When you close your eyes at night, where do you imagine meeting your next lover? a) ON A STREET CORNER b) at work c) under a bridge d) in a forest
A) ON A STREET CORNER
The phone rings at 11:30 at night and as soon as you hear your father’s voice you know something bad has happened. It’s your mom, he says. Over the next twenty-four hours you ride in buses, planes, ferries and taxis. You step into the hospital room to see most of your family standing around. And your mother in bed, looking older and smaller than you ever remember her being. You pick up her hand and search for something to say. You leave the room and go outside.
The streets are busy and you are unfamiliar with the city so just walk. You stop at a pub called the Stone Penny and order a JD and Coke. You feel in your pocket for change, pull out a handful of quarters and buy some Pull Tabs. You peel back the tabs on the first one and win nothing, and nothing on the second or third, and on the fourth you win ten dollars and smile, cash it in and leave. You start to go back to the hospital because you don’t know what else to do. You are standing at an intersection, waiting for the walk sign, when you hear someone say, Do you know where there’s a pub or somewhere to eat around here.
B) AT WORK
The director hands you the script and you read over the scene. A fridge repairman seduces a woman and her daughter at the same time on the kitchen floor. You change clothes and wait near the boom holder for your scene to start.
An hour later the director tells everyone to take a break and calls down to Tony’s Deli to have lunch delivered. You put on a housecoat and sit on the couch. Someone knocks at the door and a crew member lets in the server from Tony’s Deli. You look at the selection of sandwiches and ask if any of them are vegetarian. The Tony’s Deli server hands you a sandwich and says, I’m a vegetarian too, and smiles. You like the server’s black hair and blue University of Washington T-shirt and say, Did you go to U-Dub. The server looks surprised and says, How did you know. You point at the shirt and you both laugh. What did you take there, you say. Science. Did you go there too, the server says. No, art history at UBC , you say, and unwrap the sandwich. The server turns to help someone else and you go back to the couch. The server walks up to you and hands you a napkin with the words “Coffee 5:30” written on it in blue ink. You say, Yes.
C) UNDER A BRIDGE
Jerry passes you the bottle and you take a drink and then pass it back and wipe your mouth with your sleeve and lean against a dumpster. Rain bounces off the pavement and cars drive by. Jerry hits you on the shoulder and you get up and follow him as he walks away. Jerry, you call out, Jerry where the fuck are you going. To Taco’s, Jerry says. He leads you past drunks and strip joints and shooting galleries to the water and down a muddy embankment to Taco’s place, under a bridge. It is dry and there is a fire you warm your hands on. Freighters sit in the channel. Jerry fixes a needle of heroin and sticks it into your arm and then does the same for himself. You open your hand and lie back on the dirt and close your eyes. You think you might float away.
Something on your face and in your mouth wakes you and you try to scream and fight but can’t seem to move, and when you open your eyes people are kneeling over you and one of them says, Do you know your name. You notice how blue the person’s eyes are and then lose consciousness. You wake up in a hospital, you get sick and lose control of your bowels, you scream when people touch you and feel as if you never sleep, yet you have dreams about a blue-eyed paramedic.
You are discharged and walk out the front door and catch a bus to Dean’s place. Dean is surprised to see you but relieved that you have cleaned yourself up and he agrees to let you stay on the couch. Dean makes a big dinner and the food stays down and makes you feel good and you talk late into the night about when you were both in college. You tell Dean you are in love and he smiles and squeezes your shoulder and says, Congratulations.
You leave early in the morning and get your hair cut and then catch a bus back to the hospital and ask at the front counter who the paramedics were that brought you in. The nurse tells you that they came from the Front Street detachment and that she is unauthorized to give out their names. You catch a bus to Front Street and stand outside of the detachment for a moment before you open the customer service door and walk in.
D) IN A FOREST
You have gone to visit your parents in the town where you grew up and decide to take a walk. You stop at a park and sit on the swings. Children play in a nearby yard. You try to remember who used to live in the houses and what colour the trims used to be. You walk to the library and in the children’s book section you find a copy of In the Night Kitchen. You open the book and read out loud, “Milk in the batter! Milk in the batter! We bake cake and nothing’s the matter!” Your face feels hot when you finish reading. You put the book back on the shelf and leave.
You reach Baker Street. The ocean is in one direction, the highway in the other. You walk toward the ocean and go into a bookstore and select a magazine. How long has this been a bookstore, you ask. The cashier, a sweet-faced redhead, shrugs her shoulders and says, Five years, I think. You say, This used to be a furniture store and the owner had a monkey that he let us feed. The cashier hands you the magazine and you leave the store.
Down the street a new complex has been built. You try to remember what used to be there and can’t. Half the storefronts still have For Lease signs taped on the dusty windows, but at the far corner a grocery store is open and you walk in. Someone calls your name. It is Morgan, who you haven’t seen since high school. Morgan shakes your hand and gives you a hug and says, It’s been a long time, and asks how things have been and are you married and do you have kids. You blush and touch your neck and pass the magazine from under one arm to under the other and say you’re doing great and there have been no marriages, no children. Morgan says, The town’s grown quite a bit, hasn’t it, since we were in school. Yes, it has, you say; I can’t remember what was here before, before they built this building. It was an empty lot, remember, Morgan says. Actually it used to be a forest, do you remember, when we were in elementary school. Oh, ya, that’s right, you say, thinking back to when there were trees and when you played amongst them, waiting for your father to come out of the feed store.