Then is not Now

I am on my third pint. I am still anxious. I blame it on the drugs. The alcohol is supposed to have erased it.

Surrealist thought diarrhoea. Focus. It is Danielle’s fault. She had started talking about writing’s relationship with time. I’ve heard it before. This time the profundity is amplified.

The writer’s now is not the reader’s now. Their now is the reader’s past and the reader’s now is the writer’s future. And each reader has a different now. Writers are writing for as many future nows as there are readers. And each reader slides into their own personal world. To write is to create a multiverse.

The multiverse is my corollary. There is a lost thought between her talk and my deduction. A parenthetical that has slipped away.

“Are you local?”

I try finding a satisfying translation for retrouvailles. Literally it is a re-finding, you find someone again. My brain takes a detour and attempts a description: Two people comparing how much each has changed in four years. Danielle tells the waitress it is a reunion.

I hate it when the mind starts to race. Ideas streaming in quicker than I can process. Puddles breaking their invisible barriers, following gravity, streaming. A thought river. Ideas unsorted, ungrouped and unranked. I grab one at random.

A picture is worth a thousand words. You can paint a picture with a few words. Words are exponential.

Not for the Faint of Heart

Consider the title a content warning.

The title is not a call for attention though this is the story of a very messed-up call.

Escalation. Every time it has to go a little further for it to be taken seriously.

She climbs over the balcony rail. He says he is fed up with the melodrama. She lowers herself carefully down the bars. The door slams three tenths of a second before she screams “I am serious this time!”

He is moving faster than her thoughts. He is walking out of the building’s front door before she understands the order of events. “Ken ! Ken !” He has stopped listening. He turns right at the corner.

She looks down. Two floors is higher than she thought. The scream has no understandable words. It finishes with a long Ken.

A little swing. She throws her right hand up and grabs a piece of the bar seven inches up. The gain is temporary. The right hand slips an inch. She decides, if you can call it a decision, to save her energy for hanging on.

And screaming. “Ken ! Come back! Right now! You are not supposed to walk away.”

Her eyes search for a miracle. Down for a mattress. The door for the hero crashing in. The end of the road for the firemen with the trampoline.

Now her eyes look up as the first four fingers give up one by one. The last six surrender in unison.

A spectator talks to himself. “It sounded like a coconut being struck. A coconut. Like a coconut. …” The firetruck’s horn stops the wail.

Coffee Break

It takes concentration to make coffee. Not much. Enough. A lack of distraction.

Blaming the self-talk for my difficulties in inserting the pod into the holder does not resolve the problem. I am exchanging one distraction for another.

I have to call Luke. It’s one of today’s must-do’s.

It is a task that feels like work. Like a useless process at a hated job.

Networking. Luke, Sandy’s husband. Sandy, Nancy’s friend. He was supposed to introduce me to Dennis. Dennis, who knows the director of a company that is upgrading its system. The details are vague, Luke does not understand IT talk. Dennis is the IT guy.

I am dreading the call. I am dreading the call that the call will generate. I am dreading the unknown.

Here I go lying to myself again.

I fear success. The higher up the ladder I climb, the further there is to fall.

More bullshit.

I am worried that my anxiety will show and that Nancy will hear that I bombed in a networking call. Anxiety biting its own tail.

Voice mail. Now it’s his turn.

Close Up

Jake listens to the fading echo. His head swivels looking for the source of the original sound. There is a little voice in the back of his head screaming “Run!” He jumps.

A man is standing next to the container with a chest full of air. “Get out of my alley! No one is throwing me out of my home! No more Camilla’s. No more losing of Betty. Three years. What does she look like now?” The stream runs into a scream as volume beats elocution in the battle for the remaining air. It ends in tears.

Jakes mind takes him away from the misery, leading him from the deduction that Camilla was a lost partner, to imaginations of Doreen waiting for him. Her face is smiling as he approaches. He takes her into his arms, his right hand drifts down to slip in under her dress. The complexity of imagining himself imagining the underwear she has selected for him is only one of reasons the spell is broken.

The stranger has crawled away. Jake walks on.

How Not to Say What It Ain’t

Dear Francine,
I am writing this letter in the hope that you will accept to read it.

What a silly thing to write. It’s politeness gone mad. It would even sound foolish in French.

Why write it? I am indirectly saying I am nervous. Indirectly because I do not want to say why I am nervous. Nervous because I do not want Francine to think I am saying something I am not.

Even explaining what I am doing is complicated. I am not sure I am saying what I mean.

The standard advice is “Be yourself! Say what your are thinking.”

My fantasy is a garter belt, a short dress and no panties. My jeans around my knees. Left of the door, in the corner.

I should have started with how she makes me feel. How thankful I am for that. There is nothing committal about that. Safe emotions.

There is no safe way to sign the card. Both truth and insincerity would say too much.

I will let the box of chocolates do all the talking.

On the Eve of the Significance

The day before the milestone.

I keep giving time to Nancy. It is not sustainable. I need time for me. I want to run away to find it.

I have, jokingly, called myself an asshole with a charming smile. Now, I am uncomfortable playing the role. Maybe Diane was an innocent victim.

Fuck the performative (which is probably a misuse of the word). Fuck the symbolic. Fuck the implied significance of a milestone.

Fuck the abstruse coming of old age post.

Caught in a Celluloid Jam

Ray sits down. He turns on the television. Fay is missing.

He has checked all the rooms, under every bed and in all the closets. She is missing.

He had started upstairs, in the master bedroom and its two large closets. The mirrors in the ensuite bathroom answered the question of what he would look like if he woke up in a panic.

It did not help. He’d accelerated until he was almost running through the rooms.

He regretted no one had seen his trip on the cord. The walls had offered no appreciation for the way he had made the stumble look like a graceful catch of the falling living room lamp.

The conclusion that Fay is missing is hard to challenge. Ray is sure he could not have missed her if she was still in the house. Then again, a lot of people missed a gorilla when they were counting basketball passes.

Turning on the news is the easiest way to look for a missing gorilla.

Artificial Zen

Jerry is moving forward. Slightly westward because straight lines don’t fit his definition of wandering. On the move because it’s hard to change ideas while sitting in the place that invoked the originals.

Jerry is playing, which is not as cheerful as it sounds. Kant would not approve. He would reproach his use of someone as a means to his own ends. And any amateur psychologist could see that by invoking Kant, Jerry was avoiding his own moral code and thus avoiding guilt.

Jerry is also consciously avoiding the uncomfortable, preparing for a major session of self-flagellation while flagellating himself. Jerry has gotten away with procrastination before, so he keeps upping the ante. Stopping for coffee; whip. Smoking a joint; whip, whip. Singing nonsense lyrics to half-remembered songs: “By the light of the day all is clear;” whip, whip, whip. He mindfully watches time slip away.

Jerry has avoided guilt, he has avoided action and he has also avoided mentioning the subject of his angst.

Suspicions of Hypnogogy

His father, whose name was Aaron, named him Zachary because it was the name he would have liked to have. He was offering Zach the uncertainty of whether he would be called on first or last because with the family name being Adams, he had hated always being called on first regardless of whether the names were sorted by first or last. This led Zach to attaching characteristics to the different types of sorters.

The one sentence version of the sorter profiles said that a last-name sorter would be more pedantic than a first-name sorter who would be pushing a friendly familiarity that the random order person abhorred because it implied a favouritism that went against his notion of fairness. Zach never did find an archetype to assign to the reverse-order sorter.

“The digital world is pedantic! And who is getting bothered by the guy looking for a random to let him in? Fucking digital intercoms!” It did not feel like it was the right time to ask what his first name had to do with his getting woken up at 8:00 AM. and the story had its charm.

Alice, seated to the right of Zach, decided to continue with her tale of neighbourly sleep disturbances. As she starts her complaint, her eyebrows, symmetrical arches, trimmed and perfectly plucked, move closer together in a visual mood-setting preamble. About twice a year the neighbours will have a party that will go until 4:00 AM. “They are probably around 40 years-old, and here they are singing, shouting and making noise as if they were still students.” She wishes she had been the one with the guts to yell “Shut the fuck up!”

The first time I had heard the story I had countered with my old neighbours. Their parties were every three to four months. Some I would find out about when my neighbours complained. I thought the frequency was reasonable. Then again, I was able to sleep through it all and would only notice the parties if I was still awake after the alcohol increased the volume.

Today I go with the story of my first night on my first stop, Montpellier, of my tour of southern France. With the exception of one architectural monstrosity of a neighbourhood that is a failed attempt at marrying the modern with the Greek, I like the city.

I had chosen a weekday visit to get a feeling for everyday life, day and night, in the city. A few pints later and I am telling the bed in my hotel room that this is a vibrant place.

You don’t get a/c at these prices. I open the windows and close the shutters. I lay on the bed to unwind and start unbuttoning my shirt.

Two buttons and a few seconds (minutes?) of shut eyes later, I am wondering why the television is talking French; if I turn on a background noise, it has to be in English. It takes me three more buttons to work out that it is the neighbour’s TV flickering through the shutters.

I hear a child complaining it is too hot to sleep. The mother tells it too drink some water and go back to bed.

Sometime later (somehow, I have gotten myself under the sheet and my trousers are hanging off the back of the desk chair), I wake up to one side of a conversation about poor Lynn. “That is what you get when you get what you want.” Soap opera lives leading to small wisdoms.

I imagine a 1950’s style red-brick tenement building, as cleaned up by Hollywood, with laundry hanging across the courtyard, radio stations blaring, mamas gossiping through open windows. The village square laid out vertically. Who needs sheep? And no counting needed.

The bit about me telling the bed that Montpellier is a vibrant city reminds Barbara to ask about what happened at the party last Saturday.

Involved in a Typical Daydream

One version of my story has inflation as the cause of my moving to Europe.

Yesterday I listened to nine podcast episodes in five hours and eight minutes. The host of one of the shows tells of the stories his father told about the inflation fighting high interest rates of his youth.

To contextualize their relation to music from the late 90’s they had ranked themselves by years of experienced history. They were all younger than my two eldest. I managed to stop myself from adding that they were also all older than my youngest who has just started her first fulltime job. None of them had ever experienced inflation.

I absolutely do not want to be one of those older folks who relate every thing back to their time.

I grew up with inflation. I even did two years of economics while it was raging.

Some of the contemporary articles said the 1973 oil crisis was to blame for it all.

Others said it was a new normal: modern economies, globalization and all that.

Yet others said it was all an illusion.

Of course, if you wanted to, you could probably have found an obscure economist claiming it was all a long sequence of events starting with the tax policies of an unknown Sumerian king.

Economics was making history. High interest rates were bringing down the economy and proving the solution to inflation.

I used to have this routine. “Canada’s unemployment was at 13% and at almost 35% for people my age. In fact, the only one of my friends that had a regular job was selling shoes in his father’s store. In Switzerland, they were complaining about the unemployment rate increasing tenfold from 0.2% to 2.1% (not counting unemployed foreigners helps the statistics). I have a Swiss passport!”

Their is a version of my story where my not getting into the right school is the cause of my moving to Europe. The numbers are the same. The context changes. It is less interesting.