The Cause Of My Suicide (illustration)

28 05 2009

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The Cause of My Suicide (Women Gone Mad)

28 05 2009

The Cause of My Suicide

Dr. Shelby: “Why did you try and kill yourself?”
Mary Evans: “The pizza man was late. I was waiting for pizza to arrive in the front lobby. My wrists fed two puddles of blood on the floor. Funny, they looked like two small pizzas. Some girls in the lobby started screaming. The delivery boy asked if it was my period.”
Dr. Shelby: “Try and relax, Mary.”
Mary Evans: “I’m sorry, doc. When I get nervous I can’t stop my tongue.”
Dr. Shelby: “We’re not in a race here. It’ll all come out eventually.”
Mary Evans: “Eventually?”
Dr. Shelby: “Your pizza was late so you decided to kill yourself? Is that correct?”
Mary Evans: “Yes. I can’t stand poor service.”
Dr. Shelby: “And that’s why you’re here today?”
Mary Evans: “The Dean ordered me to meet with Dr. Shelby, the campus shrink. That’s you. It was that or be expelled and I didn’t want my father to find out. And so here I am.”
Dr. Shelby: “And what your father thinks matters to you?”
Mary Evans: “My parents paid for my tuition here. That and my student loan, which I’ll probably never be able to pay off.
Dr. Shelby: “You’re embarrassed?”
Mary Evans: “Yes.”
Dr. Shelby: “Don’t be embarrassed, Mary. There is nothing you can tell me that I haven’t heard countless times before.”
Mary Evans: “Then why don’t we put ditto marks in my file and leave it at that? I won’t do it again.”
Dr. Shelby: “I’m afraid this matter is too serious to be swept under the carpet.”
Mary Evans: “Rug.”
Dr. Shelby: “Excuse me?”
Mary Evans: “The expression is swept under the rug.”
Dr. Shelby: “It is? You sure of that?
Mary Evans: “Pretty sure. I wouldn’t want to bet my life on it. I’m being glib.”
Dr. Shelby: “Yes.”
Mary Evans: “This is all uncharted waters for me. There is nothing you can say to me that I’ve heard before.”
Dr. Shelby: “You never talk to your parents?”
Mary Evans: “I don’t have to talk to my mother. There’s nothing I could say that she didn’t already know. My mother is psychic. And my father, he’d rather take me fishing.”
Dr. Shelby: “We must try and discover what brought about your recent behavior, Mary. I’ll be your guide.”
Mary Evans: “I wish I knew what you wanted to hear.”
Dr. Shelby: “Why did you slice your wrists?”
Mary Evans: “I cut myself shaving. Hairy wrists. A genetic trait in the women of our family.”
Dr. Shelby: “Is that what you want me to tell the Dean?”
Mary Evans: “Playing hardball, eh doc?”
Dr. Shelby: “Yep.”
Mary Evans: “I’m sorry. Seems like all I’m doing recently is apologizing.”
Dr. Shelby: “No apologies needed between us, Mary.”
Mary Evans: “It didn’t feel as if I was cutting my wrists. Didn’t hurt. It was as if I were cutting up someone else’s flesh. Like I was performing an autopsy. Not that I have any idea what performing an autopsy is like. It was like cutting up the chicken for Sunday dinner. We eat a lot of chicken at our house.”
Dr. Shelby: “Why?”
Mary Evans: “I want to be loved. Isn’t that the right answer? Isn’t that what it says in the textbook?”
Dr. Shelby: “Do you like college life?”
Mary Evans: “No.”
Dr. Shelby: “Why did you come to university?”
Mary Evans: “My mother died!”
Dr. Shelby: “Where were you born?”
Mary Evans: “Born and raised in Parkdale, the cultural heart of Toronto.”
Dr. Shelby: “What is it about Parkdale that stands out in your mind?”
Mary Evans: “The noise and the heat.”
Dr. Shelby: “Go on.”
Mary Evans: “Summer was hell in Parkdale. No one could afford air-conditioners. The whole neighborhood would go down to the lake, an entourage of air mattresses, sleeping bags, alarm clocks, and pillows. I could never sleep with all the noise: clocks ticking, police horses snorting, their hoofs clicking on the sidewalk, people ranting in their sleep, all that snoring, the small waves of the lake giggling up the stony beach, coughing, a car puttering along the Lakeshore Boulevard, the King Streetcar screeching as it turned northward onto Roncesvalles, the moon rolling slowly across the lake like a bowling ball toward the downtown skyscrapers. I guess you didn’t want to hear all that.”
Dr Shelby: “Do you write poetry, Mary?”
Mary Evans: “Diary stuff. Nothing I’d like anyone to read.”
Doctor Shelby: “You seem to have a flair for…”
Mary Evans: “…the theatrical?”
Doctor Shelby: “I was going to say the poetic. I’d like to read some of your poetry, Mary. Perhaps you could bring some in at our next meeting.”
Mary Evans: “Next meeting? I thought that this was a one shot thing.”
Dr. Shelby: “Why don’t we see what we can get accomplished today. Is there much violence in Parkdale?”
Mary Evans: “We have our moments.”
Dr. Shelby: “Could you give me an example?”
Mary Evans: “One August a few years ago a man strangled his wife with her waist length hair. It had been her great joy. The hair, I mean. No one thought she was too pleased to be strangled. Squad cars surrounded the area, roof lights twirling around like tops splashing red and white globs of light against, homes, storefronts, and parked cars. Everyone was sitting on their porches, half dressed, speaking in hushed voices as the body was carried out. An ambulance siren closely followed by the ambulance pulled up to the murder scene. It was very theatrical.”
Doctor Shelby: “And the reason for the murder?”
Mary Evans: “Everyone had their own theory. People like to chat about these sorts of things especially people in Parkdale who spend 90% of their time out on their front porches. As I said, there weren’t any air-conditioners. In Parkdale, you can’t put up fences to keep out trouble like they do in Rosedale. Someone gets killed in Rosedale no one hears about it. No one wants to hear about it. Rich people don’t care about each other like the poor. That’s why they’re rich.”
Dr. Shelby: “Tell me about the theories.”
Mary Evans: “There are a lot of theories.”
Dr. Shelby: “That’s okay. We’re in no hurry.”
Mary Evans: “You’re interested. I could tell. Everyone finds Parkdale interesting. They just don’t want to live there. Well, they were always fighting. But, a lot of people fight. That don’t mean they’re going to kill each other. They were a quiet couple otherwise. People in Parkdale don’t trust people who are too quiet. They drank too much but then a lot of people drink. I think you can ignore all those theories. He, the killer, had a strange look about him. Have you ever noticed in photographs that murderers have an evil glint in their eyes? You have to wonder why no one notices that look before they commit their awful deeds. He wanted to sell her hair for gin. She hated gin. He was going bald and was jealous of her hair. She just got laid off from Mr. Christie, The Cookie Man. There was going to he a serious money shortage since he didn’t have a job. Everyone in Parkdale has money problems. He was putting on weight. She expected to be killed. It was the look in her eyes. There’s that look again. Maybe it was the heat. Parkdale residents blame the heat for everything. There you have them. Probably some I missed.”
Dr. Shelby: “What happened next?”
Mary Evans: “The husband was brought out of the house crying. One of the cops put his hand on the husband’s head and stuffed him into the back seat of a squad car and sped off. The guy just strangles his wife and the cops are afraid he’ll bang his head. He never did say why he killed his wife. Maybe he didn’t know. Men are dangerous was my mother’s explanation.”
Dr. Shelby: “And this environment of violence, do you think it has had any effect on your behavior?”
Mary Evans: “No! It wasn’t like someone was getting knocked off every weekend. It was fun. Domestic fights are a poor man’s theatre.”
Dr. Shelby: “Tell me about your early sexual experiences?”
Mary Evans: “I don’t know.”
Dr. Shelby: “Did you go out with boys?”
Mary Evans: “Mary, my girlfriend has the same name as me, and I used to go to dances at the CYO. We’d meet these two guys Terry and Brian. We’d sneak out behind the hall and neck. Sometimes I’d be with Terry, sometimes Brian. It wasn’t the boy that was important. It was the necking. We needed practice if we were going to get good at it. We never had real sex.”
Dr. Shelby: “And this was okay with the boys?”
Mary Evans: “Oh ya. Terry was Mary’s brother. And Brian was a little effeminate. Maybe he was gay but he sure could kiss.”
Dr. Shelby: “Did Mary go to college?”
Mary Evans: “Mary? God no! Mary got married to this guy named Gary. He used to knock her about before they screwed. She thought marriage might straighten him out. Spends her time now in a coma or watching the soaps on television.”
Dr. Shelby: “And what do you think of that?”
Mary Evans: “I can’t stand soaps.”
Dr. Shelby: “Anything else you want to tell me about growing up in Parkdale?”
Mary Evans: “I took ballet until I was sixteen and had an operation on my back. I lost grade eleven. Men don’t love hunchbacks. My two older sisters went to college. Ellen became a radiologist. Jan became a high school teacher. They married rich guys and quit their jobs. My brother David went to medical school and became a dentist. What a super guy! All the time growing up he was my best friend. Took me everywhere. He never had many girlfriends. I could never figure that out. Why couldn’t girls see how terrific he was? If men are dangerous, women are stupid.”
Dr. Shelby: “You don’t like women?”
Mary Evans: “Some women. Some I like. Most I’m kind of indifferent toward.”
Dr. Shelby: “Go on.”
Mary Evans: “My parents were given an award because their first three children went to university. In Parkdale, that was considered a miracle. I had to go to college. I would have preferred a job at Eaton’s.”
Dr. Shelby: “Tell me about your father.”
Mary Evans: “I used to sit on my daddy’s lap and read the Sunday funnies. That’s how I learned to read. Daddy hadn’t held a full time job for thirty years, but we were never on welfare. He always found odd jobs. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do, nothing he couldn’t fix. Daddy was always singing. People in the neighborhood called him the happiest man in Parkdale. Sometimes he would take me fishing in Grenadier Pond. Told me about the monster that lived in its depths. Almost forty feet long with a head as big as a horse. Daddy said he hooked into him one Saturday night and really gave him a ride but was forced to cut the line the next morning when it was time to go to Mass.”
Dr. Shelby: “And your mother?”
Mary Evans: “She was a psychic.”
Dr. Shelby: “Yes, you mentioned that before. Can you give me an example?”
Mary Evans: “One evening while mother was sitting at the kitchen sink cleaning a turkey, my grandmother walked in. Mother was surprised because grandma lived with my aunt in Winnipeg and there had been no word of her visiting us. Grandma put her hand on mother’s shoulder and told her she loved her and not to worry. Then grandma walked out of the kitchen and disappeared. Within the hour there was a long distance call from Winnipeg. Grandma had just died.”
Dr. Shelby: “That was unusual.”
Mary Evans: “There was also my mother’s health problems. For years mother had been complaining about headaches. She was sure she had cancer. The doctors thought she was nuts, a hypochondriac. When she was finally diagnosed with a brain tumor, it was too late. The last few weeks of her life were racked by terrible visions. She would sit in a chair on the front porch staring at me and opening her mouth to warn me about something but nothing came out. Mother died peacefully rocking back and forth on the porch waiting for my father to come home from fishing.”
Dr. Shelby: “Did your mother say anything to you before she died?”
Mary Evans: “She told me that no one really dies. They’re just forgotten. I’ll never forget her.”
Dr. Shelby: “Tell me, Mary, what was your first sexual experience?”
Mary Evans: “Back to sex again… eh, doc? The first time was with a boy named Nick at the beginning of this school year.”
Dr. Shelby: “Yes.”
Mary Evans: “We were both in the same psychology course. I talked to Nick about my mother and her powers of perception. Nick was fascinated. We went down to the Dominion House for a drink one night. After a few beers he insisted I read his palms. I laughed and explained that I couldn’t read palms, that I had no such powers. Pushing his beer toward me, he insisted that I read the suds. He looked angry. I was afraid to say no. I looked into his beer. I couldn’t see anything. Nick took this literally, meaning of course that he had no future to see. Grabbing my hand he dragged me out of the pub and down the street. I was too drunk to complain. Soon we were lying in the grass under the Ambassador Bridge. Nick was all over me. He was a big man and I could hardly breath. His hand started tugging at my panties. I guess I didn’t put up much of a fight. Maybe I wanted it to happen. Before I could catch my breath he was in me and out. I couldn’t believe that I had waited all these years and that was it. Nick peeled the condom off his penis and threw it at me. Read that, you bitch! he cried.”
Dr. Shelby: “And how did you feel about that?”
Mary Evans: “I didn’t think it was too romantic.”
Dr. Shelby: “Did you report it to anyone?”
Mary Evans: “Report what?”
Dr. Shelby: “Anything else?”
Mary Evans: “I was glad I’d finally gotten it over with. And I was disappointed. If that’s all that sex was, I couldn’t see the point in going through it again.”
Dr. Shelby: “But there was a next time?”
Mary Evans: “Yes.”
Dr Shelby: “Was your next experience more pleasant?”
Mary Evans: “Not much. It was with a boy named Jeff. I met him at a dance at the
University Center. Tall, blond, handsome, Jeff was very charming. I told him I hated Windsor. The town was dead. Jeff laughed. It seems his father was an undertaker. After the dance we went for a walk through a park by the river. We sat down on a park bench. Jeff began to tickle me. I hate being tickled. I ran into the park. Jeff ran after me, pulling me to the ground and kissing me. His hand slipped up my leg. I asked him to slow down. We were both still laughing. I know what you want, he said. Everyone knows what you want. Jeff’s other hand slid under my blouse and began to tug at my bra. No! I protested, but Jeff wasn’t listening. You’re too big! I cried. Shut up! Jeff barked. I closed my eyes and waited for it to be over. I heard someone calling out for their dog. Opening my eyes, I looked over Jeff’s shoulder and saw a large dog standing behind him, sniffing at Jeff’s bare ass. I couldn’t help myself and started to laugh. Jeff slapped me.”
Dr. Shelby: “Were you raped?”
Mary Evans: “What do you think?”
Dr. Shelby: “No, what do you think, Mary?”
Mary Evans: “I felt as if someone else was being raped. I was along as a chaperone.”
Dr. Shelby: “Could you have said no?”
Mary Evans: “I did say no, but he wouldn’t listen. I was just a slab of meat, something dead and frozen picked up at the local grocery market. I told some girlfriends in residence. They said I shouldn’t have been in the park with him. What did I expect?”
Dr. Shelby: “What did you expect?”
Mary Evans: “I don’t know.”
Dr. Shelby: “Do you blame yourself?”
Mary Evans: “I suppose. Maybe they were right.”
Dr. Shelby: “Do you think that these experiences led to your attempt to kill yourself?”
Mary Evans: “No.”
Dr. Shelby: “I see. What is your explanation for your behavior?”
Mary Evans: “Michael.”
Dr. Shelby: “Tell me about Michael.”
Mary Evans: “I vowed not to get involved with any more men. I met some other girls in residence and we really hit it off. What a howl we would have. Sometimes we would go drinking together at the Bridge House and stumble home together peeing our pants with laughter. One evening I was there with Marie, my closest friend at the time. At one point in the evening Marie invited Michael, a friend of Marie’s that I had seen around campus, to sit down with us. At first I was wary but we had some more beers and Michael was very funny. Marie excused herself soon after claiming she had a test in geography the next day. I suspected that it was a set up. Marie knew what had happened with Nick and Jeff and I knew she wouldn’t leave me with someone who would hurt me again. And I liked Michael so I stayed. We talked and laughed and drank. I guess I got drunk. Michael took me back to his f1at. When we entered his room he kissed me and started taking my clothes off. Shit! Its started all over again, I said to myself. I started to cry. Could we just talk? I asked. Sure, Michael replied. And that’s all we did. After that we spent each evening, naked, in each other’s arms, talking and laughing. Michael was so patient with me. After a couple of weeks of this, Michael asked very politely if we could make love. Michael bought a box of condoms and we used them all up in one night. I could hardly walk the next day. Michael said his dick had diaper rash the day after.”
Dr. Shelby: “What happened then?”
Mary Evans: “Everything was great. I began to take a keener interest in school. Even the city of Windsor became bearable. Everyone said I had a new glow about me. And then one evening I got a call from Nick. He asked to see me again. I felt so strong, almost invincible. I told him where he could stick it. But that weekend Michael went home. There was some problem with his sister. They were very close. Friday night was fine. But Saturday evening I got restless. I thought I’d go down the Bridge House and have a beer. No one wanted to go with me so I went by myself. I met Nick there. He was a different person, so charming, and funny and exciting. He invited me back to his place. I knew I shouldn’t go. I knew it wasn’t right. But, I was curious. When we got to Nick’s place he brought out some weed. I had never smoke marijuana before. I almost coughed out my lungs. And then we made love. I don’t know how it happened. It was wonderful, much better than it had ever been with Michael. After that it was Nick I wanted to be with. I made excuses to Michael, told him I had assignments due, or there was a get together with the girls, or it was my period. All the time I was fucking Nick. I felt guilty as hell but I didn’t care. You see how terrible this is? All my life I have been around wonderful men, my father, brother, and now Michael and…”
Dr. Shelby: “You had been unfaithful?”
Mary Evans: “It wasn’t just that. It wasn’t that I had lied and cheated on Michael. It wasn’t that, because I was quite willing to continue lying and cheating on Michael. I had slept with the lamb and I preferred the beast. I understood the woman with the long hair that had been murdered by her husband. I understood her. She couldn’t leave him; she preferred him. Why doctor? Why am I like this? What is inside me that chooses the Nick’s of the world?”
Dr. Shelby: “I don’t think that all women prefer these type of men. Relationships are a difficult and complicated matter.”
Mary Evans: “It’s not about relationships, doc. It’s about sex.”
Dr. Shelby: “You would eventually get over Nick.”
Mary Evans: “And the next one would be another Nick. Don’t you see, doc? I despise women who chose men like Nick. I can’t stand women who would turn men like my brother away, kind men, gentle men, good men. And I know I am one of those women.”
Dr. Shelby: “You can change Mary.”
Mary Evans: “But you can’t guarantee that.”
Dr. Shelby: “We’ll discuss that in our next meeting. I’m going to write a note to the Dean allowing you to continue classes. What’s this?”
Mary Evans: “It’s a razor blade.”
Dr. Shelby: “You just took that out of your mouth!”
Mary Evans: “Yes. I swallowed the rest.”





The Liar (illustration)

23 05 2009

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WOMEN GONE MAD: The Liar

23 05 2009

The Liar

My grandfather was the noted writer Morley Callaghan, he who cavorted with Hemingway in Paris, not his son who cavorted with my mother. Grandpa told me that you should never let truth get in the way of a good story. Lying is the most human of endeavors. It’s what separates us from the animal kingdom. Nature is never deceitful. So why do we lie? Exaggerate? Invent? I believe that we lie to furnish this awful existence we have been thrown in with something more edifying than pain and suffering. We have outgrown reality. And if God is dead as any rational creature must admit then what other purpose do we have on earth but to entertain each other? Let us while away our last hours as amiably as possible. America’s gift to history is the late night talk show. The end of time arrives in one liners and snappy rejoinders. Did I say Morley Callaghan was my grandfather? I lied.
Did I tell you about the time I met the Beach Boys? It was l969. That does date me, doesn’t it? The Holiday Inn on Riverside Drive had just opened a few weeks earlier and me and Sandra, a college friend, decided to try out the bar, not that we normally cruised bars but everything new in Windsor had to he tried out at least once. Living in Windsor was like waiting for a bus in a bus terminal. Every time a bus pulled into the station you had to check it out, not because you thought it was your bus but because there was nothing else to do.
We were having a drink when Sandra noticed the Beach Boys and their retinue at a booth in the corner of the room. One of their roadies came over and asked us if we wanted to join them in a drink. We accepted. Brian Wilson, the sad genius of the group, sat across from me. He was so drunk that they lodged him between two of his brothers for support. While his brothers had these great tans, Brian was pale. He looked like the blood had been drained right out of him. A double order of drinks were placed in front of us. It was eerie. All these guys at the table staring at us in silence. They were in a hurry to get us drunk.
Sandra piped up. “What shall we talk about?”
“How about sex?” one of the roadies piped up.
Sandra blushed.
I looked at Brian. His eyes were glazed over like he was buried alive inside his body.
“Wouldn’t you like to tell your friends that you slept with the Beach Boys?” one of the Wilson brothers added. I don’t know which brother it was. They all looked the same to me but I think it was the one who later drowned.
Sandra giggled.
I leaned over the table and tapped on Brian’s forehead.
“Anyone home?” I asked.
Do you ever get the impression that someone is putting words in your mouth? Do you ever get the impression that you’re not communicating what you feel, that language conspires to misrepresent you, that someone else is writing your story? When the Indians first saw the camera they thought the photographer was stealing their soul. This is what truth is like. Truth is universal. Lying is personal. When you tell people what happened, the facts as they say, then you’re nothing more than a recorder. Your story is kidnapped. It’s like everyone else’s. You get up in the morning. You go to work or school, come home, eat, watch a little television, and go to bed. Everyone does that. A brief synopsis of life: you’re born, you die.
I went to a Lancer basketball game at St. Dens Hall one time. After the game a gang of us tripped on down to the Bridge House. The place was packed. I was sitting with a group of students at one table in the middle of the room. The table was filled with beer. The juke box was loud. Everyone talked at the same time. I was bored to death. This guy Miles was trying to hit on me. He was boring.
“I can hardly hear you,” Miles screamed in my ear.
“My mother killed herself!” I cried.
Miles mouth dropped.
“Jesus! That’s terrible!”
I looked away. A tear ran down my cheek, I struggled to my feet and fought my way out of the room. When Miles reached me outside I was leaning against a wall smoking a cigarette. I turned to Miles and smiled.
“Could we go back to your place?” I thought we could do some smoke. Maybe he’d have some records we could listen to. I wanted to get blitzed.
Miles blushed.
“I live with my parents,” he confessed.
I dropped my cigarette to the sidewalk and ground it out.
“Shit! This is so fucking boring! Take me home!”
“I don’t have a car,” he sighed.
I hate people who are deep. I prefer shallow surface types. They’re honest. What do intellectuals think about that is of any consequence? The university is filled with intellectuals whom no one has ever heard of and probably never will. Thinking is a grave dull minds bury themselves in. I consider someone intelligent who can make me laugh not someone who understands the Theory of Relativity. Think of all the time and effort intellectuals spent trying to understand how the sun revolved around the earth only to find out centuries later that they were wrong. Science is the continual project to discover how stupid we have been. That is not smart. Making money is never stupid. You always have something to show for your efforts.
Not every one appreciates it when you entertain them. I remember one evening in residence when a bunch of us girls were sitting around getting drunk. Marie, a girl from an upper class well heeled family whose wardrobe consisted of jeans and plaid shirts sat Buddha like on the bed. I knew something was coming my way when she butted out her cigarette then picked up the bottle.of wine and refilled all the styrofoam cups of the girls in the room. Here it comes, I said to myself.
“Why do you keep telling those stories?” Marie asked.
“What do you mean?” I replied.
Marie sighed.
“Like the story you told me the first day you were in residence,” O’Hara cried. “That your step-father molested you and you couldn’t have children.”
I laughed. “Just having fun.”
“I wasn’t laughing,” O’Hara responded.
“And,” Marie added, “that story you told Miles Bancroft about your mother committing suicide. Sherry thinks you were trying to get Miles sympathy so that you could seduce him.”
“Don’t be silly,” I smiled, sipping my wine. “Miles isn’t my type. He’s too short.”
“You’re getting quite a reputation, Jacqueline. You aren’t Morley Callaghan’s granddaughter. All those stories about the Beach Boys…”
“I really met the Beach Boys…”
“But who can believe you, Jacqueline?”
I took a cigarette out of the pack on the window sill and lit one up.
“You know,” Marie added, “a girl that looks as good as you, Jacqueline, doesn’t have to lie to get attention. Guys would flock to you anyway.”
“You think so?”
“Absolutely!” Marie cried.
A tear came to my eye. I wiped it away.
“God,” I sniffled. “It’s so great to have friends like you. Someone to set a girl straight.”
O’Hara rolled off her chair onto the floor, laughing. They all started to laugh. I didn’t find it funny. I hate it when people see right through me.
Did I tell you about the time I met Frank Zappa? The Mothers of Invention were playing in Toronto at Massey Hall. Is the place really named after a tractor? I have a friend, Jack Sirdevan, who worked as an usher in the Hall. He brought me to Frank’s dressing room between shows. Frank was sitting in a chair, chain smoking, staring into space. Frank looked up at me with those surly wicked eyes. I told him I admired his music; a dumb remark but what else was I supposed to say?
“You know a lot about music?” Frank asked. Was he being sarcastic or just mean spirited?
“I know what I like,” I replied. “I like your sense of humor. Contemporary music is much too serious.”
Actually I couldn’t stand the Mothers’ music. It didn’t make any sense. Frank looked up at me, patted the chair beside him, and dismissed my friend Jack. I sat down. I was wearing a mini skirt, about eight inches above my knees and I could see his eyes drinking in my legs.
“This is so fucking boring,” Frank muttered, offering me a cigarette and then a light.
“Waiting?” I asked.
He nodded, than put his hand, the one with the cigarette between his fingers, on my knee.
“People spend half their lives in cues, waiting. Waiting for what?”
I smiled, and patted Frank’s hand, the one on my knee.
“I didn’t come back here Mr. Zappa to get fucked.”
Frank laughed, removed his hand, and leaned back in his chair.
“Why did you come back here?”
“I told you; I like your music.”
Frank blew some smoke rings.
“You’re a very beautiful girl. You want to go back to L.A. with me?”
Okay, it wasn’t Frank Zappa. But it was some rock star. Who can remember all these one hit head bashing heavy metal types? I don’t feel guilty for lying. It’s not like I killed anyone. I saw a photograph of Mussoline and his mistress after they had been executed, after the mob had their way with their corpses. Meat on a rope. Isn’t that what it all comes down to? All that pomp and arrogance and power and they end up like shishkebobs. All those awful pictures of bodies being ploughed into mass graves. It’s fascinating because they treat humanity like an infection of salmonella. What else are we?
I was once introduced to Charlie Manson by Carl Wilson at a party in L.A. He was funny. I’ll bet even Hitler cracked the odd joke. He certainly had the face for comedy. At the same party I met the Maharashi, a fat silly man with a tiny giggling voice. He told me in confidence that his mother had wanted him to become a dentist. All these celebrities had one thing in common. They were all full of bullshit. Not an honest person in the lot. Honest people are just so much furniture in this world. They don’t even get good speaking parts. History is written by liars about liars.
My hands are getting so ragged. I used to have such lovely skin. Boys used to agree with anything I said, undergo any humiliation, laugh at any of my jokes, just for the opportunity to touch my skin. Brian used to go off like a firecracker as soon as my fingers touched his Johnson. He said it was my skin. Kevin told me that my pussy was like the lining of a mink coat. Men are so much more amusing when they are in a state of semi-arousal. I love it when they beg me to take it out. I like getting a guy angry, right on the edge of violence, then cooling him out, Men expect this kind of treatment from beautiful women. I love to see sweat running down a man’s temples, to see that look in his eyes of pleasure bordering on exhaustion. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to have a man go off inside you at the same time as he is having a stroke. That would be such a high.
I met Pierre Trudeau in Ottawa one evening when I was skating down the canal. He was out alone. I fell and he helped me up. There was a look of such boyish promise in his eyes that I couldn’t help but speculate what he might be like in bed. After he helped me to a bench, we talked. Actually I did most of the talking and he the listening. We had been talking for some time when it began to snow, softly at first but soon it had built itself into a storm. We headed back to a nearby bridge for cover but somehow got separated. I think that in his dreams Pierre might still be out there now looking for me.
You don’t believe me. How can I always be in control in these stories? There was one boy who had complete control over me. He was so beautiful. I was sitting in the cafeteria eating lunch when a boy stepped up to the table. I looked up. Michael had a page boy haircut, pale milk skin, and the loveliest blue eyes. He was holding a lunch tray in his hands. He asked if he could join me. We introduced ourselves. Michael monopolized the conversation. He was like a drunk behind the wheel, his conversation winding back and forth over an assortment of topics, dropping one line of thought to start a new one, only to pick up the other line a few moments later. I found Michael exhausting and exhilarating at the same.
Michael was beautiful like my father. It used to drive my mother crazy that all the women were chasing him, to find out what gave his hair such body, how he kept his skin so smooth, what they could possibly do to keep their tummies so taut. It turned me on to see everyone watching Michael and I as we crossed the campus hand in hand, or lay on the grass in front of the administration building fondling each other. Michael was well read, everything from Nietzsche to Carlyle, Eliade to Ezra Pound. No matter the argument, no matter what the topic of conversation, Michael could sit down and hold his own. And his interests were so diversified, from opera to local politics, cubism to chile recipes. And Michael was a wonderful lover. He taught me how to draw out my orgasm, how to make it last for hours, and how to make the man in my life bless each moment between my legs. Michael was exhausting, never semed to need sleep, could hardly sit still to eat, but he had one major weakness. Michael hated to be bored.
Life was entertainment for Michael. When I slept over at Michael’s he would wait until his roommate, Tim, had bedded down before we made love. He would take me from behind while waving to Tim across the darkened room. It was humiliating. When I protested, he told me it was fun and that’s what sex was all about. And then he started taking pictures of me with his Polaroid. I felt awkward at first but Michael convinced me that I shouldn’t he ashamed of my body.
Michael was becoming increasingly bored and when he became bored he invented new ways to excite himself. One late night he went down on me between the rows of books on the top floor of the library. Another afternoon we did it in the men’s washroom of the Bridge House. And then one day he showed me his photo album, filled with naked girls he had slept with. I recognized my girl friend, Gail. I tried to tear the album out of his hands. He laughed. I hit him, punched and kicked him then broke down in tears. Michael kept laughing. And then, well the rest is too humiliating. After that Michael tired of me, he preferred drugs. As Michael experimented with more and different drugs, I found myself increasingly alone. Drugs did not interest me; they made me feel out of control. One day I came home and I found Michael on the can, a needle hanging out of his arm. He just sat there with this smirk on his face. A fly landed on his chin. He still smiled. It crawled along his lip and then up one nasal passage and out the other.
After Michael’s death I don’t remember much, just sitting here in this institution killing time, waiting for it all to end. I still like to think I have my looks. They treat us really well here. The food is excellent. Did I tell you that Princess Diana came to visit us last week?





Bus Shelter (illustration)

22 05 2009

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WOMEN GONE MAD: The Bus Shelter

22 05 2009

The Bus Shelter

Things were not going well. Persuaded by my parents I had bought a condominium on the edge of the city, two bus rides and a subway away from my work. But my mother wanted me within calling distance so that if either of my parents died in the middle of the night I would be close at hand.
“I’ll die first,” my mother insisted. “Your father will be lost. He’ll start using butter again. And don’t let him drink too much coffee. It keeps him awake at night.”
Six months after I had deposited a down payment, they decided to move to Florida.
“Your father won’t make it through another Canadian winter,” my mother insisted. “His back will give out on him if he has to lift another shovel of snow.”
The condominium, actually it was an apartment, was not large. There was one large bedroom and a second smaller room divided up into a kitchen, dining room, and living room.
“You wouldn’t want any more space than this,” my mother concluded as she gave me a tour of the apartment. (My mother found the apartment for me.) “You don’t want to spend all your money furnishing the place.”
My parents were delighted that I had finally grown up and invested in real estate. Finally I was an adult. I had property. Like hundreds of others, I owned a little space in the sky anchored to the ground by an elevator. I hated the place. Except for the sound of toilets flushing through out the building, it was perfectly silent. It gave me a migraine.
“Just because you have your own apartment doesn’t mean that you should have young women up here,” my mother warned. “And if you insist on having women guests make sure they provide a recent medical report.”
It was condominium that I could barely afford. I tried to cut corners. I restricted myself to a couple of apples each day for lunch. I never bought the paper but picked up a discarded Star or Sun on the subway. Cable television was included in the maintenance payments so I picked up an old black and white television at the Goodwill for twenty dollars. I never went out. That wasn’t much of a problem since I had few friends.
I had to wake up at five o’clock in the morning to begin preparations for my two and a half hour trip across the city. If everything went well, I arrived early enough to have a coffee and browse through the headlines in the paper. But if the subway broke down, or the bus was held up by traffic congestion then I had to make up the time that evening, meaning that I often did not arrive home before eight o’clock. And I hated my job.
I had graduated from university with a general arts degree and no prospects and a huge debt. I took a one-year course in one of the thriving technological colleges as a computer technician. I hated computers. After applying for a couple hundred positions I received a contract position in a new high-tech company. It seemed that everyone in the firm worked around the clock and no one was so keen as the three owners. They had been old college mates and this was their first venture into business. The three amigos as they gleefully referred to each other were in a perpetual state of giddiness; business was doing well, and they could not understand why anyone in the firm was not as keen as them. Employees who were not willing to put in sixty-hour weeks found that their contracts were not renewed. When asked about a raise their retort was, “work more hours.” I felt that I was on a perpetual bubble that each day could count as the beginning of my inevitable dismissal. I could not afford to be late. Some evenings I lay on my bed, staring up at the ceiling and wondering if this was what the rest of my life was going to be like. I couldn’t allow myself to answer the question.
Each morning, I struggled out of bed, took a quick shower, drank several cups of coffee, stuffed several slices of toast in my mouth, dressed, and rushed out of my building and up a long hill to the bus shelter. There was never anyone else waiting for a bus. It was dark and very early. The birds had not even begun to sing their morning chorus to the rising sun. Sometimes a lone dog released by his master the evening before would follow me to the bus stop, sniffing at my feet, occasionally barking at me, looking for some form of affection I suspected. I hated dogs. And then I would stand there in the darkness waiting for the bus. I had to be early. The bus ran every twenty minutes and I could not afford to miss it. I enjoyed those moments before the bus arrived, waiting in the shelter, finally able to relax. I felt one step ahead of the rest of the world.
One morning I found someone else waiting in the bus shelter before me. She sat on one of the plastic seats, wrapped in layers of clothing, a cigarette hanging out of her mouth. I tried to ignore her. She didn’t say anything to me that first morning. The bus arrived and I expected the old woman to climb on the board behind me but she did not. I showed the bus driver my pass.
“Poor soul doesn’t have any place to live,” the driver said shaking his head.
I climbed into the seat behind the driver near the door so that I could make my dash to the subway when we arrived in the station.
“She must have a family,” the driver continued as we pulled into the street. “Imagine someone letting their mother live like that! It’s a crime.”
I said nothing. I hated talking in the morning.
The next morning she was there again, smoking her cigarette.
“You’re late,” she said as I rushed into the shelter out of a howling wind. A dog had chased me all the way from my apartment building nipping at my heels.
I nodded trying to catch my breath, but did not respond. My snooze button hadn’t worked that morning and I was forced to forego my shower and coffee in order not to be late.
When the bus arrived the driver offered the old woman a ride on the bus.
“It’ll get you out the elements,” he smiled.
“Are you desperate for riders?” she asked.
“I wouldn’t charge you,” the driver explained.
“Can I smoke?” she asked.
The driver shook his head. The old woman waved him off.
The next morning was Saturday and I awakened to the screaming of my telephone. I had been called into work for a rush job.
“It’s six o’clock,” I muttered; sleep still clogging up my senses.
“You don’t want to work?” one of the bosses asked. Who knew which one it was? They were interchangeable. I said that I would be in.
I was surprised to find the old woman there again. She was sitting on her seat, smoking a cigarette and drinking a coffee. She had a coffee machine on the ground with an extension cord from the machine to a nearby house. I wondered what the owners of the house would think if they discovered that their electricity was being siphoned off.
“They got you working Saturdays as well,” she laughed shaking her head disapprovingly.
I nodded.
“What a rat race!” she grinned, her teeth yellowed from her smoking. “I wouldn’t put up with it, working Saturdays. You want a coffee?”
I shook my head. The old woman pulled out a bag she kept hidden under her seat and took out a small package of cookies. She offered me one.
“You can’t work on an empty stomach,” she said.
“No, thank you,” I said.
I slept most of Sunday, getting up just in time to watch the end of the endless round of football games on television. I hated football. I went to check my telephone messages when I noticed that the plug for my telephone had been pulled out. I was in a panic. What if the bosses had called me into work? The month before one of my colleagues had been released because the bosses said that she hadn’t been responding to her telephone messages. The rest of us had been warned that it might become necessary to furnish all of us with pagers, at our expense. I phoned work. One of the bosses answered and howled with laughter when I explained why I had called.
Monday morning the old woman was at the bus shelter once again. She had a small television set on one of the seats and was watching the news as she enjoyed her morning coffee and cigarette.
“The stock market dropped several points yesterday,” she said. “Technology stocks are down.”
That didn’t sound good. I wondered what kind of mood the bosses would be in.
“Should you be watching television in here?” I asked.
The old woman looked at me.
“Why not?”
“Well, the shelter belongs to the city.”
“You don’t think I pay taxes!” she said growling at me.
“I didn’t mean anything,” I explained. “It’s just that I wouldn’t want to see you getting into any trouble.”
“What a liar!” she cried, spitting out smoke. “You don’t want to see me enjoying myself. That’s what it is. You rich bastards are all alike.”
“I’m not rich,” I responded.
“You look rich enough to me,” she said spitting out pieces of tobacco that had stuck to her tongue.
As the days passed by, the old woman began to furnish the shelter. There was her television and her coffee machine. I noticed that she had a shopping cart from a local grocery store filled with items, parked behind the shelter. Remnants of a rug were thrown across the floor. Pictures from magazines were taped on the glass walls. One morning I arrived to find that she had put up curtains on the east wall.
“To keep the morning sun out,” she explained.
Another day I arrived to find the old woman squatting over a pale, defecating. I stood outside. When she was finished she carried the pale over to a nearby sewer and emptied it. Then she returned to the shelter took out an aerosol can and sprayed.
“Shouldn’t the city do something about her,” I said to the driver when I stepped onto the bus.
“Do what?” the driver barked at me. “You want to throw that poor soul back out into the cold? People like you should be ashamed of yourself.”
“Don’t you do anything else besides work?” the old woman asked me the next morning.
I shrugged.
“Do you have a girl?” she laughed.
“What business is that of yours?”
“Not getting any,” she laughed, cackling like a cat after a bird. “I figured you must be married working so many hours. But you’re single and still you’re busting your balls. Maybe you don’t like girls.”
I turned on the old woman.
“I like girls!” I protested.
The next day the interrogation continued.
“You don’t come from this country, do you?” she asked.
“My parents were born here,” I said.
“But their people didn’t come from here?” she responded confidently. “Foreigners!” she added smugly as if she had reduced me down to some primary element of nature.
The next morning I was determined not to let the old woman get under my skin. It was difficult enough to put up with the bosses without being harassed first thing in the morning by a bag woman. But that morning the old woman wasn’t herself. She had a running nose with a terrible cough that seemed to shake her whole being.
“You’re not feeling well?”
“Whatever gave you that impression, Einstein?”
“Shouldn’t you see a doctor? If you let something like that go, it can turn into something serious.”
The old woman turned and glared at me. And with a sense of bravado stuck a cigarette in her mouth and lit it up.
All day I thought about the old woman wrapped in her clothes like an Egyptian mummy, coughing, smoking, and shaking. As usual when I got home that evening there was no one at the bus shelter. Where did she go during the day? I wondered. After I had finished dinner and the sun had set, the days were getting shorter and the nights were turning chilly, I set out for the shelter. What if she had died, I thought to myself. Would I be considered responsible? She wasn’t there. I sat in her seat in the shelter and wondered when or if she would show up. I looked around at the houses and apartments in the area, the living rooms lit up, people watching television, cars moving so purposely through the streets, people rushing down the sidewalks heading for home. It was relaxing to sit there and watch the world pass by. Like a king on his thrown, I scanned all the subjects of my realm.
Someone shook me. I opened my eyes and looked around the shelter. I had fallen asleep. I wondered how many hours had passed.
The old woman stood over me, hands on her hips.
“Who the hell do you think you are?” she barked.
“I thought you had died,” I responded then added almost apologetically, “or something.”
“And you thought you could take over!” she said with a smirk. “Oh you rich bastards are all the same. It’s not enough that you have all the goodies at the feast, you want the crumbs as well.”
I looked at the bag woman and smiled. I don’t know what came over but I blurted out something that completely surprised me.
“I’m not moving!” I said. “I like it here.”
The bag woman’s mouth dropped.
So delighted was I with my proclamation that I began to laugh, laughed harder than I could ever remember. I laughed so hard I almost doubled over and my jaws began to ache. Tears ran down my face.
“This is my shelter now,” I said.
Then the bag woman took a gun out of her pocket.





The Point System (Illustration)

18 05 2009

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