I'm at a fast food restaurant with Nick and Gerry. They had just finished eating, and I am horsing around with them. While I am normally quiet, when I'm with the boys, I can be quite vocal. I suppose some might find it a little irritating, but most people don't give off the body language that it is. And Gerry is such a charmer (think one of the Campbell's soup kids - I am not kidding), that even if most people think I'm annoying, he'll more than make up for it.
So here we are at our table, me playing toy cars with the boys, and this young lady about 20 or so is just giving me this icy cold stare. I ignore it at first, but it's obvious that this withering stare is directed at me.
"SHUT UP! You're not fooling anyone pretending you love your kids. You hate them, so just shut the fuck up about liking them..." she begins in this annoyed monotone.
"Uhhhh...." is all I can say back, looking around to see if I'm actually doing something wrong.
And then she turns to the guy sitting on the other side of her, one of the employees either on break or finished his shift, sipping pop and reading a comic book, completely brightens up and says in a bubbly tone "That's a cool comic book, what is that?"
"It's Manga, have a look." He shows her the cover. "That looks so cool!" she grins ear to ear.
Okay, whatever. I go back to playing with the kids. A minute later, I look up and she's droning on again...
"Just shut the fuck up already. Your kids aren't special. Your kids ain't nothing. Just shut up already..."
"Ok boys, let's get out of here..." The comic book kid looks as bewildered as I do.
Later on, I leave the boys with my neighbours Gina and Carly for a couple of hours while I do some Christmas shopping. I've got to make a pit stop so I head to the bathroom. There are three urinals. I take the one closest to the wall. I am just beginning when this guy walks in, parks right up to the urinal next to mine, breaking major protocol in male urinal etiquette by not giving me a one-urinal buffer. Okay, a breach of etiquette, but not the end of the...
"Pussy pussy pussy pussy pussy... oh God pussy pussy pussy pussy..."
Really? Jesus Christ. I cannot pee now. Against better judgment I glance over. This guy looks like a disheveled Santa Claus with a hunting cap on. He is looking down and whispering "pussy" over and over again to his penis (I presume anyway). He isn't looking or speaking at me at all.
But I still can't pee. And I really need to go. Two options. Ride this weirdo out or go to another bathroom.
I ride it out. I wish I hadn't. He took forever. And the whole while this is all I hear:
"Pussy pussy pussy pussy pussy pussy pussy pussy pussy pussy pussy pussy pussy pussy pussy pussy pussy..."
Tonight now, the boys are back with their mom and I'm on my way home from watching a movie at my sister's place. I'm on the bus, sitting in a seat by myself, when this guy sits beside me. Fine. But he practically crushes me against the side of the bus. I look over. He's not a big guy, so it's not size that's crushing me. He's just aggressively trying to take over the seat. I expand myself and boundary my personal space. Thinking it's the end of...
Right in my ear. I look over and he's staring straight ahead. I turn back, but out of the corner of my eye, I see him turn his head and put his face close to my ear:
That startled me. "JESUS CHRIST!" I look over at him.
This guy appears normal. Black, mid-30s, glasses, ballcap, casually, but nicely dressed.
But his eyes. His eyes were scary.
"Jesus?" he looks at me with batshit crazy eyes. "What about Jesus?"
"I'm sorry, but do you have a problem?"
\"I don't have a problem." Stare. "You do though." Stare.
"What the hell are you doing coughing in my ear like that? You scared the hell out of me!"
Stare. "Why? Are you some kind of paranoid freak? You want to make me stop?" Stare.
I'm not easily intimidated, but that stare was just something else.
"Don't worry about this guy... he's been acting like a dick since he got on." A guy sitting behind us piped in. Batshit crazy turned around to pull his cold-blooded shit routine on him, but this guy was like 6'4". Batshit Crazy wasn't stupid.
"Let me up. I'm not in the mood for this shit." I got up, shuffled past him and sat somewhere else for the rest of the trip. Several others got up and found other seats. He tried to start something with someone else, but the guy just got off the bus. I got off a few stops later.
That was unnerving, but not as unnerving as what happened in a grocery store a couple of years ago. It's busy, around Christmas, and the aisles are pretty full. I'm shopping and this older lady approaches me. "Hi there!" she says in a tone that's way too friendly.
I could tell almost instantly she had some form of dementia. I nod and am about to go on my way, when she grabs my wrist gently.
"I just wanted to tell you you are a handsome young man, and you are going to die. You are going to die and maggots will eat your burning soul in hell, Wanderer. Goodbye now, dear."
I stopped dead in my tracks. My hands were trembling. There were other people in the aisle that heard that exchange and they were freaked out. Normally, I'd compose myself, laugh it off and carry on.
Except she called me by name. My real name.
I'd never met her before in my life. When I told the woman who was closest to us, she crossed herself and told me to immediately pray for guidance. I waved her off, told her I'd be fine. And normally, I'm a pretty level-headed guy, but that freaked me out for quite a while.
Anyway, I hope the crazy train has pulled away for a while.
Saturday, 1 December 2012
Note: I intended this to run a couple of weeks ago, when it was actually my birthday. Instead I wrote this post and wrote it and wrote it with no end in sight. Sometimes a thought just takes off and mutates and forms a life of its own and I find is it’s just best to let it run its course. This is such a post. I’m still working on it, but I it cut off here and call this Part 1. I hope you like it.
I just turned 36.
No, I don’t make a big deal about my birthday.
No, I’m not fishing for a ‘happy birthday’. I genuinely do not make a big deal out of my birthday, even when I was a kid. I never had a birthday party. It didn’t really bother me that I didn’t. When I turned 11, my parents forgot my birthday. For real. It hurt, but not because it was necessarily my birthday. It just hurt that they forgot something that had to do with me. But the birthday thing? As far as I’m concerned, it’s just another day. With cake after supper. And after I got married, I cooked my own birthday supper and did my own birthday dishes. That was equal parts sad and amusing.
But this birthday is a little significant, as exactly half my lifetime ago that I turned 18, and officially entered adulthood. A lot of people fantasize about going back to the past and having a conversation with their 18 year old selves and I am no different. Truth be told, I have a hard time picturing my 18 year old self. I can barely remember him. Bits and pieces mostly, and the most general feeling of being lost and lonely. Not surprising as I had been living in a different city almost a 1000 miles away since a few months previous. I had been staying with my best friend’s brother and his crazy girlfriend crammed into a small two bedroom apartment. In two weeks’ time, I’d show up to my dishwashing job to find the doors locked and a bailiff’s seizure notice on the door, and then I’d be working in a sheet metal factory on the midnight shift. It was an awful job, but it paid decently, at least for an 18 year old kid. If my life had a soundtrack, The Boxer would definitely be the lead single.
When I left my home and my family
I was no more than a boy
In the company of strangers
Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters
Where the ragged people go
Looking for the places only they would know
I imagine we’d meet in the bar we (‘we’ being myself, my roommates and the couple of friends I’d managed to make in the three months I’d been there) frequented that was a couple of blocks away from our apartment (for God’s sake, drink a better beer!). You were probably tired – I remember you being so tired for a young kid of 18. You were working so much and you really didn’t know anyone yet except for your roommates and a couple of guys you worked with who you hung out once in a while. You spent your free time just walking the streets, getting to know a strange city, with a mumbling monologue in your head that was a cross between Jack Kerouac and Travis Bickle, smoking yourself stupid and starting to imbibe in drugs a wee bit more than recreationally.
I sit down across from my 18 year old self, coughing at the never-ending cigarette smoke wafting from him.
36: Hey, see this? I hold up my right hand. My pinkie finger slants off to the right away from the other fingers. I cannot straighten it so it touches the other ones. A long time ago, I beat the shit out of my dad so badly he wound up in the hospital for a few days. This is why I’m here, and not still at home. I damaged my hand – to what degree I never found out, because I never got it looked at. But my right hand will never be the same again. I can use it okay, but it aches terribly on cold days. Yup. It’s screwed.
18: Draws from his cigarette. He likes to think he’s got a touch of James Dean about him, but he really doesn’t. He’s a kid barely out of short pants with moderately bad acne, stilted, awkward movements, a nervous laugh and reeking of self-doubt. Damn. Still? He looks at his own right hand. It throbs slightly.
36: So? Anything you’d like to ask me? I’m sure you do.
18: Am I ever going to get another girlfriend?
36: Yes. Very soon, you’ll fall head over heels in love with a girl. You’ll say goofy, lovey-dovey shit that you thought you’d never say. You’ll lie in bed together after hours of hot sex with her head on your chest and you’ll feel like you’re the king of the world. Content and peaceful.
18: Is she cute?
36: She’s gorgeous. Absolutely stunning.
18: Wow… how long do we go out? Are you still with her?
36: You guys dated for a little over 3 months
18: That’s it? What happened?
36: You wanna know?
36: Quietly. She fucked two guys at a party so she could share some of their crack.
18: Oh… shit… really?
36: She felt bad enough about it to confess to you, before you found out. Trust me, that’s something at least. She had an addiction, and addiction leads people to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do. She was still responsible for her actions, though. Let’s change the subject…
18: Do we get married?
36: Yep. This one was more of a slow burn, but eventually you fall head over heels in love again. We marry at 27, have two kids, divorce at 34. Another cheater. Except this one lied until the very end, and to this very day.
18: Wow… is this just what happens to us? We date cheaters?
36: Hmm. It becomes something that you become very wary of. You build walls and push good and bad women away because you fear getting hurt and betrayed again. But there are a couple of others in between, ones that end amicably. In a couple of years, dad will apologize to you and you’ll go back to
, enroll in
university and for the first time in your life, you feel as if you meet people
that get you. That and amongst your friends that you left
behind in Winnipeg ,
you return a conquering hero. All of the
sudden, everyone wants to hang out
with you. You seem so cool and so
worldly. Most everyone else is still
living at home. Winnipeg
At university you’ll meet a lot of people, and specifically two women you become involved with. The first one is Mary, whom you have your first year English class with and carry a friendship with to this day. You don’t ‘date’. You’re technically ‘friends with benefits’. Fuck buddies. Whatever you want to call it. You carry on like this for 4 years. The only rule is no sex if either one of us is dating. Believe it or not, this relationship works out tremendously well. She graduated and left to work at a newspaper in a city out east. You didn’t talk throughout your marriage because your ex-wife was really jealous of other women, but you talk now. She is married although her marriage seems to be falling apart too. Although this arrangement worked out well, you were always privately a little miffed that you two didn’t do the usual boyfriend/girlfriend stuff.
The other woman is Kim. You actually date this one for 6 months, which is a record for you. You are wary of falling in love with anyone, but she is loving and patient and kind and she peels away your layers like an onion, very gently, before you even know what’s happening. She is older, 29 to your 21, finishing her Masters degree in anthropology while you’re in your second year as an undergrad. She lives in another province and is moving back at the end of the school year. The clock ticks on your relationship, so you cherish and squeeze the most out of your time together. It was a wonderful six months and she is the first person to really bring you out of your shell. She was a neo-hippie, slender with long, blond braided hair and long, flowing skirts with a small, studio apartment that smelled like patchouli incense and red wine with Lisa Loeb and Juliana Hatfield CDs playing constantly.
Two weeks before she is set to leave, she proposes marriage to you. You are rocked to your toes with the offer. It means packing up and moving away again, this time out east. Her father owns a plumbing and heating business and she said he’d be willing to apprentice you in the business so you’d have steady work. You told her you’d think about it. But you knew (and probably she knew too) the answer was no. Kim was a sweet, sweet woman, but you didn’t want to leave your friends again, and you definitely didn’t want to get married. You told her and she was sad about it, but she understood. Our last weekend together you two dropped LSD, barhopped across the city to all of your favourite spots and made love all night, fell asleep in each other’s arms, woke up, made love again, took long walks, made love again before she left. This will probably go down as maybe one of the best times (besides the birth of your children) in your life and you’ll always smile when you think about it. You tried keeping in touch after she moved away. The last you heard from her was a couple of years later, when she invited you to her wedding. You replied, congratulating her and told her you’d try to make it down. You never do, and you two never talk again.
18: Wow. Anyone else?
36: There was one more that could’ve been, but wasn’t. She liked you and you liked her (you really, really liked her), but you were a little… self-destructive at the time, and she didn’t want any part of that scene. You were a little bitter about that for a while. You’re good friends now, but no more romantic interest from either of you. If you were a little less… intense in your early 20s, she was definitely marriage material. Don’t dwell on it too much.
18: What are the kids like?
36: Your kids are awesome. I know, we’re dad and we’re supposed to say that, but privately, between you and me, they are awesome. Nick is 7, the older of the two boys. He looks and acts so much like us when we were his age. Unfortunately he suffers from anxiety the way we do as well. Sometimes he carries the weight of the world on his shoulders and he strains to keep it all together. Both me and his mom keep a close eye on him and remind him that he doesn’t need to take on so much. He sucks up the environment of what’s going on around him and responds accordingly. Sometimes when I get short with him he withers the way I used to in front of dad, and I have to check myself. I absolutely do not drink any alcohol in front of the boys.
He is a strange kid, but in a good kind of way. He is a lot like Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes and sometimes he does things that make absolutely no sense; it’s infuriating and charming at the same time. He spends a lot of time in a world of his own creation, just like Calvin and just like us. We did it to cope with dad’s drinking. He does it for his own reasons. I suppose we still would have done it had everything been fine. I don’t know.
He feels the pull of loyalty between us and his mom and her fiancée and we’ve told him that he doesn’t need to do this, but he does anyway. He feels the need to protect me. He asks why I live alone and he constantly worries that I’m alone. I tell him it’s okay, that friends come over all the time and I go out and I see them at least 2-3 times a week, but he worries all the same. He feels partially responsible for the breakup… he was a witness to the ex’s infidelity. He was brought over to the guy’s house and played with his kids. He swims in guilt over this even though it is not his fault. This is something he’ll spend a lot of years struggling with I’m sure.
Gerry is a 2 year old glowing little bundle of energy. He is similar to Nick in many ways, and has a lot of Nick’s endearingly goofy traits, but is a lot more laid back. Nick has always, since the day he was born, a nervous kid. Gerry is easy-going, but also strong-willed and does not cave in over anything. This is problematic when it comes to things like bed-times and eating, but I’m actually a little relieved. Strong will is a good thing, with a little control. He has the same incredible capacity for imagination and charms the socks off of everybody who meets him.
18: I never picture myself as a dad. I mean, I’ve always imagined that I had kids, but I just never pictured myself as dad, you know? Are we like Dad at all?
36: You’re very cognizant of behaving like Dad, so you have a fairly strict ‘no drinking’ rule around the kids. You have Dad’s temper underneath the surface though, and you’re short with them and raise your voice with them more than you’d like and for really inconsequential things. You forget that they are kids and sometimes you expect too much out of them. Otherwise, parenthood is one of those things you thought you’d never be able to do until you actually started doing it. You’re a natural. You not only love your kids, but kids in general.
18: What do we do for a living? Did we become a writer like we wanted?
36: Unfortunately no… at least not yet. You write a few stories for magazines and a few articles for the university newspaper. You write a few things for websites –
36: You know, the internet?
18: I’ve heard of it. *shrugs*
36: Well, you’ll start writing on the internet in a few years. And a few people actually like what you write. You’ll slip in and out of interest as things in your life become more and less hectic. After you get married though, you virtually stop writing. You do write about how your marriage is plummeting toward disaster and you gain a small, but dedicated following. And then you write a blog about your life post-marriage.
18: A blog? What the hell is a blog?
36: Short for web log. A place on the internet where people share their stories. It’s really popular. There are millions of them. It’s kind of like an online diary.
18: And people read this?
36: As I said, a few do. But writing for you now is more like an exercise in thinking out loud for an audience, rather than actually writing for an audience. And no, you don’t get paid for any of this. In fact, in the past 18 years, you make a grand total of $255 dollars writing, not including promotional stuff – mostly CDs, tickets to events, books, things like that.
18: So what do we do for a living?
36: We work at an office in the construction industry. We mostly do estimating.
18: I so do not picture us doing that for a living.
36: Surprisingly, even though it’s not necessarily a great paying job and it isn’t what you wanted to do with your life, you enjoy it. You enjoy the people you work with and you’re good at it. You are well respected by your co-workers and your clientele. You fit in there. You make it work.
18: How did we end up doing that for a living?
36: Ok, I told you in a couple of years that you’ll get a phone call from Dad. He apologizes to you –
18: Fuck off!
36: Seriously… he apologizes and asks you to come back home. The offer is mighty tempting. Money is constantly short and you’re living paycheque to paycheque. You really need to sort that out, by the way. Anyway, he tells you that if you come home, he’ll put up some money for you to go to university. You pay up your room until the end of the month, pack up a couple of suitcases and head back to
18: Let me guess… the money never materializes.
36: He denies ever making that promise, and not too much has changed. He is still a drunk, still has violent mood swings, although age and hard drinking has begun to wither him terribly. The inevitability of his own rapidly approaching mortality has left him more morose and pathetic than anything else.
There was a little bit of a honeymoon when you got back, but then when you mention school he goes ballistic and accuses you of being a sponge and you should pay for your own school. You pack your bags again and move out, rooming with friends. You take a job at one of those big box hardware stores to make ends meet. And you basically work your way up from being the maintenance guy cleaning toilets and unclogging drains into sales and escaping the dead-ended surfdom of retail into where you are now.
18: So, what about school?
36: Mom, without Dad’s knowledge, co-signs a student line of credit at the bank so your first year of university is paid for. But after that, you’re on your own. And you manage, until your third year when you lose the job you had at the time and had a bitch of a time getting another job that paid the bills. Up until then though, those few years were probably the best years of your life. You didn’t have a lot of money, but you made tons of new friends, school was good, work, as crappy as it was, was good in its own way and for the first time in your life, you are actually popular. One of the most popular guys around.
18: What happened after third year?
36: You take a year off to gather your wits about you, get back on your feet and finish up. You’re in bad shape. You wind up homeless for a period of time. Eventually, mom and dad find out you’re living rough and offer you a place to stay, which eventually you say yes to, even though you don’t want to. Things get so bad for us, you attempt suicide, which ends up being kind of a turning point for you, albeit a slow one. As for school, you never do finish. You go back part-time for a semester, but that’ll be that.
18: Things got so bad we tried to kill ourselves?
36: Cold, fatigue, hunger, loneliness and depression wear you down. It grinds you down more than you could ever believe. Believe it or not, you and mom and dad come to a truce. You get better under their roof. You grow stronger and more confident. You take a job and start saving money. You get your groove back. You reconnect with old friends and make a slew of new ones. But there’s a difference in you that’s never been present before. There’s a new confidence in you, an indefinable sense that you are in control of your own destiny. You can’t stop smiling. It lasts a while, though not forever.
18: What happened?
36: You start dating your future wife.
Part 2 to follow...
Part 2 to follow...
Monday, 12 November 2012
It’s been a while since we talked, so I’d like to bring anyone interested up to speed on all the little things that have been going on in my small corner of the world…
My Boys: My boys have been doing fine. Nick started grade 2, and while he doesn’t seem to particularly enjoy school he is doing well at most things, except reading. He struggles with reading mightily, and what’s more he doesn’t seem particularly interested in it. He loves being read to, but has little curiosity in learning how to read himself. I’m slightly concerned, but not yet alarmed. He excels at math, and seems to love numbers which is a bonus. I was competent at math, but found it dull and never excelled at it the way he does.
In all other respects, things are good between us. We have a better bond now than we have had since I left, and he enjoys the time we spend together. It seems like a dog’s age ago when he would throw screaming monkey fits on the sidewalk until he was throwing up when I’d try to pick him up for the weekend. In reality, that was only 16 months ago. We’ve come a long way since then.
Little Gerry and I have bonded much stronger since we last talked as well. He rushes to the door when I come to pick him up and is so excited to see me he sings the Spiderman theme song (Spi-ermah! Spi-ermah! Does hmm hmmhmm hmm spi-er can!) and when I drop him off, he clutches me hard, crying, and I have to pry his fingers one by one off my shirt so he’ll let go of me. It feels good to be wanted like that by your kids.
We’re not without our conflicts though. Even though I only have the boys a handful of days a month, it is still hard work, and I do not have a lot of help with them. My parents are shut-ins who do not leave the house, and my sister, as wonderful as she is, is not very comfortable around kids. Gina, whose apartment is next to mine and her teenage daughter Carly have been godsends when things have gotten rough. I often forget that the boys are still very little (7 and 2) and I lose my composure with them more often than I should.
The Ex: We’re civil. And that’s about as far as I’d like to be with her. No passive-aggressive nonsense lately out of her camp. On that front, things have been quiet. Perhaps I think she may finally be growing up. But who knows?
Work: I’ve been working a lot. 50-60 hour weeks in the last few months. This is the meat of why I haven’t been talking to you all lately. I had even taken a second job driving truck a couple of evenings a week. I have been a busy little beaver.
There’s been a couple of unexpected expenses crop up in the last few months. First was Gerry’s daycare bill, which was unexpected (the ex didn’t tell me she was putting him in daycare until the day before he started, when the waiting list is months long… did I mention she was passive-aggressive?) and added nearly $200 extra dollars a month to my expenses, and there was another unexpected $2000 bill that came up that took me completely by surprise. I had two options: deplete my savings that I worked hard to save since splitting with the ex, or take on extra work. I chose to take on extra work. And the good news is that I am once again debt-free and the ex has a daycare subsidy that reduces my half down to $25 a month. The further good news is that all that extra go-gettery at work has caught the attention of higher-ups and the word around the water-cooler is that I’m being tapped for a promotion in the near future. Nothing official has been said yet, but this promotion offers a substantial increase in pay. Like almost double what I’m making now. I’m adopting a wait-and-see attitude, but I’m cautiously optimistic.
The bad news? All that work, eat, sleep and nothing else really depleted me. Couple that with my mom’s illness last month (which I’ll get to in a minute) and I was practically wiped out. So much so when I did take a week’s holidays at the beginning of this month, I got a cold that I have really only started to shake last week. In my teens and twenties, I could put in 60+ hour weeks and still party until the wee hours. Not so much anymore.
But things have calmed down now, so I am not working so much, nor do I need to. Work is work. But it’s better than it has been.
Family: I alluded to it earlier, but about the middle of last month, my mom was taken to the hospital with respiratory problems. Turns out she had a nasty bout of pneumonia that really knocked her out. In addition to that, she is a heavy smoker and has COPD (which she previously denied, and did not take medication for, my sister and I found out from the doctor at the hospital). She was in the hospital for about a week So for that week, I worked 10 or 11 hours, hustled to the hospital with supper that I’d cooked the evening previous, because she was not eating hospital food at all, and stayed with her until she fell asleep. Went home, cooked supper for her for the next day. Repeat for 10 days.
My dad was a walking zombie during that time. My mother and him never had the best relationship and were often on the brink of divorce, but he looked hollowed-out and impossibly older than he usually does, and he’s traditionally looked about 15 years older than his 67 years so he had taken things hard. If mom died, I think he knows he’d be off to a home as both myself and my sister would be unable and unwilling to take care of him.
Anyway, she was released after her pneumonia cleared up, armed with a bag full of inhalers and whatnot, and promptly went back to smoking 2 packs a day. I know from personal experience how hard it is to quit, but she didn’t even try. She didn’t even have a pretense of trying. I’ve never had a close relationship with my mom, but I want to see her final days reasonably healthy ones, not ones where it’s a constant exhausting struggle to breathe. But the choice is hers, and I cannot change her. I can give her my opinion and leave it at that.
Romance: This one is easy, because there is none. Nada. Zero. Nothing. In fact I’ve been out socially twice (not including seeing family or playing soccer) in the last three months. I have simply not had the time or the energy or the money or, frankly, the inclination. My last post a few months ago says otherwise, I know, but I’ve just been too overwhelmed to entertain anything intimate. Until the last couple of weeks, that is. Then all of the sudden, like a ton of bricks, my libido started screaming in my ear directly from the reptilian portion of my brain: ‘YOU MUST MATE NOW!’ over and over about 6000 times a day.
Fortunately, I’m a little older and wiser now, so I can turn down the volume on that voice. Listen to him and follow his advice, and it’s a recipe for not making the best choices. Sex is there if I want it. But it means waking up stuff with a few women in the past couple of years I put to bed a while ago, and I’d prefer to just let it sleep and look forward. Sex for the sake of scratching an itch without any deeper emotion behind it is not that palatable for me right now. That could change, I suppose, but for right now it’s not a viable option. One night stands have become boring and awkward instead of hot and passionate. The next woman I get involved with I would like to be involved with for a good, long while, even if it isn’t on a deep level. If I’m resigned to another friends with benefits relationship, I’m just as, if not more interested, in the friends bit than the benefits bit.
I’m generally happy with the person I am, but this is one area where I wish I was a little different. I wish I was a little more… I guess charming would be the closest word to describe it, but that’s not exactly it.
Back when I was in university, there was this guy who used to couch-surf at our apartment from time to time. He wasn’t special in any particular way. He was a decent enough guy, although very irresponsible as he could never seem to keep an apartment for very long. He was handsome, but his looks didn’t exactly give nuns dirty thoughts. He had an average body, a little on the emaciated side, but okay. He barely ever had two nickels to rub together and he was a pretty shabby dresser as he had one small suitcase of clothes he carried around with him when he was between apartments. But when we used to go to a bar on the weekend, within a hour he’d have some girl blushing and giggling and crushing all over him and after a while they’d be slow-dancing and making out and eventually he’d go home with her (or he’d take her back to our place, if he was staying with us, while we went to an all-night diner after the bar closed). Every single time without fail. We all quizzed him on how he managed to do it and he shrugged and said he didn’t really know, that he just started talking and it all just fell into place.
In other words, he had ‘it’. Be it a certain smile, a gleam in his eye, or some potent pheromones (or a combination of many of these things), it was just something indefinable many women responded to. I’d like me some ‘it’ too. Most of us would, I suppose. But I don’t have it.
I’m not self-depreciating, but it’s true. Very rarely have I ever had that instant connection with a woman. I’m handsome in a decidedly safe and average way. I don’t make women swoon or do double-takes on the street (for the most part, anyway), but most lady friends I know will honestly say I’m handsome/attractive/cute in a generic, non-specific kind of way. I’m fit, but I’m not built like a Greek god by any stretch of the imagination.
What I lack in initial charm I make up for with intelligent conversation and quirky individualism. So while I’m not able to make a quick impression (and often I make a poor first impression, because I can come off as very aloof – in actuality I’m introverted and a little anxious around people I just met), when I’m chatting with someone about something I care about, I’ve captured more than one woman’s attention. I also have a dry, sarcastic, but not mean-spirited, British-inspired sense of humour that some women I’ve met find wonderfully funny. And I am my own person. I don’t pretend. Who you see is who you get. The guy who’s athletic and loves soccer and physics documentaries on Youtube and collecting European folk music on vinyl and playing dinosaurs with his kids. In a sea of phonies, some women have found me very refreshing for this reason.
So maybe in my own way I have ‘it’. Just not in the way that I like. Isn’t that a commonality we all share!
Screw it. Once in my life, I’d like to give a woman across the room a fiery, come hither glance and she’d return with a melting, sensuous gaze and as we meet in the middle, we slow-dance passionately as we lose ourselves in each others’ eyes, our lips touching in a kiss…
Ahem… yeah, as I said, my libido is screaming at me right now. Forgive me.
It’s unofficially winter now. We got a massive dump of snow over the weekend, and I feel that is going to be that until spring. I bought my finest, cheapest winter brandy, and I think you and I are going to get reacquainted.
Tuesday, 31 July 2012
Not at this time of year. This is summer. The time of more doing and less thinking, at least for me. But it has been miserably hot and humid out, the worst it’s been in a long time. I've been playing soccer, but my ankle's been flaring up tenderly with the humidity. I've been doing work at my mom and dad's house: building steps, painting, digging out and laying sidewalk blocks and landscaping, but that work is going slowly. Partly time, partly mom and dad's waffling about what they want to do, and partly the oppressive heat. And of course, Nick and Gerry get my attention over everything else.
Annie was kind enough to enroll Gerry in daycare and tell me, oh... about 12 hours before his first day. She now has her hands out for my half of it. In the past, her mom and sister took turns looking after Gerry while Nick was in school, and we split the cost of feeding them. Manageable. Now there is an extra $178 a month I have to pay out. Now, I'm legally (and feel very morally obligated) to do so. I don't begrudge it at all. But some notice (also legally obligated) would have been nice, considering he more than likely has been on a waiting list for months. An extra $178 a month is doable, but I am going to have to give up a few comforts, cut down on going out and the like, which is contributing to my homebodiness. I can no longer simply quaff a pint at my pub when I’m bored and craving a little fellowship whenever I feel like it.
I have to face the prospect that my current job, as much as I love it, isn’t going to be sufficient to keep me going anymore. And that is sad. I make a decent wage where I work, but it doesn’t exactly allow me to live like a jetsetting 30something playboy. Especially since I do want to spend some time traveling in the near future.
I have had offers from other places over the last couple of years. More money, but significantly more stress and responsibility, which isn’t exactly meshing with my downshifter philosophy. Some might call me immature and irresponsible and Not Living Up To My Potential, but I’m not so nearly insecure about those kinds of comments as I used to be. Happiness is an undervalued commodity in today’s world and right now, I am (mostly) happy. But I’m increasingly reaching a spot where I’m going to have to give in and take one of those jobs. I’ll adjust and manage. I always do.
The ex has asked to take the boys this weekend (my turn), because her soon-to-be new husband is going to have family in. I’m fine with that, even though I do miss the boys terribly. I’m not going to be a stickler for the rules, as long as she cuts me the same courtesy when I request it. And so far, I’ve had little trouble.
In my current spate of retrospection, I’m also finding myself thinking about our marriage and why it failed. I don’t indulge in this too much… in fact, I haven’t thought about it much at all. I was just so relieved to actually be out of such a toxic relationship that I haven’t spent a lot of time analyzing it. I do know that we were both avoiders of conflict and we both have struggled with issues of anxiety and depression. Despite her cheating, which for me was the final straw, there was plenty of nonsense on both sides of our relationship to contribute to our downfall. If it hadn’t been her cheating, it would have been something else, surely.
My stance has somewhat softened with her the further I move on. Instead of being angry with her, I find myself pitying her. She is with her fiancée now, a man who seems content with providing her with all indulgences and whims. But for all of that, she doesn’t seem any happier. In fact, she’s about the same as she was when we were married. Perhaps her antidepressant medication is playing a factor. But I think her self-denial wins out. Annie is just not a happy person. She can fake happy when she has to; God knows we both did it enough in our marriage, but she is a fundamentally unhappy person.
I’ve been to personal counseling twice in my life. The first time was in 2007, there was a clinic that a university friend recommended me. It was pricey, but I had felt painted into a corner, relationship-wise, and I needed some perspective. We had about a half-dozen sessions together and while I’m not willing to talk about most of what was talked about, a couple of things did hit home. First was that I was completely compromising who I was as a person in a fundamental way to conform to what her idea of a husband should be. That was undeniably true, and it was something I knew, but it was especially poignant to hear it coming from someone else.
But the second was a stunner. The second revelation was that, based on what I had told him about Annie, our relationship, our intimate relationship, and her attitudes about love and sex and marriage, it was his opinion there was a strong likelihood that she has suffered some form of sexual abuse at some point in her life. This was something that literally never occurred to me beforehand. And yet it made some sense, and considering the staggering numbers of people who do suffer at some point in their lives, it was certainly a possibility.
No, I didn’t confront her about that possibility. Should I have? Maybe, but I’m thinking that if it were true, it would have been another avenue of denial for her, and if it were false, I didn’t want to make her even more self-conscious than she already was. I’m not sure how she would have reacted if she felt she was projecting the image of someone hiding abuse. It was something I had felt she needed to deal with. I tried to be open to conversation, but by then she had circled her wagons pretty tightly and never strayed out of ‘safe’ territory.
My second bout of counseling began and ended fairly quickly a few months after our separation. The therapist said that I was actually fairly stable, considering all that’s happened and after another few sessions concluded that I didn’t need to see her anymore, but could continue to do so if I wished.
When going through my history with Annie, I told her what the other therapist said and she seemed to agree that she exhibited a lot of the signs of sexual trauma, but was hesitant to make a diagnosis from second-hand information, only that her behaviour seemed to suggest something happened to her.
Of course, I do have a vested interest in our children, so it does concern me that she may potentially carry this baggage and in turn, burden our children with it if she chooses not to deal with it in a proactive way. But ultimately, I’m not her keeper, and cannot even say for sure anything like that has happened to her. She needs to deal with her shitpile as I need to deal with mine.
I find myself steadily craving an intimate relationship, but those feelings have not yet reached a fever pitch. I’ve been out on a lot of dates (at least a lot for me) in the last 6 months, but nothing seems to be clicking. Either her interest isn’t there, or my interest isn’t there or a combination of both. This really hasn’t been a bad thing; I’ve met some good women and a couple of those women I’ve kept in touch with on a platonic level. And after the last woman I dated turned out to be a total flake, I’ve been wary to get back into the pool. Some of that is vulnerability, afraid not only to be hurt, but to change into a person I no longer recognize, like I did during my marriage. It’s not an irrational fear, but at the same time, I don’t want it holding me back experiencing life the way it should be lived. I lived much of my life in anxiety and despair, and I don’t want to waste another second of my life living that way again.
I feel a little lonely right now. But it’s not an aching, desperate loneliness. And I have been busy and productive in my solitude. Things will bounce back, I’m sure.
Friday, 6 July 2012
Hi Erin. How are ya?
It’s been almost two years since we last saw each other. It was three weeks previous to that I had left my ex-wife and you were six months away from getting married to your partner Phoebe. I have to admit, I was getting goosebumps and butterflies getting ready to see you again.
I hadn’t seen you in 10 years, and you looked almost identical to the girl who sat beside me in drafting class in grade 10. I know this is going to make you blush, but you looked like an Irish princess. Long red hair with a slight curl to it, milky white skin with a dash of freckles under your cheeks and wide, blue-green eyes with the heavy Goth black mascara. You were so freakin’ gorgeous. Later on, I would tell people that you were Shirley Manson’s twin sister. And you were. You’d even admitted it to yourself, grudgingly.
I never properly thanked you for that last visit. You had planned on visiting family here in Winnipeg and you weren’t going to have time to see me. I understood. We grew apart, as people often do, and considering how awkward things had gotten between us, it was surprising we even spoke after high school. But Randy emailed you, telling you what had happened with Annie and I, and you emailed me setting aside the afternoon so we could get together and catch up. That put a big kink in your plans, but I was hurting and you stepped up. That meant a lot to me.
We had lunch, and I instantly realized how comfortable I was with you again. We laughed. We drank beer. We laughed harder. And we drank more beer. And it was a few hours later and we were both more than tipsy and we were traipsing through the Forks Market, and we were looking through various stalls looking for a present for Phoebe, you telling me how wonderful she was and how I would love her when I would finally meet her, and even though I was in a wasteland as far as relationships went, I was really, genuinely happy for you.
We finally talked about us in high school, about how we both came from middle schools where we were mercilessly teased and we both felt like we were so alone. You knew I was special when you saw I had a (VHS, ‘cos that’s all there was back then) copy of Day of the Dead signed by Tom Savini that I brought to school one day, and you practically freaked out, and you made me promise that I’d come over to your house some day so you could show me your copy of Fangoria #27 also signed by Tom Savini, and I knew you were special too.
It didn’t take long before we were hanging out a lot. I loved being in your bedroom, laying on the bed watching Return of the Living Dead, listening to Alice in Chains or Violent Femmes, or just talking. I just loved the smell of your bedroom, and the bed was so much softer. We’d hit the downtown music and thrift stores on Saturdays and always have McDonald’s French fries for lunch. I should have told you those were some of the best memories of my high school years. No joke.
Sometimes I came over before school and we’d smoke cigarettes and drink vodka before class. It was wrong and we knew it, but we felt so rebellious and cool. We both had an alcoholic parent, so alcohol was in no short supply. We both bonded over that, I think.
And remember the time we dropped LSD and went to a midnight showing of Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness and we had to walk the 3 hours home because the buses had stopped running and we didn’t have enough money for cab fare? Classic. You were finding the skeeziest people to strike up conversations with and trying to bum smokes at 3 in the morning, and the next thing I remember, we woke up sleeping in your bed at 2 in the afternoon, both of us naked, and both covered head to toe in mud. We were pretty embarrassed about it, but managed to laugh about it after a couple of weeks.
And of course, I remember that afternoon in the first week of classes in Grade 12, where we cut class and went back to your place. You were distracted and distant, and there was something different in the air, but I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time. Your mom was at work, and we sat in your bedroom playing CDs all afternoon, me mixing cranberry juice with splashes of vodka. We were both quite tipsy after an hour or so, and we lay on your bed, staring at the ceiling and talked, meandering from one subject to another, mostly about what we were going to do after high school. You were absolutely brilliant, and an academic scholarship at a prestigious university was virtually assured. I was on the bubble of getting a scholarship, but I didn’t apply myself as hard as I should have and wound up empty-handed.
There was an uncomfortably long silence, and I remember my heart started pounding before you even asked the question.
“Wanderer, why did you never ask me out?”
I so wanted to, so many times. I was so painfully shy, but when I was in middle school, there were a group of alpha females that took particular pleasure in tormenting me for a full two years. One of their first gags involved one of them pretending to like me only to have her publicly humiliate me in front of what seemed like half the school when I formally asked her out. That wounded me very deeply and since then I kept my cards pretty close to my chest. But I wanted us to date so badly.
Of course, it took me almost 10 years to tell you any of this. I told you I wanted to, but was too shy, too nervous, too scared to lose what we had. And that was all true. But a big part of me was terrified of reliving that humiliation. Did I know that you’d never do such a cruel thing to me, even if you weren’t interested? I do now. Back then, I was pretty sure, but I was slow to trust.
And you leaned over and kissed me, and I was flooded with a rush of nervous, electric tension. I kissed you back. We locked in an embrace as I pulled your t-shirt over your head and tossed it on the floor. You told me you could feel my heart pounding in my chest. I ran my hands along your sides and pulled you tighter to me.
It was heaven. But there was a tickle in the back of my head that it was wrong too.
I looked into your eyes and you looked like a deer in the headlights. You looked like you were on the verge of crying.
I asked you if you were okay, and you very unconvincingly said you were. I told you that we didn’t have to do this if you didn’t want to. You unconvincingly told me that you wanted to. You stripped naked and I did too. We kissed some more. But it was wrong and we both knew it.
I took your chin in my hand and looked deep into your eyes and you burst out crying.
“I’m sooo sorry… I’m soooo confused. I like you, I really like you. I just… please don’t be angry with me.”
I put your head on my chest and told you it was okay while I stroked your hair absently. But inside, I felt like I was played all over again. I felt so utterly undesirable. And embarrassed. In my immature, petulant way, I thought this was something you were doing to me, and never once did I consider how unbelievably difficult things were for you. I guess most teenagers are like that. Most adults too. We drifted apart after that day. I think we hung out a few more times, but it was never the same. You’d say something to try and make me laugh, and I’d laugh, but it was forced and you knew it. When you thought I wasn’t looking, you were frowning and worried, watching our friendship break up before your eyes. Before we both knew it, we stopped talking, merely nodding and smiling going past each other in the school hallways. We saw each other at a couple of parties, but that was it.
I found out at one of those parties you lost your virginity to some guy on the basketball team you barely knew. I was furious with you. I know, I know… I’m a douche, okay? But in my defense, I was only 17 and very confused myself. I found myself sulking and not wanting to even see you anymore.
I had to leave home a couple of months after finishing high school. In fact, I moved far, far away – almost 900 miles to be exact. Yes, it had to do with my dad. You knew that, I’m sure. I was gone for almost three years, and I was cut off from just about everyone – my family, most of my friends, everyone. It would be nearly 6 years before we’d talk to one another again. I needed to be away, I think, to finish growing. I needed to become my own person, and there were too many influential forces around me to let that happen.
The next time we saw each other was 2000, and we happen to be at the same bar that night. At first we were both stiff and formal, but as the beer flowed, we broke down each other’s walls and we spent six years catching up. And that’s when you came out to me.
Well, I found out you actually came out in a letter you wrote me about six months after I left, but I never got that letter. My mom told me later she must’ve misplaced it and forgot to send it on, but I have my doubts about that. It never occurred to me at the time, or even up until you said it that you were a lesbian, but it made sense afterwards. I was surprised. Not because that you were a lesbian, but because you never told me before. You were always so open, it never occurred that you were hiding this large part of yourself away. Then again it never occurred to me that maybe you didn’t know yourself.
You told me how sorry you were for what had happened. You told me that you wanted to be with a guy because you didn’t want to like girls back then, and you wanted that guy to be me because you thought the world of me. And you did find me attractive, and you had it all planned out, and you were looking forward to it, but when the time came it just seemed so wrong. And mostly you kept going because you didn’t want me to be disappointed.
I told you about the alpha girls prank in middle school, and how I felt like I was set up again only to have the rug pulled out from under me. And I told you I knew that’s not what you did, but I had this ‘oh why me?’ attitude, and I was selfish and it hurt so much because there hadn’t been anyone like you ever.
Ah, the idiotic melodrama of teenagers.
We made up that night, but our friendship was resigned to emailing every so often because you lived in Montreal now, like a serious artiste, and I stayed back in Winnipeg unclogging toilets and changing light bulbs in a hardware store to get through university. About eighteen months later, you had a photography exhibit showing at a small gallery and you sent me the invitation and I didn’t go. Well, I did go, but not when you were there. I went a few days later, and your work was so beautiful.
I still have that email telling me how hurt you were that I didn’t come. I’m so sorry, but I was so ashamed. I was unemployed and homeless by then, couch surfing when I could get away with it or sleeping in a buddy’s van. I didn’t want you to see me then, half-asleep with fatigue and hunger, chilled to the bone and needing a shower. Two weeks after that letter, I attempted suicide. I never told you that. That was my secret.
It was a full two years before I summoned up the nerve to write you again, apologizing for everything that had happened and hoping things were going well for you. Things had turned around for me. I was married then, I had purpose and drive in my life. I’d lose that mojo several more times throughout my marriage, but then I’d felt good, revitalized and ready to take on the world.
It took you a couple of years to answer back, but when you did, things were right again. We let bygones be bygones and you told me we’d see each other soon. That ‘soon’ was the last time we ever saw each other, a couple of years ago.
We shopped in the Forks, looking for something you could take home to Phoebe and you finally decided on an Indian sari that looked really smart.
At that same store, I looked at a silver necklace that caught my eye, and I’m not normally a jewelry wearer but I really liked this necklace, but put it back because the damn thing was like a hundred bucks, and I was living in a spare room in my sister’s house staring down the barrel of divorce. And then later on, when we were preparing to say so long (not goodbye, even though it’d be the last time I’d ever see you) you told me to close your eyes and you put that damn necklace around my neck and kissed me on the cheek. And I grabbed you and hugged you for what seemed like 20 minutes because I didn’t want you to see me cry and I realized how much I was going to miss you.
Anyway, we left each other our numbers to call on the phone properly, and I had a standing invitation to come to Montreal to see you anytime I wanted. I was planning to take a solitary road trip this summer and I was going to spend the weekend with you and Phoebe.
I was surprised when my phone rang and it was you on the called ID. I answered, but it wasn’t you, it was Phoebe, and after a second or two my heart sank terribly, because I knew something was dreadfully wrong.
She told me she lost you a couple of months previous to cancer. She said you fought valiantly, but succumbed despite your best efforts. I was shocked, because you always seemed so vibrant and healthy and I simply couldn't imagine it. My hand shook as I talked to Phoebe on the phone. I feel for her so terribly.
I miss you so much Erin. I know it's no good brooding on the wasted years, but I wish things had been different between us. You should have probably been my closest friend. But nonetheless, I feel lucky I got to know you at all. If there is an afterlife, I hope we can at least spend one afternoon in a while watching horror movies, eating Doritos and drinking vodka and cranberry juice. Until then, I have this necklace and yes, Phoebe did send on your autographed copy of Fangoria #27 signed by Tom Savini. You're one of the best babe.
*Note to readers... this video link Return of the Living Dead contains a little nudity and a whole lot of heebie-jeebie-inducing zombies and generally gory unpleasantness. Be fairly warned.
Hugs and kisses, until we meet again
Thursday, 21 June 2012
Yes, you are all still football widows for the time being.
The one thing on everyone’s lips is that Wayne Rooney has return to the
I’m not a fan of Wayne Rooney. I am a fan of Wayne Rooney’s potential, to be sure, and sadly, it’s a potential that has yet to be realized for
becoming increasingly skeptical that it will ever be realized. England
It may be him personally, or his inability to adjust to
game from Manchester United’s, where he routinely averages a goal every two
games or so. I’m not sure. And I’d be wary to upset the apple cart and
slip Rooney into a starting eleven that has done very nicely without him thus
far this tournament. England
But that’ll never, ever happen. Rooney carries the Expectations of a Nation on his broad shoulders, where anything else but a cup win with him capping a hat-trick per game will be seen as a failure.
I anticipated a positive result against
berth in the quarter-finals. I cannot
see Ukraine England making it past
either Spain or . I hope they do, and as Saturday rolls around,
I’ll turn into a crazy, hope-against-hope fan again. And who knows? It could happen (it WILL happen… we still
My feeling is that this is a young team that still needs developing. It’s unfair to put upon them the expectations that were put on the so-called Golden Generation of Beckham and co. They had their best chance in 2006 when a young Rooney, still nursing an ankle injury got sent off for stomping on
Figo. I felt they had the talent to win
that game, had they had their full team on.
It wasn’t to be and the Portugal
squad disintegrated to the point where they failed to qualify for Euro 2008 and
put up their worst World Cup showing in 2010.
To put it in perspective, England England
scored as many goals against
on Friday as they did in all four games in WC 2010. And most of their opponents weren’t exactly
top-level competition either. Sweden
There’s a positive energy to the squad now that’s been absent for the last 5 years or so. I’m not sure what it is – coaching, new blood or a combination of both. I feel though this is the squad we can take to the World Cup in 2014 and show very well.
did it… sort of. With a lot of luck they did it, because they
did not play well. And yes, Rooney
scored, but to be fair it was a goal I could
have put in, had I been in his position. England
It really should have been a tie, because
one over the line, but the officials didn’t spot it. At least we Ukraine England
fans can be sympathetic toward Ukraine,
because fate was against us too in in 2010. Can we please put goal-line technology in
place now FIFA? How much more convincing
do you need? South Africa
I didn’t see the entire game. I watched about 20 minutes before I took Nick to his doctor’s appointment and got a text about Rooney’s goal as soon as I sat down in the pediatrician’s office. The doctor and I celebrated and spent 5 of Nick’s 15 minutes talking soccer while he gave Nick the once-over. He declared Nick to be ridiculously healthy, with the body of a young Olympic athlete, and sent him on his way with a handful of jelly beans.
’s play was sloppy at best,
frightening at worst. England was
given too free a reign with the ball. Ukraine England should be lucky they weren’t playing Spain or , because either team
would’ve punished them in short order. Germany
Okay, I’m officially eating crow now. I was dead-set against Gerrard being included in this
line-up. I think everyone was. Gerrard is old
and hasn’t been healthy in a long, long time.
Further to that, Gerrard represented the notion that England was
clinging to the promise of the past a little too long (Frank Lampard
anyone?). I mean, it’s not like England doesn’t
have midfield options, but they don’t have anyone quite like Gerrard, who can move so fluidly between offense and
defense. Two assists and two Man of the
Match awards in three games, engineering vital set piece plays, and being an
all around great captain. He’s been a
bright star, all that much brighter for someone whose best days are decidedly
behind him. England
Let me be blunt: England would not have made it out of the group stage without Hart. He has been that important. The France game for sure would have been a loss, and I'm quite certain Ukraine would have been either a tie or another loss. England hasn't seen a keeper like him since David Seaman, and he still has a good 10-15 years ahead of him. A winning team is anchored by a good keeper. This is a good start.
England drew Italy. Their other option was to draw defending champions Spain, who are looking quite comfortable right now, drawing a fighting-behind-closed-doors France.
I've got a good feeling about this game. Italy is an old squad, while England is primarily kids, with a few vets thrown in. Italy is a defensive side, and so is England. Oddsmakers have them virtually even. Balotelli will be the wild card for Italy. When he plays well, there are few better. But he is a prima donna and prone to erratic and bizarre behaviour. I'll be bunkered at the King's Head Pub on King St. in the Exchange District this Sunday.
Come on Eng-er-land!! Who are you pulling for this tournament? Or could you care less?
Thursday, 14 June 2012
... to those who find soccer boring and/or irritating, normal blogging will resume in July.
Ireland are the first casualties of the tournament, and that's really no surprise. But it's been an absolute blast having the Irish fans there. And we England supporters can take note what real support means. When your team is trailing 4-0 and a tournament exit is in sight, you should not, at that moment, lay blame, look for scapegoats or boo your players off the field. They will catch shit, no two ways about it. But in those last few moments, they should be applauded for taking on the enormous pressure of pulling on the shirt for their country.
Ireland got battered by Spain today. And their fans responded by belting out 'The Fields of Atherny'. It gave me goosebumps.