I love nature, for about four hours at a time. Of course these outings must be bookended by cappucinos in cozy cafes. So I have a lot of respect for people like David Attenborough who take the trouble to bring it into my living room.
5.Yes, they do come this big. Thank God for winter, nature’s cleansing brew.
4. I think X-files had an episode starring this fungus.
2. I’d never thought I’d ever use these words together in a sentence, but: Absolutely Stunning Slug Sex.
1. Darn it, this bird deserves a little company!
Outside a bar in Kensington, I ask you for a cigarette. I can see that you aren’t exactly thrilled about parting with one, especially to a strange man, so after I light up, I try to explain that I normally smoke only when I drink, and I hadn’t counted on drinking tonight but a friend twisted my rubber arm and yatta yatta yatta…
“So don’t smoke then.” You say, quietly, slipping some hair behind your ear.
“How do you mean?” I ask.
“Well, it bothers when someone asks me for a cigarette and then afterwards they tell me that they’re trying to quit, you know. Just don’t smoke.”
Wow. Chin in palm, you say this with poised feline practice. I’m impressed. As middle-aged male, I was never close to being this smooth and comfortable in my twenties. Looking back, there was always something a little off about me. Either my fly would be open, or my haircut would be crooked, or I’d be wearing a shirt with a stain that I hadn’t noticed before leaving the house. As for my demeanour, there was just too much effort and earnestness and not enough ease and refinement, and what could have come across as innocent and endearing came across as slightly undercooked, if not entirely raw. My ego was always bursting through the seams. Don’t get me wrong, I had many friends, though I envied them because everything about them appeared to fit nicely: accessories matched their identities that gave smooth birth to comments that complimented both. They were all from different social circles and many, in fact couldn’t stand one another. A curious predicament then, but it is evident now that though I could connect with people on individual levels, I hadn’t the social coordination to be granted acceptance to any one of their particular groups. The hippy crowd though of me as bourgeoisie, rockers found me arrogant and uppity, jocks and martial artists scorned me, Goths were repelled by my cheerfulness, activists didn’t trust me, and poets, scholars and artists thought of me as ignorant, inept or inauthentic. On the brighter side, it was great for a one-on-one coffee on Tuesday afternoon. However if I didn’t make that call on Saturday night, I wasn’t going to get the party invite.
This isn’t a pity parade. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m in my mid-thirties and despite the fact that on a good day, I leave my house with one armpit sans deodorant and a hairy spot on my cheek where the razor missed, wearing my wife’s tiny backpack, a ten-year-old sweater and carrying a cracked and scratched cell phone that I had to buy to replace the one which was run over by a car six months ago, I like who I am. If I had a nickel for every time in the last year that I forgot the point I was trying to make; if I had a quarter for every time in the last month I fumbled through a witty response, I would probably get myself a pair of boots that wouldn’t make squelching noises when I walk. Not much has changed since the aesthetic and social blunderings of my twenties. Be it artistic, political, societal or career-wise, I have yet to develop a polished persona for any one particular circle or cause. Groups and cliques still reluctantly open themselves to me, which means that all of my accomplishments have been through relentlessness effort and thick-skinned determination. I am stronger for this and I appreciate everything that comes my way, or try to at least.
But still, I feel a teen-envy when I look at you. So complete and matching in your persona, I can identify you as a hipster in seconds. Not a great feat in Kensington Market, but I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like to be part of one group, wholly and entirely, perhaps with shared brands of beer and cigarettes. I can only imagine it as a second family, bonded together not through blood and obligation, but through a mixture of both trivial and profound elements.
It’s been only seconds since your comment, and for first time in a long time, I make a response with a minimal amount of stumbling and a good amount of swarthiness. I remark that occasionally temptation overrides decorum, and not to flatter you, but you have great taste
in cigarettes. For it I’m rewarded with a brief smile as you walk back in the bar, where your group of friends awaits.
A fellow poet once said that every poem is a failure. Am I the only person who feels this way about my twenties? Alone and all at once comfortable, I inhale what you reluctantly gave me, and consider that in my piecemeal, imperfect, and unfinished world, cigarettes are doled out in twos and threes, with a smile and never a complaint.
As children, our faces
are often mistaken for suns,
our knees scar the earth
like grass fires; in the secret
hiding places of our hearts
our blood burns, and our
whispers shimmer like noon.
We arrive as adults, noses
dripping with sun-block,
lurching through the heat
to the nearest bar, our hearts
beating so loudly we can
no longer whisper.
As appeared in Leaning into the Mountain, Fooliar Press, Toronto, 2006.