Shane Koyczan is my missed arrival. When his curtain called, I was not there. When my opportunity knocked, he was not home. He’s taking a lock of my wool hair on stage with him when he opens for the Violent Femmes at Massey Hall next week.
Laughing on stage, you’re berating me, “Why won’t you be in love with me? You owe me a toast.” Descriptions licking like letters in envelopes closed. Anger measured in minutes and hours and always sweetly winning first prize up on the stage. Darling Sara and I’m always so damned proud. Write, hand, write and I ran after you and held you as your cried. Victories as complex as the sun on your thankful face.
I’m making him a charactor in my entry in the upcoming Sinister Bedfellows Anthology:
I’m in the wrong place, but he’s not. A frieze of clouds over the city, orange light reflecting off wet pavement. This is Vancouver. A pane of glass grubby with too many small town fingers. When dawn comes, the light changes, everything goes gray. I remember his voice breaking in the exact shade of the sky when he told me he’d miss me, like the air he inhaled was an echo.
Hold me, I thought, hold me and protect me with your gift with words. Lift me up to where you are, so that I may look down at my hands too and watch them create lightning and thunder.
Hand in hand, I walked with him into a reflection of all our memories. This was where he touched my cheek, this is where I kissed his roommate and wished it was him. Weird baggage. Every strand of wet grass brushing our ankles is another wish, another significant glance across the cafe at me from him. Wrinkled experiences, creased and nicotine-stained from being kept folded in our pockets, folded and unfolded, pressed flat against tables to be examined like treasured maps to an alchemical marriage. Every six months, on average, he told me he loved me. Every six months for six years.
When he said he was leaving, deliberately slowly, I said I was too. In the shape of my mouth were different chances fluttering away, deconstructed. Our synchronizations were an ode to the opposite of a moth to flame, our lives never available at the same time. The king and queen of ill-timing, he said, frustrated, crowned in fluent poetry. Grieving August versus tomorrow until a hip-hop September. He was touring, I was moving away. Ahead of us was time, new and unused, that we could no longer afford to buy. There would be no following me home across an entire ocean. Dog-paddling would have been the death of him and his arms too thin to fly. Without sufficient concentration, he would have just crashed into an airplane anyway, to show how much he believed in the indestructibility of love, decorating the thin air with orange flames and pieces of melting vinyl seating. He was that kind of guy.
We met long ago, when I still grinding the last edges off being a teenager. There was a show in a shabby semi-legal basement venue on Commercial Drive called The Cavern. I never figured out how I was hired. Our audience sitting in creaky dented fold-out chairs, dark enamel flaking off more every evening, he was part of the wildly rhyming entertainment, waving his hands around, telling it like it was and comparing life to bumper-stickers. I was tech, manipulating video feedback to create psychedelic paranoid explosions of light. However unlikely, something blindly meshed. We enjoyed the summertime flavour in the alley outside the amateurishly black painted plywood door while he smoked and made fun of the dripping red letters that stood in for a sign. The other performers, I still know them sometimes, but never as well. Names fading. Las Vegas pompadours hard like black-jack and legendary Quebecois hockey stories I couldn’t relate to. Girls with guitars singing the same shrinking angel song over and over on little open mike stages.
There was a date once, if you squint. We sat on a playground across from a group of elderly Italian men playing bocci on a long narrow court covered with fine gravel and ate gelato from clear fluorescent cups with luminescent plastic spoons as equally neon bright as the cups, as science-fiction improbable as tampering with the rate of enzyme mediated chemical reactions. Just an afternoon.
Now the only time I see him is in expensive looking interviews on television, cunningly mixed with fluid clips of his glowing performances. They’re so relentlessly polished. I attempt not to examine my reactions too closely. His shirts remain button-ups, but now they’re made of thick coloured Egyptian linen and the buttons are interestingly crafted in the shape of Japanese chrysanthemums instead of round discs of cheap milky plastic. I can see where they’ve tweaked his round face in an attempt to make him look conventionally handsome. I’m not sure if it’s worked. Even pixilated, he looks like a lost tourist. I can still see the blossoming moon through his shotgun glare. It was never a question of trust. We were mythology, as brass bound by story as we were to our relationships.
I watch him, sometimes, when I can, when I remember. I finger the earring I accidentally pulled from his head once, silver like his new buttons, and try not to listen for my missing description.