Colony of Losers- Fuck Stigma and Mental Illness, I'm like 25

Surviving your Quarter Life Crisis and becoming an adult

The Chairs On The Deck

Posted on | April 6, 2014 | No Comments

There is something about the chairs on the deck which bother me.

Maybe because they are the only piece of the house which seemingly has no idea that things have changed. Not that chairs have thought or objects can experience recognition but clearly the windows have been boarded up, that gigantic blue metal box wasn’t there before and the police caution tape is only left at the scene of crimes or tragedy. Yet the chairs on the deck look exactly the same.

What’s more they didn’t belong on the deck in the first place!  We had wooden deck chairs that were slowly eroded away by a million conversations and cigarette breaks and eventually they had to be thrown off the deck onto our concrete front  lawn lest someone foolishly assume they were still practical sitting devices.Then we brought out the kitchen chairs because we needed some place to sit.

And there they remain. Waiting for us to come back and have a seat.

It’s not just the chairs that look wrong. There are garbage bags behind the blue cage and caution tape. I think it’s the last round of garbage from November, placed outside shortly before the fire.  For six months no one has thought to pick it up. And there is some broken electronic device strewn across the concrete where I smashed the chairs for public safety.

I remember last year when the winter broke and the first false summer came. When you could pretend there wouldn’t be a snow storm in a week.

Clare and I were drinking coffee. We were probably making fun of eachother as that was the basis of our relationship. That and tea at 4 in the morning.  And we started playing this weird game, where there was one place on the deck that was placed directly in the sunlight and we didn’t want to sit there. At a certain point in the day sitting in that chair meant you were going to be temporarily blinded and most definitely sun burnt. We were aware that this time of the day was coming and I had purposefully chosen the chair that wouldn’t get me blinded.

Clare was also aware of this. Her campaign to change this began with an innocuous request. She got me to move my feet slightly down the railing, where I rested my feet when I was sitting on the deck, most likely with a laptop perched on my legs. So I moved. And then I was asked to move a little more and I did. By the end of  a half hour period she had moved directly into the path of the sun.

It was a few months later that we said goodbye in the parking lot. We had become best friends and knew we would likely fade from eachother’s life completely. We hugged, felt emotional and moved onto different lives. This is what happens when you travel. This is what happens when your home is a hotel and everyone comes from a different country and different people sit on the deck every six months to a year unless you’re Mike Kimber and you have difficulty saying goodbye to meaningful places.You make a best friend and they never hold the same place in your life again because most people aren’t good at staying in touch and I’m especially bad at it. But you have that time and it means the world.

When I’m in Halifax I swing by 2533 Beech Street to look at a different deck. I lived there for eighteen years and when I see it I remember lost times.  As you get older you forget your childhood. You don’t mean to, it just happens. Key events survive because they became stories and you talk about them enough that some semblance of memory continues. 2533 Beech used to be red and white. Now it’s blue and white and I have to say it looks stupid. Mainly because it doesn’t look the same. I can still remember the lessons I learned there. Like don’t trust your brother. He didn’t really poison you. He just made you think he poisoned you. And of course people aren’t really being murdered in your house. You’re six years old and your brothers friends came up with a very clever idea. But eventually you learn lessons your parents and siblings can’t teach you. You start letting the shitty parts of yourself go.

Most of these lessons have happened in the last five years. Manic love to mature love. Halifax to Toronto. 25 to 30. Inconsiderate nice guy to someone with a vague conception of how important the things that don’t matter to you can matter to other people. The realization that life isn’t just doing what you want, it actively involves realizing how your life impacts the people in it.

And many of those lessons came at 189 Sheridan. When I arrived in Toronto I was clinging to the past. All of my writing was based in the last time I fell in love and my heart hadn’t really moved on. I was writing about my mental breakdown and trying to make some sort of career as a mental health advocate. My whole life was based around reliving the first time I really lived. When I moved into Sheridan I felt like I was a shitty roommate, Toronto didn’t feel like my home and my real life was back in Halifax.

Then I was playing late night hockey in the schoolyard next door with Heidi, Loic, Kevin, Mayumi and Alex. We didn’t have enough sticks and we had too much alcohol. Heidi was playing like it was soccer as we didn’t have a stick she could use and I was acutely conscious of not hitting her with the stick. And despite the rum and cokes I was pretty good at it. I could remember those days in front of 2533 playing with my childhood best friends, pretending it was the Stanley Cup.

And it felt like I was in the right place. The right place to go to karaoke at the Abbey with my old roommate Jennica and the Midnight Beefeaters. And I was at a New Years party at my house where I was the only one from Canada. And I was on a great adventure. And on Christmas break Heidi’s visa ran out and she went back to Lollipop Land. And within four months the first family was gone and Evan moved in.

Evan and Alex were both personal trainers and my first real conversation with Evan was on my birthday as we ate the cake Mayumi made for me. We had nothing in common. He was into sports and I was into reading and I had little suspicion he would become like a little brother to me. Evan was there for eighteen months. I watched him grow from a child to a man in that time.And somehow he got me into basketball. And yelling. Evan and I are both very loud. We once had a competition to see who’s voice would carry the longest from the deck. It was a tie. Both of us could make ourselves heard to the end of the next block.

And new people moved in.  There was Pedro from Spain and his girlfriend and his dreams of being an architect. Carolina and her love of fashion and dancing.  Marketa and her beer.  Kotsy and his hilarious policy of drinking three beers and passing it out with the door still open. Our Rwandan roommate who liked to eat eggs and was only seen in brief moments when he left the house.   Then Clare moved in and it was three months before she opened the door and became my friend. Matthew, the American and his quickly leaving due to hating the fuck out of the place and his attempt to give our landlord a heart attack through sheer aggression.

And then Alejandra moved in. Our first real conversation was on the deck. She learned that I was working on a documentary about biological weapons and wanted to talk about science. She knew far more about it than I did. And at the end of the conversation she went inside because she had forgotten something important about the make up of DNA and wanted to remember it.She liked to knit on the deck. Marketa liked to yell at kids during Canada Day celebrations when they laughed and blew up fire works to celebrate their patriotism.

Nino and I also became friends on the deck. We talked about trying to make it in art and how much longer it took to reach financial security and how we wanted to make our living doing what we loved.  Then Nicola moved in, in an attempt to leave Italy and find a country where he could love as he wished and started a campaign to stay in Canada. He had this bizarre love of asking if he could ask a question before he asked it. And playing psychological games that involved four questions and somehow told our future. Charlotte and Nicola got into fights on the deck about burlesque and politics. And then Alessandro arrived amidst the worst rain Toronto has seen in a decade and when I met him his hair wasn’t properly geled and that would be the last time that happened.

So much of what the house was happened on that deck. Sitting in the chairs I would eventually smash and the kitchen chairs that didn’t belong. And unlike many memories I can’t let go of them. Because the house burned down and we didn’t get to leave the deck when we wanted to. Like a lost love that moved on before you did. And it was on the same stretch of sidewalk where I said goodbye to Clare that I’d say goodbye to the house and the one who roommate who didn’t escape the fire.

I don’t think I can let those deck chairs go. Mainly because they remain in a state of permanent stasis. Like they are waiting to be edged out of sunlight when this winter finally breaks. Like I could sit down on one, close my eyes and my entire life would be different. Where three hundred of my books lay sprawled out in a room that still looks like a film set. In the kitchen where I had my first date with the girl I loved.

Now it’s been a little less than six months since the fire.

Tomorrow is Nino’s last night.  He gets on a plane and he goes back to Germany and we’ll have some beer and burgers and he’ll always be a good friend of mine. Because he was there the night we walked away from that house. Because of the conversations we had on that deck.

I wish we had spent the last six months on the deck with him complaining about how cold he was and me raving drunk on medium roast coffee. I love that neighborhood. I loved that house.

I want to sit on those deck chairs.

Some places you don’t get to go back. Some places you never forget.

Someplaces will always be home.

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    Michael Kimber is a 26-year-old journalist who suffered a nervous breakdown on November 3rd, 2009. On March 28th, 2010 when he recovered from mental illness, he began writing a blog called Colony-of-losers. About falling on your face to figure out who you are and the hilarious antics of a blond jew. What began with a few friends and his mother reading has become a cult phenomenon, averaging 10,000 views a week, receiving praise from Commonwealth Award Winner Shandi Mitchell and many others. On, November 3rd, 2010, the one year anniversary of his mental breakdown he signed with Anne McDermid and Associates, the largest literary agency in Canada. In a year he went from wearing pajamas, making his couch depression HQ to leaving his hometown for the Toronto, where he exclusively wears business suits and the armor of ancient Greeks. Don't worry, he's still choking on the feet he contently sticks in his mouth and making moments awkward just by being part of them. During these struggles he met other talented bastards and drew them into his circle. Peter Diamond became his illustrator. Patrick Campbell his video editor and part time photographer. He recently added the incredibly talented John Packman as Colony of Losers Toronto photographer. Without the support of the Colony of Losers, Michael Kimber would be nothing. Welcome to the losers and the success that comes from utter and complete failure. You aren’t alone. Follow him on twitter.com/colonyoflosersand twitter.com/quimbo. If you’d like to hire him for a public speaking engagement for mental health events in Toronto, like to arrange an interview, offer millions to publish his book or for another reason contact Michael please email him. And join his facebook Colony of Losers.

    Really obvious disclaimer:
    I’m not a trained psychologist. Just a fellow traveler. If you need help seek it from the professionals. The Canadian Mental Health Association provides a help locator. You can find crisis resources provided by the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. If you are in the states check here. It will give you services by zip code. I’d also recommend checking out Mindyourmind.ca. I think they do great work and have been a help to me personally.

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