I have never taken a photo of anything ever remotely related to a sport. So instead, enjoy a picture of this weird dog.
The gym teacher sat across from me, looking stern and unimpressed. I had been fat the entire semester, which didn’t really jam with the subject he was teaching. And here I was, sitting fatly despite all of his best efforts. He asked me what grade I felt I should get. He pre-emptively gritted his teeth, already hating my reply.
I launched into what I thought was a fairly compelling speech detailing all of the reasons I should get exactly 75%. I showed up every class in gym attire and put in my best, awfulest effort into whatever fresh horrors he had devised for us. Despite obvious discomfort and a truly thrilling lack of ability, I showed up and did all of the things. The lifting, the running, the kicking, the hitting. Terribly and thoroughly greasy, but I did them.
Gym class was going to slash my average, but I felt I had earned a modicum of understanding for giving it all a go. I laid out my feelings for the gym teacher, who sighed and agreed. Gym class being mandatory only until grade nine, he knew this would be the last he’d ever see of me and the last time he’d ever have to hear me talking so fatly, so pathetically, about sports.
The death certificate of my childhood arrived in a crimson red envelope.
I slipped the contents out onto my desk and unsealed them, unfolded them, unclasped them. I had never received a missive so delicate or so complex, and it took several moments for my baboon digits to free the contents to browse. What appeared from within shook my heart with horror. I trembled suddenly for reasons I could not then articulate. The sky outside seemed to darken, the clouds grew heavy with ash and smoke. Everything tasted like salt and copper and purple.
Tina is getting married in August. This was the first wedding invitation of my adult years.
Posted in Adulthoodness, Ha-ha Funny
- Tagged 20s, adult, adulthood, age, change is terrifying, growing up, Life, marriage, people, twenties, wedding, weddings
All right, lady. Do your thing.
At long last, I had cracked. For months, friends and acquaintances had assured me that life on the other side was something incomprehensibly better. That once you crossed the threshold, going back was no longer an option. That even glancing back at your old life would make you shudder and recoil, terrified that you ever could have lived such an unfulfilled, empty existence. I resisted, mostly out of a strange attachment to the status quo. Change is scary. Change is change.
But finally, I relented. On Sunday, I opened my door and let a pleasant middle-aged Chinese woman in to clean my house. And I don’t think I can ever go back.
12:32 I have been tidying slightly, although I know it is a ridiculous impulse. I am somewhat terrified at what this stranger will think of me, what the state of my apartment will say about my character, my personhood, my lack of culture. I imagine her peeking inside the door, cringing visibly, shaking her head and muttering in Mandarin before trudging back to the elevator in disgust.
Posted in Big Spooky Life Stuff, Ha-ha Funny, Life in China
- Tagged adulthood, ayi, china, cleaning, expat, expat life, Life, life in china, living alone, maid, maids
A change in the winds.
Strange currents from distant shores, the tremble of change on the horizon. Upheaval and horror, upset and the quaking ground. I had experienced a variety of semi-lucid regimes at the golf course and had weathered them the way one does any particularly long, arduous storm of nonsense—with pluck, beer, and a heaping serving of not giving a crap. There was very little, I felt, that could damage my calm serenity, that could shake me from the peace I had made with this ridiculous job that I had. The golf course was my Bodhi tree, and under its boughs I would find the secrets of the universe. I would know enlightenment, and nothing the world did could possibly distract me from my journey.
This was because I could not fathom Rita.
Rita was Greek and cresting the latter days of her fifties, a shock of white forging through her bushel of dark hair. She looked the way a toad might look after it had been run over by an eighteen wheeler. Also, it was an ugly toad to start with. She spoke with unearned grandeur, and an implacable Eastern-European accent despite her constantly heralded roots. She was one of the most officious, unpleasant people I have ever met in my life; my coworkers on the golf cart, who would regularly come to the clubhouse to join me in the Simpsons or have a beer after work, now regularly fled when they spotted her black corvette approaching, as though the leitmotif of the Wicked Witch of the West was suddenly piped in over loudspeaker.
I checked my stores, and I have no good photos of a golf course. So here’s Howth, Ireland, where I once had to hike through a golf course five or six times.
Names have been changed to protect the innocent, namely me.
All through university, I maintained one summer job. My cousin told me wondrous stories of easy work, plentiful tips, hilariously lax management, and abundant sunshine. I was wooed, and though I couldn’t hold down her exact job (lacking the necessary secondary sex characteristics to drive a golf cart, open cans of beer, and look pretty), I could certainly hold down a different bummer job at a decent wage.
Working at a golf course was exactly the kind of thing I needed—sophomoric, low-impact, simple. I needed a vacation from thought, the long, drudging months of study and commuting to school, the deadlines and the textbooks. If I earned money while being completely vacant and not working terribly hard, all the better. I sometimes fantasized my sun-dappled months on the greens might fuel the teenaged summer job film that constantly reeled in my head or, failing that, an amusing chapter in my eventual best-selling autobiography. “Caddy Calamity would be the chapter title, or alternatively, “Songs of the Hotdogsmith.”
This is the Buddha head selection station. The Buddha head buying station is around the block.
I clutch the most boyish thermos I could find amongst the sea of shiny pink and purple aluminum. A Chinese mall thrums around me on all sides, and this one particular sector is dedicated only to mugs and coffee containers. A young saleswoman hovers around a laptop, scowling every time I turn her way, knowing our interaction will involve a lot of pantomime, frustration, and tedium. She awaits my dull, Mandarin-less grunts with dutiful stoicism.
When I move towards her and indicate that I have found my desired item, she asks me a few questions, to which I answer yes, as it is one of the few words I have learned thus far. She taps away at the laptop and then begins scribing an enormous, hand-written scroll of instructions and numbers and arcane glyphs, which I assume I will need as incantations to summon Pazuzu. She hands me the slip of paper, clutches my thermos loosely and waves me away with my desired possessions gripped possessively in her talons.
I stare around my surroundings, pondering my next step. Everywhere there are desks, laptops, angry and tired-looking staff waiting at the ready, taking things away from shoppers. I am more than a little dazed. I wonder if I need to go on some sort of scavenger hunt, if I am being summoned into a hero’s quest and will need to bring this woman back the Golden Fleece. Perhaps I will need to answer a troll’s riddle? Or slay a dragon. Or maybe this is an Ikea situation, and my theoretical thermos was only a floor model, and my little slip of paper was actually a map, a guide, a thorough set of instructions on how to spelunk the depths of the storehouse below us to find the shrink-wrapped and ready version of my cup.
The raven thinks you should probably learn to handle your crap.
At age twenty-two, I purchased some suitcases, strapped most of my belongings to my back and moved to another country. Some days I made breakfast: eggs and toast, pancakes, artless arrangements of seasonal fruits. On good weeks, I washed my clothes and hung them on a dry-rack in the centre of my apartment, a wobbly aluminum X with straining arms, and sometimes even managed to fold and shelve each item, even the socks. I combed my hair and brushed my teeth. Once or twice I shaved.
I held down a job. With two degrees under my belt I was reasonably well educated, or at least enough that another country was willing to furnish me with a plane ticket and a studio apartment. I managed my finances and made travel arrangements and trips to the doctor. I picked up prescriptions and threw birthday parties for others, and would sip hot tea in the evenings over beloved hardcover books. I had spare keys made. I filed government forms related to my foreign pension. Other people occasionally asked me for assistance with grown-up things.
To say I cherished the accoutrements of adulthood is maybe an understatement: I revelled in them. I allowed myself occasional dalliances with childish exuberance, with slivers of immaturity. Adventure Time became a significant part of my life. While managing my bank statements and taxes, I sometimes wore prescriptionless glasses, as they made me feel more bookish and capable of money-handling. Dinners, when I made them, often resembled breakfasts, which are the easiest kinds of meals to make.
25 in 25.
Seas flow and converge into the ocean beyond a distant, rocky point. Kanyakumari consists of pastel houses, slowly decaying hotels, an enormous statue of a poet-saint who stares out across the waters. Pilgrims flock the beach, dipping hands and feet out into the water, and praying to the virgin goddess who rests here. Her home lies on the very southernmost tip of India.
When night falls, enormous vampire bats swoop and screech overhead. Ghostly music shimmies out from the coast and the temple, which stays alight. The power dips on and off, and the town is cast into darkness and into light in an irregular, unpredictable rhythm. Walking the streets becomes a journey through the black, with just starlight and reflections on windshields to guide the way.
All along the south-western coast lies a decaying amusement park. Like the houses the colours are bright and childish, neon blues and pinks and greens, slightly murkier and mossier now from age and neglect. An ancient aquarium lures a handful of bored children, and dozens of carnival rides slowly rust in the sun and the salt spray. A ferris wheel still runs, still lights up sometimes in the night, a great circle of flickering orange and yellow. The tilt-a-whirl died a quiet death eons ago.
Drifting: it’s the only way to be.
I returned from India with a backpack full of memories. I had dreams and scars, gods and demons, pictures and scribbled blue ink notes, bug bites and a traveller’s raggedy beard. I had carried my world around on my back for months at a time, hopes and wishes and plans all rolled in a thin t-shirt and packed between weather-beaten softcovers novels. I had cares in the world, certainly, but they seemed distant and small, objects passing in motion parallax, impossible to track, moving in one direction but appearing to sail by in another. What could I worry about? I had the road, and the road had me.
Unemployment seems romantic when you travel. With sandals on your feet and a week’s worth of underpants stuffed into a sack, the lack of a job is a bohemian commitment. Your sense of wonder and your lust for life are far more important than money, which you think about sparingly, and usually with a general distaste. You eat when you’re hungry, you walk out into the world when you’re bored, and you just never stop. And you never think about working, because working is a thing that you did in a past life. It’s a thing you understand on some basic monkey level, a concept that speaks to some part of the collective unconscious of your species. But to you as an individual, work is too abstract, too bizarre or bourgeoisie, something beyond the pale of comprehension. And you don’t want to comprehend it.
There is only water or sand or asphalt and your two feet. There’s only a jungle and sky and temples. There’s only rice and noodles and food you scoop up right in your hand and bring to your lips, the delicate and simple grace of taste. There’s an ATM in there somewhere, and you think of it essentially as a money tree, and only ever think of it as anything else if it suddenly spurns you.
Literally the only photo I have of still-living aquatic wildlife.
The longest-lived pet I ever had was a goldfish named Ducky. Other animals came and went through my young life: cats adopted before my birth, dogs with bum legs, rabid and ultimately too-crafty hamsters that had to be returned to the store in double-locked and duct-taped carrying cases to prevent escape or high-octane villainy. Ducky was a constant stalwart through my childhood, a calm, stupid, beautiful presence, never judgmental, never changing, and always there for me. She had a red streak down her back and a placid, gaping goldfish mouth.
My goldfish lived for over nine years.
Her arrival in my childhood bedroom is too far back in my memories to unearth. I remember little of her early days, little of her previous tankmate, little of what things I must have said to her as a boy. My connection to her was primal and innocent, a child and a small life entrusted to him. I controlled her access to sustenance, found out how to change her water with my parents, learned quickly not to slam my fists or fingers against the tank to get her attention. She was a little bright comet, gliding through a distant orbit in my room, and always there. Continue reading