December 30, 2014 § Leave a comment
I’m fucked, deeply and spiritually. My ideas require more revision. They aren’t getting their due. It’s December 29th, 2014, and I want things to be different. I want to go back in time. I want to heal my trauma. I want to lie in bed next to you and pretend everything is alright. I want my brain back. I would like to release. I am holding onto whatever is in the air.
Last night I saw a composite photograph of a woman who was stuffed inside a suitcase. A photograph of the dead as she might have been alive, made out of the corpse, next to an image of the woman before she died. I think about those two images now and want to cry, and when I think about crying for the woman what I feel like crying for is her overbite. For the cruelty of a man killing a woman with an overbite and putting her in a suitcase without any identification; for the family to have to identify their daughter via the face of the dead.
My roommate received magnetic poetry for Christmas and I have been writing poems on the refrigerator. I mentioned this to my roommate. “Poems? I didn’t see any poems.” I pointed them out to him. “You can’t just put anything you want,” he said. “They have to make sense.” I can do anything I want, I replied, except write the essay I’m supposed to be writing now. I will return to it soon. I have to finish, if not tonight, then by early next morning.
I have laid out a torturous future for myself. I have a mental block so large it cannot be conceived of. It is far away and difficult to understand. But it is there always. I would like to get away from it sometime, at least for a little while. I am trying to conceive of strategies. I am tired of this present. I want a future where I don’t have to worry about it anymore. A future where I can feel confident about making something of myself.
I have had pasts like that. That it might come in the future is therefore something one might expect.
(December 2012) A Belated Review of the Theatrical Version of Life of Pi, Composed in the Form of a Letter to Someone I Will Probably Never Speak to Again
December 12, 2014 § Leave a comment
“Letters were not foreign to me as a boy. I have no difficulty writing letters. The writing of letters is the thing I believe I do best.” —Sheila Heti, Ticknor
Last night I watched Life of Pi in theatres. Several times I almost walked out, not because of the movie, although in a lot of ways it deserved the only two-and-half-stars (out of four) given it by the Globe, but, I think, because I couldn’t stand the effect that sitting in the dark amphitheatre was having on me.
I wanted to go back to the apartment and work on an application essay, but I’ve found that difficult lately because I can’t seem to concentrate on the book I’m writing on (I’m not sure I can even hold it in my mind). I’m worried that anything I write will be forced, false, disgusting.
In the back of my mind I kept thinking about my phone, wondering if you’d try and contact me. I’d left my phone in the apartment, mainly so I wouldn’t have to worry about your texts or phone calls. I was also composing parts of this letter in my head. And realising that maybe my thinking of writing something to you is wrong, a misdirection of myself, or a diffusion. I miss you. But I’m suspicious of that, I guess, because it feels like missing you is hurting myself.
Because I should be paying attention to how I feel, not whether I miss you, and because you hurt me.
Something that bothered me about the movie is that it didn’t do a good job capturing the loneliness and emptiness of Pi’s days. The CGI ocean was too alive, too vibrant. Too many things were happening, too quickly. There are moments of colour in the book, but the struggle is really about dealing with the dread of being alone. I knew that the movie wasn’t going to be like that going in, of course, and I was reluctant to see it for that reason. (I wanted to walk out after the previews, again during the opening credits, and even before they first turned the projector on.) I don’t know why I stayed, exactly. Probably it was my twelve dollars.
The tiger was definitely impressive, as were the opening credits (mostly just colourful animals captured with “3D” cameras). Though I didn’t want to, I couldn’t help but think that ——— reccomended the movie to you, and I thought he must have liked it because it’s about one person suffering, that an entire theatre of people have to watch one person suffering. That’s fucked. There’s no reason I should think about ———, ever. I hope I forget his name.
Life of Pi was an important book to me when I was younger, so much so that I read it twice. There are two stories in the book, if you remember (you said you read it?). Most of my classmates (this was in high school, it was the book everyone read) were disappointed by the second story. The second story is more “rational” and is about cannibalization and murder rather than survival. Maybe I’ve told you this before. The first time I read the book I didn’t understand why it disappointed people, but I couldn’t fully articulate why. The first story is more powerful and the existence of the second story doesn’t mean that the first story isn’t real.
The second time I read the book I realized that Life of Pi was basically asking you to choose, that neither story could be proven or disproven. I did think that was a powerful argument for religion, though maybe that’s about as religious a thought as I’ve ever had. I’m not sure why I’m telling you this now. Maybe there are two stories to every relationship: not the two stories of each participant but two stories to each person.
Anyway. Those were my thoughts on the movie. I hope this letter finds you well.
December 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
My ex-wife and I once took turns making fun of the strange spidery orange that our home’s previous owners (perhaps playing a practical joke) left, freshly painted, in our living room and foyer. What could they have been inspired by?
Our hypotheses: a field of pumpkins, the earth’s molten core, leftover paint from the waiting room of a backwards muncipal office where we conjectured one of them must have been employed, a pre-schooler’s mushy art pallet (this one didn’t really take), Garfield the Cat after having his black stripes stripped with laser.
We’d long since ceased making these comments amongst ourselves or with company, ceased even feeling that weird jar when comparing the wall’s colours to the elegant beige embroidery of our living room set. But even though we’d grown accustomed to it, it still needed to be altered. I mentioned this to my wife one night as we were eating dinner in front of the evening news broadcast.
“I thought—a kind of blue,” she said, transferring her emptied plate to the coffee table.
“Maybe,” I replied.
My wife nodded, and, pulling her legs up on the couch next to her, began scratching at the ankle underneath the sock.
The questions I am often asked by those who knew us both are: When did it begin? When did it end? These are the questions I have most difficulty answering. Not because I do not have answers for them, but because those seem like the wrong questions to ask. Does anything end? Does anything begin? And how can you tell the difference between the two?
At work there was the matter of my pension which I had for years paid into. My boss, Doug, was sympathetic, or at least acted so, but his hands were tied. He told me that it was either take the buyout or total forfeiture of that benefit. But since when was what I’d paid into benefit? Since when was I some clueless factory worker so desperate for work that he believed whatever?
I’m educated. I crunched the numbers myself. But I took the buyout because Doug wouldn’t budge, not that he could have if he even wanted to.
“At least you don’t have kids,” he told me. “Some of your co-workers are in a much tighter spot.”
I tried releasing tension by running on the treadmill, which we’d set up in the former nursery (a ribbon of gender-neutral ducks and geese still—as far as I know—patterns the walls), but all I ever ended up accomplishing was noticing how fat I was and how much the damn thing cost.
My office, my home office, was in the basement. The floor carpeted, but the walls unfinished, bare concrete. It had been a long time since I had needed to take work home, but I still kept a desk, a laptop, and a filing cabinet. Retreating there was my break from the television. From the pumpkin orange. From my wife. From anything else I was feeling.
I put on headphones because of how the sound carried from the videos. If my wife wasn’t home I took off all my clothes.
Women half my age. I should say girls. I always told myself that it never meant anything. That it wasn’t something that could mean at all.
From time to time I glanced nervously out the two windows, high on the wall but low to the ground. Even though they were often black from night. Even though they didn’t point anywhere in particular.
The one recurring image of that home that I have kept with me were mornings when it was so cold that fog from the water of the artifical pond rolled over its shoreline and greeted me at my backyard door.
The vista that this pond was part of (“Scenic neighbourhood! Room to toss the ball around! Steps from sprawling park!”) had long since lost its charm, owing to the fortune that my wife and I had spent on mosquito netting, repellant, torches, and zappers that never seem to work.
“They’re attracted to the cholesterol on your breath,” my wife sometimes told me, as a way of getting me to reconsider the extra cheeseburger on my plate.
At night my wife whispered as she slept, turning constantly, the sheets pulled off my side and coiled around her. I had to fight her body with my own pullings to rock cloth out and cover myself for sleep.
She’d been unrestful ever since—well, I don’t know when, exactly. But in that mood she had started murmering about her Russian heritage (as if an immigrant grandmother dead twenty years ago counts as that, herself born Carmichael, and comfortable).
“I want,” she told me, “to taste the suckling pig so often mentioned in the literature of old Russia. As in Gogol’s Dead Souls, Chichikov’s journey through the pantries and cellars of the landowners of the backward provinces.”
This is what her degree (major in economics, minor in Russian literature) was good for. One weekend on our routine trip to the grocery I asked the guy at the butcher table if they had them, maybe in the back somewhere. Of course they didn’t, but he said that there was a Portuguese in the next stripmall over that might. The guy there handed me the little thing white as lard, curled up like an infant in its brown paper. It broke me a bit to hand it to my wife waiting in the car, to say, “Here, we eat him.”
If possible buy a pig just one month old. Wash well inside and out and score both sides of the backbone with a knife. Rub the inside with salt and marjoram, lay the pig in a baking tin and smear the outside with cold lard or oil. Pour a little water underneath, and then place in a medium hot oven. During the cooking, rub the pig over occasionally with the bacon dipped in beer, to give it a nice colour. Wrap grease-proof paper around its ears and tail to prevent them from burning. Before serving, cut off the head, cut the pig in two lengthwise, and then into pieces.
She held the pig up for me before putting it in the pan to be rubbed with fat and roasted. Its black eyes looked right into mine, its feet (pink and delicate, not yet hooves—though I guess never destined to be) splayed outwards, its soft paunch sagging in her fingers.
“Oh Jim—” she said, looking at me knowingly, in a sing-song voice, “Who does he remind you of?”
December 10, 2014 § Leave a comment
Jesus Christ. I’m going to type a whole bunch of nonsense in here and see what sticks. Two middle-aged men have met in this coffee shop and are talking about old times. They went to high-school together. One has been divorced 6 years with two children. I hate hearing about divorce, especially from the perspective of someone who claims to know “a lot of men who have to live in basement apartments.” I’d rather proceed through a series of increasingly narrow passages, until the wall is close and I can feel blood on my face and my own shallow breath warms my cheek. I watched the first half of Blue Velvet this morning. I didn’t realize that DR. [REDACTED] from Jurassic Park was in it. I’ve probably seen Jurassic Park at least one hundred times in my life. I’m amazed by David Lynch’s mental illness and also how that illness seems to elucidate things. I want to breath again, I don’t know anything, I’m taking a breath now and trying to imagine/understand what I’m doing. I’m falling sideways and a building is coming down after me. My goal was to watch the movie before I left the house but it was too intense, I couldn’t take it. I kept running upstairs and finding things to do. These old men are talking about Toronto, as if it’s anything just because they are outside it. I want to throw up on a beach blanket and drop the resulting mess on a model (male or female) carefully flipping through a “Toronto Life” magazine. Robert Kroetsch said that he spent a month alone and was beginning to understand madness. Jesus. Just a month? All day at work I silently repeated the words “did you know I want to commit suicide” (quoting Roast Beef) over and over to myself. David Lynch is a mess. What really did it for me was the way the main character Jeffrey slid across the booth to kiss DR. [REDACTED] right after being with Dorothy Valens. I couldn’t handle that for some reason. Why was the ear in the middle of the field? Didn’t Valens see it at some point? She threw it in a field? “Hit me!” Oh jesus. This morning I was thinking to myself that relationships are fucked and that I’d like to be like a Roberto Bolaño figure, someone who seems to have too much sympathy for women to get too heavily involved with anyone—to have the illusion that he could or it would be meaningful or he wouldn’t just hurt them or be hurt himself in the end. I’m not sure if that’s accurate. I’m going to be disappointed in Bolaño before long. It’s going to come out that he chased a married poet with a gun or something. “Man I love Heineken!” It’s like David Lynch never had a conversation. It seems actually abusive to encourage him somehow. Aren’t we just making things worse? I’d like to make a living trust to support David Lynch “however he wants to live” for the rest of his life. Then he won’t have to make movies and make things even worse for himself. You’re a joke if you think we need more of anything. One of the middle-aged guys keeps playing his cell phone on speakerphone. He’s talking to his girlfriend, I guess. Is that more polite in front of his friend or is it some weird way of taking advantage of her or presenting her? He keeps inviting her to the coffee shop and it seems really important to him that she come over and meet this friend from twenty years ago. Oh, it’s a walkie-talkie. Maybe that’s a little better. When I rented the movie the person at the counter said “Man I love Pabst Blue Ribbon!” I didn’t get it. She said it would be a “Later LOL.” I think I mumbled “ok” or something. This generation unironically pronounces “LOL” as if it were a word. On the radio they were talking about John Farrell, who recently left his position as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays to pursue his dream job with the Boston Red Sox. “Last time they found the best man for the job—the perfect candidate. But they never had his heart, and that’s what they’re looking for now, someone who will give the Blue Jays his heart.” My partner said my whole life was “pregnant” or menaced by my mother somehow, even if we never talk about her. I didn’t agree at the time but a couple days earlier I had a dream I’ve never told her about. She and I were stumbling through some debris left by a storm on the driveway, having a difficult time, and I went up to the house and looked in the window, and my mother was inside, in a robe and a house dress, fumbling with something in the kitchen. It was malevolent somehow and I expected something bad to have happened to the cats, but Ripley rubbed up against her leg and walked down the hallway. Everything was fine but I was still disturbed and remained at the window. I’m not going to talk about how that’s similar to Blue Velvet somehow and the scene where Jeffrey is looking out from the closet at Dorothy Valens who later threatens him with a knife. This is a mess. I’m a mess. I don’t know what anything is. I was going to write more about this being a mess. I don’t know what I want. I’d prefer to blame it all on something than figure out what’s wrong.
(2012) Thoughts Composed While Eating Steamed Edamame Alone at a Duke’s Location on Bay Street on a Friday Night and Reading Supervielle’s “Homesick for the Earth”
December 10, 2014 § Leave a comment
No environment could make me more angry. I shouldn’t have gone here. I don’t want a beer, I don’t want this (awful) coffee, I don’t even want the plate of edamame I ordered. There’s a baseline anger that the atmosphere exacerbates. My back is locking up. I’m so blind with rage that I stutter whenever my waiter arrives (I’m sure the staff thinks I’m nervous). I hate the way the office workers dress: loose khakis and sweaters pulled over their huge guts. I hate the way everyone greets each other when they arrive at their table. I hate their complacency (I can feel it hanging in the air, in the menus, in the cheap slogans printed on their napkins, in the glow from the all-news channel playing on the televisions). I hate that I’m alone. I hate the way the female staff are made to dress.
It’s all at odds with Supervielle. I read a poem about god searching the ocean for a particular raindrop. I read that there are some things even God can’t do.
I can pretend to be angry at complacency.
Dulled or not, unpleasant or not, these people have lives.
They came here after work to talk about everything that’s on their minds, trivial or weighty, eloquent or frustrated, it doesn’t matter.
They shout above the din, do their best to listen, look into each other’s eyes.
At the end of the night, when they get up, pay their bills, say goodbye to their friends, begin the long journey home, they feel a vague satisfaction, a feeling of fullness.
Even if satiety is death.