To live to see the great day that dawns / And the light that fills the world. — From an old Inuit song.
Guy de Michêl sat in a bar in Yellowknife. It had been six months to the day since the death of his wife. He had isolated himself in their house outside of town, working on his novel. This night he needed the camaraderie of the public house.
His wife, a freelance National Geographic photographer, was killed in a plane crash near Arctic Red River, just above the Arctic Circle. Her body was never found. It was a front page story in the Anchorage Daily News: Search called off for missing photographer.
She was eternally preserved in the ice. Beautifully dead.
In that bar, the more he got into the Canadian Club whiskey, the more morbid he became. He decided it was a bad idea and looked around for the waitress to get his check.
His glance rested on a young woman sitting at another table with two friends. She immediately looked up and their eyes locked. She had those characteristic almond-shaped eyes of this land.
He recklessly raised his whiskey glass to her and she quickly looked back down.
The waitress came to his table, he got the check and headed for the door. He saw almond eyes looking at him. He went over to her table.
He said: “Did you know Toyatuk?”
“Toyatuk Paquette?” she asked, surprised by his abruptness.
“Yes, yes,” he said excitedly.
“Were you her husband?”
‘I’m sorry,” she said. “I knew her a little.”
“She’s locked in the ice,” he said.
“I really don’t know,” said the woman.
No one knew what to say next. Then the woman said to her friends, “I have to go home.” She pushed her chair back and stood up.
“Where do you live?” Guy asked her.
“Down Franklin Street.”
“May I walk you?”
The woman looked down and her two friends exchanged looks with raised eyebrows.
Then the young woman said, “That’d be all right.”
They walked out onto Franklin Street. It was the beginning of July but still cold. The night was as bright as day. Eighteen hours of sunlight. Soon, at the summer solstice, there would be twenty-four hours of sun. Sunshine at midnight. Winter was a different story. It was winter when Toyatuk disappeared into the ice.
“I didn’t know her very well,” the beautiful Inuit woman said.
She looked at him. “Toyatuk.”
They walked on in silence. Then Guy said, “What’s your name?”
“Saluit. Saluit Smoothstone.”
“That’s incredibly beautiful.”
And indeed it was.