The Sun Will Rise Again

Sunday, June 15th, 2014.

We walked and talked for hours, down along the Lakeshore then up through High Park. Before long he had confided in me, told me his story about alcohol and drugs. As he was sharing, I just kept thinking: uh huh, yes, that’s me, that’s me, been there, been there, omigod yes, yes, that’s me, that’s me. I told him I, too, had considered joining, or at least checking out AA, but simply hadn’t. Yet.

Thursday, June 19th, 2014.

I went to my hometown St. Catharines for my niece’s grade eight graduation. I had two vodka Caesars before the church ceremony and three vodka sodas afterward. I came home to Toronto and had a bottle of wine. I texted my friend from Sunday and told him I was sorry, that I wouldn’t be calling after all because I was sad and wouldn’t be a good conversation partner. He said: « Okay. I understand. I’m sorry you are sad inside. Do you mind if I call you quickly just to say hi? I feel bad leaving you alone when you are bummed. » Pretty nice, huh?

And cue the verbal flood gates! Poor thing. In the hour we spent on the phone I had relayed what was incredibly only a tip-of-the-iceberg synopsis of my childhood with a crazy, abusive, alcoholic mother and other such fun topics. I didn’t tell him I was drunk at the time, of course. I wonder if he knew.

Friday, June 20th, 2014.

I couldn’t get this AA business off my mind. I stayed in that night, proud of myself at choosing not to drink, to get to bed early, to make the most of the next day. I went to bed happy. That’s how it always goes: I’m good for awhile but not for long.

Saturday, June 21st, 2014.

I’d had a bike ride planned with a neighbour. But my bike was in the shop and wasn’t ready in time for the ride after all. I had to cancel the morning of.

A huge part of my personal challenge is that I do not deal well with unstructured time. I see the whole, free day gaping before me and it swallows me whole. I become paralyzed. I have to have something planned. Instead I found myself with endless hours of free time on my hands. I could have run, read, written something. Instead, I lay there in my apartment, watching the gorgeous day pass me by, sinking me further into the quicksand. It was happening again. I couldn’t function.

This is where I would normally drink, the quick fix to numb the foresight of the empty day and the loneliness. But on this day I kept thinking about my friend’s story and my own and this AA thing that I was considering. So on this day, I didn’t drink. In this way I was still physically paralyzed but not mentally pulverized. I even laughed at myself. I thought: Oh poor you, Christina. You have the day off and you are relaxing at home doing nothing. What tragedy! But I wasn’t relaxing. I was freaking out, incapacitated, unable to make myself a coffee, go for a walk, a run, read a book. But still, on this day, I didn’t drink.

Finally at about four in the afternoon I mustered up the wherewithal to get on the subway. I headed down to Kensington to read and write. I did this. The sun was shining. It was a perfect day, warm and happy. Everything was okay. I had just needed to get out of the house. I had salvaged the day. All was good. So I decided to have a nice glass of wine. One glass of red, the perfect compliment to my seat on the patio and the sun on my face and and the World Cup game in the background and the two thousand words written toward my next blog post. Yes, a nice civilized glass of red. It was a lovely day after all.

Two glasses of wine, four double vodka sodas and a gram of coke later, I forced myself to bed at four in the morning.

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014.

I sold my car two months ago (partly because I continually drank and drove). That’s an extra thousand dollars a month disposable income I have. I also live basically rent-free due to income I receive sharing my space with international students and travellers. I make over seventy thousand dollars a year as a school teacher. Still, with all this, I woke up this morning at negative five hundred dollars in my bank account, my credit card maxed, tired, hung over and, this time, absolutely flabbergasted. I just could not believe it. Again? Really?

Courage breeds courage.

I googled AA Toronto and found a meeting at St. Paul’s Trinity Church on Bloor at eight in the evening and I went. I was too scared to go to the front and accept a 24 hour recovery chip, but that same nice friend from last Sunday gave me his.

Monday, June 23rd, 2014.

What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. That’s what I’ve been doing: oh I’ll only drink on weekends or I’ll only drink on weekdays or I’ll have a $20 a day budget for all food and beverage, or this or that. Nothing worked. Doing it on my own wasn’t working. I wasn’t replacing the long, scary hours alone with anything.

Courage breeds courage.

Thank you to my friend who was so forthright and shared his story with me. You gave me courage. Thank you to this group for welcoming me and making me feel at home, instantly. You give me courage. Thank you to myself, for finally looking in the mirror and doing what I need to do. You have courage and you’re going to need it.

I’m scared. Just like the speaker said yesterday: admitting I have a problem means never drinking again! At this point, less than forty-eight hours sober, I cannot fathom. I leave to spend the summer in Paris in six days. I’ve already googled and yes there are meetings there, too. I will go.

Je vous promets, je me promets.

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014.

I went to my second meeting last night. I couldn’t bring myself to say « I’m an alcoholic » like the other stronger and braver people in the room. I just said: « I’m Christina. » I did speak, though. We had read from chapter four about God. I said:

« Yesterday was my first meeting. I am almost forty-eight hours sober and drug-free.

I was raised by a crazy, alcoholic, abusive, God-loving mother. She used God as a crutch. Whenever there was no money or an issue, it was time to pray to God. What about your working God-given brain and your two strong God-given hands!? No. Sit on welfare, drink, do drugs and make your children suffer and hallelujah!

Eventually and for other reasons, too, I rejected this Catholic, mother-made version of God. So when I saw the word God splashed everywhere yesterday I was like « Fuck. This shit again! »

When I did reject God it left a void that I searched to fill. Eventually I concluded that most religions share the common themes of love and karma, basically. This simple creed became my religion.

I have been told by people who were not raised by my mother that she is mentally ill and thus is not responsible for her actions. I call bullshit! I say that she should have gotten help, then, especially when we children came into the picture. If she chose not to, ignored or denied her illness, then she is responsible for this and I know I sure as hell am not!

When it came to my own illness, which I did not recognize as such, I basically always concluded that I am not hurting anyone the way my mother hurt us so really there is no problem here. I wish I could pinpoint what made me finally realize this week that I am hurting someone: I’m hurting ME. What about me?

So you can call it God, you can call it a higher power, it doesn’t matter the vernacular. Me, I call it love. My higher power is the realization that I need to love myself. That I am worthy. I think drinking was about me trying to fool others into thinking so instead of staying sober and trying to believe it myself. »

I really like hearing everyone else’s story and opinions. I’m glad the focus is on readings and concepts and others and not self-pity or loathing or searching for a « why » that is buried in the past.

Somebody said: « God is a verb. » I love this! Someone else said: « God is Good Orderly Direction. » I really love this!

I will go to another meeting tonight. I need to buy that book!

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014.

So this morning makes three full days sober. I went to my third consecutive meeting last night. It was a reading, a speaker, and a discussion about resentment.

It was interesting and enlightening, just as the previous two meetings had been. These meetings are really working for me in a number of ways:

1. Instead of me on focusing on stopping one behaviour I am focusing on enjoying a new activity. I have replaced the drinking with a positive activity instead of thinking that I will just mentally and miraculously overcome the bad habit; that I will overcome ME. It was just the same with crystal meth back in two thousand. Truly, I can appreciate how lucky I was to have escaped so unscathed that dirty habit that consumed my life for two years. I wasn’t even trying to quit meth. I loved it. I have journal entries from that time that state that I could not imagine life without it. On a crystal meth binge one day I joined a gym. When I came out of my stupor the next day or so, I thought: « Fuck. I spent the money, I guess I have to go. » So I started going. I loved it. Without my really trying, the balance slowly kept tipping to more gym and running, less meth. This is why I always tell people that I am « running for my life. » I literally am.

2. The people are amazing. They are confident, happy, healthy, positive unpretentious people who are choosing a better way. Most of them are even good-looking. They are interesting, deep people with stories and wisdom to share. I have never felt more instantly at ease and at home as I have here.

3. The discussions are cerebral and spiritual and I take something away each time. The focus is not on alcohol but on emotional and mental intelligence, social dilemmas and humane and healthy ways of dealing with them. I mean, I personally know more than a handful of people who are not alcoholics but are just generally shitty people that could greatly benefit from these discussions.

4. The meetings are at eight o’clock. This is a true blessing in regards to my personal challenges. On a regular weeknight, if I have nothing planned or nothing I need to do in the evenings which is most nights (I know, poor me), I panic. I may try to fill the void of the evening with a run and a book and making dinner, etc. Sometimes I can make it through the night this way and then get to bed, alcohol-free. Most nights, however, are not so antiseptic. Most weeknights involve an « innocent » bottle of wine at home with a book. Then out to a local bar for one or two or three glasses more. The justification was that I am not partying, I am just reading, I bring the book to the bar with me, I read it there, why must I beat myself up over such a civilized evening? The point of denial is that I am in no position to be spending on average forty dollars a day on alcohol or anything for that matter, plus more on weekends. And by more I mean more alcohol and quite often, coke.

Eight o’clock is around the time of the evening when I start to run out of hope or optimism or things to do and the void of the evening envelopes me and I drink. Instead now I come, I will go, to these meetings. By the time it is over and I chit chat a bit and take the subway home it is after ten and this old bitch is tired. I go to bed. It’s great. Traditionally, when I wake up in the morning, before even opening my eyes, I would always think: « Okay. What day is it? What did I drink last night? How difficult is this morning going to be?? » I had that flash this morning, and when my new answers registered, I laughed at myself. It felt fantastic.

5. The approach to healing with such an utter lack of poor-me has me enamoured with the program. I have no desire to dwell in the past to figure out the whys. I have no desire to lay blame and and have let go of my victim perspective a long time ago. I am not saying I don’t have some resentment or moments of anger but generally I prefer to focus on moving forward rather than looking back; dwelling on the positive and not on the negative. Both will always be there so the choice is always mine.

* * *

There was a gentleman there tonight who had been ten years sober and had relapsed recently and was now two weeks sober and had attended forty meetings in that time. Forty. I teared up instantly. I love this man! And I get it. The need to go, the comfort and support of coming. And I admire him! And when I hear about relapses it scares the fucking hell out of me and he is helping me to face that fear and be proactive about that and learn through his story and his strength.

Another gentleman referred to resentment as rewinding and replaying the same event in your mind. I liked this simple visualization of the process. Than he added that the theatre was in our head and while we were brooding and watching it over and over, the star of our film was off living their life. This echoes another wisdom I have adopted. That is that forgiveness is not about the forgivee but about the forgiver. The script is mine to write. It is not about waiting for amends to be made to me, emotional debts to be paid, apologies to be made. It’s about cutting your losses and not being trapped by what is beyond your control.

Finally, another man said: « The problem is that when I was sober I was too sober. » I think he must mean what happens to me when I get paralyzed on the brink of a large block of free time. I always thought and said that I am a high-functioning type « A » OCD and really I am just self-medicating with alcohol. Self-delaying was more like it. Delaying any iota of personal growth, self-acceptance, self-love.

Friday, June 27th, 2014.

Today marks the start of my sixth day alcohol-free. I’m so happy with my progress; that I am finally progressing! I feel so healthy and on the right track. I no longer have the ridiculous financial burden of my car, I have put the bottle away, I have received my summer payout and am out of the negatives in my account, and if I choose, if I continue to choose, it is only greater and better things from here on in. The stars are aligned and the sky is mine. Carpe diem.

I have attended two social functions since giving up alcohol. I went and did not drink. In fact, I like being around drunk people. They can drop all kinds of foolish coin on drinks and I can still partake in their fun and silliness but for free.

Sunday, June 30th, 2014.

I had set my alarm for 5:28 this morning in order to catch the sunrise on my thirtieth floor rooftop patio at 5:38. I didn’t make it up there until 5:43. So there It was already, low in the sky, huge and round and perfect. I’d missed Its surprisingly speedy and exciting manifestation on the horizon, from not there at all to thin, glowing orange line to enormous, magnificent, radiant fiery sphere, all in under five minutes. It rises quickly! I stood there in awe of its beauty and watched Its ascent into the sky. It weaved it’s path between the clouds which, with the sun’s light behind, I could see were drifting north and out of its way, also quite quickly.

The first time I’d ever went out to watch the sunrise was the last day of my first summer in Paris, in August of 2012. I watched with a group of seven or eight other strangers, likewise gathered on the steps behind the Sacré-Coeur. It was breathtaking. I have made it a point a number of times since to repeat this awesome and sacred act here at home. It’s an unspeakably special and peaceful thing. So this morning, which officially marks one week alcohol-free, I marked the event with this very personal and holy ritual.

Last night I went to my fourth meeting. By contrast, this one was rather unremarkable but still incredibly useful and fulfilling in giving me a place to go to and a community to belong to and an hour to reaffirm my path and a pause in which to quietly celebrate my success. I bought The Big Book, finally, as I have now learned that it is called. I look forward to reading it and being exposed to its wisdoms and positive messages.

I am elated that I have finally arrived to this place. I have known for a long time that I needed to address my pervasive and persistent dependency on alcohol and I am over the moon that I am finally doing so. As I have said, I always do well at things in the beginning, so I by no means consider the battle won. I am congratulating myself only that I have taken up arms and that it is finally begun! Carpe diem.

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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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