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The heat is uncomfortable, so much so that I spend most of my evenings on the couch watching television. However, come to think of it, I do spend most of my evenings on the couch watching television. It doesn’t matter if a heat wave, snowstorm or squall blows through town, I’m there sitting on the couch watching television. I smoke too much. I can watch television and go through half a pack of cigarettes. Maybe that isn’t such an extraordinary amount of cigarettes to smoke in one evening. Maybe I’m not as unhealthy as I think. Maybe I’m just fine.
Recently, I went to my doctor for a physical. He thinks I’m in fair shape. He is concerned about my blood pressure. I was referred to a Cardiac Clinic, where I was fitted with a heart monitor. This is a device that monitors one’s blood pressure over a twenty-four hour period. I’ve been meaning to schedule an appointment with my doctor to find out the results. I’ll get around to it once the weather cools down. I went cycling last Friday, I cycled 40km. I was proud of that feat; I haven’t exercised in such a long time. Two years.
I’ve been saying to myself for the past two years, “I’ve got to exercise. It’s time that I should join a gym. I need to lose weight.” I never do anything. I’m the type of person who puts things off. “I’m going to do it tomorrow morning.” For years I’ve put things off until tomorrow. There are days when I feel that time is running out. There are loads of things that I haven’t done for years: I haven’t read a novel from cover to cover in ages. Half read books clutter my bookshelves and unread magazines losing their shine.
Recently I’ve been preoccupied with growing old. I’ve noticed the gray hairs, the lines around my eyes, and mouth. I’m in my late thirties and I’m approaching forty very quickly. I buy “Men’s Health,” magazines and fantasize about having a fitter, leaner, muscular body…anything to hide the aging process. My teeth are in poor shape. I need to have work done on them. “There is a possibility that you may need to have two root canal’s. I won’t know until I see how close the cavities are to the nerve,” the dentist explains. When will I feel comfortable about aging?
I’ve got a cyst on the palm of my right hand. It’s a large cyst. I don’t know how long it’s been there, I first noticed it three months ago. I’m infatuated with my cyst: I look at it constantly, I caress it, I press hard down on it, and sometimes I talk to it. “How are things with you this morning,” I ask. I never receive a reply. Should I be surprised? The thing is, this cyst of mine is sometimes painful, it throbs occasionally as if to say, “Hey, I’m still here, don’t fool yourself into thinking otherwise.”
I’ve got heartburn and I’m wondering if it has anything to do with the way I shoveled yesterday’s bowl of cooked pasta down my throat, or if it has to do with the cyst that is pulsating on the palm of my right hand? This morning I stood shirtless in front of the mirror and noticed that I’m developing breasts. I’m confronted with two disturbing facts: I’ve reached an age where I have to watch what I eat, and clumps of fatty tissue are beginning to hang from my slim frame. Looking at myself in the mirror makes me ill.
I had moved from my hometown to this place a couple of years ago. I am slowly growing accustomed to my new environment. There are some days when I feel completely out of place. For example, a few days ago when I was out driving I found myself in a part of town that looked as though it was transplanted from war torn Lebanon. There is nothing here that defines who I am. Back in my hometown there are places, streets, and buildings that make sense to me. In this place the squealing of pigs from the slaughterhouse is incomprehensible.
Its Sunday morning, an absolutely beautiful morning, and I’m working in this air-conditioned office. I’d rather be in the park reading the newspaper, taking my dog out for a walk, or cycling along the bike path. I loathe my job, my co-workers, my salary, the lengthy hours I have to work. I often wonder if this is where I’m going to stay for the next twenty years. I’ve never been a career man, that is, I’ve never stayed with one company for a very long. The benefits are good, and the money I make is adequate but I’m terribly unhappy.
I’ve arrived home from the dentist and my teeth ache. The dentist says, “ A root canal wasn’t required. I had to drill very close to the nerve. There is a good chance that you may require a root canal in the near future, it depends whether you take care of your teeth or not.” I light up a cigarette and eyeball my newly acquired electric toothbrush, and wonder if I’ll be able to brush and floss my teeth regularly. I hope so. I need to think of something pleasant. I turn on the television and think about alien abduction.
I rang up a good friend of mine; he lives in South Carolina with his wife and two children. It’s difficult to believe his son, his first born, is three years old. I remember when he was a new born. I had met my friend ten years ago when be both worked together at a local hospital back in my hometown. At the time we were making decent money: we were able to pay our rent, our university fees, and have money left over for booze and cigarettes. He was studying education, and I took the odd English literature course.
We shared our apartment with two other friends. The apartment was always full of people. On weekends the place was packed; the stereo would be playing Tom Waits tunes, friends would be crammed inside the living room and kitchen area, large quantities of beer would be consumed, and the endless chatter and laughter would last throughout the early hours of the morning. We talked about courses we were taking, books we were reading, and bits of news that caught our attention on the front page of the newspaper or television. We talked about everything and anything. Time wasn’t a constraint.
My girlfriend and I argue on a regular basis, three times a week, and we usually argue about insignificant things: who’s turn it is to take out the garbage; who’s turn it is to clean out the bathroom; who’s turn it is to take the dog for a walk. The other day we argued about hamburgers. My girlfriends name is Louise, but I would sometimes call her Lou just to irritate her. If we didn’t argue and we were happy all of the time I think I would find my life less interesting. Lou thinks otherwise. She could be right.
Lou: What would you like to eat for dinner? Paul: I don’t care; it doesn’t matter to me. Lou: I think I’ll barbeque hamburgers. Would you like to eat hamburgers for dinner? Paul: I don’t care. Lou: Is that yes? Paul: Cook what you like. If you have a craving for hamburgers make hamburgers. Lou: You’re indifference is irritating. Could you answer the question with a ‘yes’ or ‘no?’ Paul: I don’t care. I’m indifferent. Lou: Are you going to answer the question? Paul: Why are you making this difficult for yourself? Lou: Hamburgers it is. Paul: How about pizza?
My mother called me this evening; she seems to be in good spirits. She’s excited about traveling to London England. She’s originally from the U.K. and I think it’s been over ten years since her last visit. Most of her family still lives in London: her brother, sister, nieces, nephews and cousins. She is planning on spending time with her family, but her primary objective is to meet up with old high school friends. My mother needs a vacation; she lives in B.C, just a few blocks away from my sister and her husband. She looks after my sister’s kids.
My mother moved to B.C. five years ago, a couple of years after my dad had died. She lives in a small pulp and paper town in the interior. I think she is still adjusting to small town living. My mother lived all of her life in the city. She moved to the interior just after my sister had suffered her first breakdown; she felt that it was her obligation to look after my sister and her three small children. My mother can’t drive so she spends her days looking after her three nephews. When she’s alone she watches television.
Last night I dreamt I was back at the hospital where I used to work visiting former co-workers. I worked odd jobs in the hospital, but for the most part I worked in the mailroom delivering mail to doctor’s offices. In my dream I found myself in the mailroom talking to old friends. It was very odd being there. My co-workers didn’t seem excited about me being there. Joe, Angelo, and Frank all shook my hand, patted me on the back then went back to work. The hospital was dark, hallways endless and the offices were as large as cities.
When I was a child I grew up in a basement apartment on Governor Avenue in Westmount. I lived in apartment 1A and shared a room with my sister until I was 11 years old. My sister and I didn’t have much as kids but we made do with what our parents were able to provide for us. The apartment was small; there was one large hallway that cut through the apartment, at one end it led into the living room area and at the other end it led into my parent’s bedroom. Large pipes hung from the apartment’s ceiling.
I remember photographs that were taken of my sister and I playing in the snow banks across the street from our apartment. We posed on top of the snow bank; the sun filled day was captured and there we stood dressed, in our winter attire with gleeful smiles on our faces. I don’t know how old we were in those photographs, perhaps seven or eight years old. We would build elaborate tunnels in the snow and hide from each other, or we would sit huddled together and talk about nonsense throughout the afternoon. As children we enjoyed each other’s company.
My father was a tightly wound man, an explosive and volatile man who could never relax and enjoy a moment of peace. My mother said that he enjoyed himself when the both of had spent a month traveling through Texas ten years ago. I will always remember my father being an angry man; he would scream expletives at us, terrorizing us as children, and repulsing us as adults. My father blamed himself when my sister fell into her depression. I suppose in someway he was to blame. I don’t know.I kept my distance from him. He died an angry man.
My girlfriend complains about, “not being able to shit for weeks.” She suffers from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). As a result of this problem she can’t eat spicy foods. Her brother who has been staying with us for the past few weeks has been shitting regularly. He’s been staying with us because our condo is air-conditioned. His excuse for staying is because, “The heat is sucking the life out of me.” A few days ago he had decided to walk to work “I hope I won’t have to go potty on the way,” he said. I think he is lonely.
He’s a chief auditor at some bank. He makes good money. This morning he came downstairs, sat on the couch where I was sleeping and put on his large, clunky brown suede shoes. He was wearing a pair of shorts and a long sleeved shirt. He lit up a cigarette, turned to me and asked if I wanted one. “I’ve got to quit smoking,” I said. “Don’t start with that shit this morning, he said.” I took a cigarette from him, lit it, and turned on the television. We both watched the weather channel in silence. It’s another warm day.
After work I rode my bike over to a friends apartment; he lives near Victoria Park, so the ride was long and the afternoon uncomfortably warm. When I reached my friend’s place and brought my bike up to his apartment my clothes were soaked with my sweat. I changed my shirt in his bathroom and minutes later I joined my friend, his wife and stepson on a walk through Victoria Park. I was walking beside my friend who had his arm around his wife and his stepson walked a few meters behind us dragging a long branch through the grass.
I was looking over at Ray’s wife, this was his second marriage, and I noticed how thin she looked. Her thinness was unappealing to me. She was wearing a white t-shirt, jean shorts, and a pair of old runners. She didn’t talk much. Back at Ray’s apartment his wife was preparing a salad while Ray and I were out on the balcony drinking a couple of beers. Ray quickly knocked back his beer, got up from the table and began to clean the barbeque grill. He asked me how I wanted my steak cooked. “I like my steak medium rare.”
Louise’s brother just walked in through the door; it’s close to midnight. He is slightly drunk; he had shared a bottle of wine with his girlfriend. He had separated from his wife a couple of years ago. He met his “fancy piece,” as Louise calls her at work. He seems much happier. He is less preoccupied with thoughts of being alone. He sits down next to Louise takes his sandals off and pats the dog. My dog, Uma, is looking for attention, earlier in the day I bashed her on the snout after she chewed through my last forty dollars.
While the steaks were cooking, Ray and I talked about work, then about himself. Before his divorce Ray was a devout Christian, he attended bible studies every Sunday with his first wife; three years ago he was able to quote extensive passages of the Bible. He gave the whole thing up after his divorce. Ray’s wife left him for another man; he was devastated for a couple of years. After the divorce Ray left work for six months and traveled throughout South America. He had met his wife in El Salvador while working in the Peace Corp over the summer.
Stig Buick’s wallet story: Stig and his friend Randy made their first trip to Toronto twenty years ago; they were eighteen years old. Like most young men their age they drove along Yonge Street looking for something exciting. They wound up going for drinks at the “Hotel California to listen to this band Mark Hains versus the World. Louise’s brother, who is called Stig by his close friends was telling this story to Louise and I while we were waiting for drinks at the Foggy Dew. The “Hotel California” has since been torn down and turned into a parking lot.
I’ve had a few beers, smoked loads of cigarettes and I’m drawing a blank. I can’t come up with anything to write. I don’t want to write. I don’t want to force myself to think. It’s very difficult to type while holding a cigarette in one hand. Louise is in the kitchen preparing dinner: she’s making a mushroom omelet and a Mexican salad. The television is showing “The Soprano’s. Louise is taping the third season for her parents. I sip on my bottle of beer and watch Louise prepare the salad. The dog is sleeping at my side. It’s late.
It’s early in the morning and I’ve fallen behind in my writing, I don’t know if I’m going to qualify this round. I’m typing at the kitchen table, Louise’s brother is sitting nearby on the couch. “You haven’t finished your writing?” he asks. “No, I’m still plugging away.” Louise is in the kitchen; she’s pouring herself iced tea. She closes the fridge turns to me and asks, “How come you didn’t eat your salad? I thought you were hungry?” “ I fell asleep on the couch last night.” “I made that salad especially for you.” These interruptions are terribly annoying.
I haven’t bought or read a newspaper in years. When I was a youngster living with my parents I read the newspaper frequently. On weekends my father would spend the morning and early afternoon reading an assortment of local and financial newspapers. I would join him at the table…not a word was spoken between us… and begin reading the sports section, then move onto the entertainment section, and end with the travel section. If I hadn’t anything planned for the afternoon, I would read through the first section of the newspaper. I skipped over the financial section; it was unappealing.
I’m living in a two-bedroom condo, which is situated on Strachan in Toronto. It’s actually a townhouse and I live on the top level. The area isn’t too bad; Strachan begins at Lakeshore and runs north to Queen Street. Traffic coming off of Lakeshore makes its way up Strachan past my condo. I live close to three parks; I usually take the dog for a walk through Trinity Park. I enjoy walking through Trinity Park during the mornings; there is a section of the park, a large field, where I play with the dog. The park is peaceful and quiet.
I used to live in this large apartment on Grand Street in NDG. I lived alone. There were wooden floors throughout the place, my living room was large, and it led out onto a balcony. During the summer months I sat out on the balcony and read. I had neighbors to the right of me, they were a family of four, and they were very kind people. They owned a dog, Nuffy was his name; he was a sweet and gentle dog. Uma (my dog) would ignore him whenever she was out on the balcony. Living alone is a luxury.
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