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I recently ran into somebody that I went to High School with. Even though I have come back to live fairly close to where I went to school, I feel lucky that I don't often encounter too many people from my past. Not that my past was particularly troubled, or even all that interesting, but there were very few people that I related to in school, and I just don't have a lot to say to them. I really, really dread the questions--"what are you doing these days?" or worse even, "what have you been doing since high school?".
So, I was at work one day, and I notice one of our clients that has come for Physiotherapy treatment looks familiar to me. When I look for his name on the schedule book, I see it is M.M., a friend of mine from High School. I wasn't sure if I should speak to him, because I felt pretty sure that he would not remember me. I usually remember people, but I never expect them to remember me. I had found out, before he came in for treatment, that he and his girlfriend had started up a literary magazine.
He could have been anything in the world, and it wouldn't have bothered me, or made me feel nervous about talking to him, but because he was involved with this literary magazine that was highly respected among "good" writers, I felt quite sure that I did not want to let on that I remembered him from high school. But I stupidly mentioned to the Physio that was treating him (she actually went to the same high school, and her sister was in our class) that I recognized him. So she asks him about me. Turns out he does remember me.
So they guy that I knew from High School goes home and looks for my picture in our Grad year book, and comes back and tells the Physio I work with that we went to Grad together. And I have no recollection of this. None. I barely remember Grad, and not for the obvious reasons, more because it was such an unimportant event in my life. It really meant very little to me. I only went because my best friend Lesley wanted to go and it was important to her. At that time we never did anything separately--always together.
Why we went to Grad together I do not know. As I said, he was really friends with my best friend Lesley, and I kind of knew him through her. I always felt a little out of their league. She is very smart and so is he. When I was around them, I had the same feeling as around my family, that I was missing a lot of stuff because I didn't understand. I always felt intellectually inferior. That was another reason why I didn't want to talk to him. But, finally I summoned up the courage to say hello.
The Physio thought the fact that I went to Grad with MM, but have no recollection of it was so funny that she had to tell everybody else we work with during a going away party we were having. They all had a good laugh. To them, the whole concept of not remembering such an important event as Grad was unthinkable. They did not realize that, as I already mentioned, Grad meant nothing to me. High School had been a nightmare, and I couldn't wait to get away from that claustrophobic little town. I had no ties to anybody there.
One day, we finally just ran into each other. He had come in for an appointment, and I had gone to the back room to work up the nerve to talk to him (yes, I actually have to do that), and I was just coming out of the room when BAM--we ran right into each other. Which caused a lot of laughter, and got us talking. We actually talked for almost half an hour. The time just went so quickly-it was a very easy-flowing conversation. Of course, it took me almost 24 hrs to digest the conversation.
Twenty-four hours later, I felt quite different about the whole conversation. I had an uneasy feeling about it at the time, just slight, but I am a champion at ignoring these things as they are occurring and pretending everything is wonderful. It takes at least twelve hours usually for me to make a true assessment; to recognize familiar patterns and acknowledge that I am plagued by uneasy feelings.
I realized that most of the conversation had revolved around him and how wonderful he was. I did better than usual. I did not lie about anything at least.
The conversation we had ended with him giving me his business card and suggesting that we have a mini-reunion with just Lesley, MM and me. At first I was kind of flattered, and I actually went to one of my friends at work and told her-trying to act really cool, as if I wasn't flattered.
That night I looked up my old friend Lesley. She is now some Executive at HSBC, in a legal position of some kind. Jesus...I guess the rebellious spirit kind of got lost when the money and bills started pouring in.
After reading about her, and thinking about him and his literary magazine, I was overwhelmed with a familiar and unpleasant feeling. I am just trying to feel good about where I am and what I am doing. It has been a long hard struggle against my family's beliefs and values that have been instilled in me, and I am on shaky ground. Just being around my family for a few hours, or being with friends that I feel inferior to can send me into a tailspin that can last for days. I just don't want to do that right now.
I am boring myself silly lately. All the writing I am doing is cliched and hackneyed and borrowed, and oh, did I say cliched? Shit. I really have to stop whining on about it and do something. I have read just about every book on writing that I own now. Then I go and sit down with my notebook and whine about how I can't write anything worthwhile, and then I go back to reading about writing. Why? Because I'm scared and I'm lazy and it's a lot fucking easier to read about something that it is to do it.
I think that part of my problem is that I don't know what I am writing about. I mean, what I should be writing about. Which may not make sense to some people, those people who don't even question themselves because they are so much in their own skin. They don't know what it's like to live in somebody else's skin. They don't know what it's like to suddenly wake up and find they are not who they thought they were, and they are not even sure what they believe to be true and what they believe to be false.
I would have still doubted his story about us going to grad together, but he told me, in our first conversation, that I had written in his Annual "thanks for preserving my honour". He thought this was hilarious, and we both wondered what it may have meant. It was almost like he was talking about another person when he told me that. I couldn't really picture myself writing it. He said he was going to bring his Annual in to prove I did. Then he and his physio laughed at the fact that I didn't keep any of my Annuals.
Running into MM at work really got me thinking about High School, and the period of time following. I really have not thought about those times for a long time, it is like a blank spot in my memory. But for some reason, I remembered this girl that came to our school for a short period of time. She just showed up one day, but had such a strong presence that she immediately became the temporary leader of the small group I belonged to. We were the outcasts I guess. We didn't really belong in any of the other groups.
This girl was cooler than anybody we had met before. Not like someone from our small town at all. I can't remember the circumstances of her coming to our school, and I know she was only there for a brief period of time, but in that time she somehow decided that we were the coolest people there. Our little gang of misfits. I realize now (many, many years later), that her reasons for choosing us were superficial, as many decisions at the at that age are. We dressed the part, and that was all she really had to go on.
Although we all felt like frauds in our torn thrift shop clothing and multi-coloured hair, she was the real deal. We spent a lot of time trying to emulate what we had seen on the record sleeves of our favourite bands, trying hard to make it look exactly right; she just seemed to do it naturally,not a cover at all. Sometime during her short stay at our school, she was kicked out or left her parents place, and moved into a "punk rock house" in a quiet little Italian neighbourhood off Commercial Drive. Not so quiet after that.
During this time, when "the girl" came into our lives,there were rumours of a movie being shot on the outskirts of Van, a rare occurrence in those days. A local radio station was advertising for extras, and as it was being described as an "off-beat, alternative" movie, we all decided to skip school and sign up. Victoria Sellers was the "star", and the drummer for the Sex Pistols was also cast. I think it was about 1979 or 1980(I'm only guessing), and the Sex Pistols were "All Washed Up", which was coincidentally the name of the movie.
I'm not sure of the year that the movie was shot because it was never actually produced, or even finished for that matter. Again, "All Washed Up" was a good name for it, for so many reasons. I tried to search it, but absolutely nothing came up. I think that is the first time that has happened to me with anything. If I had gone on my own memories, it would have been disturbing not to find any information. Did it really happen? But "the girl" actually mentioned it in an interview, and all the visual memories ignited like fireworks.
One random memory that lurks, hidden by all the others is this. I am staring up that stars, fully clothed, floating silently in the makeshift pool that a few of us rigged up at the "Punk Rock" house in little Italy. A feeling like a fist directly to my heart makes me jump to my feet and look up at the balcony where the others are laughing and drinking, just in time to see J.B. my boyfriend and first ever love holding "the girl's" face in his hands and kissing her in a way that he never kissed me.
Memories do play tricks on us. Sometimes I think I combine a number of different situations into one postcard memory. I think that may have been what the memory in my previous post was. I don't really know if my heart was really ripped open in that one moment, or if it was more a slow and torturous tearing. I do know that after almost two years of all-consuming teenage love things were never the same after that night. After J.B. began to realize he was not a hideous unlovable beast, as he had grown up to believe.
So that defining moment was the beginning of the end for J.B., "the boy" ,and I. But J.B., "the girl", was not really interested in my J.B, "the boy", she was just caught up in the crazy energy of that moment. If my memory serves me right, which it rarely does, that was the last weekend of freedom we had in that house. After putting up with excessive noise and drug-addled skinheads passing out on their lawns, the quiet Italian neighbours fought back. Early the next morning there was a loud continuous pounding at the door.
As the intruders yelled, "open up, this is the Police", the door finally succumbed to the attack. Nobody remembers how many police officers there were, or how many dazed, naked punks they dragged out into the Sunday morning sunlight, but it must have been quite a show for the neighbours. J.B., "the boy" and I had gone home to our less notorious Punk house in the suburbs, so we missed it. Nobody was arrested, but the occupants of the house were taken in for "questioning" for several hours, and all of them including J.B., "the girl", were evicted.
The anger that was fueled by a full-on police assault on her home and the many friends she had made working on the movie that never was, J.B., "the girl", began to have violent thoughts. She had tried to talk to the police when they held her for a few hours after the raid, but in that brief period of time she began to realize that talk would get her nowhere. The rage she felt at the violation of her freedom could not be contained in her own fantasies of revenge. Slowly, she began to talk about it.
Once she began to talk about it she realized that she was surrounded by like-minded people. People whose Anarchist tendencies had been in action for sometime. Her boyfriend, G.H., was as excited about it as she was, and they were easily led by another couple who had orchestrated a number of "public acts" that served to highlight their cause. This is the point where "the girl" disappeared from out lives, and went somewhere none of us frauds were prepared to go. Our rebellion was against bad music, and the banality of suburban life. There's was much more sinister.
While we had been hanging around with "the girl", we adored her rants about government and the generally unequal treatment of women in our society. We knew more than the average teenagers, but she was beyond us. We still never really believed her ranting would be turned into something tangible. We just thought it was cool. She cared about things beyond feathered hair and trying to get the best dress for Grad. When she disappeared from our lives, we were kind of lost for awhile. Although she had enjoyed being our temporary and all-powerful leader, she had outgrown us.
All was quiet for a time. We went back to our old hierarchy and our old concerns. Until we got news of the first bombing.
We didn't immediately suspect "the girl's" involvement in the midnight fire-bombing of a Red Hot Video store. It was actually some news that came filtered through various friends and other connections, and some fuzzy but familiar security camera images on T.V. that started to make us slightly nervous. That and the slogan "talk-action=zero" spray-painted on the side of the building (the part that didn't get torched). It was her favourite.
So I gather what happened is that "the girl" had fine-tuned her anger from being enraged about human rights violations against all humans, to those against women. None of us knew how this had happened, but as one after another Red Hot Video came under siege, we quietly applauded. I don't think any of us were feminists particularly. We still had so little experience with gender inequality (just the occasional smart-girl-hating teacher),and as teenage girls were just beginning to enjoy what boys had to offer. We weren't sure how radical we wanted to be about this.
There was quiet for a time. Nothing seemed to happen, probably only for a few months which at that age felt like forever. Perhaps we had almost forgotten about "the girl" and somebody else had become our new idol, I don't really remember. But the next thing we heard was about a bombing at a power plant in Ontario. We were horrified. Ten injured, and possibly one person killed. We made no connections, as it didn't even occur to us that "the girl" would leave our small world. Until a piece of evidence linked this bombing those in B.C.
The investigations went on for a long time, more information came out slowly. The authorities were pretty sure they knew the identities of two of the perpetrators, but they were not releasing any information. They felt that the people involved wanted their identities known. They weren't going to give them that pleasure.
Not long after that--a bombing at a hydro substation here in B.C. The authorities were pretty sure they knew who was behind it. The people involved didn't seem to be bothered that they had injured people before. They had become relentless in their cause.
Our group became divided. There were two that still felt "the girl" and her comrades' actions were justified. The injuries in Ontario were an unfortunate accident. These people would not be stopped in getting their message out.
But my question was, "what is their message?". It was confusing. Red Hot Videos I sort of understood, but Hydro substations?
One of the local papers published their "manifesto", which didn't make a whole lot of sense. Not to me anyway. And they didn't seem to care about hurting innocent people. It also didn't help that my father worked for B.C. Hydro.
I think it was after this bombing that the group became known as the “Squamish Five”. I can’t remember why, perhaps they had set themselves up in Squamish when planning their various attacks. But I'm pretty sure the name was one that was given to them by the media. It was not the name under which they operated. I can’t remember exactly, but I think they called themselves “Direct Action”. Something very close to that, as that seemed to be what they preached: that direct action was the only way to make people sit up and take notice.
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