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One really never knows what goes through either the heart or the mind of another.

Post-inscription
Originally Presented
to The Honourable
Geoffrey Dow
In January 2006
(inscribed July 9th 2006)
Merry "X-Mas" G-Fry.
Love always,
Laura


I pulled Richard Dawkins' The Ancestor's Tale off the shelf a little while ago, a volume I had not perused since, well, some time prior to the inscription quoted above.

"Love always." Two days after she penned those words, I tossed her out of my life forever. I wonder what other surprises may lurk among my shelves or files.
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Don't worry, folks, I'm not about to test your patience with another 3,000 worder.

As a mildly ironic counterpoint to the unexpected phone-call from Laura on Wednesday, I had a date scheduled for Thursday. A lunch date, but still ...

One of the more striking smokers in the building at which I work, is a petite and very pretty Muslim woman, who usually spends her smoke-breaks on her cell, obviously talking business while gesturing animatedly with her free hand. I knew - or rather, I presumed with a high degree of confidence - she is a Muslim because she wears a hijab, though otherwise usually dresses in a casual Western style, including, sometimes, blue-jeans.

A couple of weeks back, during the depths of that viscious cold-snap, we got to talking (starting with the weather and how stupid we were proving ourselves to be by being out in it, sucking poison into our lungs - but I digress) and, very quickly, found ourselves sharing quickl and easy laughter.

She is Canadian-born, daughter of immigrants from India. She speaks the way she moves, confidently and with purpose, and I found myself quickly becoming taken by her wit and incisive intelligence. (Though not particularly witty in itself, her description of being witness to Janet Jackson's presumably inadvertent nipple exposure at the Superbowl a few years back was priceless.)

We ran into each other again, and yet again. The third time, on our way back to our mutual offices, I stopped and said, "I never do this, but, er, would you like to have lunch together one of these days?"

And so it was that she dropped by my office on Thursday at around 1:30, from whence we departed for lunch at a vegetarian restaurant just up Spadina (but the name of which escapes me - Sidra? Maybe you know it? It's on the east side, between Queen and Richmond?).

I don't know many people for whom religious faith is of much - if any - importance, let alone Muslims, so the opportunity for some cross-cultural study was almost as exciting as the fact that I had mustered the courage to ask her out in the first place. Too, it was strange for me to socialize without benefit of alcohol as a lubricant.

As it turned out, Saara seemed to find the fact of my atheism - and especially that both sides of my family were the same, going back at least 2 and 3 generations - just as curious as I found her decision to wear a hijab despite not apparently fulfilling any other Muslim stereotypes.

Long story short, it was a very good meeting, one that well over our allotted our.

We exchanged the usual family and personal histories, but politics and religion - sometimes serious, sometimes light-hearted - were the dominant themes.

Saara told me she started wearing the hijab as a direct result of 9/11. She saw - and sees - making herself visibly Muslim as a political act, as a principled refusal to give in to fear of Islam that crime brought to the forefront of our society. In other words, she is a Muslim and she is not kind to pretend to be something else, simply to make non-Muslims around her more comfortable.

(Including, she noted, a lot of feminists. She said she has "often" been lectured by (invariably white) feminists about how the hijab "proves" she is oppressed and clearly not a feminist. And indeed, she said she considers feminism a strictly white, bourgeois phenomenom which does not speak to ethnic women at all. I disagree, but certainly find her position interesting - and depressing.)

And that decision certainly hasn't made her life any easier, particularly when crossing into the United States. Once, when she was refused admission (she made the mistake of telling the truth: she was going to New York to take a course in "activism"), she said the customs officers were litterally screaming at her, "Are you a terrorist? Are you a terrorist?"

"No, I work with troubled youth," apparently was not a good enough answer.

Saara has an admirable sense of humour about her trials and tribulations. She told me of when trip, with two of her sisters (who don't wear a hijab), on a trip to her brother's for a baby-shower.

At the border their car was - as it always is, she said - was selected for a "random" search.

"'Random'?" she asked the guard, while outlining her head-scarf with a dramatic swirl of her hand. "'Random', eh?"

At the interview, when ask, "If you're going to a baby-shower, where are the presents?"

"We sent them ahead," she said simply. "I knew we'd be stopped at the border. I knew we might not be allowed through at all."

Surprisingly, that time, she was.

* * *


Anyway, it was a more than enjoyable lunch and I hope we both make the effort to see each other again (although, it turns out she has a partner - story of my life, lately).

Nevertheless, between reading Dawkins' book and meeting a very attractive Muslim woman, I have been pondering religion quite a bit lately.

One thing I have come to realize is that I don't think I could get seriously involved with a woman of faith - any faith (and yes, I know how much that drains my pool of potential partners. Thank god (as it were) I live in Canada and not the States; and a pity I don't live in Europe).

A decade or so ago, I was involved with a woman - Harriet - who was a Christian, United Church style. On Christmas Eve I attented midnight mass with her, an event of great and medieval-feeling pomp and circumstance; censers on chains spewed perfumed smoke into the air, the priests decked out in their white robes. For me it was at once fascinating and tedious, and I was glad indeed when it was finally over and Harriet and I could return to her apartment to crack open a beer and then tumble into bed for some fantastic sex.

"Well," she said after we'd settled down around her kitchen table, "What did you think?"

I was silent for a moment or two, then finally replied, "Harriet, you don't really want me to answer that."

For the truth was, I thought the whole ceremony profoundly silly. Leaving aside the value of community celebrations; leaving aside the unquestionable virtue of cultural historical continuity, I could not escape the fact I held the basic concept behind that ceremony in intellectual contempt. To me, the idea of worshipping a non-existent god is simply, well, silly. It truly baffles me that intelligent people can take it seriously.

What I've realized, is that my contempt for religious beliefs would be a pretty serious handicap to having a serious romantic relationship with a woman of faith. I suppose I could just "agree to disagree" with a partner, but what if children enter the picture? What if she wants to indoctrinate them into her faith?

Major conflict, people!

"I love you and I accept that you don't believe, but I want our children baptised, and raised Catholic."

"And I love you and accept that you do believe, but there's no fucking way my kids are going to be taught to believe a fantasy!"

Shit. Is even 10 percent of the population of this country atheist? Welcome to the wading pool, Young Geoffrey.
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(In which Young Geoffrey displays his petty side; if you have somehow romanticized me as some paragon of enlightened virtue, just move on to the next post on your list.)

By and large I've been pretty happy these past few months, notwithstanding my inability to meet women who are not either involved or loopy.

I have told myself - and others, sometimes to a certain amount of scepticism - that I am "over Laura" and moving on with my life. And mostly, I think it is true. But it is also true that I think of her more often than I would like. I don't want her back, but I am still angry about how she (mis)treated me.

I've fantasized - too much - about running into her, usually somewhere on Queen Street (because that is where I spend most of my time, no need for any Freudian - or any other kind - of analysis).

In the fantasy, she is with someone - a man - and approaches me to say hello, and to apologize.

"Who's that?" I say, and jerk my thumb towards her companion. "Your boyfriend of the week or just a john?"

"My boyfriend," she says, looking sad. "I'm not like that any more."

"That's good to hear. I wish I could believe it."

Uncomfortable, she nevertheless wants to talk. She notices that I've lost weight and tells me I look good.

"Thank you," I say. "And you still look like a lying, cheating, thieving sack of shit. Whether you live or die is a matter of supreme indifference to me."

And I stalk past her, without a backwards glance.

Well, tonight, I sort of had my chance.

I got in around 7:30 (I stopped in at Java Hut to work on a review of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion - coming soon, folks!) and shortly after I had fired up the computer the telephone rang.

I trotted to my bedroom to answer it.

"Hello?"

"Good evening sir," said a strangely familiar voice, "I am calling from the [Blah-blah-blah] Dance Studio. May I speak with Geoffrey Dow?"

"Who's calling?" I asked, in my normal, who-the-hell-is-this tone.

"Geoff, it's Laura."

"Laura."

"Yes, it's me. I'm working for this telemarketing company and -"

"I'm really not interested," I said, and started to reach for the ... that thing you press when you want to disconnect a call.

"- and I thought of calling you."

"Laura," I said, "you're a lying, cheating sack of shit, [yes, I forgot "thieving"] and I have nothing to say to you."

But my heart was suddenly beating like a rattle in the hand of a child suffering from ADD and I didn't hang up the phone.

"What do you want?"

"I was thinking of you and, I guess, I just wanted to say I'm sorry." She paused, and I couldn't think of anything to say. "How are you?"

"I'm good," I said. "I'm very good." And the habit of politeness led me on. "How are you?"

"I'm great," she said. "I'm not in the sex-trade anymore, and I'm in a relationship -"

"Laura, I'm not interested in your relationships, or anything else."

And then I paused. A small part of me, a part that isn't angry at her, but that remembers the woman I believed she was, was thrilled to hear her voice again.

And so I still didn't hang up.

"I'm not like that anymore," she said. "My lying and cheating almost got me into trouble with my partner -"

"I don't want to hear about it, Laura. You lied to my face for a year and I can never forgive you for what you did to me."

"For more than a year," she said. "But I'm really not like that anymore." Suddenly she sounded like I imagine someone who has really gone through a 12-step program sounds like, someone who is bravely facing up to the sins of her past and asking forgiveness from those she has wronged.

But my anger was taking control again. "Laura, it's almost good to hear your voice, and I hope it's true, but I can never forgive you for what you did to me. I wish you well, but I don't want to talk to you. After all that happened, I can never trust you. So don't call me again, and if you see me on the street, just keep walking. And fuck off."

And I placed the receiver in its cradle (somehow, I didn't slam it).

I was literally shaking when I came back to the computer. My bloodstream was flooded with adrenaline.

But, having typed this far (thank you, Gentle Readers, for giving me an outlet for the venting of my speen).

Truth is, I don't feel good for having said, "Fuck off," and I do feel good about it.

There is a part of me that recognizes, first, that Laura is a great deal younger than I am and, second, that people sometimes do change. But at the same time, I know that I - when I was 18 and 19 - would never have been able to say "I love you" to someone for "a lot more than a year" when I didn't mean it.

I am calm again, and I suspect if I could test it, my adrenaline levels would be back to normal. I think I am glad she called me, that she gave me the chance to say, "Fuck off" and then hang up the phone.

And I hope that, when I take my shower tomorrow morning, I won't waste my time imagining what I might have said anymore.

Maybe now, at last, I am not only over Laura, but rid of her, too.
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I've been contemplating this post - or rather, a less confused variant of it - for a few days now.

Outside of work (where I've been feeling somewhat overwhelmed), last week was a very good one, particularly towards the end of it. I had a lovely (and surprisingly late) evening with one of you, and then on Friday received a surprise call from my ex, asking if I wanted to get together. (No, not that ex - this one, Siya!

Siya and I talked and laughed and got nicely caught-up with one another for the first time since last winter. (That she opened the evening by repeatedly exclaiming, "You look so good!" of course helped things get off on the right foot as far as I was concerned. Nothing like a smart blazer and dropping 25 pounds.)

It really is good to get out into the world again, although I would prefer to start meeting women who don't currently have a boyfriend. But I digress.

* * *


Despite - or, perhaps, because of - my increasing sense of well-being over the past few weeks, I believe I have developed a deeper perspective on What Went Wrong between Laura and I.

I have come to believe my earlier, "Laura-bad/Geoffrey poor-victim", interpretation was, not so much wrong, as very imcomplete. Outside of a surprise attack or a concerted campaign, victims are seldom if ever wholly innocent. Rather - like the stereotycal battered woman forever making excuses for his curses and slaps - the victim plows the soil from which his (or her) victimization will bloom.

In my case, from the day Laura moved in, I never took a stand (or, when I did, I did not follow through with consequences). And from the day she moved in, she pushed the limits of what we had agreed would be our living arrangements.

I think one example will suffice to illustrate my point.

Come June, we agreed she would take a summer-school course and that she would look for a part-time job. Until she found work, she was to be the house-keeper - cleaning and laundry and picking up after the cats, along with some cooking was the deal as I recall it.

She didn't look for work to speak of and she also never lifted a finger around the house. I complained, but I did nothing about it. I laid down no ultimatums, nor did I insist she do the laundry on Saturday morning; instead, I told myself, "She's young, she'll come around," and did it myself. Instead of telling her to fucking do the dishes (as she had agreed!), mostly ... I did them myself. In the moment, I told myself it was easier to spend 20 minutes acquiring a new case of dishpan hands than "creating" conflict. Instead of coming home from work and smelling the reek coming from the cat-box ... (yeah, you know what's coming next) I did it myself.

This made me angry, yes, but impotently so.

As things were falling apart this past spring and summer, as I was actually begining to confront her about this, that and the other thing, I told her more than once, "You don't treat me with respect!"

And it's true, she didn't.

But from her point of view, why should she have? I had drawn one line in the sand after the other and, when she crossed each one, there were no (obvious) consequences. At worst, I bitched and moaned, then took her word for it that she would "try to do better", and we would retreat to our room for make-up sex.

I told her what I wanted and what I wanted from her, but I didn't act as if I really cared. Why wouldn't she start going out without me? Why wouldn't she start staying out until dawn? Why wouldn't she screw around on me? Every time I told her "No" about something, and she did it anyway, my actions told her it didn't matter, that I loved her anyway.

From her perspective, I was a wimp; not a nice guy, but a wimp, someone she could walk all over. In retrospect, it's not surprise that she lost respect for me - by the end, I think she respected my abilities in the bedroom and my intellect (sort of - I didn't exactly write a lot while we were together), but little else. Certainly not my needs, desires or wants.

Some people will use a push-over, but no one respects him. And Laura actually said as much (if not quite in such clear terms) on more than one occasion. She wanted me to tell her to clearn up, to come home; she wanted me to make her respect her by being a man she could respect. And I wasn't that man for her. Instead, I let everything go by, forgave every transgression if only she would promise to "try" better next time.

Practically - by my actions - my message was simply that she could do what she wanted, when she wanted, and that I would still love her.

Craziness.

If something is important to you, you do something about it, or no outside observer will believe it really is important to you.

For a smart boy, I seem to really need to be beat over the head with some basic human psychology. Well, I suppose I'm better-prepared for next time.
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To say this past summer did not turn out as I'd hoped would be a personal understatement much like saying George II's 2003 declaration that major military operations in Iraq were at an end was just a tad, er, premature.

Getting over Laura has been no easy journey. Yet, marked as it has been by too many pints, far too many cigarettes and less solid food than is probably good for my long-term survival prospects (though I have lost close to 20 pounds over the last 2 months, and that pleases me quite a lot), I think I am not ejaculating prematurely in declaring the mission is mostly accomplished. Some mopping up remains to be done, but I believe I am now facing the reality that was. Self-indulgent personal stuff ahead; click at your own risk )
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I'd like to think this entry will be incisive and infinitely fascinating to you folks, but that doesn't seem likely - feel free (as though you wouldn't in any case) to just pass on by to the next entry on your friends' list.

I spent Friday at Toronto's beer fest with someone who I suspect does not want me to discuss her doings here, so I will not name names. Suffice it to say, much beer was imbibed and a little necking took place. Which I liked quite a lot, until she dug her teeth into my lip and wouldn't let go until I slapped her (not too hard, but meaningfully). Sadly, I fear we will have to be "just friends", as having pain inflicted upon me only makes me angry. It's true: I can dish it out, but I can't take it. And such are the sometimes frustrating ways of human sexuality.

Nevertheless, I had a lovely time and only got a little sun-burned. My only regret was when they herded us out, I lost track of my companions and was too drunk to lunk for them. Somehow, though, I made it home in one piece.

* * *


Laura's stereo, along with a milk-crate and a some odds-and-ends are still at my apartment. I've told her I will put them out in the hall if she doesn't pick them up by tomorrow, but I will probably prove myself a liar. Her remaining things don't take up a significant amount of space and I suppose I can just use her stereo until she (finally) manages to get it together to pick her things up.

She was supposed to come for them yesterday, but her ride fell through. She then emailed me to ask whether I'd like to join her for a pint, as she was going to be in the area. I declined, asking if she would manage to pick up her things tomorrow (today), then - perhaps to my discredit - sarcastically suggested it was unlikely, as I presumed being in my area meant partying at an after-hours club until 6:00 in the morning.

She told me I didn't need to be "such an asshole" and insisted she would come by around one this afternoon. As of 3:32, I haven't heard a peep; were we still together I would be worried, but as it is, well, I am not surprised.

That she still wants to hang out with me and, for that matter, to sleep with me, is flattering in one way, but insulting in another (and baffling in both ways). For at least 6 months, she was lying to me, cheating on me and (therefore) using me. Yet she doesn't seem to appreciate the fact I can't simply shrug my shoulders and take her back into my life (on whatever level). I don't know whether it is a lack of respect for me, or a simple lack of empathy, which prevents her from understanding that she wronged me and that I can't forgive her without some significant sign that she has changed.

And, constantly standing me up when it comes to getting her things doesn't suggest she's changed at all.

Ah well - life does go on, happily.

* * *


In order to actually dosomething about my intentions to not fall into a funk, I've signed up to, or reactivated, accounts at a number of online dating sites (not craigslist yet, but soon; maybe tonight). I've found some new chat-buddies, but have not yet had any actual dates. But it's early days and I'm enjoying myself with possibilities in any event.

(Meanwhile, I am shocked - shocked! - that - with one exception - none of you single, local women on my friends' list have seen fit to contact me with the possibility of carnal activity in mind. There's an email address on my profile, people! Feel free to use it - even if you don't think we're likely to experience that rare chemistry, we might at least enjoy sharing a pitcher or two.)

* * *


And what else. Not a great deal, I suppose. The apartment is finally clean, I've cut the dreads out of Chet's fur, and I hope to post the second draft of my new story, "Shall We Walk" to urbis.com some time this evening (I'll post a link when it's done, for those of you who might be interested).

I suppose that's about it. I've read stuff, I've watched stuff, and I'm not in the mood to talk about any of it just now.

Time to go to work!
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It's over. On Tuesday night my heart was cast aside like an unwanted toy. And suddenly, much that had confounded and confused me was made clear; much that I had thought was my fault became more complex, and my own sense of culpability was much reduced, if not eliminated entirely.

In other words, Laura and I have broken up. It gives me some comfort to be able to say that I put the relationship out of its misery - in retrospect, I should have seen that the end was coming quite some time ago.

Without going into the gory - and no doubt very one-sided - details, I have spent the past few months in an increasingly-constant state of stress, quick to anger and - for the past 6 weeks or so - very often dreading to come home.

But I said I wasn't going to go into details. Suffice it to say that I felt ill-used and disrespected on a number of levels, increasingly cut out of Laura's life and - at the end - betrayed.

And so, on Tuesday night, I told her the relationship was over. She left on Wednesday, which day I spent in a self-medicated haze, watching 6(!) episodes of Battlestar Galactica (the best television science fiction it has been my pleasure to encounter - but that is probably a topic for another entry) and doing very little else. I neglected to even contact the office to let them know I wouldn't be coming in, but I seem to have been forgiven; people seem to understand that losing one's parner, with whom one had (however naively) hoped to spend the rest of one's life, is a higher-order trauma than, say, breaking up with one's girlfriend of 6 weeks.

Meanwhile, of course, life goes on. In my nerdly case, part of that means a return to blogging (along with, apparently, my capitulation in the face of that hideous neologism's unstoppable popularity). Looking back, I think my long (dear god! 3 months!) absence from these pages was due in large part to my deteriorating relationship.

Angry at Laura, hurt by Laura, frustrated with Laura, she was close to all I would have want to blog about. And yet, I was too confused about what was going on to know just what to say - not to mention that some things are simply nobody's business but hers and mine (and whoever we choose to confide in over drinks).

So. Yes. I am very sad and a little bitter. In time, I will better remember the many and intense joys Laura brought to my life than I will the painful finale. For now, though, the hurt, anger and disappointment have the emotional upper-hand.

And meanwhile, I am single again, and determined I will not repeat the mistake I allowed myself to fall into the last time I suddenly found myself dealing with the end of a relationship. Over the course of nearly 2 years, I had (if memory serves) 4 dates and got laid precisely once, after something like 18 months of celibacy. In other words, no wallowing in self-pity this time around, no giving in to depression.

I am self-aware enough to know I need some time before plunging into the risks of another serious relationship (though: never say, "Never," Young Geoffrey), but I won't play the hermit again. That means putting myself out there, on the internet and in life.

An unpleasant truth I have learned about myself recently, is that I too easily let people drift away from me, letting email sit for ages unanswered (another apology, Sean, and John) for unconscionable periods of time, almost never being the first to call, &cetera. More, I tend to dismiss people for what they are not, rather than appreciating them for what they are. I can too easily get impatient and - apparently - am sometimes rude and arrogant.

Not the sort of person I thought I was; not the sort of person I want to be. (With that consciously in mind, I went to a part recently, and quite to my surprised spent a good chunk of the evening enjoying the company of a man I had previously thought of as an idiotic bore. Change really is possible.)

Anyway, I digress.

I am heartbroken, but I am also relieved. The fact of a conclusion is infinitely superior to the stress of a drawn-out, painful coming-to-a-conclusion - especially when one doesn't realize what is going on is an ending in progress.

I will miss Laura, but we had reached a point where we were making each other unhappy and that isn't what I want to do to my partner, nor have done to me.

In other positive news, I am writing again - last week, i completed the first draft of a 7500 word story, to be re-written on the keyboard over the next few days. I will either submit it somewhere, or post it somewhere soon. If the latter, naturally, I'll let you know where to find it.

In yet other news, I "suddenly" find myself in possession of an extra ticket to the Peaches concert at the Kool Haus on Tuesday night. If any of you locals would like to accompany me, send an email to peaches@ed-rex.com. Sort of first-come, first served, but I reserve the right to discriminate based on whatever criteria I choose.

Finally, I am somewhat surprised that so few of you have dropped me from your friends' lists during my long silence. Thanks, and I'll definitely do my best to reward with more (and better) entertainment in the future. Special thanks to stolen-identity and to fadefromnothing for your kind words over on myspace.

I guess that's it. I'm back, I'm hurting, but life is a marvellous adventure and I'm far from through with it yet.

Oh, one more thing. Not only have I not been writing on livejournal, I haven't been reading it, either. I am not going to go back over 4 months' of journals, so if I pop up with a comment in yours with a question or comment that seems naive, forgive me, for I am out of the loop.
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In January or February of 2001, I angered my then girlfriend Darcy by snapping my fingers in a light-hearted effort to get her to follow me through a brief break in traffic on Bathurst Street. Darcy did not appreciate the gesture, considering it disrespectful and condescending at best. We walked in tense silence to a bar around the corner, where we were to meet up with Neil (her old friend and now her spouse) before heading on down to the Canstage theatre on Berkley Street.

Darcy had been staying with me for a couple of weeks in order to save a month's rent, as she was soon to be on her way to Stratford and a job in the costume department of the Festival there. As sometimes happens, living together had revealed that the cracks in our relationship were in fact yawning chasms. Even before this particular snit I was counting the hours until she was gone.



I had picked her up at her work, a second-floor factory just south of Bloor Street, in which she laboured making costumes for The Lion King. I had been in good spirits, but her grumpy silence ruined mine - that I found Neil a prattling bore (one of those guys who will tell you everything you didn't want to know about, say, making wine) only made matters worse.

The three of us shared an uncomfortable beer, then took the TTC for our ride south, during which we managed to get into a ridiculously heated argument about the merits of the life-size moose then infesting Toronto's streets as some sort of tourist draw (Darcy thought them charming, I thought they were silly - at best).

By the time we reached the Canstage theatre, we were barely speaking and I could think only of how much I wished she wouldn't be coming home with me.

But Ronnie Burkett's marvellous play, Happy, took me away from my failing relationship. Working with wooden marionnettes, Burkett play was a revelation to me, by turns touching, hilarious and deeply empathetic toward the human condition. And his mastery of his marionettes was quite simply amazing to me - who knew that solid wooden carvings could be so very expressive?



Two years ago, when Burkett's next play, Provenance, came to Canstage, I had just met Laura, but did not feel comfortable enough yet to invite her to join me at the theatre (a decision I've regretted - in a small way - ever since, but there's nothing to be done about it now). Provenance didn't hit me with quite the force that Happy had done, but I was not disappointed.

Well, Burkett has a new play in production, and this time I sure as hell was taking Laura.

And so it was we celebrated our 1st anniversary as co-habitants (yes, another anniversary; please remove your claws from my oh! so delicate back, Gentle Readers) on Friday night at the Canstage theatre.

In essence, 10 Days On Earth is a simple story, about Darrel, a middle-aged mentally retarded man who lives with his mother. She dies in her sleep and Darrel spends 10 days alone, unaware that she hasn't emerged from her room because she is no longer alive. Darrel carries on his routine - he works at a shoe-shine stand, hangs out with Lloyd, a homeless man who believes he is God, and spends time with his favourite book, a children's book about Honeydog and Little Burp, who are searching for a home.

As before, Burkett's performance - as a voice-actor and puppeteer - is sublime. As before, his story is delicate admixture of both the joy and the agony that accompanies existence. While I really felt for Darrel as the days went by, and he grew hungrier and more lonely, I did so not because he was pitiful in his childlike innocence and ignorance, but because he was a fully-realized character, one that I cared about in a way that only the best art can accomplish.

10 Days on Earth is a small gem, a subtle, personal drama that nevertheless explores the universal experiences of love and loss, of hope and joy.



Burkett's show is like nothing you've ever seen before, Gentle Readers. Those of you who are in Toronto, call Canstage and book tickets now, before the show hits the road. Those of you who live elsewhere, keep your ears and eyes open and hope that he brings his production to someplace near you, before it is "retired" like his early ones.

10 Days on Earth is unique and ephemeral. You owe it to yourself to experience it.
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Laura was out all night again on Saturday.

"Have a good time," I'd said when she left, "and call if you're going to be really late, will you?"

"I don't think I will be," she said as she kissed me goodbye. "I've got a lot of school-work to do tomorrow."

"Well ..." I pulled her back towards me and kissed her again, "feel free to wake me up in a good way, if you're in the mood."

She grinned and blew me a final kiss as she walked out the door.

Saturday night was quiet, but okay. I fucked around on the computer, mostly ignored the hockey game, and was tired enough that I was only a little disappointed when deweyintoronto called to say she'd fallen asleep on her couch and wouldn't be able to make it out for a beer.

I took to my own bed relatively early and slept reasonably well.

Morning, though, took my sang-froid and hurled it into the abyss.

The sun was up, but Laura wasn't in our bed.

I staggered up and inspected our quiet apartment.

Not here.

Elsewhere.

Fuck.

Like twin demons struggling for their satanic majesty's approval, worry and jealousy battled for neurotic supremacy within my emo heart.

Come 11:00 AM, hungry and strung-out on a nearly full pot of coffee, I donned outdoor apparel and cycled off to the Cadillac Lounge, my laptop, newspaper and various reading matter strapped to my back. A little writing, I thought, is what I chiefly need: breakfast and Steamwhistle besides, are very good indeed -

But (and, Gentle Readers, I know you've already guessed the ending), it turned out that Steamwhistle was not the help I hoped it would be.

Breakfast, newspaper, and four pints, found me three hours later, in a foul, self-pitying mood.

I wobbled home and, though Laura had returned, it was with pointless grief I greeted her.

"Why didn't you call?" I whined.

"Where were you?" I implored.

"What did you do?" I implied.

(The drama, folks, was all in my own head. To stop possible gossip: she'd gone dancing, come back to a friend's and gone to sleep. There was no betrayal, no hanky-panky, only the small sin of having forgotten to call. And truth be told, jealousy had long since won the upper hand in my paranoic mind.)

We stayed up a while, and talked, then watched most of The Big Lebowski until I found I had to turn in, drunker than when I'd arrived, guilt-ridden and knowing this sort of behaviour is exactly what - sooner or later - will drive from me that which I love most in this world, if I can't change myself. Controlling my feelings isn't an option. I have to learn to trust her in my heart - and to act on that trust - or I am going to fuck up the best thing that has ever happened to me.

* * *

Why am I telling you all this - friends, strangers and aquaintances alike? Laura and I have talked it out, and yet I am still compelled to type it, too.

I suppose as a reminder, to myself, that I must become more aware, that I must stop letting things pile up inside me like a billion feathers in a pillow-case. My habit of bursting is no good to me, no good to her and - god knows - it is no good to us.

(Incidentally, as I type this, I am feeling much better, so no need for comforting notes. If any of you have pragmatic advice, on the other hand ...)
ed_rex: (Default)
Proximal Causes


My spouse rolled home around 10:00 o'clock this past Sunday morning, her rope-burns on her neck, her pupils as dilated as a harvest moon just risen above the horizon, following a long night of debauchery, first at 5ive, then Darkrave, where she'd spent the wee hours tripping the light fantastic wearing not much more than rope and electric tape.

Dancing Queen


The previous evening, I had joined her at a party, during which - admittedly a little the worse for wear - she loudly informed all and sundry that my cooking is "mediocre", a statement that led me to a half-hour of one-syllable grunts and subsequent attempts to assuage my ego's bruises by taking advantage of her (slightly) more inebriated state on the way home, finding - indeed, leading her into - contradictions and confusion, then making merciless fun of same during the walk from Brock to Roncesvalles. I also proclaimed I would not be cooking or shopping for her any more (as I have been since she moved in), telling her to she would have to get her own food from now on. (I have since recanted, somewhat - from here on in I cook what I want; she's welcome to share if she so desires.)

Nevertheless, we fucked each other silly when we went to bed (I think - things are a little hazy nearly four days down the line) before we passed out and I thought I would deal wth the hurt without much difficulty.

Saturday morning, however, was not so kind as I had imagined it would be on Friday night.

I spent most of Saturday in yet another monosyllabic funk, not even bothering to eat until after Laura went out to party (though we did manage at least to share a half-hour of physical intimacy - "I don't want you going out dancing un-fucked," quoth I at my most romantic), at which point I gorged on the marvellous veal parmagiana as provided by Amico's, then spent a quiet evening distracting myself with hockey, deleting "favourites" from my myspace account and watching yet another SCTV DVD before passing into an uneasy sleep, vaguely hoping Laura would come in to awake me before I awoke myself.

As it turned out, the cats did it at around 6:00 (though I drowsed through Chet's amazingly persistent door-shaking routine for an hour or so before I roused myself for good.

Chet


I'd had some coffee (though no breakfast - again) and thought I was over my sulk when she came home. I was just happy to see her, or so I thought.

We talked briefly, then Laura found her way to bed, while I distracted myself with such domestic necessities as laundry (four loads, god help me). Around noon, she got a call to go in to work, which would have been okay (to me), had she not returned home around 7:00 - three or four hours later than I had thought she would. She'd been hanging out with some of her co-workers, but that knowledge didn't stop my neuroses from taking centre-stage.

Ultimate Cause


Truth is, my intellect and emotions don't always agree with each other. Worse - though I am a man who reacts extremely well in a crisis - I don't deal well with low-grade stress.

The stress? Domestic issues, power-imbalance and age-gap related issues (the latter added to by personality-driven differences as well). Of course, all three are inextricably intertwined with one another, so forgive any apparent contradictions.

For the domestic, we've got three major issues. First, our (psychologically: my) financial situation has become a disaster. Since Laura moved in, our expenses have grown a good deal faster than our income (despite my raise) and I was stupid enough - until recently - to think the credit card situation was under control. The past couple of months, we've had very little money after food and rent, which - while not third-world poverty, is still close enough to create tension.

Second, learning to live with another person in what had been my space. Laura, unfortunately, was not raised to do chores, nor to manage money - I have found myself in the unhappy situation of (a) earning a living, (b) doing most of the cooking and the cleaning and (c) doing what has seemed like a fuck of a lot of nagging.

I hate being a nag. The (in)actions that cause the nagging create stress, and the nagging itself causes more.

(Which is not to say this has been going on without change during the whole period of co-habitation. In fact, Laura has been working hard at becoming more domestic and I have (with arguably less success) been working equally hard at finding ways other than the playing a harpy to achieve equilibrium. But still - as my intellect acknowledges without much difficulty - the process of learning to mix and match each other's strengths and weaknesses is a slow and probably never-ending road.)

Meanwhile, Laura has been getting more and more involved in the BDSM "scene", meaning that she is off at semi-naked photo-shoots, partying more than late into the night in situations I don't much enjoy most of the time (and so, from which I am usually absent), and generally bringing to light feelings of jealousy that I had thought were well and truly buried.

(Don't get me wrong: We have agreed to be monogamous and I have no doubt she is holding to it. What I am talking about is how I feel, not what I think.)

Third, it seems to me Laura is going through some changes, inevitable at her age. Currently, she is getting involved in a scene in which I have little interest and, worse, one that is primarily focussed on sex and sexuality. Most guys who don't want to go out dancing every weekend worry that their girlfriend's skirt is too short; I worry that mine isn't wearing one at all, and that her nipples are covered by nothing but strips of plastic tape - and wonder at the bruises on her ass when she comes home.

So. Sunday night. Laura came home and I - more or less together, I thought - found myself listening to her talk about the fun she'd had Saturday, just dancing, dancing, dancing, by herself.

And we talked about another event this coming weekend. "I'm probably just going to want to dance by myself," she said.

I grunted, as all of the insecurities and ego-bruises I had thought were healed screamed that they were nothing of the sort. I nodded from time to time as she talked about the details of her weekend, of the people she'd talked to, the people at work, of how much fun she'd had at Darkrave. "Nobody tried to dance with me," she said, "like they knew I needed my space."

I grunted (again) and nodded and, otherwise silently, made my way to our room, threw on some clothes.

I kissed Laura's head and told her I needed to go out.

I was, frankly, close to tears - tired, a little stoned, a feeling ridiculously sorry for myself. More, I knew my feelings were extreme and I knew didn't want to talk about them until I thought them through. "I'm going to go out," I said. "I need to think things out a little."

But she was having none of it. "Tell me now," she said. "What's bothering you?"

And so I sat back down, boots already laced, and faced the inevitable.

Solutions?


More or less, I told her all I have told you, here. How I was feeling insecure; how I was feeling hurt; how I was feeling jealous.

And Laura (bless her - I think), responded first by saying, "I'm going to do things you don't like."

Not very fucking sensitive, I thought.

But of course, it was true. She will do things I don't like. And rightly so. In fact, in my brain of brains, I want her to do things (some things! Please don't buy a motorcycle, Laura!) I don't like. One of my biggest worries when I started out on this weird and wonderful relationship was the possibility that someone so much younger than I would look up to me in an unhealthy way, and so loose herself in me. As I have learned, this isn't something I need to worry about.

Which presents its own difficulties. They do say that the grass is always stronger at the next dealer's table, don't they?

I want Laura to be independent, but I also want her to (ahem - coincidentally) want what I want.

So, really, the solution to the only part of the three issues that isn't just learning to live together, is for me to accept her for who she is, and who she is becoming, and enjoy the fact she isn't clinging to my arm when I want some time to myself or breaking into my email and demanding to know who this Kai Hua person is (hi Kai! letter to come soon, I promise!).

The problem, then, is within myself. If I am unable to make an intellectual case against Laura going out dancing (whatever she's wearing, then it's up to me to deal with myself and stop giving her a hard time. It won't be easy, and I will (though I hope I'm wrong) give her trouble in the days ahead, I'm going to do my best to do what I think is best.

Emotions are important and emotions are true - but one allows them to rule one's life at risk of one's happiness and integrity. But I still hope she tires of the club scene sooner rather than later ...
ed_rex: (Default)
My period of sobriety lasted almost exactly half as long as scheduled.

In retrospect, my timing was lousy. Laura has been very busy, with school, with work, and with hanging out 'till all hours after working. I have found myself waiting up like some neurotic father while worry, jealousy and resentment played hideous, destructive tunes in my mind's ear.

Some of my complaints are legitimate, others much less so. There is the fact that I do the lion's share of the domestic chores around here; there is the fact that she has a tendency to say she'll be home at, say, 9:00 and then roll in at 1:00 in the morning.

But she is only 18 and she wasn't raised doing chores (our kids, if we ever have them, will be, by damn!). She is going to live in the moment more now than she will when she is 30, let alone 40. And we are, slowly, working out the balance around here.

Otherwise, I am not dealing as well as I'd hoped with the changes in her life and the resulting tensions those changes cause in me.

Anyway. Friday afternoon found me on a bench outside work. Laura was supposed to pick me up at 5:00. She arrived - running - at about 5:55. I was puffing what I intended to be my final cigarette, determined to ride off into the incoming evening without leaving a forwarding address (can we say "passive-aggressive", boys and girls?).

But she did arrive, properly apologetic (meaning: sorry, but not grovelling; these things happen) and patient with me as I grunted a greeting and proffered a perfunctory hug and kiss. We had planned on going to a movie (actually, don't click the link; it's one of the slowest, most annoying sites I've seen in years), but we clearly weren't going to make the 7:00 o'clock show.

"What do you want to do?"

"I dunno."

"Are you hungry? Where do you want to eat?"

"I dunno."

"We'll eat, then go to the 9:00 o'clock showing."

"Ugh. Maybe."

And fucking cetera. Yes, I was sulking, an ugly trait I can't seem to shake.

She did drag me out for a meal. And, in my over-tired (no, not drinking has not done anything for my recent insomnia), over-stressed state, I decided - fuck it! - and ordered the best reasonably-priced brew on tap at the Bishop and the Belcher - Alexander Keith's, which - let's face it - is only a decent brew when compared to Ex or Canadian. But I digress.

So, yes, I broke my fast a week early.

But strangely, I don't regret it. The alcohol did its job and helped loosen me up, to the point where I (I think - I hope!) was able to calmly lay out the reasons for my stress, ask for certain changes from Laura, and, mostly, get it out of my system. The situations are new to both of us, and both of us will have to adapt, compromise and work out ways to share one another's lives without one of us suffocating the other.

By the time we left I was in reasonable spirits - though still exhausted (Thursday night saw me get five and a half hours of sleep, possibly a record for the week).

And so we saw The Aristocrats, a documentary about an apparently ubiquitous joke in the world of comedians.

In a nutshell, it goes like this (and no, I'm not giving anything away):

Guys goes into a talent agent's office, says, "You've got to see this act! It's amazing!"

Agent says, "Yeah? Tell me about it."

"Well, it's a family act - father, mother, two kids and a dog..."

The guy then proceeds to describe the filthiest, most perverted and disgusting "act" any particular comedian can come up with - incest, foecal matter, vomit, are all common themes, the longer, more grotesque and elaborate the better.

The agent is not impressed, but still morbidly curious. "Geez, that's really quite an act. What are they called, anyway?"

"The Aristocrats!"


So. Yes. It's a documentary, featuring comedians ranging from Phyllys Diller to Bob Saget to South Park's Cartman, telling what might be the dirtiest joke in the world. And there were times when I was literally having a hard time catching my breath, when tears rolled down my cheeks.

Highly recommended.

And meanwhile, Laura went out to a party last night and I was, happily, utterly comfortable with the fact she was going without me (in fact, I'd said no). I finished my review of Quicksilver, ate some Chinese food and read Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again, only four years late. (It's not bad; but I fear superheroes are no longer something I can take seriously, no matter how well done.)

That's it. Pointless meandering over for the moment.
ed_rex: (Default)
Intervention or, Have You Stopped Beating Your Wife?)

"Are you a pedophile?" Laura asked me, her round brown eyes poring into my grey-greens like X-rays.

Are you a pedophile? is probably the most uncomfortable question to ask of a 40 year-old man who is living with his 18 year-old girlfriend. Certainly, it is the most uncomfortable question I have ever been asked by my 18 year-old girlfriend.

I was momentarily silent, while Laura watched me close, and as I contemplated an answer. To simply say, "Well no, I'm not," seemed less than adequate.

We were seated at a patio on the north side of Bloor Street, somewhere between Dufferin and Ossington, not far from where I lived until some 7 years ago, during which time I had my last affairs with a woman my age and another, with one 8 years my senior. Since then, I have been alone or involved with women significantly younger, though none reached the 22 years that separate Laura and myself.

We weren't supposed to be there, but Laura had had a very bad day and needed a drink. No details – those are for Laura to to tell (or not). Suffice it to say that, on pretext of meeting her father Thursday afternoon, she was instead confronted by Mom, Dad and her nearest sister, 25 year-old Natasha.

I have met Dad a number of times and liked him as much as one can a man with whom one shares only love for his daughter. He seemed to understand that in Laura he has sired a most remarkable person and, due to that, I felt a kinship.

I’ve shared meals at his former home, dined him at my own and rented a car to drive him to visit one of his sons outside of Peterborough only this past Father’s Day.

Natasha, who, upon learning of my existence and of my place in her life, had declared a desire that she see me “beaten to a bloody pulp”, had lately seemed to have changed her mind. A couple of weeks back, we were both invited to a party at ‘Tasha’s and she treated me only as Laura’s boyfriend, not a monster.

Mom I’ve seen, but never met. Last winter, Mom and I both attended a performance by Laura’s drama class and Laura had made it clear I must be invisible to the Old Lady. She was not likely to approve of Laura’s choice in men.

Recently, another sister spilled the beans and Mom had proclaimed me an Evil Pedophile and made it clear to Laura that she must make a choice between Family and Monster.

I and – I think – Laura had thought Laura’s rejection of the ultimatum was it, at least for the time being.

I had been more than a little impressed by Laura’s phlegmatic acceptance that her mother had closed the door on her.

But on Thursday afternoon, it opened again. Instead of only her father, it disgorged not only her father, but her mother and sister Natasha as well, an angry (and concerned) triumvirate speaking with a single voice.

The four of them went to a park, not far from Mom’s home. (“I should have known something was up,” Laura said later.)

“It was an intervention,” she said, such as people are known to do for drug addicts and alcoholics.

Come home!

We’ll put you through university!

Geoff is a pedophile!

Geoff is taking advantage of you!


And ...

If you stay with him, you’re no longer one of the family.


After an hour or so of “discussion”, Laura simply walked off. It was clear that nothing she said was heard, let alone listened to.

She met me right at our appointed time at Dufferin Grove Park, where we had planned to explore the organic farmer’s market at Dufferin Grove Park.

She briefed me, briefly, on her day and neither of us felt much like shopping.

Laura needed a drink and I was more than willing to join her.

And so we found ourselves, pints in hand, eyes locked on one another’s.

Are you a pedophile?” she asked me.

She was 17, I 39, when we met, the same gap between us when we first shared my bed, now nearly a year and a half ago. My two previous girlfriends are both still a few years shy of 30. It’s been a decade since I’ve been involved with someone my own age, let alone older.

There can be no denying that I tend to be attracted to women younger than I am.

Am I a pedophile?

“No,” I said, “I’m not.”

Laura waited for more. I didn’t believe she thought that I was, but it was a question she needed to ask. She needed more evidence than a mere denial could provide.

We met (of course) over the internet. “Did I lie to you about my age? Did I tell you that I am anything that I’m not?”

Laura shook her head. “I told them you didn’t,” she said, and I let flow a massive breath I hadn’t even known I was holding.

We were silent for a while, hands intertwined, thoughts perhaps not so close together. My mind was a chaos of relief, of self-doubt, of concern.

Laura’s? I can only guess.

Disowned by family, from anyone else I would have expected tears, or roaring rage,

Instead came a question. “Do you think I made the right decision?”

I was silent for a while. How could I even pretend an honest answer?

But she wanted one, and I did the best I could.

“I think so,” I said. “But take my words with a pound of salt – I am far from a disinterested party in this.”

“I know,” said Laura.

“Tossing aside my prejudice as best I can, I think you’re dealing with blackmail, no matter that the motives spring from love and concern.

“I think that going back home would be to walk into a trap – would be trade your freedom as a human being for the slave’s comfort of childhood.

“You can leave me any time you want.”

“What would you say if I agreed to try it? To move into my mother’s, maybe for a while ...?”

I nearly swallowed my cigarette, but tried hard to stay cool.

Laura’s mother is wealthy, I am not; I can offer her love, subsistence and the promise that we will deal with post-secondary education when the time comes. Mom has on her side a big house, free room, board and tuition, and probably a car in the very near future.

I am short, balding and more than old enough to be Laura’s father. My dreams of artistic wealth and fame are not far removed from those I harbored when I was Laura’s age.

For a moment – for two moments – I wondered, Why wouldn’t she choose comfort over risk?

Maybe she sensed my panic; maybe we actually are as sympatico as it so often seems.

She squeezed my hand. “I’m not going to do it,” she said, and squeezed me again. “I’m not.”

And mostly, though in part I wanted to dig deeper into her psyche – where were her tears, where the anger? - for the most part we spoke of other things through the rest of the evening. The Harry Potter books, our failed attempt to quit smoking, our near-disastrous financial situation, the problematic division of house-hold labour.

I don’t understand Laura’s ability to be so calm in the face of what would cause in most of us an emotional crisis (at best), but I am both grateful – because that is what I want – and proud of her – because her choice is the hard one, the “road less travelled” - that she has taken the decision she has.

From some perspectives, our life isn’t easy. Our financial straights are not dire, but neither are they easy. We live in a one-bedroom apartment and she is used to the ease of spacious homes. We both want a balcony and a yard for our cats. Paying for her post-secondary education promises to be difficult. And we are both too easily put off to tomorrow, what should concern us today.

But she has chosen the rocky path and I am (more than) glad she has done so, because I have, too.

We’ll work it out (or not – forever is a very long time). And meanwhile, we will share that mysterious whatever-it-is that we have, and live our lives today, thinking of tomorrow, remembering yesterday, and refusing the bondage of what-might-have-been.

April 2017

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