Toronto: Amsterdam Brewhouse

toronto We are drinking Chartreuse by the tumbler at her kitchen table. Carlos comes in and puts his arms around her. I read this as a gesture meant to assert his role.

She comes home late and drunk. She says she unexpectedly ran into Carlos. They went for drinks. During the course of the evening she realized that she still loves him. After she goes to bed I quietly pack a bag and leave.

“It’s more cardio based, no?”
“No, it’s more core based.”

She has never tried Chartreuse so we order some from the bar. Carlos is at home looking after Ben.

I have just returned from Geneva and I have Swiss chocolates for my co-workers. I go to the office on Sunday to distribute the chocolates. The Executive Director’s door is closed. I decide to open the door and leave a chocolate on her desk but when I open the door I startle her. She rises awkwardly from the floor.

Toronto: Lee’s Palace

toronto If the two verses of a song are devotion and action, knowledge is its chorus.

Lee’s Palace is dimly lit by multi-coloured orbs that hang from the ceiling. He walks across the floor to speak to me. “My name is Greg. Are you here for the break dance competition?”

This multicultural pop group is beloved by children. It is headed by a man who doesn’t know sex without violence.

Her kitten disappears into the country night. She tries to disappear into the country night but her daughter apprehends her. In a desperate gesture of resistance she bites her daughter.

In his younger years he finds solace watching old men play lawn bowling on the immaculate green. Now an old man himself he finds pain and confusion at every turn.

“This has another ending full of innocent children”

London: Beaver Lumber

london Miras advises me to shave my beard. He says it’s not worth losing my job over. He tells me the parable of the oak and the willow in which the oak tries to resist the wind while the willow survives longer by bending to the pressure. I seem to be creating a political divide among the staff. Every day when I show up for my shift I receive praise from some and condemnation from others. I eventually lose my job when Mr. Brown tells me not to return to work unless I have shaved.

I agree to go for a ride in Larry’s car. When we are on a country road north of the city Larry puts his hand on my thigh.

He looks at me with hopeful anticipation as he names one person after another. While some names seem to tickle the fringes of my memory I am unable to recall anything concrete about any of these people.

London: Richmond Hotel

london He advances the carousel to the next slide. Donald Judd or Lawrence Weiner or Joseph Beuys. He asks “What’s that about then?” He leans back in his chair, his hands behind his head, and he waits.

“I like that Steve Harvey guy. I spend about an hour a day watching Family Feud.”

We meet at the Richmond Hotel for a farewell drink before I move to Ottawa. He says “I have two things to tell you. One is that I am gay. The other is that I’ve been attracted to you for years.”
We talk about William Morris.

I answer the phone and the first thing he says is “What were you doing just now?”
I say “I was working on our database of community service organizations.”
“No, I mean specifically what were you doing?”
“I was cleaning up some data errors.”
“No, I mean the moment the phone rang, what exactly were you doing?”
“I was correcting a postal code.”

He walks into my room and kneels in the middle of the floor. “Can I get into bed with you?” he asks.

London: Clarke Road Secondary School

london I hear footsteps approaching from behind me as I cross the field. Just when I expect the person to pass by me a t-shirt is thrown over my head and pulled tight at my throat. The man orders me to move into the woods. After minimal resistance his hands leave my throat. I immediately double over as I fear he is going for a knife with which to stab me. Then I hear his footsteps racing away. Acting on irrational instinct I begin to chase him as if to finish whatever narrative he has begun. Then I realize I have no desire to catch him.

When they assault Jim he collapses on the ground like a rag doll, a defensive strategy meant to minimize the sadistic pleasure of the confrontation. Chris begins kicking Jim in the ribs. I step up and say “okay, that’s enough.” Chris seems surprised that I am there and then more surprised when he recognizes me. “Yes,” I say. “Your mom goes to my dad’s church.” Chris, feeling exposed, leads his posse away.

She visits me when I am shirtless, nursing a bad sunburn across my chest. I visit her in the hospital following her drug overdose.

London: Malibu

london “Justin Trudeau is at the airport hugging and kissing refugees, giving them jackets. My people can’t even drink the water. Put that bald guy in charge. I forget his name. The exchange. Some show like that. Look at our cabinet. We’ve got four turbans. What’s that about? We’ve got the best country in the world and we’re giving it away.”

After a long evening spent with the Romantic poets or conceptual artists we’re eager to compare notes. Bottomless cups of coffee and sugary danish pastries fuel us into the wee hours of the morning. Art and consciousness, religion and poetry, love and sex. We end up in his orange VW Bug in my driveway wringing the last drops of insight from the day.

Accosting her in the hall like a drive-by shooting. Phoning her from my parents kitchen like a pre-internet virus. The three girls titter in the hallway while my brother and I sing in the basement. How unsettling to look across the dark street and see the socially awkward young man standing in the doorway of the Tai Hu, staring back.

London: Lord Nelson Public School

london We hatch a plan to sneak out into the night. He leaves a note on his bedroom window. I sleep through the night and the note is found by his father the next day.

I’m looking into his backyard. The duplex is dwarfed by the enormous satellite dish. We hide packs of Rothman’s in his basement. We lift weights. He steals Drambuie from his father’s cupboard. “How’s it going, Norville?” I gaze up at the doorbell as if I expect to see him sitting there.

Tom is waiting for the fight to begin. Steve charges through the crowd, leaps in the air, and brings his elbow down on Tom’s head. Tom drops to his knees in tears.

They call him Rabbit because he gets hopping mad. We play endless hours of football, running routes past invisible defenders, even in the dead of winter, even at night under the streetlight.

Colleen leaves him. His father dies. He is drinking too much. He calls me one night, clearly drunk. “I need you, man.” Awkwardly I say “I’m always there for you.” But, of course, I’m not.