Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Night Train

I am 14, and tired of humanity. i have seen too many things that none of my friends have, and experienced too many emotions and activites that isolate me from my peers. in time they will catch up, but 14 is an awkward age. i am in bangkok, thailand, and it is hot and humid and incredibly smelly. the air itself is grey with water and pollution, and the people are grey and lined like old rotting fruit. everything drips: sweat, condensation, words. it is evening, and i clutch my backpack compulsively closer, the only part of what i can feel that seems real. we board a night train, bound for chang mai. the awkward, self-conscious me is nervous of the young train guards who stand a few feet away, looking at me and laughing. i am sweaty, and red, and feel swollen like an overripe tomato. i feel so unbelievably unsafe, so out-of-body, that if someone poked me, or shot a sharp glance i would melt or dissolve. i close the curtain, i leave the window that is part of my wall down, to try and catch a breeze. we go through the evening, through the city, and i lie back and watch the falling-down buildings, the lights, the people, the poverty and the humanity flow past.
i wake at 5 a.m., freezing cold. i pull on my fleece, and huddle under the paper-thin blanket, trying to get warm. we are in the mountains, and when i realize sleep has permanently eluded me i stay sitting up in my little bunk, watching the foggy green jungles and little villages flash by. i see a girl in a school uniform walking down a road. i see an old man on a bicycle. i see pigs and dogs sleeping in ashes. they all ignore the train, and i feel like a benevolent ghost, only half-visible, and it makes me smile, and all of the sudden the earth is right on course and i am overjoyed to be a part of it.

(from my memory, 2003)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Words are my secret weakness, my Achille's heel. When strung together like pearls, each one luminescent and shining, I am completely undone.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

But he who takes no risks does not love.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Kissing Johnny Depp

I didn't think that I would stay for the whole party, but then I arrived at my friend's house and it was full of those nasty girls from high school who have perfectly highlighted, straightened hair, and pert noses that have a few freckles in summer, and skin that tans to golden perfection. I was wearing a short black dress, wrinkled old wool socks, and one of my brothers baggy striped pull-over sweaters. So, just to irritate them, to get under their acne-free skin with my messy ensemble and deadpan comments, I stayed.
We played a game where we slapped on red lipstick, were blind-folded and spun around, then sent to try and kiss a poster of Johnny Depp. I deliberately bent too low and with a loud and decisive smack, kissed his bare chest, much to the consternation of the Riverbender's. Did she mean to do that? they whispered to each other. How odd. She is so strange.
I slept over. M asked me to, she needed someone to talk to, and I like to listen. Besides, I felt like this was the final blow to the Perfects downstairs...I was Chosen, they were not. They could keep on talking about the Bachelor/ette and Grey's Anatomy and their new manicure and their new car and their old boyfriend; I didn't care. The bed was small, and I was reminded of sleepovers as a little girl, spending the entire night on the very edge so as not to accidentally brush against one another in the dark. She talked and I tried to stay awake and make intelligent comments, but my tired brain had turned to mush and I'm afraid I may not have been the most helpful, as I was mostly just wishing she would be quiet and let me sleep. The blankets were being pulled over to her side, and I was too embarrassed to yank them back, so I shivered instead, letting one limb at a time freeze before covering it and thus uncovering another expanse of chilly flesh. Slipped into and out of conscious for what felt like eternity. But I must have slept a bit, for I had this dream...

...Greece, in spring. Green fields with a million wild-flowers. Brown and gold people. I was digging in the dirt for dead bits of history. There was a wink of ocean in the corner of my eye, but whenever I turned to try and see it, it would be gone. It tempted me, and I was obsessed with the idea of seeing it, but it forever eluded me.

I woke up to M's alarm. I pulled the sheets over my head when she turned on the lights, and when she got up and left to the bathroom, i moved off my stiff left side and into the middle of the bed. It was so soft and so warm and there was so much space that I fell asleep for real, and this time I didn't dream. When I finally did rise, the house was empty. M's house is one of those huge old mansions on a big bit of property, with 7 bedrooms and doors that open onto entire new wings that you never knew existed before. But the fridge is always stuffed with good food, and the family is always friendly, and it has a sense of unpretentiousness that comes from not bragging, or really caring, how much money you have. It is comfortable. So I wandered downstairs, made myself coffee and helped myself to leftover Vietnamese food from the fridge. M found me later, feet up at the kitchen table, sleepy-eyed and wearing the same clothes as the day before. She isn't like the other Riverbend girls, she is genuine and gets embarrassed when you talk about her money.
On a separate note, our roads are like 3rd world streets- almost impossible to drive on. I feel so tough whenever I hit them fast, sliding around corners and jumping the curbs.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


"I am going to live in Europe some day."
"You think you could just leave your family?"(skeptically)
"Yeeeees...well, now that i actually think about it, it might be harder than I thought..."
"Yeah, it's different once you actually start to think about it, huh?"
"Haha, yeah I guess..."
"And you would be all by yourself, and come home from a bad day at work, and be crying-"
"I wouldn't be crying!" (indignant)
"Yes, you would be crying, and who are you going to talk to? You know no one, and-"
(interrupts) "AND since I have no one to talk to I will go to a cafe, or to a bridge, and-"
"What? Jump off it?" (laughs, not unkindly)
"No, I would lean against the bridge, staring into the water, smoking a cigarette-" (stares into space and mimes smoking a cigarette)
"Puffing away on a fag" (smiles broadly and also mimes smoking a cigarette)
"Hahaha, yes, smoking a fag, and a single tear would roll down my cheek..." (traces a line from eye to chin) "...and then a French man walking a dog would come along and say: (in a French accent) "Are you alright?"..."
"Of course, a French man." (a bit sarcastically)
"A French man. And I would throw away my cigarette, and grind it under my heel, and I wouldn't be lonely anymore."
"No, I don't suppose you would be lonely anymore."

(both lapse into thoughtful silence for a moment, before laughing and moving on.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Skating Pics

playing "crack the whip"...absolutely terrifying. Absolutely exhilirating.
D and J.
Ma mere et moi.
Lookin' good, Klassen's.

train thought

When you see a passenger on the train reading a book with the words "NOT A CONSPIRACY THEORY" emblazoned in red across the front, you have to believe that it is, in fact, just the opposite.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Last night i was despairing of the whole of humanity. From being part of a fraternities initiation dinner ceremony to clubbing downtown, i thought i was the one person left in the world with some integrity, or a sense of humour. Was there no one else who thought that lining the staircase for 45 minutes while the boys stood in a circle and basically married one another slightly laughable? Could i be the only one who felt retarded wearing a cocktail dress and being led, like a dog on a lead, around on a frat boy's (who shall remain nameless) arm? Did anyone else at the club long to step outside and into fresh air away from the drunken lads and lasses with no hope in their eyes? I have never, even though my bests were all there, never felt so apart from people in general.

And then i woke this morning, and the sky was bright blue and the sun was pouring onto my bed, and i felt a bubble of happiness in my stomach. We went skating on the big pond down by our house. My ankles nearly touched the ground, and my nose was running, but it was beautiful and fun. To be outside, slicing across the warped ice with leaves and sticks frozen just beneath the surface, with laughing, happy people of all fling yourself headlong across the ice, breathlessly, carelessly, trying to go fast without fallling- absolutely i felt hope for mankind once again.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Fourteenth

I spent last night twisting and turning in my sheets. I alternated between chills, where i couldn't get warm, and fever, when i felt like i was on fire. In the few hours i slept, i had a horrible dream that i was being boiled alive from the inside out.
I lay in bed this morning, bones aching and neck throbbing, and said to myself, "self, you are sick. I think you should stay home today and try to get better." So i did. I watched The Office (UK edition), and drank ginger ale, and slept. Tylonol is my hero.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Last night, (or early this morning, depending on how you roll), I was leaning against the wall in my favourite pub, looking ornamental, while my friend C charmed us free drinks from the bar-tender. Suddenly, what seemed like an entire regiment of men in uniform flooded the place, roaring and singing and laughing. Of course, C and i, being the curious girls that we are, roped a few of them into our circle to see who they were and where they were from. Pretty soon we were all laughing and talking too, until i looked over at C and she looked at me, and she had tears in her eyes. "We need to go to the bathroom" she informed them, and dragged me upstairs. In the relative quiet of the loo, she told me that when she had asked the soldier she had been talking to what he had been doing that day, he grew strange and brittle, and had told her: "Today we buried a comrade. Tomorrow we will bury another." and laughed harshly.

I will be honest: the war has not affected my personal life at all. It seems so very, very distant, and i rarely think about it despite it being in the media almost every day. But to some, and I'm not just talking about the soldiers/airmen/whoever, war basically is their life. They eat, sleep, live and die to the drums of bombs and shellfire. Whatever the corrupt government motives are behind it all, when it comes down to it, it is ordinary man against man, fighting tooth and nail to protect what he believes in: his family, religion, following orders, his country, pride, etc. And it is ordinary people, wives and husbands, brothers, sisters, children who die for it. I feel very uncomfortable with the idea of innocent civillians, and even random, crass soldiers in the bar, dying for these noble, abstract causes like peace, freedom, righteousness.
Ooooh, this is too big a topic, too dear to my heart to discuss in full right now. I am tired. I feel unexpected sorrow for the fallen comrades of men I don't know. I feel mournful for the thousands who die needlessly every day, from war, starvation, drought, disease. How can we sit here, hoarding our trash and wallowing in excess when billions of people need our help? How can we turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to their pleas when we have the ability to solve their problems? Hypocrite that i am, as i loll around doing nothing but study. There is no one to blame more than ourselves.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Right To Change Your Mind

I change my mind. I do have the heart of a Northern; a steel, icy, granite heart. I can withstand the cold. I can be stoic and brave. I like to stare across the frozen tundra and see into other worlds. The bitterness, the harshness of the environment is to be respected and feared, but not hated. I can do this. I can have frost-bitten toes and not be able to breathe through my mouth, but my love for THIS, for the here and now, transcends that.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Thirteenth

My eyes are scratchy, and my lips are dry. Today I rejoiced in the thrill of learning again, yet a huge part of me rebelled at the continuation of winter...this city...the mundane-ness of the routine that i can already sense is starting to form. My life only seems to flourish in the unexpected. When it doesn't happen, I search it out, and have to find it in the little things: a busker in the train station. A particularly beautiful frozen tree. A chickadee outside my window. Salad-rolls for supper. It's these tiny blips, petite surprises that break with the norm, that make every day worth experiencing.
The endless frozen grey that makes up my backdrop provides a serious burden on the soul. The ground is grey. The houses are grey. The sky, the buildings, the trees, even the people are grey. Again, it's the monotony that kills me. You need a grey heart, a strong, steel/rock/Northern heart to survive this far from the sun. It's something i don't have. I think it would be romantic if i could be stoic like my people, but i need the warmth too much. That's why I am secretly, selfishly, happy about global-warming.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Bonfires in the Snow

I've just realized lately that sometimes a picture is not worth a thousand words. Sometimes a picture does not explain everything, the entire situation, and people can interpret a picture to mean whatever they want it to mean. A photograph can be dangerous, as is the written word, for once it is taken, or written down, it very often can never ever ever be erased.
Sometimes that's a good thing. Sometimes you will be thankful for that snap-shot, or that letter you wrote in anger, because of the power it holds to transport emotion even years and years and years after it occurred. You can learn from that.
But once in a while, it can bring up situations you thought long gone and buried. Relationships can be shattered, and innocent people harmed. Just be careful. We throw around words and images like they are expendable, but in reality they survive long after we remember the why and how.

I feel like a True Northerner now. Last night I had my first ever winter bonfire out in the country, and it was cold: -15, but we were warm. We huddled close in the woods, staring intently into the flames (made possible by a Norwegian with a bottle of gasoline) and making small talk for hours. It was odd, talking to the person next to me, and only seeing one side of his face the entire night. The other half was completely in shadow. I feel like i know him less now, then when i began. If you didn't keep your boots propped up close to the flames (close enough to gently steam) then your feet got very cold, from being in the snow. My legs felt uncomfortably hot, and my back uncomfortably cold, but i think that that is part of the experience. I love the smell of woodsmoke. When i rolled over on my pillow this morning, i smelt it in my hair, and even while i showered i smelt it in the water. I wish there was a woodsmoke perfume or something. I bet there is, somewhere.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

@))( till @)!)

(D and I, Christmas Eve 2008)
I kind of really like the idea of doing a summary of the past year, in the spirit of "blank slate"-ing and having a chance to start afresh.
I just read my journal from last year, in the hopes of recapturing what i had been feeling this time last year... the answer: not good. I was depressed, lost, tired, bored. But, thankfully, things only got better. I completed my first year of university. I went through a few boys, before discarding them like take-away containers. I stayed in Edmonton for the summer, working and often living on my own. Some good memories how one hot, muggy evening my sister and i met up after work and in the half-darkness that is nighttime in the North we went to the big fountains by the government buildings and lifted our skirts and splashed around in the cool water, while a lightning storm rolled in from across the river. Or how after J's wedding we were hanging out in our basement, and the lights went out...we went outside and the sky was a sickly green and orange and red, and trees were falling down, and there was a tornado. I haven't been that scared in a long time.
I used to take walks every day with my dog through the river valley, and explore. I would sit on the river bank and draw and throw sticks for Molly. Late nights with friends sitting on back porches and drinking wine and eating chocolate mousse.
Going out to wine-bars and theatre and being taken flying over the city at sunset. Reading everything but the Sport and the Business sections in the paper on Sunday nights.
My friend Jill visited me this summer, and i think we had the most fun ever on our ill-fated road-trip to Canmore.
This Fall i learnt the importance of staying home and relaxing instead of constant socializing. I discovered that no matter how low you feel, there will come a time when you don't feel that way anymore- that life is malleable, and changeable, and that there is always an element of the unknown when you are dealing with people. That no matter how well you think you have someone pegged down, they can still surprise you.
Especially in the last month, I've discovered that i can surprise myself. And that you never know who you will meet around the next corner. A piece of advice that my new friend Daniel gave me this Christmas, a sort of motto to live by: try everything once. You will never, ever regret it.
I feel like this past year i had no expectations of any kind, and so my year was full to bursting with new and strange experiences. This year i am ready and willing: I will grab life by the hand, and let it take me wherever it goes. You have no idea of the number of days you have left to live, and so every one must be treated as a special gift. This year, i am more prepared: I will recount all my strange and wonderous adventures, and try to find the humour in every situation. VIVE!