Wednesday, September 27, 2006

too good

Killing time waiting for my spinning class to begin, I sat on the "courtesy couch" and looked at the phone. Who to call, who to call?

I dial Lana.


"Hi, this is Jared calling from Spadina Fitness", I say in the deepest man-voice I can muster. My voice is already kind of low and raspy so it isn't that much of a stretch.

"I would like to invite you to return to our club by offering you the low rate of $50 dollars a month."

Pause. "Um, no. I've moved."

Ha! She's playing along.

"You wouldn't come back for a deal that good?"


"Ok", I stifle a laugh. "How 'bout this - if you come back, we'll pay YOU $50 dollars a month."



"Oh, shit! Rachel!"

"Are you kidding me? You were falling for it? Who the fuck would PAY you to come to their gym?"

"But you sound like such a man. Holy shit! JUST like a man!"

"Ha, well that's what I was going for", I tell her, suddenly a little self-conscious about how easily, for a girl, I can pass as a guy. "I gotta go. Class is starting in a minute."

"Too funny. Wait! Matt! Matt!", I hear her yell. "Pick up the phone. You gotta hear how much Rachel sounded like a-"

"Yeah, no. Shows over. Gotta go."

Monday, September 25, 2006

anatomy of the throat

On the first three dates with the otolaryngologist
Rain threatened and
I came equipped with an umbrella.
On our third date
I accidentally left my umbrella at the restaurant.
We stood outside and kissed and
The rain held off
So I didn't even notice.

You can always find
An umbrella outside the tenor's door
At the slightest chance of rain.
Never fails.
Lately it's been hard to leave his office.
It took a long time but
He knows me.
Now there's nothing much left to hide there.
All of this makes leaving him
And his umbrella hard.
The other day on my way out
I stopped outside his door.
I never stop.
I pick up my bag
Say, "have a nice day"
Close his door
Walk across the waiting room
And directly down the stairs.
But the other day
After I shut his door
I paused
Reached out
And touched the handle
Of his umbrella

As I contemplate getting ready
For date number four
With the otolaryngologist
I find I lack motivation.
I sit on the couch
Still wet from running in the rain
With the rockstar
Who asked me to dinner.
"I have plans", I told him.
And wished I didn't.
Through my balcony doors
I see the rain is letting up.

Wearing my favourite pants
Dark grey cords
I leave my umbrella on the chair outside the kitchen
And walk out the door.
I sit at a table facing him
And I drink wine like medicine.
The room buzzes
On the way out of the bathroom we meet in the hall.
I pull him toward me.
Out of nowhere
I'm happy.
On the way up the stairs
He notices my charm bracelet.
I stop and turn to show him
The peace sign and what I think
Is a charm in the shape of the state of texas.
I love that -
A peace sign
And the state of texas.
But he's distracted
Looking past to see if anyone is trying to get by.
"Just keep going", he tells me
All business.
And then
Everything comes into focus again.

Friday, September 22, 2006

onlookers laughed politely

It only took one hour
Eighteen minutes.
The first day was surreal
In the way days are
When you start early in one place
And end up somewhere very different.
A girl sobbed in the car rental line-up
But no one at avis could save her.
In the hotel lobby
Of charming floral patterns and sunlight yellow walls
A man spoke into one of those cell phones
That works like a walkie-talkie
[what a weird name, walkie talkie]
Talking about the secret service.
It sounded serious.
“This is war”
He said.

I had proximity
To one of my imaginary friends.
Only it turns out he's not imaginary.
He's probably not far away, I thought.
I imagined him at his desk
Writing about the invincibility of hate.
I was tempted to pick up the phone and call him
But I was tied to my boss
Doing what my boss wants
Going where my boss goes
Which almost always involved
Stopping at chico's
Even if I could
What would I say?
"Hi, it's Rachel"
Even though that's not true?
Would I ask him to go out, maybe for a coffee or a drink?
‘Definitely drink', I can almost hear him say.
The brakes kept coming on
It's like looking down from an airplane.
All is perfect
And clean
“Nice from far
But far from nice”,
My Mother always says.
Lest you forget
Those clogged pores
Fine lines
Land mines.
I get the sense that he is who he is
With anyone and everyone
Even when he's full of shit.
I respect that.

The trees are tall and lush here.
People you don't even know
Smile at you for no reason
Which might get annoying after a while
But might not.
At the drugstore
I had the guy behind the counter
Repeat his sentence three times.
I still didn't understand him
But pretended to.
He talked about Steve Irwin
The Crocodile Hunter.
Something about innocent animals.
He pointed to a space on the floor in front of the cash register.
"If deh was a horse up in he-ah
Folks, eh never leave it be
Pokin' and proddin'.
All it want
Is to be left by it's own."

I managed to break away from my boss
For a few minutes
Just after a thunderstorm let up.
I threw my runners and Ipod on
And set out among the red brick buildings.
The students moved
In continuous streams.
I admired the architecture,
The vegetation,
And the street names,
Like "Ransom”.
A pick-up truck took the corner in front of me
Aiming deliberately for a massive puddle.
Soaked me good.
Nice, right?
In all fairness
Onlookers laughed politely.
Welcome to North Carolina.

In the end
I called.
Passed my own test.
While there was no time
For that drink
I still wanted to hear his voice.
Turns out
He's very intimidating.
Frightening even
With his new yawk/tar heel/romanian-blend accent.
He sounds adorable
Don't you sunshine?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

kiss of death

What started off as a faint neutral smell became more pungent as the night wore on. I guess everyone has a smell, but his was loud. It wasn’t a universally bad smell but nevertheless, difficult to ignore. That was just one bad sign. The first came early, in the planning phase. I was having coffee on a patio with Josh that morning:

"What's on for your date tonight", Josh asked, lighting a cigarette.

I waived away the smoke, "We're going for mexican and then playing pool." - It was my turn to make plans.

"What?", he laughed. "Mexican??? For a date? I hope you're bringing your Beano", he giggled.

"Yeah, ok. Very funny", I looked around to see if anyone was listening. "I don't really care anyway", I said, turning back. "I'm pretty sure this is it. Finito. Adios"

"Ok, so let it be known", he pretended to tell everyone around us, "if Rachel invites you for mexican, particularly if she doesn't go easy on the re-fried beans, consider it a kiss of death."

"That's right."

So you can see, I started the night with a great attitude. Besides his smell, I also found his sense of humour, which if peppered strategically through the conversation could have been cute, was instead a burden. After I insisted I pay for dinner [he paid for the first two] we went to play pool. Generally I can be a bad sport, but this time I was happy he was kicking my ass - less guilt. I even threw in a couple of 'fucks' and 'shits' for good measure, which can work on a second level. How attractive is a bad sport with a mouth like a truck driver? Heh? See how my mind works?

As he pulled up to my apartment at the end of the evening, my seatbelt was already off. Before he knew what was coming, I gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, thanked him for kicking my ass, and burped (by accident – I know, very classy, yet incidentally not the least bit embarrassing for me given my state of mind). I opened the door and got out, leaving him looking confused. I felt nothing but relief. It couldn't have been a cleaner break, I thought to myself, smiling as I unlocked my front door.


But with sleep came turmoil. I dreamt I told him I didn't want to go out again and he became unreasonable, following me around, trying to talk me out of the way I felt. He followed me to the airport where I was catching a flight to Vancouver. In my dreams he worked in the IT department at my office, and I knew he would always be monitoring me from afar, looking for ways to make me pay. I kept thinking, isn't there an expression for this situation - a lesson to be learned? Something like 'never eat where you shit'?

In the same dream, I arrived in Vancouver where I saw my ex-boyfriend Michael. Instantly in his presence, I melted. He was everything I was looking for. He wrapped his arms around me and kissed me. Then he left to get something from his car and that’s when I realized in my haste to escape my bad date, I forgot to pack. I had grabbed the suitcase I had partially unpacked from my last trip, which contained only the un-essentials. I had forgotten all of the important things. The sinking feeling that never seems to evade me washed in and stood facing the happy, melting me, hands on hips in opposition. I awoke before I could tell which feeling would prevail.* I lay in bed with my eyes closed, consciously loosening my clenching jaw, mechanically separating fact from dream.


Looking in the mirror, I twisted my wet hair and clipped it at the top of my head. On my forearm, I could see the faint remnants of a burn I incurred while talking to this guy on the phone for the first time a number of weeks ago. As we talked, I grilled, and I didn't let on when I accidentally pressed my arm up against the barbecue. It sizzled under the heat. Later it blistered and I thought the scar would never go away, yet here we are just a few weeks later, and it's almost gone.


I never expected he'd call after that mexican excursion and I was relieved when I didn't hear from him in a few days.

But then, several days later I received an email:

"hey rachel
not sure if you're still away or not
thought i'd say hi...
i got the impression saturday that we both weren't too sure if we
were clicking or not... but i've been thinking about it and i don't
often persue things beyond a second date so there must be something
anyway - let me know what you think."

With an unusual lack of hesitation I replied:

"I don't think we were clicking. I think we had fun initially, which is probably what brought us to a third date, but I don't think that there was a connection. It was good to meet you though, and I wish you the best."

Happy, melting me: 1
Sinking feeling: 0

Sunday, September 17, 2006

it doesn't take much

Had fun this weekend. To show for it I have an ionic hair dryer, a new pantsuit, a shirt in a perfect blue to complement my fair skin and blue eyes, and a hangover. Fun, not necessarily because anything was so special, but because I wanted to do all of the things I did. It was my agenda. There was even some unexpexted flirting with an old friend at a party I went to last night. Strange when you see someone you've always known and out of nowhere your dynamic has changed. I couldn't quite put my finger on it but it was there nonetheless and it was fun.

On Friday I went to see my therapist for the first time in a few weeks. He was on vacation for a while and then I was. I told him the story of the 'gay handshake' and he almost pissed his pants. Honestly, if I could just find a guy who thinks I'm as funny as he does, without an hourly rate, I'd be set.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

dry eyed and satisfied

Just went to see The Last Kiss. Alison picked me up outside of my therapist's office and we drove to my place. We killed some time writing songs on garage band and then met Shoshana for dinner. We haven't spent an evening with Shoshana that hasn't been wedding-related in almost a year so it was refreshing.

As the credits rolled I looked over at the girls and they were both crying. All I could think was, did I miss something? I checked my pulse - could I have blacked out at some key moment? It was sweet and sad and pathetic and funny and I thoroughly enjoyed it, so for a girl who cries at her desk almost daily over nothing in particular, it was a bit weird that I was dry-eyed. Is my heart turning to stone, I worried? Am I growing bitter?

We walked toward the parking lot.

"I didn't even cry at my wedding and I can't seem to stop crying now", Shoshana said, wiping the tears from her eyes.

"I know. I could cry myself to sleep", Alison added.

"Oh come on. Get a hold of yourselves!"

They both looked at me surprised. I shrugged.

They turned back to each other.

"It does seem impossible that people could be together for 30 years, happy", Shoshana sighed.

"I know, but it happens. It happens all the time". She seemed to be trying to convince herself more than anything.

And then it made sense. I thought of the time I flew home to visit my parents. I drove with them to visit my grandmother on the southern tip of the province. On the road, everything my stepfather did made my mother angry. They argued so much my chest was permanently tight. We stopped at this beatuiful white sand beach on the way home. My stepfather sat on a bench outside the snack bar while my mother and I took off our shoes and walked along the waters edge. The salt air and the sound of the waves were no match for the animosity in that car. I wanted things to be happy for once. I wanted to convince my mother not to hate him - to dig deep and find some love in her heart. I confronted her, I scolded her for her lack of patience. I pushed and prodded. Once the tears trickled down her cheeks I knew I had gone too far.

"You don't want to know, so don't ask", she told me. I remember she looked so old at that moment.

So I know that things can be bad and I know why people pretend not to see it. People fall apart. People fall out of love. People might stay together, but 'happy' is relative. I know no other way, but they don't understand. Either their parents were good liars, they're good pretenders, or they're the exception to the rule.

Even though I worry I'm losing my innocence, I couldn't help but feel a little proud.

Look at me, I thought. Dry-eyed and for the moment, [relatively] satisfied.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

stuck on obstetrics

I'd been studying for the US nursing board exams and I was doing so well keeping up with it...until lately. I stopped partway through obstetrics. I guess I got busy with the weddings and my own personal misery. I'm just plain stuck in general, but lately everything seems to hinge on obstetrics. I was on my way to Costco with Lana, one of my three pregnant friends, and I told her about my dream.

"Last night I dreamt I was pregnant".

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah, although I wasn't showing much yet. It was like I was as far along as you are, but somehow it was time to have the baby, so I ran a warm bath and I got in. It was like a big bathtub - jacuzzi-sized."

"You were going to have an under-water birth?", Lana asked laughing.

She changed lanes, cutting off a a range rover. They honked at her but she didn't seem to notice.

"I don't know. I guess", I continued. "You were there and Shoshi. There were a few other people too but I don't think I could see their faces. Anyway, you guys were all sitting around the edge of the tub. There were no contractions, at least none that I could feel so I was confused. I asked you guys, 'Do I just try and push or do I wait until I feel like it?' No one could answer my questions. I started to worry that, what if it wasn't my time and I had brought you guys all there for nothing. I didn't know what to do. Should I play along? Push even though I wasn't really in labour? I thought maybe if I push hard enough, it would start."

"What happened?"

"I don't know - I guess I woke up."

"Too funny. I had a dream last night about my old Uncle Leo. He was outside my house, sitting in the drivers seat of a school bus. Everyone was coming up to me and saying, 'Do something! You gotta get your Uncle Leo off the bus.' He's been dead for years - I barely even knew him. I wonder why I'd be dreaming about him?"

It was my turn to laugh. "Poor Uncle Leo."


When I was eight or nine, reading 'Are You There G-d it's Me Margaret' for the fifth time, I dreamt I jumped up and down really hard and I got my period. It was so real and I wanted my period so badly that when I woke up, I decided to try it. With my eyes barely open and a bad case of bed head, I stood in the center of my bedroom, between the twin beds. I jumped, but even before I started, I knew it wasn't going to work. For a moment or two I pretended not to know, but I knew.

"Whats going on up there?!?!" My Mother yelled from the kitchen.

"Nothing! I tripped, that's all."

"Well cut it out!"

Monday, September 11, 2006

in memory

Before September 11, 2001, I'd never even heard of Al Qaeda. Now it's a household word. Five years later fear still abounds. Today I road my bike to work to avoid the subway. I knew nothing was going to happen, but still...

911 was not what taught me fear. I grew up to it, like music. It was passed down to me. Even though on the surface my family never talked about fear and they did everything they could to give me the life they didn't have, somehow it came through implicitly. For example, I knew that being Jewish meant that there are always going to be people who wish you didn't exist, just as I knew that being vulnerable in any way meant someone, somewhere would find a way to take advantage of you. These people don't care about the quality of your personality, the size of your heart, or any of the good things you do.

Even though I know this to be true, whenever I think back to 911, the raw shock and horror washes back with an intensity that always surprises me. No matter how much I was constructed on a foundation that expects this kind of hate, I think the innocence of the subjects, the almost 3000 people who died that day, trumps everything else I understand.

May this kind of abject hate never happen again.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

ikea unit

This is hysterical. My friend pointed this out to me yesterday on the first page of the ikea catalogue. Check out the dog's unit. That doesn't even LOOK like a dog unit. Whatever it is, it certainly left Ikea Canada scrambling to come up with an explanation.

a joke

I’m tired.
Last night I couldn’t sleep
Hot and then cold.
When the alarm sounded
It felt like a joke.

I’m full.
Pockets balloon out at the sides
But never too big.
Tie them off when they’re still small
Or I won’t find my way back
Unable to cover my tracks.
It is essential to keep up with the appearance
Of emptiness.

Friday, September 08, 2006

reading in

The day started off on a bad note. I didn't fall asleep the night before until 4AM and my alarm went off at 6AM. After getting in and out of bed, reading, watching tv, writing, reading, punching myself in the head, and watching more tv, I resorted to trying a variety of these annoying little exercises. The last thing I recall was wiggling my toes up and down, twelve times. I'll stop short of saying it did the trick, but coincidence or not, I slept.

My boss met me at my house in the morning to exchange paperwork - never something I look forward to in starting my day, but this one was particularly bad because she was on the warpath and I was conveniently located. The drama lasted through the day, involving myself and a couple of other colleagues and a series of crazy emails and phonecalls from the boss. When the day was finally over I left to go for dinner with a few friends from work. The four of us left the restaurant walking north. Two of the girls turned off at College and I walked the rest of the way toward Bloor Street with the other girl. We watched people as we debriefed.

"The thing is, she was just LOOKING for something today. I could see it coming from a- girl or guy?", I asked, just in time for her to catch a glimpse of a very tall person with a great body but a masculine face in a sexy dress and heals coming our way.

"Guy, for sure."

It's the adam's apple that always gives it away.

"Yeah, but implants or stuffing?"

"I don't know..."

"Hard to tell..."

"Anyway, I just knew it the second I saw her face this morning."


"And I actually...Wow!"

"Is she wearing a plant green velour romper?"

"Yes. Yes she is."

This continued on for several blocks at which point my friend said goodbye and was waiting to cross the street. I stood with her and waited for a break in the traffic. We were facing the church of scientology, a building I've seen a million times, but until now had never actually looked beyond the sign at the building itself. It was quite tall. Many of the windows were cranked open, some with billowing dreary curtains, others bare. My friend crossed the street and I was about to continue on to the subway when I heard the voice of a man with a thick Indian accent."

"What is going on here?"

I turned around to find a small balding man, holding a tim horton's coffee cup, looking at me with pale green eyes. I looked back with a raised eyebrow, waiting.

"May I ask you, what exactly are you looking at?", he asked. Taking a step back and shading his eyes from the sun, he joined me in looking up."

"The building. I'm just noticing all the windows are open", I told him, trying to keep it short with the hopes he'd move on.

"No, no. It's not that. There are no coincidences. You must be looking at this building at this very moment for a reason."

My heart picked up for a split second, but then I figured there's probably just something wrong with him. Dementia? Mental illness? I exhaled and turned to leave.

"Ok, ok. Just wait a minute", the man pleaded one hand outstretched.

"Sorry, I have to go."

"No, no, just wait one minute please!", he pleaded. "Sometimes it is warm outside and people with no air conditiong need...what do you call this... air...air...?", he made a circular motion with his left hand.


"Yes! Air exchange. Come on - let's sit down and talk about this-" He gestured to a bench.

Now I was sure he was crazy, which was at once a relief and a dissapointment.

"I have to go. My boyfriend is waiting for me", I lied - not exactly sure why.

He became more insistent, emphasizing each syllable with a hand in the air, "No, no! Just a minute."

"Bye", I said turning and walking away.

"No! just a minute!", I heard him call after me.

A man walking in front of me stopped and turned back to see what was going on. I didn't look back. I just kept walking at an even pace.

When I got home I absently scanned through blogs the way I pick at my cuticles. I found a new one by following a comment on a site I read regularly. I looked through the profile and the photos, the order of which were all mixed up - tourist pics of hollywood interspersed with old childhood photos, pictures of a woman with staples in her skull, clearly recovering from some kind of brain surgery, more hollywood etc... It was too much. I bookmarked it so that I could give it a fair chance another day when I didn't feel so overstimulated, responsible, worn out. Besides, no matter how attentive I am, it's all going to come to an end, we're all going to die someday, and we're all going to be happy sometimes and sad others. Nothing I do or do not do will change any of these fundamental facts of life.

And that's just it - no hidden message is going to spare us, so why do I keep looking?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

above the waist

He's kind of cute, but also looks a little like a younger Jewish Stephen Harper. He's smart, and he's also a gentlemen. He's definately a little nerdy, redeemed occasionally by something unexpected, leaving me thinking, 'Ok, maybe there is something to this guy.' But most of the time it was more like, 'maybe not.'

On our way to the restaurant he got pulled over for cutting off the po po. Seriously. He almost got in an accident with a police car. After the honking and slamming on of breaks, they turned on their lights, pulled alongside the car and told him how many things he did wrong and how much it could have cost him if they didn't let it go. They let it go. All this in the first 2 minutes. The rest of the night didn't come close.

On the way home, we were talking about his sister-in-law having a baby. He insinuated he thought the process was a little gross.

"Have you ever seen a delivery?" I asked.

"Yes", he answered. "I've delivered babies."

"Oh ok, then you know. Isn't it amazing?"

"Well, the first one was, but the second one was a little gross."


"Well, let me put it this way - in med school, I made it a general rule to keep it above the waist."

"Oh really", I laughed."Keep it above the waist? How's that rule play out in your real life?"


Yeah....maybe not.

Monday, September 04, 2006

my bad

I can be pretty absent-minded at times. I find it difficult to remember names and details of acquaintance's lives. This weekend's been particularly bad in that regard. Maybe it's the double header wedding, maybe it's that I've been so blah lately, I don't know. What I do know is that I said something incredibly stupid and embarrassing. While there were a lot of near misses - situations where I said something mildly stupid, forgot something I should have been able to recall in a conversation, mixed up details, it got much much worse.

I saw someone I hadn't seen in a long time. We knew each other as kids and several years ago he came out that he was gay (which I heard through friends of friends). More recently I heard he's in a serious relationship and so I was debating whether and how I might ask him about it, just as I would ask any straight acquaintance about a new boyfriend/girlfriend. I was speaking with a common friend when he came over to say hi. It was one of those awkward moments where I was about to give him a hug and he reached his hand out to me. We had a rather weak half-handshake and before I even had a chance to think about it I said something to the effect of, "Enough with the gay handshake, give me a hug." As soon as it came out of my mouth, all I could think was what the fuck did I just say?

As a kid I can remember using 'gay' as an adjective to mean stupid or uncool, but back then I never really thought about what it meant. Now I never use that word in that way (or so I thought).

I could tell he'd heard what I'd said. I think I tried to reverse the damage with something along the lines of, 'It's so nice to see you that a handshake seems so impersonal." He said something to the effect of, 'don't worry, I know you meant it in the nicest possible way".

Horrible! We moved on, talking about jobs, travelling, etc... I thought if I could just keep the conversation flowing, my blunder might be washed away. Of course it wasn't - at least not in my mind.

At first I couldn't stop thinking about what I'd said and how he probably thinks I'm a bigot. By the next day I forced myself to let it go. While I won't pretend I'm perfect, I'm not a bad person either. It reminds me of when I was a nursing student and I had a patient with a glass eye. One day he couldn't find his watch. When I walked in I could see he'd removed his eye and he was holding it in one hand. He asked me to let him know if I found a watch and I said:

"No problem. I'll keep an eye out for it." I almost died.

But this most recent one was worse, even though I don't think it came from a very different place. What I said was stupid, plain and simple. I just hope that my brain sharpen's up a little, cause that really sucked.