Stumblethrough

Dress-rehearsals-for-A-Mi-001

Shamble up and over
coffee quakes and tea dreams
pace the floor, shake out the fridge,
notice how quiet it’s grown,
like the part in the movie where something bad
is about to happen
except in this case, it already has.

Saturday sun’s already trying to claw inside
like a nosy neighbour
like a serial killer that wants
to warm you up and go for a walk
to get croissants.
Last night rests in your stomach
like a houseguest on the couch
you’re not sure if you should disturb
with breakfast or gravol.

Put an old record on,
a classic you pilfered from your father’s collection,
sway and saunter through the crackles and pops
and stretch from one end to the other,
picking yourself up as you go.
Find your feet where you left them by the front door.
Find your tongue in the sink with the other knives.
You’re not quite sure how your arms wound up behind the couch
but you vaguely remember losing a wrestling contest with yourself.

Snap yourself back into place like a Lego castle
you cobbled together from four other sets.
Something’s missing, but you’re still all together.
Call that enough for now,
Call that enough pieces
start your stumble through, and remember
it’s okay to pause the scene and ask yourself
“Any notes?”

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Three-Sentence Short Stories

As part of a new writing group formed with friends to keep ourselves scribbling even when we didn’t feel like it, we issued challenges every other day for us to aim for. The first was simple; three-sentence short stories, easy to pull off on a work break or a bus ride home.

 
The body was found at 4AM by the amorous couple who figured the alley was cheaper than a handful of hours in a rented room about St. Jacobs pub. He would see the cold blank stare for months after, whenever sleep threatened to take him.

She’d seen worse.

***

He bought the third gin and tonic as the lounge band took a break, while she adjusted her rumpled cocktail dress that hadn’t been out of her closet in almost a deade.

“Are you alone?”

“I really don’t know how to answer that.”

***

“…I do.”

“And do you, Naomi, take Brandon to be your lawfully wedded hus–”

The pastor had never been subjected to a torrent of vomit, brought on by the nerves of a panicked bride-to-be coupled with a “calming” triple-shot of vodka, until this very moment.

Sleepless NDP Nights, Old Quebec Mornings

    Last night, the NDP swept through Alberta like a prairie fire, consuming all the old chaff and tired trees in its path and leaving clean slates for the Orange Crush to steer back into lush fields. We had to be up by 5AM to make the early train to Quebec City, but sleep didn’t arrive until well after one in the morning, after the polls had closed and every newspaper called it and the majority vote clambered up and up and up. 

Five AM: given our propensity to sleep in, all electronic devices are scattered to each corner of the room and rigged to jangle and bleat at the stroke of five and no later. We manage to make the 6:15AM eastbound train and watch as the Montreal skyline gives way to sweeping fields and grain silos and the banks of the Saint Lawrence.  We try to sleep. I can’t write; between the rattling of the train and the heavyness of last night, my mind is in too many places at once to find a shred of sleep.

Quebec City: All plots and plans are thrown immediately out the window as we disembark. Each street twists and dives back into another, stairwells appear from nowhere and lead beyond, and every second store is an art gallery or framer with treasures lining his or her windows. Antique dealers, pubs and souvenir shops populate the crowded, brick-lined streets, bubbling with out-of-towners and clusters of rumbling schoolchildren asking where they could see all the “soldier stuff.” We get lost more than a few times between late morning poutine and afternoon coffee at the mighty museum, and somehow manage to miss the Plains of Abraham entirely, with a miscalcuation sending us skittering along the banks of the St. Lawrence instead of the hills and fields where troops died by the dozens. 

The day winds down in a pub before boarding the 5:45PM back to Montreal, where I finally find the impetus to put some words together. My body is exhausted (The city is roughly 80% stairs) and my mind is a wreck, but we can now say we’ve been to one of the oldest cities in Canada… albeit in a somewhat meandering fashion. Back to Montreal to sleep like the dead before tackling the heart of downtown tomorrow.

La Belle Ville

 
The view from my temporary abode’s balcony, near Rue Mont Royal. Not pictured; two terribly endearing cats.

Today, we tackle the mountain.

Well, it’s not a mountain in the British Columbia sense, not one that attracts hordes of snowboarders and their entourages. The incline is gentler, the summit more attainable, and the notion is to pull ourselves out of bed at a decent hour and haul ourselves up to the peak. 

The abode we’re staying in is an apartment nestled above a bookstore, a century-old establishment with history on every wall (the current owner left traces of a fire that swept across his balcony intact, stating they gave the place “texture.” I agree.) The owner is a graphic artist, quiet and gregarious, with two cats as sociable as he is and a wealth of stories to tell about the neighborhood and it’s surroundings. The area used to be very poor, he said, and few folks would choose to live here when he picked up the place almost thirty years ago. Now, it’s akin to Commercial Drive back at home, only with more foot traffic and a near constant stream of music at the skytrain station. Nina remarked that Montreallers have a different vibe about them, and it shows the most in the rain; rather than pulling their shoulders close and huddling against the elements like we do so often in Vancouver, the folks here don’t even let it faze them. Everyone lives more outwardly rather than internalizing; private conversations are held at public volume, passions run high and lives are lived fully, rather than reservedly. This is prevalent in their food as well; full-bodied and richness packed into every bite, rather than cooly measured and calculated for calories. You want a croissant? Eat that croissant. Make no apologies. 

Montreal has been beautiful thus far, aside from some ugly catcalling late after the Postmodern Jukebox show, when a dopey teen decided to make some choice requests as we meandered past on our way to a 24 hour cafe for late night lemon teas, but nothing else has struck a sour note with us. Everyone here seems stacked on top of each other, but in a much more organic way than Vancouver was. The stack of apartments grew into one another, rather than being plopped down as a gigantic condo block. The alleyway is resplendent with other patios, windows, views into other lives. 

More on this later. For now, we have a mountain to climb. 

An Early Arrival

 Caught the midnight flight out, figuring I’d have a quiet, uncrowded flight to sleep through. Didn’t count on the plane being nearly sold out with seats as unforgiving as Sunday School.

Soft landing in Montreal, hopping a bus and soaring off to Lionel-Giroux, and from there a train to Mont-Royal. Stopped in the first bakery-cafe I found for breakfast and managed to dredge up a wifi password. Only hot tea and a handful of hours remain until my travelling companion touches down in the afternoon. Unlikely I’ll find a place to nap before check-in at the AirBnB begins, so more tea is needed to keep me functional.

The neighborhood we’ve taken a room in for the week is a fine slice, with townhouses tucked in above boutiques and boulangeries and a remarkable lack of crowds. That said, it’s frighteningly early on a Sunday morning, so my expectactions should be muted at best. A friend of mine who lives here, the Historical Miss, is similarly tuckered; we’ve arrived right smack dab in the middle of a string of protests downtown, and she was unlucky enough to get a faceful of tear gas a few nights before. 
Montreal is also, according to my friend Alexa, knee-deep in a recession. From my brief travels from A to B thus far, I haven’t seem much that points at severe economic distress, but then again, I’m undercaffeinated. And I don’t know what I’m looking for.

It does, I will admit, seem different than the last time I was here, years ago, attempting to squirm my way into NTS’ Playwriting Program. Missed it by a hair, something that stayed with me a lot longer than my other myriad failures, and I’m hoping if our paths do cross with that tall tower my heart won’t sink deeper into my ribs or leap out of my chest.

The trip will be, I think, good for the my writing, which has started to stagnate as of late. A fresh set of languages drifting through my ears while I write, coupled with the mountain of history this place holds, might give me something new to write about, shaking me out of my circular funk. Something in Vancouver isn’t quite connecting like it used to, and settling in to rattle off pages feels harder after eight hours on the phones harassing strangers for bill payments.