uu 48 – to marcus 11 (valediction)

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09 September 2016 – And then there’s Delilah. The long drive. To recap: she has been summoned to the family farm by her grandfather, Peter. Who’s in the midst of pulling up stakes to better care for his terminally ill wife, Mary, and needs someone to look after 15-year old Johnny. Things have been strained between Peter and Delilah, mainly due to her life choices and her subsequent absence, yet for the sake of Johnny their differences are set aside. Delilah and Johnny hit the road. The opening leg of their journey is pensive as they figure out how to talk to one another. Delilah has to adjust to the fact that he’s no longer a kid. As for Johnny, foremost on his mind is why she’s been absent for over three years.

To this point the narrative is pretty straightforward. In the notebook however I added a scene that flashed back to the night (and following morning) before setting out to Bridge Farm. While it reveals certain details about Delilah (that she’s recovering from drug and alcohol addictions, may have prostituted herself, and has made preparations to move on), the scene also hints at criminal behaviour (the bag of money) and the possibility that she is on the run—a tangent I won’t be pursuing, if for no other reason than I haven’t the time or the energy to get into it. And really, for the purposes of the story, it’s sufficient to know that Delilah’s past is full of demons and that she has been presented with an opportunity to make good on leaving her old life behind.

The rest is a road story. Pure and simple. The details are in the journey. Nothing else matters. Just Delilah and Johnny getting to their destination. They have their ups and downs. Literally, figuratively. They drive through mountains and lowlands. Have to deal with a flat tire, an overheated radiator, inclement weather, sections of closed highway, a trucker who won’t take no for an answer. There are periods of silence, misunderstanding, impatience, anger, but also the little victories of overcoming these emotional obstacles. Delilah lets Johnny drive. He chooses the movies they watch. They laugh about grandpa’s country ways and how he’ll cope with living in the city. There are tears. Johnny describes Mary’s illness. Delilah shares memories of how things were before their parents died (though the narrative is never to refer to them as such, the presumption is that Johnny and Delilah are siblings). They knock down barriers. Delilah fights to maintain an even keel, to control her urges. Johnny allows himself to accept that Delilah has had a hard go of things, begins to comprehend that she is heading towards a place where she can start fresh. In short, they are stuck with each other (in the van, in motel rooms). This is their situation. They are getting to know one another again. Learning to accept, forgive, trust. This is their journey. The long drive.

So far as I’ve sketched the scenes, the story doesn’t end at their destination (an addictions recovery centre on ‘The Island’, where Delilah will be given room and board while being taught how to assist those in need). The conclusion happens on a ferry. They are on the upper deck. Facing the island—still distant but visible and becoming more distinct. They have been on the road about a week. It is windy. A little chilly. The sun is beginning to set. Over the island are clear skies. Behind them dark clouds obscure the distance to the mainland they can no longer see. Delilah puts her arm around Johnny. There is a deep silence. She is about to say something. Johnny looks at her. Says, ‘It’s okay, I know…mom.’ He puts his arm around her shoulders. They both smile and look at the setting sun.

A Road Story. Should I ever get around to revisiting Delilah and Johnny at least I’ll have a working title.

Griffin is off to get us take out. (We embark tomorrow morning.) The house is quiet. I have plenty of time. The envelop and the candle are ready. I can’t think of anything more to add—save a quiet wonder after who, if anyone, will break the seal.

The moment has arrived.

Your everloving sister,

Gwendolyn

uu 47 – to marcus 10 (little mysteries)

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06 September 2016 – Collected Sonora from airport after work. We were like schoolgirls who hadn’t seen one another all summer. Stopped for coffee on way home. She told me about meeting up with her ex. That he looked really good. Had a fresh attitude and a new lease on life. Quite different from the puppydog antics of recent months. They’d only been talking a few minutes when he suddenly started shaking his head. His eyes became solid glass. A grimace dug a dimple into his cheek. His nostrils flared. ‘You say such hurtful things,’ he said. Then got up and left. A confident and composed exit, even if the reason for his departure was less than immediately clear. She was so stunned she simply sat there, in a paused state, mouth open, wondering what had just happened. It slowly dawned on her that this was his way of closing the door on their relationship.

And then she noticed his travelmug on the table. She couldn’t help snickering. Imagined him around the corner debating with himself whether or not to go back. Poor guy. All that effort to be brave and resolute, only to be faced with the dilemma of saving-face or retrieving the travelmug. Whatever the reality of his situation, she sat for a while longer. Pondering the significance of the travelmug. How it represented their inability to move on from one another. Each time they tried, one of them somehow managed to leave something on the table.

With that in mind, Sonora handed the travelmug to one of the staff and went off to be with her mother. She’s not upset about how things transpired, or even surprised. The only thing she can’t figure is what she’d said that could’ve been so hurtful.

Little mysteries that make the world go in different directions.

Speaking of, chatted with dad this evening. His holiday was a smashing success. Separated a shoulder on second day—bodysurfing, if you can imagine. Said it was just what the doctor ordered. Forced him to chill (and eat and drink way too much). And get this: him and the ladyfriend had such a grand time relaxing they decided to live together on a trial basis. One week at her place, the next at his. Alternating thusly until they either figure out which place suits them better or they drive one another bonkers (dad’s words).

Dad also mentioned a couple of letters addressed to mom that were in the pile of mail when he got back. One from a catering company, the other from a notary public. He hasn’t opened the letters and doesn’t know why they were sent to his address (everything in her name is supposed to be forwarded to the lake house). I didn’t say anything to dad, but my immediate reaction was to ponder the possibility of her getting married again.

Myttle listeries.

07 September 2016 – When I got home and set my things by the stairs, hair still damp from swimming, I saw Griffin in the den, facing the open window, leaning back in chair, hands clasped behind head. I said hello and walked over to him. He had an easy look about him. Relaxed, calm, lucid. Blissful. I stood there beside him. He smiled, but continued looking out the window. I asked what he was looking at. ‘Everything,’ he said. I tousled his hair, noticed the pen in his fingers, then looked for and picked up his foolscap from the desk. Read the last lines. ‘Living silently in loud times. In dark times living lightly.’ I asked if everything had anything to do with loud or dark times. His smile grew. ‘Sort of,’ he said. Then went thoughtfully silent. As he practices them, such silences indicate he’s formulating a way to word something. The words he came up with: ‘They led me to an idea.’ I sat in his lap. He wrapped his arms around me and proceeded to tell me about a character who’s had enough of being abandoned by his author and takes it upon himself to tell his own story, insofar as he knows it. I asked if the character lives silently and lightly. He kissed me and said he wasn’t sure yet. ‘But the character definitely has strong opinions about his writer.’

08 September 2016 – Griffin and I went out for dinner. The waiter asked if we’d like our bill together. Whenever someone says ‘together’, Griffin’s automatic response is to say, ‘to get her.’ He can’t stop himself. One of his many amusing idiosyncrasies. This evening the waiter was momentarily perplexed. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said. ‘Was that together?’ Griffin did it again. I laughed and helped the poor girl out by saying one bill was good.

Afterwards, we shopped windows. In one was a display of heart-shaped padlocks (these days it’s hard to find a chainlink fence that doesn’t have a ‘love lock’ on it). As we wandered towards the car, Griffin mentioned that padlocks are appearing everywhere on campus, not just on fences and other lockable connections but on tree branches too. It’s gotten so bad the management are in discussions about purchasing bolt cutters for each crew, so they don’t have to drive back to the service yard everyday in the hopes of securing the one pair the department currently has. We laughed and locked our elbows. I told him the heart-shaped padlocks reminded me of the diaries you used to give me for my birthdays when I was a girl. They almost all had a tiny lock on them made of cheap metal and I always managed to lock the locks and lose the keys before I could write anything.

uu 46 – to marcus 9 (arriving early)

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05 September 2016 – Holiday Monday. Getting ourselves organized for the big trip. Made lists and hauled out camping gear just in case (we’re hoping to find cheapish motels along the way, but you never know). Funny, when checking my passport (to make sure it’s still valid) was reminded of going across the border with three girls from work. If I’ve got it right, this would’ve been the weekend before I trekked out here. In fact, I think my leaving was the whole point of the trip. A last hoorah. Our destination was a casino resort. Not my thing but the other girls were so amped I couldn’t rightly refuse. They wanted to let loose and party party. The first night I joined them in the casino but pretty quickly tired of watching them flirt for drinks. Went off to the slots. Within an hour I won a couple hundred and called it quits. Couldn’t wait to get out of there. Too loud and glitzy for my liking. I went looking for the girls. Saw them in their dresses, arms-in-arms with a couple robust boys about a dice table. I was in too reflective a mood to join the fun so cashed out and spent the rest of the night wandering the grounds. Back in the room I ordered room service and crawled into bed at a reasonable hour. In the morning I woke to sunlight. None of the other girls had returned to the room. I didn’t think anything of it. Just got on with the day. Had breakfast and set off for a peaceful drive around the surrounding countryside, in sweeping autumn glory. When I got back in the early afternoon the girls were in the room but barely cognizant. I made a quiet exit and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon at the spa getting pampered. The evening was moreorless a repeat of the first, save that I avoided the casino and for a little while watched a covers band in the non-gambling bar. Come check-out time on Sunday I had had a pretty restful weekend. Quite the opposite for the girls. They were so out of it that on the ride home none of them had the energy to say much, let alone be angry with me for not participating. I didn’t see any of them again. Not a big deal for two of them, but the third, Natalie, was my closest friend (we went through school together and were tickled to have landed jobs at the same hospital)—close enough for me to have had second thoughts about leaving. After that weekend, though, I had no reservations. Not because of anything she’d done. I think the weekend just gave me time to realize how ready I was to go.

Looking back it’s interesting to note that I had planned on spending two or three days with mom up at the lake. As it turned out this didn’t happen. Mom called to say I could come out but she wouldn’t be there. I don’t remember being all that upset. If anything, I was prolly relieved. Instead I spent a day with dad. Next I knew I was on the road, driving across the country in a loaded-up van. A full two days ahead of schedule. Relevant because, when I arrived at my final destination, and gotten my keys from the landlady, and struggled getting my first load of boxes into the elevator, and standing beside my door with an unruly box propped against the wall as I tried to fish the keys out of my pocket, the good samaritan who came out of his apartment across the hall to lend me a hand was, of course, Griffin. Without hesitation he started legging my stuff from by the elevator. He helped me unload the rest of my van and as if that wasn’t enough stayed with me as I waited for the Ikea delivery that I’d arranged. It was only then that he told me he’d also just moved in too. And it was only after the delivery arrived and we were in my apartment with all my packaged stuff that he answered his phone, which had been ringing incessantly the whole time he was helping me. His moving buddies. Calling from a bar down the street. The fine print here is that during his move a carton of soya milk spilled all over his kitchen floor. He wanted to clean it up before he was in no condition to do so. His buddies were raring for their burgers and beer. So he sent them on ahead.

And then I came along.

Whether or not our stars were aligned that day is hard to say. I mean, it’s not like the miracle of love at first sight happened. And given that we lived across the hall from one another we were bound to meet at some point. Evenso, there was something intimate about that first day. Something to do with the coincidence of me arriving earlier than anticipated and him being detained, combined with the circumstance of both of us starting a new phase in our lives. Seeing each other’s unlived-in, disorganized apartments. The humble comforts of our belongings still packed away in boxes. In some respects it was like we had only the dirty clothes on our backs. No other barriers to hide behind. Both of us at our most basic. Neither of us saying much beyond shortly worded exchanges. The relief we shared when all the Ikea stuff was in my apartment. I remember he asked if I’d like to join him and his buddies. He remembers me saying I was too tired and frazzled for anything more than bed. I remember him offering to help put my bed together. He remembers me hesitating in answer, as if trying to determine whether or not the offer was a pick-up line.

uu 45 – to marcus 8 (further accounts)

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01 September 2016 – Sonora’s all moved in. Whirlwind couple of days getting things sorted. The move itself went quick (she doesn’t have a lot of stuff and we had Griffin and Benson along). Bigger job was shuffling things around on this end. It’s a spacious 2-bedroom garden suite, fully appointed and furnished, but the majority of Liz’s belongings are down there. No matter, the three of us girls took it as a bonding experience and had us some fun with it. Sonora’s uber excited. The last place was a bit of a shithole. And though she payed a relatively modest rent, she’ll be paying Griffin even less. To top it off she got to take her trip home. Whisked her off to the airport before work this morning. She’s been everso grateful. Having her live downstairs hasn’t really sunk in yet but I’m pretty excited about the prospects. Aside from Griffin, and maybe Liz, she’s by far the easiest person I’ve met to be myself around. And with everything that’s happened this summer it’s nice to think a new normal is on the horizon.

02 September 2016 – Started another notebook. No rules/restrictions for this one. Place to record thoughts etc. On lunch today came up with idea for ICE story. Here’s what I wrote: ‘They have a tiny kitchen. The two of them can’t be in it at the same time. At least not while she’s in there, whence it becomes her domain. Even if she’s not being culinary. She does a lot on her phone in the kitchen (she does this elsewhere too, but when she’s in the kitchen doing it, standing there transfixed, it’s as if she’s planning a meal). He frequently transgresses the boundaries. Sometimes on purpose, sometimes because there’s no other way. To access the fridge, for instance, he has to step into the kitchen to open the door. When he does this, say to grab a beer, she stops what she’s doing to glower at him. Hard. Though he can’t see her, he can feel the temperature of her eyes boiling on his back.’

03 September 2016 – ICE Club happened without me today. The boys sought me out at the beginning of my shift (which coincides with the onset of their free time) to tell me they were taking a field trip. Their mission was twofold: to arrive at a pre-selected destination (all they would tell me about the spot was that it has a view of the water and the mountains) and, once there, to take it in turns to tell each other a) something that caught their eye on the way (rules here were that they would draw straws to see who went first, then one after another share their observations—to a limit of three apiece, none of which could be duplicated), and b) after all the observations were shared, each of them would choose three (none of which could their own) to include in their next story. I almost regretted not being able to join them. Even moreso because I will have to wait 4 weeks to see/hear what they come up with.

*

More on the couple with the tiny kitchen: ‘They have a dog. The man likes taking it for slow walks around the block. He does this three times a day. First thing in the morning, during which he sips from a mug of coffee; once he returns home from work, when he’ll have a can of beer; and lastly just before bed, in order to smoke one of his thin cigars. The woman finds these the most peaceful moments of her day. Suddenly the apartment feels spacious. She can relax and breathe and do as she pleases without a set of eyes or a little body following her every move. Precious moments, to be sure. But if they last too long worries begin to plague her thoughts. What was peaceful becomes pressing. At such times she imagines accidents (he is not so young anymore) and tries to pace away her fears. Inevitably, the door will open. All tongue and paws the dog will scamper excitedly to her feet and want to climb her legs. The man will enter their home with a smile on his face and a desire to share with her the latest from so-and-so down the block, with whom he’s had a good long chat.’

04 September 2016 – Here should be an account of another of my dreams. Had gotten a good ways through describing it when the power went out. Took me a few minutes to realize I hadn’t done something to upset the balance of the universe. Then a few more to recover my wits—crazy how reliant we are on electricity! It’s several hours later now. The power’s back on and our Sunday shopping is done. But the account of my dream is gone (I don’t know where it went, my computer supposedly automatically saves what I write as I write…not this time, it seems). I’m not going to try and remember the details. The main point is that I was driving a van through varied terrain (endlessly flat lands, craggy mountains, smoother foothills, across water) and that I was, or think I was, Delilah. Sneaking suspicion I won’t be able to close this letter until she is addressed. Not now, but soon. Very soon for I have decided that this coming Friday is my deadline (we leave for our roadtrip on Saturday). I even have a simple closing ceremony in mind. To tape an envelop onto the inside back cover of my notebook. Place these pages therein. Light a candle. Seal envelop with drops of wax.

uu 44 – to marcus 7 (extrusions)

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29 August 2016 – On G’s foolscap: ‘As far as they were concerned, they didn’t have any tests to pass or fail. They disrobed themselves of greater sensibility, striding carefree among the more socially concerned. Though they didn’t look the same you could mistake one for the other in their bearing. Which said, plain as daylight, fuck it. They had nothing in their pockets. No wallets, no keys. This didn’t bother them in the slightest. They knew who and where they were. As for money, well, they didn’t have the need to buy to feel alive. There was, however, that small matter of food and water. Which neither had quite figured how to do without. The remote logic of random. How one crawls depends on their level of desperation. Mother Mayhem strikes again.’

Not his best work. But the more I read it the more I’m drawn to it. Can’t say why. Maybe it’s the mood created by switching from a loose narrative to the flux of those last three lines. Abstract impressionism in words? I don’t know, but the inclusion of Mother Mayhem rings a loud bell. It’s what he called his mother in the aftermath of her showing up a couple months ago.

Ostensibly she came to pay respects to Melville. But the way she went about it was more like an invasion. She insinuated herself into things. Paraded around the house as if Griffin and I didn’t live here. Like we were the uninvited guests. Her criticisms were excruciatingly endless. The art on the walls (almost all Liz’s), the food in the fridge, the state of the garden. You name it she had something unpleasant to say about it. Sadly, the expression of her tactless persona wasn’t limited to the confines of the house. She practically commandeered the funeral. Somehow making Melville’s passing about her. One minute playing the grieving widow to a tee (an out-and-out farce given that she hadn’t had any meaningful contact with him for nearly 20 years, to say nothing of the apparent lovelessness of their marriage or the fact that Dot was present), the next tearlessly taking to the podium as if she was on a promotional tour, relishing the spotlight and the gaze of an attentive audience. She even had the gall to mention her forthcoming book. Shockingly self-serving. Just thinking about it gives me chills. And yet the worst was still to come. A condescending verbal rampage upon learning she hadn’t been included in the will. Liz lost her shit. Griffin tried to keep the peace. Mother Mayhem threw a bamboo vase of lilies across the kitchen. It didn’t break of course but it almost hit Tammy, who’d poked her head in from the livingroom to see what all the commotion was about. That was it for Liz. She grabbed the girls and stormed out. Leaving Griffin to contend with their mother, whose maximum tirade had yet run its course. I can’t remember everything that was said. But the crux of it was Griffin standing up to her hysterics. Assertively yet calmly endeavoring to put her in her place—no easy task as she had a retaliatory bomb for everything. He eventually gave in and brought the night to a close by telling her that unless she was prepared to be halfway like a mother and not a privileged brat she wasn’t welcome here anymore. She left the next morning. I don’t think he’s heard from her since.

30 August 2016 – Couldn’t decipher Nolan’s handwriting (except the words ‘sneering engines’ in the middle of a line), some pretty cool doodling tho. Moved on to Drummond’s story. A series of observations called ‘On the Steps’. The steps a wide set of stairs and sitting area by a transit station near the stadiums downtown. For 3 successive afternoons, from 4-5, he sat off to the side of the stairs (on the edge of a waterless fountain) and counted the number of people who walked past (tallied like fences in the margins: 67, 83, 54) and made note of things that caught his attention. Like how many times he was asked for money (8) or a smoke (6). Like expensive cars that drove around the cul-de-sac at the bottom of the steps. Like skateboarders using the waterless fountains. There was a car accident, a fist fight, and a couple having sex against a window of a condo overlooking the sitting area. On two of the days people were shooting up in the bushes not far from where he sat. Almost every detail is recorded objectively. The exceptions include a scathing (and somewhat lengthy) remark on a group of ‘wannabes’ with ‘sportstar tats’ and ‘sissyboy hair’ who were ‘trying for cooler’ by ‘weeding’ and ‘downing tallboys’ (much of the remark is hard to read because it’s written so hastily and the majority of the words are hopelessly scrunched together at the bottom of the page and vertically up the margin); a shorter comment on ‘iDildos’ (being, I believe, a reference to those who ‘cant walk stairs staring at there phone’); and a more ponderous passage about an ‘old bearded loner that wears [his?] mistakes [and] makes me think [my?] dad is still alive [and] regret what [he?] done’. Thought-provoking stuff. And a little unexpected coming from Drummond, who I would describe as well-mannered and self-consciously shy.

 

uu 43 – to marcus 6 (uncomposed)

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27 August 2016 – Sonora’s ‘furken-zakki’. Said to me after turning down a second dolderhead who’d approached our table to buy us drinks. It (furken-zakki) becoming our buzzword for the rest of the evening. She’s a hoot and an inspiration. Sonora. We laughed all night. In celebration. ICE Club. The completion of her summer work schedule and entering the last year of her degree. In jest. Errant males on Saturday night pub crawls. My continuing, against all sound judgement, to work at rec centre. Her having landlord issues and potentially having to postpone a trip back home (to see her mom, and maybe the ex who keeps on wading in her wings, a foot or a shadow or an otherwise incomplete object at the edge of a picture). Furken-zakki to the lot! Got to being pretty drunk did wee little lightweights. It’s not even midnite. (Before I forget, have to remember to speak to G about basement suite. We’ve been considering renting it out. But only if we don’t have to act like furken landlords!)

 

28 August 2016 – Rainy Sunday afternoon visiting Dot. Wasn’t in best shape (hungover) but couldn’t put off. Haven’t seen her in over a month. Seems to have aged some. Maybe I didn’t notice it before. Too much commotion. Didn’t have her to myself (or she didn’t have me to herself). Our last extended period of alone time together prolly goes back to before Melville went into hospital. She knows she doesn’t have to try with me, doesn’t have to fuss, be the busy host. Can just be herself. Today she looked tired, deflated. She was happy to see me of course. No issues there. It’s just, well, you notice when an energetic soul is a touch short of their usual vitality. I ended up taking her out for lunch (to a family restaurant she used to go to with Melville). She perked up almost immediately. And even though we mainly talked about how much she misses Melville (or V as she’s taken to calling him), she seemed more her bubbly self. One comment she made stuck out, ‘Outliving lovers becomes something of a bore after a few goes around. I knew going in that V was already well along. But I couldn’t resist his charm. First and foremost we were buddies. This is what I miss. Having my best buddy around.’ After lunch we went to the mall for tea. I told her about my dreams, them waking me up, in particular the last one (the only one I remember). She laughed and said it was plain as the falling rain that my biological clock wants its ticking heard. Ah, Dot, she may have lost a little pep but she’s still got aces up her sleeves.

 

29 August 2016 – Griffin vying for and not getting promotion at work. His response (upon passing along the news): ‘At least I can turn my attention to words again’ (he hasn’t been scribbling his one-liners for close to a month—every day of which, through habit, I’ve looked at the pad of foolscap on his desk and noticed that nothing continued to occupy the page). Needless to say he’s been a grumpy Gus (when he doesn’t write he glooms). But he had to try. For the promotion. Now he knows he did what he could. On with everything else. Like our forthcoming holiday. Less than two weeks hence. We’d hoped to drive down the coast. Then the possibility of promotion got in the way. Put pause to planning. To avoid disappointment. Looks like we’re back on track now! How swiftly our domestic mood has lifted. More good news: he’s all for Sonora as tenant.

*

Liz and girls working on collaborative project in garage. The girls applying paint to abstract scapes drawn in charcoal by Liz. The three of them so nuclear together you’d never know Tammy and Tracey (TNT!) aren’t Liz’s.

*

Riley’s story. ‘Bella’. A bit clunky and written out more as a sketch but rather sophisticated, I’d say. Goes something like this. A teenage girl wakes in a future and distant world (where she’s called B-22 and sleeps in shared quarters with many others of her own age) to discover that the life she thought she was living (in the here and now with the rest of us earthlings) was in fact a dream. This is a big deal. For it seems that in this future and distant world dreams, long thought to be an indication that something is wrong (or could be better), are a thing of the past. B-22 doesn’t wake of her own accord. She is prodded and shaken awake by a group of her fellow-agers (all of them wearing the same immaculate blue outfit, all of them with unblemished faces and perfect hair), who have gathered at her position (i.e., bed, which will retract into the wall when she gets up) because a) she was still asleep (fellow-agers always wake up with the morning lights that come on at the same time every day) and b) she was laughing (almost unheard of outside of meal times or scheduled social breaks). The group is simultaneously concerned and excited. They call out her name: ‘B-22! B-22!’ As she comes fully to one fellow-ager is bold enough to ask, ‘B-22, were you dreaming?’ B-22 replies, ‘Who are you all? And why are you calling me B-22?’ Her fellow-agers look at one another with fullmoon eyes. ‘B-but,’ one of them stammers, ‘But B-22 is your name.’ B-22 looks around the sleeping room. Its spic’n’span cleanliness beginning to look familiar. She looks down at the immaculate blue outfit she’s wearing. ‘But…Bella. Isn’t my name Bella?’

 

uu 42 – to marcus 5 (gumboots)

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27 August 2016 – Proud to report that I’m an honorary member of ICE Club. That’s what the boys (Drummond, Luther, Nolan, and Riley) have decided to call our, or should I say their, creative writing group. Inventive. Creative. Experimental. They wanted to include Stories somehow but once they got the ICE acronym down there was no dismantling it. So they came up with a motto instead: Making and sharing stories. They’ve also decided on a rite of initiation (sharing a story), a club handshake (a traditional shake slipping into joined fists with thumbs up), a password (currently gumboots), as well as the beginnings of a charter/mission statement (to provide an inspiring and supportive environment for telling stories).

It all went down rather dramatically. Given how unresolved everything was last week I decided to go in guns blazing. I was so keyed up to deliver what I’d prepared that I completely dismissed the fact they all came in together and were being atypically chummy with one another as I rounded the table to close the door. They were absolutely brilliant though. Soon as I closed the door they quietened down and let me launch right into things, saying that if I expected them to share their writing then the least I could do was share something I’d written.

In a nutshell the story I presented was about my notebook, which I brought along as evidence (even reading portions of the opening entry), and how it eventually turned into a long letter to you, my mortally departed brother. Wrapping up I explained that I am still writing the letter, now as a kind of post script to the completed notebook, and will do until I feel it is done.

Public speaking has never been a strong point, but I have to say I was in pretty fine form. For their part the boys played along admirably. There were a few giggles at each mention of Griffin (who I’d introduced at the outset as my boyfriend), otherwise they were a receptive and, to my surprise, attentive audience. When I was done they grilled me with pertinent questions. Mostly relating to Griffin (they had a grand time teasing me in tones about my boyfriend) and whether or not I would be making him a gift of my long letter to you.

Finally, with less than 20 minutes to go, I clued in that something was up. That there was more to their jocularity than interest in my personal life. I raised an eyebrow and smiled with mischievous intent before asking what was going on.

Drummond was the first to speak.

‘Should we tell her?’

They exchanged glances and barely audible chatter. Then Luther stood and said, ‘Congrats, Missus Dawson, by unanimous decree we the founding brothers of ICE Club, bestow upon you the title of honorary member.’

Can you believe it! I was floored. (Didn’t even feel it necessary to correct them on the missus bit.) And maybe the best part about how things happened is that I didn’t have to figure out a way to broach Luther’s club idea. They were miles ahead of me. For the remainder of our clubhouse time I listened as the boys laid out ICE Club for me. They described having met earlier in the week, at Luther’s relentless urging and of their own volition, to hammer out details. More impressively, each of them made good on the rite of initiation and, in the process, have fast become something like brothers—or, to use the preferred term, Icers.

There remained two last pieces of business before we brought the first ‘official’ ICE Club gathering to a close. Firstly, the boys (including Luther) handed me their notebooks, each pointing out the selection I am, as honorary Icer, dutybound to read. Then we each placed our writing hand on our forehead (Riley, by far the shiest Icer, is a lefty) and pledged to invent create experiment a story for the next gathering.

Above the moon, I took the boys down the street for slushes to celebrate and next I knew my shift was over. I’m still buzzing and would like nothing more than to delve into the first round of ICEworks, but time has gotten away from me. Heading out to meet up with Sonora!

uu 41 – to marcus 4 (time frozen)

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25 August 2016 – Seven years ago today you left this mortal plane for a wilder blue. Is that right, 7 years? Has to be. I’m 30 now. You were 21. It adds up. Still, it seems off somehow. Could be me. Haven’t been sleeping so well of late. Waking up spooked in the middle of the night. Rescuing myself from startling dreams that I can’t seem to remember. Not every night but enough to make me wonder what, if anything, I’m trying to tell myself—and why, if I am, it has to happen in the middle of the fucking night.

Last night’s dream I do remember. In almost every detail. It was set in a busy office space. For the most part I whisked about admirably performing routine tasks (filing, talking to colleagues and clients, going to meetings etc). Files seemed to be an integral element. Or rather file folders. At all times I had a stack of said folders on my person, usually clutched to my chest, and was constantly giving or receiving folders as I went along.

Things started to get weird when I found myself standing in a slow-moving line (for what I can’t recall, save that it was imperative I stayed in line—and, yes, I was clutching file folders). Up ahead I could see a large circular clock (time between 11:55 and 11:56, no second hand) and for some reason turned around (maybe to see how long the line had become). Strangely everything that was behind me wasn’t there anymore—at least there were no people and all the objects had lost any recognizable form. The space itself, now somewhat darkened and lacking definition, had become dimensionally vague. I turned back around, saw that the line I was in had advanced a good ways and hordes of faceless people were filing in in front of me from both sides, all of them wearing meticulous business apparel, brushing past me as if I was nothing more than a tall fire hydrant. No one appeared to be in any great hurry but as I tried to move forward and maintain my place I started to fall further and further behind, or so it seemed, and the harder I tried the slower I actually moved. More and more people flooded in, moving faster and faster, in continuous streams. I’d grope and clamber with my elbows (my hands were still occupied with those infernal file folders), just to hold my ground, to prevent being so overwhelmingly overtaken by such an unyielding deluge (this part of the dream seemed to last an eternity), until finally, out of breath and flagging, I stopped and noticed the clock again, right where it was before (for all my efforts I hadn’t made any detectable forward progress), telling the same time, and now that I was stopped I realized that whatever line I was in had become an amorphous mass of people, a veritable wall of suited humanity I couldn’t hope to penetrate, let alone keep pace with, all of them hustling along with aplomb (rushing but appearing relaxed and composed about it), all of them moving forward at ungodly rates, so many heads and shoulders fast-forwarding under the clock that told a frozen time. Exhausted from the struggle, I stumbled backward a few steps. The speedy flow of bodies continued but now there was some separation between me and the edge of the percolating mass. A pure and unmolested void. I felt compelled to turn around again. Once again there was no one behind me, nothing recognizable, just a vague, dim space that could as well be outside as in. I dropped to my knees and let my arms fall. Suddenly I was no longer in possession of file folders.

I don’t know what about this spooked me but there you have it. The dream that woke me far too early this morning. If it wasn’t so dark out I might’ve gone for a run. I thought about reading but wouldn’t risk the light with Griffin sleeping so soundly. Instead I went to the washroom, splashed some water on my face, and came to my writing room. Like a zombie without a soul to chase I flopped onto the loveseat. Residuals from the dream flickered. I pushed them aside and practised visual silence until Griffin, habitual early riser, knocked at the door.

We had first coffees together downstairs (a rarity, and a definite upside to having stayed awake after being so unceremoniously woken so early—with the other dreams I stubbornly stayed in bed, fought my way back to sleep, which may be the reason I didn’t remember them). He made us breakfast while I recounted the dream. As we ate we speculated on the dream’s meaning but about all we came up with any degree of certainty was that my dreams are far more complex than his, at least the ones he’s woken by, which almost always feature him pissing insane amounts of pee—and, yes, when he stirs he’s acutely aware that his bladder is full to bursting.

It was as Griffin was leaving that he asked if today wasn’t your D-Day. (In our use of the term D stands for departure.) I didn’t forget. Just hadn’t gotten around to actively remembering. It’s a yoga day for me. In your honour though think I’ll go for a swim after work. Speaking of, time I got on with it.

uu 40 – to marcus 3 (dolly)

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22 August 2016 – You’ll be interested to hear that dad’s passing up a fishing trip to go off on a proper holiday vacation with his missus. Resort in the Caribbean, if you can imagine. Kind of a big deal, I’d say. He’s pretty stoked. We had a good long chat about it. Him going, I mean. How liberated it’s making him feel. Like he’s 20 years younger. But without the entanglements.

Entanglements? I had to ask.

Turns out that taking trips was something of sore point between him and mom. The only place she ever wanted to go was the lake. He didn’t fight it too much when we were younger, but once we got a bit older he thought it important for us, you and me, to broaden our horizons. See new things, go different places.

He asked if I remembered the roadtrips we used to go on in the summer. At first I drew a blank, but as he reminisced about Detroit and Montreal, and the longer hauls to Boston, New York, Chicago, certain grainy memories unraveled that couldn’t have taken place on the patently lugubrious trek to the lake. Crossing borders. Roadside diners. Motels with little blue pools. Watching pay per view TV. American flags. One dollar bills. Big American buildings and endless tracts of urban fare. Going to ballgames and taking guided tours and visiting museums. Most of the specifics are a blur to me, like being able to distinguish one city from another, but dad remembers the trips well. And had to remind me that it was always just the three of us, you me and him.

That was the deal mom and dad made. She wouldn’t put up a fuss so long as she didn’t have to go. So it was that, for a period of three summers there, to the time when you were maybe 7 or 8, dad had his way and took us on two or three of these big city adventures a summer.

And then we all went to Disneyworld. I don’t how much you’d remember of that trip. It was a shambles. Mom wouldn’t leave the hotel room. She trembled and cowered. Barely even got out of bed. After a couple days dad couldn’t take it anymore. He raised his voice (not quite yelling, but for him the effect was the same) and cursed and started throwing pillows and bedding around. It was a terrifying scene. I remember covering your ears and taking you out into the hallway. We were in our swimming gear and had big white towels over our shoulders. You had your diving mask on, as I recall, with the snorkel attached, and might’ve been in your flippers too (you were never much of a diver but once you got in the water there was no getting you out). Anyway, I got us out in the hallway somehow. Maybe we crawled, I don’t know, because we were on the ground out there and I had my back against the wall. Beside the door. Which was open a crack. So we could hear dad’s raised voice, albeit dampered to aggravated mumbles. You were crying, fogging up your diving mask. I removed the mask and held you as tight as I could. You kept saying you wanted to go home. I rocked you in my arms and said shhh. Shhh. Shhh. I don’t know for how long, but after awhile I began to hear dad saying the same thing. Shhh. Shhh. I remember peeking in the door. Shhh shhh shhh. Dad was holding mom like I was holding you.

He was so tender and loving to her. Stroking her hair as she wept in his arms. Softly shhh-ing her struggled attempts to say sorry. When he saw me watching from the door he brought a finger to his lips (quiet). Then held out his palm, fingers up (stop). Finally, he turned his head a bit so that I could see him pinch his nose shut and puff out his cheeks and close his eyes (how he taught me to not get water up my nose or in my mouth or eyes—sign for me to take you to the swimming pool).

Dad figures we went home the next day. From then on he did everything he could to learn about and help keep mom’s anxieties and previously undiagnosed depression under control—and hidden from you and me. (They did such a good job of it that I didn’t know until I was in high school. Their explanation for her behavior in Florida: a simple case of homesickness.) None of this changed how they were as parents. Mom was never a bad mom and, growing up, I was always able to talk to her if I needed to. About anything. And she always listened and did her best to let me find my own answers.

The one thing our failed family vacation did change was that dad started to take his buddies up on going fishing again, like they all did before me and you came along.

As I say, it was a good long talk. The longer we talked the more candid dad became. I don’t know why but at one point I asked if he regretted being with mom. He chuckled and said of course not—and after a short pause added, Dolly.

I couldn’t and can’t remember the last time he called me that. Neither could he.

uu 39 – to marcus 2 (luther’s story)

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20 August 2016 – Beyond the almost daily crazy that keeps going on out there in the big wide real, there are the littler things we go through as individuals. Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in everything we don’t notice. Such is life. But sometimes it takes time for those things we engage in to develop into memorable moments. And what a difference when they do.

About two months ago I began volunteering my Saturday afternoons to a youth shelter for boys. After a couple weeks I was asked if I’d be interested in starting a creative writing group. So I did. I had no idea what I was doing but I was game.

Nothing came of the first session. I set up shop in the common room. Put a sign on the table—‘Ask me about creative writing.’ None of the boys showed interest. But I kept at it. Posted a notice on the info board. Bought some small notebooks and a box of pens. The second session, again in the common room, didn’t go much better, but I did hand out a few notebooks and pens.

For the third session I secured a small meeting room. In total six boys dropped by, but again, nothing really happened save that I gave away more pens and notebooks.

The fourth session saw some dialogue on writing and was perhaps most productive for giving the assembled boys (there were four) an assignment, of sorts. I asked them to think about how they would like to use the time and space. If they wanted it to be like a class, for example, with me providing some form of instruction, that could be arranged. Or it could be an open door deal, like a drop-in clinic—I would be there as a kind of tutor, if that was their preference. I reminded them that the time was theirs and that the idea was to have some fun with this creative writing thing. As a parting remark I added that, if any of them were willing, they could take a leap of faith and start writing.

Bringing me to this afternoon. Session five. Three of the boys showed up for two o’clock (we have the room from two to three, right in the middle of free-time, which goes from noon to five). After a few minutes of aimless chatter I asked if anyone had any thoughts on how we should go forward with our writing group. Silence. As they each had their notebook out on the table I asked them if any of them had had a chance to do some writing. Two had, but neither was willing to share. Trying to stay positive, I put it to them that for the time being maybe we’d stick with the drop-in format. For today, they could stay and use the time to write, or talk about writing, or even take it in turns to consult with me one-on-one. I don’t remember much of what I said after that but by 20 after I had the room to myself, and in all honesty I was grateful. The wind was out of my sails.

Then Luther came in and one of those memorable moments happened.

If taken as a singular event, the moment itself was a compound of my reading a story he’d drawn in his notebook and various aspects of our resulting conversation. The story was straightforward enough, if macabre. A stick figure leaps off a building, hits the ground dead, and rises therefrom, with a halo over its head, to find a home in the shining sun.

On my first reading I watched the story unfold methodically, slowly flipping each page until I arrived at the end. Though I had some o-bomb reservations about the subject matter (no getting around the implication of suicide), and felt a fair bit of trepidation at the prospect of impact as the stick figure neared the ground, it didn’t seem to interfere with my viewing. I found myself paying more attention to how the story was rendered, as if the penstrokes themselves hinted that this was a fiction, that something good was going to happen, I just had to keep on flipping to find out what it was. And when I got there, to the last past, I couldn’t stop myself from smiling.

Luther drew the scene as an animated serial. On the front of each page he used the left margin as the edge of a tall building and the bottom line as the ground. Page one sees the stick figure standing on top of the building (first line). Over its head is a waxing quarter moon. Subsequent pages see the stick figure fall, line by line, to the ground. As it does so the moon goes through its phases: filling up, waning, disappearing new.

When the stick figure hits the ground its constituent pieces (arms, legs, head, torso) separate. Over a few pages the pieces spread further apart and a pool (unmistakable sign of blood) enlarges to cover most of the bottom of the page. Then the constituent pieces start to move back together and the pool of blood shrinks, though a drop remains in the margin on the right. Once the stick figure is whole again, complete with halo, and it begins to diagonally ascend the page, the drop of blood also rises, at the same rate, straight up the margin, growing into a larger and larger circle until, as it nears the top of the page, it sprouts outward lines (classic indication that the circle has become a shining sun).

The haloed stick figure arrives within the arc of the shining sun (now too large to be seen in its entirety) and the story ends on the next (and, no less, last) page with a smile appearing on the stick figure’s round face.

While I read Luther sat beside me fiddling with the cord of his headphones and sighing—clearly I was taking too long. To his credit he let me finish before taking the notebook and showing (and telling) me how it was supposed to be read: thumb to edge of pages and let the pages fly. The scene came to life in his hands. I was so impressed it didn’t occur to me that I should be embarrassed for having missed the effect of animation.

Afterward we talked about his experience drawing the story. He was edgy and pensive but not at all closed. I asked if he had the story figured out before he started drawing. He said it came to him as it went along. To begin with he just wanted to get to the bottom of the page as quickly as he could. He said that he left it at that for a couple days. Then came the idea of getting back to the top.

I asked if he enjoyed putting the story together and liked what he came up with. He said he did, on both counts. I asked if he would like another notebook. He said he would. I gave him a fresh notebook. He held it in both hands as if he had something more to say. I asked if everything was all right, half expecting that he wanted to share a troubling event and might be seeking my advice (something I wasn’t sure fit within the parameters of my volunteer status). He looked around, as if to make sure no one else had come in the room undetected, then cleared his throat and asked if I was ok with him not using words. I was so relieved that all I could do was smile again. Eventually I said something along the lines of creative writing being, for the purposes of our group, about exploring ways of expressing ourselves on paper etc—a long-winded answer that ultimately came down to practising creativity and the telling of stories.

Luther seemed satisfied with my response. He put his two notebooks into his backpack and slipped on his bulky headphones. But just as he turned to go he pulled the ears of his headphones away from his head and said, ‘Oh, and you know, I was thinking maybe, instead of calling this a group, or whatever, maybe we call it a club?

I nodded and asked him to go on.

‘Like a band of brothers or something. You know? Something that’s just us. What’s it? Exclusive. Right?’

I kept nodding and played my hand for him to continue.

‘This could be like our clubhouse. And, well, maybe we’d have a secret password and stuff. Or a handshake? I mean, I dunno. What you think?’

I said I loved it.

Luther smiled and said he’d see me next week. I sat there at one end of the long table in the small meeting room. Hearing through the open door the distant and dull sounds of adolescent boys enjoying their Saturday afternoon free-time in the common room, down the hall and around the corner. Music, chatter, laughter, pingpong balls and paddles. A beautiful thing.

I was glowing. It was now after three. I got up and finished my shift on a high. Just itching to get home and write about it.

And you know, it’s funny, even if Luther hadn’t turned my day around with his story and his insight, there was still something noteworthy about this afternoon’s session. When I was setting up the room one of the boys, Drummond, showed up early and asked me what I write. Just like that. ‘What do you write?’ I wasn’t sure if he meant what I write about, so asked to clarify. He said, ‘No. I mean, do you write, like, poetry? Or thoughts and ideas. Stories. That kind of thing.’

‘Good question,’ I said.

But as I was thinking about how to answer the other two boys entered the room. Things ran their course and in my disappointment I guess I forgot to get back to Drummond. Not that I actually had an answer. But still.