Monday, January 30, 2006

and they say mad is sad disguised

I want to take the wind out of people's sails. They all sounds so pathetic, unoriginal. Little machines on play-back. I hate them. I can’t breath through one more friendly conversation with a person who has nothing below the surface, who is unable to see beauty in anything that does not decorate a home - who finds depth of character frustrating.

This one doesn’t even laugh at anything funny. She doesn’t have the capacity. I never got along all that well with girls anyway, so what am I doing here? She doesn’t know me, but she thinks she does. Always, with the thinking she knows me. I get a taste of her husband's life and it's not good. I am going to lose my fucking mind if I have one more ridiculous encounter, taking the most insignificant shit and raking it through, down to the smallest particle.

"I like the black and white with gold tones, but even better are the ones with the-"

“No, it’s not."


"Not gold."

“Well, you know what I mean, it's like black and white but with gold under-"

“No it’s not……It’s brown.”

Brown, gold. What the fuck is the difference?

Fuck, fuck fuck FUCK am I going to lose my fucking mind. She is not just any old tyrant, she is a banal tyrant. The worst kind. I could take it if she was an interesting one. I did the tyrant thing growing up. At least then it was exploding with flavour - either wonderful or terrible. I can not take it anymore you mediocre tyrant. One more time. Do it one more time and I am going to explode.

I dare you.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

everything I find sexy

Last night my dream was so real. He was everything I find sexy, charming, handsome. He knew how to kiss me. We sat in a restaurant, we laughed and touched hands. He told me I wasn't like all of the other girls.

I laughed, and joked, "tell me more."

"Well you know..."

For the first time he wasn't articulate.

"No, I don't. What do you mean?"

I was still smiling but I got a sinking feeling.

He held his hands about a foot apart, like he was describing the size of something.

I looked on, confused.

And then it hit.

"Go on." I told him, dreading his next words.

He stammered a bit, "Well, you know. Other girls are just smaller."

What a horrrible dream! Maybe a little shallow, but still horrible. My teenage neuroses were alive and kicking when I woke up. The same neuroses that demand I reassure anyone who reads this that I am not overweight. I often feel like I am, but objectively I am not. How fast did I get my ass to the gym this morning? I am sure there is a message in that dream somewhere - there always is. The only thing that stands out for me besides the fact that I need to go to the gym is one line that I wrote. I knew it as soon as I wrote it:

he is everything I find sexy

And the message? Clearly I find the wrong things sexy.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

there is art

Every single life is a tragedy.
If it hasn’t happened yet, it will
Demanding the world’s biggest fiction
A collective suspension of disbelief
And manners

If we each lived life
With that objective knowledge
Nothing would ever be done
We would cry, and hold each other
Or rip each other apart
Limb by limb
Children would stay in cribs, well into adulthood
Or better yet, in the womb
We would starve
We would become extinct

Instead, there is art

Monday, January 23, 2006

squeezing life

The baby looked up at me from the crib. His breathing was still labored. I was watching him closely. There was a good chance he might need to be intubated.

I looked at every inch of him. His pulses were good, his limbs were warm, his temperature was normal, his air entry good, and his oxygen saturation was fine.

Then he coughed once, his little body arching.
Before he could take a full breath in to recover, he coughed again, harder. This time no air moved back in at all.

I grabbed the oxygen mask and bag and held it to his face

“Come on, little man,” I encouraged him softly, “take a breath for me.”

I eyed the monitor. His oxygen levels were dropping. His face was getting red. My heart was pounding as I waited for what seemed like forever for him to recover the way he had been all morning.

“Come on baby. You can do this.”

His face began to turn grey. I sealed the mask around his mouth and nose, holding it in place with my left hand. I attempted to force oxygen into his lungs. At first no air moved. His lungs were clamped down like steel. I hit the code bell on the wall beside me with a clenched fist and resumed bagging. Just then his tiny body went limp.

He looked dead for a moment. His eyes closed, and he was cold and blue.

My stomach was in my throat. I could hear people running down the hall toward me. Someone came in with the crash cart. His heart rate began to fall. I could hear a voice screaming in my head.

Just then I felt some give. I got a little air in and in a split second, pink washed back to the surface of his skin. His eyes opened instantly. His oxygen levels and heart rate came back to normal.

Colleagues moved around the room getting things settled. The respiratory therapist listened to his chest. Once everything was calm and the baby was comfortable, I left a colleague in the room to watch the baby and I went to the washroom. My body was shaking so badly. I sat down on the toilet and I took my own deep breaths.

The look and feel of the baby when he stopped breathing was terrifying. For a moment I thought he had died in my hands. I am convinced that I know how that would feel. To hold a dying baby. Pushing the air back in was also something I will never forget. The look of the pink surging back in and the warmth it brought with it - I will never lose that.

It is a simple case of mechanics. As easily as it comes back is as easy as it goes.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

how you move me

It is amazing that someone I hardly know can move me
The safest way to feel things
Details I think I see
Filtered through what I have always known

Like a moment
In a dark bar
The drinks and the base and the proximity
Excite me
Because they are fleeting
A source of whatever I need
Long after I pull away

What would I do if you yielded?
Any of you?

Like I told the tenor
If the lights go off
I am gone

Saturday, January 21, 2006

miles and miles and miles and miles

My change purse was so empty that the contents would have been an insult to a street performer. No, this was going to have to be substantial. I had listened to him and thought about him so many times. The old man had found his way to this corner every day, rain or shine, heat or snow. He brought with him a table and a microphone. He displayed a newspaper clipping that rated him as the 'best of' something from some newspaper – I never got close enough to read the article. His voice was so frail you could barely hear him, even with the microphone. His skin hung from his bones.

I walked up to him and smiled, pushing a $20 bill deep into the change mug that sat on the ground in front of him, afraid someone would steal it. Just as I leaned in I looked up, accidentally into his watery pale blue eyes, catching him between songs.

“Make a wish” he told me.

In that moment it came to me so quickly I almost fell back. He wouldn’t be around much longer. I saw him as a baby. I could feel the passing of time in a second. He was here and soon would be gone. So would we all.

“You’re great. Really great”, I heard myself say.


I wrote this as soon as I got home that night, a year ago this February.

Recently I was walking along Bloor St, outside Holt Renfrew. In faded chalk letters, it was written on wall near where he usually stood:

"Gary McBride, 1923-2006. He will be sadly missed."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

green light

I am going to be fine. Although sometimes lately I may sound a little melancholy, and I may well be, I am going through something interesting. Not necessarily bad.

I am writing like crazy. I am not sure exactly why. Maybe I am putting a few things away, so to speak. Shedding a few layers of skin. Or maybe I am stirring it up. Seeing where things fall. Either way it feels transitional.

Some of it will appear here. It may or may not be interesting to read, may even be a bit messy. My instinct is to smooth it out for my wonderful (read small - and extremely good looking) audience. File away the rough spots. No surprises. But if I can't genuinely put it out here, then I may as well just stop.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


It was 11 years ago
When I got a phone call
To tell me how you flew
During rush hour
Through the greyest January mist
Into the winter harbor

They say you ran through traffic
Without hesitation
I can feel the fog on your face
I worry about your fear
About the cold

She showed me a prism you held in your pocket
And a bird figurine
With your red hair
Your pale freckled skin
The spitting image of your Mother
Who later fed me pizza from the freezer
Meant for you
And it sat like a stone in my stomach
Like this always will

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

the weight of separation

I have always imagined ways I could slip out from under my life. It's not that it was tragic. My Mother loved me to pieces and my stepfather tried to. Yet I have always found it too heavy. Hard to stand with that arm around my shoulder.

The pressure was relieved temporarily by summer camp, a stint in boarding school, and now living in another city. As much as I crave that space, I also have terrible separation anxiety. Like last night. I wasn't in the mood to talk when my mother called, so I didn't answer the phone. Just now when I listened to the message, my heart ached because I know there will come a day when I would give anything to hear her voice.

At boarding school I used to worry that something terrible would happen. I would call my mother from a payphone in the hallway of the girls dorm crying. I made her promise, in the event of a nuclear explosion, even if her efforts were sure to be futile, she would get in the car and start driving toward me. She would try to talk sense into me at first, but she would soon relent. This went on during the first Gulf War, at the time they were sending scud missiles into Israel daily. Somehow I worried that there would be a nuclear explosion in North America. The world might end like in Neville Shute’s book On The Beach. At night I would lay in bed with my earphones on, listening to Pink Floyd, imaging the end of the world. I knew it would be very dark and painful.

Later I fantasized about great escapes. I planned many. Periodically I ran away from home. I often stayed with a friend of mine, her mother, and her creepy stepfather. It was ok because they let us smoke in the basement. We stayed up all night, talked about our fears, drank coffee, played cards, smoked hash, slept in. This was as far away from my life as I could get. We were fucked up together and we were inseparable.

Then there was the time my boyfriend was kicked out of his house in 12th grade. He moved into an apartment in a bad area of town. I can’t remember how I managed it, under the thumb of my Mother, but sometimes I would stay there with him in his single bed. We would have sex and then heat canned food for dinner. I felt like a grown up trapped in a seventeen-year-old body.

Now I am torn between wanting to go back and to move forward. Not that I have a choice, but it's about where my heart falls. Part of me would choose to go back to those days for the passion and the comfort of knowing I had somewhere to run from. The future holds more of everything I dream of, but with it comes all of the separation I fear.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


It is Sunday. I left the house only to bring my recycling out to the bin. It is negative ten degrees celcius. It is uninhabitable.

I have an aching back. I helped my friend move into her new home. My apartment seems smaller today.

I spoke to this guy my aunt is setting my up with. She emailed me last week to tell me she gave him my number and to expect to hear from him. Not a request. It was already done.

The problem is I can't be 'on' right now. It just isn't in me. Still, the conversation went fine. He grows tomatoes. That sounds gay to me. I shouldn't be so negative, right? He will be the one who comes out on top. He will have tons of tomatoes.

I could almost laugh if I thought anything was funny today. This is prime, moody, hibernating, January, cold weather, angry, Sunday. One of those days that I wouldn't want to fuck with me.

the herd just looked on

Friday on the subway I almost broke my arm off at the shoulder. The subway train was cattle car full of humans, each with entire worlds of their own, We were pressed into each other, sweating, smelling each other’s breath.

“The better way”, the transit commission boasts.

There was a medical emergency at Rosedale, and the train sat between stations. An announcement came over the loud speaker, thanking us for our patience and letting us know they would keep us posted. The mass of us sighed in collective impatience. I wondered if it was a jumper. Minutes later the train started again, inching along the underground tunnels, only picking up speed at a point on the track where there is a sharp downhill turn. They always seem to pick up speed here. My guess is it's a tedious job and the driver uses this as payback.

So we came around the corner too quickly, and the force threw us to the right. I tried to maintain my hold on the bar above my head but the weight of the others was too much. My arm gave out at the shoulder. I fell into the people sitting down next to me. The train began to slow for the next stop and we all worked to regain our footing.

“I am never taking the fucking subway again!” I seethed aloud, before I had time stop myself, which was a stupid thing to say. How else would I get home that evening?

The herd just looked at me, blank expressions leaving no proof of their worlds.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

to dust

I dreamt I was covered in papier mache
Head to toe
Thick, heavy, dark
It started off cold and wet
The intention was to freeze the moment
Make it last
As it dried it hardened on my skin
Tickling the nerve endings
Making it impossible to move the way my joints and muscles were meant to
But I started off small
Made some cracks
Kept going
And it turned to dust
I brushed myself off and walked away

Thursday, January 12, 2006

take away the itch

I am currently in the middle of a book of short stories by Dave Eggers. Last night I started in the middle of a story that was all over the place – wasn’t fun to read.

“I’m not in the mood for you Dave Eggers", I said to myself aloud (which sadly I have been doing a lot lately).

"You’re getting on my nerves.” Out loud, I said this, as I folded over the corner to mark my page.

I placed the book onto the nightstand.

“Except”, I continued, “when you say certain things, and then I think you might be the one for me. Like when you said, ‘why do some of us leave the television on when we are sleeping? Some of us only do it in hotels’.

Later, I dreamt of rubbing diaper cream into my shoulders to take away the itch, leftover from the sun of the southern hemisphere. I ran a thick white layer over my freckled skin.

This morning I lost it when I pulled at the dental floss only to find a 1 cm strip. Useless. I resolved to buy a lot of floss. I won’t be left like that again.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

a rest

When I was small, my mother would recite poetry by memory - poems from when she was in grade school. I was amazed that she could remember them by heart. She told me teachers used to make children memorize them. I thought that was an unbelievable feat. My brain isn't wired for memory. Every single day I lose my keys. I can never remember to take medicine. I rely on my computer to remind me to eat.

I never did remember more than a line or two of poetry. The only one I can think of is,

"In Flander's Fields the poppies grow
Beneath the crosses row on row"

But that was only because I had to read it in front of the school for remembrance day in 7th grade and I practiced so much.

There was one other line of text I did memorize though. I was young - maybe 3rd or 4th grade. I often saw it in movies and heard it on the television.

Somehow I was enchanted.

"You are under arrest.
You have the right to remain silent.
Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
You have the right to an attorney.
If you can not afford one, one will be appointed to you.
Do you understand your rights?"

With great purpose I rehearsed it aloud. I would try it different ways: a menacing voice, out of breath, authorative, dissapointed. Barbie would arrest Ken, Ken would arrest Barbie. I would arrest one sibling, ordering the other to, "take them away!"

I don't know how it charmed an 8 year old girl. I never aspired to be in law enforcement (although I did love Jessica Fletcher from Murder she Wrote). I never once dabbled in theft. I never understood my own right to be silent, even though I did understand the price I paid for talking too much.

If I asked my therapist about it, he would say, "Well, I'm not sure. Any thoughts on that?"

I would say, "Every minute of my day was scheduled - my mother controlled everything. From that perspective I suppose this was a seductive speech, and evidently a relatively constructive way to exercise my own power."

I think I might be outgrowing therapy.

Monday, January 09, 2006

all of this

"Just like old times, right? Been a long time. Rachel and I, we used to be close."

We were in a bar on the coast. His voice was slurred and he yelled over the music to my friends.

Used to be, being the key words.

He put his arm around my shoulder for emphasis. He was too heavy and I shrunk out from underneath him. Immediately I felt sorry for him.

Later he found me waiting for my coat at the door.

"You really hate me, don't you Rachel?"

"I don't feel a whole lot of anything about you."

"What is it? Why do you hate me?"

I just looked at him. I could feel the bubbles in my chest, rising, threatening.

The coat check girl handed me my coat.

"Nice seeing you Patrick."

I turned to leave.

He stopped me with a hand on my shoulder. Too much touching.

"I know - it's because of that day, isn't it...with me and Jeremy."

I freeze. He said it. It had faded so far into the background. What else could I do with that? Over time it had taken on an unreal quality. I told myself that it was nothing to them, like a joke I didn't get. He wouldn't even remember. But he did. Years later.

I was sweet sixteen. Now, 15 years later, my adult mind sees that he knew it all along - knew it was a terrible thing.

My hands were pinned down. I had nothing free for my defense. They laughed. How I remember their laughing faces. Pulling at my shirt. I got a hand lose, connected with a face. Patrick hit me back. My face stung. My hand pinned again. I spit in their faces. It was all that was left. I was an animal. My shirt was pulled up over my head. Hands pushed down the front of my pants. I was a trapped animal, backed into a corner, and I had to fight to flight. I spit, I kicked, I hit, and then I ran as fast as my legs would carry me. The daylight sun surprised me. My lungs burned. My tears stung. I could still feel handprints on my face. My run slowed down to a fast walk and feeling started to come back. My heart pounded. People on the street shopped and talked and drank coffee on patios. I noticed my finger was scraped and bleeding - It was the only visible mark I had that told me it had really happened.

* * *

When I was five, my next door neighbor told me his sixteen year old brother wanted to show me something in their garage. He was waiting in the back room among his father's tools. One light hung from the ceiling. I feel like the lightbulb was swinging on a string, casting shifting light around the dark room, but maybe I saw that in a movie. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust having come inside from a sunny summer day. He was holding something below his belt. After a moment I knew what it was. I wanted to leave. He asked me to touch it. I ran away - straight to my father who was mowing the lawn. He was still living with us then. I don't remember what I told him, but it was one of the only memories I have of my father truly being a father. He dropped the handle of the lawn mower and left it running where it was, storming toward the neighbor's garage. I had never seen his face so red. I was worried he would explode like in cartoons.

* * *

"Wow. I don't know what to say. I guess I never thought you'd bring that up."

"Well, I feel really bad about and Jeremy, you know... we were fucked up. Smoked too much...drank too much - I know it's no excuse, but we weren't ourselves."


"Look, I'm sorry for it - I really am." Quieter he added, "I always have been."

He looked old and sad. A new wave a sympathy rushed in, but with it came air. More than I realized I needed.

"Thanks Patrick. I appreciate that."

I took my coat and walked out into a crisp and clear night. Sky so black and stars so bright, as far as the eye can see.

* * *

The invisible marks were plenty. What was I doing there? What was I thinking going there alone? Who smokes up and drinks in the middle of the afternoon? Didn't I know better? It was those questions that would be the most devastating as they still ring in my ears. That is how a walk home becomes a walk of shame. A passenger standing close on a packed subway? Lascivious. Being open? Slutty. We really only see what we know. I see it everywhere. The menacing in the most mundane: a hand gripping a pole on a streetcar, salad dressing drizzling from plastic orifices, glib nazi analogies, pregnant pauses. All of this between the skin and bone.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

no broken bones there

"I can't believe this! I chipped my tooth last night on my fork. I thought it felt a little rough, but I just realized when I looked in your mirror, I actually chipped it!"

The urgency made me think it was bad. I wondered how I might have missed it.

"Let me see."

I see a tiny surface chip on his front tooth.

"It doesn't look bad at all. You may not even have to do anything about it."

"These teeth were expensive. I can't believe I did this."

"Do you want me to kiss it better?"

"I'm upset."

"Do you want me to kiss it better?"

"My tooth?"



I kiss his tooth.

"I never hurt myself. Never! Never even broken a bone".

The root of behavior is not always convoluted. It is often so literal it is difficult to see.

It was essential that he never hurt himself because his brother did. Plain and simple. I saw it everywhere. I called it selfish when I was mad, but I could just as easily call it self-preservation. It doesn't make it any more palatable, but it does make sense.

Friday, January 06, 2006

dry run

I should have known the day Ben looked at his watch. I did know. My friends would have confirmed it if I had admitted it to them, but my ego is delicate. Somehow I feel like it's my fault. Maybe it is.

I talked about it here. "Be wise", I was warned. "It's the little things that trickle out after a bit of time. Watch and heed the signs."

I made allowances. I knew he liked my body and all of the things that he could do with it. I liked all of the things I found I could do with my body in his presence. It was never about him. He was a medium. A place to be. Outside of that there was emptiness. I tried to fill it in for both of us. I imagined him a personality that didn't exist because I am ready and because I can. I can live for everyone if I have to - one of my many talents. I swallowed him until now, a large and bitter pill, another talent.

I am past the point of pretending. I can no longer conjure up a believable image. That stopped when he began to feel too comfortable. Presumption early on confuses my insecurities. Part of me wonders if I should feel lucky - like maybe the size of the liberties taken are a measure of my likeability. When he absently slipped his fingers into the front of my underwear while he watched television I didn't pull away, but I had to remember to breath. Later, walking home alone, it occurred to me that I could be murdered right there in the dark and he would have never known. Nothing converges those two lines for me: intimacy and distance. I would make a terrible prostitute.

I'm not hurt, just dissapointed that I didn't fall in love with someone. It has nothing to do with Ben. Thank G-D I am not one of those people who wants it so badly they pretend they found it. I might have pretended a little in the beginning, but that was just a lubricant to get things going - to get those things that hadn't moved in a while moving.

Tonight I got them moving in a whole other way. I sweated them out at the gym. I ran fast and lifted heavy weights (ok 5 pound hand weights, but who's counting). I listened to my girl Gwen Stefani, "workin' so hard every night and day and I'm gonna get the payback...", and I watched the Raptors winning - that gym/tv combination is a good thing. Now I am eating the sweetest, juiciest honeydew. Josh, Lana and I had a conference call to talk about plans for tomorrow. We laughed the way we used to when we all lived together and it reminded me that I am a lucky girl.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

are we crazy

I remember how we sat in his basement, the way he would push up his sleeve and thrust his arm toward me like a little kid. I can still see that pale freckled arm and feel the skin as I ran the tips of my fingers up and down, from the inside of his elbow to his wrist, his eyes closed like a happy cat.

I remember he would sit me on his bed. He would slide the red milk crate full of records toward us, across the hardwood floor. He would flip through them, presenting them for me one at a time, like a museum guide. He was animated, sometimes reciting lyrics, keeping time with his head and a hand on his leg.

"Cause they're the me generation
They're the assholes of the 80s
They're the me generation
They'll be lonely old men and ladies
They're the me generation
Are we old or are we crazy
Are we crazy
Are we crazy
Are we crazy
Are we crazy
Are we cray-ay-ay-ay-ayzy"

I remember he would walk me home, the snow crunching under his combat boots. He would hug me tightly and kiss me goodbye with an innocent brush of our lips. I can still feel the flannel of his jacket pressed against my cheek.

Later, they sent him to a far away land with hopes that getting him out of there would change something - would be enough to save him. Back then I don't even think they knew what they were saving him from. Humans are efficient self-protectors. They probably fretted that he would never graduate from high school, or worried that he would end up working at a gas station for the rest of his life. If only that was as bad as it would be.

Soon after he came back I bumped into him at Tim Horton's. I will never forget. He was wearing a pair of middle eastern pants made of a thin cotton. They reminded me of something a genie would wear. It was a cold December afternoon, grey and snowing lightly. He seemed buoyant, exuberant almost. Partway through recounting his trip he stopped to do a magic trick for a child who was at a table next to us. The mother looked afraid and I was embarassed for him. He didn't seem to notice, but turned his attention back to us. He stared at me for a long moment, like he was really taking me in. He told me I looked beautiful. He turned to my friend and asked her,

"Don't you think she looks beautiful?"

He never got to go to so many places. I think about him often. Lately I keep thinking I spot him in my peripheral vision in a crowd. I used to make that mistake a lot, but it hasn't happened for a long time. Maybe I think of him now because of Ben - thinking back to how much warmth and love there can be in the smallest of actions, in the face of the most daunting walls. Maybe whenever I go to do something where I am most alive, all of the people that I carry around with me feel heavier. The fuller my life, the easier it is to see the empty spaces. I bet if you traced those spaces with a pencil on tissue paper, you would find a perfect outline of my people. I have to do it for them, and I don't think this is it.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

may old aquaintance be forgot

There has got to be a sign in here somewhere. Is it good or bad that I have lost a whole level of sentimentality?

Every single concious year of my life, I have spent the days and hours leading up to New Years trying to hold the previous year in my mind, to appreciate it, mourn it's loss. Every SINGLE year, when everyone screams, "happy new year", my heart breaks. Like with the couch my parents discarded on the front lawn when I was five, I wait pensively at the window and cry until the garbage truck arrives and a new year begins.

"The couch will be cold and lonely", I pleaded to my father. "Please, bring it back in, it's starting to snow!"

This year there were no tears, no ache to keep things from leaving.

I saw this change somewhere else recently, just as unexpectedly. Usually when I go away, I fully enjoy the first half of the trip but in the second, the joy drains out in a less than slow leak until it is unbearable. I sink lower than I ever was before I left. There is a moment when the change happens - another one of those that are difficult to pin down, yet sudden - and I know exactly what's coming and I wish I could just go home and get it over with.

Neither of these things have happened lately. Last night I felt no saddness when the clock struck midnight - hardly a drop of nostalgia. On this vacation, it almost happened, but then it just never did. I enjoyed virtually every last minute, and was sated when I left for home.

What does all of this mean? Is it bad? Is it that I lost the last scrap of the innocence I vowed I would always hold on to? Will I lose my ability to appreciate life, especially at its deepest ends? Is it that I am jaded? I realize last year I spent New Years at a funeral and last night as a third wheel, but I thought this was more ingrained in my personality than that.

Maybe it's a good thing. Maybe, like with my fear of flying, my inability to feel full-thickness happy has fallen away. Maybe it turns out that the guilt stiches I was put together with were actually the dissolveable kind. Maybe it means one step closer to freedom. Even better, maybe there will be no price to pay.

Good or bad? Which is it?