inside/outside: loathe to explain

The air bit with a chill that didn’t match the bright sunlight. I was on a bus traveling from my apartment to a doctor’s office I’d never visited at the university of British Columbia. The view from the bridge might have been pretty, but to me it was nothing but a view of the recent oil spill. I did not know what to expect at the doctor’s office. Someone over the phone had dropped the word “cancer” into conversation as innocuously as a sugarcube into coffee. I didn’t have enough data, so I did not know what to expect. As a result, I failed to have any expectations. The unknown no longer holds any fear after the worst has happened.

I was recently in Los Angeles for three weeks. I stayed up an entire night and watched the moon’s light be eaten by our planet’s shadow from a barren desert near the border of Mexico. I learned how to drive an ATV and I sped in a race car on a track for the first time. I drove my first go-kart and only partially dislocated my shoulder doing so. I was introduced to shooting skeet and never missed, not even once, until the assault rifle jammed. I had dinner at the Magic Castle and discovered a secret door. I visited the spaceship Endeavor and a Banksy piece and the Echo Lake chandelier tree.

Luck was mostly with me. My company was always kind and funny and smart. My days were spent working and exploring, unearthing new places and experiences, and my evenings were often spent in the company of my host, one of my sweetest ex-partners, a man who pet my hair when he caught me keening with pain in my sleep.

Every day I think about Michael, his smile, his kindness, how much I would do if it would let me see him and hold him and let him loose on the world again. I would do unspeakable things. His smile, his wit. I would burn down houses. I would burn down cities. A life for a life. Ten lives for his. A hundred. He would be horrified and justified. He would be validated. I cannot say his name without twisting inside.

Everything in California made for easy stories. The sun shone almost every day, there were flowers everywhere, a downy brown hummingbird in the front yard, a familiar taste like metal in the back of my throat from the pollution in the air. I touched a tiny wild lizard, I bought books at The Last Bookstore, and sobbed until I thought I might die on the perfect sand beach at Santa Monica. I danced until last call in my underwear in a borrowed bear suit open to my waist in a bar on Hollywood Boulevard.

I try not to think about my coward of a most recent ex, M., and how much pain he’s left unaddressed inside of me. I shy away from it the way I now avoid mirrors, as if he literally slashed me with knives and then declared me too ugly instead of only figuratively. I cannot bear my unwanted reflection as I cannot rely on my heart. It is too broken. I am too ruined. Both have fractured and cracked and crumbled. The abuse, such a surprise, was too much. The trauma, as unexpected, destroyed what was left. I am used up and there is not enough left to put anything back together. I cannot say his name, nor that of the planet he named himself after. I can barely utter my own.

The difficult stories are harder to see, but they are bigger and deeper and wider and greedy.

Being in the desert was triggering, (he grew up out here, he told me stories, fixing his jeep with the gusset of his underwear, getting lost in gullies while looking for ghost towns, his words a footnote to every stone), but who alive has eyes that could see such a thing?

I cannot reliably keep down anything I eat. I have lost fifteen pounds. People are constantly saying, “Oh wow, you look so good!”.

This is also a trigger.

A terrible winter, leading into a spring that only looks better with eyes that cannot see.

Being alive is triggering. Everything hurts. Everything. Always.

My life since October has been a near comprehensive list of tragedy, injury, pain, disappointment, disability, death, and every wrenching heartbreak. I constantly wake violently throughout every night, usually crying, my endoctrine system certain that I am always under threat. Why else this much pain? I live stunned with it, trapped in the suffering cage of my own failure of a body, forcing myself to try to move normally through each moment even though its roar is deafening.

I try to be the sort of person who does not bring the tone down, does not to contribute to the disappointment, and I am sick of the world, so mostly I have been quiet. But, in truth, I am sick of living. I want to quit. Yet these habits die hard. When asked about such things, I have been telling the easy stories. “Magic!” “Race cars!” Tone. Keep it light, (keep it pointless), keep it bright.

I might say we went to the Salton Sea, went to Slab City, and looked at the art. I might say that the art was unexpected, that it was good to see the piano still present. Those are the outside stories, not the experience, not how I only went to East Jesus to visit a dear friend’s grave to try and make a genuine connection with his unexpected death, only to encounter a tourist destination and be force-fed a rote and rehearsed tour and a bizarre and misplaced lecture about my lack of respect. Both happened, but the latter is more important to me than the first fact.

When pressed further by people who know about the other narratives, the shadow, less superficial stories, I have been still replying defensively until very recently, habitually, with the only good thing left unharmed – “but the pets are fine!”

Even this, however, is no longer true.

The day before I flew back to Canada, my flatmate David sent me a panicked note over Facebook. The unthinkable had occurred; Tanith the cat swatted Selenium the ferret and ruptured her eye.

He was worried she was going to be blinded and didn’t know what to do. I arranged for hospital care, I arranged a ride there, I arranged to borrow space on a credit card to pay for it all. I did everything from California, hoping her vision could be saved, stressed out and over stretched, breaking down whenever I thought about how much she must be hurting, no matter where I was or what I was doing. All of our options were scary and expensive. The vet referred us to an optical surgeon. Two hundred dollars. The optical surgeon suggested her eye be removed. Another two hundred. We scheduled the surgery. Eight hundred. She had a rough time on the table. Another hundred. The mask became harder to keep in place.

Posting to social media about Selenium’s needs and ordeal covered the costs. I am grateful, we’re not going to be wiped out, but my grateful allayment is muddled. I am conflicted. There is no justice. She is home now, looking more like a prize fighter than a pirate. This is the Red Queen Paradox with a knee to the kidney for good measure; we run and run and run to stay in place, everyone throw in! Yet no matter how much is given, how much support is offered, (where was this before?), the best that can be possibly attained is a new equilibrium worse than the previous norm. It’s like my life’s theme, if such things existed outside of the convenient packaging of construct or English lit.

Now that April’s Big Bad Trauma has arrived and (mostly, as best it can, a bankruptcy disguised as success) been neutralized, I am waiting for whatever happens in May. It will be rough, it will be tumble, and I refuse to try to imagine what awful unexpected there is left. Who’s next? What’s next?

It’s my birthday this month. Thirty-three on the twenty:ninth. Ten years plus one from when I promised Michael I would fight to stay alive and try, no matter what, to find joy. Ten years “and a day” of failure and pain. If I can’t succeed at such a small thing, in that length of time, I can’t succeed, full stop. My promise runs out on my birthday. It’s almost a relief. Ten years and a day of fighting and struggle, just to confirm: My best isn’t good enough and it never will be.

“I am the captain and I sail a sea of dreams.”

Woke up this Valentine’s feeling sick and hollow. During the inspiring decade+ that Michael Green starred in my life, the glorious, mad wit that so well defined him always astonished me. (I’m not sure I’ve ever known anyone to be more dynamic, vital or alive.) And, like the great actor he was, he mastered and treasured every role in my life he could get his hands on – mentor, lover, pen-pal, partner, parent, tantrum child, art king, collaborator, curator, smart-ass student, responsible educator – with an effortless, beautiful sincerity I couldn’t help but admire and reciprocate with my entire heart. I am devastated with this loss.

There has been no one better in my family, no one brighter or more essential to my life. He could, in turn, both amaze and terrify, but he cared deeply and he graciously made certain that his love supported me during the darkest times, such as what we’re all experiencing now.

So today, as a comfort to my heart and yours, as he would prefer, as he would be proud to be, may he also always be The Whaler.

The Whaler, performed by Michael Green of One Yellow Rabbits at Performance Works as part of the Here Be Monsters theater festival 2006. Recorded by myself.

it will feel like injustice when the sun begins to rise

One of the brightest spots in my entire life has just been torn away by a car crash.
I am really, very deeply, not even a little bit okay.

Michael Green was killed in a car crash this morning.

CBC news has some of the details.

It’s very likely that very few of you know what our relationship was or what he means to me – as very public people sometimes do, we had a very private connection – but Michael lines this journal like silver. He is, in many ways, why large swaths of it exist and why I have persisted in spite of so much of the pain that has come my way. He lifted me out of darkness. My darling Michael Thomas Green, one of the most important people in my adult life, his care and support, even at such a distance, sometimes have been my only secret weapon against the coming of the night.

I don’t know what I’ll do now that he’s gone. I’m in tears. I’m in shock. I am scraped raw.

a higher fidelity incantation

  • Here With Me – Susie Suh x Robot Koch

    Now that I have returned to Vancouver my days are spent, again, tidying house and looking for further work. Selling things, making charity bags, writing cover letters. The details shift, move, and fade away, but the general thrust remains the same: find work, leave this place.

    I was recently disrupted, though, by a simple thing; an old greeting card with a picture of a leopard-print rabbit that fell from between some books in my closet while I was struggling to put my suitcase away. It’s from a lover I was with in 2006, a man who was almost exactly twice my age at the time, who I still think of with affection when he comes to mind. We haven’t been in touch since January of 2012, when there was a brief flurry of five or six e-mail that died in his court.

    Inside is a lovely little note, sweet, hopeful and warm, from a time when we still felt protected by each other, even after the close of our relationship. Time travel via information packet. Memory conjuring his voice, his toothy smile, how bright it was the day we walked in the fog by the water, how much I mourned when the silver and green amber brooch he gave me was stolen and lost. (There’s plenty of writing about him in this journal, actually, tucked under a code-name tag, just like everyone else I’ve shared my life with since 2003.) I do not think of him often, but when I do, I wonder where in the world he is, what lunatic art he is birthing, who he is currently inspiring. I hope his family has healed. I hope his head and heart have found peace and delight. I hope, as he inevitability swans through the world, (and swans, he does), elegant and full of light, he does so with gentleness, ferocity, and grace.

    So I wrote him a letter, the contents not much different than what I’m sharing here, and I put the card up on the thread I have on the wall above my desk where I keep emotional reminders. It fit in nicely. Such good company on that length of string! Photographs of photographers, snippets from writers, postcards, and similar paper miscellany. All of it positive, but all of the people gone from my life or far away.

    It was interesting to find myself writing again to someone I haven’t spoken to in so long. So many commingling layers of motivation! He was the center of my life, the vortex of everything spun around him, but I’m in my thirties now and I don’t think we’ve been in the same place since I was twenty-five. (Seven years is a fairy-tale number. Even with seven league boots, I’m still so far behind that it’s almost a fifth of my entire life.) It’s so peculiar, that such distance could come into play, that such distance is what became ordinary.

    As I clear my life, hone it down like a knife, I wonder who else I will reach out to.

  • last minute

    Though I rarely attend poetry slams anymore, having fairly burned out after winning too many games of my Poetry Slam Bingo, (containing such squares as: No One Understands Me, War Sucks, I Was A Highschool Misfit, If I Punch The Air You Should Clap, Let Me Show You My Angst, I Lesbian, Counting Makes Rhymes Easy, and many more), I’m going to be working the door tonight, because holy sneezes…

    Sheri-D Wilson will be featuring tonight at the Vancouver Poetry Slam!

    How fantastic is that, you ask? Pretty damned fantastic. And as if having the mama of dada swing by isn’t enough, it’s also the Decathalon Slam – 2 teams, 10 rounds. As many people as possible on each team. So come be a part of the fun. It’s going to get creative. There’s going to be a cupcake eating round, a sock puppet round, a mime round, a team piece round, a 1 minute poem round, an improv poem round, and so on.

    On the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Monday of every month, at Cafe deux Soleils: 2096 Commercial Drive at 4th Ave. Doors and sign up at 8. Show at 9. Only $5

    fired up and burned out

    Eric Freitas: Reanimating the mechanical heart, elaborately sculptural steam-punk clocks.

    Karen, my roommate, gave me a message saying that a Michael called while I was in Kamloops. They left no last name and no clues, except to mention that they had been out of touch for a couple of months. This gives me two salient options, or rather, two people I would like it to be, as there are many Michaels in my life, but only two I can think of who have been silent who I dearly wish to speak to. Curious, these men. Singular, peculiar, and loved.

    Desiree Palmen: photos of camouflaged people.

    Uncomfortable that they have the same name, I called the less long-distance Michael as soon as I found out, the one who uses Michael, not Mike, left a message, and have not heard back since. The other I have been remiss about trying. I have been shy and timid and my heart has been fluttering afraid. It has been too long since I have heard his voice. Tomorrow, I have decided, i will call. Tonight, instead, I will send him this picture with the subject line, "welcome back to this side of the water" and hope it hits home.

    The Eternal Children: a 2006 documentary by David Kleijwegt about the contemporary freak folk scene.

    oh hell, I think I just missed Michael Green’s birthday.

    365 day twenty-one: did I?
    365: day twenty-one

    The sky was strangled by pale blue today, cerulean seen through milk, so novel that people could be seen stopped in the street, staring. Clear as pastel glass, but no more kind than that. The sunset brought cold as immediately as it does in the desert, as if all the warmth in the world could not soak into this city’s tightly woven bones, too attached to woolen gray skies and shadowed clouds to dream of summer.

    “Can’t We Talk?” a simplified explanation how the conversational styles of men and women differ.


    Worship Sloth

    Snow is falling outside that looks like television storm static, a confetti illusion drawn across the world in monochrome pointillism, as if the sky’s receiver needs a bunny ear adjustment. Nick is playing some nasty war game with excessive amounts of shooting and I’m curled up on my couch, warm with upcoming plans. (So far, there are only people I love in my in-box today.) There’s dinner with Gavin and his lovely, meeting up with that Mike at the airport for midnight, and somewhere in there, I’m going to go ice-skating with Michael’s skates again before I give them back. (I haven’t fallen yet, obviously I need to try harder). The day feels full of light, as if it were suddenly okay to walk barefoot, as if the cold couldn’t touch me through my tenuous contentment.

    Floria Sigusmondi’s updated her site.

    Yesterday Nicholas and I went to the Zoo, (which is large and interesting enough that I recognized it from the plane). We began with exploring the Canadian Wilds section where the elk, owls, sheep, and fairy-tale wolves lived. There was an ocelot as well, continually pacing it’s cage back and forth, back and forth, dreaming of freedom and the delicious flesh of screaming toddlers, and the smallest adult moose I’ve ever seen. The place felt abandoned, as if we were on an adventure in a ruined city, looking at the map and checking to make sure we weren’t going to run out of sunlight before we found shelter. We only managed to see about half of the rest of the park. The African section had the most flinchingly cute animal in the entire zoo, a tiny, solitary meercat perched atop a rock, giving us all the eye. Across the room from it was a giraffe and the first hippos I’ve ever seen. I was struck most not by their bulk, but by how artificial they looked, as if they were rubber-skinned animatronics, poorly designed.

    quick into the snow

    Alright, so Calgary is cold, but not that cold. Of course, when it came to nip out for groceries at night.. I… uh… I didn’t go. I quite happily stayed behind in the warmth and safety of Sean‘s living room. Win!

    We’re going to go out-door ice-skating tomorrow evening and then to One Yellow Rabbit’s preview of Gilgamesh. I’m calling Gavin Monday morning and Mike will be showing up any day now.

    Should be fun.

    Can this get any more inconsequential?