Escape Route

Cases of beer and champagne made the halls narrow, the wives arriving in anticipation of a cup win, one commenting that there was no way the captain would sing Karaoke at the Equivocator’s house. And no one would ever visit the Finn’s place except the Finns. I realized that the black-suited reporters were all old-time Republicans and ducked outside.

Pen and ink sketch, Goya

The space was open at the center with winding corridors and passageways off to the side. I found a bathroom under the stairs with a view of the valley, but it was packed, some of them my former students. I pleaded for them to leave, but it was a big joke and they took pictures of me as I crapped in my hands.

Floating in the Water

“I like to float in the water.” Michael was a long-lost friend, quiet; it was like he knew more about me that I ever would. “I just lie back and drift, you know, my nose just above the surface and look up through the water. It’s more like meditation, I guess.”

“But I can never hold it. I feel too vulnerable, like something will come up under me and bite me in half. I always freaking myself out like that.”

The Orgiastic Pleasure of Writing

Writing might be hell, but it’s also nakedly divine. Being in there, not knowing what might be coming next, not thinking about it, but looking forward to the words as they sort and bloom, or maybe none of that, but writing wildly with electronic music and gummy bears in my head. That is serenity for me.

Hastings, UK (1989)

It’s a hard thing to wiggle inside of, get my arms out and understand, but I do know this place. It is quiet and everything, tiny and never there. It is impossibly so, a sideways, half-mirror thing, dipping into dreams and memories, imagination of what could be, all of it as concrete as anything, more so than anything else. I know in this place.

McPhedran, Kingston (1986)

I do know about this shitty world, this place we share and begrudge, but I do think that I could help it be something else, not really exactly that, but imagine something like a child. And there is something orgiastically real about that.

Ancient Staircase

The stairs had a tightness, coiling down into the gloom. I stepped nervously, missing a step and clunking into the wall. And then it was brighter, the light coming from above. The space was empty, full of grit and dust.

I held myself there, thinking this was the place and should stay here to find something out, something true, but went into the side room, walked across the creaking floor and opened the little door. The light changed. There was someone above, and I stayed quiet, wondering when they would find me.

The Long Run

I had gone for a long run, almost 17 miles, through the forest, and had come home exhausted. My wife was on the phone with no interest in talking to me. I had done something wrong but I didn’t know what. I found out through snippets of conversation that a barbecue was being installed on the fire escape and asked why she hadn’t told me before. She shrugged, angry, feigning indifference. I was exhausted and went to sleep. The spare bedroom had been rearranged in a way I couldn’t understand and had to pull the bed against the wall to get the door closed.

I slept on and off until it was dark and she came briefly in the room and said, “I am watching Iron and Blood tonight” and left. I was disoriented. She was talking to her niece who was staying with us. They both ignored me.

And then it escalated. I asked my wife to speak alone to understand what was going on. She resented this request. She didn’t want to speak, saying she didn’t have to bother with that. It came out that she thought I had organized a series of parties for my students.

I didn’t understand the accusation. But it was too late. She was furious and now engaged with others, the accusations getting worse. It was because I smoked. That was the last thing she said. I didn’t see her again.

Not Saying Goodbye

She watched her sister getting ready to go. She did everything in tight, well-practiced turns – cinching the strap, adjusting the seat, looking up at the screen, scrolling through the updates – not looking back, not doing anything except what she had to for her to leave.

She didn’t want to say goodbye to her sister. She had to say it right, reach for her hand, wait and then turn to go. It made it worse to think about it. She should have just done it, just say the words and be done with it. But she didn’t.

She was exaggerating everything. She was exaggerating. They had been together too long, forever on this journey, and now they weren’t. That was all there was to it. As much as it might mean later, it was just this moment, the same as the last, the same as the next. She wasn’t going to make it something else. She would see her soon. She turned to go.

“Hey!” Her sister yelled after her.

She turned back. “What’s up?”

“That’s it?”

It hurt to hear her say it like that, like she hadn’t thought when they both knew she had. “Give me a call when you get there.”

She turned away again, back to her screen. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

Honest About Being Dead

I saw my friend Gord last night. He died some two years ago and looked almost happy in spite of the pain, knowing he wasn’t really there. I told him that I respected him for that, being so honest about being dead and then realized I shouldn’t have said that. I changed the topic to how I was still afraid of the dark and that I didn’t know how to work through my hate. I just wasn’t big enough for that.

And then Gord was gone or was in the hallway getting his coat, and I had to get to Abbotsford for a job interview and was waiting for a bus and then watching a school play, hiding in someone else’s bed, waiting for the food to be delivered, still mad about everything but glad I wasn’t dead.