Saturday, December 02, 2006

High Jumping, Gold Hatted

(first geek to get the title reference without resorting to the search engine of your choice wins the people's ovation)

I was heading to (considering heading to, at this point really) Albany, New York based on an either long-awaited or entirely unexpected fling with a high-school friend (a good 8yrs after graduation), after a slow and painful breakup with an entirely different woman and a very different story. But back to the bus depot, and my provisions - I had a good book (which I think was Raymond Carver's All Of Us) shoved into a well-packed travel bag with a change of clothes and some sundries, a relatively unchained VISA and nothing to do for the weekend. The fling had caught me unawares, and I wasn't sure if it was out of curiosity, desire for thrills or simply loneliness which was leading me to Albany. I know that it had led me at least as far as the Toronto Bus Depot.

I had reasoned that if nothing else, I'd have 2 days in Albany. I could pick up a dog-eared copy of Ironweed and get the full Albany experience (or at least get a good view of it in the 30's). I was sure that there'd be some kind of motel near enough to the bus station that even I could afford. If upon arrival she (and why not call her Zelda?) met me for coffee and said that our, let's say encounter was a bad idea, there would at least be bookends around the whole situation and I'd get to appreciate the best that Motel 7 had to offer the lonely traveller. Perhaps there would be cable TV.

If Zelda fell into my arms, that would be lovely. Or scary. Not knowing which condition would result was what was aiming me towards Albany. I didn't know if it would get me onto the bus.

Confused? It is a bit weird. I had written Zelda a letter a few weeks before citing The Age of Innocence, but I think blaming Edith Wharton will only go so far. I can bring Scorsese into the mix for his movie of the same same which is long and slow and subtle (boring is another oft-used title, but I personally would label it with subtle instead), which for some reason made me thing of Zelda, who I was lonely for after a bad breakup. Not Zelda in romantic terms, Zelda in intellectual terms because she'd always been smart. I didn't think the romantic terms were there outside of a tumble in 1987 which I pointedly left because it was...weird.

And tumble is the word for it. When one is pinned on a duvet at the age of 17 by a girl with Bette Davis eyes, one will either tumble further onto the duvet or out the door. I chose the door. It took 45 very slow minutes to do so, but the door was the final choice.

The rest was relative radio silence for 5 years, then 2 years of correspondence, then the aforementioned encounter. Then...but that would be giving things away. If you have to write about the odd resonance of things past (and I guess I don't have to, but it's better than writing about my father and Christmas and lack thereof which makes me sad), you'd better at least hit the touchstones and let the reader know what meant something at the time, if not now.

And 12 years later, the ratio of 'meant something' is very, very low. But the statement 'this will be funny in 10 or 15 years or so' muttered under one's breath will eventually come back to bite you. Whether it's funny or not has yet to be delved.

So why not leap back to the bus depot? And what was a confused 26yr old to do? Curiosity, enthusiasm and loneliness (rather than lust, believe it or not) were vying for attention, and curiosity seemed to be the one which was carrying the others. Is curiosity worth a bus ticket and access to upper New York State?

If I just wanted out of Toronto and away from the memories of an ex-girlfriend and dealing with a job which was paying half-paycheques at the time (and God knows I did want away from all that) I had a good friend in Guelph. I could arrive at his doorstep for less cash than the ticket to Albany was costing, and I knew that

a) he was a good cook,
b) would have a ready supply of beer and
c) was at a stage where target-shooting with air pistols in his apartment at 2am was an acceptable evening's entertainment.

Good times. Low budget gonzo.

It was was a bit lower than Albany on my list of priorities however, since Albany could have been a trip that defined the edges of whatever Zelda was on about, or at least let me out of the trees to peek at the forest that I'd either been in for a few years or had just entered. I was balancing the ideas that Zelda might meet me, might never speak to me again, might suggest that the whole fling had been the result of a bet gone wrong (in which case, I wanted to meet the winner of that bet and have some words with them), or she might want...something...which I may or may not want have wanted to deal with.

And if that looks cryptic, I think confused would say it better. I don't know why she kissed me urgently in 1994. Or 1987 for that matter. So let me put it - all of this far-past angst - into a package (since everything - everything - has to be catalogued and verified, no?) and wrap that package into something I can describe a bit later. For now, consider the conundrum at the bus depot in 1994. Stay or go? Shades of age of innocence or acting on old (perhaps unwise) impulses clean as New York snow.

Click here for part II.


Mr. Knight said...

Was it looking for something lost? Finding the element that was missing from the last relationship? Just needed a break? Who knows why we do these things. We need to talk. Send me a message!

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