Thursday, April 22, 2010

Walk on

Though you would not have thought of yourself as respectful of those kinds of traditions, you did what was expected. Like the family heirloom, this tradition has been your responsibility, to carry and then to pass on, a war whose origins no one remembers. You fulfilled it mindlessly in the beginning, quietly, it is simply what must be done. It's a painful tradition though, you grew to resent it. Passing it on became inconceivable, intolerable. You decided it would end with you. Through blood and tears and ultimate sacrifice, it did. Not won, just over. You did not do it alone, or without help.

After death, flowers. Offerings to those who came before you, those whose collective dedication to tradition brought you to this place. A field of poppies, gifts for the dead, spread out behind you, infinite red and green. Healing green and grounding red, everything you will ever need to let go without forgetting where you came from. Those poppies wave behind you, offering blessings and whispered goodbyes - your freedom is also theirs.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

There are times

I live in a palindrome city. And while I've joked about that before, I'm going to be serious now.

I'm not sure how I feel about it, or even if I should feel about it. But I do.

There's something about it. Visually, it's pretty, all symmetrical and balanced. To hear it pronounced, it's the same - well, symmetrical at least.

But I'm quite sure its linguistic infinite nature has an effect on the place it represents.

I remember the first time I came to Laval. A sunny Saturday in the month of December. I spent a few hours in the city center, bought something at the Saturday market in front of the cathedral, had lunch and then coffee. I remember thinking I could live here. And so I have, for 11 years. 11 - also symmetrical and balanced, when it's written like that.

I believe I'm ready for someplace new.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What we don't know

There was no real reason for it to happen that night.

But something about going to the grocery store up the street, where we went at least once a day for beer or brownies made him mad. You pushed, he pushed back. He got ugly then, his face a mirror of tragedies unfaced. You knew that though, going into it, what he hadn't faced, it was inscribed into his skin. Probably picked him because of it. And you did pick him, regardless of how he told the tale. That first kiss in the elevator? All yours. His tragedies made him easier to manage, and even weakened you could make him spin if you had to.

After the ugliness you left, went to a friend's house to sleep. You woke up early, calm, before dawn.

You walked back to the apartment, armed with hot coffee and a night spent in a girlfriend's bed. You quietly gathered your things together, the important things. The rest you left for later.

You did not kiss his sleeping lips before you left.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


I was a marble statue on a stone bench when he walked out, his pack of cigarettes already in his hand as he opened the door. He sat down next to me, our thighs touching, remembering. We smoked and he told me himself what I had heard around the department.

He told me gently, with regret. I laughed at him, also gently. I knew where his wife was from and I knew what the South could do to its women. His situation, all bittersweet poetry and wilting flowers for him, was actually all pragmatics and strategies, southern style. As familiar to me as the smell of pine trees on the way to the beach on vacation.

He told me he loved me then. He didn't, but I knew what he meant. And I knew what he wanted from me, even if he didn't. I accepted the part with a farewell kiss, still more bittersweetness for him and just a kiss for me.

I played my part well though. It was my parting gift, to make up for my gently mocking laughter. Electric glances and accidental touches and suggestive sighs to help him add sweet tragedy to his bitter comedy.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Past in present

When the young girl thought of the grandmother, she remembered the grit of the raspberry seeds in her mouth. Fresh raspberries she picked herself, not even as tall as the bushes she conversed with, asking and thanking for each berry, a bowl in her hand, her bare feet gently bathed in dew. She chose each one carefully as it was offered, picking off the tiny insects and imperfections she saw. She brought her bowl inside, full, and held it out to be covered in fresh cream.

The food was always better at the grandmother's house, how could it not be? Food was not prepared there, it was managed, just as the family was, without its consent or cooperation, giving in only to the cemented lack of choice.

The young girl watched this woman's hands make everything. Shape pie crust into girlish swirls and flutes, this harsh specimen of a grandmother. The grandmother was generous only with food, gray memories of summer weeks filled with her steady disapproval mercifully colored by bubbling fruit pies too perfect to have been made from bitterness and scorn alone.

The grandmother preferred boys, had little time for girls, or even anything feminine. The dark red lipstick she wore when she went into town, 5 blocks away, was the only concession she made to femininity. But it played out as mockery more than anything else, her broken teeth and cruel smile outlined with the blood she drew when she spoke.

And yet the young girl returned, was even anxious to go there. To sit on the cracked steps in front of that big house filled with hidden passages and round windows and a black basement that coiled around its own darkness and waited.

The grandmother died there, in that waiting basement, among her canned vegetables and the clutter of a life she never went through.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Seen And Unseen

I sat in that office everyday. It must have been something else before, a shop or something. I never asked, but why else would there have been a window like that? Floor to ceiling, wall to wall. It was like working in a fish tank.

My desk didn't face the window, it was next to it. I watched people walk by occasionally, but mostly I just did my job. Papers, computer, phone. I had replaced someone very competent and thought I had much to prove. I suspect I may have been hired for reasons other than my cv. I was an odd mix of young and old at that time and often spoke of foreign cities I had visited. My smile was genuine but my eyes were not.

I looked up from my desk one day to see that a photographer had set up a tripod on the sidewalk across the street from my window. He was older than me but young still and had that artist look - hungry, but for art, not food.

Since when was I art? I looked down at myself, sitting in my chair. Little black sweater and pearls, straight out of the 50s, minus the hope.

We had a conversation of gestures during which he told me he wanted to take a picture of me in that fish tank, but working, not looking at him. I tried to do that. I went back to my tasks and he started his. But he gave up quickly. Because even though I wasn't looking at him anymore, I wasn't the same woman.

He packed up his stuff and left without taking any pictures or saying goodbye. I could not go back to never having seen.