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Jump into the web of words, one of the conscious drops that make up the ocean. This is my first dip, the water's fine. How about my words? 'Not too trite, but not too self-revealing please'; I haven't mentioned my bathroom habits, erotic dreams, methods of removing fingernails or nasal debris...erotic dreams about my fingernail, have I? Have I? Good lord, maybe this is a little too much consciousness. Is this what writers feel: publish your anxieties, your neuroses, and they will come back to you, at the end of pointed fingers? That is the fear which blocks expression.
Scene in a shop: husband and wife buying sandwiches for their two children. Saleswoman is young. Husband chats her up. She laughs with his gentle attention. Sociobiology analysis: Young woman: accepts attention of older, proven caretaker of her potential children. Man: another mate costs little in time or resources to impregnate, but improves chances of passing on genes. Older woman: mate's continued support of offspring helps maximumize their future success. His mating with others would reduce investment in her ofspring. Thus sociobiology motivates her desire--when she sees him joking with this young woman--to kick him in the balls.
The Man Who Would Be Sean. Obviously Afghanastan needs a new government. The only person mentioned so far to lead the country is its 86 year-old exiled king. Not a widely agreed on choice however. Better would be for the country to invite Sean Connary back. As Daniel Dravot in the 1975 film he was an excellent ruler. Yes they killed him in the end for being a mere mortal, but all the more impressive that he return now. And why wouldn't Sean accept? It's one of the few opportunities left where he'd be the younger choice for the job.
Every job feels ordinary. Today I dismantled a mouse. Killed him as humanely as possible, harvested as much blood as I could get. Froze all the left organs, fixed the right ones in formaldehyde, lungs, kidneys, brain hemispheres. Saved the top of the skull, decalcified it to be fixed later. Not a job I would have picked at ten, or twenty, or even thirty. How did I get here? I guess there are a lot of crazy zany wacky jobs out there. I can't think of any though. I have a perfectly ordinary job. Just drifted into it. Mouse dismantler.
A man on the street, a black man, an old man, a dirty man, a homeless man, asks me for money. Can you spare any cash – he asks. I say sorry no. He is outside a bank. My bank. I still say no. I don't feel comfortable giving away money that day. Why? Because, because I am worried about being poor. About ending up an old man, dirty and poor, on the street. Did he end up on the streets because he gave to too many paupers when he was a young man? Probably not. Who was he at 39?
Seen out my living room window is the CN tower. Appears bigger where I work. I can't imagine looking out and seeing the nothingness the New Yorkers feel. Like an empty space where a tooth has gone missing. Probed over and over and over and over again. Is that still gone? Is that really gone? Really?? The towers didn't mean much to me, but I feel sorry for the New Yorkers, gotten used to them in the last thirty years. Reminded over and over again of the victims, their families, everyone's vulnurability. Everyone wants to help, to undo the event.
Overheard: ‘He cheated me of a happy marriage, I wasn't going to let him cheat me out of having a second child too.' My mind flies to the conjugal mating with someone she hated. An unexplored topic for a song, or a poem; a remarkable variation from the typical love story: boxes in her hostility long enough to conceive a son. Get a matching set of children, same genes, though she doesn't think much of the gene donor. ‘I was going to have a happy marriage and two children.' 'Tis a cold universe that creates out of hate rather than love.
Sometimes you can't write. Everything comes out sounding trite. Wonder ‘do I have anything worth saying?' But silence is painful too. Where is my existential yop? Be specific. Tell something that you've experienced. Our hero sat before a green Macintosh computer fitfully typing. Er, that's a bit too specific. Some combination of the fanciful and the real is required. Just like life needs to be a mix of the organized and the random. Too organized and all you've got is a crystal, every atom lined up. Too random and all is heat, each molecule shooting off on it's individual path.
When I work late at the lab, by the time it is 3 or 4 in the morning I begin to have faintly hallucinatory thoughts, if I'm really tired. If I wander the empty building to get a chocolate bar or stretch my legs I will pause as the elevator doors open, and confirm there isn't a giant octopus waiting for me. It is a strange thought. I have never encountered a giant octopus before in an elevator. In fact, the only octopus I ever met was in a bowl of chinese seafood soup. Much more his nightmare than mine.
My girlfriend is complaining about my health to me while I write this. ‘You don't take care of yourself. Are you listening to me? What's the point of talking to you. The physiotherapists don't seem to know anything, they've made you worse. You are worse today. You're leaning on the desk just to stand. You're in denial'. The physiotherapist says I will be completely better if I exercise. That is very encouraging. She declares that my pain is not improved by massage or chiropractics or acupuncture, according to studies. Only exercise. I do the exercises and feel worse each day.
‘You are going to want kids, you're going to break up with me.' She said. We're sitting in my favourite coffee shop. It's nice sitting here. It's confusing to me. Now is pleasant. Good even. ‘That's why I feel like leaving you, I don't feel I can help you.' I'm confused, what should I be doing? There is no God, the world eventually ends with the heat death of the universe fifteen, maybe thirty billion years from now...and in a smidgen of time compared to that I will be gone. Why plan beyond being in my favourite coffee shop? Kids?!???
I have wanted to be Alice Munroe for a long time. Not that there is a vacancy. Sometimes I forget. Years pass when it escapes me that what I want is to be Alice. I am reminded of something Doris Lessing said at Harbourfront long ago—at one time I wanted to be Doris, but realized later my real calling was to be Alice. A surgeon told her ‘wonderful stuff, I plan to take up writing myself when I retire.' ‘Oh? I plan to be a brain surgeon when I retire.' Someone's fooling him or herself. I don't have forever.
A friend of a friend is in the sex trade. Met her just as she was entering the biz. Imagined her gritting her teeth, perhaps taking drugs to get through the day, lasting a few months, feeling soiled. Now also has a radio show. The Shady Lady. Found her calling. I'm an idiot.
A friend of mine's sister has a beard. A full tug to see if it's real number. Lived with us for a month. Her in your face facial hair made me angry. Why is she doing this to us? Finally realized she wasn't DOING anything. Again, idiot.
We saw rabbits in the city, in Vancouver, bunnies in the park by the water on the way to the University. We saw elk or some other animal like but smaller, standing on the lawn of the Maligne River traveller's hostel in Jasper. Saw rams walking four abreast down the road ‘we don't stop for nobody' style. Walked along a rolling grassy hill, that, if you kept walking down the hill, finally dropped off as a cliff, gently curving to danger. Saw a bear down the road by Medicine Lake, thought it was a big dog. Don't get out much.
Saw three women at the Emin Centre today, the comfy restaurant on Bloor near Dovercourt. In the couchy corner with the windchimes. Each with a baby. Her baby. Could feel or infer an unspoken pride as they wheeled them in, sat down and popped a breast out for feeding. No pride like it. ‘It's my baby! I've got a baby. This is the Most Important Thing In the World.' Nothing like it. An exclusive members-only club. Motherhood is very inspiring: I felt like plopping down on one of those public couches and lighting up a cigarette. Unfortunately I don't smoke.
‘A living organism. . . feeds upon negative entropy. . . Thus the device by which an organism maintains itself stationary at a fairly high level of orderliness…really consists in continually sucking orderliness from its environment.' - Erwin Schrödinger.
I guess Erwin took a pretty dim view of the people who hung around him. ‘Get away from me ya parasites!!' What is this? Is everything at the expense of others? I suppose a good name for a restaurant would be ‘Eat and be Eaten' don't ya think? But wait, Let's be kinder, maybe the environment is happy to pour order into our lives.
He has come to be someone he isn't, does not want to see himself as. When he thinks of it he wonders at his irritation with chatty people; his anger with cyclists speeding by his car when he is downtown. ‘I remember…I remember Mr. Angelo at the Becker's, so rude and mean when we bought candy, I'll never do anything but smile at kids. They always had so much money in their pockets, grown-ups, but always so rude and grumpy.' He knew who he was back then. Now he has the money in his pocket. The pocket of a stranger.
Reflections on the horror. My mind touches on them, but it has felt disrespectful to elaborate on these thoughts They are only thoughts, that frighten or titilate, made from a comfortable distance. Did you read Hiroshima? And before it was a book of a same-named disaster it was a place. Ok, take the plunge, here is one of those thoughts, someone standing outside the building filled with awe and pity for those jumping out, thinking ‘poor devils' just before being crushed by falling debris. Same as in a war I guess. Get to think ‘poor devil' till you get shot.
Bald man, beautiful woman, another bald man with a shiny head. Very shiny, does he shine it? Fat young woman, very fat ‘even under conditions of starvation…' says the lecturer. Carlo hates me. Right now that feels pretty good. Vuk is talking. He'll be a scientist soon. The man beside me wears a wedding ring. He is fat and looks younger than me. Would he really survive longer for having all that fat, in starvation conditions? Would I eat his fat if he died after our airplane crashes in the Andes? I don't even eat the fat on a steak.
The young black woman stepped out of the building onto the street, ‘Oy Veh!' she exclaimed, relieved to be in the cold clear air of the October afternoon after the physical and mental stuffiness of the building behind her. She'd applied for the job not expecting to get it, and was pretty sure there'd be no surprise phone call. It was like entering another country, or more like another church, she thought. She was qualified to do the work as a bookkeeper, but not ready to enter the church of happy-do, friendly-faced, team-spirit these people all seemed to belong to.
Focus on: two 17-year-old boys running down the stairs grabbing toast and bananas to eat on their way out. G'bye mom, they say as they run out the door, on their way to…swimming or making a film or starring in the school play, or whatever. Fast forward to a dry, skull-like head in the hospital bed. recalling the past. Reality, consciousness. continuiry. We are all surprised how far the snake of our life can take us, what remains of the past what is buried forever under layers and layers of forgetfulness. A dead brother, a banana sandwich, a school play.
Does anyone enjoy growing old? Hello liver-spot, whatca knowing? I've come to watch your borders growing. Feel anger, an indignation as things are taken away from you. Strength, eyesight, powers of quick healing. Height. The repo men come to take them away one by one, or sometimes several items together. You had them so long that you felt you owned them. ‘Where are you going with that T.V. you bastards'. Wonder, how you're going to get along without these amenities everyone enjoys. ‘Come back here with that working kidney!' Repo men, passing through your doors long before the grim reaper.
Man is she gorgeous! What can I say to her to start a conversation? Dummy, she doesn't want to be bothered by you. She just wants to walk her dog. Shit, if I only had a dog. I could be telling her I got this dog to meet her so we could start going out so I could, like, wake up every morning to see her beautiful face beside me. Man, you are a poet. It can't hurt to say something. ‘Ah, nice ass…I mean nice dog, I mean, uh, your dog has a nice ass.' Wow, good recovery man.
They walk along the street, side by side. He accidentally bangs her upswinging hand as he swings down. The next time is deliberate, and the next, and the next. ‘Ahhh! Would you STOP that!' Her eyes flash with anger as she turns to speak. His face lights with an idiot's grin of mischief, as she looks at him. ‘Are you TRYING to drive me crazy?' ‘Why yes honeybun, I am. How am I doing?' ‘I'll honey your buns! you big shit head.' She begins to laugh and pinch his ass ‘Hey,' he yells, laughing, ‘we're in public here you know!'
When I was a kid a sunken livingroom was a BIG DEAL. Other kids would say ‘Oh, we have a SUNKEN LIVINGROOM.' What the hell was that? The first time I saw one, in a movie, I thought, ‘That's it?' I imagined it was going to be a lot more exciting somehow. All it was was a couple of steps down from the rest of the floor. So what? Were people suppose to be more wild in a sunken living room? A suburban version of Shakespeare's comic ideal of travelling off to the woods to loose the bonds of society?
She was about 56. She arrived at my door with her best friend. They were downtown for a class reunion. She had lived here when she was eleven. Her brother, her mother and she all slept in the big room (where I am now). Her father in the room next door. Her grandmother lived on the first floor, too feeble to make it up the stairs, her grandfather lived in the chilly attic above them. She cried as she climbed the stairs to the second floor. ‘You never let me come over when we were kids,' said her friend, wonderingly.
Forty years ago my mother bumped into a man with the same last name as her. ‘Myers,' she said, ‘are you related to a Max Myers?' ‘He's my brother.'
‘Pa,' she said to her father later, ‘Did you know that your brother works in a drugstore downtown? He says you haven't spoken to each other in over twenty years. Why don't you go see him?'
‘Feh, what do I want to talk to him for?'
‘How much time do the two of you have left?'
‘I'm not interested.'
Feeling like young men, with all the time in the world…to hate.
‘Holmes,' I said, ‘you're not much more than a curiosity on the edge of society without me to soften your image and popularize your activitities.'
‘On the contrary Watson, the epithet ‘curiosity' better falls to the one who manufactures an entire separate persona in the form of a spartan thinking machine, casting himself in the role of the bumbling every-man, standing to one side in admiration of this man-machine's abilities to observe and deduce.' ‘You mean,' ‘Yes, Watson, I am merely a fiction, a figment of your opium addled imagination.' ‘Holmes, your words cut me to the quick!'
Dad always brought carefully wrapped presents. He hated Dad for that. It didn't make up for Dad saying ‘you're a loser, you're a fuck-up,' for pushing him away when he was little, for not bothering to prepare meals when he stayed over. The presents allow Dad to say to himself, ‘I'm good and I'm bad, like everyone else.' The presents prevented him from saying ‘Dad's just bad, forget about him.' To treat Dad like a lump of selfishess, to wall him off, to cut him out, for self-protection. These occasional tendrils of thougthfullness made Dad irremovable, like a malignant tumour.
He'd had no idea it would be like this. Hadn't given it a second thought. On the other end, as a kid, he'd felt he had no power at all, couldn't wait to be in control. But now, as a parent he felt like a puppet. He jealously guarded every free moment, every free space he had. Only when locked in his study late at night, the kids asleep, did he have a sense of himself at all, rather than some stranger constantly called upon to arbitrate between them, to answer questions, to enforce bedtimes. How do others let go?
They dug his grave already, up on the hill. Hell was looking foreward to getting its prodigal son back, they said. When they went to hang him he managed to kill three men and escape. No one wanted to use the grave after it had been made for him.
So it lay open, and finally filled in.
That cheated grave moves around on the hill, they say. It opens under midnight lovers, under hikers who are never seen again. Sally, if you'd heard this as a kid you'd be as scared as I am to be up here. Sally? Sally?
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