Apple shopping today I spied the shadow of a women I once knew, sitting on a Siamese water pipe.
Head down, yellow cap sat snug hiding her eyes. Gray coarse hair shot from it, brushing stooped shoulders.
She had aged and morphed into an old man sporting hip hop garb.
Sitting there sun drenched in a shrouded sadness. Lost was the smile that defined her being.
Looping back I thought I’d say hello, knowing she’d remember me.
The pipe resumed its purpose, static.
She had vanished, pouf, appearing and disappearing just like the entourage who had left her behind.
I had enjoyed meeting her friends in Kingston, until she told me how the father had once been jailed when their croupy baby had become too much to bear. I had enjoyed New Year’s Eve in Ottawa catching up with Peter, until she told me of the pass he’d made under the table during the salmon mousse. I’d even enjoyed the drizzle on Parliament Hill and shouting bonne année at midnight, until later that night when it had all come back on me, alone in the bathroom, then on the long drive home, nursing Peptol Bismol straight from the bottle.
I’ve always been a crier. A loud, gavalte, snot-filled blubberer. Last summer, I wailed and held my stomach for twelve hours during the gut-wrenching coach ride back from Folkestone to Winchester. The lure of cheap Cadburys and the lull of incessant English chirping did little to relieve the hell of motion sickness, a susceptibility forged as an unbelted toddler roaming the backseat of a smoke-filled and suspension-challenged Desoto. Nobody came near me on that bus. No offers of tea or tissues. It could have been because I was the only French-speaker on the Battlefield Tour, but I don’t think so.
Tears? Toxic waste exposed, pouring tempestuously, was the harbinger of tranquil felt today. Letting the flood gates release over dinner, salty drops seasoned her plate as she ate and relived the anguish harbored and fed. Vulnerable bubbles bled, willynilly. The turbulence, that had drenched her bed sheets, lay dormant in little bits of glistening crystals, dark clouds, tissues, grief dried up. Last nights woes can now be collected and flushed away. Life is interesting. When all seems lost, tears expose their hiding place as they unfold and roll over flesh swabbing up sorrow that can later be discarded so easily.
Since they were seven years old, director Michael Apted has been chronicling the lives of fourteen disparate souls in a series of films together regarded by many as the greatest documentary ever made. He releases these little socio-economic masterpieces every seven years, and it just so happened that 28 Up was to play at the Bloor Cinema on my 28th birthday, a film in which everyone would be exactly the same age as me—and who wouldn’t want to see something like that? Except perhaps my girlfriend, who had already made plans with her friends. So, I watched it alone.
By August, then, the papers announced that the upcoming lunar eclipse would be the best for the next forty years. But what they didn’t mention was that my buddy, Tim, had a house on a hill facing south and that my girlfriend was already going out somewhere else and that Tim’s sister-in-law would show up all drunk and sexy from her office baseball game, and that then, come the great blackout in April and my dark romp downtown, I would finally figure out that I had never had so much fun with my girlfriend as I was having without her.
It was too cold to stand outside so Dan and I watched through the garden door. The moon was so high that to view it we had to lay on our backs and shoulder to shoulder like boxed toy soldiers, looking up. I told him how his Pépé tinted a pane of glass with candle smoke so that I could safely witness a solar eclipse. Together we watched until the blood moon covered all but a tiny fingernail’s worth of light. My son’s reward was a shooting star at 3 am; mine came when he agreed to keep me company.
Meandering Marla leaves me, offering congratulations to the celebrated girl at the New Museum. I take to the outdoor space, filling lungs with crisp evening air, under a full on starry night, glimmering. Highlighted above are Venus and Jupiter in full regalia smiling down at me. A man appears from nowhere, lost his friend, says he. I reply “Me too, mine’s MIA amongst the black cladded crowd.” He’s waxing poetic celestials, marvelling over darkened sky. Agreeing it’s a rare NYC moment, Juan Carlos then apprehends my ass as his own rare Manhattan opportunity. “Just another night crawler on earth.” B-bye!
She liked it on top—which once would have suited me fine, except that, from there, she’d invariably start rocking with an earnestness I now never failed to find just disconcerting enough to throw me off the moment and back to the night we actually did try it out on the lake in her father’s canoe, with me on top that time, bathing suit down to my ankles, knees rubbed raw on the wet fibreglass, holding tight to the gunwales but mostly just trying to keep my butt low enough as the boat teetered on the edge of capsizing.
It was a simple black and white self-portrait, taken for an undergraduate photography course, and it was beautiful. Dolores floated atop the water, the small ripples creating wobbly rings of light over her dark swimsuit, a tell-tale flash cord snaking around her outstretched arm. Her hair a blonde jellyfish and her eyelashes clumped in threes. No pool for me, I tried it in my bathtub, head half-in-half-out of the water. Deaf-muted. This unsettling amniotic rhythm of breathing and heart beat translated into a moment of rebirth for my friend, but for me, I felt like I was being buried alive.
A note to you. The sun is shining bright. Sitting here, looking to the ocean so close,
the absolute end of it’s frothy crest tickle my toes.
Yes, titillate, trickling breaths of the former life back into me.
Yes, it’s lapping my body, the ebb and flow, heal.
Yes the part of me that is gone, eradicated, goes to the ocean
and what comes forward is, not a lack but renewed strength.
This may sound sophomoric, perhaps, perhaps it does.
But the their, there, in the horizon has living to be done.
I shall do it with one.