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.