Monday, November 28, 2005

open doors

Nothing closes right on me. The seal isn't tight. I am not just talking in metaphor here. My mother always told me I needed to learn how to keep my mouth shut, for one. Then there's my heart. No big deal, it just comes with doors that don't shut properly. I know my mind certainly never shuts down, even through teeth grinding sleep, but neither does it produce clean, distinct thoughts. This is my nature. I am built to flow freely, contrary to all of the best training. I am not to be held back.

Two important things to discuss:

1) I am about to embark on a 3 1/2 week holiday to the other side of the planet
2) Today is my blog's first birthday.

Just in case something happens to me while I am away, or my life changes, I want to appreciate this moment. This very minute - not going to bed, even though I know I will be tired tomorrow, writing with the television on in the background, eating peanut butter and banana. Life moves quickly and is unpredictable. Despite all of the complaints and angst, and often because of the angst, I want to live. I love to live this imperfect life. I love every single ion. Good and bad and everything in between. I love the grey, even when I can't handle it. Bring it on.

Writing makes living tolerable. I will continue to do it in some form always, with or without readers, but I would like to thank all of you who visit my site. Thanks for the kind words, for good advice, for making me think, and for making me laugh.

I leave in a few days. My anxiety level is on the high side. I may post while I am away - just not sure of the logistics. I will most certainly post when I am back.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

maybe he is looking for Arty after all

I can feel him in the pit of my stomach. Not many have been able to leave me like that.

There's more, and there is less. Ben and I kiss well together. I think that says a lot, but there are things that temper my excitement, which might work in my favour. Everything has been going well, despite the heartbreaking family history I accidentally lured out on our third date and the anatomic, shall we say, 'rarity' I found on our fifth. Then there was the near miss collision with my finger nail and his...

Never mind. What I am trying to say is it all felt so right, until this afternoon. We spent most of the day at his place. The music was not great (ok that's a fourth problem), but everything else was. I had to leave to get to a friend's apartment which is about 5-10 minutes past mine. Ben was driving me home. I asked if he could drop me at my friend's place.

"I know you have to get to your dinner, so feel free to say no, but would you mind dropping me at Anna's? She's at Yonge and Heath."

He looked at his watch.

"Ahhh. Ummm, I have to be there at eight.... Oh, I feel you're gonna think I'm a jerk..."

"Yep, probably. Don't worry about it - not a big deal."

"No, I'll take you, don't worry."

"No really, it's ok. Just drop me at home"

"But you're going to think I'm a jerk."

"Yeah but too late, you've already said it, so either way I would think that. You might as well just drop me at home. At least then you'll get to the party on time."

I let him take it as a joke and the subject got changed, but it sat, along with lunch, in the pit of my stomach. I waited to see what would happen next.

He dropped me at home.

He has been nothing but sweet and considerate since the beginning and I am trying not to allow this to let all the air out. Maybe I am over-reacting. Everything else today felt so nice. I guess it was a burst of cold air. Thankfully my expectations aren't overinflated this time, so I am banking on the air releasing slowly rather than in a dramatic balloon pop. There is still time to patch up the leak.

Your move Ben.

Friday, November 25, 2005

bento box

He eats the real sushi. Not the stuff with avocado and faux crab. His plate holds firm, semi-translucent cuts of fish, carefully pressed onto rice. I wonder how they would they would feel. What does his meal say about him? Brave? Refined? Oh G-d - I must like this one.

I gravitate to the playground of a bento box. So many things to do, so many textures and flavours, I don't know where to begin. There's the cloudy soup of miso with rectangles of dark seaweed, and cubes of soft tofu. This alone is pretty enough to paint. Smooth creams, beiges, and winter whites soften the stark textured greenish grey. Then there is the salad. I could drink the ginger dressing, which more than makes up for the ubiquity of iceberg lettuce. There is just enough tempura for a bite of shrimp, eggplant, and zucchini dipped in salty sweet sauce and surrounded by crunch. Next, a handful of california rolls with tiny orange bursting bubbles and then sweet teriyaki salmon. It makes me kid-happy, like the way I used to feel hiding in a fort made of strategically placed blankets. I wonder what that says about me?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

two chances

I had two chances to get to that place on time. It never occurred to me that in real life I would never have agreed to go. I was rightfully nervous about it, racking my brain with how I would get the job done - last an impossible 12 hours. The first time it was a false alarm. I awoke disoriented, thinking I had to be there in 15 minutes. At the very least it would take me an hour. Panicked, I called and one of the clinical leaders answered and was suspiciously nice, telling me,

"no, don't worry. You weren't schedule to come in until 3:30 PM."

I fell back into a deep sleep. This time I awoke at 5:30 PM. 5:30 PM! Two hours late. The room turned cold as stone. I went over every excuse I could think of so that it would not be my fault. Over and over. The call never came. I was done there. They were furious. I wondered why I should let it bother me. I wanted no part in that place. Still toward the end of the dream I I knew I had to make those calls. I spoke to each horrible person- each miserable unhappy person.

In the early morning darkness of my bedroom I recalled every word with excruciating detail. Every apologetic, pleading word.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

where the surf meets the sand

He asked me if I was "arty"” and seemed pleased when I told him I was. Lubricated by background noise and drinks, we had much to discuss. He is intelligent, confident yet humble, good looking, solid, kind, and funny. He comes from the coast too, from a background similar to mine, both Jewish and unpaved rural - he from fields of flax, and I from steaming innocent-eyed cattle. The sobering moment came with a comment other girls dream to hear. He told me he sees some of his friends getting married out of proximity or convenience rather than love.

"This", he told me, "will not do".

Like the example set by his parents, he plans to meet someone and spend the rest of his life in love. I nodded in agreement, telling him my mantra,

"I would rather be alone than lonely with someone else". As it slipped from my mouth I felt like a liar.

He lost me then. I was as sure about the impossibility of being what he wanted as I am about global warming. I could see all of the future disappointment clearly, but I smiled through, listening, feigning enchantment. Should I accept the lot I seem to think is mine?

The next day, in a meeting, my mind drifted back to the conversation. First, reveling in the early feelings of possibility. Then the clouds rolled in as they had that night. At the time the darkening had seemed so rooted in fact, but it began to look very different in the light of day. Nothing is manageable when examined too broadly. The world becomes impossible, and it seems that we face a lifetime of tragedy ahead - serial tragedy. This is never where fun is found. I want to let fun unfold.

Yesterday I officially convocated. Grad school complete, I went to a party with an eclectic crowd. Standing aside, there was a moment when I felt like running, seeing so many unfamiliar people streaming in from the cold. What will I say to them? How will I manage to interact, be charming, interesting? I brushed off my questions like dust, grabbed a glass of wine, and stepped into the party. I was spellbound by a Woody Allen who wore white gloves and would shake no hands, yet consumed canap├ęs with reckless abandon, choking and spitting, while talking about germs. I fell head over heels in love with a married english professor in his sixties and with his wife's flourless chocolate cake. I glided between discussions of documentary production, acting, yoga, Hong Kong, South Africa. I had fun.

Later that night when I got home from the party, there was a message waiting for me.

"Hey Rachel, it's Ben. I had a great time with you last night and I hope we can go out again."

I smiled to myself. So do I, Ben. So do I.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

my blanket

Sometimes I look you up. You are my nail biting, my pacing. You are the place I burn off excess energy.

Sometimes I think of you when I am trying to sleep. You are my blanket with triangle edges. You taste good when I hold you in my mouth.

One day, like the blanket, the nail biting, the smoking, the eating, the not eating, you too will pass. I will get to an imperceptable place and you will fall away. I will forget why I ever needed you.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


I am hungover, watching tv and computering in pajamas, with crazy hair. Pretty happenin' for a Saturday night. I should be out with the accountant, but I had to let him know it wasn’t going anywhere. It was hard to do because I feel like I should have really liked this guy. It was clear he liked me and I could tell he was a good person. In fact, one of the things about him that made me hesitate was how easily I could envision him as a good father. How pathetic is that? I know, but it’s not my fault. It’s psychobiology bitch.

Moving on. Last night I met up with a group of friends to see a band. The stellas tasted great, the music good, the crowd…meh. One guy approached me at the bar, made small talk and then invited me to leave with him and his friends to go ‘someplace else’. I politely declined. He returned a few minutes later:

“Hey, ah, listen, my buddy and I are debating something and I, ah, wonder if you can settle it for us.”

Hesitantly, “...ok.”

“How old are you?”

Confused, I looked at him, trying to figure out if I had misunderstood the question.

“How old am I?”


“Are you serious?”

He nodded.

“Alright. I’m gonna give you a little piece of advice, and I suggest you listen very carefully, because what I am about to say might aid you in your quest to pick up in the future.”

“What? Ok, I know, I know”, he laughed, hands raised in surrender, “It’s my friend. He made me come over and ask you.”

I smiled at him fake sympathetically. He continued to look at me like he expected me to say something else. He waited. I took a sip of beer and stared back.

“…well, ah, yeah. No, so, really, how old are you?”

Are people really that stupid?

The rest of the evening was uneventful, except that apparently at the end of the night I wasn’t “making sense”. I do recall petting the embroidered eagle on some boy's jacket. I think I told him I liked his 'hawk'. Dana insisted on driving me home because she didn’t think I was in any condition to take the subway. Well played, Rachel, well played. Also, I tried to convince her to drop me off at the 24 hour drug store near my house, since apparently I was ‘in the mood to go shopping’. She put her foot down, which is a surprise, and insisted I go home. I can only imagine what I would have come home with. Never mind, I probably would have fallen asleep in the blood pressure booth.

bubblegum ice cream

As a kid I dreaded loose teeth like funerals. I would go through all of the Kubler-Ross stages, wiggling them to test them and then trying to convince myself a tooth wasn’t really loose. I would bargain ‘Are You There G-D it’s me Margaret’-style, to let me be that special person who doesn’t have to lose their baby teeth. Maybe it had something to do with my father threatening to tie my loose teeth to a door and then slam it. He always coaxed me into letting him check how loose the tooth was. I would fall for it everytime, inherently wanting to trust his word.

“Just let me check if it’s ready. I won’t do anything, I’m just gonna check.”

“No! I don’t want you to – you’ll try to pull it.”

He would laugh like he always did when he was scaring me. Somehow I always relented. I can still feel his father-sized fingers reaching into my mouth, and always wiggling the tooth too hard to just be checking. From that vulnerable position, despite struggling, I could not get away.

As I got older I got good at keeping my loose teeth to myself. I knew I could handle it better without him, and I did.

The last baby tooth came out while I was in the back seat of the family car, driving along the winding harbour highway, eating bubblegum ice cream. Without a word I dried off the tiny tooth with a kleenex, carefully wrapped it up, and slipped it unseen into my coat pocket. I returned to my ice cream, my eyes fixed on the deep blue of the harbour.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

it just might work

Walking to my echocardiagram, the sky exploded in thunder and lightening. The rain was driving, almost tropical. Normally, for those of us who search for signs, a violent storm would be ominous, but not then. At that moment I felt better. I don't know, something about electricity coursing through a surprised November sky made me think about how I don't often have trust in my body, and how sometimes unexpected things happen. For me, this was a sign that my heart just might work.

I was right. It looks like there is a minor problem, but nothing to write home about. No gaping, flopping ventricle, no evidence of a massive heart attack. I have to await the final word, but it looks ok.

Monday, November 07, 2005

don't tell my heart

"Hmm. Your blood pressure is high. Do you get white coat syndrome?"

The air hisses out of the cuff.

"Ah, I don't know. Probably. You know what, I rushed around this morning to get here, so I am not really surprised."

He listens as I explain, still holding my arm. He reinflates the cuff.

"Hmm. Well, still high. My concern is really how high the diastolic is, you see, cause if it's always elevated then there's a chance that your left ventrical could hypertrophy. It's just something we need to watch for."


"Have you ever had an EKG?"


"I think it would be good to do one, just to get a baseline. Normally I would send you downstairs and get a nurse to do it, but since you're already undressed I'm just gonna run one right here."

He pulls aside my paper gown. I am completely naked. I stare at the ceiling as he sticks leads on my arms, my chest. I am starting to get cold.

"Ok, here goes. Just don't talk or move around until I let you know it's finished - I only hope we don't run out of paper."

Moments later I hear him tear off the strip.

"Ok, got it. Just give me a minute or two to look this over."

He sits at his desk, his back facing me. I sit up, tucking the gown around my thighs. I strain to see over his shoulder, but he's too far away. I give up and look around the room. After a couple of minutes pass in silence he swivels around in his chair.

"I need to send you for an echo."

"That doesn't sound good." I try to sound calm, "What is it?"

"Well, your EKG is abnormal."

Things started to get blurry at this point. I know he told me the strip indicates that I might have had some kind of cardiac event. He said that if I was an overweight older man, he would say I had had a heart attack or an ischemic event in my past, but that since,

"you are 31, fit, and thin, it's probably nothing."

"Am I going to drop dead?"

"No, no, I just want to play it safe. That's why I am sending you for the echo. Look, I like to be very thorough. I just think it's best to start with a clean slate, you know?"

It felt like one of those moments. The one you always look back on because it was 'the turning point'. The moment where everything changes. I have never been so aware of my heart. It feels broken. I am scared. I am afraid to go for a run, afraid to go to sleep.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

I clean my computer for visitors, but my apartment is a mess

One thing that appeals to me about 'the blog' is that you write a succinct paragraph or two and you seal it off with a press of a virtual publishing button. It is easy to keep things under control when they are small. Little pills go down smooth. I can go over and over the wording, finely tuning until my neurotic element has cooled off. While this most definately is an exercise in writing, for someone whose default is sterile technique, the true test would be to keep writing. Leave something undone and come back to it. Not once or twice, but over long periods of time, meandering in wide and unpredictable turns, writing without knowing where I am going, risking getting lost all together.
Several years ago I left home to move far away. From a small town to a big city. Brave. right? Not really. As soon as I arrived I found a small safe space, a handful of close friends, a careful career, and I have barely moved since. Around the same time I arrived, my boyfriend moved to the other side of the country. We tried to make things work, but my insecurities and the distance wore us away. I never really got past it. Up until then I was always in a relationship. At first I thought it was courageous to stay single. Glamorous even. I would walk the unfamiliar streets feeling like I was in the lead role, waiting for the drama to unfold. Now the city is smaller, the cement has set, and extracating myself from solitude feels next to impossible. Last night I tried. The wine wasn't enough.

No matter where I go I always find a hiding place or two. Like air and water, it is a necessity of life for me. I started this blog almost a year ago. Was it brave to let go and write for a potential audience for the first time? Since I could use a pen I have been writing for myself alone, putting it on paper, and hiding it in creative spaces in my bedroom, in my apartment. And now in cyberspace. At first I thought writing for the blog was a big step, but when I look at it this way I am not so sure. I am anonymous. No one I know, knows about this blog. My writing has not entered my life and my life has only come into my writing in small, unrecognizeable pieces. Where is the growth there? In fact, despite being anonymous, I am still unable to write with abandon. It turns out that all of the things in my real life that I allow to restrict me, continue to weigh on me here. It is a microcosm. Writing now is just like it was when I was writing before. It is me, leaking out the sides. I am tired.

What will happen when I meet someone and try to incoorporate them into my life. Will my writing go? Will I continue the slow leak in secrecy or will I ever grow the balls to share myself. A voice somewhere inside me screams, no. Never. I think I recognize it as the voice of the infant version of me, the toddler, the young child. The voice of someone whose world blew apart and had to do everything to prevent it from happening again. Hold it together, Rachel.

So I wonder, am I really living more boldly or am I just really good at pretending. Going through the motions of what bold would look like.

I need a drink. I need to shrug it off. One of these days, when I am truly brave, I am going to do all of these things, without cleaning up. I will leave my notebook on the table, someone I love will see it and they will not think it's crazy, or self-indulgent, or cheesy. And even if they did, they will still love me. Whoever it is will have to be special. They will be getting more than they bargained for.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

more than the color of his shoes

What if I find out there never was a true talent?

I have always imagined it there, awaiting discovery. I was either not “applying myself” enough, as countless teachers and my parents told me growing up, or it was not the 'right' time.

What if it was never there at all? Would that be a tragedy? It feels tragic. Where would that leave me?

Like a honeycomb dripping full, so many things bring me pleasure: working through to a perfect combination of words, a violin echoing on the walls of the subway station, the sound of an orchestra tuning their instruments, nestled into the backdrop of hushed murmurs of the audience, ballet class to a grand piano, being overwhelmed by the sky, being what someone needs at the right time, feeling skin against my skin. And how these things catch my breath, leave my heart aching, wanting to remember every sweet drop.

If in my last moments I see that rather than a talent, an appreciation or a participation is all I have to offer, will it be enough?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

bug bite in November

It was not so bad. He was well dressed, well mannered, witty, and kind. You can see kind in the eyes. You do not necessarily see unkind, but a lack of kind is always suspect.

“So, did you like him?”

My brother’s question sounded more like a demand. For a 19 year old boy he sounds a little too much like my mother.

“I think he's a great guy…I am just not sure how I feel...”

“Rachel, if he's so great, what’s the problem?”

“Aaaah, I don't know. I just don't feel overly attracted, you know?”

“Come on! Attraction can grow over time.”

Seriously, if Evan didn't incessantly talk about "smokin' girls" and "smokin' dubes" he would be indistinguishable from a menopausal women.

I immediately knew how to put an end to the conversation. This came from years of experience guaranteeing private mother-daughter telephone calls after I moved away from home. My Dad would pick up an extension and instead of asking him to get off the phone I would pretend I didn't know he was there and say "my period cramps are terrible" or "my boobs are killing". Without a word he would hang up.

“You're right, Ev. I need to give this guy a chance. I think next time I go out with him, we should have tons of drinks and..., you know, just see where things go.”

A moment of silence, “Oh, no, no, no, sister! I don’t want to hear about it!”

And that was the end of that. Yes, I was giving him a hard time for my own amusement and to put him in his place, but it was not entirely a joke. Maybe that is exactly what I need to get over that sterile shield and into the real mess of things.

One think I know for sure: I made a decision a long time ago that if, in someone's presence, I find myself wanting to change too much, anticipating someone’s desires or preferences before my own, and doing things differently than I normally would, I should reconsider spending my time with that person. Whether it be a friend or a date, if the things I say and do begin to feel foreign to me or the air is like molasses, it is a red flag. Often I am already in it when it registers, and sometimes I have to make a hard decision. Eventually it will be made for me anyhow, because it can never last.

Maybe it is a good early sign that I felt entirely myself on the date.

On a side note, I just got a bug bite on my finger – in November.

We don’t have bugs here in November.

Maybe it is a sign.