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 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.