I love you.
I want to spend my life with you.
I know. I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say.
I call bullshit
A myth exists that if you draw a circle on the ground a cat will sit in the middle of it and not move. The theory behind it is as crazy as the assertion. It has something to do with emotions and gravitational pulls like those of the planets to sun, an orbiting of attraction and repulsion, the desire for love and the fear of vulnerability. But cats don’t sit in circles. We tried it at home. It didn’t work. We, not cats, are more likely to be immobilized by circles.
Balthus loved cats. I love how my cat pushes her head into me, eyes shut, and cuddles that way. There is no fear. Total trust. More natural than most else that I know. Pure instinct and response. Love? I don’t know, and I don’t know why I bring up Balthus. I find his paintings deeply disturbing. Maybe he comes to mind because his is repulsive, his ideas of vulnerability and desire. Some perverse connection. The opposite of the cat, or is it?
I love you.
I want to spend my life with you.
I know. I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say.
I call bullshit
“Emotion is composed of one part arousal to one part vulnerability and this internal paradox institutes a constitutional state of conflict in an animal’s makeup. Conflict is important because it generates energy and that’s important because energy demands motion. In other words, the internal contradiction between arousal and vulnerability in the animal’s makeup makes for a motive in its mind, i.e. a compulsion to move.”
I turn the individual numbers until the row reads 86709, and they are aligned. The large, heavy lock clicks open. I take it off the thick latch and open the metal container. The watering buckets are inside. Across the street, a garage door opens and a car drags two dumpsters to the bin. This happened yesterday and the day before. I walk to the water tower where I fill two buckets. Cold water splashes onto my sneakers. One bucket per plot today. The air is cooler than yesterday though the sun is equally strong. No clouds in the light blue sky.
I walk to the nearest plot. The lettuce are wild, some seeding. Bees buzz around purple sunflowers and nasturtiums nearby. Everything is in full bloom. I water the ground and watch it change from light grey to deep brown. The second plot is near the end of the garden. I pass many plots to get to it and think of only a year before when it was still a place of few plants and many hypodermic needles. The needles are still here but less. Now in mid-summer, the garden feels full of life from a grassroots upswell of interest by apartment dwellers, an upswell like the plants and vegetables are experiencing. Our tomato plants are small and slow. I water them then walk back to the metal container where I put away the empty watering cans. The heavy lid clangs shut. I push the large latch back into place, slide the lock onto it, move the numbers, gather my backpack, thermos and bag and walk away from the garden, down the driveway that belongs to the antique store and SRO next door. I look up at the roof to see if the smokers have gathered yet. Then I gaze down again, cautious of needles, happy that beans grow up the fence like a guard for the garden and that somehow purple sunflowers break through cracks in uneven asphalt.
I pass the Cobalt, a dingy club that attracts hipsters, and Pizzaria Farina, a trendy pizza place. Both are quiet and dark as I walk toward the viaduct underpass where a stream of speeding bikers head west on Union Street toward their jobs downtown. Construction workers hover on the streets, and move in and out of buildings in Chinatown. The clammer of work trucks is jarring.
I turn off Main to Keefer Street and look toward the “Keefer Apts”, the words written both in English and Chinese on the side of the neglected, red-brick building. Words and building are caked in filthy brown debris. The building is the width of two narrow railroad apartments, or of the two bay windows, one with broken glass. A ginger shop and a coffeeshop occupy the ground level. Two flights up in the building’s westside window a round-headed, bald man in a white t-shirt that’s turned grey from age,and is too small to cover his bulging belly sits near a table with a broken bowl on it. He looks out the window, and is like a mother pigeon on her eggs, rooting, roosting. He is there every day, and when the day comes, if I am here to see it, that he is no longer there, I will worry and think the balance of the universe has shifted.
I turn up the alleyway between Main and Gore, pass a tiny, tidy, older woman who lives in cardboard boxes and crates and won’t talk or make eye contact. I know she won’t make eye contact because I tried once; I reached out with oranges in my hand…trying to give them to her, but she wouldn’t look up. I had to rest them on top of a crate for her to pick up later. She is older than most people living on the street. Her gray hair is cropped in a pageboy, her skin darkened from exposure to the sun. I think of bird bones — lightweight, hollow — as I pass her. She is busy moving her boxes and sheets, arranging her structure which she has located next to electrical outlet boxes in a small corner across from a row of dumpsters. She has lived here for weeks. Across the alley, garbage spills from the dumpsters, litters the alleyway. Today there is a mountain of toilet paper. Homeless people use the spaces between the dumpsters as a bathroom. The toilet paper is just garbage that’s spilled, though.They don’t use toilet paper…it’s a luxury.
I turn down the next alley, heading east, now steps from my studio entrance. These are Vancouver's secret passageways. I have never lived in a city with back alleys before. The underworld live in them, or the underseen or the unseen or the disappeared. They live with the dumpsters - the people without homes, the people with addictions, the people with stories and secrets. The alleyway near the studio entrance is empty. In the last week, there has been less early morning activity, but it is obvious this alley is busy at night. I am careful where I step, wondering how many needles I will count today. If there will be bloody gauze or used condoms. One needle is in the doorway, plus one condom, a torn plastic bag, a blue plastic container the size of a syringe, the orange syringe top, gauze, and paper used for wrapping the needles, now torn and scattered. The entrance smells of urine. A new graffiti mark is on the door. I step over the debris, the life of the night before, glance over my shoulder to see if anyone is sitting across the alley by the loading dock to a Chinese butcher. No one is there. I go inside where I will hear the sounds of the alley pick up with the day.
What we had, which was in scarcity anyway, has gone missing.
I thought it was in the tiny amber-colored onyx bowl from Turkey, or the square wooden box from Morocco. That’s where we keep our most precious things. But we checked and it wasn’t there. Maybe I slipped it in the back of my underwear drawer. But no. We thought it might be hiding under the piles of dirty clothes in my daughter’s room and so we kicked the clothes around the floor hoping it would emerge.
The bathroom? Crazy idea, but maybe it just got misplaced in there by a new bar of oatmeal soap, or the extra Aveeno lotion in the bottom drawer. Not there either. We tried the large straw basket in the centre of the kitchen island, the one that accumulates odds and ends like candy and vitamin bottles and notes; the bright orange dish by the Frida Kahlo doll that holds keys in the entrance hall. We looked behind the couch and along the edges of the matted, cream throw rug. Nowhere to be found.
Maybe on the rim of the pot holding the geranium? In the plastic cheese container in the fridge? Under the sink? Hiding in the rainboots in the hall closet? No. No. No.
Then I thought of the strange occurrence the other day. Our horse was tied up in the hallway of our apartment building, just outside our door. Her reins were attached to the door knob. I was going shopping and had her waiting there, brought up the eleven floors in the elevator from the courtyard below where she spends the days. She was saddled and ready.
I was leaning down to pick up my umbrella, ready to leave, when I heard a knock on the window in the livingroom. It was a pigeon, a homing pigeon, I would soon learn. The pigeon wanted to come in. I let her in and she immediately flew to the front door, and knocked on it.
I opened the door to the hallway, without asking why, and she grabbed the horse’s reins in her beak, and began leading our horse through the apartment. Then, the most amazing thing happened. She flew through the open window with our horse. I watched, confounded, as she carried the horse through the air, eleven floors down, and landed her in the courtyard below.
They began to walk away. At this point I was yelling at the pigeon and horse. The horse only turned sad eyes toward me and continued to be led. The pigeon ignored me entirely. They disappeared around the brick facade of the high-rise near us.Now, when I think about it, I bet alacrity was hiding in one of the saddlebags. It must be at someone else’s house.
In defence of you, I will go to the authorities. I will stand before them trembling and unknowing, called stupid, and worse, called crazy. I will stand before them in the blizzard, the shards of icy snow blowing from them to me. I will be shaking, cold, alone but I will look into their steely eyes, stand before their erect, correct bodies, stand alone with nothing and no one behind me. Buildings tower behind them. I will stand strong and vulnerable. I will stand in your defence.You are my world, the world, the future. Our hope. There is no bear skin other than my own to protect you. In this place where misunderstanding grows on air and ignorance blooms like algae and bacteria in tiny boxes, you are like a lovely gardenia, illuminating, curved, delicate but hardy. They will try to put you in the boxes because they cannot see; they are blind. You are our hope. And I will stand in your defence. I will stand in the wind and sleet and rain. I will stand in the rising water. I will stand alone in the storm to face them. And you and I can watch together as the brown bear off in the distant mountains nudges her cub into the running river.
The building collapsed from the passing trucks shaking its foundation once too many times. Felled as if bombed. Into rubble. Into dust. Then you rebuilt, brick by brick by heavy brick. You rebuilt it with your growing hands and legs and pre-pubescent body. You built in the style you thought they would like and admire, a style that might bring you love, might bring you respect. And then year after year, you struggled to keep it together, patching and repairing, renovating, plastering, nailing. You kept them in mind, what they would like, what they would admire and respect. Then they died. But you kept the structure. You still wanted love and respect, You continued to repair the building, and you moved inside it even though it didn’t really belong to you.
Not really a Biography
I have always been inclined to move forward, roll the stone, down, and often up, hills. I've tried to write through it all. Everything on this blog is written by me.