Friday, October 21, 2011

Fragment 41: James Joyce

As the cab pulls up, taxi sign a rooftop beacon cutting as a lighthouse the sheets of sideways rain, wind hard and cold, October dismal, I flick the cigarette butt over it to be crushed by the heavy Friday night westbound traffic of Richmond St.

Sean, also dropping his DuMaurier pre-entry, laughs, running quickly around to use the rear door, driver side.

Soaked through, faces glistening as if long distance runners at marathon's end, horns blaring as the cabbie accelerates straight in.

We are wet rats. Trench coats hardly useful at all. Suits freshly pressed this morning now wrinkling fast.

But who cares?

It is week's end.

Sean smiles sarcastically.

-Think she'll be there?

I hope not. Or do I?

A very short six dollars later, pulling up to the oddity of the doors of the Beverly wide open despite the season. Despite the thunder. A CCR cover is wafting out as I hand a ten dollar bill into the front with a dismissive "keep the change".

Striding fast through the main room, past tables of barely legal University of Toronto boys and girls getting drunker now that it is after ten.

But not I. No not I. Sober still six double Jacks later.

At the table unwrapping a crisp new pack of illegal Lucky Strikes, Sean extending a hand for one as he takes a seat shotgun, a skinny, pale and humourless waitress coming up to not jot down orders she will likely get wrong.

Swooning amorously as she departs...

-I am in love...Sean says.

-With what, a corpse?

He feigns a glare.

I let my eyes wander the backroom. Many clusters of lovely young women, but they were all that. Young. Not for me.

I am thirty-four and they are, possibly, pushing twenty.

Not my style. I have always sort of thought thirty-somethings who bang borderline teenagers are sexual bullies who didn't get any in high school.

Sean, as if knowing what I am thinking...

-Who are you to judge?

-We all judge. I have as much right to my judgements as anyone else.

He snorts.

Now eleven, set drawing to a close, doors shut so the room filling with a carcinogenic fog of pack-upon-pack of whatever brands we are collectively killing ourselves with. Last song an Oasis tune.

And there she is, goddammit, there she is.

Lithe yet curvy, a black on white polka dot dress beneath a bright red raincoat. Dark brown eyes and dark brown short hair. Alone and just so...alluring. And so dangerously beautiful.

Sitting suddenly across from me, lighting a menthol slim, leaning back. Almost contemplative.

Sean gets up.

-I'll be off then.

Gazing up at him.

-So soon. But I just got here.

-Indeed. Alas, I am working tomorrow.

She laughs flirtatiously.

-Tomorrow is a Saturday.

-And my boss is a right bastard.

A short turn to me...

-Adieu my old friend...and may God indeed help you.

We sit, eyes locked, divided by a dirty and decrepit table.

Some little shit beside me pronounces loudly about Y2K and his coterie of wide-eyed lasses giggle and gape in seeming awe. It is odd how rumours of impending doom worry me not at all.

She blinks first.

-How have you been?

-You know, busy.

-With what?

-Nothing much really.

-Don't be like that.

-I'm not. I have been busy. Really busy. But not with anything worth being busy with.

-So is it like that then? Drifting aimlessly from me to middle age.

-I am not sure I would have put it quite like that.

She leans forward.

-That is not like you. Regret was never really your style.

Regret. Is it regret? Or is it acceptance?

She grinds out the cigarette into the chipped glass ashtray, slips another out from her pack and looks away as she lights it and inhales the smoke deeply.

-So what? You were going to be someone? A that not the cliche? What was it you wanted to be all those years astronaut? A fire fighter?

-Well what did you want to be?

-I asked you first.

-I never wanted to be anything. I got what I wanted.

The band starts tuning up. Second set coming. I suddenly feel cruel.

-I can imagine what you wanted. I bet you were one of those oh so precious in pink girls. Daddy's favourite. Dance lessons and dreams of ballet school and Prince Charming.

-Fuck you.

She spits it out. Blood boiling. For a moment I think she is going to leave.

The waitress brings more drinks. I have a whisky and she has ordered what must be a truly terrible martini.

She speaks softly...

-A teacher. I wanted to be a teacher.

Behind us they launch into a cover of Van Morrison. Into the Mystic.

But it is like the musical equivalent of a child's stick figure art next to a Jackson Pollock.

I reach over and touch her hand.

-Why don't we go?

Walking slowly, side-by-side up McCaul. The storm has subsided and the moon shines brightly overhead. No people, only the occasional car or two.

A striking quiet, our footsteps seeming to echo, as on the stage set for a movie.

Across Baldwin. Not a word.

Up Spadina. Not a word.

Sometimes it is better not to ask the questions that we will not like the answers to.

On the street where she lives a very light night mist broken only by the spotlights of the street lamps. At the foot of the stairs that lead to her door she takes my arm and turns me to her, faces almost touching.

-Do you want to come in?

Do I want to come in? I have never wanted anything more. A painfully physical longing. A longing to feel her heartbeat on my chest, to feel her touch and to touch her. To lie as one as we once did, exhausted, spent and together.

Letting go of her. Stepping back.

-Best not.

For the briefest of moments she seems shocked, but then that calm facade of composure that she is blessed with returns.

An intent, almost intense pause, and she is gone.

Watching her slowly ascend to her door, no last turning back, key out...

-I lied.

I say it loudly. She swirls about, close to smirking at me. Expectantly.

-James Joyce.


-When I said I never wanted to be anything I lied. I wanted to be James Joyce.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fragment 40: Paradox

Funny thing that. How many cigarettes did it take?

Unfiltered. We used to go to the market. $20 for the filtered and $15 for the Lucky Strikes.

I always went for the Lucky's.

Teresa had this weird thing. Two tattoos, and an attitude. She could never stand that I was her man.

I can hardly blame her. I had little to offer.

I got drunk in 1990, pretended to be a poet and the rest is...

Teresa always thought she could have done better. And she could have.

But isn't that true of all of us? Can't we all do better and haven't we somewhere?

Strange how it all can come into focus. Rain driving hard on the roof of the car, street lights bright as he leans into me. Grabbing the back of my head kissing me hard.

So when do I see you again?

The Chevy vibrating, purring beneath us, my one hand tugging at his belt, my other touching his face.

And then that night...

The Flat Iron. He had come in a cab. Did he really think that it could go any further? Did he really think we could move past this moment?

Licking at my ear, sad, angry...

I can't see you again....

So, years later. Two kids now growing older. All of us at the pool. My wife dowdy in her one piece and Jonah and Sally being eight and ten. A young teenage Adonis of a lifeguard that I can't help but look at...

And here you are, head lazy lying on his chest. Looking at me through second hand two hundred dollar sunglasses. Pausing slightly to recognize I am there...

A certain smirk.

But I had loved you. It had been my hands touching you. I ran my hands down that back and I rubbed myself across that chest. And I knew that you would not be mine.

I never had that kind of courage, that tender fortitude.

Leaving the daylight frivolities with Terri and the little ones.

Glancing back to see you lift up your hands to grasp his face.

Going down to the Canadianna. Me and the "boys". A bunch of angry and lonely middle aged men. Not the one of us honest at all.

The usual bullshit about how great the wives and kids are...never regret. Never any regret. How you can regret these tiny perfect lives?

Ordering the late night doubles on ice. I take it back, we all regret choices at last call.

Don pushing me..."your shot"

But I see her, through the front restaurant window, past the cheesy slogans, past the blur of pick up trucks and SUVs. Arthur dropping coins into a beat up jukebox, Springsteen and Mellencamp. Late night street worker looking right back at me. Haggard and angry, as if to say who the fuck are you John.

And how to answer this accusation other than to say I am not who you may think.

And I too thought it would all be different.