Sunday, March 26, 2017

Good Enough

It takes too long to steam the milk, so she pours it into the coffee straight from the fridge.
Makes for a tepid cup, but she finishes it in a few long pulls.
Good enough.

The fridge is brand new, as is the stove.
So is the bathroom sink and toilet.
The last tenant died here so they did a complete overhaul on the apartment, including new floors and paint job.
Sometimes it's easier to tear it all down and start over.

She wasn't expecting this.
Sometimes life throws you a curveball; you're thinking fastball and up you go.
Counts 3 and 2, runner on 2nd, one out, bottom of the 6th.
Ten more outs to go.
You've got this.
Head down.
Keep on swinging.

He would have been 19 this May.
Christopher Harrison Jude.
So many birth names. Never a battle she wanted to wage so everyone got their pick.
He crowned and then stopped when she was giving birth as if to say, wait-
I don't know-
I just-
I don't belong here.

His first attempt was grade 9.
Teams were built, appointments made, plans put in place.
Therapy, exercise, drugs, meditation.
Woo woo voodoo and dark nights of the soul wondering if she falls asleep, will he ever wake back up?

The coffee maker hisses and spits, gurgling out the last drop, the glass carafe steaming from condensation running down the sides.
It's survived the last four moves. She couldn't bear to let it go.
When every thing gets lost, some things become indispensable.
Totems. Touchstones. Habits and structure.
A cup of coffee. A baseball game.
She keeps on swinging.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Lightness In Being

He sits silently, tears streaming down his face, without shame or self consciousness.
This is not how he was raised.
Men don't cry.
They are stoic in the face of adversity.
Devoid of emotion.

He hears his heart pulse in his ears, feels the flush of heat creeping into his cheeks, spilling down his neck under a mass of a thick, dense beard, sculpted tight to his jawline so as to not obscure the landscape of tattoos covering almost every inch of his body.

His body.
That in and of itself is monumental.
Glorious. Hulking. Strong. Capable.

His shoulders shake and his breath comes in gasps, eyes soft and red from weeping.
He takes a long, slow breath, closing his eyes, his hand lifts to his heart as his head drops softly toward his chest.

He's beautiful like this.
Open, available, transparent.
The new normal.
Wondrously so.
He is lighter now.
With compassion comes immense relief.
No more anger or shame, blame or anxiety.

Just release.
Freedom from long held patterns and beliefs branded into his psyche, defining his sense of self.

Then the crash.

Sit down, get back up again. And again. And again.
Until he could stay upright and move forward, of his own volition.
Grace in gentleness.
A lightness of being, all 287 pounds of it.

A sigh, release.
His hand floats to his mouth and caresses his beard, fingers pressing lightly on his lips as the corners of his mouth curl up into a smile.
Wonder in his new found self.

Thursday, March 23, 2017


Bleary eyed and shuffling with the sound of roller bags and flips flops snapping at her heels.
Early morning flights make her queasy.
Not enough time to wake up and get sorted before she's out the door, under fed, discombobulated.

Triple checking to make sure her phone is charged.
That it's with her and not in the cab.
Mike continues to threaten her with idiot strings for the case, like the ones she used to have on her mittens as a toddler.
Keep it tethered to you, at all times, he says.
She can't abide by the workmanlike construction clip he wears on his hip like some contractor on site, precariously dangling off the wide open precipice of the fourteenth floor.

To coffee or not to coffee, that is the question.
Rather, the ensuing result will be an extended bathroom break.
Is there time before boarding? What's the aircraft? A 67 or a shitty dual prop, with cubby hole toilets she can't stand up in.
Hence why she no longer wears heels while flying.
Try explaining forehead welts to new clients in North Bay while pitching.
Never a good time.

It's quiet now.
The allure of jet setting all over the country wore thin about 50, 000 kms ago.
So many miles she can't cash in as the last thing she wants to do after a week in the bush or out west or up north is get back in a  plane and head to yet another hotel or resort under the guise of relaxing.

She can't remember what colour her own bedroom walls are anymore.

Hold On

Wind's coming up something fierce. She can't stand up without holding on to something, anything within her grasp.
Just so happens it's Oliver.

He's holding onto Winston, his tripod street dog from Thailand. Happy as can be, a permanent grin stretched across his flecked brown and white muzzle, bright pink nostrils flaring with every gust, his lone back leg swaying to stabilize his hips as he wiggles back and forth.

Oh, I didn't- I'm sorry, I can barely stand up. This wind...
S'ok. I'm used to balancing for two.

He looks up at her, one eye closed, a permanent wink, corner of his mouth raised, hair windshield wiping across his brow. How can anyone look so calm and composed in the middle of hurricane?

Winston seems to lean into it, like an arrow mid flight.
She closes her grasp on his forearm tighter.
Just so.
It's picking up velocity now. The awning creaks and moans. She's sure it'll be Wizard of Oz time soon.
There's no place like home...

She feels him shift, leaning his hip into her thigh, steadying her.
Comfort in chaos.

Snap! The branch cracks and explodes off into space, up, up and away.
Winston growls, then a hoarse, half hearted bark.

Come, he says. Follow me.
Hold on.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

No One Likes A Parade

Not today.
It's just not in the cards.
Some days are better than others and today- well, let's just say today is what it is and that's going to have to be enough.
An unforgiving morning and Siobhan is struggling to make it out alive.
That's what this pounding headache and roiling gut is telling her- any minute now, this could be the  end.
For better or worse.

Just one more, Siobhan, come on. Drink up. DRINK UP. It's St. Paddy's Day, Siobhan- YOUR day, your PEOPLE. Your battles won and lost, the snakes, the famine, the potatoes, the....whatever.
DRINK UP! Slainte!

Now bands are warming up underneath her window. Since when are West Indian tin drums part of an Irish parade?
The noise, a cacophony of jigs and reels and Spirit of the West.
Dj's on loudspeakers, police ops on walkies, bursts of frantic sirens racing to and fro, angling to control crowds of honourary Irish folk bedazzled in green felt bowlers and peel and stick transfers, slathered in dollar store face paint.

It's 11 am on Sunday morning, lord jesus mary mother of god make it stop.

Feckin friends. Louder than bombs. Curled up like cobras ready to pounce on the slightest sign of weakness. Drain a pint, blink, another appears. Kegs of Guinness and trays of green shots. Siobhan's right thumb is stained orange, her left eyebrow slightly askew. There is metallic shamrock confetti on the inside of her armpit, trickling down her ribs.

Please,  please, please, she thinks. Make it snow. Or rain. Spontaneous volcano eruption. In Toronto. Something to shut this shitshow down.
Never again, she says.
That was the last time, I swear.
Every. Single. Year.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


It sounded like the hose was pointed directly at his window.
Full blast.
The kitchen rang with the rising hiss of an unexpected summer storm.
The best kind.
Hot and humid, a tropical rainforest in the middle of the city.
Paul heard the thunder and watched Billy vibrate in his sleep, paws twitching a slow motion gallop, a scattered, off beat cantor.

Gets him out of chores for now.
Thank you, global warming.
Can't very well trim the hedge with the electric weedwacker while it's storming out now, can he?
Or pinch off the new growth and tie up the weeping boughs.
I mean, it's not like he WANTS to get electrocuted.
Not today, at least.

Why Glenda wanted all this property to manage, Paul will never understand.
There's not a landscaping bone in his body.
Sure, they had romanticized the idea of living off the land together, growing their own herbs and heirloom tomatoes, handpicking pears from a backyard tree.
He never dreamed they'd actually do it.
"Homesteading help" was something to bookmark under his Tools and References folder not commit to memory like an ancient, badly translated religious text.

It's relentless strife and strain.
He's in debt to Lee Valley. She's wish listed 3 catalogues alphabetically.
He married a closeted Mennonite.
If she asks to build a barn...

The small pointed comments, posited as musings- whether the tomatoes and eggplants will be harvested by week's end because you know, caponata needs to happen. 
And kale- is their enough kale? 
Too many scapes?
What the hell does one do with garlic scapes, anyway?
Like chives on steroids.
But not.

The thunder booms, in fits and starts. Pools of water form around the driveway.
Billy whimpers, shuffles his front paws and covers his nose, burrowing into Paul's lap.
He knows what's going on, the dog always knows.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Overstayer

God damn, she's driving me crazy.
On and on and on.
The incessant wail of her screamed-sung anthem blasts from the speakers.
The desk is shaking.
She sounds like a ferret on fire.
Jesus woman, put a sock in it before I drown you in someone else's sorrows.
Two months, that was the deal.
One hundred and thirty two days, 14 hours and 16 minutes later, she has completely worn out her welcome.
My hospitality hit the road after the neighbours left a threatening note regarding her compunction for spontaneous late night drum circles.
On the front lawn.
With an old marching band bass drum she found at the Sally Ann down on Fourth.
At least the constable looked good in a uniform.

I've tried.
I really really tried.
Two sets of 600 thread count sheets stained to oblivion, one incinerated crepe pan left in the oven and set to broil, nearly burning down the house.
Shades of pink in all my whites.
Inhaling the final bar of my emergency crisis chocolate stash while using the last of the imported Maui coffee beans then breaking the french press.
And now the hell of her new "music".
Thank you Garage Band, for making everyone believe they've got the music in them, too.
I'm quietly packing what's left of her possessions and leaving them bundled on the sidewalk with a note saying I've sold the house and have moved to Anchorage.
I hear the weather's warmer there.

She'll be fine.
Someone else's heart will skip a beat when they see her come running, arms wide open, a human tsunami of chaos and good intentions.
I should have changed the locks 73 days ago.

Friday, May 9, 2014

She Wants To Ride Big Waves

There's no joy here.
That's what she thinks when she looks into his pale blue crystalline eyes.
A coolness settles around him. Tentative, guarded, quiet.
Or mastered. Half a dozen of one...

It didn't take her long to realize he was something other than what she was used to.
L'autre, as they say.
No wham bam thank you m'am
How YOU doin'
Jesus woman, you make me weak in the knees
sorta bloke.

Even his eyewear is sedate.
There's a half smile occasionally withdrawing into a smirk. Unknowingly.
A learned reflex, a laugh out loud withdrawn too soon. At this stage of the game, it's bred in the bone.
Restraint. Observational engagement.
Small ripples run deep. There's an undertow drawing her in but she can't tell if it's her own volition or an actual tidal pull.
Full moon fever.
He ebbs and flows.
She wants to ride big waves.

There's a quality of grace and wonder, a generosity of spirit that spills forth from  her every cel.
A lightness of being seeking communion in passion.
There's no joy here.
He doesn't feel her grace.
Concession is born of malleability.
She won't find it in him.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Politeness Is Overrated

"I think that went well, don't you? Not too painful, I hope."
Nothing's quite as inspiring as this man standing before her, flop sweating, blissfully unaware of his awkward courting.
He means well, she knows this; but "not too painful" still involves a whole lotta work on her part.
Oh, that's mean, she thinks.
Bad, bad Julia.
Be nice, play well with others.
She glances at her phone and knows if she can extricate herself now there's still time to hustle home and pour herself a tumbler of Red Breast before she has to call it a night.
Finally satiate her palate.
It's clear to her.
She likes her own company the best.

She did discover a hip new local, though, populated with an unexpectedly queer positive crowd kitted out in matching plaid button-downs and ironically sloganed t shirts: I'm OK, You're OK.
Their server was a close talker, gregarious, maybe high, maybe happy, with a pop culture awareness that disappeared at 1987.
The year she finished high school.
She's getting old.

Or tired. Half a dozen of one...
Alison convinced her to be brave, give the sweet kid a shot.
The fact she called him kid...
Maybe in a different time, different place he'd make sense to her.
She'd shuck and jive, tilt her head, drop her chin, casually brush her hand on top of his and lean in
Just So
Smile from the corner of her mouth,
Watch him watch her as the smile crawled up to her eyes as she held  him down with her gaze.
An alternate reality.

No sliding doors here so this one's gonna go back in the water.
Let him reach his optimum potential.
Preferably with a woman who can drink him  under the table and engage in ways she no longer cares enough to fake, just to be kind.

Politeness is overrated.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Good, Not Great

She hits the down button.
Two hospital admin types, young women in almost stylish outfits, the ones afforded on entry level salaries, wait on a car going up.
The elevator arrives, doors open, she steps on then realizes she's going up.
Force of habit, she says aloud to no one in particular, pavlovian response.
The two women sort of smile as they study the floor, suddenly intensely awkward and private.
She gets louder as she backs out of the car.
Doors close and she hovers her finger over the already illuminated down button.
Right, just did that.

It's quiet here, far from the madding crowd.
Emerg was busy, mainly the geriatric crew. A few indigent and drunk and disorderlies draped over chairs, hanging out of gurneys, buried under sheets and gowns, moaning, rambling incoherently.
It's the large-and-in-charge paramedic night: 4 teams of doughy young men stand sentinel with their wards, buried in paperwork, bored with the hurry and up wait logjam of daily deliveries.
She walks though the chaos invisible to everyone, an able body in motion.

It could be worse. It could always be worse.
It's just a visit, not an admission. No tests, no examinations, no poking or prodding or radiating. No electro shock therapy.
Not this time.
All around her people are in crisis or stasis. Somewhere between recovery and death.
It's a matter of degrees. Well versus not well.
A good week. A bad year.
She has good days more often than not. There's hope in that.
Stable is a good thing. Relapse, not so much.
Although there are times she misses the thrill of the ride, free falling ninety miles an hour into pandemonium.
Eventually finding her way back to stable ground proved to be her undoing.
She will never be well, not really; we're all a little bit ill at one time or another.
For now, she's good. Not great, not terrifically fantastic.
Just good.
And today that's good enough.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Aftermath

Three glasses in a week.
One on the floor, smashed to bits on the cracked grey tiles. Chunks of grout rolling like pebbles, lodging between her toes.
The second in the sink, a slip of her hand and down it goes, shards sinking in a sea of sudsy water.
The third glass, her favourite tumbler, the one with the faded Police Technology logo, all the way from from her alma mater three provinces over, 20 years ago.
Caught the edge of the counter and just like that...
It mysteriously appeared one day in the cupboard above the fridge, hidden behind a set of twelve black and pink flower china coffee mugs. Garish eighties decor unearthed.
A heavy beer stein, good for half a pint of cheap draft- Laurentide or Labbatt 50, maybe Maudite if they were feeling flush.
Probably picked up at a Goodwill or Value Village by one of the myriad exchange students who frequented the house before she set down roots 4 years ago.
Digging up bones.
She sits at the kitchen table, crumbs from this morning's toast sticking to her forearms.
So much to get through.
Reams of paper, bills, notes, and keepsakes she really has no business reading.
But if not her, then who.
All of this, left behind.
Eighty-one years of a life gathered up in two banker boxes overflowing with ancient telegrams, faded pictures, file folders of birth records, land deeds, insurance forms, grocery lists, half finished poems, a dog license.
The bundle of letters catches her off guard.
Bound together with sagging elastics hanging loose like tired limbs, exhausted after years of constant tension.
Pulled too tight they relent, helplessly.
Drained, spent. Done.
She can't bear it.
All week she's been coming apart at the seams. There is nothing left but the i's and t's.
Dot, cross, and so it goes.
He's in her head as she holds the letters in hand.
Above and beyond everything she's experienced in the last few months, this feels by far the biggest violation of all.
His body betraying him, his mind failing; the physical degradation she witnessed and served, none of it feels as personal, as intimate as what lays in front of her now.
The phone rings.
A shot across the bow.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Aging Out

Sometimes she lies.
Just a bit.
Smoothes over the rough spots without breaking his heart. Or betraying hers.
The sin of omission.
It's second nature now.
A slight smile, an imperceptible nod followed with a hmm or an uh huh. He doesn't notice most of the time.
Or so it seems.
The level of disconnect is tacitly agreed upon in the silent storm that brews between them, slowly picking up steam, until the gale force of indifference blows them apart.
He listens halfway.
She stews passive aggressively. Mind like a steel trap, remembering every single word, thoughtless aside.
Half-hearted kiss.
There is hair growing out of his ears. His eyebrows are unruly. This repulses her. His skin is losing it's tenacity around his already weak chin.
All she can see is his disappearing profile.
It used to be his smile and ever so slight gap toothed grin would leave her a wet mess on the floor.
The imperfections turned her on to  no end. He was rough around the edges, soft in the  middle, alluring with his alloofness and emotional unavailability.
Now she avoided eye contact.
She checks her expression. A permanent half sneer. The divot between her brows deepening.
They're aging each other unkindly.
His charisma and talent surrounds him with sycophantic young women eager to bask in his mystery and detachment.
Younger than her. Breedable. Viable. As yet of an age to challenge him back.
She's old. Past due. Knowing. Worn out. Broken in places too hard to mend.
Some bells can't be unrung. The reverberations shake the foundation and it cracks beyond repair.
Their love knows no kindness anymore.
Just disappointment moving headlong  into disinterest.

Monday, January 27, 2014

No Such Thing As a Sure Thing

Sharon stumbles over her uniform balled up on the floor, a tangled knot of grey and blue polyester, slick with oil and smelling like poverty.
Too tired to hang it up or toss it over the kitchen chair she peeled it off, layer by layer.
A trail of desperation and struggle.
She crawls into bed defeated, exhausted.

This schedule will be the death of her.
Three hours of sleep and no end in sight.
Not now, anyway.
Somewhere down the line, he told her. Put your dues in and you'll see.
Trust me.

Sharon's got no time for trust.
She's too tired to play the long con.
Twenty one or slots. No dealer's choice for her.
Everyone's got a finite amount of time, you just don't know the count.
The only thing she can count on is no sure thing.

Twenty three years, she's no further ahead then when she began.
A hand out, a leg up, a free ride.
If she'd only said yes.
Just once.
The right guy at the right time, the right place, the right job.
Opportunity knocked and she couldn't hear the door.
Day in, day out, putting in time, hoping for a break in the weather.
Whether he will or won't,  yes or no.
Stay or go.
She's not getting any younger; years on her feet is hard on one's soul.

Time to rest.
Pull the covers up, tuck her knees to her chest, let the pillow swallow her head whole.
Clean linen can do wonders when you're on your own.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sleight of Hand

"Pick a card, any card."
Kevin flared a deck in front of her with incredible ease and grace, so studied that it appeared the fan of laminated cards was a natural extension of his hand.
"Not now, Kev, ok? I'm not in the mood."
Kevin stood motionless for three seconds then with an exaggerated ruffle he collapsed the accordion of cards into a perfectly stacked deck, his gestures so fluid as to be unnoticeable.
Sleight of hand.
It was awkward between them.
Tight, rough.
Never date a magician, this is permanently etched into her brain now.
She used to love it, the mystery, the tricks so remarkable she squealed with shock and delight. A total turn on. Talent gets her every time.
Now it's one big irritation. A constant itch he needs scratched. Look at me, look at me. Did you see that, can you believe your eyes
He's worse than that actor.
Almost as bad as that stand up comic she slept with, the one who screamed like a girl.
If Tracy wanted needy she'd get a dog.
He sulks, half smirking, muttering under his breath.
"What did you say?"
She's aggressive, too far gone now. She can't stand the tone in her voice when her anger bubbles up. Disappointment, really.
A sense of failure.
Self loathing disguised as blame and righteousness.
How did they get here?
He buries himself in tricks.
Late nights of improv and pick up sets. Booze and buddies and female companions other than
He's going to take the tour. Sudbury, Timmins, Sault Ste Marie.
She tells him to take the large suitcase, the one from their shower.
It's tacky. A high gloss purple, stands out in the crowd.
Something she's not likely to miss.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cool Comfort

Pick it up.
Put it on the table, back where it belongs.
Get the cloth, wipe the floor, wring it out, hang it up and start again.
It's just a glass. No big deal.
Millions of grains of sand fired into liquid molten lava, compressed, blown, turned, shaped.
Cooled, polished, delivered.
It's just a glass. A flimsy, delicate vessel entirely unsuited to the task at hand.
You need the bottle.
Amber hued or olive green. Half an inch thick. Weighty as you wield it in your hand like a weapon. Tilt the head back, grasping the neck as if to strangle the liquid out of it.
Pouring, elbow raised, eyes closed, mouth open.
This is no time for decorum.
Decency has left the building.
Drink, drink, drink
To the last drop then let it roll
Off the fingers, an extension of bone and skin
Cool comfort.