Staying up impossibly late, waiting for a step at the door, trying to demonstrate faith, a burst of forced optimism trying to erase pain. I am shut out while shut in, unwelcome, made to walk home in the rain, every step on glass, echoes of years ago, chest hollow, hair wet, the blood of love on my hands, refused, pushed off an edge from a great height, broken, breaking. Morning brings panic, an irrational jolt wondering what could have happened to keep him away, before I fully engage and instead hate.
I think today contained my Most Awkward Moment of the Year. Not that we’re all that far in, but I don’t recall having one since April of last year, so I’m just going to run with it. It was very simple from an outside perspective. I stood on a doorstep brandishing a cake studded with sparklers and gold candles, lighting them one by one, preparing myself to sing when the door opened. Then, well, the wrong person answered the door, (the wind of which blew out all the candles but for one). Simple – “Happy Birthday to- Not you.” – but not, given all the things a stranger couldn’t know. Eyes anywhere else, my hopeless sentience briefly dropped away long enough to get me up the stairs, then came rushing back. Throat clogged, standing at heart attack and vine, I grasped for mundane things – removing shoes, trying to remember sterile conversation topics – and failed. Eventually I gave up, blew out the remaining candle, put the cake in the kitchen, and wandered the familiar flat like a missing cat, ending up sniffling alone in the den where I used to curl on the couch and pretend I felt safe.
All that and I still feel glad I went. I came home feeling warm with conversation, a canvas bag full of interesting books and a promise of new house-plants. This time, reminded, I will keep in touch.
Of course, that wasn’t the original plan at all. I was meant to work on the North Shore this evening. The idea was to go over, write copy, play web-dev, then simply spend the night, so I could get up and get at it again, but little events kept colliding until they created a sort of time-suck anti-matter, and then I was reminded I’m going to Afrika Bambaataa. Whoops. Guess I’ll just have to get up early.
Time to run off and dance.
“A screaming comes across the sky…” Gravity’s Rainbow again, Pynchon as one of my favourite authors. Paul lent it to me, the sweet pig-tailed man who juggles as he walks, months ago as part of a thick stack, bricks of book to help build a delicious wall of post-modernism beside my bed. Now enough time has passed that I am feeling the pressure of their weight every time I leave the house without them. Except for this last novel, they require returning. Given another set of circumstances, I would not be so concerned, but I can sense myself putting it off out of a stunted sense of self-preservation. There’s no casual way to be certain that Marc would not be the one to answer the door. I would have my past be a silent thing. There does not seem enough good in it to be worth preserving so carefully. It is not fair that my heart jumps so suddenly with his name.
I do not like my memory acting as a ghost haunted, falsely fate-ridden private universe. I rather my hurts decompose, fold back into my experiences instead of corrode them, but cannot seem to find the trick. It has abandoned me completely. Instead I find myself withdrawing, attempting to find a social array where these emotionally catastrophic people do not so immediately exist, which doesn’t actually help at all. I suppose part of it is that I’m too busy trying to create a theatre through sheer force of will to concentrate on anything more private. Still, it nags me. That pile of books, however saturated with kindness, remains a constant reminder of circumstances that my wounded my well being – a Damocles sword that fell without a feast waiting (or even a table).
Landscape on skin, by Huang Yan, from the East Link Gallery, Shanghai.
Robson street, Vancouver’s brand-name straight-line shopping district. Peace as body lotion instead of solution, sold for fifty bucks a bottle behind white walls and vast plate windows, images torn from magazines that cost more than a meal. Thick with logo stamped angels, tight strappy sandals and tight strappy jeans, wide retail smiles and cocaine-bright children surgically attached to thin cell phones and even smaller hand-bag dogs, this is not my neighbourhood. Barefoot, I can feel the concrete but don’t feel connected. “Can’t buy me love, everybody tells me so.” Looking for nothing in particular, I stop for breakfast.
My dyed hair is a flag, marking my place in line. I look for my reflection in the black marble facade in front of me and find nothing but the eyes of red haired chef making crepes. On reflex I wink at him, but my thoughts are elsewhere, threading from the apparent cure for cancer just found in Alberta to the neuro-chemical reactions that trigger love; dopamine, serotonin, vasopressin. Triggered by the sad knowledge that I’ve likely burned out all the neurotransmitters that are part of the brain’s built-in reward system, I order my memorized taste of a perfect oxytocin kiss – strawberries, lemon juice, and sugar.
It works. Instant flash of a cold stone floor, the second hand taste of wine, cigarettes, a forged key to my weakness, waking with tousled black hair and my favourite voices. Music sent back and forth to finally meet in an airport, meet in a stairway, on the street, the lights strung up above the bed from before Persepolis abandoned me back. Why do they always have dark hair? I never noticed until just now. Curls. Temples going to silver, little places for me to kiss.
By the time I reach the bus-stop, I’m already talking to strangers and figuring out who to contact to prepare my house as efficiently as possible. My roommate, Sasha and I are on the same page. Out as soon as we can without leaving the other in the lurch. He’s going to be moving in with Mel, I’m still uncertain where I’ll end up. I need a staging ground for our last shot at the theatre before I finally give up, fold house, and leave town. Mihi cura futuri.
His skin is lighter than mine where the sun doesn’t touch, though we’re multi-racial enough to get us lynched in certain places, (we know he has problems at the border). I can see in the dark how the outline of my wrist – you know this story. I know this story. I will never get enough of his clever mind, his smile, or his hair, but it slipped from my mouth that the latest death.pool bet says he’ll run off with his employer next. I mistakenly used the word “cheat” before demurring that I know he is only as committed as a cat offered a dish of cream. I know the ending already, the cotton candy clouds blow away in a predictable wind. Last time I bled myself dry and then moved to another part of the country. It didn’t change anything.
Another story – The clock is heaped with minutes that need to be folded and placed into drawers. Fragments of conversation, of laughter like honey in my throat, of shared yearning after mystery. I am made of clay and I can feel in the dark how the shape of my body fits surprisingly into his (as it crumbles into dust). Everywhere are tiny, running wolves disguised as mice. On the blackboard, my name has been erased. I am a self-portrait, stars for eyes, blindfolded. His skin belongs to someone else. The sheets describe pacing, the threads worn where the line was drawn. Thou Shalt, not. The pillow tells quietly of the hollow curve of a braincase. I didn’t belong there any more than I do elsewhere, but at least it felt safe. There was water in a cup on one side of the bed.
I wonder if when I am older, I will place a cup there too, as they do, these men, these ten minute husbands who deprive me of stability. I don’t like their common habits. I want all of their mistakes to be different, they should continue to be separate creatures in as many things as possible.
My New Year hasn’t started yet. I feel, instead, that I was on the set of a film shooting a scene about New Years Eve. How else to explain where I was, who I was with? Surrey? What? I came home today soaked to the cells of my marrow from working many hours in the rain. Work began at five, where I was on gate. Somewhere around midnight, I assumed my way backstage and made myself available. After the count-down and the fireworks, my time was spent hauling about heavy bits of everything. Work was tear down, strike, a rush of blood to the lungs. The skin of my hands has been polished so raw my nerves are misfiring in interesting ways, I might have split my lip and possibly cracked a rib. Sleep was a couple of sheepish hours in a hotel room, too early in the morning to be morning yet. Then we worked again. This time in a gradual and persistent downpour. Tents had to be puzzled down, missing pieces had me to be made to fit into trucks and lamentably weighty slabs of steel needed to be dragged from one end of the complex to the other. Same with sandbags. I cannot explain how much I dislike sandbags, except to say that sometimes being female’s a bit of a bitch.
(It’s always a bit of a toss-up between letting people be nice to me and accepting the easier, indoor “nice” jobs or going out in the crappy weather and attempting to prove myself a little more to a group of strangers who all assume me to be capable anyway. Mostly I took the indoor jobs and didn’t mind when people called me “sweetie”. They can call me “sweetie” as much as they like as long as they follow orders.)
I might sound like I’m complaining, but really I love this stuff. I chose being on crew over any of the parties I was invited to. (Is it just me or was everyone really slap-dash about plans this year?) I appreciate being useful, as well as chances to constructively use basic physics. (What, you think I can heft things twice my weight without the stuff?) The best part is that apparently I’m to be paid for my hours, which is nice, as I would have been out there anyway. Just tattoo geek on my forehead in invisible ink.
New Years EVE Skytrain Dance Party at VCC Clark. Meet at 7:45 on December 31st, bring everything – music, costumes, party favours, instruments, etc. “At 8pm we hop an Accordion Train to the Future.” Total Trip time 1hr. 8pm to 9pm.
The Dancing Fields. A movement, they kiss. Every smile is a line inscribed. He makes her laugh. This is not a new thing, but another attempt. Her distance allows for the illusion of successful intimacy. This is the first time he’s met her at the door with his hands.
Heart of the World news. The current owner has put the Bollywood films up for sale on Craigslist. The letter of my contract says As Is, meaning, everything in the building is coming with the building that was there when I saw it. I’m sure that it was implied somewhere that this was to mean only fixtures, but I’m willing to kick for a discount off the price. I think we can roll with this. The realtor, though he seems nice, as it is his job to do, is still going to receive a silly amount of money, no matter, so I don’t feel I’m cheating anyone by complaining.
I’m also thinking about what it would mean to us if we bought them off Craigslist ourselves. Currently the films are stacked all over the theatre in big spilling reels and awkward tin boxes that we’ll have to organize, box up, sort, etcetera. If we buy them off Craigslist, not only will we be paying less for them than if they’re included in the theatre price, that will all be taken care of for us, and we’ll have to spend significantly less time cleaning the space up for performances. It might be worth a shot.
W.C. Fields began his career as a juggler, so good that he performed for royalty and heads of state. A portion of his routine was committed to celluloid in 1934’s The Old Fashioned Way. There’s a clip of it up on YouTube.
An Italian cafe, Cafe Calabria. Double-consonant beverages and nude white statues of mythical heroes with santa hats perched on their faux-marble heads. A Mediterranean cover of Bryan Adams’ Have You Ever Loved a Woman, “Lei mai ha amato una donna?”, piped past hanging cakes that frame the renaissance revival ceilings. Two nights in a row I sat there, nursing a delicious hot chocolate to within a drop of its life, and waiting for friends who never walked through the door. Tonight, the second night, I winked at the man behind the counter who called me “bella” and decided to try to be a regular.
I wavered over the Emily Dickenson, but I took Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman off the shelf instead and gently flipped through it as I sat on the bed, brushing my hair with my fingers, before deciding I lacked the proper background and putting it back. Paul caught me in the hallway and offered me Gravity’s Rainbow, Kathy Acker’s Great Expectations, and a collection of short stories by Robert Coover, so now my bag is pleasantly heavy with books I’ve never read.
Today’s Sunday Tea devolved eventually into a Jean-Pierre Jeunet double-feature, Delicatessen and City of the Lost Children. Tomorrow, I’m not sure what I’m doing. I’m told I have the option of being picked up in the morning by a “new fangled horseless carriage” to Darwinismas, the celebration in honour of this humble scientist and his epic martial arts hand to hand combat battles with the magical Jesus. I’m not sure how long I would stay, as I’ve also been adopted by the Elliot’s and I’m trying to find time exploring Persepolis.
A wax paper packet of home made toffee, soon to be marked with the name of her lover, sits on the bed. She is clothed in black rags, shreds of leather, dreams of crackling silk.Tired to the point where her own voice feels distant, her thoughts are a dense forest, decorated with curious wild flowers that are beginning to wilt. In the hall outside her apartment, there are footsteps marked in water. Small, precise as velvet, they can be followed back to the mouth of an oven. Her belly softens at the memory of children, creatures who don’t know how to be quiet. Dusk coils between the harsh trees in her mind, waiting for her to sleep. Instead she smiles as she lies on her bed, as a memory soars bird-like between the huddled branches to drop upon her, swift like hunger and as downy soft as a bleached story.
She sings old songs, stretches her arms greedily above her head so that pale skin can be seen, alabaster fighting against coming night. The bird, its beak opens, drops a pebble into her hand. Her fingers move to catch it, and pulse, the smile. The stone marks the path of a child, unconsciously walking and barefoot, led by a woodsman, too wise for his own good. His head catches on clouds and brambles both. To her flicking eyes, her fingers are handling the shape of a hand, tracing the edge of a family written in curls, and she is not alone.
In certain lights, she would be pretty. Now she is merely strange, clucking her tongue like a pigeon might, cooing protectively over a plate of breadcrumbs and the head of an axe.
Sunday – we were still a city burning, but now on the horizon, as if the time between us were embodied in distance, impulsive steps out into a desert. Persepolis, though his name might be the name of my next god-child, I was never certain if I would wake next to him again. Enchanting, built of admirable social immunities, a strange ruin painted with glyphs that I desperately want to run my fingers over. Even in the bed, under familiar strings of lights that sang starlight like blood-cells, wrapped around a body that felt like evolution’s most satisfying proof, I didn’t know if he would keep me safe in the morning. He did today. I know I want him to again.
Saturday – a different house, one letter different. I literally vaulted over him to get out of bed when I realized we’d slept through the alarm. Over and out, into the rest of my clothes and up the stairs, without even saying goodbye, leaving only a kiss brushed quickly on his cheek, too quietly to wake him fully. My last glimpse of him, through the closing bedroom door, was one of a selkie trying to hide under blankets. It was only at the bus-stop that I realized I was going to be fine, I wasn’t even close to being late. Tea could have happened, breakfast even. I wondered, belatedly, if I should have woken Mark-with-a-K for his audition and mildly cursed the erratic illusion of clarity that comes from waking in unfamiliar surroundings. Early mornings after late nights, working seven days in a week, it wears – I left my mother’s umbrella behind in my abstracted rush.
more on heart of the world when I am awake
Originally uploaded by Foxtongue.
It’s the people absent from my bed who are changing my name, eroding at my identity like a negative space sketch of rain. I can’t help but recall my conversations, the blankets inspire me, the delicate, familiar movement of taking my glasses off and putting them on the windowsill. I’ve been setting my eyes down on various surfaces every night of my adult life, slowly evolving into someone who doesn’t like to be on top because I can’t see my love’s face from so far away. I remember Marc’s laughter, his climbing strong melody as he cradled my glasses and explained to me very carefully where he was putting them down. Another windowsill. Like mine, to the left, but not the same at all. A queen size bed but we still managed to fall off the sides. I remember Lidd crying, viciously attacking the life given to him, threatening to smash my vision to the street below. Too much alcohol, too little faith. I could see myself in a mirror then without them. Worse now, my astigmatism, my trained lack of sight. I remember lots of things, voices attached to shining blurry faces. Different colours. Lindsay, he had a desk with a computer from 1995. I put my glasses down next to the keyboard, under the red guitar that hung from the brick wall. Lindsay, whose chocolate hands made my skin look like iridescent milk.
A flash to Lung taking a picture down his pants on a dare, how we discussed Oliver’s skin tone as something to photograph nicely against mine. To my silver haired scientist twisting away from my camera, hiding under the blankets, breaking my heart. The beautiful images Alastair would send me long distance, driving my adoration from over a thousand miles away. Kyle was so beautiful I could have cried.
Repetition with improv over the top. Notes of fire, of searing words. Burning too hot, too fast, too aware of the desperation inherent in oxygen, a poison gas when taken straight. I didn’t like the wall sized mirrors in that fugitive hotel, how they turned my blurred body into a pale shifting ghost, messy hair and all. Not to say I don’t find hotels mirrors friendly. The man who is named the evening star, he grasped the delicacy of my blindness right away. Gently murmuring about his father’s death to the glow of craving a cigarette, he ran his hands along my arms, guiding me to where I needed to be. I took a picture in that mirror, wearing his shirt, my hand upraised, a final thank you and eventually, later, a good-bye. He undid the buttons and every doubt I had about my body fell off me in shards, never to return again.
These are the things that stick, a hundred final scenes. Kissing a man in a restaurant, only a few blocks from my apartment. Touching his tattoo and wondering briefly, the closest I’d flirted with infidelity, if anyone would see us. All a long time ago now, these memories held like dried flowers, delicate perfumed things, willing to break details if handled roughly. Photographs seen from the wrong end of a telescope, out of proportion, fading when the phone-calls do.
The Moon Festival starts tonight at 7:00. Renfrew Ravine Park, at 22nd and Renfrew.
Easy to get to by transit: Take the skytrain to 29th Ave. Station, then take the Arbutus bus five minutes to 22nd.
My fire show tonight starts at 7:30. There will be fireworks, an underage contortionist, a band made of eight trombones, a percussionist, and an erhu, and half my crew are delinquents, including one multiply convicted arsonist.
If any of the fire people on my list would like to come perform, I can toss you into our finale if you check in with me early enough.
This river is my holy ghost, this red trail that leads in drips and smears from me to you across the sheets. We are enclosed.
I spent today finding a gift for Dylan, who turns three tomorrow. The son of a ghost, I wanted to find something sweet. The perfect soft toy to be carried lovingly around for the next seven years. I believe I succeeded, I found a bear who passed my every conceivable cuddle test and a child size hand-puppet of a fox, though I must also admit that I have done the dreadful deed of purchasing something for myself as well, which is something I consider tantamount to sin these days and vaguely unforgivable. A hand puppet of a soft white fluffy rabbit in a hat.
It’s fun. I was both delighting and terrifying small children, I practically refused to take it off my hand walking around streets and stores, waving a little paw to almost everyone walking by, those who did not glare at me. I think I’m going to bring him to work, try to find out his name. He’s pretty.
In spite of that, I am not well enough to be up this late. I feel too raw to try to talk to the world. I need consolation and I’m not going to find it here before I go to sleep, nor tomorrow, likely. Tuesday, I have to wait until Tuesday, and that’s a maybe. Dying to hold on, it is like my skin has been taken off and packed in someone’s bag before they walked away. It is like a monastery falling and being trapped in the rubble. Of course it’s fine, fine like grit between my softest teeth. Truth and truth again, more of my year of ruination wrapping, up, finding its feet. We are vile in our perfection, me and this feeling. There is nowhere left to pray.
Bombs dropped, the last city has blazed and I am left blind.