Thursday, July 23, 2009

Expiation: Part One

Continued from Prologue: Expiation

Zoltan shows up for dinner. I've known him since I was fourteen and I'm always amazed that I still know anyone I knew at fourteen, especially Zoltan who has changed rather little in demeanor. He has broader shoulders, less hair. We sat around and drank acceptable cheap Mexican-style beer (because I was too cheap to buy the genuine Mexican cheap beer, the lesson being learned that one can indeed be too cheap) and were amazed that we both hit forty. The details of that conversation really don't need to be repeated here. If you're under forty, you won't be interested. If you're at it or over it, you know it and it's better to move onto happier topics.

Zoltan is a magician. He was doing close-up card magic as far back as high school. He went into engineering and worked for a computer company when I was still an actor. Now he makes a living as a magician and I'm consulting with one of the big Canadian banks. That's amusing in itself.

"I still feel seventeen," he said. Again. This isn't unusual. We've had this conversation since we were both around thirty.

"Me as well," I said. "And I'm always amazed at the fact that nothing goes away. Nobody goes away. I'm trying to write about Elora and I have no idea why. And I can't quite do it anyhow."

He looked confused. "You're a writer. You can write anything you want."

"Allegedly," I said.

We moved onto other topics like a Sceptics Convention he attended ("Nobody thought we'd pull it off," he said dryly) and crooked psychics and the amazing Randi (a link to his no-flummery website is to the reader's deliberate right at the top of the page) and nothing else about the past other than being distanced from it and all things of the age when we met. "I take Karate at a community centre," he said, "it's a good class but it's not a proper Dojo. In fact, once our class is over the next class is some hip-hop thing with kids with baseball caps sideways on their heads. And I just want to smash them on the way out. And I feel seventeen, so I'm not supposed to do that. And I know, I know, it's nothing weirder than anything I was doing or watching at seventeen but I'm so...removed...from it all. Everything then is gone. Nicely gone. In its nice little gone box. But. Well. You know."

Yeah. I concur. Contradictions. Everything's gone but nothing goes away. It just is or isn't worth dredging up. I write stuff out for the sake of a good story. Occasionally, once buried, the subjects return. Zelda, who disappeared without a trace fifteen years ago ended up on Facebook (like the rest of the world) and surprised the hell out of me. Neither of us mentioned a thing. It doesn't matter. The shrug of 'Well...that happened' becomes assumed rather than spoken after a certain amount of time. I can't pinpoint an exact moment. When you're otherwise engaged. When you're busy. When you're decidedly not the person you were. When it's amusing rather than cringe-worthy.

The first time I met Lucy after a long absence, I said "I think it's safe to assume that the statute of limitations on teenage embarrassment expired around 15 years ago. So...c'!" or some such. We did. That's another monologue. Which doesn't mean it had to be delivered, it just meant it was something there and gone. A story.

In absence of the picture, write about the frame.

Yes, yes again with a roll of the eyes.

Zoltan's assurance. You're a writer. You can write anything you want. And this from a man who encourages people to come onstage and hit him with sledgehammers or watch him stick spikes up his nose. We've all got an Everest...right?

From D.H. Lawrence:

A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.

For around three weeks at the age of fifteen, I had three girlfriends. Simultaneously. Twenty five-odd years later, two facts have come to light. Firstly, nobody cares and it doesn't matter. Amen. Secondly, the three girlfriends idea was clearly not a wise move on my part. To be fair to everyone involved, the definition of 'girlfriend' was, at the time, rather broad. A few long licky kisses could seal the deal, so it's safe for the reader to assume that most of what follows boils down to garden-variety teenage melodrama put forth by those with overactive hormones.

I'm not denying the drama. I went to a performing arts high school where I was a drama major (literally). And if you want to drop into it fast to set up for an early exit, Elora and I were in the same drama class. She and Nancy and Hannah were all in the gifted studies program as well. I wasn't. In academic terms, I was apparently dramatic but not gifted. Take that as you will. Moving right along, let's get the actual mechanics of the disturbance out of the way. It all boils down to events that could have been lifted from the Archie comic or all-encompassing adolescence of your choice.

I think the original scenario was that Elora had invited me to her birthday party at a place in Chinatown because her friend Nancy said I had pretty eyes (not handsome eyes - pretty eyes - which for some reason I took as a plus), and somewhere between dinner and the long walk to Nathan Phillips Square, her friend Hannah said that she wouldn't kissing me as well but perhaps it wasn't the time nor place (with the proviso that this issue might be be followed-up upon). The following-up took place a week or so later in the sunroom of a house where Hannah was babysitting. It sticks in my head because Hannah had a lovely babyface and the house had the only virginal I'd ever encountered (before leaping to conclusions, look it up).

In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait,
for there he was at the trough before me.

Come to think of it, I don't remember if I actually kissed Nancy at any point, although I was sorta-kinda earmarked for her consideration. Because of this fact, I don't believe Hannah or I mentioned anything to anyone else, although I was relatively sure that said activities would have been somehow sanctioned by both Hannah and Nancy since, well, we were young. Or I was particularly dumb. I'm voting for both. This state of affairs continued for what felt like a long time although I'm sure it was around two weeks, tops. And I don't think I ever actually remember how Elora came into it because her part in this casual comedy came at me sideways and I can't for the life of me remember exactly how.

Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second comer, waiting.

I remember the leadup - I'd gone out with Elora a few times and was convinced she could tear me to ribbons if she put her mind to it. She was petite, curvy, had icy blue eyes and a sharp wit and was sarcastic as hell and terrifyingly smart. I liked her but didn't think she ever took down the smart/fast routine. I was 15 and was not feeling smart nor fast. I loved my drama classes but didn't like much else and was on my way to the flip side of the dimwitted self-confidence of the year before (and the less said, the better).

Elora could also write frighteningly well.

A Facebook thread:

My high school stuff was of the embarrassing, self-indulgent variety. I'm so glad mom threw out all my old diaries.

Better than you'd think. "Please cremate me - I don't want to take up anymore space" was good enough to be remembered twenty-odd years later. Odd indeed.

holy fuck. where do you remember that from??

Long memory for ephemera. And it was good. I might still have a copy somewhere.

At some point, it was becoming obvious that I had to go public with Hannah (who I thought was getting bored with me) or give up any chance with Nancy (intensely distracting with enormous brown eyes and pillowy lips) who was getting impatient with me putting off a date or series of dates or whatever she had in mind for me or whatever I was supposed to try to get away with.

The average age here was fifteen; I have mentioned that, right?

He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking

A Facebook thread from Elora's birthday:

Does this mean we have to go see Dune again?

Man, your memory amazes me.

Lousy memory for conversations, great memory for events.

Continued at Expiation: Part Two


STAG said...

Thanks for dropping in to my blog site....

I like Zoltan. Pretty cool guy, all in all. He still got that rat?

Anonymous said...

How fucken sensitive!!!!

Mike D. said...

RE; Stag- he's still got the rats. There's a link to his page from mine. Did you work together?

RE; Anonymous- Whatever you say.

George said...

Who is this "anonymous" person? Such insight and turn-of-phrase. Interesting the use of the traditional "fucken" instead of the far more contemporary, albeit insidiously over-used, "fucking". And the use of exclamation marks is spare but so very effective. I so look forward to it's next next contribution.

Mike D. said...

...and really; don't we all?

STAG said...

I was a vendor at a Ren Faire he was at. I sold swords. He entertained the public.

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