this is how our love affair would go

(from a dog-eared SAGA notebook,
november 2000)

this is how our love affair would go

if you weren’t married, or straight, or celebate — and i don’t
even know if you’re married, or straight or celebate, but if i did know, and you weren’t any of those things, or on the rebound, or dying … this is how our love affair would go:

i’d stop by your desk at work with a casual question about the new project.
i’d linger a little longer than necessary, making deliberate eye contact,
smiling coyly after you answered my casual question, which was in fact not casual at all, but quite pre-meditated, not spontaneous in the slightest but calculated
and designed totally to give me an excuse to stop “casually” by your desk and speak.

and then our shift would be over and i would be outside, waiting on the curb
for the No. 9 bus, pacing and waiting for you to drive past and notice me shivering in the dark, and then you would stop and lean over to the passenger side of your little blue toyota and fumble with the window and offer me a lift. you would point with your head, as if you were tossing hair out of your eyes, and say, “i’m going to the south side, if you’d like a ride …” and i would say, “oh, no, that’s okay, the bus will be along soon, thanks, but … well … okay, then, if you’re SURE you don’t mind …”

and then i would climb awkwardly

into your front seat and fumble with the seatbelt (because I have
incredibly bad seatbelt karma), and you would already be pulling away from the curb by the time i got myself buckled in, and then you would ask, “so where do you live?” and i would say, “oh, just off whyte, sort of near bonnie doon,”
and you would say, “oh, that’s not far from my place, and there’s a great little cafe near there, and i don’t think i’m quite ready to unwind just yet, so is there any chance you might be interested in going for a coffee?” and i would say, “SURE!” and then i would secretly hope i didn’t sound too eager, and then i would secretly smile to myself because my plan had worked and i was now going for coffee with you, and it’s a good thing because the No. 9 bus isn’t even my bus … so if you hadn’t stopped
and offered me a ride i’d have been waiting an awful long time.

cafe starsand then we would be in the cafe and it would be small and dark, but very comfortable
in that cozy, funky, bohemian artist kind of way, and there would be soft jazz playing,
the good, warm, relaxing, sexy kind, not the manic, migraine-inducing, teeth-on-metal kind, and then we would each end up ordering peppermint tea instead of guatamalan dark roast, and you would ask me how i’m liking my new job, and i would tell you, “it’s great, and how long have you been working there?” and we would talk about all the crazy people in the marketing department for a while, and i would absently pick up the spoon from the table and play with it in my nervousness, turning it over and over in my fingers, and then you would laugh and say, “if you don’t quit with that spoon i’ll go crazy,” and then you would lightly touch my hand, the one with the spoon in it, and grin at me in that gentle, sensitive, all-knowing way you have, and you would look me directly in the eye long enough to let me know that the spoon was just an excuse for you to touch my hand, and we would both feel the fire as our skin touched, and we would realize at that same moment that we were hot for each other, and then we would try to pretend we weren’t, and one of us would comment on how late it was getting, and suggest that maybe we should be getting home, because because because …didn’t it look like they were getting ready to close?

and then we would be back

in your car and you would be pulling up in front of my house and then
you would be leaning over to help me get the door open because the handle is tricky on the passenger side … and then as you were leaning over me me to pretend to push
on the sticky door i would smell your soft fine hair
and it would smell a little of cinnamon with just a hint of coffee and sadness,
and i would forget that i barely know you and don’t even know if you are married
or seeing someone or doing a zen celibacy thing, or dying, and i would kiss the top
of your head as you were still pretending to try to get the door open, and then we would both grab the door handle and pull it shut … and then we would kiss, a long, hard, desperate trembling kiss, and then we would hold each other and tremble some more, and then we would look at each other as if to say, “i don’t know what came over me,” and then we would kiss again, and then i would gather up my backpack and lunge out the door, saying breathlessly “i’ve gotta go — thanks for the ride,” and then i would rush inside my house and feel all whooshed and frantic and blessed, and bells
would be clanging inside my head and butterflies would be doing gymnastics somewhere between my red and green chakras …

and then there would be a knock

on my door and i would open it, knowingly but tentatively,
and then you would be standing there holding a scarf and saying, “i think you left this in my car,” and i would say, “oh yes, thank you so much, my grandmother knitted that for me,” even though we both knew it wasn’t my scarf at all, it was your scarf, and it was just an excuse for you to see my face again, and then i would say timidly, timidly, “i know it’s, um, really late, um, but … would you, uh, like to come in for just a moment?” and then you would say, “uh, well, no, i really shouldn’t,” and you would be already gliding through my door like you’d done it a thousand times before
and taking off your coat and dropping it on the floor and stepping towards me …

and i would look into your eyes and i would be all flushed
and i would put my bashful hand on your cool, tender cheek and know that i would never again be able to stop by your desk at work without thinking
of this moment
and blushing
like hell.

barrie me not

“how can a free spirit ever possibly take flight living in a place called BARRIE?”

i scream this at my mother who cannot seem to understand why i am packing up my ’75 datsun b210 rustbucket and driving 2,000 miles away to take a job in alberta.

my mother isn’t getting it, but my 22-year-old gut knows that after three years as darkroom technician and general reporter at the bi-weekly bugle, it’s time to move on.

barrie soccer shirtbarrie is suffocatingly safe. it’s vanilla. it’s boiled potatoes and wonder bread and piano lessons on monday afternoons. it’s church rummage sales and junior B hockey. vodka smuggled into high school dances, labatt’s blue at the underage skating parties. april wine and foot in coldwater at the college pub night piss-ups. it’s an excruciating hour’s drive from toronto, which at least has a pulse. it’s waking up greasy and groggy after all-night poker games with the guys in the bullpen.

barrie is so boring that we don’t actually play poker at our poker parties — we play hearts and euchre. but we do eat chips and drink beer and smoke cigars in an attempt to invoke the sleaziness quotient of poker. still, barrie is so boring that we don’t even smoke real cigars, we smoke colts — which involves very little actual smoking and is more about sucking on the wine-flavoured tips.

my mom doesn’t seem to get this but barrie is so boring, we drag ourselves down to the lake and sit on the dock and just sit — sit and watch motorboats pull up to the docks and wonder why anyone with money enough to buy a boat would bother to come aboard at kempenfart bay. because there is sure nothing to do in our sleepy little town. no good restaurants — unless you LIKE cigarette ashes with your sweet & sour chicken balls from lem cho’s — and only two rinky-dink movie theatres — the roxy and the imperial, which never show anything good, just sappy walt disney stuff like hayley mills fighting off some guy trying to kiss her, or hayley mills smoking cigars in the boiler room of a convent. four-star bopperfests.

barrie is so boring, there isn’t even a mall. all we have is mother’s pizza and towers department store. when i was in high school we didn’t even have a freakin’ mcdonald’s, just root beer and teenburgers at the dub; and it was all we could do to convince the waitresses at the crock & block to serve us draft beer in their frosted mugs, because we were only 16 but not bad enough girls to have fake I.D.

back then it was firenze pizza and tom collins chasers, and midnight tokin’ with our steve miller LPs in molly jackson’s basement. back then the air was always oppressively humid and even the liberals were frighteningly conservative. now it’s jogging on the track at the Y after work, and lunch with harris and timer and richie every wednesday at the town & country lounge — where the soup is always french onion and the special is always beef dip — except on fridays, when god help you if you don’t want fish & chips.

no, a free spirit couldn’t possibly take flight in a boring place called BARRIE.

but my mom still doesn’t get it.

“you remind me of me,” she says. “when i was your age i wanted to move to alaska and have six kids. i never did that. but you …. you figure out what you want and you go after it.”

then why won’t she let me go?

i may not know exactly what it is i want, but i do know what i DON’T want: i don’t want to live my entire life in a white-bread, tim hortons-and-beef-dip town and end up sixty years later being buried in a place called barrie.

i don’t want alaska or six kids, either, to be sure … but whatever it is i do want might just be waiting for me in alberta.

i hear the weather’s good there in the fall.

the writers go for breakfast

breakfast cafeSkim milk latte?

We don’t do that

OK, eggs florentine then. That’s with spinach, right?

Um usually yeah but we’re out of spinach

OK, without the spinach then. Are soy lattes any good?

No

Another latte, then, but this time without caffeine, please

Hmmmm …

Oh, do you not do decaf?

Well, yeah, we “do” (makes air quotes with fingers) it,
but I just don’t know if we “have” any

No spinach, no decaf … how about herbal tea?

I don’t know if we “have” that either. I can check.

No thank you. Never mind. Just water, please.
So anyway, as I was saying, personal transformation is not always a poem.
One man’s therapy is not necessarily another man’s sonnet.

I agree totally, but some people seem to think they have to incorporate
every fucking little breakthrough they have with their shrink
into a piece of performance art. I have gossip.

Dish!

J is sleeping with K.

I already knew that.

Yes, but did you know that K use to be with Q?

No! But i knew that T and S just had a three-some with D.

D? When did D get back?

From where? I didn’t even know that D was away.

Oh, yeah, you know, that annual Spa and Stanza retreat at Papyrus Hills. Somehow she always manages to lose 20 pounds of cellulite and gain 30 pages of manuscript.

I hate that about her.

Yeah, it’s incredibly annoying to those of us with perpetual writers’ block.
How are the bennies?

Good, but they would be better with spinach.

Yeah. How’s the latte?

Fine but I think I should’ve gotten the skim.

But they don’t “do” skim, remember. Like, they have some kind of conscientious objection to a skim milk latte. They’re “anti-skim.”

You’d think that if they object to skim they’d have a similar moral objection to decaf.

Well, yeah, of course. I mean, of the two, which is the most obscene?

They’re both an abomination, if you ask me. What’s the point of the special coffee if you’re going to remove the caffeine and de-fat the milk? Why bother?

I agree totally. And eggs florentine without spinach — well that’s just bad breakfast karma.

It’s kind of cold here, you know. By the door.

Yeah, but this is a great bagel. What is this fruit that they’ve used as a garnish?

Damned if I know … some kind of a pumpkin-lemon cross? Weird.
Maybe a cumquat sort of thingy…

More coffee, ladies?

Um, no thanks. Just the bill.