Geneva: Muséum d’histoire naturelle

Geneva My brother and I sneak quietly into the room above the garage. There is a bat hiding on a pipe just below the ceiling. We poke it with a hockey stick and then run shrieking through the house. A neighbour comes in to deal with the bat. We expect him to kill it so we are shocked when he comes walking down the stairs with the bat stretched between his two hands. The bat is released in our backyard.

I love the dead birds. I love them all the more because they are dusty with neglect.

We scour the shore for fossils and sand dollars. We must hug the cliffs that drop sharply into the sea. We realize with some panic that the tide has been coming in and that our journey back will be much more hazardous. He exchanges the sand dollars for a mounted, preserved piranha.

Aida grows up at the mouth of the Amazon where she swims with piranhas and pink dolphins.

Geneva: John Knox Center

Geneva I am lying on a simple bed in a concrete cell listening to Voice of America on my small transistor radio.

I am lying on the lower bunk in a concrete cell behind iron bars. I pretend to be asleep when two men walk in. I listen as one of the men curses me for taking his bunk.

I am lying on a simple bed in the gymnasium. The young man darts in and is frozen in disbelief when he sees me reading Jane Eyre.

Back home in Ontario the sale of beer and alcohol is tightly controled by the provincial government. It seems both futuristic and hedonistic that at the John Knox Centre I can simply walk down the hall and get a can of beer from a vending machine.

At the vending machine I meet a man from Suriname. He asks me if I know where that is. I am ashamed to say I do not.

Geneva: Rue des Magnolias

Geneva I am walking past the cows in Chambésy when I encounter an elderly Swiss woman. She engages me in conversation and is very patient with my struggles to express myself in French. She says “Mon mari est au ciel.”

Faced with a danger that poses a risk to myself and everyone else in the van, I am unable to act. One of my colleagues urges me to keep talking to the driver, to keep his mind engaged. Then, exasperated, she takes control of the situation, displacing me and ensuring safety and survival for all of us.

I wash my laundry in the bathtub and then use a portable drying rack to dry the clothes outdoors. The owner of the house, who I’ve never met, not only moves the rack out of sight but ties it down to prevent me from moving it again. My laundry will not be seen by those passing by on rue des Magnolias, nor will it be seen by the sun.

Chris has a deeply spiritual relationship with music. He tells me that he has listened to John Coltrane for years but only recently understood what Coltrane was about. Now he listens to Coltrane as if for the first time.

Geneva: Bar du Nord

Geneva My friend Brenda comes across her husband’s journal and finds documented there details of his infidelity. When she confronts him he claims it was merely an exercise in creative writing. She believes him until it becomes impossible to deny the truth; then she forgives him.

Under his black linen jacket Tom is wearing a white t-shirt with a photo of Dennis Hopper. Gerome, the bartender at Bar du Nord, bonds with Tom over their shared enthusiasm for Dennis Hopper. Gerome recommends a fifteen-year-old Laphroaig. That’s when things begin to go in the wrong direction.

Tom and Colleen have been busy preparing for the move into their new house. On the eve of their move Colleen tells Tom that she is moving alone. Tom moves back to his mother’s house, weaker and more vulnerable.

I have a bad habit of sensing that it’s time to leave and then just leaving. That’s what I do this evening; however, I take a wrong turn somewhere and end up in France.

Geneva: Le Lyrique

Geneva Maria is Italian. Her husband, Peter, is Scottish. They met in Russia but now live in Grand Saconnex. Their two young daughters converse fluidly in Italian, English, Russian and French, slipping from one language to another often in mid-sentence. Excited to have a guest in the house, the younger daughter jabbers at me incessantly until Maria tells her to leave poor Wayne alone. The little girl looks at me and says “Povera Wayne!” I am entrusted with their home while they are away with my only responsibility being to water Maria’s plants. Maria never speaks to me again after returning home to find her plants desiccated.

Peter takes soil from Maria’s pots and uses it to create the Golem. I travel with the Golem and he keeps me in a constant state of confusion. At times he is a victim; at times he is a villain; often he is both.

Geneva: Petit Saconnex

Geneva Leaving our bikes outside Halili and I seek respite from the heat among the cool, dark, stone walls of the monastery. She has brought a mango which she shares with me. The sticky, fleshy fruit is very sensual. Halili refers to the experience as the fall of mango.

We have just heard that Saddam Hussein has invaded Kuwait. We are all shocked and terrified, fearing the worst. Is this the beginning of World War III? What path will the escalation take? Somehow being in Europe it feels more immediate. In North America there seems to be a greater detachment. How many there even know where Kuwait is? Global conflicts have been waged on European soil within human memory; the same cannot be said about North America. There is a buffer of abstraction, a belief that the garden is safe and secure.

Geneva: Stade des Charmilles

Geneva Tom used to spend every Saturday morning nursing his hangover while watching English football. Now he no longer drinks and he prefers watching American baseball because he doesn’t care about it. English football was too emotionally demanding.

Chris said he almost married his cousin who is a famous Canadian author and television personality. It’s not clear to me whether he knows that she is a lesbian.

There are special athletes who can survey three dimensions in a glance and understand what is happening. There are rare athletes who can add the dimension of time. They understand not only what is happening but what is about to happen. They can pass the ball to the future.