The sprinklers pop out and startle me around four pm, so I move to the centre of the field to dry off. I am done reading Lacan. It’s already the end of the day. No one wants to work, and it’s so hot. In the empty retail store one of the employees says to another “Oh, it’s just been crazy today.” In the field I feel as if I have been seduced by the sun, as if it whispered in my ears to take off my clothes. It’s just my shirt. Reading the psychoanalyst made me want to cry, just as it did a few days ago, as I reported to my therapist. “Whose dissertation were you reading?” she asked me. Our wires were crossed. “It was Lacan. Lacan,” I said. I told her about the dream that I recently had, how R. and D. said I was both “seductive” and “manipulative,” in a “dangerous” way. “I don’t see what’s so funny about that,” she said. “It’s just so absurd,” I said. “That they have to work so hard.” I could work harder. Victoria College has been transformed into a film set. Or maybe it’s the condos across the street. The street is packed with trailers, and on a table outside one of the catering trucks there is salad after salad stacked and sweating in plastic clamshells. A man with his mask around his chin, presumably in the union, is asleep on the grass. The previous night I met with Dmitri, on the Bar Neon patio. We tried Three Speed first, but it was packed. He tells me about a birthday that goes haywire. No one is used to being waited on, and it’s easy to get drunk. “He crashed his bicycle and cut up his face,” he said. As we’re crossing the street, afterwards, we notice a rat that has been flattened into a disc, a perfectly featureless circle with a fat tail. “What a rat!” we exclaim. “What a rat!”
AT NINETEEN I NEVER SLEPT
If I had something to do I would not do it and neither would I
give in, betraying myself, punished and stretched, drinking coffee topped
with ten dollar bottles of whisky, leaving at two or three in the morning
to do groceries or to take a tour of the neighbourhood
which then was Yonge Street, Dundas Square, Church,
Carleton. I was always being touched by strangers.
A man in his car followed my roommate home from work, driving five
per hour for blocks. Someone whose gender was more fluid
stopped their car on Bloor in the early morning, asking for directions
to the very next intersection. Then asked if I wanted
a ride home. This isn’t what I’d meant to write. For blocks
I’d followed some oafish drug dealer (he looked cartoonish,
a fat Chong) as he shook down his colleagues and friends
then disappeared into a faded deli with bleached posters of Mats Sundin,
his eerie whitish Scandanavian smile. Wood panelling, stove topped
with dust. A place found always locked when I’d tried
to eat what I was sure would not be good. Nothing was. It was
a different time. With disbelief I found that night
that I was alive. Running to catch a light, closing the careful
distance. Before I lost him. As if there was some meaning.
I never got in the car. Rhinestones, a wig, long blue dress,
two days of stubble, elegant evening wear for a hazy, late,
empty November. But perhaps I might have, if I had known
a little more, had been somehow even hungrier
Whatever was waiting for me. Eager to be noticed, as when the year before
I’d almost cashed a stranger’s cheque. Instead I pointed
to the very next set of lights. We could almost read the sign. Didn’t wonder
what was sitting with them. Not until I’d turned away.
Love is a cracking open. Not in the way I think most people assume. It is not necessarily that your beloved makes you fall to pieces, when you fall in love, though this is how it has been represented, time and time again, in art, in literature, in songs. And this can certainly happen, usually not for the best. Instead I think that the vulnerability love requires asks that you crack open. This is a fine distinction. One involuntary, the other voluntary. One is entirely based on the beloved and what they can do for you, the other based on your own availability, your own openness. It is so tricky, knowing whether you can or should trust. Getting over your own wariness, getting over yourself, choosing the one that you love. Choosing them, over and over again—what a risk, to put yourself in that position, walking out on that ledge, trusting that they will be there to balance you. Trusting too, that you will want them there with you.
How much you could lose.
In the distance and from their great height you can see the long bank of clouds advancing, four seconds of dialogue before the frame skips away. It’s like the nothing, someone says. From the movie. A candied griffin sticker winks in the bottom of the frame, a chibi boy clutching to its back. There is the stream or the highway advancing as you flip forward. As you pause and as you rewind. Late night a psychic living somewhere in upstate New York goes live, smoking a single cigarette on a lit up patio, alone in front of a black and silent house, reading from a book about energy and transfer, about wealth and its generation,
but also a kind of destiny that comes from feeling what you are meant to feel. Something about her voice, its accent and inflection, the single cigarette, the earnestness with which she reads aloud passages from the book as she is spotlighted in the dark, feels somehow both like God is speaking through America, a deep part of America that you have always known was there, or that you are on a far-off planet listening to sounds that only aliens or angels are meant to hear. How do we know each other, she messages you later, having noticed you among five or six regulars
clients or poets or energy transferers, and you cannot say exactly how or why you are compelled, how you have let her credulous voice enter you, watching the stream until your eyelids close, drifting easily to sleep as she continues, peering into or out of the darkness. She reads both on the patio and in the interior of her car, with the dash light on and the windows rolled down to let the air out for her smoke. Other days you see the rain collect and run together on the glass, its movement always somehow a reminder of where you have been and where you have yet to go. Like she is speaking from some far off self, like an attendant to memory is touring the gentle siteless moments of your past, the wipers on the windows, the kiss of the door trilling softly when it is left ajar. Stopping on an empty road in the night, long grass brushing the car, cabin light barely penetrating the field.
Pain in the morning. Ask a question I never ask. The answer is delay. Wait indefinitely, I know it is saying. I know that’s the answer, too. By the afternoon the feeling has faded. A long time since I have asked that question, felt it acutely, vocalized it into the air. Looked for exits. I seem doomed to repeat this movement, over and over again, long after I thought I never would.
Watching for signs. Waiting for anything.
Never to receive what I’m sure will never come.
In windows on my way to campus I look bloated, heavy, weighed down. In a bathroom I see the size I really am—I don’t look anything like I thought. Walking through a fog. Walking in the weight of last year. On my way back this afternoon a ladybug hitched a ride on my shirt, like a bright red stain out of the corner of my eye. I wondered how long it would stay with me.
Looked up its meaning: happiness, good fortune, true love, innocence. Needing to make the right decisions.
When I looked back down it was gone.
If I had not stopped. If I was a child or a dog I would not have. If I hadn’t shouted she would not have. Her window was open. She gaped up at me, deciding her level of outrage.
—This is a stop sign.
—Thank you for telling me.
A moment of doing the calculus. Seeing the collision advancing. And someone totally uninterested in anything but her own shock.
someone tells you bloodfax is the feeling for god
without belief—the shoulds, the absences, the doubt
doing mushrooms and coming out of it in a sour mood
because it wasn’t how you pictured it would be
and having a quieter epiphany, long after, once you
have the chance to turn it over. bloodfax is sighing
hello. it is the heaviness that comes without knocking
when you think of an old flame. when you think of
anything at all. it is worrying that you aren’t in love as much
as you want to be. it is accepting that nothing will ever
be quite what you expect. nothing comes as easily or as quickly
as bloodfax. it is running on the road, being passed by car
after car, coming home with exhaust on your forehead and
in your lungs. it’s taking your dog to the vet.
it’s working too hard and not enough. it is falling asleep
or your limbs tingling and frozen. the feeling of dread
when you realize it’s time to leave the house. an old German
word long fallen out of use
from X-TRACTS [3:04]
Advancing. Hand clipped into the refrigerator. Towards the door. There is beneath a torso a perfectly smooth surface. Beneath the torso it is so perfectly smooth that nothing may be there. Light itself wishes to leave. From outside the door we see the figure advancing. Advancing. Hour and minute hands set at almost half-past seven. It is always this time, one year or two years ago. Hunting for three thieves the police officer crept in the darkness through the house. A large and dark house. Mug of something? In the hand clipped into the refrigerator. The police officer put a hand to his gun. He could not believe how perfectly some objects in the room reflected light. And I am in the absolute, I am nothing but this darkness, thought the police officer. Squinting through my little window. Now where are the thieves? This body must be thirsty, he thought, reflecting on the mug. Or perhaps it is for someone else. He congratulated himself—an excellent deduction. Crept forward but came no closer. The figure in front of him always advancing. Its hair a tangled octopus. Surely there is no such thing, he thought. Surely I have never seen a figure with the head and hair of an octopus. Still the figure advanced. Still its hair remained a still and silent marine creature. Hello, called the officer. Hello, hello. I have entered a large and dark house, in front of me is a figure with the hair and head of a cephalopod and I will never come any closer, hello, hello, hello.
Pulling off the cicada crawling up your shirt the cicada screaming until it is released and returns to its perch, crawling up the body of the boy for the TikTok shared on a Sunday in a stream of them on Instagram. Never got off the phone. Reading about decapitation in France and in Algeria, after two generations of French education they were ready for revolution in the colonies, I am excited and disappointed hearing how constrained by their position they made themselves a Soviet satellite and forbade elections. Suspicion of election and money. Whenever I have a banana for breakfast I think of Jerry Seinfeld waking across from the overweight man on the subway whom he has discovered is nude and saying to him, “I’m guessing you aren’t a coffee and a grapefruit in the morning guy.” I never just have the banana and as I realize now it was grapefruit, not banana, but still I always think of this throwaway moment (bad slow joke—the man’s response “I like to have a nice breakfast”) as if it was instructive. Jerry apologizing to the man for the man. Pulling the cicada and letting it scream. What does that mean? The cicada seeks the boy’s shirt even after it has been pulled, embraces it to the obvious delight of the boy, embraces it like a baby returning to its mother. Now why would I say that. Trying to find something this morning, wondering why reading the article about the French terrorism made me feel trapped inside its complication, why that feeling made me sad, thinking about the Bobby Hill filter on Instagram and wondering why it has so much difficulty distinguishing smiling from frowning (it is always a little frown except for the briefest moments). Was it just spending quiet time in the morning alone with the newsprint? Just feeling for a brief moment like a cicada clinging to a T-shirt? A cicada clinging and being pulled off. Screaming and not screaming. Beheaded and not-beheaded. Colonized and colonizer. I’ve already gone too far—not wishing this post this morning to indicate anything political or apolitical, courageous or cowardly, provocative or conformist, nothing beyond a certain kind of unsited feeling and of sadness that found me at the breakfast table underneath the skylight reading the old copy alone.
The pandemic has changed my relationship to the city. I go down Salem and Westmoreland. Up Bartlett. Never down Gladstone. Stay off the main streets as much as possible. All that walking. Came back from a ten kilometre run with dust on my face. Dust dried to me. And a new tan. I am tired of walking in circles. Tired of new directions. There is nowhere new to go. But there are streets in my neighbourhood which I have only turned down one or two times. Perhaps never. Alleyways I am just discovering now. I feel like a rat in a cage scrambling with his little feet on the wheel. At least every so often I enjoy the scenery as I slide backwards.
I do dips in the park—I lower myself and return again. To equilibrium, to some centre. All of my shopping at the little fruit stand. What more did I once need? I can’t remember now. I don’t have the patience to wait in lines. Less even than usual. Don’t want to wait in the same cramped quarters, breathing air in and out through my mask. How small and fragile are our little breaths. Dips in the park. I tan shirtless. I run in circles, wearing myself into the ground.