An Old Reflection – Part II

Here is the second piece of Mirrors.  You can read Part I here.

I’m definitely feeling a pull to continue this story, now that it’s floating around on the big wide web!

Part III is coming tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

Part II

Alice looked up from her notebook. The sun had set behind the weeping willows on the estate across the street, and her room had grown too dark to write in any longer without additional light. Wearily, she pried her fingers from her pen and flexed them, one at a time. The joints on the middle and ring fingers cracked, proudly announcing the retreat of her youth. She reached her arms above her head, arched her back. She was just about to do the whole routine over again when she heard Elsie calling from the bottom of the stairs,

“Alice, dear, supper will be on the table in five minutes.”

“Thanks Elsie. I’ll be right down.” Damn, where had the afternoon gone? She couldn’t quite recall, thanks to fuzzy writers-brain, but she was pretty sure she had sat down just after lunch, about one thirty. It was six now, according to the wall clock next to the window. No wonder her hand was cramped. Alice flipped quickly back through her notebook, stoically maintaining her pact to never re-read until she had finished a chapter, but curious how many pages she had written. Forty? She should really offer her services as a stenographer – the pages were barely legible, but those were real words, real scenes; potentially viable publishing fodder.

A rapping below the floor came from downstairs. Supper! Alice closed the notebook and locked it into her desk drawer. She was not actually worried about anyone stealing or reading her work, but instinct nagged her to protect this pulpy offspring, nonetheless. She put the key on its chain back inside her shirt and rose from the chair. Both knees and some unknown joint in her back popped as she stood. Giving her whole body a quick shake, she unlocked the office door and headed down the hallway to the stairs.

Elsie was laying out the cutlery as Alice came into the kitchen.

“Oh Elsie, let me do that. I’m really sorry, I was all caught up.” She distributed the two stacked plates to their respective sides of the table and went to get glasses from the cupboard. Elsie shook her head and smiled.

“Writers-brain, I know. Did you get much done?” She gently took the china teacups from her employers hands and set them back in the cupboard, grabbing two glasses instead. Alice smiled sheepishly.

“A lot, actually. I don’t know if any of it is good, but once it’s down, it can always be tweaked, I guess.” Surveying the completed table, she sat in her chair and tilted it onto its back legs. Elsie walked past her to the sink, unobtrusively pushing the seat back onto four legs as she passed.

“Well, I hope you are done for the night. Hal mentioned something about bringing home dessert. I assume that means profiteroles picked up from the freezer section, but I’m sure he wants to spend the evening with you.”

Alice nodded contentedly, “That’s fine. I might not be able to move my fingers tomorrow as it is. Sometimes I really wish I could get a train of thought going on a computer, but all that buzzing and harsh lighting throws off my concentration.” She flexed her fingers thoughtfully, “I think I’ve gone down a ring size…”

Elsie laughed, and they both looked toward the foyer, hailed by the sound of the door opening and Hal’s hasty removal of coat and shoes. A few seconds later he appeared in the doorway still wearing his hat, holding a box of store-bought éclairs. Elsie winked at Alice and went to check on the chicken.

“How’re my two favourite girls?” Hal tossed Alice the frozen box and set his hat on Elsie’s bent grey head as he went to the sink. “I don’t even want to know what is on my hands after a day like today”

Elsie carefully removed the hat, “And I don’t want to know what is on this!” she laughed, hanging it gingerly on the back of Hal’s chair. All three chuckled companionably, and Elsie placed the steaming roast chicken in the center of the table.

“Are you sure you don’t want to eat with us?” Hal asked. Either he or Alice asked nearly every night, and always heard the same answer.

“Oh no. Boundaries are very important. And besides, I’m a vegetarian!” Elsie smiled warmly and excused herself. A few seconds later the back door opened and closed softly, as Elsie made her way to the guest house. Hal turned his attention to his wife and reached over the squeeze her hand.

“How did the writing go today?”

“I wrote a lot. Either that or I fell asleep for five hours and someone else wrote a lot.” She smiled. Hal knew she wouldn’t give him any more specifics. He’d come to accept her closed-mouth approach to writing. She had once told him she felt that if she spoke her story aloud too soon, it was like leaving young children out in the cold. In a way, he understood what she meant, though he would have liked to feel a little more special and in the loop than everyone else who got to see the pieces only when they were finished. He squeezed her hand again and dropped the topic.

“How was work?” Alice asked, rising to get the milk from the fridge.

“It was kind of like selling houses in a crappy economy. Oh wait, that’s exactly what it was. It was long and tedious, and let’s just say I’m glad to be home!”

Alice laughed.

The two had a nice dinner, chatting amiably while Hal ate the carrots off of Alice’s plate, and she ate the broccoli off of his. They had an éclair each, but Hal had plans with Rolf, his business partner, that Alice had completely forgotten about.
“I’m sorry to tempt you with cream puffs and then bail,” Hal said as he put his hat back on his head and started toward the door, “You look so pretty tonight…”

Alice shook her head, “Don’t be ridiculous. And, I know.” She tossed her head playfully and kissed him on the cheek as she passed with their dessert plates. ”Besides, I feel like I was on a roll today. If my hand is too stiff to hold the pen, I can at least record some ideas for the next chapter.”

After Hal had left, Alice climbed the stairs to her office and locked the door behind her.

***

An Old Reflection

Greetings!

A few years ago, I started a story that held a bit of a mystery, and I decided to let it unfold as I wrote, instead of planning out the “truth” of it. I found myself extremely drawn to the characters – essentially opposites of each other, living completely opposing lives.

For some reason or other, I stopped working on this one, but I intend to continue it at some point.

I will post this in a few installments – and maybe even write some more in the meantime.

Enjoy

Mirrors

As she walks up the front path, she can’t help thinking that it would be nice if it were a winding, mile-long track through fences entwined by ivy, and majestic weeping willows. There might be cobblestones along the road, and she wouldn’t mind them tripping her up, because it would feel like England, and Spring, and Jane Austen.

But all too soon she is stepping over a browning weed pushing up through a crack in the pavement, reaching the door. The chipped red wood opens with a lurch, a symptom of the coming spring, and she enters the parlour, which is really just a four foot square area with coat and shoe racks lining both walls. Shrugging out of her jacket, she steps from linoleum onto warped hardwood; instantly, her demeanor changes. Footsteps become soft echoes of themselves, and the squeaky spots, all committed to memory, are cautiously avoided as though she treads a maze she can only complete without waking the great monster. She can hear the television in the back room, a sports game of some sort. It occurs to her that she should have looked up who is playing what games in case he decides to discuss his favourite teams at supper – occasionally he takes a break from shoveling down his food and most of hers to mention a fact about his day, and lord help her if she doesn’t appear to take an interest.

She is nearly at the stairs when a starling outside the hall window catches her attention. The small bird ruffles its feathers as it rests on the ledge. It is small, and black, and would fit in the palm of her hand. She could keep it as a friend, though not in a cage – never in a cage. Someone to talk to on lonely days, someone to love.

Her distraction breaks her focus – one traitorous foot finds a loose floorboard. The sound is short, a hesitant squeak before she quickly adjusts, but the damage is done. Abruptly, the sound from the back room stops, preceded by the click of the remote’s power button. With only seconds to think, she seriously considers running up the stairs to her office, locking the door, tilting a chair under the handle. In a split second she calculates the distance from her window to the ground two stories below – the jump shouldn’t result in anything more than a twisted ankle. If she could just –

“Announcing your presence, are you?” He steps through the doorway and then he is looming over her, his stare dwarfing her as much as his six and a half feet. She looks up at him, slowly, as though he is an unidentified animal for whom eye contact may either spook, or set mad. His prominent brow further shadows dark, deep-set eyes; eyes she gazed into on their first date, whose playful, humourous glint drew her in. Now, they bore into her and she imagines flames leaping out, singeing her hair and igniting her blouse.
“I –”

“Now I’ve missed half of the game.”

Again, she tries, but the words stick in her throat, “I –”

She cringes, despite a conscious attempt not to, steps back and finds that she is cornered between the wall and the staircase. She looks to her right. The fifteen steps stretch on for miles, and she is certain that the fifth stair has a pressure switch that will fold the whole staircase in on itself, creating a slippery ramp that will send her back down into ravenous jaws. She swallows. The words unstick.

“I’m sorry. I was just going to get some writing in before Elsa prepares supper. I think you can still catch the last … period.”

She holds her breath. Lord help her if he is watching football. His eyebrows rise and she waits for the inferno to scorch her lashes, her lips. He shows his teeth; she imagines a cavernous maw, bits of rotting flesh and bone from the last meal stuck in pointed teeth, each the size of her thumb.
“Leafs’re getting their asses kicked,” he grumbles as he shifts his weight back and slowly rotates his bulk to face the room he just vacated. She lifts a careful foot to the first stair, reaches her right hand to the rail. He looks over his shoulder. She freezes, her head turned to the taupe threads of the stair-runner, his face in her peripheral.

“When Elsa calls, you get your ass down here. Everything will be ready by the time I get back from Ralph’s.” She watches as he takes in her trembling fingers still reaching for the railing, and she knows he is savouring his effect on her. She seizes the banister as though it is his throat, digging in her fingernails, savouring her own, equally satisfying, if imaginary, victory. He turns once more and re-enters the back room. She waits until she can hear the game again, then walks briskly up the stairs, pointedly avoiding the fifth step.

He had waited for the squeaking of the floorboard to lease the anger piled up from having no one to throw it at all day; she is safe from reprimand until dinner. She reaches the door of her office and enters, opening it just enough to slide through. She turns the lock behind her, and tilts a chair against the knob for good measure. The grate over the window filters the diminishing sunlight into slats across the thick Berber carpet.

–End of Part I–

Afterdeath

I’ve had death on the mind a lot lately, at least when writing. It could have something to do with the fact that I’m working on a murder mystery, or I could just be, at the base of it all, a morbid person. I’m cool with it, either way.

This is the…let’s say Prologue of a story I’ve been thinking about. I believe it will just be a short story, or a novella – something with broad spaces between the paragraphs, written as this is in a very casual way, like the narrator is just jotting down things as they pop into her head.

Cheers!

I could have written a fantastic memoir.

Daring adventures enacted on the streets of romantic cities: portaging ’round Venice, parkour throughout Paris.

Leaving my family behind to build wells in Indonesia, only to fall in love with a hut in the mountains and decide to stay forever.

Skydiving onto the top of Mount Everest and climbing down, unassisted, to set the record for fastest descent, and finally, publishing all my top-of-the-world photographs as a best-selling calendar that reprints each year for a decade.

Unfortunately, I can’t write about my harrowing escapades undertaking any of these wonderful journeys. Primarily, because none of them ever happened. Secondarily, because none of them ever will.

Did I mention I’m kinda dead?

It might have slipped my mind.

That seems to happen a lot these days. Little details I’m so sure I’ve written down, or spoken aloud. It turns out I wasn’t able to find a pen, or I never even thought them at all.

Bitterness really doesn’t begin to cover it. Am I a bit put out that my friends are probably having a grand old time on the African safari I was too broke to buy into?

Sure.

Am I maybe a little irked by the fact that the good ones really were perpetually taken for years until the one that wasn’t showed up just days before my untimely demise?

You could say that.

But honestly, mostly, I’m pissed.

I’m pissed that my life ended as I was still waiting around for it to start.

I’m bloody angry that the things I said I’d do “tomorrow”, “next year”, “when I have time” all instantly became things I’ll “never get around to” once fate and karma and good, old-fashioned bad luck began fiddling around in my business.

I’ve had to face facts. Actually, I’ve been confronted by facts, much the way an unsuspecting doe is confronted by the approaching headlights of a semi truck. And I came out of it about as unscathed as the big-eyed subject of my metaphor.

These facts came in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Some of them were little, piddling facts it’s no surprise I missed. Like the fact that I probably should have cleaned up under my bed more regularly. I pity the well-meaning family member who set out to clean that space when they were packing up my things and putting my condo on the market. Upon their kneeling and peering beneath, I imagine shrieks generally reserved for fist-sized spiders. Shock-induced loss of follicle pigmentation is a definite possibility.

There were medium facts; ones I really couldn’t be blamed for overlooking due to busyness or general carelessness. Like the fact that you meet new people by actually leaving the house some evenings, not by staying home playing American McGee’s Alice on an old desktop that runs so loud, it sounds like it’s about to blast off.

And then there were the big facts. Details I ought to have figured out for myself, given that I was an adult woman of moderate maturity, arguably sound mind, and decent financial acuity. Like the fact that I could have called my mom back the day after our big-ish fight involving stupid things like Father’s Day gifts and whether or not my little brother was likely to get engaged in the next six months. Or the fact that best friends need comforting after finalizing divorce papers, not scolding on the proven correctness of previous statements involving the sniveling cheater’s kindness and general humanity.

Well, live and learn, they say. Or in my case, kick the bucket and come to realize the vast number of mistakes you’ve made in your relatively short life.

So, yeah. Live to the fullest, and all that. Tell people you love them often. Be supportive and kind, and think about the feelings of others. Clean your room more frequently than the turn of the millennium.

The End.

And hey, let’s talk about that for a moment, can we?

I used to think “The End” meant something. Like, the close of a movie, the drop of the curtain, the last breath.

Turns out that’s all a load.

No, once the lights go down, the fat lady sings – so to speak – it’s just the beginning.

Quasi-Rhyme

Rhyme has always fascinated me. Slam poetry with its partial, random schemes, and the ability of some poets to make their regimented rhymes, Dr. Seuss-like, still sound so deep and meaningful, despite their children’s song layout.

On the rare occasions that I write poetry these days (I used to pen it almost exclusively), I don’t make an effort to rhyme. If one happens to fall into place I’m pretty pleased, but I spent so long writing song lyrics (few of which I’m overly proud) that I guess rhyming has kind of taken a back seat in my wordy world.

And then I wrote this.

I don’t know what it is. I’m not entirely certain I like it.

But it’s words. So that’s good.

Easily, the train rolls; beneath the white noise whirr there’s just the gentlest sound, each time around, when a chip in the wheel hits the track just so.

It’s a lulling chug, like a soporific drug. In league with the listing sway of the overnight coach, it rocks to sleep the quiet girl with the ebony curls, who swore her eyes would ne’er close ‘gainst the view.

And across the isle, behind his crumpled paper, beneath his debonair style, he waits – the man with the slow smile. Who caught her gaze in the dining car and was shocked at what he saw.

Now he is concerned, the glimpse awoke that yearning – but he must wait. In the listing sway of the sleeping car, sleep is never far. So he watches through a hole in the classifieds, perfectly still.

She is dreaming of foggy mornings out on the boat, her hair afloat in the pre-light breeze. He leans in and says please, and she nods and they share a sweet kiss. But brief, and he takes up the oars. Rows them in.

The compartment door is a silent soldier, locked from the inside, stoically protecting its charge. But sneaking inside is a thief’s point of pride, and with only one serving girl run in, he gets in.

In her dream she is rocked by the boat and they dock, and his warm hand takes hers for a safe return. She stumbles on the path and falls into his back, but her catches her.

She is propped against her hatbox, with her hand around the latch lock, but he wants not the bonnet within. There are pearls in the chest, but he leans closer yet, to see the locket round her slender neck.

She shifts in her sleep, a vestige of some dream, and his hand brushes her smooth, pale cheek. It is barely a touch, but his cruel mind reminds, never’less.

He’s is lost in an instant, at once near and so distant, when he first saw a sweet, heart-shaped face. This one’s not quite the same, but enough – plus, the name – he takes hold of the small, silver chain.

She is shifting again, as he breaks the small clasp – he knows just how to work the bent pin. Then it falls soft in his hand, and all he must do is stand, but instead he leans in.

Just the curve of a brow, the set of an ear – like looking into a time-tarnished mirror. He backs abruptly away, intercepts a suitcase and the opposite bench breaks his fall.

She is upright at once, blue eyes bright, fists clenched. Ready to scream, but in an instant this fiend looks familiar, as a looking glass with a slight, fragile crack.

Her hand lifts to her throat, to the charm she once wore. From her mother, the secret she swore. Then she nods at the glint in the intruder’s fist, and she smiles.

The man sees inside, into the eyes of the bride that he never was fated to wed. And the baby grown who, as tears fill his eyes, sits beside him on the slow rocking bed.

Into his free hand she slips her small, sweet hand and together they love her again.

A(nother) Change of Direction

I haven’t been keeping up my blog lately.

I feel like my online baby is kind of withering from neglect.  And it really is like an organic creation.  It started more than 2 years ago and the posts – though sparsely published and with no uniting theme besides their author – very much reflect my moods at each moment.

The last year has been awash with flux, and even though until lately I’ve been pretty good about blogging (this is compared to other years, not other bloggers :P), I think I might need to find a solid direction in which to take this baby.

  • I tried to blog about food.  It’s a different blog, and it might return one day, but it faded out in time.
  • I tried to blog about learning. I got as far as Washington State before I stopped learning a new state and capital a day. (Hint: I started with Washington State).
  • I tried to blog about One Happy Thing per day.  But sometimes I forgot and looking around too much while driving through the city isn’t terribly safe.

But maybe looking back on past posts isn’t the way to realign future ones.

Could something be hiding in my past year itself?  Let’s see…

  • I’ve moved to the far end of the country, away from my parents, my S.O. and my dog.
  • I’ve completed a second degree in another thing it turns out I don’t really want to do (but I’m getting closer).
  • I’ve jetted back across the country (upon completion of said degree) and then drove in the opposite direction to the other coast, all in the pursuit of a job that makes me happy in a city that doesn’t consider -25 degrees Celsius in October “t-shirt weather.”

So maybe my whole problem is that I keep looking back for something to write about going forward.

Recently, upon expressing to a colleague my sincere desire to be a “real” writer, she pointed out the fact that a lot of people make an actual living writing blogs about animals, or knitting, or fitness.

She’s absolutely right, of course, but I still see the glaring difference between me and a lot of those people.

Most of them have a passion for what they’re blogging about – tail-wagging dogs, or amigurumi dogs, or downward dog… and the written word is a handy and accessible way to spread their love of that subject.  Quite well, in many cases.

But my passion is the writing. The actual, physical act of writing words, usually fictional, hopefully funny, rarely finalized.  And I don’t want to write a blog about writing.

 

Or do I?

 

So here it is, the new idea.

Each new week, a new bit of writing.  Its lack of any unifying theme will be its theme, because it’s all about the words.  Make believe, voyeurism, historically inaccurate reenactment.  Whatever it is, it’s written by me, from my heart.  And it’s a twofold win: it keeps my blog from becoming stagnant, and it keeps me typing things down.

If I really like something I’ve begun, I might carry it on for another week, or pick it up at a future date.  Whatever!

Thanks for sticking with me.  I hope you enjoy.

photo 1

 

 

Conferring with the flowers, consulting with the rain

Autodidactism is a fancy-schmancy term for ‘self-learning’. Anyone who says watching TV rots the brain clearly doesn’t use modern technology’s second screen phenomenon to research words they don’t know that come up while watching Elementary.

It is my understanding that the term is most commonly used to describe people who have developed some expertise in their self-taught field, but being that the definition of an autodidact is simply “a person who has learned a subject without the benefit of a teacher,” I am willing to tentatively consider myself as such in the areas of crochet, yoga and Candy Crush.

Learning has always been something I enjoy. My father and I have often discussed our mutual desire to be ‘professional students’, if finances allowed. I can easily see myself obtaining Bachelor’s degrees in Religious Studies, Creative Writing, Archaeology, Architecture and Graphic Design if only those pesky loan payments didn’t inevitably kick in shortly after each graduation.

I have never been one of those people who can focus on one thing and one thing only until I have learned everything about it. That’s not to say I leave things unfinished – in fact, I am quite a perfectionist in the matter of individual projects – but my attention is sporadic, and once one knitted dishcloth or cross-stitched piece is done, I am usually on to whatever new interest has most recently caught my eye.

It is my opinion that education is vital to one’s mental, physical and spiritual (read: general self) growth. It really doesn’t matter if your learning takes the form of binge reading books on mathematics, or memorizing sentences in Klingon – encouraging your brain to retain information is healthy, and leads to an improved ability to do so in future.

At the moment, I am autodidacting my way through an SEO manual, in relation to new employment. Since school ended, I’ve noticed a sort of lull in my educational life that makes me feel, well, less shiny and successful, from a completely personal standpoint. So I have made it my mission to learn something new each day.

Of course, simply watching an episode of Elementary (it’s about Sherlock Holmes adventures in New York, and stars the ageless Lucy Liu, if you’re wondering) each day no doubt gives me some piece of ‘useless’ info, but I would like to further facilitate my new endeavor by beginning to learn the U.S. states and their capitals. I’d very much like to beat out Ross and Chandler in a game of ‘List All the States’, though I know I could never beat Joey’s fifty-six.

To begin, I went through my own country’s provinces and their capitals. I am mortified to admit that I had to double check a couple.

And since I’m currently residing a mere half hour from the Eastern-most Canada/U.S. border crossing, I will start with my southern neighbor, and begin working my way across. (Hooray for a geography lesson in the process!) Let’s learn about Washington!

Don’t worry – I won’t be writing entire posts on my discovery of state capitals. That would be pointless, since I’m sure it has been done, and also kind of boring. Let the learning commence!

(An aside: does the word ‘commence’ sound to anyone else like it should mean ‘end’? It could be due to the fact that our END-of-the-year awards ceremony in high school was called ‘commencement’, but I can’t seem to shake the preliminary thought that it means exactly its opposite.)

brain

The Ebb and Flow of Youth

When I was little, I would ask permission to look both ways and cross the street to the playground beside the ball park across from my house.

When I was a teeny bopper I would unearth dimes from wherever I could, to buy five cent candies from the 7-Eleven on the other side of that same ball park.

And when I was a young adult with a reasonably extended curfew, I would stay out late in that ball park, goofing off with my friends; we’d lie on our backs and watch the stars, chase each other around the outfield, and laugh hysterically for hours.

Now, I live 1,636 kilometres from that ball park.

The friends I hung out with live anywhere from 3 to 2,000 km from that ball park.

This week I was wandering through Superstore when I happened down the stationary isle. Looking at all those coil-bound notebooks and cases of Papermate pens, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of nostalgia for the days before the new year began, when my mom or dad would take me out, school-supplied product list in hand, to purchase new plastic-scented binders, glue sticks, and pencil crayons.

I was wrapping up two months of blissful laziness I strongly felt I had earned after all that hard work in class the year before. I would have awkward tan lines, a host of new scars and a couple pairs of grass-stained pants.

Most of the time, I don’t have a yen for those days gone by. I was dorky, and clueless, and gawky. My world revolved around sleep overs and rollerblading up and down the driveway. Let’s face it: I was a goof.

But carefree has a certain allure when your current state of being is a pleasing combo of stress about making ends meet, stress about starting a real career, and moments of missing home, where even a passing thought of the uncomfortable green hide-a-bed in the rec room brings on a yearning for my old room.

It’s not that I miss my parents or best friend uncontrollably (just a reasonable amount), or the days of doing nothing at all, or the old ball park and recently updated playground. It’s the entire package.

The feeling first came on during a few days of deciding not to go home for Christmas. It would be the first time in 27 years that I wouldn’t be sitting on the floor that crisp morning, dividing presents – one for mom, one for dad, one for me, one for the lil brudder. Repeat.

I have since come to the conclusion that I will pull out all the stops to make it home for Santa Day. The S.O. is cheerfully on board since, as he says, he doesn’t want to have to put up with Pouty Me if I don’t get home.

But even with that issue resolved – finances pending – little reminders of my place of birth and growth keep cropping up. Co-workers mentioning their family dinners, parks that look like the ones I used to frequent (or, more likely, don’t and I’m imagining things), music I first heard when I was in high school or still taping radio playlists with a little black Sanyo.

The way I figure it, we don’t ever completely grow up. We can move away, make our own money, stop running and screaming around ball parks … but some little piece of us will always long for easy summers climbing trees, and shopping trips where our only responsibility was to stay near the cart.

Making your bed doesn’t seem like such an insurmountable chore anymore, does it?

*Lou

Living room of yore: one rockin' jumpsuit, a retired carpet, and a cat named Calypso

Living room of yore: one rockin’ jumpsuit, a retired carpet, and a cat named Calypso

 

The awful hardship of living with a fitness fiend

Most of us try to live a healthy lifestyle at least some of the time.  The average person – I’m talking those who aren’t already health buffs – toss in a jog, or squeeze in some pushups, or pop into the gym at least occasionally, if only to prove to the frustratingly fit girl at the front counter that the $60/month membership fee isn’t entirely going to waste.

I pride myself on the days I do well (5 km run, sweaty yoga session, 12 pushups), and tend not to stress the days I do less well (two chocolate bars, half a loaf of fresh baked bread slathered with butter, icing out of the can).  I’ll admit I’m one of the more-or-less lucky ones who can boast a decently fast metabolism and ability to eat a fair bit of crap without having to buy a new wardrobe. (I am honestly, emphatically grateful that when I do put on weight, it’s in places that don’t affect my pant size. Like I said – lucky!)

Assuming that at least some of my readers are in a similar boat, maybe you can also commiserate with the terrible, teeth-grinding experience that is living with a partner who has taken up the Mantle of Health in the most confident, self-controlled, obnoxious way possible.

My S.O., having recently decided that making me pick up dog poo and send him lives on Candy Crush was insufficient punishment for my various disappointments, chose to refocus his efforts on a new, less obvious mode of retribution: he gave up junk food completely and dedicated himself to a rigorous training schedule intended to prepare him for a marathon.

How selfish is that?

I was supportive to begin with. Hell, I thought, maybe this will encourage me to cut back, too. But by day two of watching him religiously utilize a calorie counter that allows you to scan barcodes of the food ingested, I was jonseing for a Caramilk something fierce.  Needless to say, I gave in.

That’s when it all went downhill.  Talk about baiting the bear. I might as well have been waving a dime bag around in front of a newly clean drug addict.  The moans, the salivation, the longing looks that were once reserved for me when I looked particularly damn good … In a matter of hours, I went from a carefree snacker to a meticulous sneaker, hoarding Skittles under my side of the mattress and eating entire boxes of ice cream sandwiches in single sittings just so that beleaguered gaze wouldn’t be glued to my most recent indiscretion.

I might be exaggerating a little.

But in all seriousness, it is real heartbreak that faces the partner scorned – or more precisely the partner facing the scorn of the broccoli-frying, brown rice-boiling leper that used to be their boyfriend.  How quickly those spinach-scented saints forget the missteps of their past – late-night potato chip benders and full pizza pig outs – and leap to the judgment of their chocolate-smeared housemates.

Alas. All that’s left is hiding under the covers with a bag of Ruffles Sour Cream n’ Onion and a Slurpee.

Or jogging. I guess I could go jogging.

 

mouth full

 

While rubbing pennies together

Some people get a Starbucks latte every morning, and eat dinner out multiple times a week.

It’s a quick and costly habit to get into, but when you’re making good money it’s no big deal.  It seamlessly becomes a routine, an expectation, instead of a treat.

But when you suddenly don’t have money – you lost your job, or you’re starting life over practically from scratch – have you noticed how much more delicious those chai lattes taste, or how much sweeter that dessert is, on restaurant tableware you don’t have to wash?

I recently moved across the country with no job lined up, foolishly expecting everything to fall into place for me in the region with the highest unemployment rate in the country.  Oh, I would land a great gig writing what I loved, or maybe rock the freelance train for awhile, picking up assignments here and there, but always enough to live comfortably.

After a couple weeks of applying to ten or more jobs per day, that sunny outlook dimmed to careful math that determined I could definitely live, and still build up some savings, if I just made minimum wage full time.

A couple weeks later, having extended my search to non-writing related positions, I further edited my expectations and found I could just survive on part-time minimum wage, as long as my cheques came before rent was due.

Yeah. It’s scary and no fun to recognize that you’re basically destitute.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not living in my car, paying for a cheap gym membership just so I can shower in the mornings. I have an apartment, and furniture because the place happened to be furnished, and I can afford food.  But I’m definitely not putting away for a mortgage, and I definitely shouldn’t be eating out or filling up on daily mochas.

And throughout this middle-class version of poverty, I won’t pretend I’ve avoided the sleepless nights, tossing and turning over the lack of dollars rolling in.  I won’t play the Sure Thing card, where I maintain everything will be fine – some great $2000 article is going to avail itself at the last minute, just before the 1st of next month.

Because the former is just untrue. And the latter is just silly.

But I do have good days. Like today, when my boss at the job I finally got told me I would definitely be getting more shifts per week (working as a hostess and delivery driver at a restaurant isn’t journalism, but the pay spends just as well, and as quickly).  On those days, I find myself viewing my impoverished life almost fondly.

Because, like I said, you forget to enjoy the treats when they stop being treats and start being day-to-day.  I go to coffee shops to write every once in a while, and believe me – that drink slaved over by the barista while I stand idly by has never tasted better.

Having almost no money makes me all the more conscious of the money I do have. I keep close track of every dollar, and still save little amounts in a Chimes tin, even though I’ll probably have to raid that green metal piggy to pay my rent.

I don’t know what is going to become of me. It’s terrifying to finish yet another bout of expensive education only to realize the most lucrative form of that training isn’t something I’m interested in.

But there are things I know, that make it worth it.

I know I want to be a writer.

I know I need to get myself published.

I know there are countless magazines, and publishing companies, and contests out there that could help me achieve that.

So for now, I will bus my tables, and drop off my deliveries, and hope I get to start serving soon (because let’s face it, tips are the best reason to work in a restaurant). And the money will become less tight. The Chimes tin will fill up and be emptied into my savings account. And I will become a world-famous author with book tours. And trilogies. And a movie deal.

It’s a Sure Thing.

 no funds

 

Tick Tock

Time’s deceptive des/ascent is chaotic, but I think I’ve managed to nail down a pattern in amongst the madness.

Coming up on a D-Day, whether it’s moving, starting a new job, or a much anticipated concert, Time is that age spotted, balding man in the broke down 4×4 Chevy, petering along in front of you when you’re already running late. He taps the breaks, he waits for invisible cars at intersections where he has the right of way, he stops for every little old lady wanting to cross in the middle of the block.

But once the old guy finally, blessedly turns off to putt and sputter his way down a side street, you suddenly realize “Holy crap. I’m here.” In other words, once you get there, the getting-there doesn’t feel as long.

I’m six, “short” days away from hopping a plane that will take me to the other side of the country. Farewell – at least for now – to the city I have considered my “heart home” since I was 13.  Oh, it’s not the city’s fault. I’ve come to the conclusion that one should never attend university in a city they love, or expected to love. Inevitably, some of the stress of schooling seeps out and soaks into the fabric of the city itself, leaving it somewhat tainted, worse for wear after all the studying and sweating and late nights finishing assignments.  As far as I can see, it’s unavoidable. The only surefire way avoid such a conundrum is to attend school in places you already don’t like.

I’m being a bit tongue-in-cheek, of course.  I certainly don’t hate Halifax – far from it – and if I’m being completely honest, the unexpectedly cold winter probably has as much to do with my fleeing as does the demanding course work. But I do think that moving somewhere for a motive besides pleasure can put a bit of a damper on the locale after a while.

That, however, is neither here nor there. What is here, is the painfully front-and-centre fact that I am wading through the final three minutes of my fourth-to-last day of work, closing in on eight hours that feel more like twenty seven. And I have work to do, but my eyes seem demonically possessed, drawn to those fateful digital digits in the bottom corner of my computer screen.  Since when are there thirteen minutes between 3:47 and 3:54?

But when I get home, I can cross another day off a calendar now heavy with the thick, black ink I’ve been scratching across its surface for 43 days. I’m into the final countdown. I’m on the home stretch. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Funny – that light is shaped an awful lot like Life.

 

My Life light is more like an explosion...

My Life light is more like an explosion…