Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fragment 28: Thessaloniki

We were supposed to meet at 7pm but Andrew was always late.

I got there, punctual as usual, and slid into one of the booths at the back.

Jackson's was busy, even for a Friday, and I was lucky to get a spot. Waitress, pale, skinny, unfriendly, was a composite of every girlfriend I had ever had. I should have made a one had told me to fuck off in days.

I ordered a plate of the Tandoori style wings and a Corona and watched the start of the hockey game on the big screen TV they had across the far side of the bar.

I was working on dead soldier number two and the first period was ending when he finally got there. Still in the office clothes, dark blue sports jacket, crisp white shirt with light yellow tie, pants that almost seemed freshly pressed. Remarkable how he could pull that off.

He worked a quick ten minute walk away, and I knew there was no fucking chance he had stayed late at week's end, so I had a pretty good idea that he had had a few before coming.

Usual small talk to start. Andrew never said anything important until at least the third drink.

I had met him in university. Fifteen years ago now. He had joined the same drama club I had. Took me just a couple of meetings to realize that he was after the same girl as well.

Solely at a Liberal Arts College would you read Moliere and Arthur Miller as a way to get laid.

In the end he married Klara.

I only...well, we never really talked about that.

Paul, look, things between Klara and I are finished....she asked me for a divorce....

Quiet descending as the girl came with his scotch. A young looking pseudo-cowboy with an acoustic guitar was tuning up on stage and the business women in the dressy outfits behind him suddenly laughed loudly. He looked down, eyes averted, almost as if embarrassed.

What are you going to say?

I said what we all would say. Why? Have you tried counselling? What about the kids?

It took me awhile to ask the single question of any interest at all... what happened?


Long pause. He smiled tentatively, knowing I didn't believe him.

Honestly Paul, nothing happened...we just...we...well, we just grew apart.

An hour or so flows past, game boring, conversation awkward and uncomfortable, a few too many pregnant pauses. Laughter over past exploits, stories recycled yet again.

Andrew smiles finally, sadly, small wrinkles the tiny blemishes to an otherwise handsome face. I always thought he had a bit of a Cary Grant gee-whiz quality. Infectious and effortless.

Do you remember our wedding Paul?

Yes, of course, I remember. I was his best man.

His folks had gone all out. Open bar, live band, late-night DJ. It was great. I danced with a cute little bride's maid until 2 a.m.

Klara had looked just too beautiful.

It was time to go.

Andrew knew it. I knew it.

We paid the bill and were walking out with the live show starting astride us.

It sounded a decent Dylan knock-off but I was tired.

Paul, was your Dad at the wedding?

My Dad...

My Dad had definitely not been at the wedding.

He died didn't he?

He had died. Two years before. The lifetime of chain smoking had finally caught up to him.

(Withered and wheezing, decrepit looking, so many tubes and a single tear falling from his left eye, fuck I knew I should never have visited him)

I don't think I ever met your Mom... you couldn't have.

We shook hands, odd for us, and then he walked off, dissolving into December dark...

I seem to think it was a Tuesday that I was newly seven and sitting on her lap.

My mother, stern and silent, gazing away from me, chastising for a minor transgression.

My father pulling up in his car. Her face so very sad.

A couple days later there was Dad, Lucky Strike in hand, holding a tea towel in Grandma's basement, telling me she was gone.


At the house that night I knew there was something he was holding back. Everyone avoided me. All his friends whispered. I felt that there was an underlying sense of shame.

I had never seen my father cry.

We lived in a squat suburban bungalow and I slept in a small bedroom up at the front.

Mickey Mouse and Guy Lafleure posters, books of one kind or another, a small radio that I listened to to go to bed.

After Mom died I had this recurrent dream where I would wake up in my bed, calling out for my father, screaming Daddy...Daddy...

Jumping up from beneath sheets, the house would be empty, every corner vacant, no furnishings, no people, no Mom, no Dad.

I would run room-to-room, increasingly frantic, yelling more-and-more loudly, yet, somehow, understanding that there was nothing...


My father would always rush in, as I sat up in bed, sometimes hysterical, and he would hug me, pull me tight to his chest, almost crushing me in his ribs...

Paul... is are is only a dream Paul...

About five years later, when I was twelve, we were driving back from Grandma's late one night. We had eaten order-in Chinese food, but as we left the sky had turned morbid dark and brooding and, when near halfway home, it had opened up in a terrible downpour.

I sat in the back of the old Cutlass Supreme as the torrents hammered harder and harder until, sideways slanting rain blurring out all visibility, my father pulled off of Dwight Ave. into the vacant parking astride the huge sidings of the soup factory.

For a few minutes we sat there, motor idling, Bonnie Tyler on the radio...


There was no response for a moment...

Dad...when Mom know...when she went...well some of my friends...well...what do you think happened to Mom?

My father sat, smoke pooling above his head, lingering in the near vacuum of the Cutlass interior.

When he spoke he never even looked back.

Your know no one knows what happens to people when they die. Some people think we come back again. Some think...some think that when you die...when your mother go to heaven...they think she is there, safe, among the angels.

Bonnie Tyler faded to Willie Nelson and the loud horn of a fast passing truck split the cab of our car as the rain eased up enough that my father seemed ready to go.

That Mom is up that what you believe?

The empty air between us as the car pulled slowly away from the siding, advancing into the now gently rhythmic patter....


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fragment 27: Soren

I ran into Regine at a church function. It was a bitterly cold February Sunday and I, against all of my keener judgement, had chosen to take refuge at the post-sermon social that I had, with true devotion, avoided for many prior months like it had been some horrible medieval plague.

Now, praise be God, United Church gatherings bore, at least at the time, a decided resemblance in their intensity to the average pulse rate at the morgue.

Cumbersome concrete stairs to a room awash with the elderly, where fifty seemed sprightly, a cornucopia of cucumber and tuna fish sandwiches and gigantic carafes of very bad coffee.

Portraits of forgotten ministers and, oddly, prime ministers.

It was, however, exceptionally warm. A bulwark against the onslaught of the seemingly secular snow.

At twenty-seven, I felt certain that I was the youngest, by half, of the assemblage.

Regine, you know, had this infectious, delightful little giggle. It is hard to fully appreciate should you have never had the great pleasure to hear it.

Floating across to me, enchanting, I turned to find myself confronted by this magical girl, nineteen and beautiful, the blue dress hugging the curves of a burgeoning womanhood that was, well, magnificent.

Why the good Lord saw fit that she should find me fetching stands as a grand testament to his relish of the absurd.

Our first date a study in contrast with she so radiant almost despite herself, and I a cad, scruffy and undistinguished in my decrepit, tattered green trench coat, my hippie cords and the bizarre fading fedora that for some unknown reason I wore at the time.


Why deny? She had a certain transcendence.

Anyway, within a month I had proposed to her, and, much to my shock, she had accepted.

Almost immediately I knew I had made a catacylsmic error and not because of her father's frantic, furious phone calls to me either.

I had led a life blissful as it was separate and disengaged.

Impervious to outside influence.

But it is not as easy as one might think to cease to be the object of someone's affection.

A charmed courtship this did not turn out to be.

Dear Ms. Olsen.

What can I say?

A part of me wanted you so very much. Just never on terms with which the either of us could have lived.


It all came to a head that day on the island.

Ferry docking with the mass of humanity spewing forth as we two almost wished to hang back.

Walking silent.

Other lovers on rented double bikes or afloat in giant swans.

Us, no more communication. Your eyes sad.

Making our way through the island's farm, from seven to seventy-seven this sea of people, all apart, unknowing, yet somehow entwined, somehow connected.

The proof of any lack of meaning in this parade of the mundane stemmed from its own absence.

There was no climactic fight but as you climbed into the back of the taxi, without farewells, it was clear.

I must say, though, that the photo you sent me of you, Joseph and the newborn sits on my refrigerator door.

It makes me tremble a little bit inside every single day.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fragment 26: Seneca

First memories. Irrelevant.

Grew up middle-class.

Mom a lawyer.

Dad a prof.

We were the All-Canadian family!

Cross-country skiing on winter weekends. Summer cottage canoe escapades.

Teen years lost necking in the dark in the boatslip.

Hidden, seeming always, beneath emotions lost and found.

High School a blast of the usual shit.

I suppose being from where I was from left too many options. Too many places to go.

Well, I wanted to make a difference.

Change the world.

Went into social work.

Four years of pseudo-Marxist bullshit followed by day-upon-day of driving around the city's projects monitoring people's kids.

I was a prick, a fucker, a cunt, a faggot, a sack-of-shit, you name it. From revolutionary to fifth column for the police. From idealism to...

Well, one day Celeste's father made me an offer.

Seemed the big companies were downsizing. And the one he was high up in needed a shoulder to cry on.


They needed some brave soul to counsel those who were to be cut and to encourage those left behind. Keep the company cohesive and all that.

It paid over double what the city did.

By then I had kids to raise, and, after all, these folks needed help.


If you don't work within the system, how can you change it?

And that is the point...


Anyway, by my second year I had supervised the effects of twelve hundred layoffs. The counseling was always the same.

The tears. Fears.

What about my family?

I don't understand, I always did what you wanted me to.

I'll change....

I'll do anything...

They never got it.

There was, no joke, absolutely fucking nothing they could have done.

The company needed to satisfy some anonymous set of invisible shareholders. Their families were, in the final analysis, of no consequence.

Peripheral to the broader vision.

Eventually, come mid-December, they flew me out to Winnipeg for another round of purges.

One hundred and twenty seven employees.

One third of the office.

A pre-Christmas Santa Claus surprise.

Most of the sessions were the usual shit, but towards the end of the second day this middle-aged guy, crumpled suit, dirty collar, five o'clock shadow that seemed semi-permanent wanders in.

Now, remember, the counselling is voluntary. People come to let it all out.

But this guy, he just kind of sat there. Said nothing for ten minutes.

It was really unnerving.

Finally he reaches down into the blue canvas bag he had brought and pulls out a .38 caliber revolver.

Places it gently in front of him on his side of my desk.

I thought of lunging for it, then thought that that was a rather insane idea.

George Crandell, it turned out that this was his name, gives me a little, I guess ironic, look.

I came here today to kill them. I was going to go up to senior management, floor three, and put a bullet into everyone of their fucking heads. Fantasized about it all night. The chaos. Their screams.

God it would have been great. But you see the problem is that it is not them, its me. The failure lies within.

Now that, of course, was total horseshit, and without encouraging him to revert to his original plan I was about to say as much. But he snapped the gun up as I started to speak and shot himself in the side of the head.

The only words I managed to get out were hold on now before his life dissolved into a crimson cloud of blood and brain matter.

Saying I was in shock would be to understate matters significantly.

Gazing emptily at his half skull. A glazed look in the eyes.

After the police, I recall that I called Celeste's dad and told him that I was done. Forever.

She and I separated shortly thereafter.

A couple of years later I was in this antique shop in Kingston, right near Queens. Full of all manner of junk and ephemera. I have no idea what I was looking for. Just looking.

Moving aside old military uniforms. Shifting through dusty prints. Thumbing pages of leather bound volumes of Dickens and the Bard.

I saw that behind some ancient, tattered, dangling Soviet banner was a hidden shelf. Drawing it away there he was, Seneca, looking at me.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Fragment 25: The Story of N.

I first met N. at the Tropical House. It was the centre point of the little touristy seaside town that I called home.

She was looking prim and proper, black skirt, dark, opaque, stockings, striped man's dress shirt.

I can't say why but I could not stop looking at her.

Coy, flirty but pretending not to be, she would glance back with head slightly lowered, briefly meeting my gaze.

That first day she left after but a few minutes, brushing airily past, making sure I felt her ever so slightly.

This became our ritual. Same time everyday. Same tables. Many weeks past. This obsessive repetition the Ptolemaic focus of all I did. I was utterly incapable of placing her out of mind.

Then, a Tuesday, nearing the end of season, leaving as always, she dropped the key upon my table as she was drawing past.

It was like a bolt of pure energy had rushed down my spine.

I waited a reasonable amount of time before making my way across the pier to the Victorian beach front hotel where she had evidently spent these summer nights.

Heart racing, mouth dry, I chose stairs over elevator and climbed my way up to 406.

Unlocking the door, not bothering to knock, she fully dressed, same as always, leaning seductively by the open windows, clean fresh ocean breeze cutting stifling afternoon heat.

I made to speak, but she put her thin fingers to her lips and it was clear that I was not to.

Motioning me over to the bed she came across and lay me down.

At bed's end she pulled her stockings off from beneath her skirt, revealing nothing.

Crawling eternally across me she bound my hands with them as I lay, quietly acquiescent.

Closing my eyes she put herself gently down upon my face. Warm, moist and salty, she rubbed, slowly at first, then with increasing vigour, up and down atop me. Deep breathing turning to soft moaning to the delightful squeal of release.

Turning, she lowered my pants and took me in her hands. I was engorged, throbbing with desire. Licking her thumb and forefinger, forming a tight O, she ran it slowly, stimulating only the very top of my head. As I began twitching she went further and further down my shaft, until ultimately swallowing me into her mouth.

Sucking me, still stroking me all the while, she forced herself atop my face, violently now, suffocating me, gushing wet, filling my mouth with her taste, moving so that now her anus was brushing me as well.

As I was about to explode she quickly abandoned my cock and sat upright, cumming loudly, harshly, all decorum now shed.

Several minutes stream by. She remained still there, atop her perch.

Swinging about she took me in her suddenly, her face buried in the pillow beside mine, up against my ear, actually speaking, whispering, yes, but nasty.

Cum in me you pig, get your dirty little reward...

I tried desperately to hold on but could not, exploding pathetically mere seconds later.

Untangling my hands, wordless, putting her stockings back on, she opened the room door.

I, clearly, was now to go.

As I slunk by she stopped me briefly.

I am N.

The next day I went to the Tropical but she, of course, was not there.

Reaching the hotel I knew she would be gone, and she was.

Now every summer, solitary at the table, hoping in vain she will reappear to end my lonely vigil.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Fragment 24: Uprising

When Jonah was eight the doctor told us he was going to die.

The cancer was irreversible.


Janice cried for days.

All I can remember is putting Jonah in the backseat. Strapping him into the booster. Nothing at first changing, yet all different. Looking into innocent eyes not knowing.

Am I sick dad?

How is it that a single brilliant sunset can seem eternal? Is it the grasping, the determination not to let the moment pass?

Six months before his...

Well, six months before, Jonah begged me to put him into the local baseball league.

Weak as he was.

Saturday after Saturday wondering why we were bothering. Volkswagen mini-vans to diamonds in parks across town.

He was truly very, very bad.

Couldn't catch a ball.

Never made a throw.

Struck out every time.

Thing was, last game of the season, team already out, stifling hot.

So skinny, so frail.

Refracted sunlight.

He got under it. He actually got under it. The only time.

Up late, final approach.

Janice and I all but done. Married in name only.

She angry...not at me, just angry.

You know, absolutely, he will never play in the big leagues, little leagues, any leagues.

I understood. But she was wrong.

He would play in a league. Of his own creation, yes. But nevertheless a league. And his moment would be as permanent as any from Barry Bonds or Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle.


A 4 foot tall Spartacus.

That's how, when I do, I recall him.

Fragment 23: Blindly

Bright lights on Houston. Up, as always, far too late.

Counter-intuitive this, you and I, rationalist and artist.

Who would have known?

Dark skies over the house, waves loud out the window.

A kind of blissful isolation.

Perfect mornings, days even, in your arms, in your orbit.

If it is all a blaze of glory, then this was a glory differed. A sublimation of self.

A sense of stillness stemming from another.

And now not knowing you.

Not knowing you.

Red skies in the morning.

A sailor's warning.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fragment 22: Golgotha

Amanda was seventeen when I first met her. Perfect cute in a tight blue sailor's suit.

It was a company function and she was the boss' daughter. Thirty years younger than me.

But that was hardly an issue. After all, I was gay.

Shivering outside, white fluffy film glossing over Bay St., cigarettes glowing in the financial tower dark, only taxis and city trucks about. Waiting for our ride.

What a laugh she had. Whirling Dervish intense. We hit it off instantly.

I was rebounding and needed company.

She was a gal who liked to be around a guy in a Hugo Boss. Take him to clubs. Wanted him nice and old. Wanted to be sure he would never try to touch her.

Since my ideal mate was Wendel Clark at the time, no danger.

Dizzy drunks, doing lines in the too hot condo, beginning and end of night.

She absolutely fucked the sleaziest looking guys. Pubic beards. Grunge band wannabes.

At the time I guess any lad looking like Kurt Cobain made 'em all breathless.

She would scream and moan and all that noisy shit, while I was often on the sofa praying not to puke from tankloads of tequila.

When I met Paul I settled down, but not Amanda. She went roaring on.

767, engines loud, coming in to land through a light summer rain, rivulets trailing off the wing. Tired, business trip gone bad, no deal, now fifty-eight and feeling every decade of it.

Airport terminal was airport terminal white and airport terminal bright.

Dragging luggage along, tie loosened but still on, people criss-crossing, journeys either at beginning or end.

Standing in the shelter, limousines advancing and there is Jack. Amanda's dad.

I had left his company eight years gone by.

Philosophical differences.

Adam, so good to see you, thought about calling.

How is Amanda?

It seems she wasn't well.

It turns out she had hit the needles after I had known her.

Around '93.

Even with the new drug treatments she was dying.

Western Hospital, a brown, bleak colossus, stark and Stalinist against a humid, melting sky.

Down long depressing corridors to room 401.

I brought a potted plant.

What the fuck was I thinking?

She was so frail. So weak. The life all but gone.

She still had that in imitable smirk. That special curl of the lip.

I hear you became a social worker. Did so much good for so many.

For all the good it did her.

Hand held out towards me, fingers still so long, so lovely, curled with mine.

Can't imagine why, but I made a promise.

Two years pass, me in jeans, Paul playing at host, pouring infinite cheap wine into plastic cups.

Community centre finally open. People filing through sliding doors. The mayor thanking me during an informal speech.


It was all misplaced. I was never the one...

It was her, a portrait hanging on the wall of my new, very tiny office. Right between my old brass crucifix and my framed copy of her favourite Degas.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fragment 21: Niagara Falls

Was I crying at her funeral?

As I should have been. As expected.

Car pulling into driveways. Old Volvo. Never worked.

House, fully detached on Brookside. Not far from the train tracks.

At night, in summer, still light, I would be out, watching as she came home.

Good evening, my little boy, she would say.

Tall, beautiful, rigid with briefcase.

Ahead of her time.

Did she know, even then, that she would be leaving?

Long days. Yelling matches. Threats. What happened to them?

Me, on the stairs, terrified as she said she would take us away.

To Calgary.


I did not want to go to Calgary.

Final episodes.

Could I have, should I have, known that the sky would fall? That it was almost all over.

End moments I recollect. She, in blue, imposing, at street corner.

Me on my Big Wheel. Smiling.

Looking back at me that one last time. Preserved in memory at the junction with Woodbine.

Did she wave?

Father with the tea towels in the am.

What is it?

Your mother...

is dead...

Years later knowing it was suicide.

Abandoning me.


On purpose.

Why did you do it?

I was so young. Loved you so much.

Funny, decades sliding by, a kaleidoscope of time, remembering of all things...

You, my mother, laughing.

Outdoor international food court at the Exhibition.

We had Gyros from the Greek Pavilion.

Sister just two. Fighting for notice.

Day perfect. Spotless. Bright.

You leaned forward, Mama, and you touched my face.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Fragment 20: Sisyphus

When I was working in transportation in the early nineties the bottom, for a time, fell out of the commercial real estate market.

I mean it fell out...they even stopped building some projects that had started. Partially constructed. Sitting as monuments to capitalist folly for many years to come.

In the shadow of one of these lay this odd little street named by a fucking expired dogooder

Temperance St.

And on it was this total dump of a bar where the guys who worked on the road would hang out.

This was a dump. I don't know why I ever went in there without a fucking Hazmat suit.

Full of smoke, smelling of stale beer, piss and puke, bargals who thought they had got off easy if it only turned out to be genital warts.

All right in the heart of the financial district!

Some of the poor fucks even ate there. Claimed the food was great. I wouldn't have given a flying fuck if Julia Child had been flipping hash behind the counter, there was no fucking way I would have eaten anything served up there. Not had it been the last joint in town.

Now I was an office lad and normally we didn't hang there.

They didn't want us.

But I was an exception as I had fixed a couple of problems for the boys over the years.

The last night I ever went was an August Monday. It was hot. The kinda hot you felt all over, especially if you had an asshole for a boss who substituted requiring us to wear suits all summer for medieval torture implements.

Oh, he wasn't so bad. Just old world.

Anyway, I was hoping Nora would be there. All skinny and skanky.

She was the cat's meow.

And she had the virtue of not yet being a regular.

No such luck, gal blew me off.

Instead there was some gang of losers from a competitor and Darren.


That guy was a genuine rat bastard.


Born mean.

Built like a brick shithouse, so he could get away with it.

The second I walked in I knew he was in one foul mood.

Guaranteed an interesting night though, so I sat down.

Surprise, surprise.

Seems he and some truly ugly fucking lanky biker looking guy at the other table were having words.

They weren't exactly Emily Post.

Trouble was that Bob's your uncle had four friends.

Darren was one of mine, so I had his back.

Nonetheless, not good odds.

Then the fella made a mistake, as dumb fuckers often do, and actually got up by himself and went to the bar.

Darren never missed a chance.

Jumped right up behind the guy and slammed his face on-down, full force.

Shattered his nose.

His buddies were fast and all, but the fortunes had shifted and after some circling and a little church talk they scurried out of there, their fight all done and their pal pretty rough.

Night went on.

Many, many beers.

I kept hoping Nora would drift in.

Instead, only a couple of old timers every now and again.

3 am rolled around.

Trish our less than stellar server had had enough.

Darren stands to go and falls right over. Like he'd been hammered by Ali. Table down, broken glasses, you know the rest.

Trish just furious.

Laughing he bounced up and, no shit, out with the car keys.

Look, I am as big an opponent of law in general as the next guy, but you must be joking.

It took me fifteen minutes to get those keys off of him. I had to block the door. Beg. Yell. Wrestle.

He called me every name known to man. And a few not.

I felt pushing his sorry ass into the cab was a personal victory.

Handed the driver twenty bucks.

Somehow found my way home.

Next a.m. I could barely get out of bed. My head hurt so fucking much I thought it would explode.

Stumbled into the office. Must of reeked like a Front St. brewery.

My mouth Sahara parched.

When I saw Lisa crying I was sober quick enough.

Everyone looked so fucking glum.

Jake was a prick but he was the first I could find who would talk.

What's up?

It's that driver Darren

He's dead.

Dead, what the fuck do you mean he's dead?

Got out of a cab at 3:30 am last night and a blind drunk bastard ran him over as he crossed the street to his house.

Killed instantly.

Well, fuck a duck.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fragment 19: Number Ten

Like sheep, pressed together, the bodies of strangers up close, the trip down Spadina's dedicated lane.

Off at Dundas.

Stumbling forth, too many times drunk. Late nights, past fruit stands, vegetable displays, Vietnamese subs at a dollar a pop.

Cold Januaries, Februaries, 20 below,hustling in for our fix. Always a Number Ten times two.

Mere minutes later big steaming hot bowls of Shrimp Dumpling Noodle Soup.

Sometimes our own table. Sometimes communal round tables, packed with focused eaters even at 2 am. Horrid fluorescent lights blazing bright. Tacky, afterthought decor.

At some point the 134 would appear. The Chinese greens with a side of dense, salty oyster sauce.

You insisted.

I acquiesced.

Why do you have to perpetually inflict this on me, I would ask...

Took Paula there the other day.

Place had not changed at all. Even the waiters were the same.

I am older now. Much to be fair. Earlier to arrive. No longer an antidote to clubbing, now a dinner.

Two Number Tens.

A sizzling beef hot plate.

Seafood Lo Mien.

As the waiter was about to leave I reached out.

And a Number 134 please.

You would have been so proud.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Fragment 18: 29 Cents

In the summer after Bryce contracted cancer we rented a cabin for a week on Silver Lake in Muskoka.

We had always wanted to buy a cottage. Figured we had plenty of time.

Bryce was, after all, only 38.

It was a perfectly picturesque little place. Down a long gravel road through thick shield trees.

They had adorned it with all the usual accouterments. Tea cloths with maps of Scotland and Ireland as window drapes. Rusty sheep shears playing at art over the fireplace. Throw rugs hiding red industrial carpeting. Long wooden stairs down rock face to beach and dock.

Michael, he said, this is just so...

We sat in what seemed abandoned deck chairs right out at the lake's edge.

Millions of mosquitoes.

Listening to late night baseball games from the west coast on the shortwave.

The tapestry of stars overhead. It is truly amazing, the band of the milky way.

I had this little digital, great camera, and I took photographs of everything.

You on the boat.

You in the canoe.

You stretched out on the sand.

On the last night you fired up the BBQ. You always loved to BBQ.

Fish, meat, chicken, the heads of Christian babies, it didn't really matter...

You always found a way to put it above burning white embers.

The steak was perfect...properly rare, hot outside but cool in the middle.

You knew how to cook a steak!

When it began to rain we played Trivial Pursuit. It was there.

I would never have guessed that you knew that Danny Kaye was the Court Jester. I still don't know what that even means.

I had recorded it all. Shot a pic a second. But I had not brought the charger. Towards week's end I had gone into town, to the local drug mart, and bought one of those godawful disposable cameras.

Frozen frames of final days.

Seventeen on you died. Michael, you had said, I am just too tired to fight anymore.

When the funeral was done...

When the service had past...

Walking home in the South Etobicoke industrial rain...

God, oh God, I had so loved you.

Three years later, I finally left. Unpacking in the new apartment. With Joseph now, happy.

It was the Monday after moving that I went back to clean up before turning in the keys. I found that disposable camera. Wedged secretly behind cereal boxes. I had long forgotten it. In the shock of your death, I guess I had never had it developed.

Turning it in, days passing, knowing, at last, lost moments recovered.

I was so full of anticipation going to pick them up.

29 cents, the cashier said.

What do you mean 29 cents?

But that was it.

23 pictures overexposed.

1 picture left.

I just had to smile though, as the damnedest thing was that it was a photo of...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fragment 17: Mount Royal

Goddamn them...

They always had that huge cross towering over that Catholic city of theirs. Projecting their grasp down the sides of Mount Royal.


For the love of fuck, why are all you religious people so fucking insecure? Was it not enough to dominate a society for three hundred years? Must we really manifest cocksize with this massive and imposing statement of oppression?

If that is what it is.

Maybe I am just angry.


Even now.

As a kid and then a teenager I had been a choirboy.

Early on I realized that I liked the other choirboys more than the girls that they seemed to like.

I was the one with the angelic voice. Ages after puberty hit. It was the '70's though. Long hair, loose jeans, sad beard.

I was unduly proud of that hair. Down to almost my waist. Thick. Wavy. Beautiful.

Even when I was eighteen I was still, despite all, enamoured with my faith. With the choir.

I knew the Pope, whatever love he may have had, had no love for what I was.

But I felt the Lord in the teachings of the Catholic Church.

I felt the Lord in the joy promised from redemption.

I felt the Lord in the idea of the child who would save the world.

And I felt the Lord when Sammy and I made love. His presence in what I did. What Sammy did.

Fucking Sammy was as close to pure epiphany as I would ever get. I longed for how he was inside me and I longed for how I was inside him. He was an Expressionist painting. He was a home run. He was my hat trick. The man I wanted.

Despite the fact that we were, in the end, barely men at all.

Hard to believe. He seems, in memory a true man. Lying there with me, majestic chest, perfect ass, fine, downy hair.

He lacked all pretension. He had raw purity.

I was in awe. I would have stayed with him forever.

I suppose the Father must have known.

Approaching me one day after practice he gently asked me back to the office. He told me, peering out over spectacles that appeared lifted off some expired Crimean War soldier, that, for me, it was the hair or the choir.

There was, in the end, no more room in God's house.

I was stunned. Disoriented.

Be Thou my vision, oh Lord of my heart,

Nought be all else to me, save that Thy art...

I went to Danny's.

Sat in the chair.

As the hair fell away I could not stop the shaking.

I got that hair cut.

But I never went back to church again until Sammy's funeral in 1987.

I never saw the Father again until the scandals hit a decade later.

And I never sang again...

well, that is not quite true...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fragment 16: Descent

Flying past the front doors of the factory, new job, all decked out for the occasion, finally in management.

I was the poor boy made good. Engineering school. Wearing the ring to prove it.

No more alienation from the means of production baby! What was the old refrain...the working class can kiss my ass, I 've got the foreman's job at last!

Well...not really. I was an office man. Didn't have to deal with the plebs.

After six months on the job I put the down payment on the house. Nice two bedroom in an up-and-coming neighbourhood. Beers with the boys on Saturday nights down at the Canadianna. Foosball and checking out the short skirts. Music always a little too loud and a little too fucking old...

I had the lifestyle. The drugs, the booze, the escorts when the dates were hard to get. All placed on the plastic.

Spiralling forward, twisting, reckless...god was it ever great! Empty, maybe...but at least I wasn't one of these poor married fuckers who lived vicariously through my water cooler stories. Fuck them is what I thought.

It was a Tuesday that you started.

Who is the new girl? Latin. Gorgeous. Features...shit did you have features.


To call you statuesque would have been to give too much credit to Michelangelo.

I, needless to say, had to have you.

As we sat over very rare steaks at The Readcoat Inn, I realized, also, that I loved you. You were smart. Passionate. Committed. Opposites attracting and so on...

What an unusual feeling. Heightened pulse, confused emotion, all of the bullshit. Thought it could never happen to me.

It did.

Taking me back to good-old mom and dad. Dad was what you might expect. Reticent at first. Chilean exile with strong, though not totally modern views. It was his only girl, after all. But a few glasses of the twelve-year old Scotch I had brought later and he was prepared to marry me if his daughter did not.

She did.

Planning the wedding was the stuff of everyday. Each particular detail. Nothing left to chance. Had it rained I suppose I would have become pathetically unhinged.

Magical in pure white, dancing, swirling around the ballroom, hundreds of guests. I mean who the fuck were they all? Uncle Dickhead from Twofuck Alberta. Why did we invite this guy?

Why not I guess?

I even bought a convertible. Two door, jet black. The engine asserted itself. Made sure she was heard. We drove away through cascading waves of rice, July oppressive yet delightful, shades of amber as the sun sets, face at an angle gazing.

Was it only a year? We saw every new production, every critically acclaimed movie. Trips through Europe and North Africa. Why do too much, too soon you said? Life is long.

You changed me. Suddenly, I cared. Went to church. Worked the soup kitchens. Found some small redemption in embracing the sense of purpose I felt in you. An ephemeral connection with the beyond, the spiritual, the eternal.

When I came home that cold Sunday, you were already in terrible pain. It must be just a headache, after all. Take more of the Advil.

Looking at me with closed eyes, the hurt too intense for light, begging me to put you in the car.

St. Joseph's was only a ten minute drive, but by the time we were half way there I knew that you were not going to make it.

Later they found it had been an aneurysm. No way to detect or predict. Random.


Purposeless after all.

For many weeks I could not go back to the house. I stayed with friends. In hotels.

I was no longer able to work, and while they tolerated this for awhile, it was in April that they let me go.

Just as well. It meant nothing to me at all now.

Opening the door, trepidation, plane to Thunder Bay leaving the next day.

Pictures, letters, old bills...too much to process. But I had to.

Making my way through the past like this, however recent, however short, I was stunned to see all these moments.

The strangest thing of all, though, was the small envelope under the stacks of private papers.

Katie & Karl...

All the best to you in your future endeavours...

With Love,

Patrick Jacobs,
Pennington, Alberta

Inside the gift certificate. Somehow overlooked and forgotten. Seventy-five dollars towards promise unfulfilled. Improvements never to be made. Rendered irrelevant by circumstance.

A distant echo of past earthquakes.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fragment 15: Platonia


Oh, Suzanna.

Dancer's body. Perfect face. The traffic noise of horns and streetcars clickety-clacking their way past cannot begin to diminish the deep, intoxicating tones of your voice. Stretching out towards me in that way only you can, loose top revealing just enough, College a blur of humanity in the background. But who, in your presence, could possibly notice?

Beyond you...the abyss!



Darling, have you heard about Platonia?

You, my unlikely intellectual, telling me about the abscence of time. Some scientist at some university southside says it just does not exist. Everything, in a sense, is happening now.

No Future. No Past. Literally.

Topics change. Your big bracelets trapping constantly against the surface. First the antipasto and then the mains. Fresh, rustic bread served on elongated, narrow plates with puddles of olive oil. Cheese courses. Thick espresso and heavy chocolate cakes.

To think that this was the night before our vacation...

The next morning, as we bundled the bags into the limousine and drove through the concrete hell that leads to the airport, I just kept coming back to Platonia.

What an odd idea.

The plane lifting off.

Looking down I fancied that I could see our house.

Jeff must really hope that Platonia is true. There alone in the basement. No way out.

Really...time is not otherwise on his side.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Fragment 14: South Pacific

It was back in '86 that we took the trip to Europe. Giant knapsacks with the Maple Leaf emblem. Holding hands on strolls through villages seeming on surface unchanged by modernity.

What a time it was. One day Monaco, a perfect blur of pastel. The next St. Tropez.

That night was completely still as we stood atop the famous height. The ruins behind us. The sails of the boats below like so many absolutely stiff flags. I held you from behind. Arms wrapped around your waist.

By train to Paris. Through the Gardens and along all of the grand promenades. Slow and gentle sex in the cramped confines of the cheap hotel room. How did we persuade them to rent us the single bed?

Looking out one dusk, naked but unseen, lights out, thousands, almost endless, marching by, red banners waving, fighting some ancient fight or another.

It was past eleven two days later that we stumbled on the Cafe Seine. Like a postcard it sat on one of those rounded street edges, tables under awnings outside. You looked so beautiful with your big brown eyes and your ponytail. As they brought the house red a light rain began to fall. Sonny Rollins playing Round Midnight in the background. Would that I could have frozen that moment. Made the forward march of time stop, right then. No further.

How did our marriage ever go so wrong?

Twenty years later, a Friday, and I ran into you again. Well, I guess I heard you. I was with her at Balfours. It was crowded, as it always is, and yet I could instantly recognize your laugh, your purr. I didn't want to turn around, but I couldn't stop myself.

Red dress, great curves, you saw me right away. Greg beside you was looking at one of the big screens behind the bar.

Eyes locked for a instant, and then an instant more.

And you smiled.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Fragment 13: Constitution

When I was 19 years old I met George.

Tall and handsome. A soldier.

He seemed so...well so exciting.

It was a dance at the Port Credit Academy Hall. Stairway to Heaven and heavy petting. I still think I stopped breathing when he lifted the skirt I was wearing and ran his fingers under the top of my underwear.

It was two months later that I was pregnant. George was fine at first. Then it was off to Nova Scotia. He promised he would be back, but in the end it was only a few cheques and the death notice when he somehow got himself killed ten years later in a stupid, distant place.

I secretly hoped that he had had time to think about it all after that roadside bomb ripped off half of his head.

Probably not.

His son was always a runt. Poor Job. Brilliant yet sickly. Short with glasses. While his classmates wanted to be the next hockey all star, my little Job wanted to memorize the atlas.

Never any friends. Always buried in his books.

When Job was seven I met Scott. He was much older than me. At first, he seemed so romantic. So new. So different.

Then...well then he seemed like what he was. An asshole. Dominating, possessive, mean-spirited.

Still, you know at heart I was a kid. I thought he knew best. I thought at least he came home every night. Or...anyway...most nights.

Scott was always hard on Job. He told him he was sickly. He told him he was a wimp. He told me that a boy like that would never go anywhere in life without discipline. He hated that Job was small, skinny and, frankly, not his.

Last summer Scott wanted to go up north. My parents had just bought a property on a lovely little lake near Gravenhurst. We all drove in his Volvo. A bright and hot Saturday afternoon.

In town we went for dinner and walked along the promenade. Job saw it first. Right up front in the window. It was a scale die-cast model of a Constitution Class starship. Never have I seen him more excited. It was like he could picture Worf on the bridge.

Seventy-five dollars.

Do what you want, Scott said, but tell me how he deserves anything like this at all.

I remember that I could feel Job's sadness as we drove to the cabin. Alone, as always, in the backseat.

It was two days later that it happened. We were all down on the dock. Job wanted to go out swimming. I wanted him to wear the jacket, but Scott just looked at me with that inimitable contempt of his and said well you want to raise a fag don't you.

To this day I don't know why, but I actually listened to Scott.

I suppose at some point I must have drifted off. Scott fled up from the beach to the driveway. In all likelihood to smoke dope in the car.

I awoke to Job's cries. He had drifted far out into the lake. He was clearly struggling.

And I could do nothing. To my great shame, I couldn't swim. And Scott, well I guess it had not mattered to him to stay and watch out.

I could see my son was going to drown. Swim, Job, Please Swim. I screamed at him. I begged him. But he seemed to drift further and further out.


It was as if Job decided to live. There he was, glasses still on, swimming as hard as he could.

Swim, swim, goddamn you swim.

I was most terrified when he got near to the dock. He was obviously swallowing so much water, and he was crying and I thought to myself Please, please don't let him sink now...not now, so close...

I had the oar and when I knew he was within reach I threw it out.

Once he was on the dock he vomited out so much liquid. I still felt like he was going to die.

And finally, out of nowhere, there was Scott, yelling, ranting at Job. You really are a fucking idiot kid. Do you have any fucking idea how much you scared your mother and I? and on...and on...

The next morning, early, I slipped quietly out of bed and went to Job's room. Asleep with his little history of Rome. He was so tiny.

I carried him to the car and only woke him when we were in town.

I bought him that starship.

And when we got back to the lake, I told Scott that he could go fuck himself.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Fragment 12: GO Trains

Every week or two, when her husband was away on business, I'd go visit her. They had a big house on the lake. Four car garage.

He was in finance. Some kind of global banker.

She was...well she was gorgeous. A painter. Nine years his junior.

I loved to slowly run my tongue up the inside of her thighs. To gently kiss her nipples. The way she arched her back when we made love drove me crazy.

We had met by chance at a downtown bar. She was going to catch up with friends. She brought me home instead.

She told me that it wasn't that her husband was a bad man, she was just bored.

I didn't care.

I was enthralled by her.

Or did I care? Truth be told, it wasn't right what we were doing. Yet I couldn't have stopped myself even had I wanted to.

I lived all the way across town from her, and when she could see me I would drive in frenzied anticipation down the expressway.

It was always night time. He would have just left.

One January night she called me and said that he was gone. It was unusually cold. I tried for almost half-an-hour but the engine simply would not take.

I should have stayed. Fuck, I really should have always stayed.

But I called a taxi and climbed aboard one of those monstrous and ugly double-decker commuter trains that criss-cross the metropolis.

As we pulled out of Main Station the wind picked up and the snow began. It was a near white-out. We sped through the city core and I couldn't see a thing.

But we grew closer to her stop, pulling into Mimico, and it all began to die down.

When the wind finally stilled for a moment the snow just hung a silvery screen obscuring the outside world.

A physical manifestation of a backdrop pregnant with ambiguity.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Fragment 11: Casa Loma

Long nights on Melinda St. when you and I would lie still, enmeshed together. The near silence with the kids asleep.

I guess only you understood. The shared pain of the flight from convention. God, had our families been mad. I was the communist Jew who stole their little girl away.

(Faded photos of christian youth camps, you in the front, smiling, skinny, so young, circa 1956)

A million backroom meetings later. Smokey basements at places like the Ukrainian House of Labour.

Never any money.

Who can forget when our boarder, with the unlikely name of Mendel Flexer, left us his battered car after suddenly taking off, not ever having paid any rent.

Next week he'd always say...

I pushed it with Jacob until the engine caught.

Laughter all around.

A cacophony of voices at one demonstration after another.

We did it all.

No Nukes

End American Imperialism Now

Canada out of NATO

Abortion, the death penalty, unionization, revolution...

and all that jazz...

Fights in the backyard in front of the neighbours.

Fucking in the basement with the kids at school.

From tricycles to bicycles, from bandages on knees to paper routes. The kids, one-by-one, on trains to colleges in different parts of this vast landscape of mountains, rivers, snowdrifts and cities that we call Canada.

The summer of '77 was the last time that we were all at the house. August 23rd. I barbecued chicken. Everyone drank cheap beer.

The agent had come by to say the deal had gone through.

I should have been happy.

Marxists or not, North Toronto had always been our dream.

Yet somehow...

Anyway, sweetheart, the other day I went back to Melinda St. It was midday with no one around. Good thing, as I just sat in the car and stared. Truth be told, it was almost like I could see the children bounding up and down dilapidated stairs.

And you and I, arm in arm, off together somewhere again.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fragments 8 & 9

Fragment 8: Dinosaur

When Sam was twenty-two, finishing college, he got into the drugs. My little boy, my little man, into drugs.

As happens with folks like Sam, obsessive personalities, when they fall, they fall hard.

And he fell hard.

I suppose it started light. A few joints here-or-there. Then like a Reefer Madness outtake on to hot knives, cocaine...worse.

His descent could have been a fucking Public Service Announcement.

The late night phone calls started after he dropped out.

He needed money.

He needed to stay tonight.

He needed...well he always needed something.

In the end, though, he's your kid. What are you going to do? Turn him away? Cut him off?

That tough love shit may cut it in some backwoods Tennessee county, but it doesn't carry much weight with me.

This was my guy.

The saddest part of life is loss.


When the final moment comes it is always those left behind who must bear the weight, carry the load. Find some reason, despite it all, to get up again and keep going.

I think it was five days after Sam died.

I got on my mountain bike and I just rode and I rode.

All the way into the city.

I truly didn't want to think.

Honestly, I wasn't going to jump or anything.

I just remembered that when we had lived in town Sam had really loved the viaduct. The view.

I suppose standing there for an hour drew someone's attention. When the officers arrived it was Ron who got out and approached me. Less intimidating.

"Brother, did you want to talk?"

No, not really. But my son, my only son, is gone.


"Can we maybe drive you home?"

I live a long way away...

"No Matter."

They took the front wheel off, put her in the back.

We were about half way when I realized Ron had never stopped talking. Checking on my mental state and all. Keeping me engaged.

By the time we got to the house I was exhausted.

They wanted to talk to Liz without me anyway, so I climbed up those stairs I had climbed so many countless times, went to what had been his room.

His room.

We had long ago gotten rid of all his stuff. Boxed some up. Thrown some out. Some he had taken to school and then sold for habit money.

Yet standing there in what had for three years been a guest bedroom it all just overwhelmed me.

It was like it was fifteen years ago and Sam was in his pajamas. Seven years old and it is all ahead.

What do you want me to read about tonight Sam?

And then it was always the same. Dinosaurs. I want to read about dinosaurs.


Raptor or Triceratops.

The odd part is when you know, finally, that that child is no more real now than they.

Lost forever with no museum.

Five days or sixty-five million years.

It really is all the fucking same.

Fragments 9: Epsilon Eridani

You never know who you are going to meet at Robinson's. It is an odd place. Lost in time.

Strange jukebox with tunes from the fifties. Walls lined with old books falling apart from years of misuse.

Truth is I only went for the bartender. God, she was beautiful.

Head to toe.

Many nights I ran up obscene tabs in the vain hope that she would, against her better judgement, come home with me.

It was very late one Monday, no one there save her and I, when he came in. Sporting a suit, a very good suit at that, he struck an immediately disharmonious note.

Now the bar at Robinson's is huge and yet he sat down right next to me.

"Do you know what I do friend?"

Well, of course not, how the fuck would I know what you do? Maybe you sell junk bonds to little boys in school yards or traffic in shrunken human heads.

"I am an astronomer."


As it turns out Grant (I know, hard to believe) was involved in some comprehensive effort to locate Earth like planets.

It was actually sort of interesting, but it did beg the question, why are you here of all places, tonight of all nights?

Leaning in, conspiratorially, Grant asked "Did you realize that only ten light years from here there is a star whose system could harbour life?"

Well, what can I say Grant, no I did not.

"I will bet you my next year's salary you can't name that star..."

Safe bet. I would be more likely to wake up Natalie Portman's husband.

"Doesn't matter...I'll never find out if it is true..."

Grant stumbles, one Scotch too many to the stairs to the basement washrooms. Pausing he gave me this long, silly grin.

I remember he had been gone a couple of minutes when I knew, suddenly, something was wrong.

By the time I got to him he was seconds from death.

A horrible foam ringed his mouth.

And he was crying.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Fragment 7: Tango

Fragment 7: Tango

I guess Nick was trying to do me a favour. Twenty-two years of friendship so he wanted to give a head's up.

"Tomorrow in the a.m....its done"

All of us know we are going to go one day. Some of us, with cancer or some other godforsaken condition, find out we have weeks or months.

But one day...

What the fuck are you going to do with one day?

It is not like I could run. I knew the deal. Just in case they would have a team in place outside the house. If they couldn't get me it would be Jessica and the kids.

I had no idea what I had done. Said something wrong. Had the wrong friends. Maybe I had looked at Saul wrong.


It doesn't really matter now.

I thought of going and getting one of the girls.

In my business there are always girls. There were even guys too, but my associates would make it a bad day for you if you noticed them with one of the boys.

I had never really been fair to Jessica. She'd had three kids and I had tapped every bar gal and pole dancer between here and Hamilton. Some of them hadn't even been that good looking.

It was like a compulsion.

There was only one place to go and that was to Jessica. To home.

Modest four bedroom. Nice side street. Quiet. Always quiet.

Jessica had cried with joy when the agent had handed me the keys.

Pulling into the driveway I could see her through the window. Full bodied and plain.

I wasn't supposed to come early and she was so happy to see me. Smiling and laughing.

Let's go out...I said...anywhere you want...

The great thing about my business was that we had no shortage of money. The nanny could watch the little ones.

...and then off...

First for dinner and then a show. We were on the way home when she suddenly said " You seem so different tonight...just like the old days."


Tentatively, as though pushing her luck she ventured "Look, I know you've never wanted to, but let's take those dancing classes..."

What are you going to say?

Excited now, she looks at me, bangs just above eyes and...

"Oh it's so week they start the Tango."

I can hardly wait.