Wednesday, December 22, 2010

... now I know it's better if we don't all sound the same

K is back from Holland, without his wife, though she is back too.  They have decided on another separation.  He isn't moving back in with us.  He has found an apartment in Kits which is sort of miraculous.  He came by here tonight to see Shawn and greeted me by calling me Olive Oyl, which I did not appreciate terribly much.  I wanted to -- but didn't -- ask him whether he meant the cartoon Olive or the Shelley Duvall Olive.  And whether he was referencing my very sexy schoolmarm knot-of-hair (perfect for sauna-ing), my deep husky voice, or whether it was my luscious body that drew the comparison.  I have never been called Olive Oyl before and I do not believe it is a compliment no matter which way I look at it.  I think I am beginning to understand things from K's wife's point of view.


Friday, December 17, 2010

ultimate frisbee

When you pointed out the halfway smile I remembered Don, the stagecraft professor who taught us about stage makeup.  It was the strangest of my university courses, twenty students in a dimly lit room seated in front of mirrors, painting their own faces for credit.  Don wore makeup too, an orangey base colour that ended at his collar.  It seemed peculiar to me that a professional makeup artist would wear such detectable makeup but I have never fully understood makeup and maybe that it is the point.

As I stared at myself in the mirror trying, for some inane reason, to draw a treble clef around my right eye, Don stood behind me watching me in the mirror.  (And that's another thing that has always confused me about mirrors, the way it is possible for two people facing the same direction to make eye contact with their reflections.)  Don made me nervous and my hand was unsteady doing the stupid assignment, drawing on my face.  He told me the same thing you told me, that my symmetry was thrown into chaos by the halfway smile.  I stood in my bathroom mirror alone later making faces at myself trying to recreate whatever you were talking about but my self-consciousness must have altered the crooked expression that happens naturally.

The self-conscious smile was symmetrical but sharp enough to cut oneself upon its edge.  I never recognize myself in mirrors or in photographs.  Only in words.  


Sunday, December 12, 2010

my importantest blood-pumping chest body part

Closing night was odd this time.  I grow weary of explaining why it isn't okay to change closing night into a night at the improv, and I explained it more personally than perhaps was strictly necessary, with details from the last show that surrounded my sister's death.  I sometimes lack rigid enough boundaries.  And sometimes I think that being real like this is the only way to be.  They listened, they didn't pull any pranks.  They forgot to get flowers for BB but I knew this would happen so I bought them myself.  I can predict the future like a psychic.  Teenagers will almost always do something dumb.  Knowing this allows me to prevent tragedies, at least some of them.


The sauna is good, so much better than I imagined.  Shawn concedes that his research was designed to back up the fact that it's cool to hang around naked as much as possible, and I admit that I like the sauna more than I thought I would.  I like heat.  I want to sleep inside it but that would probably be dangerous -- and weird.  


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

I don't wanna make her cry (because I like giants)

When I was in university I lived in a downtown apartment building, walking distance to all the big important offices where all the big important oil guys worked.  My dad was one of those big important oil guys -- but in spite of his title and his suit and tie he did not have a big important oil man attitude.  Now that he is retired and spends his days in jeans and cardigan sweaters I recognize him more easily.  But I knew him then, too, my dad.  I was pretty sure (I still am pretty sure) that he was the smartest man in the whole world.

He worked in an office about thirty floors up in a huge tall building, the kind of building with security guards by the elevators, with soft plushy carpet in the hallways, where everyone talked very quietly, where everyone looked quite serious.  I loved my dad's office, in particular I loved the rolls of stickers, red arrows and multicoloured dots that he would affix to maps, because in those days drilling maps were made of paper.  Even though I was in my twenties, too old to want to play with stickers, I wanted to play with those stickers.  And he would let me.

Sometimes I would meet him there at the end of his workday and we would go for coffee before he went home to suburbia, and me to my apartment.  The security guard by the elevator in the lobby came to know me and stopped asking me where I was going the way he did at first, because I was so obviously out of place in that fancy building.

For some reason at that time, I was under the impression that elevators were soundproof, particularly the ones in my dad's building... because of their solid steel construction, perhaps, and especially because of the detectable change in air pressure when the doors whooshed closed, I felt as though entering the elevator was the same as entering a hermetically sealed vault.  Nothing could get out or in until the doors opened.  Not even sound.

And what would you do in a soundproof chamber if you had access to one?

I looked forward to the doors closing behind me in the lobby and would hope they wouldn't open again until I reached my dad's floor, allowing me the maximum time and minimum interruption to play.  I would sometimes sing (loudly) but more often I would scream.  Not primal-scream type stuff, not angst-ridden angry screaming.  Just making noise with my voice because I lived in a downtown apartment where one couldn't make noise, because I'm not usually a noisy person, because I wanted to hear what I sounded like when I did that.  So I would try to match my tone to the hum of the elevator, or to a note in my head, and sometimes I would practice diaphragmatic control, trying to keep the sound strong and steady for the entire thirty floors.

Usually when I arrived on his floor, I would walk down the hall to my dad's office, say hello to the receptionist, and meet him in his office.  But on the day that I learned elevators are not soundproof he was waiting for me in the hall right outside the elevator.  Like always, I stopped screaming as soon as the elevator bell dinged, watched the doors slide open.  And there was my dad standing at the entrance to the elevator looking wide-eyed and worried.  He asked if I was alright.  I said I was and asked him why he was in the hall instead of in his office.  He told me he had been walking down the hall between offices when he heard me screaming all the way up from the ground floor and thought something horrible was happening.

It was a great disappointment that day to learn that elevators are not soundproof.  I stopped screaming in his elevator, I also stopping doing it in the elevator to my apartment.  I don't think I have screamed in an elevator ever since that day, but every time I use an elevator I still always, always want to.


Saturday, December 04, 2010

je m'souviens

I wish there was a way to sleep in longer on the weekends, a way to convince my mind that it doesn't need to be alert so early on a Saturday, but I don't seem to believe myself when I tell myself it is okay to sleep, to stay in bed until the sun rises.  The pups are overjoyed that I wake up early; they know if they follow me downstairs they'll be given some breakfast, and unlike me they have no trouble going back to sleep afterward.  Four tiny warm bodies, full bellies, noses touching tails, surround me and smother me, snoring into my lap and keeping me warm.  Saturdays are good.


Friday, December 03, 2010

1.  Three days until the show goes up, seven days until I get my life back.

2.  I bought my gift exchange gift and placed it in the anon-box so I wouldn't have to accompany it to the staff Christmas party.

3.  Time until Christmas break = two weeks, ten working days, four of which are fourteen hour days.  Yeah, that's still too many minutes to count.


Tomorrow we have another meeting with our financial advisor.  Boring.  I am glad that Shawn is proactive about this kind of thing because my attitude about it is completely negligent.  Shawn's got plans, big plans, like buying an enormous - like a small house - sailboat, retiring young, and paying off the mortgage soon.  He understands money and I don't, which is why he wants a financial advisor and why I sit in those meetings sighing inwardly and wishing they could just work out the stuff without me and leave me alone until I sign the papers.  I know this stance is not in my own best interest and for that reason I have been trying hard to pay attention in the meetings, but so far I really haven't had much luck.  Maybe tomorrow I'll do better.  It's possible.

Following the meeting as a fuck-you to the financial advisor we are going to go buy an infrared sauna.  Just like money, Shawn knows things about infrared therapy.  He can spout all sorts of fascinating information about healing and muscle recovery, immunity and disease prevention, etcetera and so forth, and he thinks that with this new piece of equipment in our lives we will live longer healthier lives.  I just like the idea of being warm in the winter and plan on hanging out in there until March.  So talk to you later.  In the spring.


Monday, November 29, 2010

In general the more I do something the more I want to do it.  And the less I do something the less committed I become to doing it anymore.  This works for lots of things... writing, for example.  And running.  Eating popcorn and drinking wine.  Sex.  The more I do these things the more I want to do them.  I wonder what that is?  Is that OCD?  Or am I just forgetful?  The things that become my focus overtake other things that become utterly neglected.  I think and behave in repetitive patterns.  When I break a pattern it is difficult to start it up again.  This observation is borne of the fact that I am struggling to write anything lately, here, or there, or anywhere.  (I think it proves that my brain is probably about 85% lizard.)


Friday, November 26, 2010

The sound of our voices made us forget everything That had ever hurt our feelings

Sometimes when I am walking on stairs I make the mistake of thinking about what my legs are actually doing, thinking about how the steps work, and when I do that I suddenly find myself in fear of stumbling, forgetting how to navigate stairs, forgetting how I do that so often without thinking about it at all.  And then I have to stop and think for a second, picture myself finishing the flight of stairs without falling, and then force myself not to think about it anymore, trust my legs to do what they do without my telling them, and let my mind get out of its own way.

(Sometimes I have the same feeling when I think about breathing.  When I think about what it feels like to draw a breath, to hold it and to let it go, sometimes then I think I might easily suffocate or hyperventilate because I can take control of my own breathing and that means I can do it wrong.  I only do it right when I forget about it.)  A student in my class says Inhale, Outhale, aloud to herself when she struggles with stage fright and this always makes me laugh. 


Turns out I was wrong when I looked into the future and predicted a rejection from Dr. Brilliant.  This is surprising, truly surprising, given how poorly I felt the interview went, in particular the part where I did an impression that was totally inappropriate and not at all funny (for crying out loud, who does impressions in an interview?).  But today Dr. Brilliant phoned me and said he wanted to work with me.  So now I am scared which is a far more active feeling than is feeling rejected.


When I think about your lawn I can almost see it.  I probably project mine onto yours, overlay the pictures in my mind, a collage of faces and warm June sunshine.  It's good.  I wonder if disassociation is the same as rewriting history to make oneself easier with the role one played.  Sometimes I want to correct other people's version of the past but then I wonder if I have any reason to assume mine is the one that is most accurate.


Our financial planner put down Shawn's middle name as (None) on the initial set of forms.  Now we occasionally receive mail from his office addressed to Shawn None.  The recent Spawn-mail was followed by some mail for Shawn None.  This kind of thing is so much fun, and my overeager iPhone auto-correct made a hilarious and pornographic suggestion when I was texting this news to Shawn, one which he wanted to hold me to.  (Why does iPhone have such an extensive sexual vocabulary?)  I love words.  If I was a word I would be lugubrious, not because I am lugubrious but because I like the way it tastes on my tongue.  What word would you be?


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Anthropic Fallacy

Cold outside this morning, cold and misty grey.  My breath hangs in the air a moment before it dissipates when I step outside to refill the bird feeders.  I like this weather; the birds crowd and huddle around the feeders singing that they do not mind the rain, and I live indoors so why should I?

It is a coffee and toast morning, good coffee that warms me from inside, good bread with honey and sunflower seeds.  (Sunflower seeds, I eat them too.  As well as sing I do not mind the rain.)  It is a blue sweater morning, blue jeans, blue coffee cup held in two hands, eyes meeting over the cup rims, eyes that look like crisp blue mornings.

A morning with clear purposes like chapters and phone calls and all these things are manageable, not too much but just enough to make the morning last.  I gather clean laundry from the dryer in my arms, its warmth soaks through my skin... I bury my face in it and breathe.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Words have meaning and names have power.

A piece of addressed junk mail came to the house on Monday for Shawn.  Except it was addressed to "Spawn".  This was my favourite thing on Monday.  Spawn did not find it nearly as funny as I did.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Things I cannot do:
-    like math
-    and physics
-    (embrace a sine wave,
-     climb inside, wrap my limbs around)
-    sleep past 7:00
-    find my keys
-    follow action movies
-    and remember being born

can take a breath away that always finds the centre
feel you itching like a phantom limb
stitch broken back together roughly
raising temperature with small sibilant breaths
(raising goosebumps on your skin)
disguise myself as mirrors,
make a promise that you keep


Monday, November 08, 2010

se geler les miches (à l'heure du laitier)

Hot and cold are dependent on each other for contrast which supplies meaning and it becomes evident that when I said it was cold there, I only meant I felt cold there, and my perception of cold was not based nearly as much upon temperature as it was upon colour (cinereous skies and skeletal poplars, grey). But by the end it felt less cold, the sunrises were melting fire, and the coffee was very very hot.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

the esthetic of lostness

As a child I thought I loved flying. In retrospect it comes clear that what I loved was the sensation of leaving. Apart from leaving, everything else about flying is varying degrees of unpleasant from the tightly packed seats to the recycled air to the officious security guard digging through my carry-on bag.


To say I hate this city does not begin to name the tightness in my chest, my throat, the pressure behind my eyes.  I fell in love in this city. Many times. I wore every colour. I cannot bring myself to look directly at the ghosts though they find me when I sleep. I try to shut them out, close my eyes, close my mind. Afterward...  I promised myself there would never be another winter in this city, never ever another winter. But here I am. 


And I have never felt afraid of the dark at night -  but sometimes the darkness of November mornings makes me tremble. I am riding public transit because I do not remember how to drive in the snow, do not want to remember, do not want to take anyone else's safety in my mittened hands. A small child sits across from me on his mother's lap. I take in his lovely face, his long dark lashes, his focus far away. The mother talks on her phone. (She is secretly a robot.) Her perfume feels like an assault. Her boy rests his forehead against the cold glass, dreamy-eyed, his breath fogs the pane, and I watch as he sticks his tongue out and begins to lick the vapour off the filthy glass. Revulsion. I want to scream at the mother to make her see. I do not.


The first time I noticed that my sister was mentally ill and not just rebellious she was fourteen, I was eighteen. I stopped by her bedroom door to tell her to turn her music down and she looked at me warily and told me she had just fallen into a furnace made of ears. I thought at first she was dreaming and almost smiled, but the picture this brought to my mind was somehow pure horror. What the hell is a furnace made of ears? I forced a laugh anyway and closed her door. I wondered, I wonder, all the time which of us was ill and why.

Do these thoughts follow me because I am foolish enough to keep reading Wally Lamb? I have four other books (and nine other days) packed in my bag. I could choose better, I know I can do better.


Impulsively I change my plan and get off the train downtown. I have somewhere I am meant to be, something I must not be late for, and still the force that propels me forward does not care about these things. Pull my scarf higher against the biting wind. I walk two blocks to my old apartment building, stand on the sidewalk below and try to find my window. Count the floors, count the windows across, count my breaths and count my boot-steps and count my blessings. And cannot find my window, cannot tell which one it was, cannot find my 23-year old self looking out from anywhere up there. Tears. I do not have time to go backward, only forward. I have somewhere I am supposed to be, I am late, I am much too late. Frozen lashes, frozen footsteps. I hate this fucking city. I am only meant for going forward, I am only going forward. How is it so dark, how is the world so wide awake in the dark? 


The tiny one-bedroom apartment feels enormous because I am alone in it, more alone than I have ever been, and for the first month I am using milk crates for furniture, pillows on the floor. Shopping one day at a time for an apple, a cup of yogurt, anything I do not have to cook because I do not own any dishes. (Fifteen years later I still eat like this.) I am haunted in this apartment by what I call the Dread. I call myself Intrepid, pretend I can slay the Dread. I am not afraid at night, I am only afraid in the mornings. 

The sliding door to my patio freezes shut and I spend an entire Saturday afternoon chipping away the ice so I can open the door to let in the winter air, pewter-coloured clouds and grey cotton skies. Upon opening the door I find it is too cold to leave it open after all and am forced to shut it again. It freezes closed immediately.

My neighbour bothers me. He waits for me to leave in the mornings so he can time his exit to match mine so we will ride the elevator together. I want to be alone in the elevator because I am still convinced at this time that elevators are soundproof (which it turns out they are not). 

I am lonely here, achingly lonely. But there is no more sleeping on anyone's couch, no more sleeping outside in October, no more physical danger. I have climbed another step on Maslowe's hierarchy. I can now afford to be heartbroken and it is a relief to think about something so luxurious as this.

But the numbness returns. (Small cracks run through it.) I bite my lip, taste my own bloodlessness.


That was 1995 and the distance between then and now should be wider. In the winter in this city there is no space to take a step, take a frozen breath. I hate everything in this city, I hate everyone, I hate everything I have touched here. I am frozen. This could be true, it might be. It probably is not.


In the airport the security guard insists I remove my mittens, show him my hands. My hands are cold, will not move fast enough. He is impatient, my rings are slipping off. People behind me and before me all lining up to show him their hands. Hands hands everywhere and none of them are yours. I am tired, blood-tired bone-tired, and I wonder if I understand anything about where I have come from. I am counting the days until I will be home. Counting backward from nine. And I am counting my decisions forward, one, two, three.



Saturday, October 23, 2010

tumbling in turmoil

The grey berber hallway that leads from my dentist's office to fresh air is long and narrow with several doors on either side. I have never stopped to read the plaques on the heavy doors to find out what other offices exist in this hallway. I just know that my dentist is at the very end. Yesterday, giddy with dental grit and raspberry fluoride, I left there somewhat elated. It is difficult to explain how much I love having my teeth cleaned and how much I simultaneously hate it, how joyful I feel upon leaving knowing my teeth are perfect and that I do not need to go back there for another six months. 

The combination of this joy mingled with raspberry fluoride (and the long, narrow, grey berber) created an irresistible temptation. I knew it was risky, that someone could come out any one of those doors with no forewarning and I could kick someone's glasses off their face or perhaps I would be offered a contract to join Le Cirque du Soleil. Anything could happen. I took my chances. Looked both ways and did what I was longing to do... a cartwheel.

What happened was this. Someone
did come out of one of the doors, only he came out walking backwards still talking to the people inside that office, and in doing so missed most of my spectacular feat. All he managed to catch was the landing which he interpreted -- as a testament to my grace -- as me falling from somewhere.

I do not know if he had a clear mental picture of where I had fallen 
from... perhaps from between the beige fiberglass squares of the suspended ceiling. Perhaps from the sky. What he said to me was, Oh my god, what happened, are you okay? I tried to answer him with the same degree of good faith but was abruptly choked with repressed laughter in the face of his worry. He let go of my arm which made me realise I had begun to lean on him and so I swayed a little drunkenly while I told him, I'm fine, really, I'm fine, and then choked again, tasting stifled raspberry giggles.

I turned to reach for the bag that I had leaned against the wall for safekeeping during my acrobatics and dissolved a third time as I bent to retrieve it. This time my saviour started to laugh too. The fact he did not know what was funny made me laugh harder which made him laugh harder and he walked me the rest of the way down the hall, both of us roaring, and out into the world. 


Sunday, October 17, 2010

If only I could throw away the urge to trace my patterns in your heart, I could really see you.

I have been thinking about Buddhism since my cab ride. What I did not tell the cab driver, what I am not telling you either, is that there's a specific reason I wonder and a specific person I know who is of great significance - but denies it. There was a journey taken to find him, a movie made about that journey, and when he was found he was completely disinterested. This is how I know him, as disinterested in who he might be. Maybe that is what Buddhism really is, ironically, that kind of detachment. (And indeed there are times my own interest in who I might be is probably too self-involved to be borne.)

Although I admire and appreciate the tenets of Buddhism I would make a lousy Buddhist. I see exactly what is meant by the notion that we invite our own suffering through wanting, through seeking pleasure, through seeking immortality, through seeking material gains. And I agree that it is these behaviours that have always cost me the most. Yet still, when I try to picture what I would be like, what life would be like without these behavious I cannot picture what is left of me.

I find it hard to believe I am nothing but a sucking hole of want, and yet, there it is. I find my happiness internally too, but plenty of it is external, and I cannot imagine myself separate from my physical body, apart from my physical wanting for heat and coldness, spice and sweet, sharpness and softness, for passion and lust and exhaustion. How could I live apart from my desires?

And it isn't only the physical hunger for sensations and the touch of People. It's things too, probably the least defensible of my desires. I do like things. It's why I want books instead of the stupid Kindle. I like the weight of things in my hands, I like their density and gravity made real by their weight. I like to run my hands along the bed frame -- which was once the side of a barn -- tracing and counting the nail holes and the way its history seeps into my dreams.

Truthfully though I like the idea, very much, of being completely internally driven, it strikes me as a bland existence, one without longings and passions and aches. Is something wrong with me that I treasure not only the fulfillment of want --but also those aching empty places? Here quite starkly lie these aches, coiled and waiting, here below the hollow of my throat, here beneath my ribcage, here behind my eyelids. The times when fulfillment is lacking seem such a small price to pay, and if I learned to live without hunger what would become my purpose?


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I'll tell you why I'll never get used to it.

Tonight after a meeting (at which I did not particularly belong) I took a cab because it was raining and later than I expected it to be, and I do not like driving downtown because driving prevents me from thinking. I never know whether I am meant to sit in the front of the taxi with the driver or in the back seat. I chose the front. The driver immediately started talking to me in French. About the rain, about the threat of winter in the air.

I asked him, in English, why he assumed I could speak French and he answered in French, Because I know you. You are the girl who wants to cry. I had no idea what he meant and I did not know what to say. I wished I had chosen to sit in the back seat. I wished I was home. I said nothing.

Then he told me that we met once before, years ago, just like this but in Montreal. Did I not remember? He had been driving a taxi and just like now, I was taking a ride downtown at night. At first I did not remember but he was insistent. And the timeframe was exactly right. (Still... it made no sense to me that he could remember a fifteen minute cab ride more than five years ago. Who has a memory like this?) He had enough details of the encounter that I began to remember it, however, vaguely like fragments of a dream-- and coming sharper into focus.

The mutability of memory always alarms me because I like to think my memories are sacred unchangeable -- which they are not.

I sat in the back seat that other time, that other cab ride. I was a newcomer to the city then and I was tired the way you feel tired when you have recently moved and cannot find the street you are looking for, cannot find a job you want to do, cannot find your underwear and cannot find your favourite teacup. I was so tired.

I asked him something like... what he would say if I just asked him to drive around in circles for awhile so I could cry a little before going home. I remember now he turned off the meter and said he would drive until I asked him to stop. And then, because he was so kind, I no longer needed that at all. I was fine, I was just tired. Sometimes I have no real idea what I need.

It seems backward that this memory is his instead of mine, backward because this seems like something I should have remembered sharply. Backward because he should not have been able to recognize me more than five years later, in the dark and the rain on the other side of the country and completely out of context. Backward because it was he, not I, who had behaved remarkably. I am grateful this man gave me back this memory because it was one I should not have lost, one I should have been thankful for in the first place and treasured. Instead he saved it for me -why?- all this time. And then gave it back. He said, No you are not the girl who wants to cry anymore, and I said, No, I'm not.

And then we talked about Buddhism and Colin James and his children. I had nothing to give him in return for his gift. He would not let me pay his fare. I gave him the loose tea and silver ball I had just bought downtown, still wrapped in tissue paper, and the full-minus-two package of cigarettes in the pocket of my raincoat, and he let me touch his cheek for a moment - so this time I will remember.


Sunday, October 10, 2010


And it turns out that the thing I find myself most grateful for this year is my sister-in-law, the beautiful Megan, who is almost, almost exactly between me and J in age. Old enough to be soooooo cool for J to shop for back-to-school-clothes with, young enough to understand my need for tattoo touch-ups and for me to sit exactly between her and her own mother, a bridge between Shawn and his stepmother. We can all provide a bridge, we can all provide a destination. Sometimes I am surprised, no, not just surprised, but completely and utterly taken aback by how much it turns out that I love people. If I had had this kind of upbringing I would have been a completely different person.


(This is an addendum to what I said above that makes me less perfect the way I am, far less perfect. After we got home from Thanksgiving dinner I went for a walk alone in the rain and went to the corner store in the dark where I impulsively bought a package of Benson & Hedges cigarettes, the ones I liked when I was 22, and found a dark staircase by the coffee shop which was closed, and smoked alone in the night.

I had this lonely feeling that I recognized that went with the cigarettes and so I took the second cigarette to the air pump at the gas station where I sat with a small group of twentyish guys who invited me to a party. I said no, sensibly, to the party, but accepted their companionship and felt stupid about being in a place where I'd be invited to their party in the first place, and smoked the second cigarette down to nothing and walked back home in the rain.

I have no good reason when I act like this, none at all.)


Saturday, October 09, 2010

L'émoi passe et c'est toujours la même chose

The BB has taken on co-direction of my play this semester and the relief this brings is immeasurable. She is domineering and artless and her presence lends me substance like heels or weapons make a person more convincing. I am grateful beyond words for her power. I can whisper things to her at the desk and she will translate them into formidable orders no one dares defy and I need never raise my voice. She will deserve all the credit when we're done for though I can lift and paint and create and dream, I cannot shout, I cannot lead. I need a front man and there she is.


RW is campaigning in a way that is meant to land us in Ireland in March. This interferes with other dreams but he is both insistent and persuasive.

I used to take this role with my ensemble as the one who sought and booked and confirmed and organized trips, but I have no idea what drove me then because it was not the love of the stage. It was something more competitive, which is - for me - rarely a motivator. For RW I sense the motivation is travel, spending St. Patrick's Day in Dublin, and not fame -- and maybe this is why I can tolerate him in the way I cannot tolerate a lot of performers.

In the theatre years ago I learned to breathe diaphragmatically, deeply to the core and refilling from the middle outward. There were many hours spent lying on the floor in those blackened spaces, hands to belly, in and out, listening to my breath and searching for my centre. At first there was frustration when I could not find it, much as I could never find a pulse in my wrist. It makes you wonder if you're dead. When I finally found that place I was so pleased... after that, I could always find it again in a moment with one inhalation -- and just like that, breath becomes steady. I count, I count, I still count. And these many years later I still sometimes count the depth of my breaths, picture the centre filling first when I feel I cannot get enough fresh air.

RW wants to go for tea -- and though I want tea more than I want to go to Ireland, it seems sensible to accept the first invitation if not the second. When the order comes up we take the wrong cups. He sips and tells me that my tea tastes like soap. (It has cardamom and ginger.) His tea is tepid, and mine is hot, hot enough to scald my tongue and the roof of my mouth. This is the way I want it. (It occurs to me to wonder why I seek extremes when the world is so completely filled with people who are fine with everything at room temperature.)


Friday, October 01, 2010

foreplay and hardware

Shawn is building something. I'm not quite sure what it is but I'm interested. We went to the liquor store and the hardware store on the way home from work. The guy who rang through my bottle at the liquor store was 25 and flirtatious.

At the hardware store, Shawn spent literally forty-five minutes mumbling to himself and taking imaginary measurements in his head while digging through bins of things. I like the hardware store very much in general but I was thinking about my bottle of wine sitting in the car and wishing he would hurry up.

Back at the hardware store, Shawn handed me a greasy bit of pipe and asked me to hold onto it for him - and it was this that caught my attention, the tag on the greasy piece of pipe that said lubricated shaft. Seriously. Inspired by the pipe, I took it and I wandered off to play an impromptu Hardware Store Porn Game which involved finding signs and tags that said pornographic or suggestive things and taking pictures of them. Shawn told me I was juvenile and smiled like a wolf.

It was surprising how many signs I found. I started with the low-hanging fruit first, of course, the nuts and screws and studs, and worked my way from there to tongue & groove and couplings and 3/4 inch nipples and so forth. Hmmm. At the end of my tour I had sixteen pictures and had nearly forgotten about my wine. These are my priorities. I'm a simple soul.


Sunday, September 26, 2010


I was out running tonight. I took my cell phone with me for two reasons. The first reason is my husband who thinks that if I ever happen to be attacked when I am out jogging at night the attacker will stand back and give me time and space to make a quick phone call to the police. The other reason is because of J, my niece, who is still slightly nervous about being left alone in the house once it's dark outside, even if only for an hour. Since Shawn was out she wanted me to have the phone so she could call me if she needed me.

Now about the phone. The phone is smarter than I am. It's not my phone, it's Shawn's phone. Or it was until he decided it wasn't smart enough for him and dumped it for a better one. He gave me the old one. I find it very intimidating. I haven't figured out how to use it for anything other than making phone calls and receiving text messages and email. But it has about fifty other applications that I have never opened.

Anyway. Because I do not know how to use the phone properly there's a problem with it I have not addressed. The phone makes the same sound when it is receiving an email as when it is receiving a text message.

So there I was jogging in the dark. It had been almost an hour and I was coming to the end part where I turn back onto my street and then the phone made that blipping sound that means text message and/or email. So I fished it out of my pocket to check because I was thinking about J at home alone and wondering if she would send me a text message instead of calling me if she needed something. But it wasn't a text message, it was an email, one of those automatic ones that you get when someone posts a comment. So it was an email that said it was from Jerry and it said, But you, my dear, are becoming more and more important. A giant you are bound to become!

And for some reason that overwhelmed me so much there that I started to get all teary and so I stopped running and started to walk, picturing myself giant and strong, and that made me get all choked up more. But when you have been running for the last hour it makes you breathe fast. And then I couldn't get enough breath because I was being a bawl-baby instead of an athlete, and that made me make sounds a little bit like a Canada goose... which made me laugh at the same time which made me make sounds like a very excited Canada goose. And then the man who was in his garage tidying up poked his head out and said, Are you okay? I said, Yes (honk) thank you.

Thank you Jerry. (Honk honk.)


look right through me, look right through me

On Bermuda Shorts Day 1993 the guy who sat behind me in English class told me he was shrinking. It was the first time he had spoken to me the whole semester, and this was the last day of class. The professor had scheduled an exam for that day, which wasn't very sporting of her in my opinion, but was her prerogative. I suppose she figured if we decided to come to class under the influence it wasn't her problem. Maybe she didn't know that you were supposed to spend Bermuda Shorts Day in the beer garden.

I didn't go to the beer garden until after that exam, but the guy who sat behind me in English must have spent his morning differently than I had. He wasn't just drunk, he was on something that was giving him the sensation of shrinking and when I pulled out my chair to sit down he said to me very plaintively, Can you help? I'm shrinking.

I sort of thought he was joking but when I looked him in the eye I could see that he was actually a bit frightened. I said, I don't think you are. He said I am, I'm shrinking, and held out his hand to show me. His hand was trembling and I felt very sorry for him because I knew he wasn't going to do well on his exam and he needed someone to hold him steady so he wouldn't get any smaller. And then the professor told us to take our seats so I couldn't say anything reassuring.

Even without hallucinogenics I think I know what he meant. I have that feeling sometimes too, that I am dissolving away and might entirely disappear. I might become so small no one can see me.


Friday, September 24, 2010

something I've been meaning to tell you

1. K moved back to the Netherlands a long time ago. I forgot to say so. He first moved back to his wife, then together they went to Holland. He left me a note. The name he called me that I thought meant "pest" was actually "meisje" which means something like little girl. He also left me his watch, the one that helps me sleep.

2. I looked forward to Christmas in Kensington only because of the lights.

But in the shops Christmas lights framed the windows even in August daring winter ever to return and frost the panes. If anyone can see us then they think we are a couple holding hands and shopping when in fact we are nearly strangers. On 4th Street things get darker toward the Mission Bridge and I remembered watching bats becoming entangled in the nets over Fish Creek where as children we were taught about ecology and the interconnectedness of living things. If anyone can see us here we are romantic as I stretch out over the water making wishes on reflected stars, his hand to help me keep my balance. In fact we have only twenty more minutes behind us, the understanding that men walk on the outside of the sidewalk, and I am looking for bats, not wishes. His hand on my back means he is impatient. By the time we are across the bridge he has forgotten which side of the sidewalk his dead mother taught him to use and I am shivering with cold. It is cold even in August on the prairies.

Prior to his mother's death I spilled cranberry juice on the kitchen counter, smoked cigarettes with his mother on the deck, and spoke with her in French I thought I had forgotten.

Afterward I helped his sister empty out the closets, roast marshmallows in the fireplace, made jokes at the reception with his father who had taken too much pain medicine. He laughed. He had taken seven pills.

And after his father went to bed alone for the first time in forty years, we crossed the Mission Bridge and slipped into the darkened house. I went with him to the downstairs bedroom, another weak attempt at humour and further evidence that we live - because I fear we are dying too and I have nothing else to give him of any value that I know yet inside myself. For the first time I hear his accent, French Canadian, when he says marionette.

His impatience coupled with my trance and I tried not to think too hard. Our gazes do not meet. If anyone sees us now we are a married couple twenty two years in; we have forgotten how we met and what we once liked about each other. We touch each other only to check if we are alive.

He left six days after the funeral. He asks if I still smoke. I really don't anymore.

3. Shawn and J have a new game. When they laugh together I am satisfied somehow when I have no idea what is so funny. It means they love each other without me and I do not have to be part of everything. I like sometimes to be apart from both of them because I want to love them both from up close and from far away.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Drop a stone in the abyss

I don't have a scanner so you're not getting the picture where I look like Flavor Flav although seriously, that's the one I like best. So here's me, real me. Real like I'm the kind of person who lets my dogs kiss me on the mouth and I know it's gross and I totally don't care.

I feel weird about this so I think I'll probably take these back down in a couple of days. So feast your eyes while ye may. Hah.

(I'm the one without the tail who needs a haircut and a fashion consultant.)


Monday, September 20, 2010

you'll look like a photograph of yourself taken from far far away

Picture day. My school very generously buys a small package of pictures for every staff member which I find bizarre. Do adult people really want portraits of themselves? I have three years worth of them in my desk drawer.

2007- That was the year I moved here and was caught in a rain storm walking to school on picture day. My hair in that photo is like a wild animal trying to escape the confines of the cage the picture frame tried to impose upon it.

2008 - That was the year the office manager gave me about fifteen keys on a ring for the theatre because she finally decided to trust me. I must have been proud of that ring of keys because I am wearing it around my neck in this photo looking a bit like Flavor Flav with his giant clock. I know what time it is.

2009 - That was the year I returned to work ghostly and wan after spending half the summer staying in my parents' basement while attending university summer institute. This picture is classic Dorian Gray; it reveals what I will look like when I am eighty.

2010 - I do not know what today's picture captured but I am fairly sure it was something I meant to keep to myself.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

When it's my time to throw the next stone, I'll call you beautiful if I call at all.

This is meant to answer a question.

But I do not know the answer, not really, even though I have been thinking about it and trying not to answer the question with more questions. First of all I do not think I have striven to avoid being hurt because being hurt occasionally seems inevitable when you allow yourself to be vulnerable. And I do not know any alternative to being vulnerable. That kind of resulting pain, though it twists you in the moment, is pain you can live through... and later on it turns into memories that do not hurt at all. Instead they put an interesting frame around your learning and you really rather treasure it. This I know for certain.

But maybe it is simpler than that. Maybe you are asking me about deception in which case there is always the option not to engage in the first place. If you play rough you will get hurt - so don't play? Maybe that's all it means, in which case I am all in favour of sitting out because I do not like to play those kinds of games because I have no skill, offensive or defensive. But that is probably an oversimplification of a very complicated question. I can be insensitive but more often I am oversensitive, both of which may result in hurt feelings, which is never my intent.

The short answer is I do not avoid being hurt, I embrace it and I learn from it.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

I swear I'm going to bite you hard

Jenny is coming to visit me this weekend. I was not able to see her this summer when I was visiting home, and I am so happy she is coming here. I love Jenny, love love love Jenny. I met Jenny about twelve years ago when we both belonged to the same acting ensemble company. We toured together, we slept in the same bed, we missed planes together, we ate the world's best stuffed mushrooms in a restaurant in a tiny town near the North West Territories. Most importantly, we wrote together. We wrote a script together which was successful enough to allow us to live like this, on tour, though neither of us wanted to, for a good long time. I love Jenny.

Jenny is the smartest person I know when it comes to words. She knows how to put words together so they say exactly what she means with not even the slightest room for misunderstanding. Her words are razor sharp, like Brynja's shoes. When I write with Jenny I am excited about writing because I love making her laugh, I love trying to match her wordplay. Jenny is the funniest person in the entire world. I'm sorry that you haven't met her because you deserve a good laugh. Jenny words things in ways that make me laugh until I feel pain because Jenny, of all the people in the world, is the one who best understands both the subtlety and the power words contain - and knows exactly how to select the ones that connect a person with all the senses. When I can make Jenny laugh with my words I feel as though I have accomplished something very impressive.

Another thing about Jenny is that she is a single mom. When she decided at thirty-five that the right man wasn't going to happen in time she went and paid for IVF and became pregnant with her little girl. All very businesslike and decisive. And I do not think there is a better mother anywhere. Jenny and Baby N will be here tomorrow in time for dinner.

This means I have to do things I do not normally do - like vacuum the floor and think about what we will eat for dinner. But it's worth it. Maybe I will be one of those exuberant airport lunatics jumping up and down and waving a big sign that says WELCOME JENNY!!!! Probably not... because I am too lazy to make a sign and have to be in the right mood to jump. But that's how I'll feel anyway.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

i just want to dance in your tangles to give me some reason to move

This is Pepper. He's a Norfolk Terrier, my parents' dog. When I was visiting them this summer so we could attend my sister's memorial service, I spent a lot of time in this park walking and/or running with Pepper. He doesn't get tired, at least not that I managed to discover. My parents' house backs on this park. Nice isn't it? But I do not miss it. It's buried in snow most of the year.

There are other things I miss. I miss the great big sky. And I miss loud thunderstorms and I miss there being space, countryside between cities, so when you're driving you can tell when you have left the city limits and when you are entering somewhere new. I miss the lonely ache when I feel November bearing down and the daylight shrinking away; I miss the first cold day the furnaces kick in and the air is filled with the scent of their awakening sighs. I miss 17th Avenue and maybe I miss those sassy black and white magpies that steal dog food. I miss Colleen.


let your losses dangle off the sharp edge of a century

I had a meeting with my supervisor today which I found calming. Oh yeah, she's a counsellor, she knows how to talk to lunatics. I have been experiencing a mild sense of panic combined with a stronger sense of impending doom while looking at my calendar between now and Christmas feeling certain I have scheduled more hours a day than there actually are available to me. But talking to her about hours required for my internship was helpful. The fact she has confidence it can be done made me feel better. She also said nice things to me about how well-suited she figured I was for counselling which was probably just counsellor-kindness but it was still reassuring because I used to think I was well-suited to teaching theatre and I had no awareness of the fact that I would one day come to hate noise. Maybe I should have sought an outside opinion back then.


My Drama program has grown enough that it was necessary to bring in a second teacher. She is not happy to be there and she is bitter about the fact that she wants to be teaching Art in that block instead of Theatre. I'm not exactly happy about it either, but I have really made an effort to share my stuff with her, to accommodate her gigantic filing cabinet that takes up half the back wall, and her strange quirks that included needing to remove all the red chairs from the theatre and replacing them with blue ones so the furniture would match. She also took away my brown pupil desk that I used to sit at while marking projects and replaced it with a blue one she found somewhere. Matching, apparently, is important to her. Because I do not give a rat's ass about what colour my chairs or desk are I said nothing while she made the changes she needed to make to the space so she would feel more in control of it.

Students have been dropping her class in droves complaining that she is too controlling. She is controlling, but the real problem, of course, is that they are used to me, the Queen of Chaos, and next to me everyone looks a little controlling. The reason I am not controlling is not that I am so free-as-a-bird relaxed, but more because I just do not have the skill to know how to make people do what I want them to do. I also have trouble caring about some things (for example, she makes them sit in three straight rows of ten, an idea that has never occurred to me in eleven years of teaching and never would have). It's creating some negative feelings. Today after school she asked me to quit talking to her students. Not that I dance through her classes waving and blowing kisses to her students or anything, but sometimes I have to leave my office and this requires me to walk through the theatre as there is no other exit. She would prefer me not to respond to the students who say hello to me as I walk by. I'm not sure how I am to accomplish this without being blatantly rude but I did not argue with her. Sometimes people surprise me and I have no idea what to say.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

I never wanted anything from you except everything you had and all that's left after that too

I have a treadmill in my living room that I do not use very often. I prefer running outside by far and now that I no longer live on the winter prairies I find it is possible to run outside most of the year as long as I am willing to get rained on, which I am. But somehow today I just wasn't up for getting wet and decided to use the living room treadmill.

As soon as I started I remembered why I hate it. J came into the room, sat down on the couch and looked at me. I asked her what she wanted. She said she wanted nothing. I told her to go away. Nicely. (Sort of.) She went away. A few minutes later Shawn came in and stood in the doorway staring at me. I told him to go away too without asking what he wanted. He ignored the request and instead decided to come into the room and stood behind the treadmill. He thinks he's soooo funny. After a lot of sexual remarks which I ignored he started pretending to run alongside me trying to make me laugh. I turned up my music and tried not to look at him. It was then he decided he was going to jump on the back of the treadmill behind me. I think he was picturing some kind of tandem-running thing where our strides would be equally matched.

Instead he hit the belt harder, perhaps, than he expected to, and was surprised by how fast it was moving. He lost his footing and was propelled rather violently off the end of the treadmill and onto the floor where he lay moaning and blaming me. It was very satisfying. I wanted to pretend not to notice that either but it was impossible. The comments and the miming were all things I had anticipated, but this slapstick bit was all new. Of course J had to come running to find out what all the noise was about and I turned off the treadmill and gave up and went outside where I should have been in the first place.


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

I saw the angel in the stone

Dana sent me a letter on Monday. I have not seen Dana in about fifteen years and the transformation in her voice is remarkable. I wasn't sure what was different at first but I wanted to know because Dana wasn't the kind of friend you lose touch with because you stop caring or become too different to remain close. I just somehow lost her. I think it was when she had a baby and moved back home with her parents, and I went off to university thinking I was the one who knew what I was doing.

Dana's voice has changed, it turns out, because she joined a seminary after her son's father committed suicide. She studied theology and counselling and now she has the same degree that I am working on, Masters of Counselling, except that hers has a theological grounding and mine will not. She has a theological grounding and I do not.

Sometimes I find my own lack of faith really depressing. And I do not know if I have no faith because I actually actively disbelieve or if it's just because I do not know that which I do not know. I haven't been taught, I'm a heathen.

Too much of what little I know makes me disdainful and mistrustful of organized religion. But compare that with the emptiness and I understand, still, why so many people pursue it.

There are other things to fill up that hole and most of the time that works for me. I believe in wonder, I am easily awed by my world. I like to watch letters go backward in the mirror and then reflect those back and forth repeatedly to see how small they can grow. I like kaleidoscopes, and birds, and fresh air.

But sometimes when things are bleak the hole grows too big for it to be closed up with these things and I wonder what else I am supposed to put in there to make it safe. Maybe I'm just supposed to put one of those orange cones in front of it and hope that not too many of the relationships that Matter to me will fall in.

Dana invited me to go to Rwanda with her in April or May. She goes twice a year to teach and counsel AIDS patients and children who have suffered sexual abuse. I am thinking about this now.


Sunday, September 05, 2010

I'm not sick, but I'm not well.

I have been doing something bad. You know those scammers that send you email telling you that they have 12 million dollars coming to them and they just need you to cash a small cheque and for your trouble they'll give you a cool million? Well I have been playing with one of those scammers. He started writing to me a couple of months ago, telling me how he needs my help and I have been writing back to him with questions about how to complete his requests, promising him I'm going to do it soon. He keeps urging me to hurry and offering me more incentives and more sad stories about how desperately he needs this money because his mother needs surgery and he is trapped in a foreign country and blah blah blah. I keep writing back telling him I'm going to go to the bank tomorrow but I just need him to give me a little more information or a bit more clarification.

He's getting impatient with me, I can tell, and sadly I think our pen pal relationship is nearly finished. He's losing faith in me and our summer together is nearly over. I know this has been twisted and wrong but I cannot feel bad for wasting this man's time when it's been so much fun. I have enjoyed getting his hopes up and making him think he's nearly there and then letting him down over and over again. I really really need to go back to work.


Friday, September 03, 2010

When you woke this morning you looked so rocky-eyed

So it's September, a terrible thing that happens to me every year at the end of summer. I do not want to go back to work. Especially, I do not want to try and complete my counselling practicum hours while directing a play and trying to pretend I am not using paid hours to do volunteer hours. My attitude is poor. I do not remember why I wanted a Masters degree.

I have been kidding myself that summer is not over by going to the beach a lot. I have been drinking beer in the daytime on the beach like someone who is anyone besides me, but breaking the law and wasting time feels good right now. I have no idea what I'm doing. But it's almost over, which is probably for the best.

And today I really cut loose and went to the passport office to get J's passport renewed. They wouldn't do it because she has the wrong kind of birth certificate, the kind that does not name her parents. Why this matters is beyond me. We have a court order that states we have sole custody, and we have her mother's death certificate. Apparently they want us to prove that no father is named on the birth certificate in spite of the fact that this hypothetical person would have no rights anyway. The man who explained this to me told me it made no sense before I could tell him so which I found frustrating. I wanted to be the one to point it out. He probably realized that it would deflate me to agree with me, which it did, and so I took my stack of papers home for the second time without making a scene and applied for yet another birth certificate for J, the drifting girl. I guess we'll need these documents in the future anyway when we start formal adoption proceedings.

As if to add insult to injury, in the mail I received two collection notices addressed to my sister threatening legal action and urging me to "conduct myself accordingly". Well, not myself. Herself. I am not sure why she had her mail coming to my house. I am not sure whether I am supposed to contact the collection agency and tell them what happened to her. I probably wasn't even supposed to open the envelopes but they had no return addresses. And I am trying to hold on to her, whatever pieces are left, collection notices and aggravations and messes. Oh, and her child.


We took Shawn's sisters out for dinner tonight to celebrate their 22nd birthday(s). We went for Indian food. Their choice, but I was glad. I don't know what it is about me and food. I eat cereal all the time, I mean all the time. And crackers. And apples and grapes and carrots. I eat things that are already ready to eat just as they are because I do not want the overwhelming responsibility of operating the stove or cleaning up dishes. This is stupid. But when you eat boring food like this all the time food stops being connected to sensory experience and just becomes a way of keeping yourself from dying. So I forget that food is good, that I like it, that it's fun to eat things that taste good. Before I moved here to the coast I didn't even know I liked Indian food because Indian food on the Winter Prairies isn't the same. Not the same as Indian food made by Indian people who know how to do it right. When I eat Indian food I remember that I like food. I think I have said this here before, maybe more than once, but I am only telling it to myself so I will remember what matters. And that's what will happen to you; that's what you get for being food. (I love you Margaret Atwood.)


Thursday, August 26, 2010

gouge my eyes with platitudes of sentiment

Togetherness was strange the way it always is, those raw feelings that occasionally surface without warning or reason and my everlasting inability to say what I mean. My mother asks me questions as though she is not my mother, as though we are acquainted well enough to make weird personal inquiries but not well enough to be invested in the answers.

A coroner phoned me last night, also with weird personal questions though it was easier to discern the relevance of these. He is trying to determine a cause of death. The toxicology report reveals which drugs were at lethal doses but his question is about her intentions. He did not ask me anything I had not already asked myself but it was strange to be discussing these thoughts with a disembodied voice.

I went to a second funeral for a high school friend while home on the prairies. The fact I chose to attend this funeral may be indicative of how desperately I needed some time away from Togetherness, but going was good in a number of ways... More practice with goodbye, more ways to say I'm sorry.


A text message from Jesse today:

" I went back to that sushi place and had the same platter we shared all to myself. Took an IQ test right after and scored way high. Took it again three hours later and I'm an idiot again."

I took Jesse for sushi for lunch on Wednesday. He hasn't had much exposure to sushi in Smalltown, Winter Prairie and I need someone who will eat it with me. Apparently he likes it and thinks it gives him (temporary) super powers. Perfect.


Monday, August 16, 2010

prairies pulling at the pant leg of your bad disguise

Two days until the Togetherness begins again. We're flying out to the winter prairies on Wednesday afternoon. Togetherness wilts me and thinking about it takes away my words. There is no way not to attend your sister's memorial, there is no way not to be Together when everyone else wants to be Together. It does not matter what I want, which is to be alone with it, because this is how we do death. We do it Together.


Monday, August 09, 2010

This is how you tell me apart from a model...

This picture was taken when I was working as an actress/comedienne at a summer festival about five years ago. The two gorgeous people on either side of me were part of another show that was running at the venue next to mine. They were models. Shawn laughed so hard at this picture I almost had to move out.


Saturday, August 07, 2010

the outline to a complicated dream

How I don't know what I should do with my hands when I talk to you
How you don't know where you should look, so you look at my hands

.........................................................................................(J. Samson)


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Once I start I cannot stop myself.

Without a doubt I like massage. I could fall in love with the massage therapist just the same way I fell in love with the man who did my first tattoo and it was all about endorphins and had nothing to do with his ratty little beard and broken teeth. I was a little apprehensive but after talking to the massage therapist for a few minutes I felt reassured. Almost like I'd had a couple of drinks I was suddenly ready to get naked and feel good. And it was so so good. She told me that my hips were resting unevenly; after a little questioning she said it was probably because of the fact that I spend a lot of time sitting cross-legged on the floor. The right leg always goes on top because that's how I bend. But she said I should try reversing the sit to make my other hip stretch the same way. Not to worry, she told me, because with a little manipulation my hips were back in even alignment. I thought this was nice... left to my own devices I tend to get a little askew, but with a bit of decisive coaxing I can be brought back in line. And I guess I like being brought back in line.


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

in which I meander aimlessly

My mother has pointed out that all my "values" (she said the quotes) are rooted in not doing things. Like not watering the lawn even though it's very dry and brown because I do not want to waste water. Or not bagging the grass when I mow and instead letting it cycle back into the earth. She has something here and the point is that it is easier not to do things and my "values" may be all about choosing the path of least resistance rather than about doing the right thing.

There is a new bylaw in my city about using weed killers like Roundup and those ones that cause living things to shrivel on contact. We can't buy these things anymore. Of course I didn't notice this because that's not how I do weeds. I just pull them, or better yet whack them with big powerful gas powered gardening tools that pollute the air with noise and the environment with carbon.

But there is a zombie weed on my driveway that grows in the crack between the two largest paving stones. I have killed it dozens of times and it keeps coming back, its zombie arms reaching for my throat as it emerges. It scares me. I pulled it, I poured vinegar on it, I poured salt on it. It keeps coming back. I asked the internet what to do and it told me to pour boiling water on it. But I keep picturing all the earthworms who live underneath the paving stones... and imagining them boiling to death makes me writhe. I can't do that. So I'm going back to doing nothing.


Saturday, July 31, 2010

reaching for the sky and everything else unattainable

Jonathon and CC chose to live down the hall from each other in the same apartment building on 17th Avenue, close enough to point out that a calendar is not, in fact, a chessboard, and far enough to run into each other accidentally on the street over sushi.

Jonathon moved to Japan to teach English; he came home at Christmas with strange presents for me, Hello Kitty toilet tissue, tea cups and peculiar items, undergarments (worn?) obtained from vending machines. My relevance to Jonathon was based entirely upon my friendship with CC. He had no idea who I was although he brought friends for dinner he thought I might like. I did not like the friends he brought. The beat poets and the playwrights, JesusGod I need someone with edges, sharp edges.

I lost Jonathon after Christmas I think. I lost CC later when she married A and he tasted like vomit. But why do I say I lost her? I spent the day with her and her two children a couple of weeks ago. I have never been good at holding onto what is important to me or even identifying it until long after it is gone. The hallway in their building was almost a destination in itself, like a small country, a book repository, an overlay, and a very large view of the street.


We went for dinner, me and Shawn and J and my parents. And like a 6-year old I ate all the bread on the table and was therefore unable to eat my meal. My anorexia - it's gone. Now it's like I have bulimia without the throwing up.


Malaprop again.

Me: Ouch! You kicked me!

He: Sorry. I think I have Reckless Leg Syndrome.

Me: Reckless Leg Syndrome?

He: Mmmhmm.

Me: Reckless? You have Reckless Leg Syndrome?

He: I think so. I didn't kick you on purpose.


Friday, July 30, 2010

chalkdust torture

In seventh grade I accidentally snapped my gum in Social Studies class. My teacher responded by giving me a poem to memorize and recite in front of the class the next day. I have never forgotten the poem:

The Gum Chewing Girl

The gum chewing girl
And the cud chewing cow
Are so alike yet different somehow
Ah yes, I see the difference now
It's the intelligent look
On the face of the cow.

I think I was meant to be embarrassed by this but I wasn't. I liked poetry, even poor poetry such as this, and I liked performing. I would have felt much worse had he just yelled at me like the other teachers did. My French teacher was a sadist. He made me stand with my arms out and hold dictionaries (French/English ones, of course) until my arms ached. My French teacher did not know that I already knew how to speak French and assumed I was acting up because I didn't understand what was going on. I was bored of conjugating être for the millionth time. My science teacher sent me to sit in the hallway where I had no audience for my antics, but then I would wander up and down the corridors. At least that way he didn't have to deal with me. In English I rarely needed to be squashed because I was usually interested in what was happening, though I cannot say I behaved as well as I should have even there. I remember being sent to the office a few times and the principal making me sit on the other side of his desk facing him and having to do my work there. And in math I never made a sound because I did not want to draw any attention to myself. Now I'm a teacher and I have no idea either what to do with students that don't want to listen to me or to learn anything. I never make them hold books while their arms shake... but I kick kids out and forget where they went. I say sarcastic things sometimes and far too often I just shrug and ignore the ones that are bugging me and teach only to the ones that are listening. I'm glad it's summer right now; I wish I wasn't thinking about school.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

At the Aquarium I was amused by the fact that in a room filled with aquariums busting with weird looking jellyfish that the crowd of people at the centre of the room were not queued up to see any type of aquatic creature, but rather waiting turns to touch buttons on the computer that would show them pictures of the actual creatures that were just a few steps away. I had a clear view of everything in the tanks but I never got to touch that computer.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

smiling and covering her tracks

I had a dream my sister was living here in my house but I was the only one who could see her. And I was glad because I had decided in the dream that it was better to be driven crazy by her than to miss her. She was still dead in my dream and she knew it too, but it didn't seem like it mattered much. I was receiving her bills in the mail and bill collectors were calling me to find out where she was, just like in real life, except in the dream I was showing her the bills and asking her why she spent thousands of dollars on calls to telephone psychics. And in the dream, unlike in real life, she realized that this was not a good idea.

And I am struck, perpetually, by the inconvenience of grief. You can sit down and talk about it and feel okay, think that you're dealing with it, think that you have made peace. And then suddenly you are washed away when you least expect it. With a child at my elbow, falling to pieces is also inconvenient and I sometimes miss the luxury of being a basket case whenever I feel like it.


My parents are arriving on Monday, a visit that was scheduled prior to my sister's death, and I am caught between adolescent petulance and the neurotic need to clean my house so my mommy will approve of me.

The funeral home has called me at least five times since my sister's death because they keep losing track of papers I signed and decisions I made. The person with whom I made the first set of arrangements went on holidays and left the file with someone else and from there the entire thing has unravelled.

They started the process as requested and then stopped, paralyzed with no idea what to do next.

And having to re-sign the paperwork, re-make the decisions I already made just makes me second guess everything - as though it is possible to make a wrong decision. As though it is possible to make a right one.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

This is a true story.

One night when I was 26 I kissed my best friend's husband. I did not know then he was going to be her husband. I still don't see it. We were sitting at a table in a pub, she and I, when a very drunken man lay down across our table between us and told me that he wasn't going to move until I gave him a kiss. I told him to fuck off and he laughed at me and didn't move and told me the same thing again, that he wanted me to kiss him. I told him no and started scanning the place for a bouncer to help me out but could not see one. The pub was very busy and a man lying on a table attracted no particular attention. He leaned in closer and asked me again, more quietly, to please give him a kiss. And this part makes no sense and can only be explained by the fact I had probably had too much to drink. I kissed him.

After that he got up off the table and went away and left us alone for awhile. My friend was appalled both with him and with me and I added it to my collection of stupid stories of inexplicable human behaviour and assumed we were done with him. But he came back later, and this time he wasn't interested in me. This time he wanted my friend. He didn't demand to be kissed by her but he hovered around a lot trying to get her attention. Unlike me, she was not inclined to kiss strange men and the more she ignored him the more persistent he became. Eventually they got married.

The End.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

the metal of those hearts that you always end up pressing your tongue to

I am thinking about taking Shawn's last name. We have been married eight (or maybe nine, I always forget) years now so I am a little slow about taking this into consideration but it was something I never wanted to do before. It's not like I need to convince him I mean to stick around. I do. And he's one of those types of people who doesn't really suffer from that kind of uncertainty anyway.

The fact I never changed my name is more a reflection of laziness than anything because it takes a concerted effort to gather up all the right documents for this kind of undertaking and I am not the kind of person who has any idea where my birth certificate might be. Then there are all these other things that have to change too... the drivers' license, the credit cards, the employment records, the bank accounts...

The fact that it also costs money to be this irritated is further deterrent and when I combine that with the fact that my husband doesn't have a supercool last name like Woodcock or Jactation or Esperanto there just has not been enough of a motivator to make the effort. I would like to add other intelligent feminist arguments to this but in all honesty I can't. It's a patriarchal tradition either way - it's just a matter of whose property I want to be, my father's or my husband's. For me, it is not about these things. It is only about inertia, the awesome power of inertia.

So I am not sure what makes me think I should be considering this now. Maybe I'm just looking for things to think about to keep me from having to write that paper.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

I might like scars, I might like signs of life.

It's a good question about good people, and about letting people in. Yes I do have good people, but no I do not really let them in. If I let them in I do not know how to get them out later. I do not, after all, want to be colonized. So I let them near, but not in. My husband, in all cases, is the exception to the rule. He does whatever he wants even when I try to stop him, and I like it that way - for me.


My husband understands me; I know this because in addition to knowing that he has to push - he bought me power tools for the garden. Tilling is very hard on the forearms but it's fun, and the new gas powered edger is so powerful and heavy that it requires a shoulder strap to stop it from flying out of my hands. I love it. I have decided to wrest control back from the insects I had previously stated I was sharing my yard with by letting one section go wild. I have changed my mind; the insects are rat-bastards who do not show me any appreciation whatsoever and they sting me when I am mowing. So I am evicting them, no more wilderness. I want control of everything after all, everything. I predict I will be queen of the garden by Wednesday.


Maybe all this gardening has something to do with the fact that I have a 20 page paper due in just over a week. I like to procrastinate in ways that make me feel like I have a good reason for not doing what needs to be done. I cannot feel okay about watching tv instead of writing my paper, but I feel great about tilling.


Though I do not like perfumes or colognes very much I like candles that smell like things. Not candles that smell like perfume or cologne, but candles that smell like spice or pine needles or cedar chips. Except then I wonder why I don't just go outside and be around those things. It's like that commercial where the people are all inside a sterile-clean, air-conditioned SUV with the windows rolled up tightly enjoying the view of the mountains out the window - and the company caption floats across the screen... "Let's face it, you belong outdoors". Har.

Which reminds me, I heard a public service announcement on the radio this morning in which I was strictly warned not to set any forest fires. I was told I had to remember three numbers:

1. The size of the fine I would be given if I started a forest fire (up to 100K)
2. The number of months I could spend in jail if I started a forest fire (up to 11, I think it was)
3. And the phone number to call and report myself if I accidentally start a forest fire (stopped listening... yeah, right.)


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Oh they're immortal, she said. It's only a cake.

I am not named after anybody.

I think I named my sister because I remember how I chose her name - but my parents say I made that up.

Sometimes I think I have memories that turn out to be based on photographs I have seen.

I like it better when men do not wear cologne.

I once spent my last $20 on a whale kite with a long long tail.

Dear Spin,

I read it all the time, to be honest, because I have a lot of things I want to share with you that I think about writing characters and writing papers and cutting the grass and opiates and running and CBT, and lots of other things. I say them to myself when I'm mowing the lawn and I always leave a triangle now, always. It helps me stop worrying about not being perfect, and it helps me remember.

And osmosis of course flows in both directions, not only one. I learn from you; I understand other people in my life better because of you. Today you explained something about pain that I did not understand before, and which I appreciated. I keep trying to understand all of that, how the pain and the numbness are achieved and managed - before and after. I have a lot to learn. But I want to learn it and that is what I think makes people different and more susceptible, the wanting. I think you understand that.

I am glad about lots of things you are doing right now, for you.

Love Wink


Monday, July 12, 2010

every junkie's like a setting sun

I spent today with Jesse -- about which I was totally apprehensive. There was all the typical weirdness around seeing someone that I hadn't seen in more than ten years, but that wasn't really the part I was worried about. I didn't care if he looked the same or not (he did) and I was sure my ego could take it if he didn't try to sleep with me (he didn't). I was worried more about what his mental state would be and whether I could handle being around him in that state, whatever it might be.

The thing I didn't know, having been out of touch so long, was that Jesse has been to treatment. He was better, a lot better. Maybe the extra years of wisdom helped too, but the difference in him off the drugs was enormous. And I moved from feeling very nervous about seeing him, frightened and slightly sick, to only wanting to avoid him in the same way I want to avoid everybody, even the people I love the most.


Oh yeah. I smoked with Jesse... three cigarettes! -- which is the most smoking I have done in more than ten years. I felt like throwing up and it was so good.