A Moon Full of Honey 2: Belfast

Some things I’ve learnt in Northern Ireland:

  1. How an “unbiased account is a biased one”***
  2. How you’ll struggle to find plaques in inner city Belfast that commemorate those involved in The Troubles. How commemoration itself can be a threat to peace but how one should keep one eye (but not both) on the past. How it is impossible to memorialize conflict where Hero Consensus has not been reached.
  3. How to defend yourself with three pencils. Go for the jugular. One side of the neck. Three in a row. Also, when punching, use the palm not the fist.
  4. How to use travel to faraway places to find lost puzzle pieces of your own history. I saw Mandela’s picture on the wall of an IRA bar. I saw it next to a picture of MLK and a sign to End Racism Now. I saw it next to the words Free Palestine. I saw it while I spoke to a woman about her work in Sinn Fein. I dared to ask about Brexit and what it would mean for Northern Ireland. I was given the reply that there was only ever One Ireland. I look around at this place with its delicate, beautiful peace and marvel at how little I know about anything.
  5. How to exercise resilience by having a party. One night, we entered a bar through a cage. Frivolity protected from its own location. The cage is no longer in use but stands there as a reminder. We saw why there was a need for reminders. We saw the sites where being at the wrong place at the wrong time meant that was that for you.
  6. How to begin to think about post-conflict zones. How I am the product of one of the more complex ones. How you can never separate yourself from the conflict that spawned you. How you will learn this over and over again and still need to learn this.
  7. How people create peace where there is none. “If you want peace, don’t talk to your friends, talk to your enemies,” said Desmond Tutu. I’m wondering how we do that in this contemporary, this now. How defensiveness, retaliation and binary politics only lead one way. How there’s no workaround to this concept. How we don’t want to learn this as a species. How we refuse to hear this truth. What are we doing? What are we doing? What are we doing?
  8. How music is a story that is passed down from one to another. You learn it through listening to the others playing the most difficult of pieces. Within the difficult piece, the simpler one is embedded, and that’s how it goes, that’s how you learn.
  9. How travelling and listening seem like kindred arts to me. How to learn the simpler through the difficult. How to keep passing stories, all the stories, not just the one that is the Main Line. How to keep things that should be complex, complex. How to keep passing stories and listening to the ones being told to you. How to defend yourself with pencils without drawing blood. How to listen, how to listen, how to listen.

 

***Man in a Belfast Theatre Pub.

 

A Moon Full of Honey: 1. New York

You, New York, are an animal procreating with itself. 

Don’t let them take you. Don’t let them take you. 

You, New York are varied and all the colours of this and that and you want to differentiate like a being that has sex with itself and makes its own gorgeous instagrammable babies. 

You are a self-perpetuating affair— 

a city in love with itself

but not pedestrian like Narcissus 

but like like 

the Mangrove Killifish that is all sexes 

and, when it is ready and in love and waiting for more from the world, 

simply makes more of itself 

by making love to itself. 

You don’t need anything but the parts that make you up and feed on you and produce you and practice you. 

You are love in abundance creating abundance, 

seducing yourself with your grit

and the smell of your garbage

and the fact that you can go all night

to produce that magnificent BO. 

 

You are walking into a restaurant at 1am and having someone say in the bathroom, “Do you mind if I tuck your tag?” 

And then making that tag tucker your friend. 

You are a tag tucking city. 

Brazen but that’s what we do for each other. 

 

You are every part of nourishment. 

You are the feeding tube as well as the thing being fed. 

You are all the poem-words glued together with the sweat of your subway stations so far underground. 

You are so far underground. 

You are so underground and also big open skies everywhere like an ocean. 

And the sweat on my skin is the ocean the ocean. 

You are tunnels of ocean between concrete and light. 

 

Don’t let them take you, City. 

Don’t let them take you. 

We’ve got you. 

Sure, you’re independent and self-reliant and cute, 

but sometimes you need a friend. 

So here’s the thing, we’ve got you. 

Don’t let them take you. Don’t let them take you. 

 

You are the Highline. 

You are the Highline, New York. 

Where grassroots create gardens in the sky. 

Where a voice can sing America the Beautiful 

at a mural so colourful that it reminds you. 

Through this accident. 

Through this abuse. 

Through slaves and riots and oppression and oppression and oppression. 

Through all of this stamping. 

You are beautiful like a glistening war wound.

You are whatever could have ever happened happening, 

the colour of all this here now with all the 

languages and love and all of the 

rabbits out of hats—through despite because of—

all of this. 

 

Don’t let them whitewash you, New York. 

You’re not mine, but you’re definitely not theirs. 

Whitewashing looks shit on all things and will be catastrophic on you. 

 

Stay your kind of Mangrove Killifish. 

Continue. Continue. Continue. 

Keep loving yourself. 

Keep procreating through yourself. 

You are a Killifish. 

Don’t let them drain that colour from your skin. 

Don’t let them. 

You are you are you are, unapologetically, you are. 

 

Don’t put barbed wire around Coney Island. 

Don’t slap an English track over that symphony of languages. 

Don’t let this fear win. 

Don’t let it don’t let it don’t let it. 

 

I love you, you Killifish city. 

We love you for spawning us as part of your circus. 

We love you for letting us sweat in your gills. 

Don’t let them take you. Don’t let them take you. 

 

There are poachers around who want your scales to hang as jewels around their neck. 

You are not a hunting trophy. 

 

You are the Mangrove Killifish. 

Don’t let them take you. 

Don’t let them take you. 

Don’t let them hunt you. 

 

3 reasons why you should never make anything at all.

New science reveals that if you make the choice not to make anything, this choice is the only thing you will have to make.

Research suggests that the moment you get into the business of making things, you may, at the very minimum, find yourself altogether full of feelings that you may not be able to account for.

It is important to remember that there are feelings and there are feelings. Some feelings are predictable. When you come across these, or they come across you, both you and them might just be somewhat fine. If however, you are visited by—slapped? Is slapped better than visited? If you are slapped—yes, slapped is better—by feelings that are altogether inconvenient, altogether totalizing, altogether rupture-in-the-gutting, you may find yourself a bit inside out.

Feelings are caused by a range of different anythings. How does this happen? Quite simply, the anythings chemically react with the insides of your heart to make the feelings, somewhat like a magic trick. You may be asking, but how? And also, but then what if I don’t and why?

If you come across some rogue anythings that are tempting you to make them, science explains that you should catch the rebel anythings in a something that can seal very tightly, perhaps like a zip lock container—those are handy—from which they cannot escape.

In full disclosure, I myself have been known to make somethings which had first appeared to me as anythings. These something-come-anythings that I have made range from bad cakes, to good and bad love, to mostly good tea. I have also made beds and a fool of myself. And so I am somewhat of an expert.

And this is why I have come up with this handy listicle, in case you were confused or worse. Here are three reasons why you should never make anything at all.

  1. Making anything in collaboration with other people may make you pang for them when the making has ceased. This is why they call it Making Memories, scientists confirm when they remember to. 

See point 3.

  1. Making anything may turn into a passion and having passions is very consuming of time and other resources. (Things like making beds are less susceptible to this process.)

Let’s say by means of example that I as a child was somehow besotted with making stories. Let’s say then that I realized one day that one thing humans do is called Theatre and this thing called Theatre is when you make stories of all sorts. These stories are then ingested by other people who may in turn make stories for you, as a sort of gift giving process.

Let’s say then that I, like other humans, found I loved to do this. Let’s say then too that this puppy love—pathetic—for making stories got all yappy and barky and started pissing all over the floor until I was like,

Why am I even doing this stupid thing? It doesn’t even make sense. And also I’m obviously very bad at telling stories and from the audience, if I were in it watching the thing I made, it would surely look like I am actually made of polystyrene and that I had webbed ears and that I am not a real actor person but only in the costume of one and nobody wants that sort of nonsense. And also, it’s about as ridiculous a thing to do as a person can find, after the sport of curling maybe—thank goodness I never tried that.

And let’s say I, like many others who get The Doubt, one day stopped making more things.

Let’s say for example that all this transpired. And then one day, the Anything of theatre said, “Maybe you should just try me on again, as a sort of thing—any thing—to make.”

And I was like, but I don’t even know you. I called you stupid. You called me stupid. We both snorted when we laughed at each other. We both revealed our fangs. We may have even drawn blood. And you know what, you actually hurt me.

  1. Making anything may catapult you into other people’s lives. (Warning: they may also be catapulted into yours. If you must insist on making something, make sure their landing is soft.)

Let’s refer back to point 2 of this list from whence we have just come. Let’s say, by means of illustration, that all that was laid out in point 2 actually happened, but I decided to try making theatre things again anyway. Let’s say I went and made an anything of theatre with some other people who also liked to make a story. Let’s say this happened, regardless of what I knew best.

And let’s say that through the making of this anything, it was revealed to me (but wait this has been revealed to me before) that sometimes you can make anything with people through camaraderie, support and respect. And let’s say that these people in question chemically-reactioned feelings in me that were not about I-am-not-allowed-to-make-things, but about look-what-we-made-together.

Well. Let’s say. If I were to make memories like that, I would be to blame. It would be my fault when I had to mop up all the feelings that got spilled everywhere. I would be the one responsible for that flood.

  1. Making anything will make you look like you’re making it up as you’re going along. Because you will be. Because this is the fourth point in a three-point list. Because I’m making a point. You see where that gets you?

In closing, if you absolutely have to make something, I would suggest you make excuses. Science proves and the research is in. Making excuses is the best way to stop making anything else at all.

That shade of white.

He wears brand named tie-dye, and is still pre yoga-sweat. Middle aged, but ohmygod he obviously juices.

He says hello.

I just want to go inside, get upside down, shake things loose. Because, yes, maybe I am partial to a bit of a Downward Dog. And, yesokfine, I probably also juice.

But the door to the studio is still closed. We stand in this corridor—which I’m sure is a fraction smaller than it was before it was painted in tie-dye.

I say hello.

He says something about the water cooler, the schedule, the rain. I half-giggle-nod. I guess he doesn’t see my spirit leaving my body because he carries on talking like nothing’s happened.

Wait. I know that sound. Something in his speech is familiar, and it’s not just the same-old-same-old arrangement of letters into chitty-chat-chit-chat.

“Are you South African?” I ask.

“Rhodesian.”

Ah. Here we go. Witnessed the effects of this cocktail before: the Pale Ale-ment, followed by the White Geno-cider.

“You’re from South Africa! I can hear.” He spills his epiphany all over the floor. It sticks to my shoes. I cannot run.

“You’re South African!” This is him again.

They build them smart where we’re from.

“Yes.”

“Ja, I left twenty years ago. Got out just in time.”

For what? Did you have an appointment?

“Sho. It’s bad there now, hey?” he continues.

Is this a question?

I think of escarpments. I think of openness. I think of humour so deurmekaar, only we can find things in the mess. I think of music and skies that trick you into thinking we are all free. I think of, despite everything, still trying and trying and trying.

He qualifies: “For us whites.”

I think of white people drinking organic coffee on hillsides, of hipster dads pushing designer prams, of houses painted in Privilege Pink, of white faces in offices, in theatres, in tapas bars. I think of private schools, of Daddy’s Businesses, of blonde hair brunching, of of of.

I think of walking down a suburban street without eyes spearing into me, without others being convinced I will steal their little white things.

I think of solid walls, of insurance money to rebuild when fires binge on our landscapes, of gated communities, of Cape Town’s city bowl like a fort. I think of the privilege of choosing to not have to digest headline after headline, because maybe I just need a little break from the news?

I think of precarity.

I think of woman after woman, unable to flee, unable to feed, unable unable unable.

(Wait, why are we even arguing this?)

I think of being here, almost as far as I can be from home. I think of having the privilege to be standing right here, not because it is better or worse, but because I chose it. I chose to be here. I think of choosing, of privilege, of having the privilege to choose.

I puke out the words, “I didn’t leave for that.”

What do I even mean?

My words fall flat on the floor, mixing with his sticky epiphany about my origins. We slip and slide all over our regurgitated narratives. What a mess.

I qualify: “I came for love. My partner. He’s Canadian.”

And with that, he loses interest in the party we are having at this crime scene. No point in talking to a chick who has a boyfriend, I suppose.

“South Africa. I hear it’s bad there now.” The phrase is stuck in my head like a Christmas carol in June.

I am not one of those, I hear myself convincing myself. I am not one of those. Over and over. Please. I am not one of those.

Road Closed

Walking down the road

The sign says ROAD CLOSED. This must be where we start.

She tells us they were there last night. The road was kept open only for The Woman to receive mail and goods. Sometimes a car would come and take The Woman away. It would always bring her back. We colour in the story by peopling the car with The Woman’s family, taking her out to have A Day and bringing her back again. These are our paint strokes, salve to ease our itch of her loneliness. The Woman’s loneliness itself is our narrative work. We catapult ourselves into her story and suffer, hugged only by trees, soothed only by the monotone of the Chevron Burnaby Refinery below that sounds to some like waves crashing on the shore and to others like roaring traffic and yet to others like the planet fast forwarding itself. The Woman herself may never have known loneliness, or even noticed the refinery’s hum.

One day, a sign went up. The sign says ROAD CLOSED. The road really was kept open for only one purpose.

We slither past the ROAD CLOSED sign and into the forest. She tells us that they found books in The Woman’s house the night before. They were mainly books about and for children. The Woman must have been a teacher. Yes, a teacher! And these were her books! Canadiana dusted with moss, paper recycling itself back into the earth, stories attempting to become trees again. She tells us that one of The Woman’s books is a guide for boys on How To Become a Man, as if nature could not be trusted to administer the process alone. In the book, a diagram links the penis to the brain in one dotted line. We are too busy giggling to dissect the author’s intention with this sketch.

The house taps us gently on our left shoulders. I wanted it to emerge from the forest with a flourish, announcing its significance. It does not seem interested in show. Rather, it whispers so inaudibly one has to lean in to hear its song through the muffling moss. Next door to The Woman’s house, the foundations of a companion home are bared open like a cadaver in autopsy. There was once a neighbour! A blackberry bush ensnares me, trapping me in a childhood picture book of illustrated (what was the fairy tale?) stories, the girl imprisoned in nettles or thorns or patriarchy, her mouth agape waiting for a hero. I decide to free myself.

The books are in the shed. Why are they in the shed with the wheelbarrow, with the gardening jeans? Books are functional here. Books are tools, it seems. The moss must have been dragging the stories into the earth long before The Woman was done with this house. It spikes me like a thorn: Our Land from The Canadian Citizen Branch. Look! The Woman was as I am. A visitor. The Woman arrived from elsewhere and learnt how to be here. Our Land tells of Canada’s impressive size and provincial divisions, of its infamous cold and vastest plains. It tells without thinking it is even telling of the “Our” in the title. Without even knowing, the book declares ownership through flags and crests and islands named after British princes. In the preface, the word “factual” is used. I ask the book, “Whose facts?” It refuses to reply.

The door to the main house is open. They will bulldoze the structure soon. The water and power have been turned off. It is a matter of time. The house is on death row. The house is lying terminal in a hospital. The house is at that moment right before the crash.

I eavesdrop on a conversation that the house is having as its own life flashes before its eyes. The house is speaking to a ghost of a house in my parents’ town of Knysna, continents away from anything this house has seen. Fires in Knysna have done the work of a million bulldozing construction companies and far too efficiently. This house in British Columbia speaks to the ghost of a house in Knysna, like some sort of structural medium. The Knysna house used to be home to a Malawian family of three, come to South Africa to find a new life. It is now an apparition. If it is given second life, it will be home to only one person, a man who lost his wife and three year old daughter in the blaze.

The house in British Columbia attempts to motivate. Please, if you materialize again, and if you have to become the respite to now only this man, please, please, please. Please, comfort him.

The shedBooks

A Good Witch

I have a big, ugly nose.

It is the kind of nose that got in the way of first kisses, in some cases as a physical obstacle and in others in terms of them happening at all.

It’s a big old honker of a thing, the inspiration for boys to call me Nosey, a living monument to once saved teenage waitressing tips for that one-day nose job. Surgery. Rhinoplasty for this… elephantiasis.

It’s the kind of nose that used to stop me from panning a room using my neck, lest anyone should catch a glimpse of my profile. I learnt to pan with my eyes. Sometimes I catch myself still panning with only my eyes, the eyes that used to skim pictures on cinema screens and television sets for a glimpse of someone who might look something like me. I remember seeing a few men with big noses, but am still struggling to think of a similarly endowed screen-boxed woman. Except the one in that Seinfeld episode that is actually about Ugly Noses and Their Jobs. And Barbara Streisand, who before I knew anything of her talent, knew of her nose and how Big and Ugly it was.

Me and my big honker of a nose. The one that has made me Interesting and not Beautiful. The one that made me You Would Be Pretty If…

You might know the kind. I think they sell plastic versions of my nose at costume stores in aisle Witch.

It’s the kind of nose that makes you internalize a sense of your own ugliness, if you are prone to that sort of thing. The kind of nose that may have weaselled itself (because that’s what big noses do) into thoughts of my own inferiority. The kind of nose that makes me think, “Why are you wasting time on this? There is a cosmos of wonder out there and you’re still thinking about the nose on your face. That Big Old Ugly Nose.”

Nosey

I think we were in Grade 7ish. He called the landline. He just said, “Nosey!” and then hung up. I remember crying and being so embarrassed I didn’t even tell my mom. I told my mom everything. Except about that and the wanting a nose job thing. I didn’t want to tell her I ever wanted a nose job because I was scared she would ever think that she didn’t do a good job in making me, and I would never want her to feel that way.

He called the landline and I answered and he said, “Nosey!” And then he hung up.

The Good Witch Being Nosey

I have a Good Friend in Vancouver, he’s almost five, and we hang out together and go and see things like the MacMillan Space Centre and the Starbucks near his school. At the Starbucks, we watch the baristas foaming milk and working on that coffee pressing machine that makes the ground coffee come out looking like a cake. I sometimes have tea and sometimes have coffee, and he always has a Kiddies’ Hot Chocolate which we call Warm Chocolate because it’s made cooler for kids. Today, after Starbucks, we both cheated at Checkers and then got bored of the game and played something else. I think in the new game we were both on the same team even though there was nobody else there to be on the other team, and the colour of the team we were both on was red and we were called the Ultra-somethings (I forget the name now because I’m an adult and we’re sometimes bad with that kind of thing) and we made these suits out of the sticks and things that we were meant to build a fort with. Then we got bored of that and read a book about a bird called Chirp.

This friend of mine, the one that’s almost five, he told his mom once that I am like the Good Witch in the Wizard of Oz. It was the first time I thought of myself as a witch when it was not nose related. It is a confusing analogy that this friend of mine whose almost five has made, because the Good Witches from the Wizards of Oz that he has seen are all Hollywood creations. And no Hollywood Good Witch would ever have a Big Old Ugly Nose. Only the Bad Witches would have that.

I don’t know why I am the Good Witch, but I know that I want to be. And I want to be the Good Witch with my Big Old Ugly Nose in our Red Team where we’re all on the same side. Because maybe you can be Good and Ugly all at the same time. And maybe you can play games that are not about being on different teams.

I want to be a Good Witch and do things that witches do, like make magic and smash the patriarchy.

I want to be a Good Witch with a Big Old Ugly Nose that looks even bigger when I cackle.

 

© Deborah Vieyra

Victoria’s Secrets

“Look at this place. Look. It’s like. It’s. It’s not like North America. It’s. It’s like the UK. It’s like the UK came on holiday and stayed.”

“It did. It’s called colonialism.”

“Look at this place. Look. It’s like Vancouver if Vancouver were left to be and they didn’t tear down all The Old to build things in glass.”

“If Vancouver were left to be it would look decidedly different from Victoria. Heritage Buildings were not born with this place nor that one. Heritage Buildings are built just like condos. Heritage Buildings also tore down someone else’s Old to build New.”

“Look at this place. Look. There’s a Totem Pole there. Did you hear about the one that was burnt down somewhere up North? I read about it. It’s something like a death.”

“Look. It’s China Town. Look! The building there! They kept this, this old Chinese school. There are so many layers of different cultures here. Like in the The Princess and The Pea. If only we could just all really feel the pea.”

“Is there a drug problem here on the island? Like in Vancouver? Are there a lot of desperate people looking off west waiting for their sun to set forever?”

“Sure. It’s bad here too. The weather is better if you live on the streets in this part of Canada. Better than Calgary. Imagine those winters if you had to live on the streets.”

“Look! The Parliament Buildings. There’s a throne there. In the garden. But it’s wet from the rain like someone peed on the seat.”

“The magnificent German lady we visit tells me that the deer are a problem here because they eat the things you try to grow. Their neighbours have to put a fence around the Cherry Trees that they planted so that the deer do not get to them. The Cherry Trees now look like that rose from The Little Prince, the one kept in the glass. But you cannot complain of the deer. They are here, the deer, like us. They have no predators, sort of like us sometimes. You have to live with them. Luckily they are cute. Not like rats. Nobody wants to “just live with” rats.”

“The magnificent German lady tells us that she recently became a citizen of Canada. This involves a swearing in ceremony where you pledge allegiance to the Queen. I picture the Queen’s face and I picture the magnificent German lady pledging allegiance to her, and suddenly I don’t know how anything works.”

“Why is everything so luminous? The greens? I have never seen Green like this. Like Glow In The Dark alien merchandise we got at arcades as prizes when we were kids. Like a 90s rave is happening on the floor with the bugs. It’s so green I get all tear-filled that anything could be this ee cummingsly. Perhaps this emotion is called chloro-fill.”

“Look across. Those are the San Juan Islands. That is America. Some say that some of the people living there would rather be part of Canada. Some say that Cascadia would be a good idea, an independent nation made up of West Coast territories. Some say that people are funny for constantly drawing and re-drawing these lines around themselves and each other. Like they think their Bit is a Cherry Tree. Like they think the deer are coming. Or worse, the rats.”

“Not everyone can live on an island. Some people can’t. Just because of. Like Philosophically.”

“The Empress Hotel is a fancy place with opulent forks and carvings in the high wooden ceilings, illuminated by natural light that visits it all perfectly in the afternoons. If I take a poo in the Empress Hotel, would that make it all seem a bit more Real? Perhaps. There are ladies in hats. They are having tea in hats. The Tea is High. All those ladies will poo out those nibbles sometime. Even High Tea has to be pood out, unless you want to explode.”

“There’s a castle and it once belonged to this coal mining magnate. It is called Craigdarroch, the castle, but they never wanted it to be called a castle, the rich people who built it. The Dunsmuir family. Scottish. Full of bloody secrets, the family, but that’s the thing that families are usually full of, because it is impossible to poo them out. The father left the fortune to the mother and the mother didn’t share properly. The brother died an alcoholic, in love with an older divorcee. The daughter, as is customary with daughters, was declared a lunatic.”

“There are so many flowers all over this city. Look at these flowers. I have never seen flowers like this. How can anything be So? I keep tearing up and saying “Wow”. At another time, I, like other daughters, would have been declared a lunatic.”

“The Saanich Nation of Coast Salish peoples. They were here before Victoria had any secrets. It’s confusing this thing that white people do. I think of this guy that we had dinner with once. He was some big shot Hollywood scrap of a man and he spent most of the evening trying to convince me that colonialism all must have been a very good thing because, really, where would Those People be if not for White People’s technology and, really, can you think of another population apart from White People who have developed so much? I mean, Really. And If We’re Honest. I would have felt sorry for this White Man and his sheer lack of imagination, if only him and his opinions had not always been so violent. But that is not just a secret of Victoria, I’m afraid. And I know how my very existence makes me complicit in keeping it everywhere.”

“Our faces when we taste beer and truffles look like cartoon orgasms. I look at My Love and we look out at the sea and down at the flowers, and the sky starts to tear up and drizzle on us. Everything is green from the tears falling. The world says Wow! and is declared a Lunatic. We get in a car which gets on a boat, and off we go back to the mainland. I think a thought I thought when we travelled in the opposite direction: If you want to understand a place, you must understand its island. I’m not quite sure what that thought means, but I think for a second of Robben Island, and then fall asleep on my favourite shoulder.”

420 on the # 20 Bus (Eastbound on Hastings): A Review

It’s 420 today so I assume that’s why they are stoned. But that is just an assumption because maybe every day is 420 on Hastings Street. Like in that movie Groundhog Day but in this case the stoned daze just keeps waking up to you. She looks like an older version of that actress that plays Anne of Green Gables and I think maybe that’s her boyfriend, maybe older, maybe just bigger. But they’re here, these two, and they’re waiting for the bus. The Number 20. On 420. No correlation. Unless one wants to make one on 420 because that is the kinda correlation that should be made on a pot celebrating day.

The maybe-boyfriend sticks his thumb out as if trying to hitchhike but the joke is it’s only a bicycle passing. They laugh. A lot. Well he does and then looks to her and now she does too. They laugh and laugh and laugh.

I look at her and see myself at 20. Another 20. As I wait for the Number 20. On 420. I am sober. Why do I think these stoner thoughts? I am an imposter.

The bus comes as it should. I look sober. I look so damn embarrassingly sober on this Number 20 bus. The bus driver looks at me funny, judging my sobriety. I smile like a wooly little sober sheep, walk past some dude sending up a soliloquy to an audience of stains on the roof, and sit in that weird middle section of the bus where everyone has to face each other like there is an interview taking place to see who is qualified to get off at the next stop. I am ill prepared, just too damn lucky in this life to be a candidate for the next few stops on the Downtown Eastside.

He arrives in the Middle Section. I think he’s drinking a beer in a brown bottle but I choose not to focus my vision on him enough to find out, in case he thinks I’m flirting with him or something and it all ends up confusingly. She dances in, a little after him. She has a sparkly necklace around her 40-maybe-50-maybe-30-maybe-whoahIactuallyhavenoidea year old neck. It’s like a sparkly princess necklace. Like she’s dressed up in her mom’s clothes and she’s small. Her hair is prom done. Date Night for these two. She smiles at him. Her mauve lipstick frames no teeth in the front and a few broken at the back like artefacts. He looks at her like she is The Most Beautiful. There are sores on her chest, I notice now. They look put there by a make-up artist and I wonder if they are sore, the sores, and then I think that I am glad that she is wearing this top that makes her (I think, I assume) feel beautiful on Date Night despite the sores and then I’m like, “What business do I have wondering about these sores that are not mine?” And then it looks like the sores are everywhere. In people’s eyes and their thoughts and their hearts. And mine starts to break, my heart does, and I think of this jagged world and understand how all these people would want to get off it, are trying and trying and trying to get off it, they’re trying so hard that they’ve got addicted to the trying. He talks to her and she talks back. Her Hero and his Heroine? I don’t know what they are saying but it looks like they’re saying Love Things, and they suddenly look first familiar and then enlightened, although I know neither them nor enlightenment.

Then this other woman, she has sort of unicorn yoga tights that come just below the knees and a Princess Di kind of haircut but it’s pink, she comes to the interview section of the bus and she sits there too. She looks at them, looks away and looks back, a double take like she went to Drama School to pull off this moment on the bus, in this interview.

“Hey,” Pink Princess Di says.

Date Night Princess looks at her, focussing her eyes like they’re an old pair of binoculars that she can’t seem to get right.

“You changed your hair,” says Date Night Princess.

“No, I didn’t.”

“Yes. You did. You did! You changed your hair.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“No!”

“Yes!”

“Nice to see you.”

“Yeah! Yeah.”

I try to make out more of what they say but I can’t really without going to sit right next to them and I’m not sure that I am invited to this Princess Party.

“I got a place. I’m excited. It’s going to be different. Real. It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be a place. I’m excited for you. New. It looks like it’s going to be new and a place and exciting and real.”

The conversation seems copy-pasted from an upwardly mobile dinner party. The words are the same as anything has ever sounded and suddenly, in my pathetic sobriety, I cannot differentiate between anything anymore and it all seems a lump of grey.

“Ok. My stop. Bye. Nice to see you. Bye.” Pink Princess Di walks the red carpet through the centre of the bus. I imagine her for a moment sticking a needle into herself as a means of leaving through an Emergency Exit and scold myself for another sober assumption.

Date Night is going swimmingly.

Ah. My stop. Princess Street. Of course. I make the cut and am allowed off the bus.