Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Darin was American, and had been in the Navy, or the Army, I can't remember which, and he liked to tell stories about torture and seeing people die. We'd be loading our vans with trays of sandwiches, vegetables, fruit, and dessert, for the afternoon delivery run, and I remember catching snippets of his stories as I ran in and out of the basement or the back door of the restaurant. The Serbs and the Croats, I think. The Croatian war- I remember this, because my sister D was going to go backpacking around Croatia with a friend and he thought that was an awful idea, too dangerous and wild for 2 young girls.

Darin was large, with red hair and beard, pockmarked skin, and kind eyes. He was loud and crass, but he also would go out of his way to help me with my early morning food runs- making sure my pots of coffee were filled and organized, writing easy directions on addresses that weren't common sense to find. Usually in the early mornings it was just the two of us anyway, and I think he appreciated me being around.

When he started telling his war stories, I would try to let him know when they were getting too gory for me. Soon enough, instead of tales of battle and blood, he would open up to me about his personal life: his family, the love-of-his-life who he had helped through rehab for drug and alcohol abuse more than once but was married to someone else now, his plans to become a history teacher.

It was near the end of the summer when Darin's cellphone was stolen. It was slow and hot; the dumpster reeked after only hours of being emptied, the wasps were particularly bad around the doorways, and everything felt covered in a slick, sticky skin of sweat and oil and fruit juice. I was breaking out with more acne than I had ever had in my entire teenagehood from working late afternoons in the grease-filled air of the kitchen after deliveries- chopping carrots, peeling potatoes, patiently creating hor d'oeuvres, anything anyone needed help with. My two new best friends were K and R who had the same tasks as me, and because we spent every day at work together we spent every night together too, having wild adventures, while my old, more conservative friends were off travelling or watching tv in their air-conditioned houses...but that's another story for another time. Because it was slow, there wasn't much for us to do after our lunch runs. K and R and I would end up being given the oddest jobs to accomplish- clearing out basement rooms full of junk, washing windows, sweeping the lot where the vans were parked. It was during one of those lazy, sultry afternoons that Darin discovered his phone was gone. He had a tracking device on it though, and once on the computer he discovered it was in a garage or a house far up North in the city. He was furious, trying to call it, angry that someone would steal from him, the dangerous ex-soldier. He decided that as soon as he was done his shift he was going to drive up to the house and knock on the door and demand that they return it. This was the most drama we had seen in days, and because I knew Darin best and knew how angry he was I asked if I could go along with him. Well, I didn't really ask, so much as told my friends, and my boss, and Darin, that I was going.

We got in his van, and I rolled the windows down all the way. Some rock music was playing on the radio, and I was feeling so very happy to be on an adventure. There was a certain freedom and joy that was to be had from going out of the ordinary. The sun was right overhead, and it turned even the turbulent neighbourhood we found ourselves in quite pretty and idyllic.  We drove for a long time, trying to narrow down from the grainy internet picture where the phone was located. Finally we got it to the right property. Darin wanted to break into the garage to look for his phone, but I thought it would be best if we knocked on the front door first to see if anyone was home who could explain. No one answered our knocking, and after convincing Darin that breaking in to the house itself was a bad idea also, he wrote an angry note and posted it in their mail box. I took the note out and rewrote it with much less expletives, and reposted it. Then we got in the van and drove back to the restaurant.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Average One-Sided Bar Conversation

Hi. It's nice to meet you. I'm totally really into every single you say, and I'm going to laugh at all your jokes. Because secretly you think you are hilarious, and I'm just confirming that belief, non?

What do you do? Oh, that's awesome. I never knew you could do that with a business degree. Way to not sell out just like 110% of your graduating peers. Oh haha, I'm such a ditz, and so bad at math (flip hair and bat eyelashes). I bet you are really good at math. And science. Such a smart, smart man.
Me? Oh, I have a useless degree. Seriously, I think I will either be a waitress or a stripper when I'm done. Ha, no, I've never been to a strip club before. Have you? Of course, just a laugh. Do they dance like this? (Demonstrate a little, over exaggerating.)

A drink? Sure! Scotch, on the rocks. You're so kind. Ha, I know it's rare, but I totally love Scotch! I'm such an old man! (Look at me, I'm so giggly and girly and interesting and self-deprecating. Do you even know what that means?)

Are you from here? Must be nice to have grown up in the same city all your life...(cue wistful smile). Well, actually, yes, I have travelled. But let's not talk about that (look mysterious and deep). Have you? What's your favourite city? Yes, I've heard that those 2 week tours of Europe are so incredible. A city a day. How... compact. You must have made some really great friends on that trip. Oh, you went with your 5 best friends from high school. Who needs to make friends when you have some along with you, am I right? Right? Haha. Yeah, travelling is so overrated. But it obviously makes you such an interesting person!

What kind of movies do you like to watch? Yeah, horror movies give me nightmares. A friend told me that one was really good though! You silly, I bet you were totally scared. Big, brave boy. I bet you were freaked out. Aww, thanks. I probably would feel way safe if you watched it with me (put hand on arm). You could protect me with your muscles and knives and stuff.

A gun? Oh, for hunting? Oohh, a bow and arrow makes WAY more sense for deer hunting. Silly me, duh, I should have thought of that- lead totally ruins the taste of wild game. Yes, I completely agree! Those stupid activists have no idea what it is like when you're actually out there, in the woods, cold, alone, hungry, with everything trying to kill you. Your dad used to take you? Who do you go with now? Oh, I'm so so sorry to hear that. Your poor mother. Do you see him at holidays at least? Aww. You must have had so much responsibility thrust upon your shoulders, how rough for you. Mmm. Mmhmm. Oh, I see. Oh. Aww. (Various sympathetic noises inserted throughout depressing monologue.)

Another drink? Are you sure? Here, let me pay... oh, fine. You are the best.

Oh, thank you. Ha, that's so sweet. No, YOU should model. This is kind of a secret, but I actually did some modelling once. Promise not to tell anyone though, right? It's just so embarrassing (blush and look modest).

Well, I actually have to go now.

Coffee? I adore coffee. Starbucks is my favourite...sorry, you're right, nothing beats Tim Hortons. But Starbucks is a close second, with it's whipped cream and fruit and burnt beans. Haha, I don't know, I don't think I'm doing anything tomorrow. With you? Sure, why not? We have so much in common, and it's fascinating talking to you, hearing all about your life. My number? Well, how about you give me yours, and I'll text you if I'm free.

Ha, no, I'm not playing that kind of game.

No, I'm serious. I'm tired. My friends are ready to go.



Thank you for the drinks.

Monday, February 11, 2013

March, 2003

There was this one time, when I was 13 or 14, and my grandparents on my mothers side came to visit us while we were living in Perth, Australia. They arrived on what turned out to be one of the hottest weekends of the year- it was 40 degrees plus for 5 days straight- and while it was a shock for them coming from a crisp Vancouver March, it was hard on us too. Luckily, we had a swimming pool in our backyard, a big unheated blue rectangle, surrounded by palm trees and green bushes and a hammock on two sides, and a view of our neighbours backyard on the other side. There was also a tin-roofed shelter type thing, with a large table and chairs under it, and it was there that we often ate lunch or snacks after being in the water.
Because being in the water was the only relief we could get. The house didn't have air-conditioning or heating (quite common in older houses in Australia), and so the heat made being inside unbearable. One memory I have is of my mother hanging bed sheets outside the back of the house to dry (because who needs a clothes dryer when you have the sun, I guess), and running in between the sheets just to feel the cool whisper of the damp cloth on my hot bare skin. It was on the same side of the house as the drying rack that I finally caught one of the small black lizards that I had been trying to capture since arriving. They were tiny, cute, and oh so fast. After showing it to every member of my family, I finally let it go, because I didn't know what to feed it, and we all liked having lizards in and around the house because they ate the spiders.

Once, in the winter when it was cooler, I woke up to hear a splashing in the pool, my bedroom window looking directly out to it. I went out my sliding glass door, and saw a rat that had fallen in and couldn't get out. I got my mother, and she called my father, and he said to push it under with the net skimmer and drown it. I think I started crying, and my mom told my dad not to be so callous, and if he wanted to drown it he would have to do it himself because she refused. All this time the rat was swimming, and getting slower and slower, and I finally grabbed the net and scooped it out. Then I dumped it over the neighbours fence, where it lay still, not moving. I ran to the kitchen and cut a chunk of cheese, and dropped it beside the small wet form. I spent maybe 1/2 hour watching over it, willing it to live and run away, before the sun got too hot and I had to go inside. Later that afternoon I checked again and the rat was gone, though the piece of cheese remained, covered in ants.

After that hottest weekend, we took my grandparents out to the country for a weekend. We stayed in a converted school house in the middle of a dry and dusty farm, with a few old eucalyptus trees for shade. Red dirt got into everything. I can't remember what we did, except for once us kids were loaded onto the back of a "ute" (basically a pick-up truck) in the morning, and we drove around with the farmer feeding his sheep. On one of our stops we saw the skeleton of a sheep that had died, and when no one was looking I grabbed the jaw bone (with teeth) and brought it with me. When we got back to the schoolhouse I showed it to my mom, and asked if I could keep it if I cleaned it. She said yes, so I put the bone in a pot and poured boiling water over it to "sterilize" it. I don't think it did the trick, and besides, after a while of sitting in the hot water a smell started to arise that smelt like cooking meat. That's when I dumped out the water and left the bone outside in the sun to dry. I ended up keeping it anyway, and I still have it today sitting on my bookshelf.

One morning in the schoolhouse, I got up early and went into the common area to read a book. I took a seat in the comfiest old armchair, and to my shock and surprise a giant hairy spider the size of my outspread hand ran out from under my bum and disappeared under the chair. I was too sleepy to scream, but instead I jumped up and called for my grandfather, who was making coffee. He and my mother came over, and when I told them about the size of the spider, we all started looking for it- in the chair cushions, under the chair, around the chair. We thought that it would have been impossible for something that size to hide for long, and after a while of not finding it I think we all started to think that maybe I had seen something else, or been confused, or exaggerating. I started to think that maybe I had still been dreaming.
However, eventually my grandfather tipped the chair over and on to its side. And there it was- clinging upside down to the chair springs, front legs waving at us menacingly, was the spider- bigger and hairier than any of us had ever seen before. It wasn't fat like a tarantula; rather, it's legs were thinner and longer and more "muscular" looking. My grandfather killed it with a broom, and when we showed the body to our host out of curiosity, he said that it was a wolf spider, and poisonous, though not deadly so.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


"Yet let me say, what firmly I believe,
Love can be- ay, and is. I held that Love
Which chooseth from a thousand only one,
To be the object of that tenderness
Natural to every heart; which can resign
Its own best happiness for one dear sake;
Can bear with absence; hath no part in hope-
For Hope is somewhat selfish; Love is not-
And doth prefer another to itself.
Unchangeable and generous, what, like Love,
Can melt away the dross of worldliness;
Can elevate, refine, and make the heart
Of that pure gold that is the fitting shrine
For fire, as sacred as e'er came from heaven!"

-L.E. Landon

John and I argue constantly over everything. He is a dear old friend, but that doesn't mean I have to agree with him. He is so firmly entrenched in his belief in true love, in unconditional, over-the-top, selfless and pure love, that it makes me mad. I try to get him down to earth, but it's like arguing with a saint.
Today I found myself sequestered in an empty classroom with him (after he helped me with my paper), and soon enough we were sitting across the boardroom table from one another shouting with red faces and clenched fists. For the past three months our arguments have always ended up circling back to Love, and the meaning of Love, and historical and fictional examples of Love, but we both get so worked up that after an hour I'm exhausted and drained, yet my spirit is exhilarated. I truly enjoy a good debate with John, and there is never any hard feelings afterward.

Before we left our separate ways, he handed me a small square of folded paper sealed with a red wax stamp (he prefers to do everything with a dramatic flair). He said: This poem will explain everything.

I read it on the walk home. It is beautiful, and begrudgingly I'll admit that maybe he is right.