May 28, 2012
This is the hardest part. Rising from the ashes. The particles of dust move to form skin and bones and limbs again. Learning to walk again; one foot in front of the other. And then, again. New lungs stretch their muscles searching for the memory of breath. Blood courses through a map of veins moving outward from the heart. It beats against the cage of rib bones like it wants to be let out.
Being dead was easy. It was like slowly freezing to death in a cold sea. Floating and numb, I could feel nothing.
This, aliveness, this living and breathing, this existing, is the hard part.
The waiting room is living up to its name. My appointment was scheduled for 2pm. It is now almost three. I sit, uncomfortably, as I have had to use the washroom for approximately 20 minutes. I am afraid if I leave my seat, I will miss my name being called. And if I miss this chance, I am afraid it will be like a drowning man missing the life preserver being thrown down to him as he fights with the rising seas.
So I wait, for my chance at survival. It arrives an hour later, wearing a long white lab coat over khakis and a green and blue checked shirt. Dr. B extends a hand and a warm smile. He apologizes for the delay as he leads me to the examination room. He motions to a chair and I sit down. He pulls out a clipboard and looks up over the rims of his glasses as I hold my breath.
“So,” He begins kindly, “What brings you here?”
I freeze. I start to say the words, but my throat closes up and my eyes burn as I hold back what I know are tears.
Dr. B specializes in treating eating disorders. I have done my research. Teenage girls have eating disorders, ballet dancers have eating disorders, rail thin models on the covers of magazines have eating disorders. I cannot have an eating disorder. He will think I’m here for attention. He’ll think I’m too fat to possibly have a problem. He’ll think I’m lying.
“This is hard, isn’t it?” His face is filled with what I can only describe as compassion, and so I release my clenched teeth and I begin to tell the truth.
I am twenty five years old and I have no idea how I ended up in this office.
Growing up, I was taught to love myself. I was told I was beautiful. I was told I was smart, and talented, and that I could have and be whatever I dreamed.
I have been places, and done things, and there have been moments where I almost believed it was true.
I had dreams. I wanted to be an actor. I wanted to be a vessel with which to share the stories of this world. I thought if I wore a character, I could escape what it meant to be me. When I went to school I discovered that the best actors don’t put on a mask, they take it off. I decided that before I could be one, I would need to be perfect in every way. I did not want to remove the costume if I didn’t think the audience would like what lay beneath.
So I began by taking off weight. I started to eliminate anything that I deemed “bad”. Under the guise of “eating healthy” I said goodbye to meat and sugar. Having always had a sensitive stomach, no one questioned me when I said I was allergic to wheat and dairy. Being a lactose-intolerant-celiac-vegetarian made me a rather difficult dinner guest. It also made it easy to explain the empty spaces on my plate.
I made myself a deal. I would get an agent when I weighed 105 pounds. I shed 10 pounds quickly, but I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t perfect yet. I needed to lose 4 more pounds to make it 101. I’ve always liked palindromes. Eating in the presence of others became difficult. I would see my naturally thin sister guiltlessly savouring a slice of pizza and I would want to rip it from her hands and devour it whole. I swore the candy bars in the aisles of grocery stores were whispering my name. I would go for runs to distract myself from raiding the cupboards. I would go to hot yoga classes and imagine that each bead of sweat that hit my mat was one step closer to perfection.
When I made it to 101 pounds I would stand, naked, in front of the mirror. I would wave my arms and watch the flesh jiggle in slow motion. I would suck in my stomach, but no matter how much air I exhaled, it was not enough to make me disappear.
The more control I gained over my diet, the more my life began to unravel. I ended my relationship of five years. I moved back in with my parents. I couldn’t bare the sight of his ghost on every street so I quit the job I loved and moved away. I thought, in a new city, I could reinvent myself. I discovered that the problem with running away is that no matter how far you go, you can’t escape your own mind. And the perfect city, with the perfect apartment, could not change the fact that I was still not perfect. But now, I could run every day of the year, I lived a block from the yoga studio, and if I wanted to pay rent, I couldn’t afford to eat, so I lived off yogurt and vegetable broth. Until I met a man. And injured myself in a new years’s eve dance off fiasco and could no longer run and do yoga. Even though our relationship was made up entirely of late night phone conversations and bi-monthly visits, he fell hard for me. And I reveled in the attention. From 1000 miles away, he couldn’t tell how fucked up I really was. And I could pretend that I was just as wonderful as he thought I was. After a few months, he came to visit. I knew I had let myself go since the last (and only) time we’d seen each other, so I’d mentioned it before we reunited. You weren’t kidding, he laughed as he put his hands around my waist. Better not gain any more or I’ll have to break up with you. I wasn’t sure he was joking.
I couldn’t see the point of carrying on a long distance relationship with no end in sight. So I attempted to end things. He didn’t agree with me, so instead of creating conflict, I decided I wanted to go back to school. In my hometown. Where he just so happened to live. I was still fat and broke, so I didn’t have much hope of making it in Vancouver as an actor anyways.
The relationship didn’t last, but I had already decided to go back to school, so I packed up and moved back to the prairies. I felt like a stranger in my own home. And I was. A stranger to everyone that loved me. A stranger to myself. I dove headfirst into my studies. I spent every spare moment studying. I used the endless pile of readings to avoid everything and everyone. I especially used them to avoid food. If I was to engrossed in my work I could ignore the gnawing pain in my gut. Where once I might have been called a “drama queen” I now was a monster. Minor setbacks, like a B- on a paper turned me into a volatile beast. I would reach for food to help numb the feeling of inferiority only to feel crushing guilt the moment I took the first bite. So I made rules. I could have three bites of an apple, but then I had to throw it out. If I slipped and took an extra bite, it meant I was a failure. I had to rid myself of that fourth bite. I began to check the scale obsessively. Before meals. After meals. If it went up, I would run turn on the faucet to cover the gagging noises I would inadvertently make as I rid myself of dinner.
For all my efforts, I seemed to hover around 95 pounds. But it was not good enough. I wouldn’t rest until I disappeared. I wouldn’t rest until I died.
I am telling all of this to Dr. B as he jots my words down on his clipboard. He doesn’t look shocked or appalled. He doesn’t accuse me of lying or ask me to come back when I lose another 10 pounds. In fact, from the way he nods his head and interjects at points and asks nonchalantly whether I use two fingers or one, it almost seems like he has heard my story before.
And for the first time in what feels like forever, I don’t feel like I’m the only one in the world that’s losing her mind. As I sit there in his office, he tosses me a lifeline, and for the first time in forever, I know that I am going to be alright.
August 8, 2011
I do not remember a time when I did not want to be an actor. My love for story-telling goes as far back as my memory. As a child, I would create new worlds for my friends and I to inhabit. Limitless joy was found in putting on a costume and transporting myself, my audience and fellow players to worlds of endless possibility and adventure. I was eccentric and dramatic and, if I’m being honest, totally weird.
I wore my underwear over my pants, quit ballet because I couldn’t wear a mickey mouse unitard, took my eight imaginary dachshunds to the actual dog park, yelled at my teacher for sitting on my friend Kerby ( a frog who also happened to be a figment of my imagination) and recited monologues at my parent’s dinner parties. There are other occurrences and behaviours which are frankly, too numerous and embarrassing to recount.
Given that today I am only left with vague recollections of the thoughts of my eight year old self (and a diary entry that says “I am writing this now so when I am a mother I will remember to only feed my children macaroni and cheese or else they will hate me”) I cannot be certain if the motivation behind my love of “play” was an unstoppable creative force and an innate need for self expression, or simply the child’s desire to be seen.
Whatever the case, as childhood drew to a close, it became apparent that this penchant I had for storytelling and play would need to take a rain check if I had any chance of surviving the cut-throat world of adolescence. The child’s need to be seen was replaced with the pre-teens need to fit in, so I relegated my dramatic outbursts to the stage. Under the guise of a character I could let my inner weirdness out to play, but in real life I learned to act normal. I did my best to mimic all the necessary behaviours, outfits, and attitudes of the in-crowd so that I could feel like I belonged. I became the consummate actor, doing whatever it took, being whoever it was that I thought people needed me to be. But no matter how hard I have hustled to fit in, I have always felt on the outside. Because I have never been at home in myself.
I discovered this little problem in my first year of theatre school. If I was going to cut it as a professional actor, I had to stop acting and get real. The only thing I could bring to each character I was to portray was my self. Which, intellectually made perfect sense, except that I had no fucking clue who exactly that “self” was. And now, six years of running away from the art that I love later, I realize I still don’t have a clue. But today, I am choosing for that to be okay.
I am all the wrong turns, all the excuses, all the lies I’ve ever told. I am all the drugs I’ve used to numb the rough edges, all the people I’ve used to hide from the truth. I am the honour roll that felt like failure and the F’s that made me feel alive. I am the black sheep and the golden child. The “pretty but crazy one”. I am “thank god I’m not boring”. I am filled with light and love and So. Much. Rage. I am the critic and the peacekeeper, I am on land and at sea. I am the words I’ve spoken, and the silence that I should not have kept. I am the secrets whispered in the stillness of a summer’s day. I am the blood I’ve spilled. I am the accident, and I am here on purpose. I am all my memories, I am make-believe. I am here if you want me, I am here if you don’t. I am the child’s desire with the grown-up needs. I am an unstoppable creative force and I am ready to be seen.
I have always wanted to be an actor-ever since I was a little girl. Not because I sought fame and fortune, and not because I liked wearing fancy costumes (although I assure you, I do). I wanted to be an actor because I wanted to share with you the story of who I am. I wanted to share it with my whole heart so that maybe, if I were really lucky, you would share your story with me.
May 9, 2010
In this world there are the kinds of mothers who sew on their daughter’s brownie badges, and there are the kinds who do not. Needless to say my mother belongs to the latter group who believes it is perfectly acceptable to safety pin a badge onto a sash. And never mind that it’s already been partially chewed up by the dog.
Not long ago I was rummaging through old photographs and came across a picture of my ballet class. In the photograph a line of about ten five year olds are standing in perfect first position with perfect ballet buns and perfect pink tutus. That is, until the image is shattered by a little girl at the end standing with her hip jutted out to showcase her flowing skirt and her hair flying in a million directions except where it is secured by a gaudy yellow headband. Looking at this image it all became clear. Here it was; solid proof of my dysfunctional existence. Years of constant yearning to belong suddenly made sense. Years of feeling like there was something wrong with me explained. It was my mother’s fault. All because she wasn’t the kind of mother who makes sure their daughter is dressed in regulation pink. I immediately brought this picture to her and shouted something along the lines of “Look at what you did to me” She studied the picture and said “What? You look cute, but that little girl on the end, what a mess.”
At this, I couldn’t help but laugh. Maybe I didn’t always fit in, but thanks to my mother, at least I have always been unique.
My mother is not the kind of mother who creates the perfect French braid or volunteers for the PTA. She is the kind of mother who accidently gives her daughter a mushroom cut the day before she has to play a fairy for her 3rd grade play. She is the kind of mother that tells off her daughter’s entire 2nd grade class when volunteering for story time. And in spite of this, and because of all this, she is the kind of mother who teaches her daughters lessons about authenticity and fearlessness.
My mother is the kind of mom who does laughter yoga in the car on the way to school, the kind that defends her daughter’s honour even when pitted against the meanest of math teachers. She is of the sort that believes in black magic and feeds her daughters escargot and caviar in spite of their desire for Kraft dinner. She is the kind of mother who teaches her children about the beauty in all things and all people. She is the kind who celebrates tantrums and any form of self expression. The kind who nurtures dreams and forgives shortcomings. She is the kind of mother that can find a rainbow in any storm. The kind who makes giant mistakes and then proclaims that it’s all in the name of having something to work with in therapy.
My mother is passionate, adventurous, and stubborn as hell. She is strong willed and independent and smarter than any textbook. She is also beautiful and gentle, and the most compassionate woman I know. She is the kind of woman who not only sees the light in every spirit, but has the patience to help it shine through.
When I was around nine years old I wrote a letter in my diary to remind my future self of how to be a good mother in case I were to forget. I think the letter was in retaliation towards my own mother because “Always feed your children macaroni and cheese when they want it” was underlined twice. With apologies to my possible offspring, time has caused me to side with my mother on this issue. And on other things to. I am no longer envious of the girls with mothers who sew on brownie badges, I am thankful instead for the mother who has taught me more about life and living than any merit badge ever could.
They say that every daughter eventually becomes her mother. My future children can only hope to be so blessed.
April 25, 2010
I can feel my body changing. Slowly unraveling like buds on the cherry blossom trees do in springtime. I have no visible six pack of abs and my arms are not so cut that they rip through the sleeves of my t-shirt, but my body is changing. Slowly I can feel it waking up. There have been moments on this 30 day challenge where my body has ached, and where my mind sagging and heavy with want of sleep, has tried to convince me to stay off my mat. On Monday night in the grips of a cold I spent class in child’s pose. There was a part of me that wanted to fight. To push through, to power onward. Instead, I surrendered. And in surrendering, like leaves do as they fall from the trees in autumn, I heard what my body was saying. Be gentle with yourself, it whispered. And so I was.
The next day, feeling strong again I got back to the top of the mat and began anew. As my body made its way into dancers pose, my supporting leg began to quiver. “Give up!” a part of me cried, but my body called “Now is the time to be determined.” And so I was.
My body is changing and as it changes I can feel that slowly, other parts of myself that have lain dormant begin to unfurl. As my hips open, so to does my heart. Each muscle, each vein, each breathe is connected. There is a give and a take. An inhale, an exhale. A strengthening, and a release.
In class yesterday the instructor Sjanie spoke of how we do not do yoga for ourselves, we do it so that we can be of service to others. As we strengthen and nourish our bodies we become more able to give, more open to receive. And that makes sense to me. For just as each muscle, each breathe is connected to another, so am I connected to you, and you to me. We are breathing the same air after all.
I thought I was doing this challenge for myself, but as the days progress and I allow myself deeper into the practice I realize that the way I treat myself is a reflection of the way I treat others. I choose to do yoga because it is a means of taking care of myself. And when I take care of myself, I have the compassion and the strength to take care of others.
March 22, 2010
I am writing today for the sake of writing. I am painting words onto a blank slate just to be able to say that today, I wrote. I am not writing with purpose, or to share anything other than tiny black letters dotting a page. I am writing with the hope that somehow just the act of punching keys will start something, shift something, move something.
I woke today with that familiar heaviness. That weight that has been pressing down on my heart now for months. That familiar aching, longing, loneliness still permeating each fibre of my being. Today I woke with the same fear, the same sadness, the same mountain before me.
But today is different because today I am exercising my right to choose. Today I choose joy. Today I choose love. Today I choose light over darkness.
There is a corner of the sky where light peeks through. A tiny bit of blue in the upper left of my window frame. It is stretching across the sky now. Illuminating the cherry blossoms, and the white lace curtains of the house across the courtyard.
Today I choose to be like the sun. Through the thick blanket of grey, I persist. I am determined, to let my light shine once more.
February 26, 2010
Here is the place where water meets rock.
The shore, where a father helps his daughter search for crabs scurrying between the rocks. I see them as I run by.
They say that water has memory. No wonder then, that I should have memories of water.
While celebrating on the eve of the arrival of his new baby girl my friend asks if I am close to my father. I shake my head, no. “I want to have a better relationship with him, but I don’t know how to ask for one.”
He smiles, “Probably just like that.”
I don’t tell him my greatest fear. What if I ask and he says no? What if I remain the Christmas and Birthday daughter? What if all the years that have passed since we hunted for crabs amidst the rocks are thicker than the blood we share?
I see them; father and daughter, and I run by. My feet carry me as fast as they can go. Until, here at the place where past meets present, memory meets reality and water meets rock I can run no faster, no further.
January 27, 2010
I have a confession to make. A year and a half ago when I started working for lululemon athletica, I hated yoga. In my interview I was asked if I practiced yoga and I answered yes, which was the truth. I had been practicing yoga at least three times a week for the last two years as a part of my theatre training. What I didn’t say was that given the choice between having all my teeth pulled out individually without the use of anesthetics, and yoga, I would happily spend the rest of my life toothless.
Now, you’re probably wondering why, if I disliked yoga with such passion would I want to come work for a company which was founded around its practice? The answer is, I loved what lululemon athletica stood for and wasn’t about to let a hatred of downward dogs stop me from being a part of the community. What I didn’t know, but was about to find out, is that what lululemon athletica stands for, and the practice of yoga are interconnected. I was about to embark on a journey that would not only transform the way I approach yoga, but also the way I live my life.
I have always been a perfectionist. Days spent darting between classes, dance lessons, and rehearsals. Life lived in the pursuit of excellence. Beating myself up for missed notes, forgotten lines. Best to keep busy. Go, go, go. And if my body was busy, my mind was even busier. My thoughts travelled a mile a minute, no time to be still. So when I entered my first year of theatre school and found myself having to lie down on a mat and breathe for an hour every day, I panicked. I could not even fathom how bored I was going to be. But what I discovered was even scarier than boredom. As I contorted my body into different postures and felt the breathe moving to parts of myself I’d never felt before, felt my body stretch further and further and then all of a sudden just stop, I knew I wasn’t going to get anywhere soon. I was going to have to sit in the stillness and feel the weight of that. There was no fast track to the destination and the thought of the journey made me want to run.
I wanted to run out of the room, dance around like a chicken, anything to keep me from feeling the torture of stillness. Anything to keep me from myself.
So needless to say when I began working for lululemon athletica I was absolutely terrified of yoga. I made every excuse not to go until I was presented with something called hip hop yoga. Yup. Yoga with a live DJ and booty shakes. Ok, I thought, I’ve got rhythm-this I can do.
And so I dusted off my mat, put on my wunder unders and some bling and I was ready to kick some serious asanas.
One hour after the beats started blasting, I was hooked. Somewhere between the first sun salutation and Namaste, the joy of yoga snuck in. The class was vibrant, sweaty, fun, and humbling. In that class I discovered that I didn’t have to be the perfect yogi. I didn’t have to get both legs over my head, or stand upside down. It became clear as I bounced my booty to the beat and felt the energy of all the people in the room that I was perfectly free to be me. I had been looking at it all wrong. Yoga is not about winning or being the best. Nobody is comparing me to the limber body on the next mat. It’s not about doing it doing it right, it’s about doing what’s right for you. And it is not about pushing yourself to be something you’re not; it’s about releasing into what you already are.
We are born flexible. Our hearts open, our minds ready to receive. As we grow, our bodies change, tighten with the stress of living, our hearts sometimes harden, our minds sometimes close. We forget that we are in this together. We are connected. To each other and to the planet. On the mat as I deepen my practice I learn to let go. As I breathe into the space between my bones and feel my muscles relax, I find new openness. In the stillness of each posture and in the motion in between, my heart softens, my mind expands. And as I allow the light to shine from within, it lights up the world I live in.
January 25, 2010
Day One. Again.
I’d made a commitment to myself. Promised that I would write every day for thirty days. I didn’t keep it. I could lay down a myriad of excuses. All the reasons why I didn’t keep my word. The truth is, I got scared.
The truth is I am scared.
Afraid I’m going to sink instead of swim.
Afraid my dreams, my optimism are shrinking along with my bank account. So focused on the earth sliding out from under me that I’d forgotten that when you can’t feel the ground anymore, it’s time to give flying a try.
So today, I start over. I recognize. I apologize. I recommit.
I make amends.
January 21, 2010
Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
In the third grade my teacher asked my class to illustrate the story of Creation. The one from the bible where God says “let there be light” and then he makes the entire universe in seven days. We were to draw the Garden of Eden. The way the world was before that darned Eve messed it all up.
At 8 years of age I reckoned I was quite the talented artist so I decided to spice up my interpretation. I had the lush trees filled with fruit and the cornucopia of species, but my animals were classier than the ones in biblical accounts. My mice drove drop top convertibles that filled up at tiny gas stations, the cats floated down the river on margarita filled rafts, and the monkeys donned cool sunglasses and peace signs.
When the final touches were complete I surveyed my masterpiece with great pride. Sometimes you just know you did a good job, and this was one of those times. Each animal was crafted with such detail that they almost seemed to come to life. And my use of color was pure unconventional genius! I was sure Miss Hammond would be more than impressed.
Her eyes squinted as she examined my work. Her lips pressed together. She began taking labored breaths which made her nostrils flare out.
“This is not the Garden of Eden.” She said. Her words were tight and thin. “The Garden of Eden did not have bears reclining on lawn chairs along a purple river. You will draw this assignment again. And this time, you will do it right.”
If I wasn’t eight years old at the time, I probably would have had much more to say to Miss Hammond. I would have dug in my heels and fought a good fight. I would have defended my creativity and my right to be wrong. I would have told her a thing or two about art. But as it was, I redid the project and this time, I coloured within the lines.
Years later I had the opportunity to facilitate an arts program at the Calgary Drop-In Centre. A new project spearheaded by mother and the Wildrose church, the program was designed to give people living at the shelter a chance to find within them a creative voice that had been muted by life on the streets.
In the programs beginnings, my job was basically to supervise the clients and make sure the supplies were being handled with care. If they needed help with simple techniques like shading or mixing colours I would provide that too, but I quickly learnt that the best way to teach art was to sit back and watch it unfold.
In those first few months over the course of an afternoon, clients would come and go. Some of them were seasoned artists relieved to have a quiet space to practice their trade, but many hadn’t picked up a pastel or a piece of charcoal since grade school. And some had no memory of their last brush with creativity at all. When you are fighting to survive, self expression often takes its place in the backseat alongside things like hopes and dreams.
When I would ask some of them what brought them up to the art studio the response I became used to hearing was “I just wanted a break from the second floor.”
“Well, while you’re up here why don’t you grab a canvas and some paints” I’d say as I led them towards the art supplies.
“Ok, but I’m not a very creative person.” So many would reply.
And as I would watch their white canvases slowly fill up with images and colour, I began to learn that there is no such thing. We all have that spark in us, waiting to be set free.
Every child is an artist…
As their paintbrushes would swirl across the linen surfaces for an instant I could see them; Children again, exploring the world as if for the first time. They would tell me stories about the images they were creating, the past, the part of themselves they were drawing it from. Some of their paintings were childlike in their simplicity and hopefulness, others dark and ominous and laced with pain. All beautiful in their own right.
As the months went on artists continued to come up to the sixth floor, bringing new mediums like beading, and carving and collage. Each new face, new spark breathed new life into the space. Musicians began to come too, and what was once the serenade of public radio became live Spanish guitar and a chorus of modern day Beatles.
We are all creative. Whether we live in a quiet suburban neighourhood, or the downtown eastside, we have the possibility within us. The lucky ones have managed to carry it with them from childhood intact and unafraid. For others it has been blown out by the Miss Hammonds of the world. By those who dare not see life in anything but black and white for fear they may be wrong. For others still the spark has been extinguished by demons far more menacing and powerful than the words of a third grade teacher. Their voices silenced long before their inner child could escape unharmed.
But still a wick of hope exists. The faintest light waiting for the opportunity to be ignited. Waiting to be handed a paintbrush, or an instrument, or a pen. Waiting for the chance to add a ribbon of colour to a world of too much grey. Waiting for the chance to be seen. To be heard.
January 19, 2010
It is my first night out in Vancouver. Each note of rain hitting the pavement sings of adventure. Follow these streets wherever they take you. This city, this world, this life, ripe with possibility.
The night is spent meeting new people, exploring new places. Hip bars, dive bars, bars with no names. Like all good things, the night eventually comes to an end and my girlfriends and I hop on the bus that will take us away from our whirlwind tour of the downtown.
On the bus there is a group of young men, and I do not fail to notice something odd about one of them. The one in the navy blue pea coat is holding a carton of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I cannot lie; I have had a couple of glasses of wine by this point and am feeling rather bold. So I ask him, probably with a bit more volume than is appropriate, who broke his heart.
He looks at me like I’m completely insane and replies awkwardly, “umm…no one. Why?”
“You’re carrying a carton of Ben and Jerry’s on the bus at midnight on a Saturday. Somebody must have.”
He laughs and begins shaking the carton of ice cream which my friends and I find utterly hilarious and then it is our stop. For a brief moment we discuss stealing the Ben and Jerry’s but we exit the vehicle empty handed and hungry.
One week later I get a phone call from my friend. I can barely understand what she is saying between her fits of uncontrollable laughter. Oh my god (laughter) he (more laughter) shook it. (serious laughter)
“The guy from the bus. (laughter) You got an I saw you!”
I should explain that in the weekly arts paper there is a section entitled “I saw you”. A half page dedicated to random strangers and long lost lovers. People place a tiny square of words in the hopes that somehow it will lead to another connection. It is my favourite section. I spend more time than I should concocting back stories and futures for these desperate people and their cryptic messages. I never expected though, that there would be one for me in there.
My friend composes herself and reads, “Me, navy blue pea coat holding a carton of Ben and Jerry’s. You, beautiful brunette cutely stamping your foot. You asked me who broke my heart. Damn it, I should have said, you.”
And now I die laughing.
“You have to contact him.”
“Absolutely not. He’s probably some sort of psycho killer.”
“Oops. I guess you’re gonna be pissed that I contacted him for you then.”
And so, because this event has all the markings of a great story, and he has the same name as my imaginary junior high boyfriend,I agree to meet this ice cream holding stranger for coffee at some trendy spot on Broadway.
As I step off the bus to meet him, thoughts are racing through my mind. Number one, I can’t remember what he looks like. Number two, I wish I had taken up my friends offer to dress in camo and hide in the bushes should I need saving, and in the back of my mind, my romantic self plays with the thought that this all feels rather cosmic.
Thankfully there is only one person sitting on their own when I enter the coffee shop. He is wearing a burgundy sweater. The kind with the big collar that he wears flipped up. It is the kind of sweater that one buys at a second hand shop for more than it cost the first time. His jeans, too tight, hit just above his ankles. The more space between the pant and the shoe, the more trendy you are.
He gets up to greet me. He has already ordered an espresso so I place my order for a chai latte, relieved that he doesn’t offer to pay. I hate feeling like I owe something.
Our beverages arrive and we sit down. I ask him what his story is. He says he’s sick of his story, what’s mine. I entertain his request and give him the kind of details one gives a perfect stranger. Where I’m from. What I do.
“An actor. That explains your comment on the bus.”
“And what do you do?”It is my turn to ask questions now. And he is not short on answers. He goes on and on until there it is. The awkward silence. Typical conversation protocol goes like this: Person A asks question. Person B responds. Person B then returns favour by asking person A said question. He has obviously missed this lesson and chooses to remain completely silent when finished saying what he wants to say.
So I ask more questions and as he sips his espresso it becomes increasingly clear that me and my chai latte are simply not hip enough for him and his references to obscure architects and archaic video games.
For one hour, one exceptionally long hour, I listen to his rants and force myself to laugh at his attempted jokes, and respond with words like “cool” and “sweet” which I hate the moment they escape my lips.
At one point I catch myself staring longingly out the window, wishing I were one of those people on the street. They don’t know how lucky they are those free, anonymous people. I snap back to the interchange at hand. “What’s your gold standard at karaoke?” He says something like, “David Bowie” and I respond with something like, “awesome.”
I apologize as I reach for my phone to check the time. It is something I have been resisting though every fibre of my body has been screaming for me to for the entire course of our conversation.
“I’m meeting a friend for sushi” I explain. I manage not to add the “Thank god.” That I want to.
We exit into the cold December air. Awkward goodbye. And we both hastily make our escapes with the knowledge we will never see each other again.
Just because something looks like fate, doesnt mean it is. It may just be coincidence dressed up in destiny’s clothes.