uu 26 – bones and skeletons

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17 January 2016 – Dad’s here! Arrived on Friday. Staying a week. Down in Liz’s suite—she’s in Costa Rica, putting her thinking cap on. Timing couldn’t have been better. He’s got loads of privacy and as bonus G and I didn’t have to figure out what to do with all the stuff we’ve stashed in the spare bedroom.

Thank the lucky stars.

Which, in a way, is why I’m in here. The boys went to Star Wars matinee. Giving me house to self. A little space to get at something that’s been scratching at the surface since yesterday.

Took dad for walk along river. Had good long chat. Where we’re at, what’s going on, how things are shaping up etc.

In and amongst everything else he asked if I was still writing in my n-book. I said I was and he wanted to know something of what I write about. Like if it’s a diary etc.

I told him it’s more like a journal. A place to track and develop thoughts. Got into a fairly detailed account of things. Like process. That I prefer to take notes on a separate piece of paper as I go. Like timing. That I only do it when I have the energy to encourage an appropriate frame of mind. Like content. That while most of what hits the page is from something I’ve witnessed, not all of it is necessarily about me.

Which is how we got on the topic of Delilah.

He was doubly intrigued. Asked what that was like. Inventing a story.

I didn’t really have a good answer. Said that it doesn’t seem as though I’m inventing anything. That I’m merely recording what comes to me. In some respects it’s like having met a stranger who keeps showing up and won’t go away. The more I try to ignore her the more insistent she becomes.

He laughed and asked how I make her go away.

By writing her.

And by writing her you invite her to come back for more?

Something like that.

Sounds like work.

I mulled that over. Said that it is. But not in a negative way.

We’d stopped to watch a tugboat lug its load of logs. Another tug guided the slow slick procession. However many hundreds of stripped trees corralled together in a long train. A huge amount of timber made to look small against the width of the river and the spreading immensity of land.

Dad asked if there was an end in sight for Delilah.

My turn to laugh. I started to say she keeps bringing more to the table. That if anything she’s taking me backwards. Hearing the words come out of my mouth I had to pause. There was something in them that I hadn’t considered.

If anything she’s taking me backwards.

I drifted off. Got to contemplating the notes I’ve been making. On where she’d come from before hitting the highway. The life she’d been leading, the effort she’d put into trying to get herself on the right track, away from what she’s known. How this was as much of a story as the story I was originally following. And that where she’s going takes me to where she’s been. Two parallel stories. Each step forward followed by a step back.

Apparently my drift wasn’t an entirely internal ellipsis.

Dad clapped me on the shoulder and pulled me into a sideways embrace.

I don’t know what you’re on about, he said. But it sounds as though you’ve got some bones to tinker with. Eh?

He drew his head up and pushed me back so he could look me in my eyes.

Like to make into a skeleton? Or, in this case, maybe a pair of skeletons? You should be good at that. Right?

He knew it was a cheesy analogy. But I have to give him credit. In his attempt to make light of my radiological past, he pretty much nailed it.

Bones and skeletons. Framework for shape and form. The bases of dynamic bodies.

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uu 25 – a decontextualized scene

hyacinths

07 January 2015 – Most days working downtown I go for a quick stroll on lunch. Before the calendar changed I could count on seeing a particular girl along the way. Camped out on a corner (near a lingerie shop if it must be known), her belongings and takeaway food containers strewn about a fair radius from where she sat, back against a street lamp, comforter draped over her shoulders. Even when it was raining.

The first few times I saw her it crossed my mind that this wasn’t the place for her. Maybe because she looked so young (I’d have guessed 15 or 16, tops). Or her physique (she was quite chubby). Either way, she just didn’t look the sort to take to the streets or otherwise hit the road.

For one thing, her stuff wasn’t the camping kind. No large knapsack, no bedroll, no sleeping bag. Also, she wore decidedly indoor clothing and from what I could tell her only footwear was a pink pair of fleece-fur slippers (with stitched-in eyes). If anything, her corner had the appearance of a messy bedroom brought outside—without the niceties of furniture, walls, privacy.

Nobody, of course, should have to resort to asking/begging/noodling for the kindness of passing strangers. But, how to put this…right or wrong, most appear to play the part well enough for it to seem there’s a choice involved. They write up signs, put out cups or dishes, play music, display their pets, emote…. Whatever their gambit, whatever the reason for them being in their position, most of these (accomplished streeters? spare change artists?) will acknowledge a hand out in some fashion—a thank you, a nod, a smile, a flash of the eyes.

Not this girl. I often put whatever I had left of my lunch within arm’s reach of where she sat and never got a reaction. She just sat there. No matter what. Gaze in a haze. Face devoid of expression. Indifferent to the goings on around her. Entranced by something akin to boredom. As if stuck in her bedroom on a dull day.

You get used to things the more you see them. They become part of the routine. The embedded thoughtless routine.

The other day the corner by the lingerie shop was vacant. Today a young woman took up the spot. A rakish thing with dreds, a dog, hiking boots, and a goodly-sized knapsack. She sat on a folded sleeping bag and busied herself with one of those ‘adult’ colouring books. At her feet a pair of hyacinth (purple and pink), an upturned bumblebee toque and a small cardboard sign that read (in fancy lettering): love conquers all.

I had a little baggy of celery and carrot sticks and asked if she would like them. Her face lit up. ‘Look Dido,’ she said to her dog. ‘Real food.’

As I strolled back to work I wondered after the other girl. I don’t know why but it occurred to me that maybe she was part of a performance piece. A live action street exhibit. Filmed to document passing reactions to a scene from everyday reality, decontextualized.

uu 24 – a quiet trip

lamp

01 January 2016 – These earliest hours of the new year. Tired as all get up. Yet wide awake. Eyes returning to their faithful sockets. No longer projecting slow and distorted images or seeing blurry fidgety things that aren’t there.

Took a couple puffs off a joint hours and hours ago. Don’t know why. Wasn’t thinking. Just happened to be there when it was being passed around.

Body slipping back into the safe confines of skin. Its porous surface beginning to rediscover warmth, no longer quivering in the queasiness of every inner cell feeling as if it’s being pulled slowly out while the rest of me, my non-cellularity, sinks.

Only been high twice before. Both times with Marcus. Just pot but neither went well. Fairly sure I promised never again.

Mind no longer nervously edged. Easing now to normal. Distancing itself from that heightened (deep? delusional?) inward awareness (of greater knowing? other dimensions?) and the palpable fear lingering beneath (panic? paranoia?).

This is the thing about me on dope. Going deeper in. So deep can barely see, let alone speak. Getting lost in dark caverns and fighting to climb.

Still and all it wasn’t as if I cowered in a corner the evening long.

Though walls shied from my hands and the floors themselves looked unreliable, I went from room to room, the dozen or so in attendance shifting about like hundreds.

Couldn’t have been that far gone. Remember singing and dancing with Liz. And G, Mr Happydrunk Permagrin, seeking me out for quick little kisses and friskier signs of his affection. The 10,9,8 countdown to midnight and subsequent cuddlefest. Getting G home and upstairs into bed.

Something of a chore that. Only next door but still. He was beyond hammered. Maybe that’s what sobered me up some. Having to act. Pull myself together. That and it was fricking cold out there.

There’s this other thing though. A picture. That’s been pushing its way into my mind’s eye. A lit lamp on a small table in a dark room. Coming at me like the vestiges of a dream. Only it was’t a dream, was it? Not exactly. No. It was a setting. That’s right. Yes. Beginning to piece it together.

Was thinking about G’s unnamed character being summoned by the Queen. Not THE Queen of course. A fictional Queen. Residing over a fairytale land. Imagined the character, a man, an everyday working joe, not old, but not young anymore either, a man past his prime, in a bar, reading his summons, over and over, holding it under the lamp on his small table, the Queen’s official seal jumping off the page, glaring at him, judging him, renouncing him, sentencing him, dooming him to a fate beyond reason.

He pockets the offending document. Runs a hand over his face. Takes back the last of a glass of beer. Catches the barkeep’s attention. Signals for another.

None but the damned are summoned. This is what’s in his head. But what has he done? What’s his crime? He’s no saint. Who is, in this arbitrary land of barter and bribe, thieves and charlatans…? But surely his transgressions are minor. Petty. Nothing to warrant the Queen’s notice.

Beers keep coming. He’s wound himself up into a right state, racked his brain for howsoever he might have sinned, and finally, with no recourse save abiding the order as writ, which is not on, determines his only alternative is to flee, before anyone’s the wiser.

Believing this to be his only option he sets about hatching a plan. Where to go. How to get there. What to take. Etc. He imagines what it will be like to be on the run. The hardships he will face, the persona he will become, the people he will have to be wary of, the people whose parts will benefit his adventure, and all he will have do to stay ahead of his pursuers, for he will certainly be chased. In the end, against the odds, he will prevail. His cause will have been just and by golly he will be free.

He will be free.

An epic journey without having uttered a word or taken a step.

By the light of a lamp on a small barroom table. What can I say. I was stoned. Happy New Year.

uu 23 – winter wonderland

mountain trees

25 December 2015 – Nice and slow morning. Each of the three of us agreed not to buy presents and of course we all did. Six white envelops on the coffee table. Two apiece each. Gift certificates. All to the same place and in the same denomination.

Talk about synchronicity.

Good long chat with dad. He’s looking to come out in the new year. Yay! And it sounds like things are charging full steam ahead with his girlfriend. Spending the day with her and her son and his girlfriend and her young daughter and the daughter’s father, who’s like a brother to dad’s girlfriend’s son. Whew, what a weirdly convoluted mouthful.

He still won’t tell me who she is or how I’m supposed to maybe know her.

Early afternoon snowshoeing. On top of a mountain. The air cool crisp clear. Snow falling whispily. The wonder of its pure whiteness. Snowballs and an impromptu snowman. The glorious peace of having no one else around—until the 4x4s started to arrive. En beastly masse. Signalling our departure.

Back home to a fire (in the fireplace we never use) and blankets over shoulders and spiked hot chocolate and a preponderance of jigsaw puzzles and the aromatic anticipation of a big bird coming out of the oven.

Such a beautiful Christmas Day. Love it love it love it.

Funny, just thinking that it’s a long time since I heard from Clara. In fact, don’t think I’ve heard from her at all. Trying to decide if I should call.

 

29 December 2015 – Night to self. (G at late screening of Hateful 8. Lucky boy has the week off.) Lugged City on Fire downstairs. To read on couch. By the tree and the fire. In the feel-good glow of home.

Didn’t get around to it.

Went to put on some music. Glanced at G’s desk (as I always do when in vicinity). Saw there his ever-present pad of foolscap. Latest entries:

  • Then it was that there we were…snookered in the same maze.
  • Year in music: Kamasi Washington, Beach House, Half Moon Run, Archive, Courtney Barnett, Express Rising, Mal Blum, Salad Boys, Astronauts etc., Palehound, Matthew E. White, Dan Deacon, Bill Fay, Tobias Jesso Jr., Cage the Elephant, Cass McCombs, Promised Land South.
  • ‘Rightly heard all tales are one.’ C. McCarthy.
  • False starts. And salsa farts.
  • Lotus bertholettii – parrot’s beak. FABACEAE.
  • Living however many years without knowing China is the eponymous legacy of its first emperor.

And, boxed off in the middle of the page:

This is highly irregular. I have been called for. Summoned. By the queen herself. The Queen. Which can only mean one thing.

Got to wondering whatever is he up to? Another idea strung up to dry? Born without the likelihood of reaching maturity.

I should talk, I thought. And got to pondering where Delilah was at.

Delilah and Peter.

In the kitchen, house on Bridge Farm. Him leaning against counter, arms crossed. Her at sink, sipping glass of water, looking out the window.

Impossible not to notice the corn. The perfect wall of it. Enclosing the area behind the house like a gangly green fence. Making it look more a suburban back yard than the wide open farmland she remembers. Where is the barn? The tractor? The fruit trees? The chickens and pigs and cows and goats? The hoop houses? The vegetable garden? The towers of tyres? The mess of palates and crates? The old flatbed truck? The vanquished farm equipment? The outhouse? The dogs and cats?

It’s like she’s never been here before.

In midst of comparing past to present a lanky teenage boy comes running out of the corn. Turning to call encouraging words to an old golden retriever limp-trotting behind.

Delilah’s eyes are glued to the boy.

‘Is that…?’

Peter cranes neck.

‘In the flesh.’

‘He’s so…tall.’

‘Up abouts six foot already. And still growing.’

Johnny. The reason Delilah was summoned.

 

30 December 2015 – Discussion at work on the nature of moments. Brought up by one of the younger girls. Who didn’t understand what her boyfriend meant last night when he said there is no past and no future. Only the present moment.

I asked if they are active partners.

She looked at me with a ‘duh’ face.

I asked what the context was.

She said they were just talking.

I asked about what.

She said she couldn’t remember.

I surrendered.

But another of the younger girls suggested that perhaps he meant the present is fluid and on-going. Not contained by boundaries. And added that, from a cosmic perspective, our lives are but a blink of the eye and that, because of this, there’s no need to fret about anything.

Save, it would seem, how one looks from behind on a bad hair day. Or which of the dozen selfies just taken to post on I-gram.

In any event, time did pass. I remember swimming. And walking home in the cold raining dark of twilight. Across the park.

And fairly certain that when I opened the back gate and came up beside the garage and saw the light on in there that I knocked on the door and heard Liz yell for me to entre allez vous.

She had a dozen or so of her paintings on easels. Was deciding which ones to include in a showing.

A moment that for me verified the existence of both the past and the future.