stairs

 

03 March 2016 – Late this morning running errands downtown. Up out of the underground and onto the street. The incessant noise and bustle, the diversity of people, the chill wind, the facelifted buildings, the unrelenting traffic, etc. Nothing out of the ordinary yet, for a little while there, the assault of it all together seemed totally unreal. A sudden vertigo hit me. Like a bad dream where the sky is falling. Didn’t know what to think and couldn’t move. Not straight away. Had to stand aside and catch my breath. Which is about when I wondered if this was what an ending felt like.

G figures I was experiencing sensory overload—from having spent too much time in my head.

 

05 March 2016 – You make deals with yourself. Tell yourself you won’t do this til that’s done. Motivation by increment. A tidy technique. So long as you don’t get in your own way. Then funny things can start to happen. Time passes. Pressure mounts. Excuses pile up. A minor obstacle soon becomes a major blockade. Signal the eye of a storm on a raven black night. Summon the sirens, cue the riot police, hear an invisible bullhorn demand an end to this insufferable impasse.

The deal I made was I wouldn’t come back in here til I’d hammered out a couple of Delilah’s scenes. Went all kinds of sideways with the night before scene. Just couldn’t seem to get it right. Then, out of the blue, it came together. Yesterday. The day after I broke my deal.

What a difference a day makes!

How good the pen feels in my hand today. Light and free. It wants to explore. Things less demanding than me or Delilah.

Like the feeble gargle of young eagles spanning their wings.

Like that first r in turmeric.

Like Dot and Melville returning from California. All tanned and hale.

Like going for pho with G. The picture on the wall over our table. A strangely beautiful geography of vertical islets. Lush vegetation spilling the cliffs. On the turquoise water boats with orange sails and a village of floating homes. Another world, another world. Exotic, mysterious, spellbinding. I don’t know why but it surprised me that G, man of many surprise, knew the place was Ha Long Bay, North Vietnam.

Like a set of stairs that goes somewhere you’ve never been.

Like a girl who sits on a pipe fence one night with a boy. She wants to talk about her friends and enemies and shoes. He wants to talk about sex and songs and skateboards. They start off talking about drugs and alcohol and celebrities. Just the thing. They don’t know yet that they’re going to be together for a time to come. A time that passes in years and sees them grow together and then apart and eventually sees them part ways in a flurry of words neither wants to say but can’t seem to prevent. A few years down the road they will see each other once more. When they have other partners, and maybe children. A future that becomes the present. The setting: a large home improvement store. From different directions they and their families converge on a display of panelled prefab fencing. They see one another but pretend they don’t. Neither family buys a fence that day but both the girl who is now a woman and the boy who is now a man submit to the memory of that long distant night on a pipe fence and then, without a word, let it disappear.

Like an author writing a preface to a collection of stories called ‘Nights I Can’t Sleep’. Something along the lines of:

‘I’ve always been a dreamer. Even when not asleep.

‘When I was young I stayed up in bed waiting for dreams to come so that I could be awake when they did. One of two things happened. I either fell asleep or found myself following my wandering mind. A kind of active dreaming that was no less an adventure for being awake.

‘At some point I picked up a pen, or a crayon, and started writing down my adventures. As I was supposed to be asleep, and my father seemed ever on the lookout for light under my door, I used a flashlight and wrote with the blankets over my head.

‘I didn’t think too hard about what I wrote. Nor was I overly concerned about whether or not it made sense. I just wrote and when I was done, and only when I was done, I’d turn off the flashlight and go to sleep.

‘All these many years later not much has changed. I still write in bed. And the stories of mine I like best, the ones in this collection, had their inception on nights I couldn’t sleep.’

And a slew of other things less consuming.

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