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Last night I was Patsy Cline not in dress, but in spirit, as it was after twelve when I decided to go out walking.
"Do you wanna go for a walk?" I asked him.
"No, it's already pretty late."
," I persisted.
"No, I'm already in my pyjamas. You go ahead, though."
So I did. I put on the old green windbreaker my grandmother gave me - it was once my uncle's - and left the building with the jack o' lantern I'd carved a few hours earlier tucked under my arm.
We started down the dark alley, eyes aglow.
I loved my little lantern. Having laboriously peeled off every shred of skin from the pumpkin and having cut a simple geometric and mournful face into the flesh, every square inch of it glowed and flickered yellow and gold like the magic cauldron of some necromantic gypsy.
I scuffled down the alley with the grisly gourd on my shoulder, hunched and snarling like a demented ogre, then pressed between my outstretched hands, as I moaned like a subservient zombie.
I would have gone on like this had the wind not killed the candle and left me suddenly alone in darkness.
Suddenly, inexplicably compelled, you need to smash your pumpkin. Sure, you've got a lighter in your pocket but you know the wind will only strike again. Oh, well, you think as you lift your creation high above your head. This is happening. You are going to smash it, hurl it at the ground with every shred of anger and frustration within you. Your eyes are bulging and your teeth are grinding and there's a furious slideshow tormenting your mind - the half moon lost somewhere behind the clouds, the silhouette of a scythe, the face of your lover, Linus van Pelt...
From earth to sky to earth again with a hollow CRACK.
Did I hear it scream as it fell? Or was it just a gust playing tricks over an eye socket?
Ha ha ha! HA HA HA HA! HaHAhAHaHAHAhAHA! HAHAHA! HA! Haha! Haha. Heh. Ha.
What a feeling! What a release I felt. How I giggled some more, doubled over, past all the shadowy dumpsters and garages and gates and into the street! My first smash!
It was cold and I didn't really know where I wanted to go so I just went along over to the nearby 7-Eleven.
The best thing about 7-Eleven and other 24-hour convenience stores is that they usually have a hot beverage station in the back corner. When I was getting up at 5am to go wake up the guys at the homeless shelter, there'd be no cafés open at that hour and I didn't want to wake up my boyfriend by banging around in the kitchen, so I'd "settle" for a cup of non-organic, non-fair trade brew from ol' Sev. That chilly Halloween night crawl, at 12:30am, I felt like a hot tea would do me good.
Sometimes finding where they've put the tea bags takes a minute, especially when you're still have asleep or you're a bit under the influence. But then you spot them and it's like you've really accomplished something.
As I was jovially pressing the lid over the lip of the paper cup, I noticed a scraggly vagabondish character talking to one of the clerks over by the register. She was kind enough to let him refill his old iced tea bottle with water at the soda station.
And as I approached the counter, I noticed he had a handicapped friend with him.
I didn't think much else of them until I was at the counter. They lingered to my right near the door, warming up in my peripheral vision as I paid for the chamomile, my favourite chocolate bar (it was Halloween, ok?), and three-dollar scratch 'n' win. (I haven't won in a couple of years now but I keep buying them because I just love the little thrills they build into the losers. Also, I'm an old lady on the inside.) But when the clerk handed me my change - about thirteen dollars - the hobos went outside and assumed their positions.
Man 1: Hey brother, how's it going?
Man 2: Hey, guys! Having a good Halloween night?!
Man 3: Oh, you know it.
Man 2: Right on. What are you up to?
Man 3: Drinking hairspray.
Man 2: Haha. Really?
Man 1: Yeah, why not?
Man 2: So what do you do, do you drink it, or do you inhale it or something?
Man 3: You drink it.
(three teenaged girls walk toward the door of the store, uncostumed)
Man 3: Hey girls.
(they continue in, ignoring him)
Man 3: Stupid bitches.
Man 2: Whoa. I don't think they heard you.
Man 3: Oh, they heard him. They just thought he was ugly. (Laughs)
Man 2: (Laughs)
Man 1: (Laughs) No, they thought you were ugly.
Man 2: (Laughs)
Man 3: Ah, fuck off.
Man 1: (Laughs) Hey buddy, do you have a cigarette?
Man 2: Yep. Here you go.
Man 1: Thank you.
Man 2: You're welcome.
(Man 3 pulls a lighter from his coat, lights his own cigarette, passes the lighter to to Man 2, who lights his and passes it to Man 1. Man 1 lights his cigarette and offers it back to Man 2, who gestures otherwise.)
Man 2: So what are your names?
Man 1: I'm Ralph. This is Bob.
Man 2: Sorry, Ralph and…
Man 3: Bob.
Man 2: Ralph and Bob. I'm Brad. Nice to meet you.
Man 1: Nice to meet you, too.
Man 2: So why are you wearing those pants? Did you escape from the hospital?
Man 3: (Laughs)
Man 1: No, I got discharged. I broke my legs.
Man 2: Oh, I see.
Man 3: This guy's been through a lot.
Man 2: Oh yeah?
Man 1: Yep, I spent seventeen years in the pen.
Man 2: Wow. For what?
Man 2 (aside):
Oh, what a fateful question! For to hear his tale
Made me question the worth of my existence.
And had I not been so consoled by smoke
And tea and candy I might have fallen, weeping.
So scattered audience, prepare yourselves
For Ralph's story, as it must be told,
And forgive me when the images have etched
Into your mind, never to be forgotten.
For I yearn for love and attention
Forgive me, and dream of my hollow head
Floating somewhere like a red balloon
Not splattered somewhere in the darkness, dead.
Man 1: I shot someone.
Man 2: Oh.
Man 3: Anyone woulda done the same thing in your position, Ralph.
Man 1: When I was twelve I shot my brother.
Man 2: Wow. Why?
Man 1: I caught him raping my little sister.
Man 2: Oh, wow.
Man 3: Anyone woulda done the same thing.
Man 1: But they were drinking.
Man 2: Your brother?
Man 1: No, my family. My parents. They were drunk and they handed me the shot gun and told me to kill him. So I did.
Man 2: Oh, God. That's so awful.
Man 3: You woulda done the same.
Man 1: (Grunts)
Man 3: Hey, pass the drink.
(Man 1 opens his coat and produces a 3/4 full bottle of not hairspray, but vodka. He passes it to Man 3, who takes a swig before passing it back.)
Man 2: So how old was your sister?
Man 1: Twenty.
Man 2: Twenty? Couldn't she have stopped him?
Man 1: No, she was passed out.
Man 2: Oh.
Man 1: Everyone was drunk.
Man 3: But anyone woulda done the same thing. I woulda done the same thing.
Man 1: Yeah.
Man 3: Hey. Would you have done it?
Man 2: (Pauses) Well, yeah, I guess I would have done the same if I didn- if I was in the same situation. I mean, a twelve year old trusts his parents, no?
Man 3: Exactly.
Man 1: Yep, so they blamed it all on me and they locked me up. Back then you could still lock up kids.
Man 2: Well, for something like that, I guess so, yeah.
Man 1: And I went to eight different pens because I kept getting into fights. They'd move me but I'd just fight wherever I'd go.
Man 2: You're a survivor.
Man 1: Yeah, I guess you could say that.
Man 2: And this was all kind of like your fate, like you had no control over it. What a truly horrifying story - perfect for Halloween!
Man 1: Heh. I was doing good for a while there, too. After I got out. I had a good job and I had my own truck. I even had a Chinese girlfriend.
Man 3: You didn't have a Chinese girlfriend!
Man 1: I did so!
Man 3: Yeah, whatever.
Man 2: I think we all dream about having a Chinese girlfriend.
Man 3: Yep.
Man 2: And what about you, Bob? Where are you from?
Man 3: Oh, I'm from New Brunswick originally. I moved out here for work.
Man 2: Oh yeah - what ki-
Man 1: And she was the only one who respected me after I got out. My brothers and sisters are nice to me now but my mom and dad still don't care about me and that's what hurts the most.
Man 2: Hmm…
Man 1: But you should have seen my girlfriend fighting with my sisters. She really fought with them and now they all treat me with respect.
Man 2: Haha. That's funny. You've been through so much. You could write a book.
Man 1: Yeah, that's what people always tell me - that I should write a book.
Man 2: Do it. But, listen guys, I'm getting pretty cold. I have to keep moving. But are you guys hungry? Can I get you anything?
Man 3: No, brother. We don't need anything.
Man 1: Well, could you help me out with a couple of bucks?
Man 2: Sure, yeah, of course.
(Man 2 hands cash to Man 1. Anonymously.)
Man 1: Wow. That's awfully kind of you, bud.
Man 2: It's nothing, really. And I can afford it right now because I'm on a bit of an upstreak.
Man 3: Good for you, brother. Keep it up.
Man 2: I'll try. Do you guys have a place to stay? It's getting pretty cold. It'll be winter soon.
Man 1: Yeah, we got a place.
Man 2: Ok, that's good. It was nice to meet you guys. Thanks for sharing your stories.
Man 1: And thank you.
Man 2: Have a good one, brothers. Stay warm, eh?
(Man 2 starts walking away.)
Man 1: Hey brother!
Man 2: Yeah?
"Stay out of the pen!" he calls out to you, and you smile and say you will try.
Further now along late Halloween night Broad Street, your face to the wind, your back to those two souls who have altered yours in ways it will take you weeks, months, or perhaps even lifetimes to process. Maybe there's no such thing as understanding. As you walk, you wonder if he ends every strange encounter with such a warning, or did he see something in you especially that warranted it - a telltale furrow of the brow? Crooked teeth? Those sad, tired eyes?
Did someone not get it? Wow. What kind of world are we living in if someone can't recognize a decent coordinated bacon and eggs costume? Moreover, what kind of world are we living in if someone walks into a hookah bar wearing a bacon costume?
I crossed the street and tried not to look into the windows of the gay bar, but I couldn't resist and saw the rear view of one of the queens I know. There is a story about this bar and its queens I want to tell, but it will have to wait for another time.
past the hotels
and the parking lot
and the closed upscale restaurants
past the crowd of partygoers
laughing outside the pub
a thirty something man
strong and stubbled
beer in hand
and his ironic fairy wings
small, and pink, and sparkling
in the marabou Halloween lamplight
here is the laughter i sought
here is the revelry i knew
i'd find on the patio
of the irish pub
a rotund man
adorns his head in yellow
sports a yellow tie with black dots
and i wonder where is george
with no small
It's late November now and the snow has come. It blows along the roads and off the roofs in ghostly wisps. A younger version of me would be out in the park, relishing in sparkle and the music of the departing geese, but I am tired this November. Smoking doesn't help.
I've been learning so much this semester, studying so diligently. My volunteer work lets me apply what I'm learning. I enjoy it so much. And my part time job at the library is the best I've ever had. And despite everything, he is wonderful, too.
And yet a sadness.
Maybe it's Facebook. I could probably chalk most of it up to Facebook and the many layers of inaccurate, biased, negative meaning it places on reality. I read too many articles, I read too many comments. I try to get people in the comments section to reconsider their knee-jerk reactions, to learn to recognize shoddy journalism. Sometimes I feel it's worthwhile to be engaged, to expound truth. Other times I feel like I'm driving myself insane.
Not too long ago I read an article about First Nations groups in Canada worrying about employers favouring immigrants over them for jobs.
Newsflash!: Republicans Take The Senate Because Democrats Are Too Stoned And Lazy And Disorganized To Vote
UN Recommends We Don't Use Fossil Fuel Anymore
People Mad About Pipeline Project Cancellation
Extra! Extra!: In 2014 Social Stage Is Set For Women To Finally Find The Courage Come Forward To Reveal How Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby and Other Men Are Basically Horny, Aggressive Monkeys
Massive Snowfall In Buffalo Kills People
Read All About It!: Canadian Military Bombs ISIS On Remembrance Day
Billion Dollar Probe Lands On Comet For A Few Days While Billions Remain In Earthly Poverty
Comets Are Bumpy Looking
I could go on. I could go on and on.
I just don't know sometimes, you know?
Do I stay in the conversation and continue trying to invoke and inspire as much positive change in the world as I can and risk going insane in the process? Or do I unplug and live my life detached from everything but my own humble reality?
The second option seems like a kind of cowardly, irresponsible insanity in itself.
Yes, I must continue, undaunted. Yes, it sucks currently being on the losing team. Yes, I am allowed to gripe ineloquently ad nauseam.
"Yes? How may I help you today, ma'am?"
"Is this Greenstripe's Career Makeovers?"
"That's right. "Where We Tell You What To Believe And What To Do." What gave it away? The sign? Ha!"
"So what's your deal? What's your passion? What are your
? Give it to me, sweetie."
"Well, uh, I'm new immigrant here. I was doctor in home country. Now I am shift supervisor at McDonald's and it is too much stress for me."
"A doctor, eh? Wow. LIsten, I want you to work for me. You're hired. I'll teach you how to use the photocopier."
"So it says here that you worked for NASA for twenty years. What went wrong there?"
"I was tired of all the rockets being steely white phalluses. I kept telling them to make things more colourful, different shapes, you know? They wouldn't listen to me."
"I hear ya, brother. SMH. Listen, this is what you do. You know those machines at museums and zoos and touristy places that flatten and emboss images on pennies? Well, your new job is to engineer a machine that prints souvenir bookmarks that have inspiring quotes and images. One machine per library."
"I'm on it!"
"And I just sit there at that little kiosk and there's, like, almost nobody in the mall, and my boss won't even let me use my phone while I sit there. And I'm all like "OMG. I might just die It's soo depressing."
"Yeah, you need to get out of there ASAP, Tiffany. It's draining your soul and everyone else's. Like, literally. Tell your mom you shouldn't have to work and use your free time to volunteer somewhere. Visit lonely geriatrics or collect donations for the food bank. Go find your passion, lil' missy!"
"OMG Thanks, Greenstripe! You're the best!"
"So I know you took two years of cosmetology and four years of design, and that's impressive. You need not change careers. The lack of fulfillment you're feeling is not due to the nature of your work, but rather the approach. What one pursues in these fields is not glamour, fame, or wealth, but rather an aesthetic notion that transcends layers of superficiality. It is not about the illusory ideal of individual flawlessness, but the celebration of differences or 'flaws' and how they combine to form a perfect whole. No longer concealing truth with vanity, we illuminate it with art."
"But I don't even like to bead."
"Ralph, come on. You're an Indian. Indians love to bead the shit out of everything. And rightly so. You could make a fortune selling your genuine Indian goods on Etsy."
"Nope. Not gonna be a beader. And fortunes aren't our way."
"What about teaching all us immigrants Cree? I mean, it's only good manners that we learn it. Better late than never, right?"
"Ha. Wouldn't that be something."
"I mean it. I mean it, Ralph. How do you say "natural materials" in Cree? How do you say 'Please let us curb our consumption'?"
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