Monday, April 10, 2017

First Storm

He's not showing up.
It's been over two months of
I really want to
I'll do my best
What do you feel,
What do you hope for?
I want to plan a trip,
I want to spend time together

I'll be in San Ysidro.

The other side of the continent.

The thunder explodes outside her window.
She's new here.
First storm.
Let's see if everything holds.

She'd been doing her best to ask for what she wanted but could sense a push pull from him.
You here?
I'm here.
All in.
Apologize, explain, go ahead.
It's ultimatums and irritations.
This is how I am
This doesn't work for me.

An object in motion stays in motion.
An outside force bigger than the primary driver diverts the energy and changes the direction.
Slow down.


Keep going.
You do you, she says.

She wonders where expectation lives.

Three days.
That's her rule.
Get in, unpack, hang everything in it's proper place.
Energy begets energy.
Keep moving forward.
She creates a good home.
Holds space well.
Welcomes guests with open arms
And hearts and minds.

The sheers blow in, draping the ottoman like a wave cresting a rock.
For a moment she loses sight of it.
The storm shifts
And the wind sucks the sheers flat against the screen,
Revealing the ottoman for what it is.
What it was.
Ah, yes.
She can see it now.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Wednesday Passover

It's almost time.
Unless of course he's late.
She's too tired to fight him anymore and really, traffic is insane these days.
That's why she picks Aaron up after school and spends an hour and fifteen minutes at The Second Cup waiting for Chris to show up.
The hand off.
The passover.
Wednesday afternoon to Thursday night, every second weekend, alternating high holidays.
It used to be a hassle but they've settled into a quiet, comfortable groove.
Surprising themselves at how much better they are as co parents than partners.
Better friends than lovers.
Taking the long way around.

The same table every week, tucked into the corner on the club chairs with the noisy fabric.
She smuggles in a juice box and over ripe banana but makes sure to fork out for a medium sized hot chocolate with extra whip to justify their monopolizing of real estate.
It's prime time, this 4 to 5:15 pm slot.
The same faces every week.
She wonders where their passovers take place.

Aaron licks the whip from his hands.
He's fidgety these days, anxious, unfocused.
It's that age, Chris says.
I was like that then, too.

Yet she sees so much of herself in him.
Now more than ever.
Awkward, excitable, easily enraged.
Quick to dissolve to tears yet fearless in laughter and flights of imagination.
She forgets at times he has another genetic blueprint forming him.

One to two to three, all together.
Then 3 to 2 to life on her own.
A continual passing over.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Side Effects May Include

Side effects may include loss of sight, smell, raging diarrhea, flatulance, leaky gut syndrome, and an overall sense of malaise.
Rare cases of stage 4 terminal lymphoma-based cancers have been known to occur. (Sorry)
Suicidal thoughts, questioning one's self worth and life's purpose may also occur.
Avoid if pregnant or nursing
Thinking about pregnancy
Thinking about dating
Which may possibly lead to sex
Which may accidentally lead to pregnancy with some emotionally unavailable douchenozzle who will flip out and go ballistic when you tell him after the fact that you've decided you're just not that into the idea of parenting to begin with so you'll be making the choice to terminate without his input, thank you very much.

In other words, engage at your own risk.

At this point, Barb's forgotten why she was even considering treatment at all.
Why not just stay home, bake artisanal vegan macarons and write the next great travel guide to south western Utah.
Where Mormons Collide:
Salt Lake's Seedy Underbelly
Complete with historically accurate bread recipes.
There's a market for everything these days.

Inhale for 4, exhale for 6.
Om shanti om
Can you feel the release?

Pause pause pause.

Namaste this, motherfucker.
NOTHING she does can quiet her mind.
An entire colony of hamsters are running ragged, whipping around her brain, lap after lap
A criterium of rodents.
It's like Paris Roubaix and her mind is the cobbles.

Through the nose...two, three, four
Hold hold hold
And release through the mouth....five, six, seven, eight.

In, out.
In, out.
In, out.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Friday Afternoon

If she leaves now, there's a good, no, a GREAT chance he won't see her.
He's buried in his phone with his headphones on.
She's got her back to the door, her hoodie's around her waist, toque pulled low, massive glasses obscuring her face.
She can grab her bag, scoop up her laptop and just GO.

Shit shit shit shit.

Mel? Is that you?

Fer crissake- why do people say that?
She shared a bed with him for two years, six months and 13 and a half days.
She picked gingersnap crumbs off his chest while he slurped Earl Grey tea, and read racing biographies to him out loud for hours on end.

They'd stumble over each other in the bathroom half naked, jockeying for space in the mirror.
That beard.
His cheap clippers tripping the fuse.
Every single time.
No one groomed longer than Alan.
He's really not sure it's her?

This from the man who mapped the freckles on her body with a Sharpie.
Who tattooed her name on the inside of his bicep so it lay against his heart with his arm at rest.
He watched her as she dressed, every morning, mirroring the way she stood on her left leg, hip splayed out, arm akimbo.
Just so.
You would think he'd have sniffed her out while he stood in line.

She can smell his toothpaste from here.
That anise flavoured, seven dollar organic stuff that she would ever use because who in their right mind likes liquorice toothpaste?

Damn damn double damn.
She can pretend she didn't hear him.
Make a run for it.

Hey- I thought it was you. I mean, I KNEW it was, but....yeah, so...

Americano? Americano for Alan?
The barista pitches his voice above the constant hum of chatter and keystrokes, intermittent bursts of laughter and the explosions of steam from the Electra on the counter.

Alan turns away to tend to his order.
She slips  out the door, spilling coffee on her way.

Monday, March 27, 2017

When Something Begins It Starts To End

She's been away longer than she was here.
So strange.
How that changes.
At some point two years turned into twenty and the old neighbourhood is now unrecognizable. Everything's smaller, less foreboding.
Even Mr. Robichaud's hand hammered lawn ornaments seem tiny.
Spent, worn, rusted out.

Marnie's old house feels minuscule, a bungalow on a postage stamp lot facing an overgrown, decommissioned public park.
Barbed wire fence and tagged clapboard demarcate what was once their secret hideaway.
Where Do Not Enter meant Come On In.
Flashlights and stolen magazines, hooch water concoctions and bottle upon bottle of dry roasted barbecue peanuts.
So many memories here.
Whatever clarity she had is obscured by nostalgia.

When something begins it also starts to end.
She read that the other day and can't shake it loose.
Why bother starting anything if there's no hope, no possibility of infinite happiness?
She longs for the old days of pure potential when the what ifs were sure things.
Things were going to get better.
More than this.
Something intangible, just out of reach that kept them striving, plotting, dreaming, hoping.
But if the beginning is the end, why start at all?

The wind shifts. She's without her hat and her ears are ringing.
She's sensitive to the cold now.
A glove slips out of an overstuffed pocket, she squats down to pick it up.
Marnie stops, stares out at what was once her front yard.
Where do merry go rounds go to die?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Good Enough

It takes too long to steam the milk, so she pours it into the coffee straight from the fridge.
Makes for a tepid cup, but she finishes it in a few long pulls.
Good enough.

The fridge is brand new, as is the stove.
So is the bathroom sink and toilet.
The last tenant died here so they did a complete overhaul on the apartment, including new floors and paint job.
Sometimes it's easier to tear it all down and start over.

She wasn't expecting this.
Sometimes life throws you a curveball; you're thinking fastball and up you go.
Counts 3 and 2, runner on 2nd, one out, bottom of the 6th.
Ten more outs to go.
You've got this.
Head down.
Keep on swinging.

He would have been 19 this May.
Christopher Harrison Jude.
So many birth names. Never a battle she wanted to wage so everyone got their pick.
He crowned and then stopped when she was giving birth as if to say, wait-
I don't know-
I just-
I don't belong here.

His first attempt was grade 9.
Teams were built, appointments made, plans put in place.
Therapy, exercise, drugs, meditation.
Woo woo voodoo and dark nights of the soul wondering if she falls asleep, will he ever wake back up?

The coffee maker hisses and spits, gurgling out the last drop, the glass carafe steaming from condensation running down the sides.
It's survived the last four moves. She couldn't bear to let it go.
When every thing gets lost, some things become indispensable.
Totems. Touchstones. Habits and structure.
A cup of coffee. A baseball game.
She keeps on swinging.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Lightness In Being

He sits silently, tears streaming down his face, without shame or self consciousness.
This is not how he was raised.
Men don't cry.
They are stoic in the face of adversity.
Devoid of emotion.

He hears his heart pulse in his ears, feels the flush of heat creeping into his cheeks, spilling down his neck under a mass of a thick, dense beard, sculpted tight to his jawline so as to not obscure the landscape of tattoos covering almost every inch of his body.

His body.
That in and of itself is monumental.
Glorious. Hulking. Strong. Capable.

His shoulders shake and his breath comes in gasps, eyes soft and red from weeping.
He takes a long, slow breath, closing his eyes, his hand lifts to his heart as his head drops softly toward his chest.

He's beautiful like this.
Open, available, transparent.
The new normal.
Wondrously so.
He is lighter now.
With compassion comes immense relief.
No more anger or shame, blame or anxiety.

Just release.
Freedom from long held patterns and beliefs branded into his psyche, defining his sense of self.

Then the crash.

Sit down, get back up again. And again. And again.
Until he could stay upright and move forward, of his own volition.
Grace in gentleness.
A lightness of being, all 287 pounds of it.

A sigh, release.
His hand floats to his mouth and caresses his beard, fingers pressing lightly on his lips as the corners of his mouth curl up into a smile.
Wonder in his new found self.

Thursday, March 23, 2017


Bleary eyed and shuffling with the sound of roller bags and flips flops snapping at her heels.
Early morning flights make her queasy.
Not enough time to wake up and get sorted before she's out the door, under fed, discombobulated.

Triple checking to make sure her phone is charged.
That it's with her and not in the cab.
Mike continues to threaten her with idiot strings for the case, like the ones she used to have on her mittens as a toddler.
Keep it tethered to you, at all times, he says.
She can't abide by the workmanlike construction clip he wears on his hip like some contractor on site, precariously dangling off the wide open precipice of the fourteenth floor.

To coffee or not to coffee, that is the question.
Rather, the ensuing result will be an extended bathroom break.
Is there time before boarding? What's the aircraft? A 67 or a shitty dual prop, with cubby hole toilets she can't stand up in.
Hence why she no longer wears heels while flying.
Try explaining forehead welts to new clients in North Bay while pitching.
Never a good time.

It's quiet now.
The allure of jet setting all over the country wore thin about 50, 000 kms ago.
So many miles she can't cash in as the last thing she wants to do after a week in the bush or out west or up north is get back in a  plane and head to yet another hotel or resort under the guise of relaxing.

She can't remember what colour her own bedroom walls are anymore.

Hold On

Wind's coming up something fierce. She can't stand up without holding on to something, anything within her grasp.
Just so happens it's Oliver.

He's holding onto Winston, his tripod street dog from Thailand. Happy as can be, a permanent grin stretched across his flecked brown and white muzzle, bright pink nostrils flaring with every gust, his lone back leg swaying to stabilize his hips as he wiggles back and forth.

Oh, I didn't- I'm sorry, I can barely stand up. This wind...
S'ok. I'm used to balancing for two.

He looks up at her, one eye closed, a permanent wink, corner of his mouth raised, hair windshield wiping across his brow. How can anyone look so calm and composed in the middle of hurricane?

Winston seems to lean into it, like an arrow mid flight.
She closes her grasp on his forearm tighter.
Just so.
It's picking up velocity now. The awning creaks and moans. She's sure it'll be Wizard of Oz time soon.
There's no place like home...

She feels him shift, leaning his hip into her thigh, steadying her.
Comfort in chaos.

Snap! The branch cracks and explodes off into space, up, up and away.
Winston growls, then a hoarse, half hearted bark.

Come, he says. Follow me.
Hold on.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

No One Likes A Parade

Not today.
It's just not in the cards.
Some days are better than others and today- well, let's just say today is what it is and that's going to have to be enough.
An unforgiving morning and Siobhan is struggling to make it out alive.
That's what this pounding headache and roiling gut is telling her- any minute now, this could be the  end.
For better or worse.

Just one more, Siobhan, come on. Drink up. DRINK UP. It's St. Paddy's Day, Siobhan- YOUR day, your PEOPLE. Your battles won and lost, the snakes, the famine, the potatoes, the....whatever.
DRINK UP! Slainte!

Now bands are warming up underneath her window. Since when are West Indian tin drums part of an Irish parade?
The noise, a cacophony of jigs and reels and Spirit of the West.
Dj's on loudspeakers, police ops on walkies, bursts of frantic sirens racing to and fro, angling to control crowds of honourary Irish folk bedazzled in green felt bowlers and peel and stick transfers, slathered in dollar store face paint.

It's 11 am on Sunday morning, lord jesus mary mother of god make it stop.

Feckin friends. Louder than bombs. Curled up like cobras ready to pounce on the slightest sign of weakness. Drain a pint, blink, another appears. Kegs of Guinness and trays of green shots. Siobhan's right thumb is stained orange, her left eyebrow slightly askew. There is metallic shamrock confetti on the inside of her armpit, trickling down her ribs.

Please,  please, please, she thinks. Make it snow. Or rain. Spontaneous volcano eruption. In Toronto. Something to shut this shitshow down.
Never again, she says.
That was the last time, I swear.
Every. Single. Year.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


It sounded like the hose was pointed directly at his window.
Full blast.
The kitchen rang with the rising hiss of an unexpected summer storm.
The best kind.
Hot and humid, a tropical rainforest in the middle of the city.
Paul heard the thunder and watched Billy vibrate in his sleep, paws twitching a slow motion gallop, a scattered, off beat cantor.

Gets him out of chores for now.
Thank you, global warming.
Can't very well trim the hedge with the electric weedwacker while it's storming out now, can he?
Or pinch off the new growth and tie up the weeping boughs.
I mean, it's not like he WANTS to get electrocuted.
Not today, at least.

Why Glenda wanted all this property to manage, Paul will never understand.
There's not a landscaping bone in his body.
Sure, they had romanticized the idea of living off the land together, growing their own herbs and heirloom tomatoes, handpicking pears from a backyard tree.
He never dreamed they'd actually do it.
"Homesteading help" was something to bookmark under his Tools and References folder not commit to memory like an ancient, badly translated religious text.

It's relentless strife and strain.
He's in debt to Lee Valley. She's wish listed 3 catalogues alphabetically.
He married a closeted Mennonite.
If she asks to build a barn...

The small pointed comments, posited as musings- whether the tomatoes and eggplants will be harvested by week's end because you know, caponata needs to happen. 
And kale- is their enough kale? 
Too many scapes?
What the hell does one do with garlic scapes, anyway?
Like chives on steroids.
But not.

The thunder booms, in fits and starts. Pools of water form around the driveway.
Billy whimpers, shuffles his front paws and covers his nose, burrowing into Paul's lap.
He knows what's going on, the dog always knows.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Overstayer

God damn, she's driving me crazy.
On and on and on.
The incessant wail of her screamed-sung anthem blasts from the speakers.
The desk is shaking.
She sounds like a ferret on fire.
Jesus woman, put a sock in it before I drown you in someone else's sorrows.
Two months, that was the deal.
One hundred and thirty two days, 14 hours and 16 minutes later, she has completely worn out her welcome.
My hospitality hit the road after the neighbours left a threatening note regarding her compunction for spontaneous late night drum circles.
On the front lawn.
With an old marching band bass drum she found at the Sally Ann down on Fourth.
At least the constable looked good in a uniform.

I've tried.
I really really tried.
Two sets of 600 thread count sheets stained to oblivion, one incinerated crepe pan left in the oven and set to broil, nearly burning down the house.
Shades of pink in all my whites.
Inhaling the final bar of my emergency crisis chocolate stash while using the last of the imported Maui coffee beans then breaking the french press.
And now the hell of her new "music".
Thank you Garage Band, for making everyone believe they've got the music in them, too.
I'm quietly packing what's left of her possessions and leaving them bundled on the sidewalk with a note saying I've sold the house and have moved to Anchorage.
I hear the weather's warmer there.

She'll be fine.
Someone else's heart will skip a beat when they see her come running, arms wide open, a human tsunami of chaos and good intentions.
I should have changed the locks 73 days ago.

Friday, May 9, 2014

She Wants To Ride Big Waves

There's no joy here.
That's what she thinks when she looks into his pale blue crystalline eyes.
A coolness settles around him. Tentative, guarded, quiet.
Or mastered. Half a dozen of one...

It didn't take her long to realize he was something other than what she was used to.
L'autre, as they say.
No wham bam thank you m'am
How YOU doin'
Jesus woman, you make me weak in the knees
sorta bloke.

Even his eyewear is sedate.
There's a half smile occasionally withdrawing into a smirk. Unknowingly.
A learned reflex, a laugh out loud withdrawn too soon. At this stage of the game, it's bred in the bone.
Restraint. Observational engagement.
Small ripples run deep. There's an undertow drawing her in but she can't tell if it's her own volition or an actual tidal pull.
Full moon fever.
He ebbs and flows.
She wants to ride big waves.

There's a quality of grace and wonder, a generosity of spirit that spills forth from  her every cel.
A lightness of being seeking communion in passion.
There's no joy here.
He doesn't feel her grace.
Concession is born of malleability.
She won't find it in him.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Politeness Is Overrated

"I think that went well, don't you? Not too painful, I hope."
Nothing's quite as inspiring as this man standing before her, flop sweating, blissfully unaware of his awkward courting.
He means well, she knows this; but "not too painful" still involves a whole lotta work on her part.
Oh, that's mean, she thinks.
Bad, bad Julia.
Be nice, play well with others.
She glances at her phone and knows if she can extricate herself now there's still time to hustle home and pour herself a tumbler of Red Breast before she has to call it a night.
Finally satiate her palate.
It's clear to her.
She likes her own company the best.

She did discover a hip new local, though, populated with an unexpectedly queer positive crowd kitted out in matching plaid button-downs and ironically sloganed t shirts: I'm OK, You're OK.
Their server was a close talker, gregarious, maybe high, maybe happy, with a pop culture awareness that disappeared at 1987.
The year she finished high school.
She's getting old.

Or tired. Half a dozen of one...
Alison convinced her to be brave, give the sweet kid a shot.
The fact she called him kid...
Maybe in a different time, different place he'd make sense to her.
She'd shuck and jive, tilt her head, drop her chin, casually brush her hand on top of his and lean in
Just So
Smile from the corner of her mouth,
Watch him watch her as the smile crawled up to her eyes as she held  him down with her gaze.
An alternate reality.

No sliding doors here so this one's gonna go back in the water.
Let him reach his optimum potential.
Preferably with a woman who can drink him  under the table and engage in ways she no longer cares enough to fake, just to be kind.

Politeness is overrated.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Good, Not Great

She hits the down button.
Two hospital admin types, young women in almost stylish outfits, the ones afforded on entry level salaries, wait on a car going up.
The elevator arrives, doors open, she steps on then realizes she's going up.
Force of habit, she says aloud to no one in particular, pavlovian response.
The two women sort of smile as they study the floor, suddenly intensely awkward and private.
She gets louder as she backs out of the car.
Doors close and she hovers her finger over the already illuminated down button.
Right, just did that.

It's quiet here, far from the madding crowd.
Emerg was busy, mainly the geriatric crew. A few indigent and drunk and disorderlies draped over chairs, hanging out of gurneys, buried under sheets and gowns, moaning, rambling incoherently.
It's the large-and-in-charge paramedic night: 4 teams of doughy young men stand sentinel with their wards, buried in paperwork, bored with the hurry and up wait logjam of daily deliveries.
She walks though the chaos invisible to everyone, an able body in motion.

It could be worse. It could always be worse.
It's just a visit, not an admission. No tests, no examinations, no poking or prodding or radiating. No electro shock therapy.
Not this time.
All around her people are in crisis or stasis. Somewhere between recovery and death.
It's a matter of degrees. Well versus not well.
A good week. A bad year.
She has good days more often than not. There's hope in that.
Stable is a good thing. Relapse, not so much.
Although there are times she misses the thrill of the ride, free falling ninety miles an hour into pandemonium.
Eventually finding her way back to stable ground proved to be her undoing.
She will never be well, not really; we're all a little bit ill at one time or another.
For now, she's good. Not great, not terrifically fantastic.
Just good.
And today that's good enough.