by Philip Quinn
I learned to squat, chewing betel nut leaves and squirting blood red haikus in the dust, slowly the pen becoming smaller and smaller until it perfected the art of dreaming.
Let them linger like a crowd celebrating a winning team, reluctant to leave the stadium because the glory fades too quickly. They’re still here in these same houses, talking the same words and making comments on the same old news. We’re just superimposed over them, can feel them, only a thin layer of skin and bucketfuls of blood separate us and soon everything will be very dry and quiet again.
I look for remnants in the air, impressions that our bodies have made, finding nothing, everything so perfectly absent as the syphilitic dealer shuffles the deck, fragile, termite-ridden and ready to collapse at the first hint of a real wind. Again, we press ahead, hoping that if we write our names in the poured cement of the new sidewalk, we might last the decade.
I find myself on Bay Street another piece of detritus blown here by a nasty wind and the desire to make money; miniature tornadoes of leaves and papers form and suck on the cuffs of my pants. I brush away the layoff notice from a bankrupt law firm and the pink ribbon from a charity marathon. The young woman walking next to me is a stranger but I enjoy the play of light in her long brown hair, the wind tossing it about so it sparkles.
My height of six feet, seven inches meant I towered over the surrounding crowd but as the wind blew through that canyon of sky scraper buildings I took it face first, the grit stinging, the wind itself like sand paper shearing across my eyes forming a moisture that rolled down my cheeks.
Elemental this wind, reducing me to its vanishing point.
Next to a condo tower, I grab the hand of the nearest female. She’s my wife issued to me at the last rest stop, though she wears no ring.
I notice how much the wind has already stolen, creating wrinkles around her mouth and a dimming light in her washed-out grey eyes, and of course there’s my own sorry state as the wind’s pressure makes my lips feel guppy-like.
“You know how much you mean to me, don’t you?”
“What?” She pulls her hand away. “You haven’t been fired again?”
“No, of course not.”
“I love you.”
“At this point in my life, that’s not good enough.”
Granules of sand from Sugar Beach sting my eyes, and I try to wipe them away. I remember sitting with her in that red Chevette hatchback decades ago and how messed up I became in the rather complicated structure of a teenage girl’s bra.
She wipes her own tears away. “That thing with Albert wasn’t serious; only a few blow jobs, no penetration.” I spot two of our so-called friends and further off in the distance our neighbours and work colleagues, their children trying to keep up but falling further behind, the environmental poisons having withered and contorted their limbs.
Each time I stand on a fallen over mail or newspaper box to see further ahead, the wind punches my face, causing me to wipe the blood away with a dirty paper napkin.
“Aren’t you hungry yet?” It’s my wife tugging on the bottom of my tattered Armani suit jacket. She’s chewing on a raw carrot, her eyes mischievous and sexy like that first time I spotted her in the hallway of our high school, dressed up as a vamp for Halloween, a purple feather boa around her neck.
She holds out what remains of the carrot but the wind slaps it out of her hand.
“Christ.” She brushes off the gravel coating it before offering it to me again.
“I’m not really hungry…besides… I feel like there’s a hot metallic band wrapped around my brain.”
“That’s just an illusion.”
“And the wind?”
“Don’t think of it in negative terms.”
“I won’t if that somehow suits your purpose.”
“What…I can’t hear you.”
“Never mind. It’s not that important.”
I had left so much behind: my silver pocketknife with its fingernail clipper, my appreciation of Japanese sports cars and my openness to the next generation of anti-depressants.
The wind drives gravel and bits of plastic into the exposed skin on my hands and face as if I’m a piece of wood receiving nails.
I wake up, a tornado ripping the roof off my house. I sit in my heaviest chair, afraid of wind and women. UG
Philip Quinn lives in Toronto and online at www.philipquinn.ca.
Dis Location, Stories After the Flood (Gutter Press 2000)
The Double, a novel. (Gutter Press 2003)
The SubWay (BookThug 2008)
The Skeleton Dance, a novel (Anvil Press 2009)