To celebrate Storytelling Month, I’m going to tell you at least one story per week in February. These are all true stories.
You know how you sometimes get in to the middle of a situation and then you wonder “how the hell did I get here?”, and then you spend the rest of the night trying not to let any part of your body touch any part of the furniture, floor, walls, or yard of the place you’ve found yourself? You know how that is, right? Of course you do. It’s part of the human condition. It’s one ‘a them…whattayacallems…shared experiences that become part of the collective unconscious, shaping the entire future of mankind.
I had a lover who played bass.
I realise this sounds like the beginning of a noir novel…“I had a lover who played bass,” the dame said and blew her cigarette smoke across the desk into my face. I’d have taken offense, but nothing that those lips could do would ever hurt me more than watching them quiver as her heart broke. But it isn’t. A noir mystery/thriller/crime story. Well, okay, it could be, but you’d have to squint a bit and pretend that “noir” actually means “punk rock” and that “mystery/thriller” really means “crazy adventure”.
So I had a lover who played bass. He had long hair and loved Primus and thought he was less bright than he actually was. He was a friend’s ex boyfriend and he was sweet and I always knew that he was the one whose heart would be breaking when the affair ended. I was on a roll back then, “chewing up men, and spitting them out,” my friend RR would tell me, “like a combine chews up wheat and spits out the chaff”. He had a band. I mean, of COURSE he had a band. Well. He had a dude he hung out with who played drums.
He and his drummer had an audition, down in Regina, and of course neither of them drove (didn’t have their permits, in fact – I once attempted to teach my lover how to drive and after he nearly took out the neighbour’s fence I encouraged him to take some lessons) and neither of them had paying jobs but I thought it was kind of cool that they had an audition for a band. I agreed to drive them to their audition. In Regina. Did I mention we lived in Saskatoon at the time? We did.
I collected my lover’s friend and their kit and we drove down after I was done work for the day. I asked where the studio was as we approached the city. “What studio?” D- asked.
“Uh. The studio where your audition is?”
My lover’s friend in the back seat snorted. “Studio. There’s no STUDIO. This is at a dude’s house.”
Ah. A house. A house with a recording studio built in the basement. My boss at the time had one of those. Well. His was in his garage, but still. I’d always wanted a studio in my house.
Nope. It was a dingy, run-down house in the sticks of the ‘hood. A tiny little house with shitty floors and Too Many People and these stupid dogs. I mean. Okay, to a certain extent, all dogs are stupid. This is a true fact. But these dogs were PARTICULARLY stupid. Like. Sat in the fire pit while the fire was burning stupid. Big, fluffy, drooly things with mats and bad breath. Which reminds me of another fellow who asked me out on a date…
…but I digress.
The house smelled like wee and stale beer and cigarettes and a lifetime of regret and bad decisions. The stupid dogs had the same look about them, except with more sadness. There was a torn and 100% springs-free chesterfield up against one wall, a filthy coffee table varnished with several years of spilled beer and ashtrays in the centre of the room, and an even MORE decrepit couch/love seat covered in tattered blankets along the east wall.
There was no television, no stereo. The “dining room” was a bunch of lawn chairs with tables made of beer cases. And let me just say here before I start sounding too pretentious that there was a fairly long stint in my own life in which my primary goal was to save up enough money from the return of my empties to buy a carton of smokes, and that meant the only reason my dining table wasn’t made of stacks of empties was because I was returning them for a carton of smokes. And the only reason we didn’t use the busted pool table as a dining table was because the legs were gone. So. Just to put things in perspective there. It’s not like I lived in the most auspicious lodgings.
Remember the scene from “Trainspotting” where Renton retrieves his fix from the worst terlet in Scotland?
Right. Well. That was pretty much what the loo was like upstairs. After dodging the passed out drunks and stupid dogs while trying not to touch the walls, I ended up standing on the terlet seat (with my boots on; I’d refused to take them off) and squatting to wee. The worst part was that when I was done, the drips on the terlet seat WERE CLEANER THAN THE REST OF THE TERLET. Ugh. I was even a little leery as to whether the running water from the sink was clean enough to wash with. The point here is that this was not a Better Homes and Gardens house.
I sat at the end of the chesterfield, nursing the one can of beer I’d accepted from the host, and pretending to share the joints that were passed around. I did not inhale. I literally didn’t inhale* because I was pretty sure if I did, I’d have flashbacks about that house for the rest of my…oh wait. Shit. Well I could have been high, which would have made what happened later make more sense. Maybe.
This guy. This guy sat on the couch next to the chesterfield and he started chatting me up. As they do. With the dulcet tones of staggergingly bad death metal lilting up through the floorboards at 800 decibels, this guy on the couch leaned toward me and said:
I nodded. Because, 800 decibels.
“YOU LIKE DOGS, MAN?” He shouted.
I nodded again. I figured, just keep nodding and eventually this guy will get the idea that you’re too high to talk to.
“I LOVE DOGS, MAN.” He shouted.
I do not have the sort of luck that involves people getting the hint that I’m too high to talk to.
“WHAT’S YOUR NAME, MAN?” The guy shouted. He was like…if you took Bruno Gerussi and roughed him up outside Molly’s Reach, then kind of smooshed him up with Stan Rogers’ younger brother Garrett, then threw in a liberal dose of Gordon Lightfoot, added a few more felony convictions and a dozen years of hard labour, and far fewer showers, that’d be this guy.
I told him my name.
“NO WHAT’S YOUR NAME, MAN”
“FUCK YOU, MAN.”
Now. I’m sure you’ve heard the adage about your life flashing before your eyes when you’re in a car accident or when you find your grandmother’s dildo. This was one of those times. I was convinced that there would be a news story the following morning in which someone found my body stuffed in a chesterfield in a burnt-out slum house in Regina. Faced with such a situation, I know you’d have done the same thing I did. I leaned as close to Bruno-Garrett-Gordon and shouted, “No, fuck YOU, buddy. You asked my name. My name is cenobyte.”
He reared back like I’d spit on him. I may have spit on him a little bit. “NO, FUCK YOU MAN!” He shouted, jabbing at me with his finger.
I stared at him. Knowing that would be the last moment of my life, I wanted to remember it in perfect clarity just in case reincarnation was, you know, a thing.
“MY MOTHER’S NAME IS CENOBYTE!” He hollered.
“NO, MAN. MY MOTHER’S NAME IS CENOBYTE. I LOVE MY MOM, MAN.”
I’m not really sure there is a way to describe what my expression must have been.
“YOU KNOW WHAT ELSE I LOVE, MAN?”
I had no idea what else that man loved. I had a few ideas. Blow-up dolls, larceny…definitely not soap.
“I LOVE MY DOGS MAN.”
What does one say? I mean. A hobo is screaming at you in a drunken slum house while your boyfriend is playing death metal in the basement loud enough to move the floor joists and a smelly chow dog is drooling on your foot. What does one say? Want to know why you’re not me? Because *I* said, “at least you have someone.” I said that, like, before I thought about it. I should probably claim contact high here.
“I HAVE THIS SHIRT, MAN.”
Thank Christ he hadn’t heard me.
“I HAVE THIS SHIRT AND YOU KNOW WHAT IT SAYS, MAN?”
“I cannot begin to fathom,” I said.
“IT SAYS, THE MORE PEOPLE I MEET, THE MORE I LOVE MY DOG, MAN.”
I kind of felt bad for the guy. I feel bad when people love their animals more than they love other people because what shitty people we are. Love is easy, you know. Even hobo Gerussi. He was lovable in his own way. As soon as he said that, I knew there was no threat from this guy. Not from any of these folks. So who cared if they’d fired the maid or were squatting in a low-income rental? They had music, they had friends, and they had dogs. That’s a damned sight more than a lot of people have.
I didn’t budge from my corner of the chesterfield all night. I eventually fell asleep with the chow dog on my legs for warmth, and when my lover was finished his audition (which was an hour of playing and five hours of steady and unreasonable drinking and drug use), we drove home. That guy yelled at me periodically throughout the night, every time he caught my eye.
“THE MORE PEOPLE I MEET, MAN, THE MORE I LOVE MY DOG, MAN.”
I hope you’re still around, Hobo Gerussi. And still kind to dogs.
*This should read: “I literally didn’t inhale THE DOPE”. Not “I literally didn’t inhale at all”. Because, of course, if I had literally not inhaled, the rest of the story would be a complete lie because I would be dead. Of not inhaling. Which I think they call “not breathing” these days.
I’VE BEEN FIVE-STARRED!