the year of living.

februarie 2, 2012

WHAT THE LIVING DO
by Marie Howe

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss–we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living. I remember you.


chinese new year

ianuarie 23, 2012

or: „a crazy person with a pink paint can at midnight”
i tried to catch up on sleep time today, so i woke up all woozy from a nap around 10 pm. i go to the kitchen and melanie says, it’s chinese new year! the dragon is coming! we should celebrate! and she gets more and more into it: but this place is a mess! our entrance is all blocked, that’s bad luck! we should sweep and mop and take our shoes from there! we should put something red on this wall, for good luck and money etc. to which i’m like ok, i have some balloons! so i start blowing up balloons. melanie mops the hallway, i sweep, then she brings out the can of red paint we’d had left from painting in summer. ha! she mixes it with white, so the result is a…peachy pinkish smth. i’m sure it has a name. the initial idea was to do red stripes on our entrance walls, like columns…in the end, by midnight, we have two thick pink stripes, and assorted balloons. i think the dragon came, took a look, and started tearing his hair out. good times all around.


the emotional planner: chasing a good vibe

ianuarie 2, 2012

i need structure to function, even if i understand moods. i think it’s BECAUSE i understand moods. plans are my safety net, and this shows again and again in my daily schedule, on holidays, and in writing. i am convinced that i’d collapse into chaos otherwise and i’d simply give up on doing anything, so i need to know what goes where, because i always anticipate and fear disruption. cue the following things about me that you may have noticed:
– seasonal depression (easier when i know it will be there)
– memory re: birthdays and other days
– getting mad as hell when making plans with someone and then they drop it. i never drop plans. ever. so it just feels unfair and leaves me hopeless.
and i mean at this point it’s not a problem of myself changing in order to become happier. it’s just one of making myself understood quicker/functionally.

anyway:
so it is important to me how i finish/start a year, because i am a firm believer in all that crap: even years SHOULD be good for me AND it’s the-year-of-the-dragon (good!), BUT i also need to: not be alone/feel hopeful and jolly/have a story about it.
i humbly acknowledge that these things can’t exactly be planned, and therein resides their beautiful madness. i can say that i’ll be at X party with persons Y,Z,W…but i have no idea how the night will go and what tiny signs might be sent for me etc. (did i know that a dog would bite me first day of ’05? that i’d cry disgracefully over NOTHING at a friend’s party in ’09, surrounded by friends? ugh rhetorical.)

what happened this year was this:
– i was supposed to go to somebody’s place and i was dropped 2 days before due to change of plans. annoyance. so i got stuck 🙂 with my roomie, i.e. she got stuck with me.
– we had a possible other invitation, but we decided to go out on our own and check out parties.
– dress up as ourselves! epically, cartoonishly ourselves. i had braids, pompom hat and fuchsia pleated skirt. we had wine and a jar in my turquoise bag.
– (getting on the bus with the jar-of-wine in hand, and a guy standing by the driver thanks us for using public transport tonight! 🙂 )
– st-laurent mainline theatre: slowdancing night. we arrived there right around midnight, got our champagne and the last dance card (dance card!!!) and were talking on the sofa when we realized that midnight had come and gone. I LOVED IT! the first year i can remember without countdowns and hysterical cracker bombs, where the passage was harmonious and no fuss, it just made sense.
– then we danced. i danced with my roommate, with two girls in boy suits, with a boy in an evening gown, with a series of other boys, one of which was a dancer. we knew the lyrics to some of the songs, some others i heard for the first time. it felt good and very montreal. i felt my body protest, my joints ache (old lady) and i did pirouettes to show off my skirt.
– then we walked home around 4 a.m, hungry and all. clearly it’s going to be a year for physical exercise…or something. texting. tarot. departures. more kind strangers.


and song of the season/year:

decembrie 20, 2011

i found this song in a ’11 retrospective playlist (of course) less than one week ago, and am still playing it obsessively. i am so excited every time i actually start giggling nervously at the ringtone (see/hear below). i even had a discussion session w my roomie to try and figure out why this particular song has gotten to me so strong and quick – i am ashamed a bit when this happens: with people, with stuff…she just says, well, it’s a good song with a good video…there are lesbians in it…and masks – of course you like it.
then this morning i got it: this song is literally (i still don’t have a lyrics transcription but they’re easy to hear. especially if you are bilingual) about depression/procrastination. it speaks to me clearly every morning as i gather myself up to get out of bed and at the same time collapse under theguilt of finding everything/anything too hard or senseless to do. it takes good rhythm to get through to my apathy, it takes a breezy sound. i liked that the first direct message was that of lust. i liked the french insert, and the rapping. but in the end what i get out of it is me telling myself „gonna bust it out/ gonna work it out”. the voice of a different me trying to get back to me, blah. i could write a 10 page paper about it but i think i’ve made my point.
two days ago, drinking red wine in bed and twirling my dirty hair, i had the same hazy realization I KNOW i’ve had before: that subconsciously i am aware that things are fine, which is why i’m allowing myself to liminally wallow in this light pool of despair. except when i try to grasp it, it slips away, so in my day to day from a point on i sigh, put one foot after the other out of bed and start doing my minimum. here:


new relevant information

iulie 30, 2011

To : Ministry of Immigration and Cultural Communities of Québec

Bonjour, Madame/Monsieur

In response to your email following my application for a Certificate of Selection by Québec, I do have a few new pieces of information concerning my current situation here as temporary resident. I hope they will contribute to a favourable view of my case.

1. My previous roommate left Canada and as such left me in full possesion of various pieces of furniture, kitchen implements, clothing items and a number of house plants, some of which might be said to have attained tree status (see attached photos).

2. My current roommate is designing me as `owner` of our live house pets (fish) – (photo attached)

3. As a new signer of a lease, I opened an account with Hydro Quebec, for which I had to pay 50$ (see copy of receipt).

4. I have entered a form of verbal agreement with the salesman in the shoe shop at Rachel corner St. Denis, that signifies my desire and intention to purchase a pair of black leather winter boots (value 200$, reduced from 350$) upon receiving my next paycheck (I wish I could attach a photo, or transcript of conversation, but, alas.).

As result of above mentioned events, I am becoming increasingly aware of the weight of responsibility I am taking on, as a caretaker for Québec-based live beings and as an investing participant in Québec economy.  I consider that my actions speak clearly of my awareness and acceptance of the high taxes and tough winters so specific to Québec – and, moreover, of a willingness to surround myself with the elements required by a steady, `settled` lifestyle here.  I hope your final decision goes in agreement with my current spendings.

As a sidenote, based on previous personal experiences and lessons learned thereby, I can also promise in all clear conscience to not date anglophones, or at least non-French speakers, ever again for as long as I live here  – consequently, my future children will be at least trilingual, with French their solid daily used second language.

Vive le Quebec!

Yours truly ___


and rain falls on us

iulie 22, 2011

it’s been crazy hot for probably one full week now. it doesn’t look too impressive when you just seew the official temperature – but when you factor in the humidity…oh boy. i’d say generally over 25 is already hard to bear („feels like” at least low 30s). today we had 34, feels like 45. just for the users of the other system: 34 is 93F, so there. i got a tan within 3 days, jusat from going to work in the morning (by metro and bus) and back in the afternoon, i.e. 15-20 minutes of exposure.

i’ve been sleeping little and at crazy times lately, partly the heat partly just painting tables/swapping lifestories/writing to the landlords with the roomie. last night culminated in me being woken up at 3 am by an animal (racoon? i guess) in the garbage below my window, and not being able to sleep again because of the heat. so today after my shift was done i simply collapsed…uh, almost. i can’t stand the AC, but even with just the fan on i feel i can’t breathe properly. a painful but necessary 2 hour nap. afterwards, around 10 pm, we were in the kitchen spraying ourselves with the water spritzer for the plants. drinking smoothies with big ice cubes. and then the rain started.

(off topic): last night i went with a friend to see the fireworks from the jacques cartier bridge. there are certain things that every self-respecting montrealais „should” do in the summertime – fireworks is one. others are maybe one jazz festival night, one „juste pour rire”, an ethnic festival on jean drapeau, la ronde, picnic in the park, going off to a lake, … so i was feeling righteous, i.e. look, i can cross this thing off my summer list.

and then this other thing happens that just explodes my list altogether. rain. summer rain in the dark, and no one to frown on us for going out to dance in it. a celebration. its own festival. we ran, in flip-flops and cotton dress, skirt and top, under the pouring relief. the anarchists across the street were out too, shirtless. our neighbour isabelle was on her balcony: she came and joined us just enough to get all wet, and for a happy hug. then we walked towards laurier, through the ruelles. occasional people cheering from their balconies. it was so cheerful and liberating and the most natural thing in the world. then the rain stopped all of a sudden, and now it’s almost as hot as before.


the blue room poem

iulie 14, 2011

(for hélène and shiva)

 

i found the walls blue, stickered with long-stemmed

tulips; scrubbed the smell out with wet wipes, but the window

dust streaks stayed – ancient, unreachable. i brought

good faith, the bed with a broken board, the big chair. what i left

is gone in a van, under varnish, to pieces.

 

last spring, out of the taxi with two suitcases

and three boxes, i dreamt of permanence. now i know better.

or worse. it`s just seasonal heartbreak, perfumed

with sweat, lindens and earth after rain. tout va être correct.

along every street cabinets, chairs, soft worn sofas wait

to be rechosen. all these chance meetings.

 

i cross st joseph holding traffic, holding a writing desk

above my head. my new roomie finds an armoir coin Gilford

et Chabot, and guards it til enough passer-bys have stopped to help

push it home. for me. more plants, rug, plastic hangers, the cat

and the laptop`s unison purr. and suddenly here`s everything

again, even absences carried over, vivid-shimmery, dancing

like lights above treasures.


eastern nest

iulie 11, 2011

1. ‘eastern nest’

(eating sunflower seeds on the back balcony):

c: this is very eastern. why don’t canadians eat sunflower seeds?

m: we are very eastern, look in our fridge: balkan yogurt, russian jam, homemade armenian chicken…

[…rose water…]

c: i know! look at our house: crap all over the place, dripping pipes, bathroom ceiling falling in…

 

2.centipedes (because of the bathroom flooding, my no.1 fear was that we’d attract centipedes, since they love humidity. m. argues that one has to face their fears and get information on them)

m (on the phone with her friend): can you please call back in 5 minutes? my roommate and i are googling pictures of centipedes!

 

3. construction workers

3.1. m (wearing white bloomer-like shorts with a rose pattern): so i went to ask the workers for a hammer. i hope i didn`t look like those ditzy girls you know, ‘sorry guys, can i have a hammer pleeeease?’

c: were you wearing pants?

m: oops. oh my god.

 

3. 2. construction worker, looking at the dripping pipe in our kitchen – all of a sudden: t’as tu déjà fait l`amour à un voyou?

c: (bursts out laughing)

c: is this for real?

m (sitting at kitchen table): oh, you understood what he said? i was like, oh god, i hope carmen doesn`t understand that.

construction worker: (grinning)

 

3.3. c: you know we`re gonna miss the workers when they`re gone.

m: yes, they keep us company with their noises, and make us feel safe. they`re like our eight big brothers…

m: …badass brothers!

 

4. fish (veiltail/fantail goldfish – melanie had one, freddie, and we just got a baby, sasha)

aquarium is covered with a blanket

c: why did you cover the aquarium?

m: to isolate them – they must be so stressed, with all the changes and the mess around here.

c: and you think they`re not freaking out when you lift the blanket all of a sudden and stare at them?

m: i was trying to just take a quick discreet look.

m: oooh, they`re socializing! they`re touching!

c: very nice – you put the light off and they immediately start touching.

m: maybe…yes, if they get together, they`ll lay eggs! so we`ll have caviar!!

m: but that wouldn`t be right, sasha is still a child!

 

5. chinese astrology (you do not even want to know!!)

c: wow, you know what i just thought? the fish`s chinese sign is the cat!

m: ow, cutie!

 

i really don’t know what to say. days are adventurous, full of paint (hopefully it`s over now) and of sunshine and what else? russian, and entertaining books and eating random stuff and talking a lot. it`s like holiday camp a bit, but we should get down to achieving stuff. i`m really relieved that i painted my room, 2 white walls and it completely changes the vibe to the place. i`m too excited to sleep early – or maybe this is what summer is supposed to be like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


more tiny things

martie 21, 2011

it’s my roommate’s birthday (this, on a saturday), she’s over at her boyfriend’s but i suspect she’ll be back at some point during the day. but i have to go out fairly quicklyyyy – i run to take a shower; the kitchen is a mess. the sun is crazy and just shows off the dust everywhere. i need to leave in 10 minutes, so i just take a piece of paper and i write her a happy-birthday letter…which, ok, tells her how great she is, but also includes „i know i should have probably cleaned the place instead”.

then i go out in my leather jacket, wearing sunglasses, and it’s glorious.

i go with my friend e. to the bookstore to ‘help’ him buy books, then we pass by the mall and go into M0851 (http://www.m0851.com/#/en) where i’d only been once before, but stepped out SO QUICKLY  because i could never afford those things. it’s easier when there’s someone else with me, especially someone who likes clothes. i try on a raincoat made of treated cotton (size 6!:) ) and it looks so gorgeous. 455$.

at the end of my nighshift i want to go in the backroom of the restaurant to pick up my boots and leave my work shoes. the door is closed, although nobody normally closes it, unless someone needs to take a nap in between shifts around 4-5 pm. it’s probably midnight now, so i laugh and push the door open. our cook mohammed is kneeling, in the dark, bowing and barefoot. i close the door back quickly and sit down – someone else in the entry room asks with a gesture what is going on. „he’s praying”, i smile very widely – i feel proud and touched to have stumbled upon that.

somebody calls me from england on sunday at noon. she’s not even a friend, she’s someone i knew briefly 6 years ago for like 10 days, and in a murky context. but no matter. we talked for like 45 mins about what we were doing, and it was ok. i mean the very fact of the phonecall happening was obliterating the content. it feels like somehow she made a rational/i.e. calculated decision to reconnect with people from her past – but i surprisingly don’t look at it cynically, i’m glad she called.

again:i’m having a coffee at the bookstore, flipping through magazines. a guy starts chatting me up, he looks late 30s, i would say arabic. OF COURSE  he tries to guess my nationality. after hockey, guessing natonalities is THE  sport in montreal. i’m not offended, but right there is where one kind of starts losing points with me. then i turn a bit more and i see the book on his table: flirting for dummies. i am not kidding you. i’m a good girl though, and stop myself from giving advice. everyone should figure it out for themselves.

there’s nothing out there, and everything out there. all these useless days will add up to something:)

 


…so what happened was…

martie 8, 2011

no, you’re not getting the break-up story here, sorry. it’s a one-on-one exclusive. i know it’s me – carmen (eyeroll) – so i’m supposed to be blabbing about the sacredest stuff, mais quand même! instead i can tell you about the funny things that happened after.

i am trying to get the things right this time. (and because of this, i’m sometimes remembering all the other times or non-times with rage. so many wasted years because of no closure.) it’s still incredible for me how guilty i feel of my own unhappiness, to the extent where i feel compelled to report it to the entire world. after 2 weeks, it reached facebook status status. so things can only calm down from here on.

but i did the right things, and the cliche things. i talked to friends who are chat/skype/phone-accessible, i asked for and received good advice. that helped, just being fascinated again by how complex relationship things are. i am still acting a bit detached, as if it’s an experiment in recovery.

i drank a bottle of wine alone in the dark one night, ate a whole icecream container another night (ah, while watching ‘american idol’, forgot to mention). the only thing i didn’t feel like doing much was buying stuff. or getting out of the house. which is also not entirely abnormal if you consider my paycheck or the weather lately. so the official version is that i’m…dealing with it.

now about this dealing: i just want to know when it’s going to be over. i want to make a list, a plan of action, to set deadlines. i mean that is what i did. i was so feverish and irritated the first 2-3 days after: waste of time, i kept mumbling to myself. this is what these days/weeks/months are.

they say i have to say hi to the cute guy at the bus stop. butt into someone’s peaceful reading at the library. attend social events. activate my network. yeah, when it feels alright to do that, i will. i don’t think i’m passing up opportunities that were designed for me. i don’t want to be desperate. i want to be ok on my own.

there was a suicide on the metro line last week – i wasn’t on the metro that hit the person, but my roommate was. she was pretty shaken. i was just annoyed about the metro being blocked, although when you hear „un accident sur la ligne orange cause une interruption de service” as opposed to ralentissement du service, you kind of know what it means. but i didn’t let myself think of it until cynthia told me.

and it’s the cold, the too-late cold that gets into the bones to the core.

also, i returned home last night and because it was freezing indoors and sinister i was planning to cook with the radio on. i looked for my headphones to hook up my cellphone and i realized that d. had taken them by mistake and left his own, which i have no use for. i can’t explain better, but the impossibility of playing top40 music and hearing distinct québécois voices RIGHT THAT INSTANT was a pretty big hit to my mood. the silence was so creepy and absurd – then i realized why. cynthia’s perruche was dead, stiff on the bottom of his cage.

we don’t know how he died. sudden heart attack is one version. i panicked a bit and called cyn…then i packed the body and took it out. somehow i fell asleep reading feministe. in the morning the snow was covering a quarter of my tall window, and kept coming down with the blizzard. i sat down at the table with coffee in the birdless livingroom. 7 am. and i had a good cry.

now it`s all going to be better.