They say the hole should be at least two feet. I was nervous I still had a long way to go, but when I got out the tape measure it said that I’d almost reached four. Filled a wheelbarrow with rocks to lay over him. Deer made a path up to the spot, tramped down the tall grass. Two wildflower bouquets: one for him, just over his blanket. And one sitting next to me as I type this. This morning I thought, with a kind of shock, that I should have put his toy in there—the one he would always proudly try to walk away with (pulling against the string). 

I laid it among the rocks. 

Eating chocolate almonds in times of grief, because they remind me of someone I loved. He was the same weight and shape, the same body that I knew how to hold so well. Thought the aura of death would have changed him. I scratched him on the back of the neck until his body went cold—I could feel when it was no longer him. Kept scratching until they came and took him away. When we arrived there was a crow in the big oak tree in the parking lot. It made a noise, three times, a kind of cooing. A sound I have never heard a crow make before. “Oh, shut up—” I said, “—come on, you dick,” as I walked around the car to get the carrier, as if I could alter the crow’s meaning. 

But I could not.

On Wednesday in the afternoon I go to Christie Pits and read from The Road Past Altamont by Gabrielle Roy—a book I must have first read ten or perhaps eleven years ago (and now must read again, because I am teaching it). The long story “The Old Man and the Little Girl,” a story about visiting Winnipeg beach for a city dweller who never imagined she could see anything so grand. Tonight the story “The Move,” about the desire to pick up, to leave things behind, but to also get a kind of homesickness on the road. Whereas the first story is in part about the triumph of following unlikely desires, the second is about being sometimes confronted their sordidness, their disappointing vulgarity and mundaneity (as I have written here before, Marina Tsvetaeva confronts this too, in her essay “My Pushkin,” ironically disappointed by the sea that does not match the sea that she has learned, first, from Pushkin’s poetry). Yesterday I think afterwards, on my way back home, of how much I liked reading Roy’s story, even though it also brought a certain amount of pain (I will never know Roy’s Winnipeg, not through the eyes of an intimate). But I liked the pattern of thought that it seemed to produce in me, liked thinking not of Roy’s young protagonist exactly but in the voice of the retrospective narrator, yearning and dreamy and curious. It made it worth being confronted with so much loss—how strange that the names of even places you have never been can become embodied with so much pain!

I find something like a kind of shame that I still feel this way—find it, at the very least, annoying. I know that I am not being charitable to myself. But I would like, somehow, to speed past this moment (I am impatient for a kind of resolution, for closure, for new beginnings—impatient in a way that I know has caused harm). I feel like a character in a Murakami novel—I know I need to surrender, but I don’t know how. One day I will. But for the moment, I’m going in circles, looking up and down cramped alleys for my lost cat, my cat which may one day come back but only after I get as low as possible, in order to meet it on its level, or at least to try to understand.

Not in the mood to write another story about how hateful I imagine I am—“embrace toxicity”—not in the mood to blame myself for things that have happened—“as if I am the only person who played a role in its end”—not in the mood to accept this role that I have thrust upon myself—“assisted by others, or an other”—not in the mood to in fact do much of anything at all. Not in the mood to speak or sit or think or look or write or act. It feels catastrophic to lose a life—in all the senses of that word. To lose a life, to lose lives. To wonder if anything could have been done, if you will ever speak again. 

Whenever I sit down at the computer I feel the most intense anxiety. Whenever I look into a Zoom. Whenever I imagine myself speaking or thinking. Whenever someone looks into me. Whenever I am seen. Wherever I am. Where I am not. Last night in my dream I had to shit but all of the toilets I had to use in this house were covered in it, inside and out, mountains of shit. One of the toilets—the otherwise least offensive one—had a perfectly compacted turd delicately wrapped around the handle. “Why would anyone do this!” I shouted, but there was no one there to hear me. I found a toilet which had acres of shit in it, yes—pale brown shit rolling in the basin like a landscape of jagged turf—but which at least had a relatively clean seat and handle. Flushing did not help. And shit flew out of me, somehow both too enthusiastically and with reluctance. I could find no relief, but the shit was endless—claggy and slow and clinging and violent and rotten. I did my best to contain it, to wipe myself, to wipe the toilet, but it would not stop. (A similar dream, eight years ago, when I was being stalked, but in that instance it was blood, not shit, blood pouring out of my eyes in the mirror; blood, the substance which, when dead, gives shit its colour.) The house was empty but it soon filled with a group of people. A group of people who descended on the toilets—and who found me, still shitting, on the one I had chosen. “Look at what he’s done,” they said, pointing not only to my toilet but to all of them. I tried to explain that I had tried to contain things as much as I could, that I had found them like that and that I wanted to clean what I was responsible for but that I wasn’t even done. They gave me a look that demonstrated that of course they didn’t believe me.

Later in the dream: somehow I had recovered from this situation enough that I was dating three people. One and then two more, diverse genders (as diverse as could be expected in a sample of three). No one I have seen or am seeing. I had been more committed to one and then two introduced themselves, became involved with me quickly, something I momentarily desired but seemingly against my will. I didn’t enjoy it—and woke up relieved, a kind of shock rare but thrilling when it comes to dreams, relieved that I didn’t have to date any one of them, that I wouldn’t have to reel from the fallout of my choices the night before. 

Wish I hadn’t held onto all of that anger for so long—wish I had been more careful. Wish I had been able to hear when I had the chance—wish I could have seen what was happening below the surface. Wish I had paid more attention—wish I’d understood. Wished a great many things that mean nothing now. Piercing questions from Australia early in the morning, a Zoom’d group in the evening, an afternoon text message thread—wish I’d given myself more time to think, to be still, to receive the kind of advice I’m receiving now. Extend empathy rather than ask for it myself.

Followed by a magician for fifteen feet. He holds a small, plastic “v” in his hands, which he rotates in his hands—I don’t understand even the suggestion of the trick. What’s his angle? Think we’re going to be Just For Laughs–gagged. There’s a camera set up on a tripod by the barrier. He’s not wearing a mask. We keep walking but he won’t leave us alone. What kind of reaction is he hoping to get from two people wearing masks? 

The streets are packed. There’s a long line to get into the haunted house—one of several. Above this one a Frankenstein smiles as he considers eating a Whopper. I’m a sucker for all of these false facades—the Rainforest Cafe, the casino’s castle, the Wizard Mini-Putt—but I’m not really sure what it means to be so swayed by them. What the consequences are—I am only momentarily awed. I spend no money. 

I tell a friend it feels fucking surreal. Another comes over the next night and I expect there to be a gap in the conversation long enough to describe the feeling, but it never comes. The pandemic and its long silences has made us talk over each other. On ever more urgent topics. It’s hard to imagine exiling myself again—but then I think of the anxiety, think of why I went out there in the first place. Who I brought there. What I was hoping to build and what I failed to. What held me there and why I couldn’t seem to leave. It’s all so confusing. Why couldn’t I be who I wanted to be? Why did I retreat so far into—wherever we went. 

The I Ching keeps mentioning “inferior” influences and I think it must mean in myself. Everything inferior. But I wonder what else it could be. 

On the Hornblower we stand with our backs to the churning water, away from the unbearable waves. Soaked everywhere but through the pink garbage bags they ask us to put on before boarding. The decks of American Maid of the Mist VII are packed—it’s just like the meme, a wall-to-wall upper deck in blue ponchos waving at us across the river. “COVID-19 is real!” I yell, immediately ashamed of myself. I don’t know if anyone heard me, certainly not the Americans waving at us cheerfully from the other side. Long before then there was a couple in front of us in line, one wearing an Arizona Cardinals sweater, and I wondered aloud if they were really Canadian. “Really?” I say, “The Arizona Cardinals?” Just as in Atwood’s Surfacing, I see Americans everywhere. But I’m my own American, in more ways than one. I like all of the photos as we take them, but at home I hate every one in which I appear. 

Calculated waiting. The well to obstruction. I ask the question three times and receive the same answer—the odds of that are astronomical. The I Ching is trying to tell me something. It is always trying to tell me something, whether or not I am willing to listen. The obstruction has always been my own. Give up anger. Lives have been ruined by it (my own lives). Now it says calculated waiting. Wait for a sign. Open yourself to waiting. Attend to your attitude (it is the only thing you can attend to). Love will follow—in whatever form that may take. What do I want now? What I want is out of my reach. But perhaps that’s always been true, for everyone, at all times. It finds you, it changes, it appears in unexpected ways.

One of the hardest things to do is to make amends for things you should not have done. It is one thing to outrun your shame—to leap and bound past old feelings that were ultimately not your own, the insults and the limitations that were imprinted on you by those that you first loved. But it is something else to be reminded of your own bad behaviour, the ways in which you have let down or hurt others who cared for or loved you. Sometimes the mind rebels—finds solace in anger, anger to go with shock and grief. What happened could not possibly be your own doing, the brain tells us. What was was not—how could it be? Would you then have been what you were? An arrow, or a sword, pointed at the other, keeps it away. How can that be then repaired? How much easier it is forgive others than it is to forgive yourself. Ironically, easier to forgive then than when you are the cause of the injury, searching for an answer that can’t be found. 

Tonight no one wants to stop their car. At every red light I lean towards the lane of incoming traffic, hoping if struck to roll off the hood. Feel oddly visible, like someone has noticed something—perhaps only I have, and that’s being read by everyone else. Last night we drove on fumes through the low trees. Made three right turns. When I got out at the OnRoute and shouted your name the woman walking next to you started and ran to her car. A nervy rabbit or a guilty conscience. Why is it I feel such exhaustion? A full fridge wherever I go. On the drive back I said it was “satisfaction.” Caught on video exiting the house. Delete it before I pass on the password. (No good reason: I’d send it to you if I thought I looked attractive.) I’d like to corral whatever I’m feeling now—I mean tonight, walking in loops. Passing from one side of the city to another. The air has a particular quality, clear and cool. Everything is done growing but it hasn’t begun to fall back. The city is empty. But the streets are full. Why ever leave bed. 

Noticeably cooler in the country—leaves are finally yellowing, and the tent caterpillars have taken up their residences at the ends of tree branches, draping everything in a fine silk netting (after the gypsy moths they seem so much more harmless now, hardly worth killing). Night of the full moon—Pisces moon, at its zenith just a few hours from now. I didn’t know until after I put my car into park, but I felt its pull on me as I made my way up the country roads. A surprising heaviness. It’s cooler here now, cooler in the city but cooler here than it is there. 

Some posts are like the yellow and black striping of a wasp’s belly. Some are like this—circular, nostalgic. Or they seem like they will be. I think of an article I’d like to write for HTMLGIANT (recently risen from its grave). “My Eight Past Lives,” following a recent appointment I’d made sometime in late July or early August on a whim. “Why did you contact me?” my psychic had asked. I kept my cards close to my chest, or tried to, or in truth had no answer but the obvious one, which seemed much too apparent to bother mentioning. “I don’t know,” I said. “I just felt the impulse.” 

It was the truest thing that I could say in the moment. 

“Take a shower afterwards,” she said. “Be gentle to yourself.”

I had hoped that at some point the appointment would ring so true in me that I would resonate like a bell—I wanted the metal to be struck in just the right place, for myself to break down, to come apart. Instead, I felt a kind of dull, weary ache in my third eye. Eight lives—too many to speak to all at once. 

Now it almost happens, what I wanted then, thinking that whatever I had been before wants so urgently to contact me. 

But what do I do for the full moon? I look for a token that I can burn as a kind of effigy. An offering. Something to indicate a change, a transition—a marking of place, on a night where I hope the heaviness will pass once and for all. The first thing that occurs to me are the paintings, recently taken down from the refrigerator—your paintings. Paintings that in truth I would never burn. 

But what feels closer to the truth is that I would, or might. 

Who do they belong to now? Who would be hurt?

Always myself.

I remembered the shopping list that I found bunched up behind the fruit bowl. It seems an appropriate substitute—marker of an entire life. A life that I guess I didn’t want after all. I would never say that, but you might.

I haven’t burned it yet.

But we still have a few hours to go.