Dovetail

A fine mist, a grey sky, an unconsciously slower step induced by the bruine the blanket the beauty of a peaceful morning such as this where the sun is not orchestrating productivity and profitability of a beautiful day but the clouds are saying there is time to repose to go slow to lay low. Today there is time.

It is the last day of summer and the first day of September. It is the perfect place between what has passed and what will be, one day of time standing still. A whole day to breathe. A whole day pretending it is always early morning, the purest most precious time of day. A whole day spent this way!

Thank you mist thank you sky thank you fog thank you I love you, Sun, but then I love the rain greatly too and I’m awed I am moved thankful to be so calm at this junction.

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Water

A finger up the nose, a tear down the cheek. Social ineptitude, a bruised knee. People I pass on the street. Questions in my head, and a quivering soul. Catching each person I pass at specific and singular moments in time. Sometimes these flash glimpses become meaningful evidence in the cases we are building in our minds. Against a suspect lover, for example. All signs point to whatever we design or interpret them to point to. And when our spirit is not in flux, it is simply a digit, a nostril, a child’s face, and some salty water.

Another summer in Paris. This will make three. I leave in seventeen days and I can no longer tell if I go due to undying passion or simply out of habit. It’s just that I’m thirty-nine and more than a little lost. Life is relatively easy and outside of work, I am free of responsibility, dependants, lovers, commitments, or even ailments or things to be upset about. I am bored. Allow me to quote myself: Depression is the North American luxury. It’s gratuitous, ridiculous. But this is where I live and this is how I feel.

A sense of purpose. Belonging. Being needed or instrumental in a greater good. Creating something noteworthy, contributing to the world in a meaningful and important way. I am the servant who was given one bag of gold and buried it and returned it to my master upon his return. I did not fail, nor did I prosper or even wager. Inconsequential. My master was angry, and I understand why! What will I do with my bag of gold? At thirty-nine, I am panicked because I still don’t know.

Friday the thirteenth, two thousand fourteen. Full moon. We won’t see this eerie pairing again until two thousand forty-nine. I stayed home tonight. Growing up, my mother would blame her crazy, violent outbursts on the full moon, when she could. So I have an aversion to assigning responsibility to the skies. However, when I am eighty and he is eighty-five, perhaps we will look upon that moon together and I will assign significance to such an event after all. For now, I gaze into the sky and I see rays and clouds and I do not see the moon but I know that it is there and that he sees it and in that way it is beautiful.

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Fuck Fiction!

The only thing I’ve put in this poor body today is a coffee, the toxic fumes of half a cigarette, and some of my own blood from a scab I picked. I’m hungry. I’m on a train bound for The Falls. I am playing host to my funny friend Pierre from Paris. We get along more like brother and sister. We bicker, we tease, and we laugh. He is not an ex and he never will be. What we have is unique and wonderful.

I have given up on fiction. It’s just not me. What sealed the deal was something my current and latest literary crush, Fran Lebowitz, said. She said that when she wrote Metropolitan Life, her publisher told her that it wouldn’t sell and nobody had published a book of essays since whenever way-back-when and her response was simply: So? Well exactly. Just do what you do and pay attention to nothing else. How could it be any other way? How could I not have realized this simple reality before/on my own? Anyway. I get it now. Be yourself. Oh, the brilliance.

Today marks three weeks until Paris. I will stay for eight weeks. This is my third summer in a row and though it might seem redundant what else should I do? Poor me, another summer in Paris. In fact it is a great blessing that Paris has become normal because now I have perspective and settlement and perhaps I can tuck myself away from the social circle that was so important for me to create and the drama that is unpleasant but inevitable amongst humans and sadly happened and the drugs that were too strong and that were delivered to me so exotically at Montmartre and many places elsewhere all about my precious home away from home and also the inaugural fascination and instead just create a routine which I crave and thrive under and run in the mornings and lunch in the afternoons at some petit café with a writing project afoot in a coin perdu where I don’t crave to explore but to finally and narcissistically EXPEL what’s inside imbued by my silly naive love to write and wistfully, romantically imagine my idols, predecessors in these very parts nearly a hundred years earlier reading and writing and living and painting words so beautifully that I wantonly hurt in reading them and my simultaneous desire to emulate, join, continue, empathize, repeat, start anew the amazing and long lost tradition of pen to paper, a circle of likewise impassioned artists, writers, visionaries. I know I see SOMETHING, something THEY don’t.

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That’s suburbia for you.

I am walking in the grocery store and I have no pants or underwear on and I am mortified and praying to almighty god that nobody will notice. I pull and stretch at the front of my shirt trying to cover myself. I keep walking with my head down, staring at the floor, dying. There are people around and nobody seems to be noticing which I can’t believe. Still I daren’t look up at them to find out. In case I’m wrong.

Last night the dream was different. I was fully naked and I was less afraid. I had long hair and I used it to cover my breasts. I walked very close to the shelves in the aisles. I dared to dart furtive glances to see if anyone was noticing me. I just wanted to get out of there but I wasn’t mortified and I was fully naked this time.

Nakedness in dreams is not uncommon. It symbolizes feelings of embarrassment, shame or vulnerability. I didn’t know this but now I do yet I still do not want to analyze myself or my recurring dream. I already spend too much time inside my own head. I do wonder what more nakedness but less fear means. I’ve grown more comfortable with increasing vulnerability? My gradual acceptance of the shame of strangeness? Who knows? I know that I long for a warm embrace and soft, sincere words.

* * *

I’m spending two weeks at Good Friend John’s house. It’s luxurious like staying in a hotel. It’s comfortable like staying at my Dad’s. It’s hell like I already knew living in suburbia is.

I did my groceries at Walmart!

I decided to view the séjour as « research » and forced myself to watch one episode each of the presumed-to-be-terrible cable television shows like Kourtney and Khloé, Million Dollar Matchmaker, and Two and a Half Men.

Presumptions confirmed. To the point of disillusionment.

On the upside, thanks to GFJ, I have now discovered Fran Lebowitz. He has this documentary he’s been telling me he wants me to see. I confused it with Annie Leibovitz, the photographer, so I had staved off his promotions. We watched it. I love this woman! I watched it again. And again. And again. I want to MEMORIZE it or something. I bought her books. I’m obsessed.

* * *

That GIRL is trying to balance her Tim Horton’s coffee cup (hick!) in some sort of crevice in her purse, just so, presumably so she can turn the page of that book in her other hand. Don’t even think about it! I think. She’s definitely thinking about it! Oh I cringe at the near future. Doesn’t she understand the jerky ride that lies before her on this suburban extended-length how-on-Earth-do-they-drive-these-things bus whose square footage is DEFINITELY bigger than my downtown apartment? What is she NEW? Despite all my mental admonitions and warnings, she does it! Screws it into the abyss of whatever Metro women keep in purses, spare Kleenex and rings of endless keys for endless doors and folded pieces of paper bearing lists for shopping and to-do’s, the torn out newspaper page with the crossword puzzle she proudly finished or has almost finished and plans to later on. All this must seem like a perfectly malleable mess from which to fashion a coffee holder with a warranty at least long enough to turn a page in a book. Yes, she’s going for it folks.

I’m watching. Of COURSE I want her to fail so I may mentally snicker in superiority as her coffee smashes and splashes all over the aisle, velour seat covers, and hopefully a plain-sight portion of her blouse. It’s HUMAN. However. No such fun.

Not only does she turn the page coffee-spilling-incident-free, but she leaves the damn thing in the purse and reaches in and pulls out some sort of sandwich that she begins to unwrap (she has laid the book down for the moment). THIS GIRL IS PRESSING HER LUCK! If she only knew how much her inconspicuous seat side activity is STRESSING ME OUT. I have a book in MY hand I could be reading but instead I’m glued to THIS.

* * *

Nine weeks left in suburbia, twenty-six days until Paris.

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River

The long weekend. A little slice of hell. The boredom, the spending. The loneliness. The drinking, the smoking. THE EVERYTHING.

***

This little man is playing Candy Crush
This little man is playing Angry Birds
This little man is checking Facebook
This little man is playing Animal Farm
This little man is crying Wah! Wah! Wah! all the way to his already-warm deathbed.

***

I don’t bite my nails. I pick at the dry skin around my nails. Incessantly. I draw blood. I can’t help it. My fingertips are ugly as a result. This isn’t the main problem. It’s the obsessive picking. In public. How it must look! Along with this terrible haircut.

I was buying a bottle of wine. The young man in line in front of me got carded. Then the cashier said to him: « My mistake! Almost a relic! » And the young man said: « It’s the Asian gene. » I « laughed out loud, » as the famous texting acronym goes and makes me cringe. The young man, hearing me laugh, turned to me. He said: « I love the hair, » quite earnestly. « THANK YOU. » I said. MORE earnestly. I need This Specific Compliment in the wake of The Bad Haircut. Then he even waited and held the door for me. He was walking my direction, too. Perhaps coincidental! I had a look and he was looking. Perhaps coincidental!

Then someone called: « Brian! » And he became otherwise detained and perhaps already was but not in my mind. Because I crave some sort of personal humanity. So a compliment is not a simple compliment but a fleeting but dire hope of attaining some. Some chance at I daren’t say it. I am the opposite of jaded. I still believe in love. A simple fool!

***

I jumped in the river. I swam and swam. Without really thinking I suppose the goal was to get to the other side. But then a canoe of Gypsies came by. They helped me aboard and we shared lovely stories and some wine and a few months of mutual hardship and experience and it was all quite beautiful.

Then I said goodbye and I jumped back in the river. I swam once again toward the other side. But then some vultures were hovering and I had to keep ducking under and holding my breath for as long as I could, which at first wasn’t too long but after awhile was at least a bit longer. This went on for quite some time and the current carried me further east but I could still see the shore just north so there was no worry.

Eventually the vultures must have found some prey because they were gone and I took great strokes left and right and was kicking my feet and gliding and I felt alive and I didn’t even look to see how much further I had to go but just kept revelling. How strong my young body moved and felt through the flowing water, the currents working against me to the east as I wildly waded to the north! What fun! What beautiful accomplishment with every meter gained, every ray of sun kissing my fat cheeks! All four!

On and on. Until I hit a rock! A tiny bedrock bar, a granite Gilligan’s Island, a « like this » and not a  »we’ll see, » right there in the middle of the river. I may have broken a finger, in fact!

I climb up.

So I am stopped but the view is MAJESTIC. The shore is just there. There is no rush. I feel my skin tighten around my eyes when I smile to myself about how blessed I am to be surrounded by all this! Tight skin means too much sun. Or never enough! Beautiful Earth! Sacred Sun! Incredible gift of life! Thank you! I see you! I appreciate you! I live you to the fullest! My God, what else should I have done, Beautiful River Who Carries Me!?

I jumped back into the river. I see the shore there, so close, just north, only a few meters. I swim and I kick and the sky is grey and I am cold and I see my flailing arms and I have never seen such big goose bumps! I gain a few meters but still the shore is just beyond. I look for a Gypsy canoe or a rock oasis.

Or even a vulture.

***

Mister Hemingway, it’s been awhile. But here I am, tight in the afternoon. There is daylight at least! Just after seven, skies grey but still full of a sun just behind. Streets are shiny, gleaming, happy, washed, clean, new, beautiful. I carry on. I swim.

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Some days

One day.

Makes me angry, these people on these sites and the things they say. « I stay active by going to the gym. » The gym. Bunch of sheep. Go for a walk! Get outside. Read a book. The gym. It’s fine as a means to an end but I wouldn’t boast about it! Makes me angry.

« Looking for someone interesting and humerous. » Can’t figure out if he’s a leg man or after some laughs.

Another day.

It could go down in a number of ways. I saw him pay his bill but his beer is full. He’ll leave when it’s done. He’ll walk by and I’ll say: « Do you have a girlfriend? » I heard him say: « I’m thirty-seven. » I’m thirty-nine. And he’ll answer something but as a vision his response is inconsequential. Or. He’ll finish his beer and he’ll come up to me. He’ll say: « I came here to see you. » And I’ll say: « I came here to see you. » Or. He’ll finish his beer and he’ll be on his way out and he’ll say: « Have a good night. » And I’ll say: « Wait! I came here to see you. Do you have a girlfriend? Might you be interested? » I think he has a new beer. He’s talking with a very old man and not a girl or the waitresses. So that’s good.

I haven’t dared to look at him since he came in. Well I do look a bit like a boy with this short hair but I get quite a lot of compliments and some boys like girls with short hair. It’s possible he could fancy me. It’s just as possible he’s way out of my league. It’s possible he’s not way out my league but simply that he has a girlfriend. Well I’m quite drunk. It’s seven thirty in the evening and I like being tight when it’s still light out.

* * *
It’s quarter to ten in the morning. I slept well and was up early. I have a glass of red before me and am waiting on buckwheat crepes with smoked salmon and goat cheese. I’m living on overdraft. It turned out that he was married with three children and he was very sweet and humble and flattered, he said. Because of his way I did not feel foolish or rejected but glad to have paid him a compliment I felt he deserved. Sometimes people can be decent and alright.

Another day.

« It feels as though it may have been a longer than normal stretch for me to have gone without saying hello. So here I am, doing just that.

How are things? Anything new? I have some small but wonderful bits of news to share.

Firstly, I sold my car! I have read seven books in the three weeks and two days it had been since going car-free. It has been heaven. Also, I’m basically rich.

I had my five-year evaluation this year. After observing and evaluating me, my principle nominated me for Teacher of the Year. I didn’t end up wining but I am not being modest when I say that I was elated at simply being nominated.

I also chopped my hair off. My guess is you would hate it as all the school boys do. Remember you asked me if my male students had crushes on me and I said I honestly thought no? Well. I only realized that yes a few did after they sure as hell didn’t anymore. I like my hair. My Dad says I look « more French. » Either way, I’m letting it grow back.

Anyway, how do you like that? I just dropped you a line and rambled on about myself! However, I would love if you did the same.

Hope you are very well, am thinking of you, as always! »

Another day…

The messy, unmistakable child-like handwriting. A regular business-sized white envelope, there on top of a heap of junk mail; flyers in plastic wrap, glossy cardstock advertising this new condo and that new restaurant. A big waste.

Just like her letter.

I tuck it in my knapsack and throw the rest in recycling. It has been nearly a year but seeing her letter only makes me angry and I’m not the least bit curious to open it. It will only be the same lame story. Excuses. Apologies. Her two favourite words! « I’m sorry!!! » Who says I have to put up with this?

I carry the letter around with me for days. I meet up with Nekka. Our long standing Saturday morning meet. One of my closest friends. I tell her about the letter.

She knows all about her. She’s aware of the situation. « Read it! » She says.

« I just don’t want to. » I tell her, matter-of-factly.

I’m just so tired of it all. What could she possibly have to say?

« Give it to me. I’ll read it. »

Sure. I hand it over. I just don’t care, so why not?

Nekka says: « She sounds remorseful. » I’m outraged!

« Of course she does! She always does! » I am angry that Nekka could fall for it!

I still have no desire to look at the letter. Nekka’s eyes tell me she thinks I am being stubborn, perhaps cold. I am exponentially outraged!

Another day…

More than a foot taller than me but I can see him eye to eye. The uncanny parallels you read about in classic tales of romance, plus the frivolous ones: he speaks French, he skateboards, he offers to hold a glass of water at the finish line. He carries himself.

He grew up poor and abused, a smashed picture-perfect family that puts me at ease, makes me feel at home. And then the beautiful confidence of no game by choice and openly giving me the upper hand that makes me glow and revel; having the upper hand from an as sweet but helpless soul cannot last. That turns to pity. « A happy wife is a happy home. » This is the wisdom of a good man. A good woman does not mistake this for power. She understands that he chooses this with a woman worth choosing it for and she is conscious to maintain this value and desirability that he sees, that he feels.

« Marry me. » He’d said, earlier. Much earlier. « Okay. » I’d replied. So of course we had to meet.

Today…

It’s eight at night and still light out. It’s grey and almost chilly. I look at the ground as I pass people coming up from the subway as I go down. I have no desire to look into anyone’s eyes, see what they look like, if they might be attractive. I am shown the tiniest bit of humanity and I fall to pieces. I mistake kindness for a glimmer of a chance at love. I start to dream and in the same instant I start again to question my sanity. My loneliness is driving me crazy and numb. I ate the whole bag of popcorn at the movie I went to alone and now I might go out for sushi rather than going home toute seule and already. I can see from the corner of my eye a man watching me as I move a newspaper and take a seat. He has set down his book and he has detected my strange, melancholic mood as I move slowly and deliberately, almost graceful but more dead. I feel alive under his gaze but I don’t look at him. Soon he returns to his book and I get off at the next stop.

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Flash-fiction 02: The pet store

With absolutely no forethought or conscious knowledge of wanting such a thing, I walked into a pet store in my neighbourhood, one I’d never really noticed before and happened to be passing, on my dawdle home and bought a goldfish. A goldfish! I feel that such a whimsical act is the result of having much spare time, no large or immediate financial worry and a persistent taste for adventure, large or small. In this case, small.

It was eighteen degrees, the warmest day so far that Spring, but even still I had decided against going for a run. At forty-nine years old and after twenty-five years of marathon running, I was finally and more than a little fed up with being a slave to warm weather. I had forever seen the Spring sunshine as my boorish big brother, telling me I had to take advantage of the good conditions and RUN! On that particular day I put my foot down. Once rather than repeatedly. And instead I had a glass of wine, I dilly-dallied down the street, and I walked into the pet store.

“Hello!”

“Hello!” I said back. I smiled. I look around, absent-mindedly. The ubiquitous smell of wood chip, aquarium water and a hint of manure that pervades all pet stores was there, reliably and comfortably. When was the last time I had been in a pet store? I knew it must have been as a kid but I couldn’t come up with any particular memory.

“Can I help you find anything today?”

“Um…a low-maintenance, hard-to-kill, inexpensive pet…” I said distractedly, wondering if I had covered all the bases, and also making my mind up about what I wanted (or IF I wanted) as I went along. Come to think of it, if there was a Husband Store where I could make a similar request I would go there.

His eyes darted to the left suggestively. I followed his glance. I laughed. We were standing in front of a tank of goldfish.

“I’ll take one.”

He smiled. He had longish sandy brown hair that suggested being long overdue for a cut rather than that purposefully messy I-don’t-care look. He was a bit pale but had nice skin. Really nice. Creamy smooth, like he’d never had a pimple. He was tall, maybe six feet or just under. His teeth were a bit spacey but white and straight and I smiled back. His name tag read: “Peter.”

I walked down the street, happy with this quirky little turn of events in my evening, puffed water-filled plastic bag in hand. I felt proud and motherly. This little goldfish was going to be my PET. I thought about a name as I walked along. Thinking…thinking…pet store…Peter…PETUNIA! It was funny. It was a “P” thing.

I took Petunia home and filled the one glass vase I owned with water. I immersed the plastic bag in the water. I made a small snip in the top of the knotted-closed bag, about an inch wide. The pet store aquarium water began to slowly seep out and mix homogenously with the tap water. Soon Petunia darted out, too, in short, jagged swims that recognized her confined new home. In fact, her swimming looked panicked. I hoped she wasn’t feeling too claustrophobic. I immediately felt stressed and guilty. I need to get a proper fish bowl.

I’ll have to go back to the pet store.

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