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

Surviving your Quarter Life Crisis and becoming an adult

Something more important going on in the background

Posted on | June 30, 2017 | No Comments

50 year old drink hounds howl approval as a Asian 20 something man sings cow boy blues in a voice you’d naturally would come out of a soulful black woman and a man in a dress dances with a smile like sunshine.

It’s very possible that this  conversation will be relatively insignificant in terms of the events that transpired that evening.

Something more important is going on in the background of this conversation. Just out of frame. Possibly changing two people’s lives. I didn’t know this at the time. But maybe, just maybe, there is a kiss that will start a life time.

There are two relative strangers sitting across the table from eachother. They won’t fall in love. They won’t kill eachother.

But a few words will be exchanged.

They might be important.

*****

My new friend is a handsome gay man with an animated face.

He’s the sort of person who alternates between two very different personas. One is clown like, jumping into say something outrageous, then waiting a few seconds to see whether the impact of his latest verbal barrage blew up the conversation. The other is empathetic, patient and truthful like it could save his life.

Myfriend introduces us, by explaining our accomplishments.

“Michael is a very talented writer,” says my friend. “Very talented. And this man is a genius director.”

I tell my new friend about Just Cuddle. He tells me about his project where he’ll get actors to perform guerrilla performances of major theatrical projections where every character will be played by 8 feet tall vaginas. I’m not sure if he’s joking. He isn’t.

“Theater takes itself way too seriously,” he says. “The actors will take the text seriously. But you don’t need to dress it up. To act like the words have meaning because they do. I thought of literally the most ridiculous thing that people could dress up. Eight foot tall vaginas. And then have them do the speeches straight. Imagine crying as you listen to an eight foot tall vagina do Shakespeare’s most moving speeches.”

“Do the performers have to be really tall?” I ask.

He ponders this for a second.

“Why?”

“I mean if they are in this 8 foot costume they might fall over.”

Imagine stepping on an eight foot tall vagina in the middle of a moving monologue.

“Also like is this summer?” I ask.

He nods.

“Yeah,” he says, quickly catching on to my point. “It won’t be during like toaster time. Like on seasonable days.”

No one wants to die on the streets of Toronto as an 8 foot tall vagina.

“Fucking cool, dude,” I say.

“Thanks man.”

The band starts there set. Interrupting our bonding session.

The band plays well. My friends used to play shows like this. Where they weren’t goals outside of bringing the room to their knees. Maybe I’m reading too much into this moment at this strange cowboy bar in Chinatown. Maybe they have grand ambitions and this is a first step.

Maybe every great band plays a show for no money on a Wednesday night in a bar frequented by trendsetters who look exactly like your mother if she had a drinking problem. There is a skinny man covered in tattoos wearing a dress and dancing like the end of the world has come. He looks beautiful.

There are other patrons eagerly listening to the music. It’s a good show and it’s at the place they go to get drinks at the end of the day. Maybe the end of their day started early and they have had a few and this the reason they can’t contain their excitement.

The young soul singer has this rich, beautiful voice that hits your ears and floods your body. The drums are subtle, the way good drumming should be, like playing just enough that you can feel the rthym and not notice the drums. The bassist is controlled and his bass line is powerful and plays like he’s a partner with the bassist. More than anything the band is into it.

I get this feeling that this isn’t a part of their journey. This is their destination. They got together through a Craiglist Ad. Just something to break the routine. Seven people searching for something meaningful who decided to seek it together. They met up, had some beers, laughed a little and decided to try it. A few practices in they realized they were good together. What was a distraction became the thing they looked forward to every week. Every now and then they had a performance. At the beginning they didn’t tell their friends. They were nervous and maybe a little embarassed. Now they invite their friends. Only they are getting a little later into their 20s and you don’t have that many friends when you get closer to 30. There are maybe ten people in the audience they know. They come to every show because they like to see them shine.

It’s nicer to imagine this is all they need than this is a journey to somewhere greater that is statistically unlikely to come true. They’re good but I don’t know if they’re great.  I have a hard time not making judgments like. I also imagine people making the same judgents about my own dreams.

We cheer like crazy when their set ends. They pass around an empty pitcher.

I help fill it.

The champions should have enough to get blind drunk if they want it.

“I’m going to go for a smoke,” says my new friend. “You want to come?”

I nod.

******

We are outside for just a moment when we are joined by our friend. And the mysterious girl. They are leaning close to each other. Very little distance between their bodies and that space is filled with nervous excited energy.

“Two good guys,” he says.

He rests an arm on both of our shoulders.

“Two very good guys,” he says.

“Three good guys,” I say.

I look at the girl. Notice her dancing eyes. She’s doing that thing where she sort of glows.

“This guy saved my life,” I say.

“Really?” she says, mouth opening a little.

“Yeah I was being jumped by like three guys. He jumped in. Saved my life.”

I try to remember the details of this lie. Because maybe I won’t tell her I’m kidding. If he doesn’t laugh then I might have to recite this story well into the future.

He laughs. He takes a puff of his friend’s cigarette.

“I’m a very good fighter,” he says and gives the girl a look. She gives him one back.

We don’t exist anymore.

“You want a drink?” he asks her.

She nods.

“See you inside, brothers!” he says.

They walk back in.

“What are you up to these days,” he asks. “Besides the cuddle thing.”

It’ll never stop being weird how much introducing myself involves explaining the art of professional cuddling.

“Working on a new story. TV pilot sort of thing. Sort of about that magic time when being a kid starts to come to an end,” I say.

“When’s that?” he says with a big smile.

“First time when a friend dies,” I say.

“Yeah that’s a really crazy time,” he says. “Like when it isn’t a part of your family or expected.”

There’s a momentary pause.

“How old were you?” he asks.

I think about it. Doing the math. Remembering how fucking old I have become.

“We were 20, 21.”

“That happened in high school for me,” he says. “Lot of gay guys killed themselves. Sort of obvious I guess.”

“Not to me,” I say. “Is that super common?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s funny that happens for different people in different ways,” he says. “Friend I know went to an art school and it was drugs. Not suicide. Just like a lot of drug overdoses. Made him really straight edge.”

There were three times when drugs came into our lives and tried to kill my friends. It’s odd how no one tells you the different types of horror that came at you in your 20s. There’s mental illness, drugs, suicide and that endless space after you finishing doing what you’re supposed to do and that time where you arrivewhere you were supposed to go.

Momentary pause.

“Sounds like a cool project,” he says.  ”What got you into writing?” he asks.

I take a second. Gathering my strength.

He grins. Excited for me to tell a story. Knowing something is coming.

“My dad’s a writer,” I begin. “I looked up to him. I also just came up with stories. In grade 1 or primary I told my teacher about Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe. My mom was reading it to me and I made a totally different book up.  Whenever someone asks him why I want to become a writer I usually bring up this story I read in a book by Mario Puzo. He wrote the Godfather. Anyways his character in this book Fools Die, is an orphan. He goes to the library and gets out Brothers Karazamov He reads it and he feels like this unbelievable beautiful relief. Like life is like this. He brings the book and he feels generous. Like he’s doing something incredible. Giving up this feeling and giving it to someone else. I write because I want to give someone else the feeling when I read something amazing.”

“I like that,” he says, brow furrowing. Thinking about it.

“I think that people sort of lie all the time,” I say.

“What do you mean?”

“Like everytime we are really vulnerable, we are like atrophied legs. Like we haven’t shown anyone in such a long time. I want to do work where people show that shit to other people. Encouraging other people to do it. I always respond to that,” I say. “I think that’s why people watch things. So they can see that stuff that no one shows in regular life. Sort of why I do it. Why I’m like dedicating my life to doing it.”

“I think that is true for people like me and you but not true for a lot of people,” he says. “I think people get really freaked out when they see that stuff. They don’t want to see the shitty parts of themselves. Like they will do anything to avoid noticing that shit.”

“Yeah like all those homophobic dudes who end up being caught getting blow jobs,” I say.

He laughs.

“You said it was what your life was about?” he says.

I shrug.

“I put a lot of time into it.”

When I was 20,21 everyone I knew was going to dedicate themselves to making art. Thousands of songs came out of that golden age. A million nights just like this one. Then the uncertainty got too much and they found something and one by one the exodus began. There were a few of us left. Obssessed and in love with the type of work we did. Still not getting rich. The knowledge that seizing the world was less and less likely and too addicted to change what we were doing.

“Why is it your purpose though?” he asks.

I take a second and really think about it. This has been something I’ve been grappling with lately as I get closer to doing what I want to be doing. As I double down a long ago bet. As I put more pressure on myself than I need to.

“I feel really alive when I do it,” I say. “Sometimes I think it’s why I am here.”

I hit a button in his brain. His whole demeanor switches. First suppressed shock, then concern, then he straightens. Like he’s ready to do battle. He’s had this conversation before. Sometimes he just had it with himself. Pretending he was talking to the people he should have spoken to before. Before it was too late.

“I think that’s a really dangerous thing to say,” he says.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself,” he says. “I’ve seen a lot of people put pressure on themselves and their work and it really fucked them up. Fucked them up really badly”

I nod. Knowing what that feels like. When someone doesn’t like your work it can feel like they don’t like you. It’s hard not to identify that closely with your work because to make good work you have to be obsessive. You have to really feel it. You have to be willing to be hurt by it.

Being a successful  is something  where the goal line moves every time you get near it. It’s not about enjoying the destination. It’s about the next place you get to go. Joseph Heller was haunted by Catch 22, never able to equal it in his whole career. You do good work and you chase it like a heroin hit. I wrote Colony of Losers and people told me it saved their life. But they didn’t mention the quality of the writing.  We made Just Cuddle and we showed it to our friends and family and people’s response left me and dazed and confused after hearing things I’d desperately wanted to hear. But why wasn’t there coverage? Then when we got coverage why didn’t they specifically say this or that?

The praise never matters that much. Because there is always a further place to reach. A higher goal to set. And you won’t be able to succeed all the time. My work gets closer to consistently good but great happens rarely and I tell myself I’m a writer.

Which means that who I am is a gamble everytime I write something and let you read it.

Writing trains you to make a realistic story. Only life isn’t like that. The meaning isn’t in a narrative line. Alot of writers suffer from extreme case of mental illness. Part of that is writing gives you a sense of control, like all art does, like you can shape human ugliness into humanity. Anything that gives you control has an addictive property and in a life that is chaotic, it makes you believe in a delusion. In that sense of control you learn how to lie convincingly. When you stop putting your talent into a story, you’re left with a genius for lying to yourself. Which can prove fatal. If you don’t realize it’s a thing you love doing, and not the only reason people will love you.

Sometimes thinking there is a purpose to your life is like believing you have to climb Everest to be considered a decent human being.

He’s looking at me. Like he can read my thoughts. Knowing he has to press me further.

“Yeah maybe I misspoke.”

“Do you believe it?” he asks, his tone empathetic but with a hint of interrogation.

Sometimes I do. I shouldn’t. But I do.

“Yeah, sometimes I think it’s like my reason to be here. To make stuff. I have chosen it over people in my life a couple of times.”

“Chose it how?” he asks.

“My last relationship…she didn’t want to live in Toronto. I couldn’t pursue my career if I left. So I said we should probably break up. Because I couldn’t not live here”

He nods for a second.

“Do you think that’s it though?” he asks.”Like you just had to be an artist and it was between her and your masterpiece.”

I shake my head.

I’ve been caught. It is bullshit.

“I don’t know. Probably not.”

“I think relationships aren’t even really just about the people,” he says. “It’s like coincidence and circumstance and the right people. If you don’t have the right circumstance it doesn’t matter if the person is great. Do you think it was really about writing? Or was it just not the right circumstance?”

I feel a little lump in my throat. The idea that I chose art over love is a bad story to tell yourself. Even if it felt like that at the time. Even if it just felt like that because it was comforting. Only it isn’t. It’s an added weight I put on myself. To make each project I work on as good as it can be. So it good it can be worth losing human connection.

“Yeah,” I say. “Thanks. I needed to hear that.”

“I’m not saying art isn’t great or worthwhile,” he says. “We were just talking about losing friends. I have lost a lot of friends to that shit. Like they killed themselves for their art. And their art wasn’t that good.”

What art is good enough to die for?

It’s an odd thought. One I’ve never had before.

I feel this tremor.

This idea of me dying. Surrounded by the books I’ve written. The movies I’ve made. The idea that for decades at a time I only thought about my work. That maybe I found love. Maybe when it got hurt I didn’t fight for it. I just wrote something beautiful about it. That instead of living I found a vivid dream and put my passion there instead.

But…..

It’s not that fucking simple.

“When our friend died we all made a lot of stuff,” I say. “My friend Dave did these shows with his friend DJ Cosmo. They were super orchestrated, calculated down to the second, even the conversation in between. And we would all show up. And he did this song about our friend who left. It was like everytime we went out we got to really feel how much he mattered to us. And we were all together. It was that time. When we were all trying to make something. And we sort of just making it for ourselves. It felt like it was a way to hang onto him. And like a way to stay alive even when it hurt all the time.”

Think of every song you’ve listened during a break up. That magic moment when you saw someone else’s story and you realized a key to your own. There’s something more in these pretend worlds. Something that is powerful enough to dedicate a life to.

“That sounds like you had a good group of friends,” he says.

“I think it can give you a sense of control,” I say. “Like that’s how bad stuff inspires you to make great art. Because you have to do it. To be able to hang on to life when it gets hard. It’s like a really good argument not to do something stupid.”

“Totally,” he says.

Beat.

“It’s just not worth dying for,” he says. Takes a pause. “It’s just dumb. Because it’s cool to be passsionate about your work. To really pursue. It’s just not that important.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t say I’m this piece of work I did,” I say.

Yet how do I introduce myself to people? How do people introduce me? I say I am a writer. For someone reason that means something different than I am an insurance adjuster. Maybe I don’t agree with him. Not all the way. There has to be sacrifice to get any place important. Thousand upon thousands of hours aren’t sunk cost. It also shouldn’t be something that people can take away from me. My life’s purpose shouldn’t depend on someone else paying attention to me.

“Maybe it just can’t work,” he says. “I think it’s fucking stupid. You think when I think about my friends I think about their art exhibits or their plays or their songs? I think about you know. Doing stupid stuff. Just them talking to me about stuff. And that I like needed them. At a lot of points and they aren’t around because they were chasing this thing. This thing that doesn’t give a shit about them.  And I can’t see them anymore. Even though I really want to.”

I think about it. At the time and after.

I give him a hug. He hugs me back.

“I’ll think about it,” I say. “I really will.”

“Good. Drink?”

“Sure.”

******

We get a drink. Beer for him. Rum and coke for me.

Our friendship established by one good conversation.

I don’t remember his name. I think he assumes my name is just Kimber as people forget to say my first name when they introduce me. We’ve moved away from the table near the musicians. Just having a drink by ourselves. In that nice people where you just met someone and you can sort of say anything. I’m trying to make him laugh because I sort of feel like I owe him a debt. He’s told me things I needed to hear when I needed to hear them.

We watch our friend and the girl.

Running her hands down his arm. He’s leaning in. Speaking so quietly no one else but her can hear him. Whispering secrets. They leave together. With a little goodbye. I discover they have a long history. This evening might change their lives.

We talk about life. About the idea of having children. What we want our lives to be like. It’s that conversation that sort of can be about anything and involves arguing. Like it’s important.

Like there’s nothing more important going on in the background.

 

 

 

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“You’ve never seen your face!”

Posted on | June 29, 2017 | No Comments

“You’ve never seen your face,” says the kindly 70 year old man.

“Hmm?” I ask.

“Hmmm? Not hmm. You. Have. Never. Ever seen your face.”

His eyes are sparkling as he says this. His voice is German yet somehow soft and animated with the burning enthusiasm of a child who just saw a flower for the first time in his life. We are at a buddhist temple. I’m drinking the complimentary tea and eating the cookies.

“Never?” I say.

“Not once,” he says. His finger goes up to rest like an exclaimation point in front of his face.  ”Not in your entire life!”

There are a lot of reasons to meditate.

You can find listicles online that have up to a hundred reasons. They include cultivating gratitude, lowering anxiety and health benefits like lowering your potential for heart disease.

All those reasons are bullshit.

The best reason to meditate is this man’s 70 year old face.  Look at this man’s face and you don’t have to be scared of getting older. His lips naturally curl into a smile. His eyes are like blue jewels. He has the energy of a child let out to play.

Sometimes if you’re lucky you get to wear this a face like this for a couple of minutes a month. When through luck and coincidence that claw digging into your brain looses it grip. And you manage to escape that pressure and you can appreciate the delicate feel of the sun’s rays as they brush across your face and you feel the warm light dance over the curtains of your eyelids. When you can forget that you’ve seen everything a million times and stop looking at years ago.

“Never once?” I ask.

I’m egging him on. I like seeing him get fired up.

“No!” he says, brimming with joy. “You see your face how?”

“In a mirror?” I reply.

“Exactly. It’s not the same face she sees.”

He points at a fellow meditator. I met her about 16 weeks ago. On a Wednesday at the open sit.

“No. I see a different face,” she replies. “Different than you see.”

Now I look at her face. Kind. A little tired. About my age. Nicer to other people than she is to herself.

Through post meditation conversations I’ve discovered she is an amateur mathematician with little liking for poetry. Meditation sometimes makes her feel depressed, as her inner voice isn’t always polite.   She is from Eastern Europe and balances their sense of brutal honesty with shotgun blasts of childish laughter.

“It’s reflected off a mirror. It’s backwards. You’re seeing your face backwards. All reflective surfaces make your face twist around so you’ve never seen it in your entire life,” says the kindly 7o year old German man. “They lie. They rearrange.”

“Cameras?” I ask.

“Same,” he asserts. “Total same thing.”

“Lakes?”

“Anything that reflects,” he says. “Anything!”

I think of all the time I’ve spent looking in the mirror.

I like looking in the mirror.  When I was in highschool I was really overweight and about a foot shorter before I went through and used to hate looking at my face. Doughy. Someone once described me as a Furby.  It didn’t look like how I felt.  I enjoy looking at my face now. Even as wrinkles accrue and my teeth show signs of too much coffee. I also wonder how people see my face. What they think when they see it.

It’s strange to realize that I’ll never know.

In the same way I’ll never really know how people see me. You know like metaphorically see me.

I’m caught up in my intentions and preconceptions about how I’m seen in the world. My mind is like a mirror. Flawed in the way it sends signals back to me. It’s not a blank canvas. My brain isn’t neutral or an honest arbiter of the world. Due to its inherent confirmation bias, the opinions I hold actually twist the information I take into confirm to my hopes and fears.

I lie to myself without knowing it.

A common misconception is that meditation is about the process of turning off your brain. It isn’t. Those moments of spaciousness are like happiness, just a temporary reward for hard work.

Meditation is about looking at your brain.

Noticing the stories you tell yourself. So that you can notice how you lie to yourself. How you escape feeling that discomfort where nothing is certain and only change is permanent. How by doing so you blame yourself, you blame others because you don’t want to feel anything unpleasant and you want stories that make you feel secure and comfortable in your understanding of yourself and the world. Only by escaping your feelings you deny yourself the chance to be there for yourself. You deny yourself the chance to really understand what other people are going through.

Think of all the times you’ve felt sick in your gut. You’ve gone hunting for the source of that feeling. You’ve told yourself stories. You’ve played detective and you’ve created a narrative. You think the truth is in your gut. In that panicked feeling you want to escape from.

So much so that you don’t look at it or feel the texture of that sensation. In a book by Pema Chodron she says our panicked responses last approximately 90 seconds. You have a thought it scares you and if you stay with it the feeling disappears within 90 seconds. It’s actually our desire to stop that feeling which magnifies it. Instead of 90 seconds we make the feeling last days by creating a story to explain it. By trying to ignore the groundless nature of reality and pretend it’s a character flaw.

The best lesson anyone that has struggled with mental illness is given is the knowledge that we lie to ourselves all the time.

Our gut isn’t a fortune teller.

It’s a scared person looking for safety in a world that doesn’t guarantee it.

I can’t see my face.

But I can see his.

The child like wonder. The excitement of discovery that every day offers him.The chance to really see yourself and not have to run away. To see other people with that same kindness. To look at someone like you’ve never seen them before. To truly see them in this moment. Which you can only do if you’re willing to look at yourself and realize there isn’t anything concrete. Just a story you tell yourself. An image reflected back at you that you make into a symbol.

“What do you see when you see his face?” asks the kindly German man.

She thinks for a second.

“It’s beautiful. A beautiful face,” she says.

I smile. Not worrying about showing my not so white teeth. Without the fear I’ll be caught on camera.

I have no idea what my face looks like.

I look at them. Really looking at them and I feel this gentle euphoria sweep through me.

We can limit the world and make it small enough to fit into our conception of ourselves.

Or we can give into the mystery and let ourselves look with the same curiosity in this old man’s face.

We can be children in awe of our experience, in the knowledge that we’ll never really understand it.

That if we are very lucky, we can feel it.

 

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Melvin and Me

Posted on | June 28, 2017 | No Comments

Over a weekend I’ve been filmed singing opera in my shower, acted out a weed-induced conspiracy theory freak out and journeyed into the heart of loneliness over 50 hours of non-stop filming with my best friends. We’re currently in the hardest part of my character’s journey. Melvin meets his mother for dinner. “People like us are going to be alone,” says Nanci Pach, playing my character’s mother. “You’re just going to have to get used to it, Melvy.”

Nanci is very good in her role. Not like my mother in the least way. More like the voice in your head that tells you that no one will ever love you and says it’s doing it for your own good.

I feel this wet sensation gathered in my chest, it spreads to my throat, to become a weight under my eyes. It’s like two rivers converging. My own experience of loneliness and Melvin’s sense of rejection become one. I’m showing more than I know how to show in life. And I’m crying. And Nanci takes my hand and as a final humiliation offers to purchase a cuddler for my New Year’s Eve.

“Cut,” says Elias. “We’re going to take a break.”

I catch my breath.

I can see that he’s excited. I am too.

We got it.

“You were crying. That means you’re a good actor,” says Siamak, our sound guy and general magic man as he hands me a purloined Kleenex. “It takes a good actor to cry.”

“Yeah?” I ask, as I wipe tears out of my eyes.

Siamak puts his hand on my shoulder and squeezes it. He’s comforting me. Alarmed by the intensity of feeling I just expressed. He’s seeing things about me that a hundred long conversations during filming didn’t reveal. A fictional portrayal has erased the distance I practice. And he’s reaching out to me to show that it’s okay.

“Really good, bro” he says. He stops. “If you don’t have anything to do on New years this year give me a call. We’ll have fun.”

****

Words are incredibly powerful.

Search for the genesis of the worst things you feel about yourself and you’ll find the one time someone in your life said it. It’ll be just a moment in a galaxy of well-intentioned words and it got past all of your defences and worked itself into your memory. Words can make fears into facts.

As a result I’ve always carefully chosen my words.

Hoping to maximize the amount of happiness I could create in the people around me. I can see what people want to hear. Sometimes I can see what they need to hear. When I show vulnerability it is almost always constructed to make other people more comfortable with the parts of themselves they have difficult living with. As a result very few people actually know me.

Melvin has a different defence mechanism. He says the worst thing possible almost all of the time. He struggles with a feeling that I think most of us have felt at one time or another. Where he thinks he is uniquely unable to form human connection.

How did my glorious acting career begin?

Elias, Winter and I were doing our first auditions for Just Cuddle and we had people read for the part of Melvin.

Melvin’s role was simple. His friend Frederik cried at work. Melvin wants to prevent his sociopathic boss from firing his friend.

Elias got me to read for the part.

He then got me to accept the role.

It was also Elias who approached me about doing an episode about Melvin.

I can say now that it’s over that I was incredibly nervous about taking such a large role in Just Cuddle. All the actors involved in the series had knocked it out of the park. During it, Winter had transformed into some type of movie star. I didn’t want to ruin this amazing thing by injecting myself into it.

Elias reassured me that he would be able to get where I needed to go.

The weekend was scary because there’s not a lot of room to hide when the camera is pointed at you. There’s no being perfect. There’s only being Melvin. And to be Melvin meant exposing myself.

****

I’m at a hockey game with my best friend Jordi.

We’re 12.

The smell of hotdogs and popcorn. You can hear the sound of skates on ice.

The cheering of the crowd who are very enthusiastic about something I to this day don’t give a shit about.

I came to Halifax Moosehead games to be with my dad and Jordi.

I remember feeling like my mind was going a little too fast. I’d been at acting class at Neptune Theater School in an attempt to make some 13-year-old girls fall in love with me. The experience had me feeling high strung and confused.

Maybe it was a first touch with the anxiety I’d experience as I moved into puberty. Whatever it was I couldn’t find the right words.

He sees me struggling.

“You don’t have to be funny with me, ” he says. “Just hang out. That’s all you need to do.” A sense of relief floods throughout my entire body.

Shortly after a goal is scored.

I use the screeching hysteria to loudly scream my feelings of joy in front of my childhood best friend and father in a way they’ll never be able to understand.

****

I’m getting cooking lessons from Phil Miner.

It’s 2009.

I’m 25.

I’ve fallen into a depression that is immediately visible to even a casual observer.

Anxiety is a normal background emotion. Like bass for music. Sometimes the music disappears and your whole reality can be composed of very short harsh sentences that become the story you tell yourself about yourself. That repeat.

Until you don’t want to think anymore.

Phil and I became close when he agreed to edit a fantasy novel I’d been working on since I was 18. One that had spelling errors and pounds of weed hidden within its margins. Over 13 months we meet every week for at least 12 hours. He finished a book of poetry. I finally finished the book. An outside source read the book and said it was good. I cried. Because I realized I might be able to do the thing I’d been trying to do for my whole life.

And we lost touch for a little while.

Until I began to come apart.

Phil and I had great conversations. He drank red bull and memorized quotations from great literature that he’d recite from memory.

We laughed a lot.

He made me feel smart.

There are no good lines of dialogue in our most important moments. Just recipes. Because I don’t know hot cook and want to learn.

We are in his kitchen in Halifax, Nova Scotia. it’s been three days since I slept.

My ability to pay attention is completely gone.

Laughter is the audience at a sitcom taping. Robotic and inserted where you would see a normal person laugh.

He carefully explains how to make salmon using the stove and spices from around his kitchen. He repeats himself. He knows I can’t hear him the first time. I promised my girlfriend I would learn to cook.

He’s careful with me. He doesn’t demand anything besides that I come over and hang out. Even if I don’t have anything to offer. Usually I just listen to him and nod every now and then.

I don’t remember how to make that salmon. I still suck at cooking. But I remember the time in that kitchen. When I had nothing to offer and Phil had recipes.

Friends like Phil keep me there until the music comes back.

****

After my depression into 2009 I recovered. At first I told everyone I met that I had anxiety. Felt like I had to. To warn them. Then gradually it became background noise.

In November 3rd, 2013, I put up a post about how the war was done.

I no longer considered myself as someone who had anxiety or needed to deal with my demons through posting on a public blog. Colony of Losers was dead. I’d just finished my first short film. I was going to be a filmmaker.

November 20th, 2013, I was in a house fire.

We got outside. I thought we were safe. Until I found out that my basement neighbour was still inside. I met her boyfriend in the alley. I grabbed a shovel to break the glass of her window. The glass shattered. We screamed into her window.

She didn’t wake up. The ambulance came sometime after.

I held her boyfriend as he screamed in the alleyway as we waited for help. I watched news crews film her as she was taken from the scene.

I wanted to be able to do something.

I couldn’t.

She died later in the week.

In situations like this, everyone has an expectation of what they would do. What they could do. There was nothing I could do. It took me a long time to understand that.

And gradually I stopped talking about the fire. And sometimes I barely remember what it was like living in that house. The house we called Hotel Internationale because everyone who lived there came from another part of the world. Where I heard dozens of languages and Toronto became my home.

It’s two years later.

I’m in my office working on a power point presentation.

The people who own our building are testing the fire alarm. My coworkers are slow to exit the building. For them it’s an inconvenience.

I try to remain calm. But I notice my hand starting to shake.

I make my way out of the building. My best friend at work, Zamaan Sunderji accompanies me. I’m okay.

Until we can’t find Stephanie Wu. And it gets worse.

And I guess I’m thinking there might be a real fire and maybe she won’t get out. And she’s from another country and there were people I lived with who were from another country and dots connect and…

I start looking at the gathered crowd. Trying to find her.

And I can feel the panic manifesting from a whisper into a klaxon.

And I see her.

Steph’s ok.

And I have to walk.

Fast.

Because I know I’m not going to be able to keep it together.

My foremost desire is that no one should see me like this. Apparently when people are choking they often die when they go into another room because they’re embarrassed to be seen like this.

And they are coming with me.

Turning a corner to get as far away from work as I can. And I start crying. Really hard. Zamaan puts his hand on my shoulder. Stephanie sits down and joins him. Patting me gently. Having no idea what to do.

I cry hard and they try to help me even though I don’t explain what i’m going through. They don’t know what to say but they sit with me.

Protecting me from whatever is happening inside me.

****

It’s sort of embarrassing to talk about my attempt to seduce what would become my closest friend into becoming my writing partner.

Prior to our meeting I had come up with five different pitches I thought might appeal to him. I had even gone so far as to practice said pitches before I met up with him at Nirvana on College street.

Elias and I met at a producing conference about year before. My friend Thomas Pepper had expressed admiration for Elias’ writing on his previous web series, World Away. I was intrigued.

I was 30, still accepting money from my parents to pay rent and I had been unemployed for seven months. I’m going to offer to pay for our meal when the cheque comes. Paying for anything at this point sort of hurt. But you have to appear confident. Especially when you aren’t.

“Hey man… how’s it going?”

His voice is warm. Comforting. I’m stooped and he has this confident demeanour and upright posture.

I immediately fall into trying to impress him.

Imagine a date where someone laughs at every joke you tell. Imagine a person who’s trying to sell you on a pyramid scheme he doesn’t really believe in. I’m desperate and I can see he’s not buying it. Because he has a tell. That is immediate and obvious. If he can’t relate to a story or doesn’t see his internal logic the doubt is written all over his face.

I talk faster.

I’m Melvin.

He picks up the cheque and makes a vague promise that at some point we might write something together.

****

We are in Elias’ car.

On the highway.

We’ve traveled a million miles since that day at Nirvana.

We’ve laughed thousands of times, eaten a lot of brunch, filmed eight projects and we’ve just finished shooting the end of Just Cuddle’s season.

Thousands of hours of talking and working and filming have gone into making sure that we had something we could all be proud of. Winter has astounded us with her acting. Literally moving us both to tears. We’ve done the best work we were capable of at this time in our lives. You don’t get to say that many times.

If someone picks up the show we make another episode. If not this time of our lives is over and we’ll find more things to make. I feel nothing and everything in bursts as he picks up his speed and turns up the music.

We talk about the series. The people we got to meet. Our favourite moments. And somehow we start talking about Melvin.

“I wonder if people are going to think you’re Melvin,” he says. “That our friendship is actually like this.”

I instantly argue with him. That they would be missing the point. I’m not Melvin. And I start to explain why. That my mother sent me a smiley face text and wished me a happy New Year and would never speak to me like Melvin’s mother. Elias was away on New Years on a trip with his girlfriend. We didn’t fight about it. My own New Years just wasn’t very filmic. Staring at a computer. That even the story I wrote about the experience missed crucial details. Like talking to the beautiful Hannah Whitmore and laughing with her over the phone as she wished me a happy New Year. Like getting closer to Lauren Edwards who shares her life with David. Because art is often a simplification of something you can’t distill in a good story. The power of storytelling is in limiting the drama to a carefully established focal point.

“It’s not that,” he says. “I know you aren’t Melvin. It’s that I feel like you have this sense of shame about feeling so lonely. Like you need to defend it to me, clarify that you’re not actually that person. I’ve been lonely, man. Really lonely, like feeling as if I didn’t have anyone. And that’s okay. There are a lot of people who can’t express what that’s like. You can. I think people are really going to connect to Melvin. Because everyone feels like that sometimes.”

“I get that,” I say. “I’m not Melvin.”

We speed into the night. Lord Huron playing.

The road is lit with car lights. Fireworks exploding on the road in front of their vehicles as they race somewhere they have to go.

The city becomes visible.

A new adventure is coming.

The next chapter is like every adventure. Where you carry your life with you in the belief that it will disappear and you’ll become something different. And if you’re lucky you learn to accept a little more of who you are.

Every episode of Just Cuddle blows me out of the water. Melvin is special to me.

Because I think that when you watch it you get to see me through Elias’ eyes. And when you watch it you can feel this gentleness. This utter and supreme sense of care with the character. The same care he treats all of our characters. Only it’s different.

Watching this film I feel like the world gets to see the things I don’t show people. The things no one wants to show people. And it’s okay. Because it’s told through the eyes of one of my closest friends.

You can watch the Melvin episode here

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Almost at your stop

Posted on | June 28, 2017 | No Comments

It’s 8:30 in the morning.

Winter time. The subway is packed. But for a little alcove where mysteriously there are seats.

I take one. Bury my head in a book. Enjoying my good fortune. Not thinking there might be a reason.

11 minutes and I’ll be at work.

My head goes up when I hear a giggle. I look up and see a weathered looking 50 something holding a gym bag. He smiles at me. He has all of his teeth but he doesn’t brush them that often. His skin looks tanned and artificially so. His eyes are friendly but glazed over.  Like he’s hungover and not sleepy.

I smile back.

He grins wildly back at me.

Now we are in a conspiracy together.

He unzips the gym bag with fumbling showmanship. He takes out a can of paint thinner. He raises his fingers to his lips to demonstrate that I should be quiet about this. He has a mischievous smile. He grabs a paper towel. He rips off a little bit from the roller.

My mouth opens slightly in confusion.

My new friend shakes his head, like, “Wait for it. This is going to be good.”

He unscrews the cap on the metal container of paint thinner. He meets my startled look with a magician’s demeanour as he reveals the rabbit. He pours a little bit of paint thinner on the towel. There’s a momentary pause. He takes in a deep huff.

His eyes clear for a moment. Like a bong after you take all the smoke out. Some bizarre mind killing clarity.

I don’t know what to say.

My first instinct is to be polite and ignore it. My eyes go back to my book. Just a few more stops.

See that’s the thing about the subway in Toronto. It’s a place where you pretend you’re alone. It’s a little hard to pretend with my new best friend. As he aggressively breaths in the paint thinner, the acrid odor hits my nostrils and travels up my brain. Even second hand huffing paint thinner is unpleasant.

I stand up slowly. Trying to pretend I thought of something important, like I have a business meeting a litttle down the car and my leaving has nothing to do with my new friend. He looks up at me, eyes red and glazed. He grins. He knows why I’m going and it doesn’t bother him.

It takes me about 30 feet before the smell isn’t overpowering.

People are slowly looking over. Taking in the site. But within seconds the paper towel has disappeared. He is doing his best to look inconspicuous.

He’s extremely high but maintaining excellent posture.

There’s something interesting about his decision to do it here.

Where there were dozens of potential witnesses.

He bought a ticket, walked down the stairs with his gym bags and decided to do something that none of us could ignore.

I’m not sure if he lives on the street but then we have trained ourselves not to see people on the street. From an early age we realize that if we look at them, truly look at them we’ll see things that we don’t want to understand. So we train ourselves to think of our responses to the questions they pose rather than what their lives are actually like. We respond to them asking for money and ignore what their day to day lives must be like. It also startles me when someone tells me that they should learn to work for a living. Can you imagine a worse job than begging strangers for money, each time leaning into your sense of helplessness?

I’m not saying that my friend was staging some sort of protest.

Just that he decided I would see him. He looked at me before he did it. Because he wanted me to know.

I look back and he puts the paint thinner back into his gym bag. He looks down and notices the paper towel clutched in his fist.

He is very high so his abillity to walk resembles a cross between a drunk on their tenth drink and a crab making his way onto a beach for the first time.

He again meets my eye. Gives me a big charming smile and drops the paint thinner covered paper towel on the other side of the train. He scurries back to his head. Sits down and grins. He looks extremely intoxicated. He’s become visible to everyone in the subway car. Yet everything else around him is less visible.

The thing is no one in the car is going to stop him. Or wonder about him as soon as he is off the train.

It’s just a couple more stops.

Until all we get where we are trying to go.

 

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Why Dogs Make My Daughter Scream

Posted on | June 27, 2017 | No Comments

Sometimes you’re drinking coffee. You don’t realize you are about to see something that will inspire a thousand therapy sessions.

Or that’s this will be the reason that Paul Jean divorced her husband 25 years from now when he surprised her by getting her child a puppy.

Let’s not start there.

You made a strange decision. You got their special mix. Which for some reason isn’t just a typical Ice Americano. You know the drink you get even when it’s winter. They added soda water. Which adds bubbles to your drink.

You’re trying to listen to your friend Charlotte talking. She’s probably saying something that is medium important. Maybe even emotionally revealing. But you aren’t paying attention. You’re just wondering why the fuck there are bubbles in your drink.

You are me in this moment.

I noticed that you might not like the fact that I have made you me.

But it’s important. So shut your goddamn mouth.

We are sitting there with Charlotte. Who in many ways is also me. Because I can choose to pay attention to what she is saying or I can ignore it. Thinking about the bubbles. The cursed bubbles. Actually it’s not just the bubbles. They put sugar in this fucking thing.

“Blah, blah….feelings,” says Charlotte.

I nod.

“I can definitely see what you mean,” I say and laugh. “Like jesus.”

I do an impression of Jesus being crucified. Because why not. I’m really selling this I’m listening thing.

“What?” she asks.

I shouldn’t have ordered this drink.

The recycling can is far away.

Maybe I can just throw it. Maybe it’ll land go right through the tiny hole.

No. That’s foolish. I’ll never make it.

It will smash against the plastic bin. Spraying the hipster couple. Ruin their matching hats. Their denim jackets covered in coffee stains.

All because of this fucking coffee. This stupid fucking coffee.

I rest the cup on the bench. Better safe then sorry.

And then it happens.

I mean it actually happens. Not just happens in my head as I forget to pay attention to my very interesting friend.

The first thing I remember hearing is the sound of a dog collar banging against the dog’s neck.

You can hear it’s feet hitting the ground. Digging into the grass. As it gallops forward.

Tongue wagging.

Saliva dripping off the tongue.

Dangling in front of its mouth.

Motion tearing the saliva from its jaws.

Then I notice that a child is near this dog.

Which shouldn’t be a problem. The dog doesn’t look angry. Just playful.

Enjoying a mad dash across Christie Pitts.

Only it’s rapidly gaining on the child.

Which is when things go  wrong.

A mother is separated from her child by about twenty feet. Her daughter is wearing a winter’s hat over her head. Tiny. Maybe six or seven. On the last day she won’t be terrified of dogs.

“Sweetie, run! Oh my god run!!!”  Her voice is full of desperate agony. “Run! Faster! Faster! My daughter oh my god my daughter! Run! RUN! RUN!”

Everyone looks up. I mean everyone within five hundred feet.

The child flinches. And bolts. Running for her little life.

The dog wanted to play. Now he’s scared. So he’s also running. In the same direction as the child. Faster and faster.

The little girl is just a few seconds ahead of the dog.

As he gets excited.

Growling to demonstrate this excitement. Gaining on her. Gaining oh so quickly.

“My daughter! Someone helped my daughter!” Her fear has climbed up to an eleven. She is going nuclear. She’s also not moved an inch. “RUN! Run Marnie! RUN!”

Two or three feet. Little legs racing up a hill.

She’s not moving. She’s now just screaming.

“Help! Help!”

Fuck. What should I do?

The daughter has lost her mind. Running up hill. Chased by the dog. Who is probably terrified by the mother’s screams.

Maybe I should tackle the dog. That seems like a thing that people might do. I think about it.

It’s gaining on her.  Every single second it closes the gap. The mother is losing her mind. Shrieking.

It’s in those few seconds where the terror sinks deep in her daughter. Into her eyes. Into that place you can’t get it back.

Someone grabs the dog by the collar.

Dog squeak sound as they lift the dog into the air who suddenly realizes they weren’t playing.

This person is the owner.

Who is justifiably confused as to how this situation escalated so quickly.

The mother grabs her daughter in her arms.

Tears in her eyes. Clutching onto her daughter.

The dog instantly settles down. Staring at the mother. Wondering what is going on.

Charlotte and I are gobsmacked. Watching the mother’s whole body shake with terror. Not comforting her daughter. So scared that she’s pushing that fear into her daughter’s ears in high-pitched staccato.

“Honey, oh my god, honey!” screams the mother into her daughter’s ears. Shaking with fear. With the idea that her daughter had just escaped the worst type of danger. “You could have died.”

A long strain of saliva slides down from the dogs mouth.

“Never. Ever do that again.”

We watch the child. Trapped in her mother’s loving and terrified arms.

The last few moments so surreal we have no choice.

We walk away. A polite distance.

We start laughing.

“What the fuck just happened?” I ask.

“I don’t know,” replies Charlotte.

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The Perfect Shirt

Posted on | June 27, 2017 | No Comments

Sometimes you want people to know who you are right away.

You consider telling them everything.

Instantly just to get it over with. As though your life was a movie and you were very eager to spoil it.

What if there was a shirt that could help?

What if you could tell people without talking to them who you are?

Then if they spoke to you there would be no misunderstanding.

These are your people.

I’m sitting at a coffee shop called Field Trip. I’m writing. There are remains of a cinammon bun I’ve recently consumed. Mostly finished ice Americano.

Field Trip have a lot of tables and delicious pastry items to try. There is an outside patio where people are congregrating like fools on this blazing hot Saturday.  All in all this is a very exciting Mike Kimber. He’s trying things. He’s at new places.

Look at me go!

Then I see him.

Wearing the perfect shirt.

My eyes widen.

You can’t help but notice his majesty.

He looks a little like Rob Ford. A bigger guy but bald with an open and friendly face. His shirt is yellow. With writing on it. That at first is confusing as I can’t read all of it. I see the word homosexuality on it. And his rather large gut. He has no butt. But also a gut. Interesting.

I notice him hovering over two 50 something year old men. One of them has a hat. Both have white beards. Their eyes look kind. Like they just met him and are willing to hear him out.

All I see is the word homosexuality and I make fairly typical assumptions.

I’m assume he is about to start lecturing them about their sexuality.

I wonder what I should do.

My first task is finishing reading the shirt. But he keeps twisting and the harsh glare of the sun hits me in the eyes forcing me to blink.

I notice the word not their organs and Falun Gong.Falun Gong is a cult in China.

My eyes again go back to the word homosexuality. I see the word sin.

Ok, he is definitely going to cause trouble. I look back at the two men he’s talking to.

They seem to be fairly relaxed. Leaning in. Enjoying whatever he is saying.

I must be missing something.

I squint my eyes and determine that his shirt declares that Homosexuality is not a sin. It’s about two people loving eachother. Not what they do with their organs.

Hmmm.

And there is mention of the Falun Gong. I wonder how these two concepts connect. I mean being homosexual sort of has something to do with sharing organs. And the Chinese government has been accused of taking the organs of practioners of Falun Gong. So maybe he’s making two important but very different statements in one T-shirt.

I do a little further research on my phone.

According to Wikipedia, the Falun Gong, like many Western religions, have a belief system that is profoundly homophobic.

This is a quote from the son of two practioners. According to him he was taught that, “Homosexuality is not the standard of being human, the priority of Gods will be to eliminate homosexuals and that gays are demonic in nature.”

I reread the sentence. Yes I completely disagree with that sentence.

So the guy who looks like Ford is both anti-organ harvesting, anti-homophobia and remarkably well informed on something I knew nothing about. Which he put on a shirt. Because there is no way anyone mass produced this shirt.

I watch him continue his conversation. Smiling. Being a great guy.

The two gentleman I thought he was accosting actually appear to be becoming his friends.

I can see why.

Their shirts are standard button up shirts. The colour patterns are uninteresting. I don’t know who they are and I’m not curious. In fact they are only interesting to me because they are talking to this man with the perfect T-shirt.

I wonder if they would have talked to him if he wasn’t wearing the shirt. If at some point in his life he wore normal shirts and no one noticed him. If he had been a corporate drone for years and everyday he wore the same suit and replied the same way when he was asked about his day and at some point decided he was going to be honest. On the weekends.

If maybe he found a little print shop and he went in.

Just for a lark.

Asked what they’d put on a shirt and they told him anything he wanted.

“Really? Anything I want?”

“Yes. Anything.”

I wonder if a smile came to his face just then. If he had to suppress an anxious chuckle. Then he told them exactly what he wanted. Because he’d met someone and they’d told him about a cult in China who had their organs stolen and also hated gay people. If he’d been so moved by this story he’d paid just under forty dollars for this T-shirt. A shirt that would say exactly how fucked up the world was and that he cared for people anyway. There shouldn’t be organ harvesting. Their shouldn’t be homophobia.

There should be this shirt.

I wonder if he goes around to coffee shops and makes shirts about the people he meets. Maybe the two white mid 50s white men tell him a story. About their son who they adopted who is working overseas helping children who have diabetes but don’t have access to medication. Then they got into a little discussion about the Syrian conflict. A few days later the T-shirt man enters a new cafe. With a new eye catching shirt.

“Stop diabetes overseas. Assad is a warcrime. Let’s stop spilling blood and start raising blood sugar.”

He sits down. People wonder what sort of person makes shirts like these. And he breaks the ice. The shirt immediately gets him past that awkward hello and he explains the situation reasonably. With humour and grace he explains how he met two wonderful gay men who’s son is a doctor and specializes in helping diabetics in war torn nation. The conversation deepens.

He makes a new friend. He hears a new story.

He goes back to the print shop.

He gets a new shirt made.

He goes into work on Monday in his suit.

Quietly keeping his secrets to himself. Providing his bosses with the answers they need. Eating lunch alone.

Listening to conversations across the break room.

Thinking about the world.

Thinking about the next time he dons a perfect shirt, goes into the world and makes a friend.

He goes home. As he’s sleeping he opens up his closet.

He sees dozens of shirts.

With dozens of complicated issues broken down into their component parts.

He sees the world. In all it’s glory.

 

 

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Ice Cream Family

Posted on | June 25, 2017 | No Comments

The first time I tasted Toronto’s famous Bang Bang ice cream a garbage man arrived just as I put the spoon in my mouth. The truck skidded to a stop a few feet away.

First I smelled the inside of the truck. Then the inside of the nearby cans as the garbage man wrenched the door open to grab the bags. Which were still open. Full of flies.

Maybe baby diapers? 

As the first taste of Bang Bang ice cream hit my tongue, I didn’t care.

I was sitting next to my friend Charlotte after an hour’s wait.

On a block of sunlit cement.

The taste of my toasted marshmallow ice cream inside of a cream puff was everything they promised. We know we should go.

That the ice cream would taste better if we moved away from the garbage. But for just a moment we couldn’t.

Sometimes you can’t move. Sometimes you have to let your tongue feel the gentle flutter of angel wings.

“We should go,” says Charlotte.

I concur.

We finished our treat in a nearby park.

We knew we had done well. That in some small way we had a better day than 99% of the world and we had earned it through the survival of a Hipster Endurance challenge.

We got in the line. We stayed in it.

We ordered. We ate.

It was beautiful.

Even though maybe baby diapers.

A week later on a Saturday Night I found myself on Ossington Street once again.

This time the line was even longer. There were literally 150 people in front of me.

I was basically full.

I had already climbed the mountain. I didn’t have to prove myself to anyone.

Yet…..

I don’t fucking have to justify myself to you.

I got in line.

I read my Don Winslow epic about a corrupt cop stuck between his friends and the Feds and waited patiently.

And then the Ice Cream family showed up.

When there were literally was no one behind me. Just 150 people in front of me.

I was relieved.

There’s something comforting in knowing that someone else is going to be waiting longer than you. If they can endure it you can last a little longer. Just to spite them. Because in all lines in the history of time the person behind you is silently willing that you leave.

I listen to the doomsday theories of Ice Cream Family Father.

“Holy (mumbled expletive), it’s going to be 2 hours. At least two hours.”

He’s scrappy, short, muscular and bald. Not balding. No hair. Good shape of head for it. Like it makes him look more masculine somehow. His voice is deep but there’s a little bit of panic in it. Sort of like he’s not excited about ice cream enough for this to be a good idea.

“We came from Thornhill,” says Ice Cream Mom.

She laughs as she says this. I’ve been to Thornhill. I feel like it’s far away. So she’s saying that she isn’t going to leave.

“We did,” agrees Ice Cream Dad.

Ice Cream Dad knows where he lives. This argument isn’t quite so impressive to him.

“It’s going to be great,” she says.

No panic. This is a woman who has given birth to the ice cream kids. Judging by their age there were several pregnancies within a few years. To her this isn’t that big of an inconvenience. After awhile the ice cream children were once in her belly for nine months. These children had used her body like a life extension cord. In fact for about four years and three children she had been their chew toy.

“We’re going to have this ice cream. It’s supposed to be so good.”

“I don’t know if we’ll make it. We gotta go to Church tomorrow early,” says Ice Cream Dad.

I wouldn’t normally interject but I know some key information.

“Hey,” I say. “There’s a place down the street. A good place. Called Sweet Olenka’s. In case this feels like it might be too long.”

A child from the family in front of me begins running in a circle around my legs.

He will not stop doing this for the next hour.

I never kick him. He kicks me several times. But he has little legs. I ignore him.

“Oh. Well we came in from Thornhill,” she says. “You ever tried it? This one. Bang bang.”

“Yes,” I say. “I’ve bang banged. It was great.”

She nods. Gives me a big smile. She looks at her husband. Who breaths in deeply and abandons his fears about this exhibition totally and completely.

This is really a great display of what happens when someone becomes an adult. They come to a resolution. They abandon their bullshit immediately. She rubs his arm graciously accepting his total surrender.

“I think we’ll be in by 10:05.”

It’s 9:30.

35 minutes. I feel the first inkling I might need to pee.

Courage, Willow!

More people file in behind her. Now she’s not at the end of the line. As time slowly moves by the line goes well down the street. I go from being last in line to elite.

I listen to the family. Enjoying their interplay.

The kids are precocious. Speaking rapidly but with something to say. The eldest son enjoys making the father laugh about sports. The youngest son is pretty much a walking potato. But a patient walking potato. The daughter makes jokes as we advance in the line. She’s really, really smart.

She says things like, “You know, I’m not really sure I want ice cream, dad. Maybe we should go.”

He laughs. Enjoying that she’s smart enough to mock him.

The son checks out the menu online. He asks if he can get the egg waffle cone. The father tells him that he can get whatever he wants.

I see the smile on the boy’s face.

He is in a magic moment.

At 12 being offered the choice of whatever you want at the ice cream shop can feel like a minor Christmas. I know that the ice cream is going to blow his mind. Because it really is better than other ice cream. His father knows it too.

He also knows something the son doesn’t.

That this life with his life won’t continue like this forever.

Because Ice Cream Dad used to be part of a different family. One where he didn’t always have his own room. Where he used to have a curfew. Where he would feel trapped by his siblings. And worship them and compete with them. Then he got out. And now he doesn’t see them that often. He loves them but they aren’t his constant companions anymore.

Eventually his father won’t be able to give him everything he wants because he’s start wanting to ridiculous things.

He will also won’t want to hang out with his father on a Saturday night. They won’t have dinner together every night.  They won’t have breakfast everyday. It will be one day on the weekends. Maybe he’ll go to university in town. His sister is really bright. She wants to go Harvard. Her father knows she probably will.

Soon their family will exist across a continent.

Sometimes they’ll make it home for Christmas. Sometimes they won’t. This is a golden age of their family. Where they still compete for their parents attention. Where they haven’t become teenagers. Where they crave adventures like this.

This is the Ice Cream Parents chance to be there.

To wait an unimaginable amount of time for ice cream. To drive on a highway late into the night because for this little block of time they get to have their kids around all the time. Sometimes this feels like too much. The amount they worry. The inevitable hospital visits. The attention that must be paid after a long day at work. When they were born there was no sleep. They used to live in their arms. Now they are little people. Who make them laugh.

It’s nice to see this Ice Cream Family.

Standing in line. About to get exactly what they want.

 

 

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The Wet Bandits: Tough and Black Skirt

Posted on | June 25, 2017 | No Comments

My head whips back.

Shocked by the impact. Surprised. Someone shot me. With a water gun.

Who?

Immediately angry until I see the cherub with the water pistol.

I’m at a party. With nice people.  On their deck. Invited by a friend of mine. People younger than me. With water pistols. Children like this. Maybe I like this more than I think I do.

“Hey….”  I say.

Be playful. Being shot in the face is fun. No one else finds this to be a problem. Everyone else likes to be shot. Fit in. Enjoy the being shot.

“Hey,” she replies.

Nothing flirtatious. Which is good. Because I’d feel really creepy.

She raises her pistol to hover near my face.

I’m sitting on a patio chair.

I make myself smile.

Early that day I watched a young couple play that game where they sort of push eachother around. Like they are so used to touching each that they now they are playfighting an imaginary reality where they know karate and are going to fight each other. I remember forcing myself to smile. Like hey this is a cute way of being at a bus station. The bus moved around the corner. I waited to see if they would playfully push each other in front of it.

I fought the desire to tell them to stop playing their fucking game. It’s an annoying game, I thought. Especially as the guy playfully slaps the girl in the face. She giggles. But does she like it?

“What?” asks the Cherub, putting on a tough face.

“You’re pretty tough, eh?” I say.

Yes. I too will be playful.

She sprays me in the forehead. She laughs.

I laugh.

I grit my teeth before I do.

“Stop that,” I say.

Or what?

“Listen tough….” again being playful. But there’s an edge to my voice which I can tell she doesn’t hear.

She is about twenty. Maybe as old as twenty and a half.

“Yeah, I’m tough,” she declares. She raises the gun threateningly.

“Alright tough,” I say. “Stop fucking hitting me in the face.”

She shoots me again. Digs her finger into the trigger.

I realize how totally helpless I am in this situation.

I’m at a party where i don’t really know the people.

I can get up and tear it out of her hands. But what if she struggles? What if she screams?

I look through the window and notice some very nice people dancing to songs from Youtube. Laughing. This isn’t that big of a deal. Just chill out. They’re young. They’re having fun.

Another girl shows up. She is wearing a black skirt. Has a similar youthful glow. Maybe if I just engage them in conversation I can pivot this to a situation where I’m not constantly being shot in the face.

“How’s your night going, Black Skirt?” I ask.

Black Skirt takes out her own pistol.

“It’s insane how much water these hold.”

Fuck.

“You guys in school?” I ask.

“On summer break. It’s fun.”

“Nice summer,” I reply. “Little hot.”

Too hot to want to leave the porch and go inside. Don’t fuck with me.

“It really is. Nice night right now though.”

“Sure is.”

Momentary pause.

The guns are down.

I’m winning.

I have adulted the fuck out of this.

I just need to ask the right question. What else should I ask these gun wielding maniacs?

“How do you know the host?” I ask.

Tough glares down at me.

No good.

“He thinks I’m tough,” says Tough.

She flexes her non muscular arms.

“Pretty, pretty tough,” I say throwing some Larry David on this conversation.

No go. They’re too young to understand the reference. Or not Jewish enough. Though they do look Jewish.

They both raise their guns at me. They fire. One in the shoulder. One in my hair.

A feeling of insane frustration hits me. Like I’m being bullied, back into a corner. I can feel this blast of rage growing under the surface.

A lone dissenter.

The girl in the blow up pool in the deck.

“Maybe you should stop shooting him with your guns,” she says.

Tough and Black Skirt contemplate it for a second.

I can feel my hands gripping my chair. Ready to propel myself up. Grab their guns. Step on their guns. Laugh in their faces.

Or maybe I sit in the chair. Stretch back. Let years of suppressed anger out in a lightning bolt.

I explain to them how childish they are. I mock them for something that is wrong with them. Something I use my adult eyes to lazer in on. So that they never shoot a person in the face with a water gun again. Maybe I tell them what their 20s will actually be like. Did you know your school won’t qualify you for anything? Do you ever know how often you’ll be asking your parents for money?

Think you’ve found yourself! You’ve found nothing, Tough and Black Skirt! Nothing!

Yes, this could be the end of the Wet Bandits.

An extremely handsome guy enters the deck.

They turn their attention to him.

Holding their guns, and wondering if they shoot him as well.

I relax my hands.

I relax in my chair.

I watch the two girls and the handsome man flirt.

No one shoots me in the face.

Tough and Black Skirt disappear from my life.

I’m too old for water fights or to think it’s funny when someone shoots me in the face.

I do however enjoy having a nice rum and coke on a deck with nice people.

The night continues.

I’m shot in the face only one more time.

 

 

 

 

 

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And he’s drinking (poetry from the age of 22)

Posted on | June 23, 2017 | No Comments

This isn’t a moral, it’s a man life, you can’t fit a
moral in a man’s life because only one can fit or it’s
about thirty one well lit candles, our story begins at
twelve
He sits on a stoop, half fucked with a cigarette
between his lips
His father’s passed out after another one of his full
moon eclipses
Dad works at the stone mill and is used to doing the
crawl home, hangover, wife and family and leftovers
stovers lean cuisine, passed out on Time’s Magazine
Man of the Year
The grass smells sweet and the cigarette provides ash
and fog as shade
His father is unconscious in another glade, today
little Sonny Boy fought back
Knocked his father on his back and took the fire and
light half a cigarette pack
To chain smoke besides his picket fence, his father
ain’t going to hit Mama anymore
Andhe’sdrinking, andhe’sdrinking,
andhe’sdrinkingandhe’sdrinking
He met her at prom and couldn’t say the right words
without slurring them
She made him feel sick to his stomach and weak in the
knees
She had a real mean streak and liked to make fun of
him when he stumbled
She was pretty in a way that made him mumble and
apologize
He bought her a rose but it wasn’t dethorned and her
hand got cut bloody
He staggered her over the red carpet and she laughed
the whole way down
Cursing as he fell on her satin shoulders and pulled
her to the ground
People are shouting and they are kissing, screaming
passion into the blank air
They are making a scene in a play and her handprint in
blood is on his cheek
Roses by anyother name would be clean, he likes his
girl, he likes when she gets mean
Andhe’sdrinkingAndhe’sdrinkingAndhe’sdrinking
By the end of the night she’s refilled him and drank
him seven times
Each day feels like a week, he’s got a scholarship and
enough money for a free lunch
She’s hungry and poor and likes to kiss until the
clouds come and the rain pours
They fuck when their sober but don’t kiss until they
drink, the good times come with laughter and ends in
the kitchen sink, where she pours out old coffee and
the butt of bad jokes and half smoked joints, during
the rain she goes and smokes a cigarette
Blowing puffs of her lungs to chase ghosts and good
sex, she likes when things get complicated
She says he only likes pretty things when they’ve been
mutilated
She’s been looking in the mirror, hoping to be so
beautiful she terms to stone
Sticks and stones may break my bones but stick figures
falling in love
Leave the future alone, when you draw hearts on
pictures bigger than bones
They don’t cast shadows, when they skip
They cast murmurs
He asks if this is forever and she has a drink and
says yes
Andhe’sdrinkingAndhe’sdrinkingAndhe’sdrinking
Her skin is shattered like a hundred glasses of
whiskey thrown in your stomach
Her cigarettes are in a full pack, she tries to fall
back and he doesn’t catch her
He kisses her and tells her baby you haven’t been
falling, you’ve been dancing
You just don’t know the steps, it’s hard to take
responsibility for death of a loved one
When you just wanted to have fun and she got old, her
skin soldered alchemy of golden days as they turned to
leaden legs and shitty systems operating your heaven
machine
Her liver is fine and her lungs are made of paper, she
shouldn’t have been smoking
To keep her hurry over his habits, she stopped magic,
sinking into her liquid skin as they fucked like
rabbits
Bad habits taking my bride from ever after, cackling
firecracker, sparks, count down
We’ve done too much celebrating and the fourth of July
smashes us down
Andhe’sdrinkingAndhe’sdrinkingAndhe’sdrinking
He lives longer and has a lot of drinks, he celebrates
his little boy getting into grade six
Celebrates all his friends getting drunk and getting
up to their little boy tricks
He raises a glass to addicts and tears up her picture,
staring through smoke and ash
His eyelashes are cinged from his last binge and last
pack, candles that he didn’t blow out and can’t get
his wishes back
You see she smoked her fire out and cancer kills
cities every year
And the cities are made of pretty girls and used to be
cool kids
But remember little one, before you reach the age of
thirty one, drinking every night isn’t alcoholism,
it’s just being fun
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There are always Leftovers

Posted on | June 22, 2017 | No Comments

This article is about one of my favorite shows.

It’s also about what happens to a person when something horrible happens and they can’t be the person they used to be anymore.

It’s about what happens when you wish your feelings would disappear.

And what happens when you realize feelings won’t go away just because you want them to.

The show is called The Leftovers. It tells the story of the unexplainable disappearance of 2 percent of the world’s population.

The show explores how people deal with  inexplicable loss. What happens to the people who survive that loss. Who wake up and they’re still there but the people they loved are gone.

The question is what happens to how us when the building blocks of our identity disappear.

What are the stories we tell ourselves that help us keep living.

It was a really important show for me.

Because when it first aired I waiting for my life to return back to normal. And the idea of a normal day felt like a fantasy that happened to someone else.

*******

On November 2oth, 2013 a fire started in the basement of the house I was living in.

There are reasons it happened. Some I understand. Some I don’t.

It was a rooming house. We called it Hotel Internationale. Because people from all over the world came and stayed there. Brave enough to go to a country where they often knew very little of the language. Hoping to see a new world. I found it on Craiglist when I desperately needed a place to live. I taught them English. Not for money. Just because I never stop talking. I remember them asking me to speak more slowly. So they could take that from me and make it their own.

It was a very happy place for me. Where I realized I belonged in Toronto.

I was on Facebook. Scrolling through friend’s statuses when I smelled something strange.  Like someone was burning toast.  The Doctor Penfield commercial popped into my head.

At the time I thought it was coming from the downstairs kitchen. My first feeling was annoyance.

As I stood up to yell downstairs for Evan to stop burning shit, I heard Evan yelling up the stairs.

It took me a second to realize what he was saying.

Which was the house is on fire. You need to get out.

His voice was loud and urgent.

I put on pants. But I didn’t have the presence of mind to grab my shoes. My only concern was making it to down the steps and outside.

I was outside in my socked feet.

It was wet outside.

Still feeling like everything was going to be normal.

Because usually everything is okay.

We were all out.

We called 911. We thought we just had to wait.

Until we found the boyfriend of our downstairs neighbour in the alley way. He was terrified. Because his girlfriend was still inside. He needed our help. He couldn’t get through the door. There was too much smoke.

Nino went to see if he could get in.

911 told us no one should go in the house.

We screamed for him to stay put. He ignored us.

He is that sort of guy. Who doesn’t accept that somethings are impossible.

I was with the boyfriend. He was ripping his hands against the bars on the window of their bedroom. Trying to talk to her through a glass window.

I grabbed a shovel from the deck. Smashed out the glass on her window with it.

We screamed at her to wake up. He was desperate. In love. In the most horrible moment possible. Begging her to wake up.

She didn’t hear us.

Still things felt normal. More a fevered dream than a horrifying reality.

You did what you were supposed to do. Soon people who understood what to do would come and everything would be okay. You just play on autopilot.

Nino came around from the back.

There was no way inside the house.

We had to wait. We just had to wait.

They tell us to wait across the street. For our safety.

For what felt like a million years and was probably only minutes.

Huddled across the street.

Her boyfriend screaming.

In my arms than in Alessandro’s.

News crews, ambulances and fire trucks showed up to battle the blaze.

I threatened a cameraman with violence if he doesn’t turn the camera away from the boyfriend. With utmost seriousness. In front of a cop. Who tells me to calm down.

The first realization comes. It’s small.

We weren’t going to be able to sleep in our own beds.

Such a strange realization that should have been so obvious right from the beginning.

And they brought her out. Still alive but badly hurt.

The cameras capture it all.

They put us on a bus.

To talk to the police.

A neighbor came by. I don’t remember what he looked like but he gave me shoes.

Somehow I manage to lose the shoes in the days that followed.

I told the cops that my medication was inside.

At some point I walked through the house.

I got my computer. I got my phone. I got my medication.

I left everything else behind.

It was only stuff.

There’s a relief.

We all got out.

Emergencies end. Life comes back. You can walk away unscathed.

******

The immediate after effects of the fire were life changing and undeniable.

I lost everything I owned. I had to find a new home. All of my friends were deeply in the grips of trauma and looking for answers.

It could have been okay. If she had been okay.

I got a phone call.

She died.

I didn’t know her. Just saw her a few times. Locking up her bike.

If she’d been okay I might not have ever thought about her again.

She died.

And it was clear that things weren’t going to be okay.

I was in a friend’s guest room.

I had the presence of mind to turn on the fan. I put it to the highest volume possible. I knew that when this feeling escaped my body it would be loud and horrible.

I wanted to be a good guest.

I somehow lost the shoes the neighbor gave me.

I bought shoes the day before.  I was so zonked out on stress and trauma that I didn’t notice they didn’t fit. My cousin Graham took me to the mall. To get new blundstones. He got to his knees and put his fingers on the tips of my shoes to make sure they fit.

I started writing things down. Not because the writing was good but because it was necessary.

I had been researching a book about a character living with PTSD and it mentioned the necessity of integrating tragic experiences into your memory.

Memories became dangerous when they are repressed. These repressed memories can become flashbacks where you literally relive the experience. So I wrote about the smell of the smoke and the sound of our frantic screams through a broken window. Because I wanted to move past it.

You have to write things down. To accept them. To integrate them into your story.

Which is why I have to talk about another story.

A phone call I made the morning of the fire. A person on the other end of the phone.

*****

My great escape from the fire was falling in love with a girl I no longer speak to.

There was a story attached.

Of a long ago promise to a girl in a bar that she’d break up with her boyfriend and be with me.

Seven years later she broke up with her boyfriend and we went on a date.

Just a few weeks before the fire. We liked each other. We had a good time. We held hands.

A few days later I came to the train station and hung out with her for a few hours before she had to go. Maybe that’s as far as it would have gone.

I called her that morning after the fire.

She had a dream. Of a home on fire.

She asked me if I believed her after she told me.

I did.

See the story doesn’t exactly matter. Because I wanted to speak to her when there was no reason to. When there was no possibility of anything happening. Because she lived in another city. Because there were other people I had magical moments and they didn’t go anywhere.

It’s just….right away she felt like home.

Love practiced always seem to precede love lived.

The beginning needs that belief. Because there’s no reason to trust a stranger with your heart, yet it’s the only way love can happen.

Every night I’d call her. She was a voice on the other end of a telephone like a portal to another world.

We’d laugh.

And then a few weeks later a train trip to her place in Ottawa. Where I’d get to hang out with her dog Sadie and in my most vulnerable state I would be brave and get to know a stranger.

*******

There was a moment on her couch on that first trip where we were just holding each other in her den.

There’s nothing to indicate what it meant.

A den in a house that was bought for a relationship that ended. Big enough for a regular home. Statues of birds everywhere. There are moments where you feel like are bookends to different chapters in your life. Then there are parts that are just the book. The moments that you couldn’t skip if you were editing down your life to the real story.

The room was dark with only streetlights seeping a tiny stream of ghost like light through the window reflected off the snow banks outside. On the couch strains of her her blond hair was resting on my arm. I rested my head against the back of her head. My heart slowed down. I could feel her heartbeat through her neck on my lips.

And it felt like everything made sense.

Like I’d spent 7 years since I tried to kiss her waiting for her to kiss me back. Just listening to the National and holding her in my arms.

Being with her was a similar emotional feeling to the first days of the fire. Wild. Impossible. Different from everything else that had ever come before it and completely unbelievable that it was happening to me.

You’ve been in places like this. Where the colors weren’t taken from the same palette. Where life was brighter and more vivid.

Death and love are places of transformation.

Surrealistic in their vivid color,  synchronistic coincidence a propulsive barrier crushing force, awesome in their deep connection to the things we dream of and their bizarre joke like logic, where life tells you things only happen one way and suddenly they happen the other.

Being in love made me forget I was in pain.

Truthfully it made me feel like the pain had already disappeared. Only it came back. Because feelings don’t disappear.

Even when we want them to.

*****

It was my 30th birthday when things changed.

April 11th, 2014.

And I remember getting the email from my old landlord that would said I had to go back inside 189 Sheridan one last time to get my stuff.

I told myself all I had to do was go in and it would be over.

The trick of grief is this concept of one last quest.

Once you complete it you are cured. There is no pain lurking in the back of your psyche, waiting for a fire alarm at work to make you cry in front of your coworkers. There is this one last mission to Mordor. You externalize the pain. It’s a task that can be conquered and you can return back to your life.

I just had to make it through going back into the house and it would be over.

When I arrived I noticed there were still chairs on the deck.

Where international students came from all around the world to be my friend, sat down and listened to me rant.

Where I’d sit and drink coffee from the Commons with Alejandra as she worked her knitting needles and made progressively less shitty sweaters. Where I was really drunk and I punched a German ex commando in the face to show him how we can heal from heartbreak and luckily didn’t get punched back. Where Clare told me that I should really stop watching Curb Your Enthusiasm because Larry David was turning me into an asshole. Where Evan would challenge me to a game of Horse at the nets across the street and one time I’d beat him. Where on Canada day fireworks went off so loudly they forced us out of our home. Watching children setting them off with their parents laughing. And Marketa prepared to storm over and yell at them, because they fucking woke her up. And the way we laughed until we could barely stand.

And a million other moments that I tried to forget because the memory of those happy days always returned me right back to that alley way and a window that would break and iron bars that wouldn’t.

A place that was so incredibly alive to me. Until I’d walk through those doors.

And I saw how the fire turned everything black and gray.

There was little left of our happy home.  I had lived here for two years. I knew every inch.

The ceiling on the kitchen was gone.

Burn to ash and wooden splinters on the floor.

I could see into Alejandra’s room where she had been sleeping. Where she would have been sleeping if Evan hadn’t yelled so loudly that we couldn’t ignore him. To my old room covered in the shattered remains of what had once been my bookshelf. The room where I had filmed my first short film was covered in old equipment.  As we had only stopped filming a few days before the fire came. Books everywhere. All of them covered in poison where the flames touched the walls. All to be left behind. Everything smelled of smoke. Like it just happened. I could feel ashes over my skin.

The difference between being alive and dead had been two minutes. Before the smoke flooded the house. Before the fire climbed up the walls. It reached the top floor within a few minutes. We had parties where people from all over the world descended on the house. A New Years Party where I had heard a dozen languages and saw a room of internationale students do the Macarena.

Pictures ontop of pictures become this one picture. The end of all things.

A sensation so powerful it wiped out everything else. The type of feeling that pushes into the back of your skull and hides because you can’t fully process it. Because if you do you will run screaming.

I stood there.

And the idea I was over it became a joke. A hilarious nonsensical story I’d had told myself.

What kind of life could be born in a room like this?

What type of person could have forgotten what happened even for a second?

I felt this insane rage at myself. What right did I have to feel happy?

The four following weeks were some of the worst I’ve ever experienced.

For me this was worse than the days after the fire where the reason for my sadness was so clear and undeniable. Where I could be patient because the agony was so tangible. Where there was nothing I could do. I meditated. I walked for hours everyday. I talked to people. But I couldn’t pull the pain out of me. I felt sick everyday when I woke up. Like my mind had a wound, I ignored it and now I was living with gangrene.

Each day the rot felt more apparent.

A tragedy begins just as the ice berg. The comparatively tiny visible monolith you can see on the horizon. When the immediacy goes away you’re left with the ice continent that hits the bottom of the ocean. The totality of your experience and how it can hide from you. How it can control you.

I couldn’t rid of one thought.

I should have done something. I should have known that I wasn’t okay. There had to have been something I could have done and I didn’t and now I’m useless.

Imagine yourself simplified to two minutes. That you go over and over because you got it and someone else didn’t.

Sometimes the intensity of grief can make you feel like forever is a real thing.

This was April 15th, 2014.

I was scared. Really fucking scared that I was like that house. A place where amazing things once happened and now the ceilings has collapsed and the rooms we where we used to laugh were filled with poison.

****

On April 24th, 2014  the Leftovers premiered.

I remember watching the Leftovers and being stunned to see a world like the one that existed in that house.

A world where the colour had been bleached out by grief.

Where people were struggling to find meaning when allowing yourself not to be numb meant that you’d have to feel things. Things that broke your heart. That made you struggle to breath. That showed the frightening vulnerability where we build our hopes and dreams.

I felt like I was seeing a story specifically made for me.

Showing the absolute insanity it takes to make sense of that sort of world. There were jokes. There were small moments where they would laugh. And it felt so good to hear it.

See their grand quests weren’t to reach Mordor. Or to cross over into other worlds. It was a mythic quest to be okay with being alive. To let yourself have joy when you realize you can’t protect it.

I’d see the character’s insane quests as echoes of my own.

The Priest Matt Jamison would try to heal himself by being true to a lord who mocked him. Our house was infested by house flies in the days before the fire. It’s hard not to remember how many of them died and how many somehow survived. No matter what we did. Or the fact that the landlord came the day before to put in new fire alarms and was called away before he could.

Nora would cling to rationality as she tormented people who had lost their families as she had lost her own family. I’d invest myself in the police investigation. Trying to figure out what happened. Everyone would have a conspiracy theory.

And they’d all face their human limitations. Desperate for the pain to disappear even as it connected them to be the people closest to them. Terrified that if they let go of their pain there would be nothing left.

And after that first season there was color. Fantastic colour. The first blush of happiness returning when you felt like it was gone forever.  Moving closer to those delusions they thought gave them control and only gave them distance from what happened and from their own lives. Into the deep connection you make when someone else helps you breath.

It helped me make me piece with the knowledge that pain didn’t have to go away. You can live like this.

And sometimes people laugh.

*****

Only that’s half the story.

Of me making peace with the fact that the pain wouldn’t disappear.

Even when you wish it would.

The girl on the other end of the phone is no longer in my life.

Our story ended.

I wished the feelings away.

Because at some point after we broke up I decided not to write anything about it. I decided I didn’t want to think about the good things because it wouldn’t help me get over it. And it faded. Into the back of my mind. Where a million great moments became a few brief snapshots of our last days together. Because it’s easier to remember why it ended than why it was wonderful.

Because the end of a relationship is about the end of hope and for a long time all you remember is where you ended up and you forget the journey that brought you there.

And it’s easy to push that pain away.

And forget everything that came before. And for a while I think I really did forget her.

Even when I tried to forget her she was a part of me. Quietly in the background. In the places I couldn’t see.

There’s the music I listen to.

My favorite screenplay I’ve ever written was composed entirely to Bon Iver’s latest album. Music she introduced me to. She even provided me the music I listened to during our break up from Bahamas to the National.  I go to a Shambhala Temple and read Pema Chodron because she told me that these were places that had the power to heal.

These aren’t echoes. These works of art a reminder are a reminder that every time you love someone you change. Everything that fills you with awe becomes a part of you. Even when the person is gone. Even if you may never hear their voice on the phone again.

See I’ve come to have new belief about the iceberg.

The visible part is that horrible thing that happens. The few parts of your life that don’t go according to plan. When you’re in so much pain you’d rather feel nothing than feel this. But the reason those feelings have so much power is that continent underneath the surface. Where it wasn’t ice, it was water.

The pain isn’t just the realization that you lack control. It’s that the worst pain exists in the same space as the most precious love. But the good is so much more intense than the bad. So many more wonderful conversations took place on that deck. So many amazing moments happened with that girl.

The end is not everything.

There is still a world below. And everytime you’re forced to remember that pain you have the chance to remember that love.

Watching Leftovers you’ll notice the moments of insane power. As the characters try to exorcise themselves and can’t. Because a ghost is just someone you loved who isn’t there. That you get over pain. But love never dies. It lives. Forever. In the places in yourself you can’t see and the person you become.

The reason you’re in pain is there were places you went you wish you could go again. There were moments you had that hurt to remember because there were so beautiful.

The pain won’t disappear. But you can choose to make the beauty invisible.

This is about one of my favorite shows.

It’s about what happens when your way of life disappears.

When you wish feelings would disappear.

And what happens when you realize feelings won’t go away just because you want them to.

The people in your life shape you. Even when they disappear from your life. They don’t leave you.

There are always Leftovers.

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  • Introduction to the Cure



  • Peter Diamond Gallery

  • About

    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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