chance, or don't.

-where are you going?- she asked softly, her voice had this subtle québécois accent that poured out velvety and slightly disjointed. -somewhere far, somewhere warmer- that was true, hopefully, he wasn't much sure where he was going, he also didn't want to tell her that. -do you have room for one more, warm sounds nice- smiling, her green eyes glistened as they squinted, the corners of her mouth twisted shyly as dimples formed on her cheeks. she had warm skin, despite the cold, her dark hair was a beautiful mess from the toque that had pressed against and jostled it. -I'm not sure you could deal with me- that was true, he wasn't sure she could, he was partly sure he could deal with her. that was new, it made him nervous. -I'm not sure that's for you to decide- she started to walk away then and looking over her shoulder -tell me when I should be ready-
staring as she walked away he thought of chasing after her, then thought better of it. he wouldn't tell her anything, that would mean taking a chance. he would just leave, like he always did, then, once he was far enough to never turn around, he would wonder why. because, well, running was easier.


sunday shame.

today had a general malaise about it. the sun shimmered off the tips of the trees in the soft morning light of winter. it was warm enough that droplets of water fell intermittently from the buildings and branches, the ground was a slushy mess that even under a layer of grime glistened in the sun. he'd had an uneasy feeling since the night before, obsessively checking his phone as he stumbled through the parking lot. a vague remembrance of some garbage he spouted the night before to someone he loved. it wasn't new really, it was a pattern of shitty that followed him whenever the bottle was around. walking inside hoping for coffee all he could hear were carols and muffled laughter, two sounds that went nothing with how he was feeling. he waited in line, it was long, he didn't care. his pocket vibrated then and he stared solemnly ahead, pretending not to notice. after a bit he got his coffee and sat down, with no phone to distract himself with he was stuck staring ahead. he didn't dare look in his pocket, this was Sunday. just another Sunday, taking a sip too soon he burnt his tongue, another vice biting him, another little metaphor maybe not so subtly telling him it was time to stop.


tension and love.

they sat, staring ahead at the yellow lines flowing away like an old reel of film. it was one of those uncomfortable silences, taught as an overtightened guitar string, a cumbersome tension not likely to reveal anything pretty. his hand gripped the wheel and mouth grew dry as words deserted him. she sat with her knees pulled into her chest watching the power lines streak past. it was a long while of nothing, both trapped trying to think of anything, instead wrapping the time into knots, dwelling, distraction far off as the destination. he reached for his phone and she pretended not to notice, quickly he shuffled for a song, their song. it started softly, volume still low from when voices were raised. putting the phone down he stared back out at the road. around the second verse she reached for the volume, it was a gentle song, a beautiful one. neither of them spoke, but something about the tensioned eased. near the end he reached his right arm out and gently ran his fingers through her hair, pausing to caress her head just behind the ear. he pulled himself close not taking eyes off the road and kissed her softly, slowly on the forehead. they both leaned back then, knowing nothing was better, but silently agreeing it would be. 


on what selfishness implied.

‘say whatever you want, it just swings and misses, none of this means a fucking thing to me. if you want to joust about the bullshit you wish was different, go upstairs and look in the mirror’ it was a callous thing to say, but he didn’t much care. it had been years of the same, he wasn’t going to change, nothing if not self aware, these interventions were as circular as they were productive. his old friend just smiled, this manic smile devoid of emotion, before finally speaking ‘you can pretend to hide inside your armour, you always have, but you always end up back here, never seeing how it effects all of us. you don’t see that the bursts of caring and friendship are worse. because where are you the rest of the time, you go fuck off wherever and come back when it’s convenient for you. so whatever. yeah.. go. stay this time, go wrestle your demons and stop pretending we’ll be around when you need to self-medicate and make yourself feel better. you’re right I miss the old times, I miss my best friend, but who knows where that guy is, maybe you’re right, maybe he’s gone..’ now it was him who was blank. staring. thinking. he knew he was selfish, what hadn’t occurred to him was that he was so selfish he didn’t understand what it implied. the lack of empathy.


castle of memories.

‘one day, in hindsight, you’ll see the only thing that ever mattered. you’ll wrestle with purpose and ambition. toy with legacy and prestige. maybe you’ll make some money. incessantly check boxes inside a bucket. perhaps you’ll shower yourself in excess or vice. one day though, from the armchair, you’ll realize it was the people that mattered. the relationships. the ones who got to see you naked, see you without the walls. the people who saw you dance, or laugh, or cry, or fucking scream. without them, what is the rest worth. the service and friendship. the community and proximity. the time you shared. those are the stories, tied to the people. short or long, deep or shallow. you can lose the rest, it can blow away with an unexpected gust. all of it, everything, all but the castle of memories.’


failure, my good friend.

you go down swinging, get up analyzing and move forward preparing. I remember him saying that to me, remember it sounding like some locker room nonsense. some arbitrary hype talk, the thing you say to rally after a loss, the cheap cliche. what's funny is in the years since, in the life that followed the black hole that was professional sports, even if it was some empty tirade, the sentiment rings true. a lot of life we interact with this process backward, afraid to fail, we prepare, analyze and react. trouble is you don’t learn much from zero, its tough to get the equation flowing with nothing. life is about the abrupt stop signs, the speed bumps, the accidents. you take the mess in stride, you figure out what went wrong and you work towards correcting the mistakes. at some point, hopefully an early point, you learn to embrace failure, because nothing is a worse teacher than success. find a man who’s never done anything wrong and ill show you a man who’s never taken a risk. find the man who’s never taken a risk and ill show you a man who’s never accomplished anything. I learned that from him, that grumpy old fuck who never felt at home anywhere but within arms reach of a sheet of ice. screaming and yelling at a bunch of young men. he taught me the only lesson I’ve used every day since. he taught me how to fail, taught me that failure wasn’t a stain, failure was the only cleanse.

the finger you point with.

‘I really don’t hate anything, don’t even really dislike anything’ you could see he was serious, said it in this nonchalant, very matter of fact way ‘it’s something I figured pretty early on, some cliche mess that always stuck. ‘what’s the point?’ you can take that a couple ways I guess, it’s not worth the energy or time, that it would get in the way of the important. I always took it differently, I took ‘what’s the point’ as a challenge. that everything has a point, a perspective, an insight, a value. so to hate something, that just lacked understanding. instead of not being worth the time, maybe that time was valuable, maybe just acknowledging that hatred reflected on you most, it’s tough for people to realize that the finger they point with, is their finger. I guess just acknowledging and examining, that always seemed like the point to me. you might not love everything, you might pick and choose, but hatred is a choice too, a choice to carry some ignorance around with you, and that lack of understanding is your lack of understanding, you only hate what you don’t understand. so yeah, what’s the point of that.’ he took a big sip of a bigger beer ‘it’s all love baby’ and smiled, that crooked, ugly, inviting smile, and then, then he just kept on smiling.

rear view.

‘that place, it’s just a thing you created. just something you try to remind yourself of’ he was trying to get at something deeper, to tell a truth, but to tell it softly. ‘see, whenever you lose something, the intensity distorts the rear view. you look back and you never really see what was there, you see what you wish you saw. I’m not trying to say this will make it easier, heck it might even make it worse, but you can’t keep going on imagining that everything was perfect. you’re tricking yourself into believing that nothing else will ever be as good, putting something you lost on a pedestal. but it wasn’t ever that good, you’re comparing now to something that never happened. you have this incredible thing right in front of you and your imagination is dictating how you’re gonna move forward’ the old man smiled then and wiped his eyes ‘kid, there’s gonna to come a time in your life where this’ll happen to all your memories, when you’ll be old and your legs won’t move like they used to. around then the old stories will start to get embellished, after a while you might convince even yourself, but regardless of the bullshit you’ll grow a little more sad. think about that now, because you aren’t old yet, you just gotta figure out how to let yourself be happy again’ he kind of shrugged as he turned back to the table he had been working at, not leaving a window for his nephew to reply.

meant something once.

life turned, pages in a book. chapters, bookmarks, highlights, notes. you jumped into it as it came, the story just unfolded. it was overwhelming understanding that the twists came with it, that the predictions were just that. all the things you thought you knew were just answers bubbling back up from yesterday. she was still yelling as his mind wandered, about it being over, about things he already knew. he was thinking about what was next, her anger was meant to cover the desperation, he felt neither, the bed was made. ‘aren’t you going to say something’ she was pacing now ‘or are you just going to sit there and pretend like it doesn’t matter. pretend like you don’t care. hide away until you don’t have to face feeling something anymore’ she wanted to provoke something, that was clear, what though, even she wasn’t sure. ‘it doesn’t though’ he had his hands clasped on his lap, sitting casually on the arm of the couch. ‘what doesn’t’ she snapped, ‘matter’ he stood up and walked toward the kitchen, waiting for the inevitable reply. it didn’t come. the front door slammed as he spread some peanut butter on toast. he did care, cared that his ambivalence must have hurt and confused her. what he didn’t care about was the finality, because that was good, better than the scars that would’ve come from dragging each other along. the over part scared people because it felt like failing, but it was just learning. just another chapter, another beautiful footnote that meant something once.

her, in the red sundress.

he remembered meeting her, always had this complex about a challenge, and she was that. the first time he saw her was in a group of people, but he couldn’t remember anything about anyone else, couldn’t remember what they were doing. she had this aura about her, this subtle balance of beauty and charisma. she wore a delicate little red sundress that hung loosely over her shoulders, had a subtle touch of makeup that made it look like she cared just enough, and eyes, eyes that danced around the table burning through strangers and friends in fleeting glimpses of intense, unapologetic contact. he wasn’t sure she noticed him then and that was ok. he had noticed her and would figure out a way to get to know those looks. he remembered telling a friend later that evening that she would love him one day, remembered the friend laughing. yet here she was, asleep on the couch as he wrote about the girl he was going to love someday, and did, and would. for a long time he tried to figure out why he was right that evening, how he knew. really he knew nothing, nothing but the consuming feeling that had filled him. the cute, irrational, immediate obsession. none of that lasted of course, the fleeting naivety of infatuation, but they did, somehow. lasted past and through learning about everything after the appearances, he still probably didn’t know what love was, but whatever he thought, he felt for her. the girl with the aura, the girl he wanted to know, the girl in the red sundress.

on the fleeting scent of americana.

‘why do you keep coming back here?’ they sat up on a hill outside town and watched as the sun went down. a beer hung between his thumb and forefinger with arms draped over his knees. ‘I guess it’s on the way?’ and took a long sip. ‘the way where?’ she laughed and asked him to open hers. using some leverage from a lighter he popped it off. ‘I dunno, the loop, the figure eight of my favourites, it had been a couple months, felt like seeing you’ laughing and gently massaging her neck with his free hand. ‘ya, but when are you gonna stop drifting, head back to the coast, settle down?’ she smiled, but was serious. ‘I dunno really, out here is different, out there is too concerned with everything, not enough honesty or substance’ he looked out over flatlands as the glow faded ‘I drive around here and everyone has a story, a real one, been in trouble, committed to a life I don’t understand, bounced around maybe, the cares are different, community is tighter. it’s the little stuff, neon signs, broken down cars, dingy pubs. it’s the Americana, the remnants of days past, days I wish I saw. those signs remind me of opportunity, about promise, they signify something you don’t find in the future we built out there. I like the dusty roads, beaten down truck stops. like watching the decay of that dream we used to have, seeing the resiliency of folks trying to provide, and love, and live. I see a lot of superficial at home. feel like the story starts out here, somewhere like this’ he smiled at her, she smiled back, and then looked away, for her this was home, for him it was an experience. guess it all was, really, either way.

as yesterday walks back into tomorrow.

they watched each other, it had been a long time, too long, unless you asked them. quietly they both dealt with a flood, some gates of unwashed emotions, pouring out after years of holding back. neither of them let it show, neither would. he went about the night, trying to ignore the most beautiful girl in the room, because he had too. couldn’t let on that he still might care, couldn’t let her catch him wondering. she knew he saw her, knew about the little game, knew she would win eventually, so she smiled, the same smile he loved, not toward him or for anything generally, just to let him see. eventually he walked up to the bar and she walked up beside him ‘not going to say hi?’ she said shyly. ‘not much to say’ he tried to get the bartenders attention ‘what are you drinking?’ looking at her for the first time. ‘you know’ he did. the bartender was distracted anyway. ‘just wanted to see if anything changed’ he addressed her like you might, up and down ‘should we keep pretending we don’t see each other?’ he smiled then. ‘probably, but you won’t, you’ll ask me what I’m doing later’ she was fairly sure of this. ‘how about I buy you drink, you go back over to your girlfriends, make some jokes, get swooned over by the vultures, then I pick you up for breakfast tomorrow’ he ordered from the freed up barman. ‘why tomorrow?’ she was confused. ‘because’ handing her a glass of red ‘if all I wanted was company at two am, it wouldn’t have taken so long to talk again’ he kissed her on the forehead, grabbed the beers from the counter, and before he was back to the table, started thinking about morning.