Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Love struck Squirrel

The love struck fool goes where Seduction calls –
Tasty game for the One who enthralls.
Easy prey for the necrotic heart,
Of a predatory feline acting a part.

He's a squirrel lured to nest on the open sea,
Love is a sleek fin that encircles hungrily.
But the squirrel isn't made to endure the ocean's rhythm and roar,
And must be enticed to leave the safety of land and shore.

He's thus lulled by the temptation of undulating tides,
Flesh prickles with wanting as Love collides.
The squirrel swoons at the glint of a sharp tooth,
Love continues her courtship lithe and couth.

He yields his mind to appease a primal urge;
Love sees her chance and closes in with rapturous surge.
She lunges and thrusts to capture her helpless feed –
Just another fool consumed by his own love sick need.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Existential Crisis at 7-Eleven

It feels like I am faced with rude, not particularly observant, condescending zombie-people in all aspects of my trivial existence. No doubt some of this feeling can be attributed to my own hang-ups, but my insecurities do not account for EVERYTHING.

For example, I was recently asked to get a pack of matches from the local 7-Eleven.

I agreed to get these matches even though I am opposed to the reason these matches were needed in the first place, but whatever. I have my own vices to direct my judgment towards. I will try not to be a hypocrite.

On the other hand, hypocrisy is sometimes a necessary evil, like little white lies or the mildly despicable  things one resorts to when the circumstances of her life force her to live in survival mode. Live or die is also a choice.


“Don't call me crazy.I'm a survivor. I do what I have to do to survive.” 

― The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Besides, the particular vice in question, smoking, is one I myself was able to overcome cold turkey over a decade ago through mindfulness (before it was a trendy catch phrase) and will power (probably a bit of divine intervention thrown in there too, but who knows).

It is therefore a challenge for my brain to be empathetic to the 12-step addiction dogma that says you are powerless – it’s a challenge because I know it’s not true. To be clear, this is not to suggest there is no such thing as transcendence or something bigger than us; only that it is false to believe we are utterly powerless. We aren't. We still have the choice to, for example, light a cigarette, put it to our lips and inhale. 

Granted, if you are addicted to cigarettes, it can be a very difficult "choice" to quit, especially with so many biological, psychological and cognitive factors involved, factors most are not aware of, which further complicates the issue. How does one fight an enemy he or she does not realize exists?

Even so, it is still amazing to me what you will believe is impossible if you let your mind be led solely by outside forces, such as pop psychology, cultural "norms" or my pet peeve, the "celebrity class" (why people would ever want to emulate these freak-show celebrities, who belong in a zoo and have the intellect of a finger-puppet is beyond me). Grant those outside sources your consideration, by all means. Contemplate them, think critically, but if they don’t align with your intuition and sense of humanity, REJECT them. For the love of GOD.

You can quit an addiction whether to a substance or behavior and you can manage your emotions, thoughts and beliefs without pharmaceutical drugs or “therapeutic” brainwashing. But obviously you have to want to and be willing to endure a little suffering, knowing “this too will pass”, in order to achieve inner mastery. Not easy but still possible.

Try and convey this message to the average conditioned drone around here, though, and you’re met with a blank stare.  Still, I do understand why this is – the crutches of addiction, carnal indulgence, egocentrism and faulty belief often provide a far better quality of delusion or I mean life than facing the panic of this bizarre reality stone cold sober.




If you do attempt to go it alone without all the worldly baggage and chemical smokescreens, you risk having an existential crisis, and possibly losing your mind trying to make sense of the absurdity – the big fucking mystery of it all.

So forget it. I’ll get your stupid matches for you – enjoy your denial-encapsulated black lung. Me? I’ll take my chances with the existential crisis, perhaps with the occasional crutch because I too am mortal like everyone else, prone to injury, disease and hypocrisy, and in need of assistance from time to time, but ultimately I’ll come to my own conclusions about the nature of my reality.

Thus, with the above dissonance resonating in my head, I asked the cashier behind the counter at 7-Eleven for fuel and some matches.

“Do you want a book of matches?” she drawled, utterly uninterested in the human being (me) standing in front of her.

“Um…whatever you have is fine,” I answered, a little unsure of myself, “how much is a book of matches?”

She handed me an unopened box of 50 packs of matches and said, “Five cents”.

I took the box from her in that slow, hesitant way one does when confused that she has misunderstood something, but also simultaneously suspects it is the OTHER person who has it wrong.

“Do you want ME to open the box?” I asked, double-checking that I wasn’t indeed the one labouring under a misapprehension.

Now for the first time since this unpleasant interaction began, the woman looked directly at me and rolled her eyes, “Ahh, nooooo…you can open it yourself.”

She made a kind of snorting sound like I was the idiot and not her.

“So it’s five cents for this WHOLE box of matches?” I checked again.

The middle-aged woman sighed heavily, like a frazzled single mother of twelve with few options left, forced to work at a convenience store for minimum wage and snapped, “That’s what I said isn’t it? Duh.”

Well, isn’t SHE a bundle of hostile joy. But life has clearly dealt her a shitty hand, so I’ll try to remain calm. It’s okay, World, you can continue to use me as a fucking punching bag. The lifetime beating has hardened me, I can handle it.

“Yeah, okay, just checking,” I answered, feeling inexplicably chastised (okay, maybe I can’t handle it) by this dopey woman who evidently did not know the difference between an individual “book” of matches and an entire box of them.

That’s when the customer behind me, who had been listening to everything, eagerly chimed in, “I’ll get a couple ‘books’ of those matches, too!”

In the end, four of us left there with multiple unopened boxes of matches for 5 cents.

Normally I would still be suffering with guilt over “benefitting” from this woman’s ignorance, even with the way she treated me, but the matches weren’t for me. I did not benefit in any way and thus am exonerated of all guilt. 

Okay, I still do feel guilty.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Human Pincushion

Through a series of unfortunate accidents I dropped a box of pins and needles in a dimly lit area of my carpeted living room. Lizzy witnessed the whole thing and without moving to help me pick any of the pins up, knowingly said, “Dad’s going to step on one of those pins”.

“No”, I corrected as I desperately crawled around on my hands and knees, “we’re going to pick them all up. No one is going to step on a pin! Now please help me!”

I think she reluctantly picked up ONE pin, but upon doing so, shrieked in pain as if she had been stabbed with a harpoon and gave up.  She told me she was just a kid and it was dangerous for kids to pick up pins. Besides, she pointed out, she wasn’t the one who dropped them.

Insolent child.

Still, even without her assistance I thought I had gathered up all the pins.

I was wrong…as tends to happen.

Sure enough, a few days after I drop the pins, I get a frantic, angry phone call from John. He is in agony. He has stepped on a needle and it’s inserted so far into his foot that only the eye of the needle is poking out.

I can hear Lizzy, the little traitor, in the background saying, “I told mom this would happen.”

I don’t know why I’m the first person John calls in such situations. First remove the needle and if you need medical assistance, go to an Emergency Room. Do not call me. I cannot help you.

But of course he is not phoning for help or advice. He, with his little sidekick, Lizzy, is phoning to place blame.

In a barely controlled voice he asks me if I know why he stepped on a pin.

“Because you don’t look where you’re going?” I answer helpfully.

“NO!” he screams abandoning all pretence of self-control. “YOU dropped pins on the carpet and didn’t pick them up!”

My cell vibrates at the intensity of his rage.

“Where are you getting your information?” I ask, as if I don’t know.

“LIZZY told me!!!”

“Lizzy is 6,” I say, “who are you going to believe, a 6 year old or a grown adult?”

John cannot believe my lack of contrition and yells, “The 6-year-old!”

“Does it really matter why at this point?” I ask. “Don’t you think you should remove the foreign object from your foot before worrying about who is responsible? Also, you have to be responsible for your own feet. Surely, you can’t blame me for where YOU decide to tread!”

In frustration he hangs up.

A few days later he has stepped on another one of these pins and I receive another one of his phone calls.

It occurs three more times in the proceeding weeks. Each time I am not home and each time he phones me on my cell to freak out and demand that something be done. Short of ripping up the carpet, I don’t know what more can be done.

He doesn’t know either, but he does know that with every pin that punctures his foot, his resentment for me builds, as does his fear of entering the living room. His god, the TV, is in there, though, so I’m not too worried about it. It isn’t like he can avoid his place of worship.

A few weeks of this and he tells me he can’t take it anymore. He does not think he can survive another pinning. And even though I have not admitted (and never will) to any culpability in the matter, he is still suspicious that the scatterbrained clumsiness I am notorious for is responsible for the pins. Because of this, he thinks it’s only fair I offer up some sort of restitution. Failing that, it would give him great satisfaction to see ME step on one of these pins and collapse to the ground writhing in pain, develop an infection and possibly die.

I tell him that is a terrible thing to wish on anyone, especially his wife. And as punishment, he's left me with no choice but to put The Curse of the Pin on him.

“You already DID!!!” he sputters.

I suggest to him that if it was me who kept stepping on pins I’d start wearing slippers. I would also avoid the area where I suspected the pins were strewn.

For some weird reason, even though it fills him with dread, he cannot keep himself away from the vicinity of the pin carnage. This perverse fascination is in fact why he keeps stepping on the pins in the first place. Look and ye shall find.

Eventually he does listen to me and takes to wearing slippers. He also makes an effort to stay away from the area in question, but he simply can’t do it. Nevertheless for another week he is fine. No more pinnings. It seems he has managed to retrieve all the wayward pins with his foot.

“See?” I brighten, “something positive has come out of this. Now the kids won’t step on a pin because you’ve retrieved them all with your foot! You’re a good dad!”

My words of praise do nothing to dissolve his simmering rage, which he’s been trying to control since I put the Curse of the Pin on him. Although he openly scoffs at such things, he isn’t fooling me -- not with his “controlled” rage or his disbelief in my abilities. Secretly, he isn’t so sure my curses aren’t real. 

And sure enough, a few mornings later he wakes up with a stabbing ache in his back. This is nothing new, mind you, and as a rule I more or less ignore his physical complaints. He worries and complains about back pain incessantly because when he was 19 he got into a bad car accident and fractured his spine. His doctors at the time warned that as he got older he may start to experience chronic lumbar pain and other associated symptoms.

As a result, John is constantly on high alert to ANY discomfort in his back no matter how minor or imagined. This time, however, he says it is “different” and excruciating enough that he can’t go to work.

For the rest of the day he lay on the couch moaning about how he needs to go to the doctor and get some painkillers, but he never makes a move to actually do this.

It is not until later in the night at maybe 9 or 10 o’clock that I get another one of John’s by now customary phone calls while I’m at work. From his pressured tone and rapid breathing I know immediately this has something to do with pins.

I am correct.

It seems John had reached around to scratch where his back hurt and in doing so pricked his finger on something sharp. There was blood. He nearly fainted when he realized what it was.

It was the tip of a pin.

You have no idea how disappointed I am that he never went to see that doctor about his “ailment”.


Every time I think of this whole pin situation I am thrown into a new fit of hysterics. As a consequence, John has stopped speaking to me.  He is beside himself with  anger that I’m not taking it more seriously. He says with utter conviction that if he hadn’t felt the pin when he did, he probably would be dead right now.



Ignoring the fact he had wished figurative death on me only a few days ago, I laugh and say, “Don’t be absurd. You can’t die from being stabbed in the back with a pin. A knife, sure, but a pin? I don’t think so, there Pincushion”.

I’ve now taken to calling him Pincushion.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Doctor at my Window

I stand at the window and watch three overly confident male physicians strutting below. They walk like the Sultan of Brunei, ridiculous, repulsive little men with big egos and an infinite capacity for self-gratification and entitlement. 

Their confidence is derived from a boys club of debauchery, deception, exclusive opportunity, privilege, an engorged sense of superiority, astounding hypocrisy and the celebrity-like worship of a misguided, misinformed populace, not to mention a seemingly endless supply of female insecurity that fuels their rutting preoccupations. Swine.

The differences between the paltry Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and the semen-driven doctors are ones of mere degree. The Sultan is at the extreme end of wealth, indulgence, self-glorification, exploitation, greed, lechery, cruelty, misused intelligence and spiritual emptiness. He is a purely temporal animal who will return to dust and disappear into nothingness once he dies, which hopefully is as pleasant an affair as the deaths of those who no doubt will be lost to one or more of torture, stoning, complications of punitive amputations and brutal floggings under Bolkiah's rule after he helpfully introduced Sharia law to Brunei, laws which he and his equally repugnant, pedo-looking, herpetic brother are themselves guilty of breaking on a regular basis. Sadistic pigs.

As for the doctors, perhaps "sadistic pig" is a bit harsh, but "rutting swine" seems accurate enough. All three of the doctors I am currently surveying from my window are married, but none are particularly discreet about their frequent romps with infidelity or in any way ashamed of the lives their more or less open cheating has negatively impacted. 


If you're going to indiscriminately fornicate with as many women as you possibly can, like a lowly animal that scurries along the ground and gorges itself to death if given free access to a food source, at least don't be married with a quiver of kids when you do it. Don't do it when you've taken marriage vows, and don't do it when you've taken a Hippocratic oath not to abuse your position of trust and authority to prey upon vulnerable girls with your perversions. And if you can't manage any of that, at least be upfront with the young ladies you're using as receptacles for your seminal trash, so they know exactly what they are getting into and don't harbor any illusions of happily-ever-after with you.






In addition to devastated families, all this pathological infidelity and casually tossed aside, single-use female bodies has been responsible for at least three suicide attempts, as well as countless psychological problems and the occasional jealousy-induced criminal act. Although, I guess if you were the kind of man who stopped to consider how your actions might devastate another person's life, or unravel the fabric of civil society, you would not be indiscriminately fucking a bunch of people like an insentient Energizer Dildo on permanent recharge in the first place.

"It's amazing how these guys get away with what they get away with in this town, " I turn to Belinda, thoroughly disgusted at the mere sight of these men everyone else is so smitten with (other than of course the people whose lives they'e ruined, but even they seem remarkably forgiving).

Belinda happens to be one of the smitten ones, which I suppose is part of the reason I like to comment on them, just to needle her. It injects some adrenaline into an otherwise paperclip and blunt pencil kind of a day, where only casual business attire is allowed, not like a blue jeans Friday. 

It's the kind of day where the biggest catastrophe is that Lenore used water straight from the tap to fill the Keurig yet again, even though she's been told repeatedly to use the purified water from the cooler. This infuriates Belinda: "So help me, if that cute water-boy stops coming in here because of damn Lenore making management think we don't need weekly water deliveries anymore, I'll KILL HER MYSELF!"

Basically my contempt for a philandering penis with an equally untrustworthy medical degree is distracting Belinda from Lenore's meddling and therefore saving Lenore's life. You're welcome Lenore. 

"Look at them preening like ugly peacocks who have no idea how hideous they are," I continue with as much disdain as I can muster, "I hope one of these incessantly squawking crows dive-bombs the one in the middle, your friend, Dr. Suna". 

I don't look at Belinda but I sense I'm getting under her skin. This particular "lady doctor" is one of her favorites. They have a good, flirty working relationship that makes me want to stab my hand with one of the plastic forks I keep on my desk any time I'm in the same room as one of their giggly interactions. 

Belinda takes a deep, steadying inspiration before addressing me.

"That's because you're a man hater. I find him amusing. He's funny and smart and knows his stuff. He goes out of his way to answer questions and makes his patients feel at ease. Who cares what he does in his personal life."

This is a refrain I've heard many times and I don't agree with any of it, which Belinda knows. I, however, decide to ignore the "what a person does in his personal life has no bearing on his professional life" non-sequitur. And I'm more or less desensitized to the bogus "man-hater" label, so I should ignore that, too. It's a bullshit label anyway, but as I've gotten older and wiser, I've taken the stance that if my resting bitch face keeps assholes away from me, then I will no longer look this gift horse in the mouth and embrace it as serendipity.

In truth, the only thing I really hate is an unconsidered opinion that ignores perspective, excuses bad behavior, spreads like a contagion, is picked up by group think, and then is mindlessly parroted by everyone like they're robotically delivering lines in a poorly rehearsed, ill-conceived episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians. Adopting an opinion without critical contemplation, such as Dr. Suna being a "great guy", and then repeating that opinion as if it's a fact skews reality to the point it begins to feel like we're living in a contrived reality TV show, but absurdly pretending everything is normal.

The Lamar Odom sleazebags in this contrived reality, however, are named Bill, Rick, Joe or Bob, swap their pricey cocaine for crystal meth cut with rat poison, and get their illicit sex not from fancy legalized brothels in Nevada, but from strung-out single mothers with deadened souls, who have lost their kids and fill the void with IV drug use and degrading sex acts at $10 a pop, performed in darkened back alleys or bed-bug infested motels that rent by the minute

With these bitter ruminations running through my mind, I correct Belinda, saying, "I'm not a man-hater, Belinda, only a hater of despicable behavior. It's not my fault most of that despicable behavior happens to come from men. Don't blame the observer."

Belinda gives me her signature look, which says she doesn't agree with a word I'm saying.

But this is how we do things so I solider on: "Also, why does Suna always have to come in here bragging about what a fabulous life he's having with dramatic tales of his travels and conquests? Shut up. I'm already not enjoying my life over here, I don't need some pretentious douche-bag rubbing it in with one of his drive-by self-aggrandizing stories."

Then, as if by cosmic cue, Dr. Suna comes slithering into the room like the snake he is. Belinda glances at me in alarm, worried he might have heard us talking, not that she would have anything to worry about. I'm the ONLY one voicing discontent with the status quo.

Besides, he doesn't know he's Dr. Suna. Granted, my pet name for him is not very original, but it makes me laugh almost every time I use it. Sultan H-Ass-Anal, Lamar O-Dumb and Dr. Suna aren't the only ones who need their cheap thrills. My form of cheap thrill, however, doesn't cost anything and will not spread disease or further destroy civilization and common decency.  And anyway, the name Suna is fitting. He is a backwards, lax sphincter and portal for fecal matter.

In any event, he must sense I don't care for his stench and bypasses me completely as if I don't exist at all, and goes straight for Belinda. He is all ingratiating smiles, with a "favor" to ask, but first he wants to show off pictures from his latest trip: kite-boarding with his Stepford wife, Mrs. Doctor Suna, in Venezuela. You see? I am an equal opportunity "hater". I dislike shitty men AND their consenting victims. 

Unfortunately (for Belinda, who as it turns out is a non-consenting victim), the first picture that appears is a close-up of a Pap smear in progress. Dr. Suna laughs off the mistake and jokes, "Oops, gyne-porn". He then continues to swipe through the pics as if it's no big deal that he's just traumatized Belinda's eyes for the rest of her life, or that he's violated some unnamed woman's right to privacy. 

He keeps swiping until he comes to the images of his wife risking her life surfing rough tropical waters, apparently for his viewing pleasure. As Belinda struggles to restore her composure after being eye-raped with that unexpected Pap visual, she stammers, "That looks dangerous!"

Dr. Suna jokes again that this latest wife might be quiet but she's a daredevil; willing to try anything, that one. "She'd surprise you", he says with a salacious grin. Anyway, if she did die in some freak kiting accident, not a problem, he goes on. He likes to "trade in for a new one every 7 or 8 years" anyhow, so bonus! Saves him messy divorce proceedings. Suna appears quite pleased with how funny he thinks he's being, oblivious to how uncomfortable he is making Belinda, who laughs politely but who I can see is mildly horrified by this entire situation. 

I imagine she is reconsidering right about now that I may not be off the mark regarding Dr. Suna after all. Pustule.

As for me, in addition to being happy Suna himself continues to prove my low opinion of him is correct, I'm also happy my unfriendly "hater" persona pays off once again. Of the two of us, Belinda is the only one with the closeup of some stranger's prolapsed cervix forever burned in her mind. Not a pleasant thing to be carrying around in your head. My own conscience is clear.

Dr. Suna mercifully finishes up his slide show, asks for the favor he could have done himself, and  turns to leave when Lenore's best friend, Henrietta, comes bustling in.

She blocks the doorway so Suna can't easily leave and asks him if he is interested in sponsoring her for the women's shelter fundraiser she is helping organize. She understandably assumes he is a perfect fit for such a fundraiser since women's issues are his speciality, not to mention the thing that has provided him with wealth, prestige and privilege. Even more to the point, it's the thing that's given him a sultan-like status in this community, reminiscent of his anal-twin-flame there, Sultan H-Ass-Anal Bolkiah, and a free pass to fuck around without consequence as much as his Viagra-controlled erection allows. As such, you'd think he'd want to give back somehow.

You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. A man like this does not humble himself. It has to be done for him, either through divine intervention, personal tragedy or by another more advanced being on a stronger branch of the evolutionary tree. Now, if Henrietta, Belinda and everyone else around here looked beyond superficial nonsense, they would know intuitively that a man of Suna's narcissism does not examine his pretensions and vanities, or change them.

And sure enough, much to my smug satisfaction, he answers Henrietta with, "Women's shelter? What about men? Is there a shelter for men who get beat up by women?"

He makes this asshole statement in the context of a recent murder/suicide of a domestically abused mother at the end of her rope, who had just left her violent husband with their severely autistic son in tow, no support, no money, no job, and nowhere to go other than a shelter she couldn't get into because it was full. This woman may have even been his patient.

In light of the above, Henrietta is shocked into silence at Suna's response, an unusual situation for her, normally a total blabbermouth. 

With Henrietta's uncharacteristic silence, Suna realizes he might have taken what he later explains is another one of his hilarious "jokes" too far. He shrugs and throws a crumpled $20 bill at Henrietta, which as far as I'm concerned is no more charitable than had he flung a nail clipping at her head. His 20 bucks is that inconsequential to him. If anything, when this asshole "gives" any amount of money away he's doing something for HIMSELF, not any one else, certainly not any one in need. It causes him NO hardship whatsoever.

Suna trounces off without a care after this, shoving past Henrietta, who looks a little lost now. After he's gone, she sheepishly admits she had expected him to give her at least $100, was counting on it.

In renewed disgust, I dig through my Old Mother Hubbard purse, and to my surprise manage to scrape together $36.85 to give to Henrietta. At the same time, Belinda digs through her slightly fiscally healthier purse and between us, and with Suna's pathetic $20, Henrietta leaves with more than the $100 she had come for. 

I look at Belinda expectantly.

"Okay, okay," she says in partial surrender, "you win. He's an anus...but I still like him".

Without another word I return to my desk, to the fork, and stab myself. The fork bends against the back of my hand and a couple of the tines fling off, hitting me painlessly in the face before falling dramatically to the floor.

Unmoved, Belinda watches my sorry display of political protest and dryly asks, "Feel better?"

I don't look at her as I reach down to pick up the broken-off fork bits and say, "I think I've made my point."

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Deafening Silence

There were 12 children in total, some step-siblings, some half and some full — all mashed together like misfit puzzle pieces forced into a distorted family portrait.

Papa Phil did not father all twelve, but they all had at some point been under his care. The women who gave birth to these children, two of whom were once Papa Phil's wives, had all been lost to one of booze, madness or death.

Papa Phil knew he could not raise a pile of motherless kids by himself, so he took yet another wife, Muriel, when the youngest of the dozen was still in diapers. Muriel herself could not get pregnant, but desperately yearned for a baby and was thus immediately smitten with the youngest of the children.

The older kids, none of them Papa Phil's biological offspring, were more or less ignored by Muriel and terrorized by Phil. But it was a silent terror. Silence like this is loud and oppressive — it defies logic and the laws of nature. The unsaid things are the scariest things — the things no one wants to acknowledge.

The silence was therefore free to slip in between the ketchup sandwiches made with stale bread, through the soiled sheets, and around the creaking floorboards late at night when children should be soundly sleeping. They should not be wide awake concentrating with every cell of their being on some bedroom wall shadow until the silent thing is done.

Silence becomes an odd comfort when it accompanies everything one does. It is like a prison guard the prisoner comes to rely on, even after the bars have been left unlocked and the guard eliminated.

Maryanne, a middle-aged adult now, resented the guarded silence. Her siblings, by comparison, went on seemingly unscathed with a regimented existence. Maryanne could not understand their refusal to talk about what had happened to them because it consumed her. She could barely handle it, the thought of Papa Phil having gotten away with his crimes, aided and abetted by muteness. 

There did, however, come a day when she could no longer tolerate the dead air and spoke up. The power of confession, what really should have only been the therapeutic passing of an honest moment, created a dystopia Maryanne could not have anticipated. Who would have thought that with the mere utterance of a few words that so much human misery would scream forth from the silence like a million unleashed demons.

There would be suicide, addiction and homicidal rage. There would be financial ruin, prison, insanity, agony and death. All their carefully patched together lies, their precariously assembled lives, decimated by truth.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Mormons are in the Building

Belinda calls me over to the window. She looks concerned as she watches a Mormon twosome approaching the building. They always march in pairs.

"Why would the Mormons be here?" she says in a near whisper.

She sounds scared.

"Well, there are numerous reasons why they could be here, Belinda. It's not like there's a law forbidding them from entering the building." I laugh. "Why? Do you think they're coming for you?"

It turns out the thought has crossed her mind. 

They seem to seek her out where ever she goes, especially at her home where they come knocking on a regular basis, which is partly her own fault. If you feed a stray it will invariably come back. Sometimes, if you don't set up firm boundaries from the outset, the stray will go further and muscle his way right into your house. Make himself at home. 

But make no mistake. 

He is not interested in having you domesticate him. He is using you and will come and go as he pleases. But you're an innocent and will think with self-satisfaction that he's grown to love and respect you. He has not. He mocks you when you aren't looking. 

The Mormons kind of work like that, although I imagine they are for the most part unaware that they are mocking anyone. They believe they are the righteous ones and that it is the rest of us who are confused, not them. Also, they have a manual of strategy and are prepared with circular reasoning to confound you even more.

If you're not careful, eventually, if the Mormons are successful with their door-to-door, boots on the ground strategies, planting seeds of cognitive dissonance and confusion, they will lead you right from your home into theirs, which is more of a lair than a "home". You won't know what hit you and they will have a new brick for their wall. 

I don't know how effective their approach is, and I would be interested to know their success rate, but you see Mormon and not to mention Jehovah Witness pairs everywhere so they must be catching at least some of their prey. But they are nice enough people, so if you are going to be drawn into a cult-like scenario anyway, you could do worse.

Belinda, however, is too much of a contrarian to ever be lured into a cult or be persuaded by fundamentalism of any kind. She will never be one of their caught prey, but it doesn't stop them from trying. They mistake her natural curiosity, compassion and willingness to listen and engage with them for weakness they can exploit. But Belinda is no saint and as it turns out she's the one exploiting them, even though exploitation was never her intention and she feels bad about it. 

After Belinda's initial introduction to the Mormons, which amounted to several hours-long conversations standing in her doorway, she wanted them to leave her alone. She had no plan to use them for her own means. She isn't that kind of a girl. Belinda is a giver by nature, a leaver, not a taker and definitely not a receiver. 

Basically, the Mormons charitable ways are changing Belinda, corrupting her.

And it wasn't that she didn't enjoy those early marathon conversations with them, helped by the fact they were mostly young, attractive, affable males in handsome suits who darkened her doorway. But it was getting to be too much. There are some repetitions in life that are pleasurable every time you experience them like laughing at a Seinfeld repeat, but the same conversation with a self-assured religious weirdo intent on converting you is not one of life's pleasures -- at least not as far as Belinda is concerned. 

Personally, I enjoy the weirdos. 

But you have to have boundaries. Even Patience has a right to die, especially after a long life of self-control. She gets tired. Give her a break. 

In other words, if you are going to have weirdos, especially religious ones, in your life, be kind, be amused, be willing to accept they might have some insight to share, but do not be a doormat. Or as I like to call a female trapped in the role of lipsticked-android, one programmed to obey and conditioned to accept abuse: a Dormata.

To avoid becoming a Dormata yourself, you unfortunately have to at some juncture allow your patience to run out and override your programming. You must have it within you to slam a door in someone's smug face, hang up a phone mid-sentence when you realize the superiority of the prick on the other end is beyond reason, and scream at a person whose willful stupidity has reached a level of absurdity that no longer amuses you and now pisses you off. 

And if all that fails, you're sick of taking the highroad alone, and you don't have the brain or inclination to think up some Machiavellian scheme that will ruin the person's life and have him end up in a mental institution or destitute and living in a rodent-infested hovel, shove that asshole down a flight of stairs, along with all his belongings and a few of your own you no longer want. Kill two birds with one stone that way.

You will also help out the oxymoronic men's rights movement by justifying their insipid arguments and otherwise "hilarious" jabs that, for instance, there is a critical need for transition house funding to shelter an epidemic of raped and domestically abused men. Keep them safe from all those scary women wielding a broom with one arm and doing biceps curls with the weight of a nursing baby in the other.

But don't actually kill a bird or a person and there is no epidemic problem of women raping and assaulting men. People are way too literal.

Belinda is too decent of a person, however, to even be rude to a Mormon never mind physically hurt one. Her favorite tactic when dealing with potentially awkward social interactions is avoidance, which I support. Despite the bravado above, in reality I'm more a neurotic Dormata like Belinda than a trigger happy black mamba snake, although if I'm pushed hard enough things can get ugly. There is a lot of suppressed rage swept under my doormat patiently waiting for an opportunity to express itself.

With regards to Belinda, a woman who is neither abuser nor victim, when avoidance is impossible because the Mormons, for example, see her peeking out her curtains, she reluctantly answers her door. But she likes to steer their conversations away from dogmatic themes to secular ones. Up until recently, this worked well and the Mormons would follow her lead. 

They would spend most of their early conversations discussing topics such as the weather, geography, tourist attractions, local wildlife, the state of the public school system and "children these days".

At some level Belinda knew their willingness to skirt the real reason they were talking to her was because they were first establishing a good rapport ( an essential ingredient in any relationship where one side has an agenda that doesn't include brute force) before going in for the final kill. 

So she was not necessarily surprised when they started slipping in their true agenda between commenting on the rain with interjections about "God's plan", suggestions that her "good feelings" were a direct result of the Holy Ghost working on her at that very moment, and testimony of the divine authority of one Joseph Smith. Most alarming to Belinda was their mention of the second coming, which they seemed to imply could happen at any moment. Did she have her spiritual house in order?

To help with that spiritual order, they invited her to pray with them and Belinda, feeling like a deer caught in headlights because she isn't the praying type, apologized, saying she couldn't pray right now because she had groceries in the trunk of her car that she had to bring inside. Her ice cream was melting. 

They offered to bring the groceries inside for her and that was how it started. From then on, any time the topic got a little too "religiousy" Belinda would say she had to go. They would respond by offering to do something for her, she would reconsider that she really "had" to go just yet and would relent, allowing the Mormons to do chores for her, which they did with a smile. How could she resist such cheerful, free labour? She couldn't, especially since her house was looking pretty spiffy as a direct result of their volunteer work.

Nevertheless, there came a day when she had had enough of the Mormons. Belinda had no more errands for them and she was worried if she continued to let them come around she'd end up at their church because she had no more excuses left and didn't want to hurt their feelings. She felt she was at risk of becoming an accidental Mormon.

As a consequence, the last time they asked if there was anything they could do for her, which by this time she felt guilty if she didn't come up with some chore for them, instead of drumming up business in her own house, she blurted out that her brother, Jimmy, had recently bought a house across town and needed help with renovations.

Fast forward to several hours later and Jimmy is furiously trying to get a hold of Belinda. It is an angry text, phone call and email Belinda has been expecting. She doesn't answer any of this and ever since has been in self-isolation-lock-down mode. Nothing will make her open her door now. Nothing. 

She knows she no longer has to feel guilty because the Mormons are occupied with Jimmy now -- Jimmy, who like Belinda, having been raised in the same household by the same parents, finds it hard to be mean to nice people, no matter what their cult-agenda. At least she thought the Mormons were busy with Jimmy until seeing them outside our window.

"You really thought all their time and energy was being spent on one potential convert, Belinda?" I look at her doubtfully.

"Yes, I did. His house needs tons of work." 

She seems to be hyperventilating and goes mute, her mind slammed shut by sheer panic. 

I reassure her that we are behind three password-protected, security doors. The Mormons aren't getting in without permission and there is no conceivable reason to give them permission. She is safe.

Then the phone rings. Belinda screams.

Damn Mormons.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Frozen Watch

Theresa's watch is frozen at 6 o'clock. It has been stubbornly keeping the same hour for 40 years. When asked why she holds onto the timepiece, Theresa says, "Why, it's a good watch! It still keeps the time."

Then she smiles and starts humming. No one is sure of the tune. Her eyes glaze over and just like that Theresa is gone, lost in the ancient maze of her disconnected memory.

The Meadows staff and occasional visitor do not pay Theresa much heed. She is a harmless, crazy old woman now, her mind scrambled after years of powerful psychotropic drugs coursing through her veins and electroshock therapy zip-zapping through her brain. Being tied to a bed against her will one too many times, and being forced into straight jackets when a kind but firm hand would have done, in addition to numerous stints in isolation, further contributed to the loss of her sanity.

"Be careful about spending too much time with those head doctors," she likes to whisper during rare lucid moments. "They're looking for crazy and they ALWAYS find crazy."  She sputters and laughs until the light of cognition goes out and drool escapes from the corner of her mouth.

Time froze for Theresa with the ring of a doorbell. It was her neighbor at the front entrance of her house. He was cradling in his arms what seemed to be a limp, bloody animal – road kill, maybe a dog. Theresa could not tell. There was so much blood.

She does not know what happened after that. It is as if someone came along and hit the eject button right before the climactic scene of a suspenseful movie. The psychiatrists call it "psychogenic amnesia", but Theresa doesn't understand their psychobabble. She pretends to listen intently, if her sedatives don't make it too difficult to concentrate, but in truth she is wondering about her son, Billy.

She furtively glances at her watch: Oh dear, it's dinnertime. Billy is officially late. He should have been home at least 15 minutes ago, so he'd have time to wash up before supper. Billy's father will not be pleased.

Theresa looks up at Dr. Olson, "I'm terribly sorry sir, but I must go. My son is waiting for me, and I still have to get the pot roast out of the oven.”

She attempts to get up to leave, but in her chemical restraints she finds her legs don't work like they once did . She doesn’t struggle or fight to stand. Her spirit was effectively dulled long ago. Instead, she relaxes back into her chair and calmly folds her hands into her lap, but not before checking her watch again. 

She sighs, "What could be keeping Billy?"

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Beautiful People

Brittany needed another $100 for the Louis Vuitton handbag she had to have. Every credit card was over its limit and she had exhausted her other usual avenues for borrowed money, except Lilith, her sister.

Lilith had a fat savings account, but despised what she referred to as "the beautiful people".  She wouldn't allow anyone to use a dime of her money, not even a dime that earned interest, towards beauty propaganda. And as far as Lilith was concerned, Louis Vuitton was propaganda.

The worms will live in every host. It's hard to pick which one they eat the most
The Beautiful People (source).
Brittany did not understand Lilith. Lilith was beautiful, despite the thick-rimmed glasses that overwhelmed her otherwise lovely features, or the matted hair she never brushed, or her refusal to wear deodorant, apply cosmetics, or wear figure-flatting clothing that emphasized her lithe frame rather than hide it under bulky cable knit.

Perhaps Brittany wasn’t as smart as her sister, but it seemed to her Lilith's contempt for beautiful people was like a wealthy person's contempt for wealth. Don't lecture the poor money can't buy you happiness if you've never been starving, and don't tell the ugly beauty can't bring you popularity if you've never been marginalized by ugliness.

What cruel twist of fate, thought Brittany, was this? She should have Lilith's beauty. She should be the one with all the buckets and barrels of disposable income. She should possess Lilith's ingenuity and shrewd business sense. It was all wasted on Lilith! Oh the things Brittany would do if she was Lilith!

"Of course you don't understand anything! And you could never be me," Lilith suddenly shot out, interrupting Brittany's bitter ruminations. It was as if Lilith could read her mind.

"You're nothing but a slave," Lilith continued, "who doesn't know the strength of her weakness. You support a master and don't realize you're doing it...with your expensive fashion you can’t afford."


Brittany felt mildly insulted even though she had no idea what Lilith was talking about or if she should be insulted. Lilith's insinuations and subtleties were always so confusing and exhausting to Brittany. Normally at times like this she would simply tune her sister out or walk away, but she really, really wanted that hand bag. Brittany would grovel, if necessary.

Lilith picked up on Brittany's desperation and in a rare act of seeming compromise offered, "I'll tell you what, if you pick all the blackberries in my yard and do the canning, I'll give you the money for your meaningless...trinket."

“That sounds like a lot of work," Brittany complained, "and I don't know how to make jam!"

"That’s fine," Lilith replied as she thrust a recycled ice-cream bucket towards Brittany. "I'll oversee everything you do. If you want the purse bad enough, you’ll do what I say — you’ll do the work."

Brittany hesitated — some part of her feeling like she was making a pact with the devil, but that was silly. 

Brittany took the bucket.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Ashes of Alfred

Alfred was dead, but his ashes still carried the blame for present day miseries. There was much speculation regarding the madness of Alfred. Some said he was schizophrenic and manic-depressive, while others argued he was simply a fucked up alcoholic. Most everyone agreed, however, that at the root of Alfred's problem was an inheritable genetic code that could be passed along to those who came after him like a hot potato nobody wanted to be left holding when the music stopped.



Jean knew firsthand the far-reaching impact of Alfred's insanity. She, like all his descendants, was scrutinized for even the slightest hint of mental instability. Jean, who considered herself a time traveler of sorts -- an amateur family historian -- could not accept the gossip. She was obsessed with uncovering the truth about her great-great-grandfather.

It was impossible to reconcile the handsome man in the black and white photo with the madman Alfred was said to have been. He had a James Dean smile and a flirtatious tilt to his jaw that gave him an aura of charisma. Indeed, it was rumored he could exude such magnetism that people became light-headed just from being near him. This was the man with whom Jean's great-great-grandmother, Marla, had fallen blindly in love.

But Alfred had a dark side.

He was prone to severe melancholy, paranoid delusions and hallucinations. He used moonshine to silence the chatter inside his head, but it only made things worse, especially for his wife and children, who were terrorized by his psychotic rages.

The situation grew so desperate that one night Marla slit her wrists, attempting to divert Alfred's attention from their baby girl, as he tried to drown her in a barrel of rainwater. He was convinced the infant was demonically possessed. Both Marla and the baby died on that black, bloody night, and Alfred was locked away in an insane asylum until he took his own life. The remaining children were orphaned off to relatives and their lives forever tainted by their father's sins.

Jean had to discover for herself if Alfred's madness was truly inborn. She was thus compelled to travel back in time to the Saskatchewan farm where Alfred was raised. There, she found Ruby, 101 years old, who was in possession of a child-sized coffin meant for Alfred when he was eight. Jean looked at the coffin, as if it was a time machine, and listened to Ruby describe how Alfred was expected to die of rheumatic fever, but miraculously survived.

"But he turned strange after that," Ruby confided in a low, gravelly voice, "always talking to himself and banging his head."

Jean, who had been leaning in as she listened to Ruby talk, sat back in her chair now, thinking of Alfred and his fried brain. She thought of how his "recovery" from near death brought him out of one hell that included child labour on a struggling farm and physical abuse from a particularly sadistic father into a new kind of hell. This new hell consisted of long stints in various mental institutions starting from the age of 12 and continuing off and on for the remainder of his life. 

He was  subjected to every kind of "treatment" and shamed with every kind of stigma. He was plagued with all-consuming rage, crippled by overwhelming guilt, tormented with derogatory voices in his head, and debilitated by delusions that were impossible to differentiate from "reality". In the end, this cauldron of confusion was what ultimately killed not only him but his wife and infant daughter.

He was not born mad, after all, Jean thought with bittersweet realization. The world made him that way through virus, abuse and circumstance. His ashes were no more to blame than the dying embers of a previously out of control fire ignited by human folly and stoked by hatred and fear.



And it was then that Jean decided Alfred and his dubious legacy could finally be put to rest. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Banality of Romantic Gestures

A florist truck pulls up to the building as Belinda and I stand at the window watching with interest. It’s curious because a delivery of a dozen red roses was made only yesterday to Megan, who is no stranger to clichĂ©d gestures of romance from good looking, eager young men trying to get her in the sack. But even so, 2 days in a row? For the rest of us even a single incident of an unexpected flower delivery is an impossible fantasy spurred on by Megan’s life.

Belinda, for example, is not as successful as Megan in the suitor department and lets out a derisive "whatever" when the flower delivery boy disappears from sight. Belinda has no problem with Megan, a warm, outgoing girl who everyone likes, but it isn't right that she (Megan) should get all the flowers in the world while Belinda gets what? The last gift she got from a guy was a bulk sized package of 4-ply toilet paper. He thought she'd be impressed with all the plies. She was not.

But this is the way it goes for Belinda. 

The men who take a fancy to her are usually flawed in some socially identifiable or physically unappealing way. Like Megan, albeit a slightly older version, Belinda is a warm, inviting person with a pretty face. Unlike most people, however, Belinda possesses that exceedingly rare quality of actually listening without interruption when others speak. She is both inquisitive and humanitarian by nature and all of these qualities combine to create a woman who is irresistible to the marginalized amongst us, whether they be mentally "unique" individuals, people with a lot of ailments and complaints no one else wants to hear about, or inappropriate men. 

Their inappropriateness is drawn to her like insects to a light bulb. This is unfortunate because while Belinda wouldn't hurt a fly, she has no desire to kiss one.

She also does not want to kiss a dog, which is where the problem began with a man named Rufus. 

She worked with Rufus at a second part-time job she picked up to bring in some extra cash, and an easy flirtation developed between them, as tends to happen when the sexes work closely together. For her part, Belinda was in no way physically attracted to Rufus, but she enjoyed his quirky personality – always a precarious situation with the potential for misunderstandings and mixed signals. 

As such, it seemed inevitable that there would come a day when Rufus would attempt to transition from workplace friend to boyfriend material. Belinda, however, was so uninterested in him in any romantic sense that she couldn’t even get his name straight. 

She had always associated the name “Rufus” with a dog and when she thought of a dog she immediately thought of Clifford the Big Red Dog, a favorite fictional character from her childhood. As a consequence, the two names somehow got interchanged in her subconscious and every time she addressed Rufus it came out as “Clifford”.  She never realized she was doing it and oddly Rufus never corrected her. 

Eventually she altogether forgot his name was Rufus and referred to him exclusively as Clifford. By the time we had heard the last of Rufus, anyone who knew of Rufus strictly through Belinda talking about him had no idea his name wasn't Clifford.

Things came to a head one day when I recognized Rufus in the grocery store from a picture Belinda had shown me at some point on her iPhone. I had spoken to him on the phone before, but this was the first time I had seen him in the flesh. I called out his name. 

He completely ignored me. 

He must not have heard me, I reasoned, and called his name a little louder. 

He still ignored me, so I went up to him, touched his shoulder and said, "Hi Clifford, I'm a friend of Belinda's. We've spoken on the phone before".

He looked at me baffled and not a little scared, as if I was an insane woman who had escaped the asylum and the voices in my head had wrongly identified him as some poor slob named Clifford.

"You have the wrong person. I'm not Clifford," he told me as he inched away. 

When I reported back to Belinda what happened, she laughed at what she thought was MY mistake, "His name isn't Clifford, you buffoon! It's Rufus!"

I glared at her. Was it possible she didn't know SHE was the one who kept calling him Clifford? 

Yes, it was possible. 

It took some convincing and I had to invite a couple witnesses into the conversation to confirm that she had indeed been talking a lot about a guy named Clifford, not Rufus, before she'd believe me. The"Clifford the Big Red Dog/Rufus" mix-up in her subconscious theory only seemed obvious after that.

She sat down, stunned. "Well, that's it," she said, "I can't have anything to do with a guy who just accepts me calling him by the wrong name without correcting me. I don't think I'll be returning Clifford's calls any time soon!"

"You see? You did it again," I pointed out.

Belinda shook her head, "What are you talking about?"

"You called him Clifford again. His name is Rufus."

"Oh my gawd!" Belinda clutched her head, "I can't believe this!!"

"On the bright side," I offered, "at least now you can stop feeling so guilty about rejecting his advances".

Rufus has since gone to the dogs of obscurity, but to this day when we refer to his memory we snidely, with full awareness, call him Clifford. 

Belinda's latest unwanted acquisition in the male insect department is an insect named Paul who likes her significantly more than she likes him. She finds him incredibly irritating, in the same way a fly buzzing around your ear that you can't get at is irritating. I don't know why she can't get rid of him. Flyswatters are cheap.

But Belinda rejects my fly analogy. She doesn't see him as a fly so much as a potato

"He never wants to do anything and he NEVER does anything nice for me. I do all the giving. He's never given me so much as a blade of grass, never mind roses! All he does is lie around all day watching TV like a big, fat, hairy couch potato, expecting me to serve him".

I used to encourage Belinda she could do better than these weirdos and parasitic assholes that tend towards her, and that she should walk away from tag-a-longs like Paul -- life is too short to waste it on so much bullshit. But I have since come to realize she is addicted to the role of martyr and saviour. So now I listen in amusement to her litany of complaints. I'll leave her to do her own self-reflections and arrive at her own life-changing epiphanies in her own time.

Thus, rather than once again tell her she should kick Paul to the curb, I suggest we christen him "Potato Paul" in honor of his potato couch proclivities. I have my own proclivity towards alliteration. I don't know why but I find it infinitely funny. My children think I'm ridiculous.

But Belinda didn't think my suggestion was ridiculous: "Yes, he is a potato! He should be called Potato Paul!"

We've been calling him Potato Paul ever since, unbeknowst, of course, to Paul, although Belinda lives in mortal fear she will call him Potato Paul to his face, particularly after the whole Rufus/Clifford fiasco. She has already caught herself a couple of times, which didn't escape Potato Paul's notice. But he isn't the brightest guy so she was able to redirect his attention easily enough. She doesn't know how long she's going to be able to do that, though. He's gross, dumb and boring (the character triad of a bad man as opposed to the enigma of a good one) but he still has some fraction of a brain in his potato head.

Getting back to the florist's truck outside our window, I turn to Belinda now and ask, "What would you do if the flower delivery was for you from Potato Paul? Would you like him more or drop dead in shock?"

"It would depend on the flower," she replied, "but I highly doubt Potato Paul knows my favorite flower is the Stargazer lily even though I've told him."

I agree that he probably doesn't know even though he has been told. Imagine how much richer life would be if more of us were paying attention.

"If he did send you flowers," I muse, "guaranteed they'd be red roses. Not that there's anything wrong with roses, except it shows a complete lack of imagination. Personally, I'd be more impressed by a thoughtful dandelion picked from my front yard. At least that's helpful. My lawnmower is broken. A dozen roses though? We've seen the documentary, we've read the articles. We are both aware of the damage the cut flower trade has on the planet." 

I have to stop myself before I launch into a full-blown soapbox condemnation of why it's wrong for the developed world to exploit the developing world's resources. 

Roses are the prized trophies of the slave trade in the flower world. All the other flowers, who are otherwise envious of the Rose's superior beauty, are glad they weren't born roses. Even the beautiful have an ugly burden to carry in a world where greed is the dominant driving force.

Somebody needs to save the roses!

Good God.

I also have to stop myself because the annoyed look of "here we go again with the dramatics" flashing across Belinda's face does not escape my notice. Nobody likes to listen to me. Sometimes it feels like I will burst.

"I don't know about dandelions," Belinda says, happy I've put a cap on the save the roses speech, "but my favorite roses are yellow ones. It's my next favorite flower after lilies."

Before I can say what my favorite flower is, we are interrupted by a knock on the door. We look up and in walks the flower delivery boy. He has a delivery for Belinda.

We are taken aback at first and then start giggling as she opens the box and unwraps tissue to reveal, you guessed it, a dozen red roses courtesy of Potato Paul. Despite our earlier cynicism, we are both delighted by the surprise and I run to grab a vase from down the hall. 

When I return, Belinda is bent over in her chair in convulsions. It's impossible to tell if she's laughing, sobbing or having a seizure until I get up close to her and see sitting on her desk a bouquet of 12 thorny stems devoid of all but 5 of their heads. 

Belinda is laughing so hard she can't speak. All she can do is point at the flower box still on the floor at her feet. In it are seven decapitated red rose heads. 



When she calms down enough to speak in coherent sentences, she explains that as she lifted the bouquet out of the box, one by one 7 of the heads popped clean off like the tops of dandelions. 

"Mama had a baby and it's head popped off," I say without thinking, my voice trailing off, which causes Belinda to erupt into renewed laughter.

It is so strange, almost like the flower traffickers were sending us (or perhaps just me since I'm the one who will rant about it if given half a chance) a cryptic message that we better shut up with all this derision of dopey men and talk of red roses or else. Or else what, I don't know. But whatever it is, can you please hurry up because the suspense is pissing me off now.