunks and a knapsack over one shoulder. He stopped and smiled at me. “Of all the places to run into you,” he said. I knew him mainly from the clubs, but we’d spent many nights together dancing and buying each other drinks. I didn’t know much else about him, but he was friendly and liked to have a good time. “Spending the day on the beach?”
“I was just, kind of, you know.” I shrugged my shoulders. “Checking out the bushes.”
“I think you’re lost,” he said, laughing. Apparently, I was looking in the wrong place. “Come with me.” He led me down to the beach and pointed south. “See that garbage bin at the very end there where the beach stops? You cut across the beach and go all the way down there. Then you go up that little hill, you’ll see it, and over, and that’s where the fun starts.”
“It’s always nice running into you,” I said.
We exchanged a few more words and he continued in the opposite direction. When I got to the end of the beach, I climbed the hill and found a network of narrow paths that led to some clearings in the forest. It was this whole other world up there. All the sounds from the beach were subdued and I was faced with my own thoughts and sexuality — I was an animal in the forest. I moved some branches away from my face and slipped deeper into the woods. I was expecting to find orgies of men, but all I found was myself and my restlessness. I was hoping that feeling would go away.
A naked couple suddenly came out of the rough hand-in-hand, whispering to each other and smiling.