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Only today did I remember that yesterday was his birthday. What that says about me I do not really know. That I'm a bad ex-boyfriend? That I've put so much effort into forgetting the bad that I've gone and forgotten the good? I just hope that somebody called him or sent him a card or an email, or even simply remembered and thought about him during their day. Because I didn't. Because he deserves that. Last year on his birthday he was in Indonesia, with me. This year he's alone on some military base in the UK. It kills me.
I go through periods of not wanting to cut my hair or wanting to shave, not putting any effort into the way I dress. It's kinda fun being offensively unattractive to everyone who has to look at me. It's like telling everyone that they're not worth grooming over. It's one great big "Go to Hell, you beautiful, miserable fools! I'm happily ugly and there's nothing you can do about it!" It's like pulling a piece of last night's tacos out of the moustache hanging over my bottom lip and flicking it at them. Or eating it. Whatever it is, it sure is liberating.
blue light flickering
flashing on and off
fading in and out
on this ceiling
on these walls
I glance out the window
into the night
and notice the same blue light
the same flash, fade, and flicker
on a different ceiling
and unfamiliar walls
two rooms like eyes
with bright pixelated pupils
winking, blinking in wonder
at the moon and stars
in perfect synchronicity
has me thinking
how nice it can feel
to watch TV in the dark
with someone else
even if they're only
the tiny silhouette
of a stranger
six floors up
a few blocks away
"Another record-breaking day!" the blonde woman beams into the camera. She goes on to say something about sunscreen and hitting the beach but I'm not sure what. Because I'm too busy staring at that bright orange sun symbol next to her head, the one that has a big 30 on it. Thirty degrees. In the middle of May? I'm trying to remember all of the Mays in my past and I can't recall it ever reaching 30 degrees. A brunette woman now (the sports girl?) chirps in and says how she had the top down on her convertible this morning.
I look back and there's this old dude walking behind me, dragging his bad leg behind him with each step. I turn the corner. Soon enough, I hear it again.
Oh, God. Please don't let him be following me. I speed up a bit.
Scratch scr-scratch, scratch scr-scratch...
Shit. I walk quite fast down the two blocks of steep hill toward my building. The scratching becomes frantic. I watch for his shadow in my periphery. If I see it, I will run. I approach my building. Do I let him know where I live?
He's right behind me as I put the key in the lock. I hold the door open with my food and turn to face him. I recognize him instantly. He'd smiled at me as I passed him up on Davie. He was leaning against a wall, smoking. I politely returned the smile. That was eight blocks ago.
"Do you live here?"
He looks at me, confused.
He shrugs. Amazing what a simple gesture like a shrug can say. I shake my head and go inside, locking him out.
Have fun walking back up that hill, you fucking perve.
I hadn't hung out with Mike for weeks. I was looking forward to hearing his news and browsing around Little India with him. But today, on the bus ride out, he tells me how he went to a house party last night, did plenty of ecstasy, and that he had so much fun that he didn't get a chance to go to bed. What the fuck?! That's what I should have said when he told me this but instead I kept quiet and endured an afternoon with a half-fried, unshowered asshole who kept falling asleep while standing. Ex-friend? Indeed.
Hi there. How are you today? That's good. I'm fine, thanks. Did you find everything you were looking for? Great. Did you happen to have one of our IRewards discount cards? No? Are you interested in learning about the program? Alright. I understand. Maybe next time. So your total today is $###.##. On debit? Great. Swipe with the stripe toward you. Thanks. Do you want your books double-bagged? Did you want the receipt in the bag? Alright. Thanks so much. See you again. Enjoy the rest of your day. Can I help the next customer in line, please? Hi there...
Other things I say at work ad nauseam:
Good afternoon, you've reached Chapters, Brad speaking, how may I help you?
Good afternoon, would so and so please take a call on line one, would so and so please take a call on line one.
Hello, you were looking for such and such a book? I've got it right here. Did you want me to put it on hold for you? Your last name please? How do you spell that? Great. It'll be on hold for you for three days at the desk on the main floor. You're welcome. Bye.
That's just a sampling of all the Chapterspeak I've accumulated over the years - words and phrases that have been said so many times I don't even have to think while I say them anymore. I think of the first word and the rest flops out. On days when I'm tired or preoccupied, I screw up conversations with customers - "Do you have an iRewards card?" comes out when I've already asked them, when I should be asking if they want their receipt in the bag. I laugh when this happens. I'd cry, but everyone knows that robots can't shed tears.
He still sends me emails every two weeks. I read them, put them in their designated folder, then feel sad for an hour. Last month he sent me a photo of himself in his navy uniform. It would have ruined my day had I not had a chat with my friend in London shortly after. "Why don't you block him?" everyone wonders. It's inexplicable. I look past all the I love you's and I miss you's and please reply's and it comforts me to know that he's breathing somewhere. I never reply, I rarely miss him, but I will always love him.
I saw you take that shit now put it back!
Bush is a fascist
all gays must die
kill all the ragheads
hungry cumslut, 37, 8 inch cock, wants you to dump a hot load in his ass. Fridays noon.
Shit or get off the pot!
Stephen Harper fucked yer mom
THERE'S NO FUCKING TOILET PAPER!!!!!!
roses r red, violets r bl
God is love
you guys can't spell
stop flushing your pads!
Don't Flush Needles
CALL 604-731-9542 ASK FOR MEGAN
I was here 02/05/06
"In a few days, class, we'll see how this plant will have reached for the window."
A few days later, I'm sitting in my desk, colouring, and I notice that the plant has indeed stretched toward the sunlight, just as Mrs. Mayne had said it would. I'm so excited that I tell Mark, the boy sitting beside me.
"Mrs. Mayne! Look - the plant moved toward the light!" Mark yells, not raising his hand.
"Ah, so it has, Mark. Good for you for being so observant."
He smiles. I hate him. I'm so mad I break the crayon I'd been using.
"The next word is 'been'. Have you ever
to the moon?" Mrs. Mayne's voice is soft and pretty. On my paper, I write 'bean'. Mark, the big cheater, looks at my paper and then shakes his head.
"That's not right," he whispers. I scowl at him and cover the page with my little fingers. Mrs. Mayne looks our way and we both refocus.
Inside I'm panicking, trying desperately to remember the spelling of 'been'. In the end, I erase 'bean' and put 'bene'.
When the papers are returned, I get a 9/10. Mark gets a 10/10. MAN, I HATE HIM.
Mrs. Mayne is teaching a lesson about dinosaurs, which is boring to me because Mrs. Wilson taught us about dinosaurs last year in first grade. She writes 'pteradactyl' on the board and then it happens. BLLECHGRHH - Mark vomits all over his desk and a bit on mine. It's green, runny, and it smells so gross that the entire class has to sit in the hallway while the janitor cleans up the mess. Mark, crying, mortified, covered in his partly-digested lunch, is sent home for the rest of the day. I feel bad for him but I still hate him.
It's early August and we're at the grocery buying a bag of instant coffee. As he's paying (I buy coffee for no one, you see) he accidentally drops his wallet and its contents spill all over the floor. I bend to help gather the various cards and bills and I come across a photo of a boy, about twelve, who is making a face at the camera. I can't hide my curiosity.
"Who's this? A cousin? And why is he making that face?"
"No, that's Nick Stahl, and he's not pulling a face."
People stare as I laugh loud and long.
"You're just jealous," he says, annoyed with me now, as I'm still giggling on our walk home.
"Jealous? Why would I be jealous? He looks like a gremlin."
At this he throws the bag of coffee on the sidewalk. It explodes and the dark grounds fly in every direction. I stop abruptly. Apparently I've gone too far.
"You've gone too far," he says, seething. "Take it back. Now." His eyes bore into my own.
Jesus, I was only teasing. Who the Hell does he think he is? "No." I am defiant, indignant.
The silence is heavy. A tumbleweed skitters by.
I duck in time to avoid his fist. As he regains his balance, I run down the block, then turn to see him breaking a branch off a nearby tree. Discarding the twigs and leaves, in seconds he fashions himself a magnificent staff. He skillfully twirls the wood from side to side and over his head like a samurai. "I'm going to gut you like a fish."
I imagine it - me, a hollow corpse, lying in the middle of Jervis, my intestines marking a gory trail back to the grocery. He calmly buys more coffee, as if nothing had happened.
A glass koala, a German teacup, a boomeraing, your name badge, chocolate poker chips, a new home, a new roommate, stylish shoes, a DVD player, a scarf, a shirt, a jar of Vegemite, two phone cards, a light cube, an electric toothbrush, a basket, picture frames, a mini Christmas tree, a candle, the RENT soundtrack, Great Expectations, friendship, love, hope, patience, encouragement, inspiration, understanding, countless toothy grins, trust, faith, wisdom, freedom, direction, humility...
This list is endless. You are the most generous, brilliant, person I have ever known and sometimes I feel cheated I didn't meet you sooner.
My probable future:
"I'm sorry, Bradley, but unfortunately we can't offer you a teaching position here at Milton Collegiate." He does not look at me when he says this, but he does look genuinely sorry to give me thie bad news.
"Oh. Well, I can't say that I'm not disappointed," I reply. "May I ask why that is though so that I might have better luck elsewhere?"
"Don't get me wrong - your grades are outstanding and your volunteer work is impressive. It's just that we Googled your email address and found some writing of yours that is somewhat... questionable."
Fucking 100 Words.
I quite like not being in love with anyone, not having anyone around who's in love with me. It give me more time for myself and my life. That sounds selfish. But sometimes you have to be selfish to rebuild. I should have paused and rebuilt in September when we split but instead I gave myself, deeply hurt, to others, and wound up hurting them too. It's kind of like what Mom always said - don't pick your scabs or you'll just keep bleeding and scarring. You must endure the itch until they dry up and fall off on their own.
The following is a friendly reminder to those fools who ever think about challenging me to a game of Boggle. (And a way for me to escape having to actually write something today.) That's right - fear me. Be afraid.
bradley: brad, bra, rad, bar, lead, led, rely, deal, lad, red, ray, drab, bled, bed, bad, lab, lard, ale, bale, era, lady, bare, barely, bread, dare, real, read, year, yard, ready, bray, bared, bear, beard, brayed, blare, blared, beryl, bead, beady, bard, ear, dye, bye, lye, rye, are, delay, relay, bred, barley, a, ad, able, ab, be, day, lyre, earl, bald
Graham was walking home from work one afternoon when he came upon a little impromptu yards sale in the park across the street from his building. Strewn about in the grass were several interesting items, ones he usually didn't see in yard sales, including a disco ball, a lava lamp, two crumpled Warhol prints, and a pair of funky platforms. He looked around for the proprietor and he couldn't see one, but a few seconds later, a tall, thin man stepped out from behind a nearby bush, zipping his fly. Seeing Graham admiring the goods, he croaked out, "Everything's 50 cents."
Fifty cents for these items seemed like too good of a deal for Graham. The cheap prices probably meant everything was stolen or that the money would go to drugs. As he approached, Graham spotted a row of bruises along the thin man's inner arm, practically confirming his suspicions. He feigned disinterest and continued home.
Half an hour later, having changed into comfortable clothes, Graham was walking to the supermarket when he saw a young boy, maybe eight or nine years old, skipping along and smiling. He had the disco ball tucked under one arm like it was a basketball.
I'm amused because I've never before seen such a long line up for a men's washroom. It is a gay bar, I know, but it's still amusing. Dozens of them in this line - all anxious to pee and get back on the dance floor, so when two of them decide to use a stall for certain purposes, they get hissed at by those in the queue.
"One per stall!"
"Hurry up, you dirty fags!"
They eventually come out to face the crowd. "We were only fighting," one protests.
fighting!" shouts a drag queen.
We all laugh. Gay men are funny.
"Sweetheart, you know you can call me anytime. I can't imagine how lonely you've been feeling since Jake died"
"Thanks for understanding. It's just nice to chat with someone sometimes."
"Of course. You know, Bonnie, maybe you should look into that Adopt-A-Senior program."
"It's where younger, able-bodied seniors like yourself take in seniors who can't take care of themselves anymore - ones that don't have families or the resources to live in homes. Gladys Boychuk did it after her husband died. She says it's the best thing she's ever done. It gave her life new purpose."
Bonnie watched through her kitchen window as a rusty pickup pulled in front of the house. She was about to go out and tell the driver that he couldn't park there, that the AAS van was on its way and would need the space to deliver her new housemate, but she froze when she saw the old Asian woman sitting in the truck's cab. The driver, dressed in coveralls and a balaclava, stepped out and proceeded to unload the woman and her walker from the cab to the the sidewalk. Delivery made, he hopped back in the driver's seat and sped away.
Ever start a story and not want to finish it? That's kind of what's happened here with Bonnie and the old Asian lady. I know that's sort of annoying for anyone who invested a minute reading the last two installations but what can I say? Wouldn't you guys rather I write something I want to write? Wouldn't it be unfair to Bon and Jung-Sook (that's her name, you know) if I went ahead and told their tale without any enthusiasm? Yes. And yes. Finish the story yourselves if you want. Or imagine the scene as it stands as a tableau.
When I'm at these orientations I see all the high school seniors with their moms and dads at their sides and I start feeling sorry for myself. And then I get angry with myself for thinking such ungrateful thoughts about my mother, who has supported me in everything I've ever done. Of course she can't come to these orientations - she's in Regina, you big baby. And yeah, maybe she's not paying for your education, but many people have to pay their own way through school. And just think how proud you'll both be when you find success in independence.
Kevin squeezes a bead of glue onto his palm and spreads it into a thin circle with his pinky finger. Once it's nice and thin he starts blowing on his hand to speed up the drying process. He looks so cute with his hand stuck up in front of his nose and his lips frozen into one long, silent whistle. After a few mintues of this, the glue dries and it's time for the peeling. He uses his protractor to raise a piece big enough for his fingers to grab and then he just pulls. I love him.
Every year on May 31st I go through my closet and pull out all of the clothes I no longer wear - usually shirts with permanent stainage and socks with holes big enough to accommodate three or more toes. I then cut these unwanted garments into two-inch squares of fabric, which I then sew together to make different household items. Today I made a lovely checkerboard-patterned pillowcase out of a sweatshirt and a pair of long underwear. Can you tell I'm lying yet? It sure was a lot of work but that's what May 31st is all about.
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