Friday, 15 November 2013

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Fifty: Convoy

I’m thinking about the house on East 17th. We moved in around this time of year, just after Halloween. We’d been fighting almost daily for over a year, but decided to keep going anyway in a new location, a block and a half away from Charles Dickens Elementary School. The irony was lost on my then; I didn’t know Dickens didn’t much like children, or that his own never met with his approval. But a man needs to work I suppose. Our sacrifices leave such holes in the lives of others, but then where would we be without them? At the time, I took Dickens School as a good sign. Very writerly. I barely wrote a thing in that house, as it turns out, busy as we were with first holding our lives together and then tearing them apart.

When we were breaking up, the landlord decided to do some foundation repairs and had to jack one corner of the house. All the walls cracked and bits of plaster fell onto book shelves and into plants and dishes. A large chunk of my office wall yielded while you were home visiting your family and I was sleeping with another woman. I found the symbolism, the meaningfulness of it, something of a relief. As if everything was just as it should be: The half naked body of a new lover pinned against the corner of a crumbling life. I knew then that we’d all lose, but I didn’t know what that meant really, or what it would feel like, and so convinced myself I didn’t care. 

The best thing about that house was the Vietnamese deli on the corner of Fraser and Kingsway, between the Laundromat and the video store in which not a single video was English. The only thing on the menu I knew how to order was the coffee—thick as molasses, sweet and strong, and coming only in one size and only after I had waited at the very back, far from the convoy of symbols and words I couldn’t pronounce, for the throngs of busy mothers and screaming children to peel out into the parking lot, arms loaded with mysterious packages. I'd point shyly at a glass shelf holding individual stainless steel coffee filters and with a sharp nod and a tangle of dissonance at the counter boys and their peach-fuzz mustachios, the coffee would appear, flawless and steaming from a Styrofoam cup.

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