Tired. I just spent my entire work day waiting in the Emergency Room with a suicidal student who needed psychiatric help. And in the end, they sent her home with me, with some photocopied sheets of paper to read about how to handle suicidal ideation. I wonder if we could have somehow managed without this brilliant intervention.
Waiting in the Emergency Room is one of those things that makes the construct of time lose all meaning. The student herself told me she felt as though she was in Narnia and when we stepped outside the hospital she would find it was still 8:45am and the day had only just begun. Something about the fluorescent lights, even harsher than the lights in public schools, sucks a person's energy into a vortex.
There was a print of that vortex on the wall that we had plenty of time to examine and interpret. I said, It looks like a wormhole in outer space. (I don't know why I said that. I do not know what a wormhole looks like.) She said, It looks like a peppermint candy. I liked her interpretation better. We watched a man whose arm was clearly broken moan for what seemed like an eternity. I felt ill and had to look away. She stared, fascinated.
Desperate, we began making fun of other patients. The small, pale, haunted looking girl in the hospital gown who kept wandering around looking lost became the subject of a horror movie. I whispered, Don't look into her eyes. She'll steal your soul. Sometimes I say things that I know are wrong. But it made my girl laugh and I just needed to get warm for a minute. I hoped that other little girl had someone with her who was making fun of me.
There is a psychiatric disorder called apotemnophila, the main symptom of which is an unrelenting urge to undergo the amputation of a healthy limb. One of my professors treats such a client, without much success at present. This disorder, I understand, results from a glitch in the brain's body mapping system, the internal bodily positioning system we use to help us navigate through space.
Before we bought the new bed, I used to wake up in the middle of the night sometimes with one arm numb from sleeping on it, and would have to hold onto it with the other arm to ensure it was still there, make sure it still belonged to me. This kind of physical confusion could become harder to sort out if the arm remained numb. (That's the thing about psychological disorders. Most of the time I can imagine extending my own symptoms clearly enough to feel their edges.)
Shawn has purchased a second Kindle because I took his. It was not my plan to do so but it became necessary when I could not find Miriam Toews' new book (Irma Voth), which was, as expected, important to read. Her books have certain landmarks I now know. The simple unadorned voice of Prairie Mennonite, the loving but helpless mother, the depressed father, the need to run. Whether I run alongside or meet her at the end, I know where we are going. (Somewhere I need to go, like when I pretend in my mind to drive down Memorial Drive into the downtown core.) It occurs to me that when I read The Flying Troutmans, Colleen was still alive.
The Kindle is strange. It has no pages. Sometimes I accidentally flip backward instead of forward, and sometimes I lose track of what I'm doing and flip several screens at once when I only meant to push a hair out of my eye. Still, I have somehow managed to develop an addiction to it.
Now I am reading Lullabies for Little Criminals which I will not recommend to J. She reads as much as I do, but I steer her when she lets me. I point her at To Kill A Mockingbird, I point her at Flowers for Algernon. She reads and reports back. She read Revolutionary Road before I did and sent me to report back to her. She reads Murakami; she likes the short stories best.
Shawn, meanwhile, is reading things I cannot fathom, things with dragons, maybe. Or things with Vikings, or maybe things with space ships. Maybe Vikings riding in space ships on their way to slay dragons. He is reading paper books, and there are a squillion of them in this series, which was the only way I was able to wrest the Kindle from his hands.
Now that I have discovered why people love Kindles (because when you finish your book you can start a new one, whatever one you want, right now!) I cannot give it back and he has been forced to buy another. He pretends he is annoyed but I happen to know he is pleased because his new Kindle is more exciting than the old one. I think it can do tricks and stuff.
Since school started in September I have missed almost fifteen teaching days. It demonstrates to me how low Drama falls on the priority list when it comes time to shuffle staff. And I am torn between wanting to embrace a new career and feeling protective of my little Drama hatchlings who must need my love in order to thrive. (It is, of course, complete arrogance to assume they will not do just as well if not better under the tutelage of Mr. D, who has more teaching experience than I do by at least fifteen years.) Most of the time I want to continue my training, but some days I miss knowing what I'm doing. Will a day arrive that I miss watching grade nine boys pretend to shoot each other with broken cap guns (painted orange to prevent anyone from mistaking them for the real thing) yelling "Bang!"?
(B proposed that perhaps the bible was written by lonely children.)
We are entering the rainy season now, which is winter on the coast. This has always been a strange transition for me. Being from the cold, dry, winter prairies, I associate rain with spring. To me, rain has always meant renewal and warm weather ahead, spring run-off and flooding and brave flowers. Rain means good things.
Here on the coast, rain means winter. It means several months of grey skies. It make people here feel sad. I know winter is dark.
But still, there is the instinctive long engrained reaction to rain. Hopefulness and anticipation of good things to come.
This afternoon as I was leaving work a coworker stopped me and told me that she is pregnant, pregnant in the way that is all trepidation and flutter. (Not that flutters cannot be pleasant, they certainly can, but they differ markedly from assured joy.) She started to talk to me about how a stagnant timetable would prevent her from having to spend as many hours at school but somehow dissolved rapidly without my saying anything into confession, concession, profession. And pregnancy. I think I thought of you because of the word stagnant.
Your toolbox is still in my basement. I have taken it with me through three moves now and I finally decided to open it to see what was inside. In addition to your tools, I found a Darwin fish and a small plastic lizard. I actually imagine you make a good father, I imagine you more active now if only because you wouldn't let a toddler tumble down the stairs (would you?). I remember your trenchant voice (I do not eat babies) but now instead it says, Do not run in the house, Tiny-Jay. (And then it says I do not eat babies, and I smother a laugh because I cannot stop you from saying that.)
I saw that picture of me you drew, you know, the one where I'm lying on my back on the grass with my eyes half-closed looking sort of like a girl who isn't afraid of falling asleep outside in a public place. I think you didn't finish that picture because there were details missing, but you must have had a big idea and then grew bored of looking at me before you could finish it. I remember the day you took the photograph this was drawn from; we'd watched the dragonboat races and had beer at the market, and played a game of Galaga at the arcade. Later that afternoon a piece of underwire in my bra snapped in half and slid down my arm and out my sleeve while I was shaking hands with your new girlfriend. She did not think it was funny.
Anyway, that's a lot of years ago. But I thought of you and thought maybe I could tell you so. You could even write back to me if you wanted, except that I know you hate writing. You like pictures, not words. But I'd listen if you sent me a picture too.
D still writes to me occasionally. Apparently. He wrote to me two days ago, anyway. That was the first time I'd heard from him in quite awhile. He usually gets in touch when he's dangling from the edge of a sharp precipice. He makes me terribly sad. I am sad because more than twenty years have passed since we met and he hasn't changed very much. It used to be, when we were sixteen, completely reasonable to sit outside in the dark with our backs pressed to warm buildings and talk about being writers, or about poetry, or travelling, or just running away, and watching airplanes land all night. It made sense because we were kids and we were helpless, and we had no control over the things that were breaking us. We had nowhere else to go, we had no money, we had no alternatives, and we had no experience.
But now I imagine myself looking out the window of my home. The backdrop of my home, my family, my wellness, my world.
And D is still sitting out there in the park at night shivering in his thin jacket and October is pressing in on him. And he is still just as emotionally frail and lost as he was at sixteen, and I do not know why; I do not know how he got left behind in October. Why didn't he come inside with me? And why can't I reach him anymore?