I found this little gem on my Twitter feed via timehop. Part of me wishes it were fiction.
I wanted to write to you, to tell you that I’m trying really hard to be positive right now. That I’m trying really hard to think about the things that can go right instead of the things that have gone wrong. I wanted to write and tell you about my friend who’s had his heart taken out of his body and reassembled with bits from his leg and then stuffed back in his chest like so much straw.
I wanted to say this is all so much. It’s all happening so fast, rain drops pummelling tender seedlings down into the soil instead of nourishing them with a gentle mist. That the weight of that rain pelting my skin is very heavy. I wanted to tell you that all I want to do is sleep, to lie out in the sun and sleep. Plant a garden, watch the flowers grow and bud and bloom and die back. That I want to get away from all of this madness and just be somewhere where I don’t have to make decisions and I can read books all day and eat grapes from a cool bowl.
Actually I don’t much care for grapes most of the time. They’re too much like eyeballs and sometimes the burst of juice is terribly offputting. But I like the phrase “peeled grapes” an awful lot and the image of a well-oiled cabana boy feeding me peeled grapes pleases me, so even if I’m not particularly fond of them, I’ll let my cabana boy feed them to me before he rubs my feet and tells me I’m beautiful. So beautiful.
I wanted to post this on my blog but I think it’s too close, too much, too revealing. It would be letting the world see in – or at least the portion of the world that sees my corner of it – and I don’t know if that’s what I really want. I wanted to write to you and ask you if I should post this on my blog or just keep it between us.
I wanted to say that every time I see a photograph of a storm cloud, I identify with that storm cloud. With the active electrons all bouncing around in there, their little mosh pit of thermodynamics and vortices, like thoughts, like feelings, that’s me. I feel the skin between my brows furrow when I’m least expecting it and I ask myself whether that’s myopia or just my own little tropospheric disturbance.
I feel like everyone, everything is taking just a little piece of me away and I am beginning to not recognise the pieces that are left.
Do you think time ever slows back down? That you can get back that sense that summer is going on forever and the freezie you’re eating is going on forever and the orange crush you snuck out of the big fridge in the basement is going to last forever even though it won’t be cold forever. Do you think you can just lie on a thick towel or a denim blanket on the sand and close your eyes and stop the world moving? Not in the way that would make people fly off the face of the earth, but in the way that we could just steal these tiny moments just for ourselves now and then? I think we can’t, but I wish we could.
I wanted to write to tell you that every time someone tells me how strong I am I feel like a fraud because I’m not strong. I’m tender and raw but maybe my secret is that I regenerate. Or maybe I haven’t any secret other than that I’m a fraud. That every time I think I know what I’m doing I’m reminded that there is no such thing as knowing and every time I think I have a stable footing I’m reminded that all rivers have currents that will wash away the sand under my feet only some rivers do it quickly and some take an entire lifetime.
All of these things I wanted to say to you. There are many reasons I didn’t. Many reasons I haven’t. There’s only one reason I may have for sending it along, and that is to feel like there is a connection out there still. A connection with someone. Someone real.
So I’m sitting on the chesterfield, having my tea and thinking how nice it would be to have a patio I could sit on to have my tea and do some writing of a lovely spring morning, when what to my wondering eyes should appear to port side but a little damp black nose and some very tappity white paws. #PrincessSassypants is asking to sit on my lap.
Normally, the dogs aren’t allowed on “the brown couch”, but if one is sitting on it, they are sometimes permitted to sit on one’s lap. Normally the dogs don’t like to sit on my lap because I, being their pack leader, am deserving of the utmost respect, and that includes my *personal space*. However, often I WANT a dog on my lap and so I will ask them to come sit with me. #PrincessSassypants doesn’t have a problem with this; she will fly into my lap like politicians fly into scandal. #Bumblebutt, on the other hand, is quite circumspect and often leery that if she sits on my lap, I will pick at the gunk in her ears or eyes, or, worse yet, I will fetch the Hateful Clippers and do her clackety toenails. She’s not wrong.
So imagine my surprise this morning when #Bumblebutt hops up onto the ottoman and asks to be permitted lap privileges. I am pleased. Touched, even, when she scrambles up on to my lap and leans in to me in a little doggy hug. “Awwwww,” I say. “Awwww. That’s adorable. You love your mommy.” She glances up at me with her big brown eyes. Tucks her head in under my arm and sniffs at my dressing-gown.
Right. I have bones for the dogs in my pocket, and have forgotten to dole them out. Man’s best friend, my butt.
Of course, after they finish their bones, #Bumblebutt jumps back up on the ottoman and asks permission to sit next to me on the chesterfield. I know she’s only hoping this action will produce more pocket-bones, but I’ll take the attention.
A Story About Crows for @lizzers_
Once Upon a Time, I lived far north of here in a “ranch-style bungalow” on a hill in a city bound by a river. The city itself still had many Wild Places. Not the kind of wild places where one might go after a night in one’s cups, but the kind of Wild Places one might go and get lost and not be able to find one’s way home unless one knew how to gauge the sun’s position in the sky and the placement of shadows cast by trees. There was a “little forest” in the hills behind my best friend’s house and we used to explore. Really, it was a stand of enthusiastic poplars pushing each other about on an empty lot between two houses, but to us it was a forest.
In fact, I’d be willing to say it *was* a forest and anyone who said it wasn’t can be damned.
In front of my house, the trees grew with their heads bent together, nodding against one another across the street. This formed a canopy of leaves in the summer through which dappled light played and two skeletal fists clasped together in winter. Across the street were six enormous douglas fir trees and lining our side, maples and elms.
Our neighbour’s home was a dainty wartime hut with one bedroom off the front room and one bedroom off the kitchen and our neighbour Elsie had a concrete basement lined with jars and jars of preserves. “Her husband”, my Da said, was “a drunk and a mean old bugger and when he showed up he caused all kinds of trouble and when he was gone nobody missed him much.” Our house was on a hill; theirs was on a flat, so their roofline came even with our bathroom window.
Summers were hot and humid in my hometown, and the sun and the birds up at 4am and the mosquitoes and blackflies swarming by noon. My parents were teachers, and from May until the end of June, my father cursed the birds for waking him too early, particularly after the nights when there had been Much Revelry at our house. The songbirds, he didn’t mind. He would yell obscenities at the corvids.
So my father bought a pellet gun.
And he climbed up on top of the house just before dawn, and he sat there with his pellet gun. And he saw the crows flocking out of the fir trees to roost on my neighbour’s house. And he started shooting at them. He wanted to scare them all away.
He shot out my neighbour’s windows. And the crows were back the next morning. Laughing. Cackling. Mocking.
A Story About @ElBne for @jamesmagnus
Once Upon a Time, I had something Very Important to tell my friend Bne*. Or maybe it wasn’t Very Important. Maybe it was more like one of those times when you really haven’t anything to do so you bum around looking for pals to bum around with. Or maybe it was something Moderately Important but only in terms of a LARP in which we were both playing. To be fair, I don’t remember what the deal, as it were, io was. But I wanted to talk to him. So, this being in the days of text messaging being something that Blade Runner and Blade Runner alone could do, I went to his house.
Phoning, you see, was not an option, because Bne lived in a house with some other gents, and sometimes they just didn’t feel like answering the phone. Or didn’t pay the phone bill. Or answered the phone and then went off in search of the requested party, only to discover an *actual* party happening somewhere else in the house and then forgot that somewhere in the house a phone was off the hook. (This being back in the days where if the phone was off the hook, you couldn’t leave a message – you got the most annoying buzzing booping sounds and you just had to hang up or go mad.)
Also, I wasn’t near a phone. These were the days, of course, when “portable telephones” were things you carried in a baby carrier or a rolling suitcase. The smallest ones were the size of encyclopaedias (which were, of course, hefty tomes of printed reference material organised alphabetically, usually one tome per letter, depending on the edition. These were, of course, the days before Wikipedia, when “looking something up” meant going to an actual library that contained actual books and which had an actual reference section that contained actual reference material. Stop looking at me like that. This is most decidedly not fiction. THAT IS WHAT LIFE WAS LIKE OKAY. People who were really good at trivia were really good at trivia because they read encyclopaedias, not because they downloaded cheats for the trivia app on their phones) or perhaps stale loaves of bread. Unsliced bread, of course. If you wanted to phone someone, you had to either spend thousands of thousands of dollars on a “portable” phone or you had to spend a quarter at a pay telephone (which is a little bit like a prostitute, only you pay to talk, not fornicate) or find somewhere with a public-access telephone or just go home and call. And since I was already nearer to Bne’s house than I was to my own, and since I hadn’t a quarter, and since I was a student and couldn’t afford Ramen noodles much less a “portable” telephone (yes, we did have Ramen noodles back then, and thank #Glob for that), I went ’round Bne’s house to just, as they say, “knock him up”.
Now. I mentioned Bne lived with some other gents. This meant that any given day, if you showed up at Flamingo Manor (their abode), you could ring the bell or knock on the door and you would be soundly and effectively ignored or not heard unless The White Mass was at home because The White Mass, if I remember correctly, had a fondness for lounging on the chesterfield in the altogether, reading gaming books and waiting for some poor schmo to knock on the door or ring the bell. I did not, therefore, do either of those things. I entered the house, hollered (which was proper manners for Flamingo Manor), and, receiving no reply, I began to search the premesis for Bne. He was not in the living room (thankfully, neither was The White Mass). He was not in the “dining room” (some milk crates with a “table” made of pizza boxes). He was not in the kitchen; I didn’t enter the basement because frankly, there were things that happened in that basement that no one who wished to remain whole should ever witness. Also, Duane.
I went upstairs and knocked on Bne’s bedroom door. There was no answer. I opened the door a crack to see if Bne was abed. He might have been but it was impossible to tell because Young Bachelor Living On His Own. I decided to Write a Note.
I penned a note, and began searching for a thumbtack. Some tape. A piece of chewing gum. (That is where the search for A Sticky Substance ended, because House of Bachelors. Iew.) There was nothing. So I grabbed a knife from the kitchen counter and pinned the note to Bne’s door; the note that indicated I had been by and was looking for him and because he had not been there, clearly he sucked. Not having found him, I left.
Bne came home later. He went about his business, went upstairs, changed from his work clothes, went back down to the kitchen, made himself some Ramen noodles (or, knowing Bne, ketchup chips). His room-mate saw him. Said, “hey, cenobyte was here.”
“Oh yeah? What’d she want?” Bne asked.
The roommate blanched. “You mean…you didn’t see the note?”
“What note?” Bne asked.
“The. Um. The note stuck to your door with a knife?”
“The fuck you say?”
“There is a giant butcher knife sticking out of your door. She came here looking for you and didn’t find you and stuck that note to your door with a giant, eight-inch blade, and you didn’t see it?”
“I think,” Bne said, “I would have noticed something like that.”
Bne, incredulous, went upstairs and looked at the door to his bedroom. The door he had opened not moments before. The door where, stuck at roughly eye level, there was a large kitchen knife holding a note.
“Oh hey,” Bne said. “There’s a note here! Huh.”
And that is how Bne found the note I left him the day he was not home.
A Story About That Time I Wore A Towel On My Head An Pretended It Was My Hair, or Mother’s Cuts are the Deepest, for @melistress
Before I started elementary school, I had long, long hair. It was blond like spun gold and I wore it in pigtails high on my head with fuzzy green ties and bobbles. My mother would brush my hair every morning like a well-trained torture specialist. It’s a surprise I had any hair at all. She might as well have fed it through a combine.
So she decided that when I started school, I should get a hair cut. *A* hair cut. Not ALL of my hair cut. I went from having lovely, curling mermaid tresses to having a mushroom cut. A MUSHROOM CUT (they called it a “page boy”, but it was not a page boy. It was a mushroom cut). My mother said, “if you’re going to fight with me every morning, I’m going to cut your hair”. I had pointed out that all animals fight when they’re being attacked and that it was a question of survival, the way she wielded that hairbrush (it may have come out as “BUT IT HURTS WHEN YOU DO THAT!”). Hence? Mushroom cut.
The third day of school, after having fielded all of the “why did you cut your hair? You look like a boy” comments, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
I wrapped my favourite blue bath towel around my head and secured it with a headband. I once again had flowing, beautiful mermaid locks. I went to school. My teacher made me take the towel off my head and called my mother because I was “being disruptive”. I hardly think launching a legitimate human rights violation complaint citing freedom of expression is “being disruptive” (although at the time it might have come out as “BUT THIS IS MY REAL HAIR I CAN’T TAKE IT OFF MY HEAD!”), but that’s what elementary school is all about, isn’t it? Tramping all over our human rights and trying to teach us not to question authority.
The next day, I chose a *brown* towel, figuring that the reason my teacher had caught on to my ruse was because most people under the age of 80 did not have blue hair.
That was not what had clued my teacher in, as I discovered with the brown towel, the subsequent yellow towel, and the red towel. One week of multicoloured towel turbans, and not one – NOT ONE – slipped past that vicious gorgon who smelled faintly of chalk dust and stale coffee. She was on to me. Neither could I fool her with the wig I ferreted out of my mother’s costume bag. The jig, as it were, was up. I had to accept that my butchered boy hair was simply something I had to live with.
So I got tough and I got mean and I figured that if I looked like a boy, I might as well fight like a boy.
…okay, I didn’t actually get mean. But that was the year I started playing tackle football and stopped wearing skirts and girly blouses.
*Bne is not his real name. His name has been changed to protect his
This is Smog. Before I tell you too much about Smog, I should tell you that I have never been able to successfully pick out a proper cat. I’m okay with the factory rejects, though. THEY NEED LOVE TOO.
We rented Smog from the Cat Shop several weeks earlier than we ought to have been able to. She was seperated from her kin far too young (four weeks, they say), and nursed on everything she could. Which was, of course, adorable. However, I’m fairly certain it has also caused brain damage.
Smog is most famous for walking in to a room and announcing “I’m a —“, where “—” is anything from “tibby tubbler” (we don’t know either) to “speed bump”. For several weeks after the #doges arrived at Chez Relaxo, Smog announced she was a dog. She is the sort of cat who learns (read: makes up) a new word and uses it extensively for the next six weeks. She thinks “the outside” is anything on the side of the door on which she is not.
This cat likes digging up every house plant I have ever tried to grow, sleeping on the third stair from the top, and getting “skeert” and running away. She is, however, one of the only cats I’ve ever had who actually knows how to play with cat toys.
Seen here laughing at a joke that really wasn’t very funny at all, Smog can often be found running away, eating dog food, and judging you for being in the bath.
I leave the doctor’s office, where I have just been shirtless in front of two men I have never met. I’m feeling a little scared, because in meeting with this doctor, I have basically consented to surgery. Elective surgery, but elective surgery that may change my life and make it possible for me to run, wear seatbelts, do yoga poses properly, and lay on my stomach. So I’m a little fazed, a little overwhelmed. I decide to hit the mall, maybe buy some lunch.
I walk through the mall. It’s empty. The downtown business crowd are back in their offices. I decide I’m going to go to a shop to get some leggings because I have none without holes in. I smile at a fellow at the bottom of the escalator and head up to the shop what sells leggings.
There is a rack of leggings at the front of the shop. I’m touching every pair because texture is important. I bought a pair of leggings once that ended up feeling like elasticy burlap. I’ll never do that again. I feel someone touch my elbow. I look up.
The man from the bottom of the escalator is standing beside me. He’s touching my elbow. “I saw you,” he says. “Down stairs.”
I don’t know this man. He’s touching my elbow and standing very close to me. He’s followed me from the bottom of the escalator, where he was leaving, back up the escalator to a shop.
“You are so beautiful,” he says. “I wonder are you married?”
I touch the ring on my finger. I back toward the rack of leggings.
“Do you have friends like you, because, mmmm,” he closes his eyes and licks his lips, “I would love to have a woman like you.”
He leers at me. Leans forward. “I would love to have a woman like you,” he says. “So much, so lovely. Like you.”
I thank him for saying so, and look pointedly away from him. I look inside the shop. There are women in there. I can just go in the shop if I need to.
“Okay, goodbye,” he says, but he continues to stare at me.
I leave the doctor’s office. I have just been shirtless in front of two men, nonchalantly shirtless, I might add, because, and this may shock you, I have no problem being topless anytime, anywhere, for any reason. We have been discussing my having breast reduction surgery. Talking about nipple necrosis. Did you know there was such a thing as nipple necrosis? “They turn black,” the doctor says, “and then they fall off. So you could lose your nipples.” I try to picture myself with no nipples. I figure, if it means I can lay on my stomach, do yoga poses properly, and find shirts that fit, I’ll cut the fuckers off myself.
It’s cold outside. The wind is unforgiving. I decide to head back through the mall, maybe grab some lunch. Inside it’s pretty empty. All the suits are back at their desks, monotonously clicking ‘refresh’ on their effbook pages, clicking ‘like’ on upworthy vids, wondering if anyone would notice if they looked for some light porn. Nothing hardcore. Maybe just lesbians.
It was cold like this when I was in Ottawa, when I realised I’ve blown apart the thighs of all of my leggings, and considered buying some new ones in the world’s biggest Hudson’s Bay shop. I decide to look at some leggings at the Hoopty Mama shop upstairs. It’s weird for the mall to be this empty. I ‘m used to being here at noon. Dodging crowds. Hearing snippets of conversations about who pissed off whose HR person by using the wrong pencil to fill out form HS/Q1-22. But it’s early afternoon and the only people in the mall are people who don’t have to be back at their desks.
A man leaves the down escalator. He looks me in the eye. I smile at him. I hear him say, “hello!” in a kind of surprised voice, but it’s too late. He’s behind me. It would look weird if I turned around and said hello. It’s damnably uncomfortable being Canadian sometimes. Plus, I’m focused on leggings.
I’m standing at the table of leggings at the Hoopty Mama shop. I feel someone grasp my elbow. “Hello,” the man says.
It’s the man from the bottom of the escalator. “Hello!” I say. “You said hello to me downstairs, and I completely ignored you and walked away! It’s only because I’m so damnably Canadian and realised Too Late I had walked away from you. I’m very sorry. That was rude.”
He smiles. “You are so amazing,” he says. He indicates my hair. “Your hair,” he says. “Are you from Canada?”
“Yes, damnably so, I’m afraid.”
“Always from Canada?”
“Are you Aboriginal?”
“I’m not,” I say. “Although there are rumours about something my great-grandmother might have done when great-grandfather was away, and why my own grandfather had such high cheekbones and such dark skin.”
He doesn’t understand. He squints at me. It occurs to me that English is not his first language. I smile. He smiles. “Are you married?” He asks.
I show him my rings. “I am!” I say.
“Oh.” He sounds disappointed. “It’s just that you’re so beautiful.”
“Sir, I would hire someone to follow me around every day to say that to me.”
“I’m just being silly. Thank you very much. You’re very kind to say it.”
“Do you have friends like you? More women like you?”
I laugh. “Oh, good God no. There ain’t no more of me, baby. I’m it. And let me tell you, that’s probably a good thing because this world couldn’t take any more of me than there already is.”
“Wow,” he says. He shakes his head. “Wow.”
I offer him my hand and ask his name. I offer him mine. I thank him again. He leaves. I leave.
I end up buying a really shitty juice and some mediocre noodles.
To celebrate Storytelling Month, I’m going to tell you at least one story per week in February. These are all true stories.
I don’t think I’ve ever told this story before. Maybe I have and I’ve just reached that stage of perpetual awesomeness where my memory of stories is like that thing that things get out of. A prison or a sieve or a colander or politics or whatever.
Part of the reason for that is that I can’t actually be certain whether it’s fiction or fact. When I look back at the whole thing with my remembery, things are hazy. Flash-bulb, like when you dangle too far into your cups at a hootenanny and your only memories of the evening come in postcard-like flashes because probably your blinks took several seconds each. Like dancers in a strobe. Like headlights on the highway.
I would have been in grade four or five. Maybe grade six. I was around ten or eleven years old and my neighbourhood school had rapidly declining registrations. It was …it *is* a gorgeous old school, built in 1924, I think. It’s a Band School now, but at the time it was a public school. I remember the dust-and-chalk scent of the classrooms, the sound of runners squeaking in the halls, and the way the sun burst through the walls of windows in each class.
The kids I went to school with had been attending this school with me since Kindgergarten, for the most part. Maybe one new kid here and there, but not many. My neighbourhood was in an older part of the city, where there were three elementary schools (two public and one Catholic) in a ten-block area, all on the same street. The point here is that I knew everyone in my school.
When you only have twenty kids in your age range (and split-grade classrooms), you often go to every birthday party that rolls around. It’s a bit like living in residence at University really, or in a small town; when there’s a party, everyone goes. There was a birthday party – a slumber party – and I’d been invited, and my mother didn’t want me to go. She couldn’t really articulate why, but in retrospect, I think I understand. All she could tell me was that she didn’t know the family very well. Didn’t know the parents at all. She was nervous. She said I could go to the party but had to come home before the sleepover started.
I didn’t listen.
I went for the party and after hotdogs and cake I phoned home and asked if I could stay over. Mum said she wanted me home, but I begged and pleaded and wore her down in the way that only eleven year olds can do. She knew where the house was, she knew the phone number, she knew some of the other kids who were there. I didn’t tell her that some of the girls who’d been to the party had gone home. She brought over some pyjamas and a change of clothes, a sleeping bag and a pillow. She told me to be home first thing in the morning. Before noon.
All of us were down in the basement, flopped all over the floor like a litter of puppies. Some girls had sleeping bags, but most had been given some blankets and pillows to sleep on air mattresses at the foot of the stairs. I was curled up on a foam mattress a little way away, listening to whispers and giggles and staring into the darkness watching shapes form and reform as my retinas did whatever magic thing retinas do when the lights are out.
I wish I could remember more details. What the house looked like. Who was there. What time of year it was. But I can’t.
At some point when the whispers and giggles had turned into deep breathing and light snores, I heard something. Someone was coming downstairs. I don’t remember exactly, but I think my birthday friends had older brothers and sisters or uncles or family friends…someone was coming down the stairs. I remember a sliver of light as the door to the upstairs opened. I remember the sound of unsteady footfalls on the stairs. I remember the vague outline of someone walking past the foot of the mass of sleeping girls.
I remember the weight of someone on top of me. I remember pain. I remember, vaguely, at least I think I remember, being told to stay quiet. I remember being completely disoriented, having trouble walking the next day. I remember going home the next day wearing panties that weren’t my own. I remember Mum asking me where I’d got them, and I didn’t have an answer. I don’t know what else I knew then, when I was eleven years old.
That was the last time I ever went to that house, though. I didn’t even talk to the girls who’d invited me to their party very much after that.
Although I still don’t know what exactly happened in that basement, I think I was raped.
It’s neither here nor there now. I don’t remember it, so ultimately it might have all been something that never happened. The only thing I know is that I came home the next day in someone else’s panties and it hurt to walk. It doesn’t affect me. I don’t have PTSD. I’m not a victim. I don’t even really ever think about it. I only tell this story now because not all stories are good ones. But all stories are important.