Food Series – Fruit – Pineapple

Pineapple. The plastic one taken as a token of the deceased grandmother I had not been close to. That had denied the cancer that claimed her blood cells. Taken also were two mixing bowls, two chipped plates and a squirrel painting she’d done. Most embedded memory of her – telling my father I’d been picking at foods when he worried about my chubbiness, pre-puberty. Grade 4. The same and only year, two boys fought over me. It was carrots I’d taken. The pineapple hung by stoves, gathering grease and dust in kitchenette after kitchenette over my “formative years” in Montreal. Wiped with a damp J-cloth occasionally. Receiving questions, but mostly compliments, from the many singular, often one-time or short-lived guests that passed through my place. Cool girls. Cute boys. None of whom were keepers, or the marrying type.

Pineapple juice with Malibu. Vice while bartending, even if it was the drink of choice of Texan housewives with whom I had nothing else in common. Sweet tropical smoothness. Add blue curacao and vodka to make a blue lagoon. With Galiano – a take on a Harvey Wallbanger called “slow bang up against the wall” or something to that effect. My favourite drink of all drinks for a span of time.

Pineapple a mess to cut. Skin coarse and hairy. Mole-like holes. Mixed into vanilla yogurt. Or skewered and dipped in chocolate.

Pineapple lip gloss drying out on my lips as you leave me. Or I leave you and you say it’s perfectly okay. Say you wouldn’t ask me to stay. Because you’re an unmoving Pole. And they don’t swing that way.

Food Series – Fruit – Grape

Grape. Classic. Koolaid, Jello, Jolly Ranchers, Pop Rocks and Ring Pops. Welch’s and icewine. The white grapes in the linguine with vodka sauce and… maybe blue cheese? I never got to try at the ex’s restaurant worked in. We went once, for my birthday, never to return. Me left wondering about this pasta forever. Much earlier…The summer of sour grape blasters. $5 for a box at Au But, the wholesale warehouse in St. Henri. Tongue roughened. Stifling high-ceilinged room. Crazy lady down the hall. Window could only open a crack. Writing daily, transcribing nutsness to paper. Cabin fever without the cabin. Fever of no ventilation. Microwaved hot dogs cut into pieces and frozen corn. My favourite meal of poverty from my youth. Pita pizzas for a lone guest from out of town. But once. Or the 2 in unconventional relation of relations with. Contemplations of breaking into Bjork concert. The feminine dream boat from high school magically became mine. One illness replaced with another. Heath replaced with the cold of winter. Bundling in 10 layers to walk 45 minutes uphill. To the dream boat’s mile-end apartment. To watch him and his friends play videogames amidst warm smoke. Saves the Day and Superdrag. A move to a slightly saner , more spacious space.

Food Series – Fruit – Lychee

Lychee. Favourite fruit. Sticky sweet true candy of nature. Odd appearance that puts many off. Causing them to miss out. Bumpy, rough, brown shell protects transluscnt jelly-like pulp around a bitter black seed – oval-shaped evil eye in its centre. Lychee the reflection of nasty evil in the centre of good. One must eat around it carefully. Martinis and bubble tea. Precious. Short, finicky season. Shipped from Asian for brief mid-summer stint. Searching China town in burning heat. Easily and often missed. Canned ones a poor representation. A fragrant liquor called Soho. Too syrupy sweet for most. Combined with grape Sour Puss, the result is a martini called Barbie Doll. At Crabby Joe’s with half price appetizers on Fridays after 9 pm. Luxurious lychees. $25 for a net. Often eaten sitting on floor, with fan blowing on me. Eating the whole net at once, trying so hard to stop, to save some for a friend who hasn’t tried them yet. And failing.

Food Series – Fruit – Apple

Apple. Of cliches. Of one’s eye. One a day til you die. Falling not far from its tree. Countless varieties, in the mall-like Loblaws. With names like “Jazz” and “Pink Lady”. Too sweet at times, too sour others. A fruit so tiresome, yet convenient. Waxy. Eaten without utensils. Places easily in one’s purse. Though hands left sticky have recently resulted in preference for the pureed sauce variety for eating at the office. How things come full circle. Once a childhood treat. An exciting dessert eaten at the neighbors’. Full fruit specimen disgusting when mealy. Or too warm. Enjoyed cold, but not too cold. Sticky juice, stickier still when combined with booze. Drunk most evenings for 4 years with the man one had hoped for a future with. The colour of beer or wine. Apple cocktails ruined. Eternally the fruit/drink of disappointment. Remaining irresistible in martini-form. Torture for the weak-willed. A favourite lip gloss a constant portable apple martini. That no men appreciate the same way I do. Kurt Cobain never brushed his teeth – only ate apples. No cavities, or so the myth goes. A sugar that cleans vs. rots? Maybe only in short-lived, most-special rock stars.

Food Series – Fruit – Peach

Peach. Schnapps too sweet. An underaged-drinking treat. Uncommon in pie and jam, for reasons unbeknownst to me. Mid-teen summers spent eating baskets of fresh, juicy Ontario peaches. Ripe as me. Slightly fuzzy and fully fragrant. Watching mid-90s alt-rock videos on Much Music. During commercials, writing punk songs with ridiculous lyrics for my half-assed band Vilify. Now peaches are purchased late-winter, frozen. Simmered in orange brandy and ginger. The resulting syrup slathered on a slice of French toast. Aside a hefty cut of super-salty bacon.

pondering. sentences.

I’ve finally managed to begin the process of breaching the great-yawning-chasm-of-a-gap between me not-writing and me-writing again. I found myself notably paralysed and though to turn to some of my favourite reading materials for inspiration.

One of my favourite books is a collection of various bits (short stories of sorts, exercises in narrative and form as well as suggestions for exercises for writers, essays on writing, word drawings) by innovative writer and writing theorist Johanna Rodgers called Sentences. I love Ms. Rodger’s writing, her concerns, her sentences, her subject matter and her experimentation. The excerpt below is taken from an essay in the book called “On Writing (1998-2005)”.

“As always, the writing. How is the writing? How is the writing? How is the writing? So much concern for something that is barely there. The writing happens, it never is, so the question doesn’t make a lot of sense. Rain, money, taxes, spring. But it is the writing, of course, that matters, like vanilla in a cake or a bit of salt in bread. It’s just time, after all, words on a page, marks on the wall, money – important to remember that they are all the same thing: invisible time dressed in different costumes”.

The next step for me is to brave reading my novella that has tormented me so.  I haven’t read the thing in many moons. At least 600 and something would be my guess. Eventually the plan is to rework the whole thing, but the scope of the revision is daunting, and I believe some stretching, some proper warming-up is essential. I may add to my under-5-minute-fruit/food-exercise series, or tackle any of the other  ideas I’ve had sitting around collecting dust for months, years.

prose poem of the past

on washrooms and likeness

Julie’s always wondering why she’s drawn to the one washroom stall (in any given washroom) with the faulty lock. Once in it, awkwardly holding the door shut with one hand, she reflects that occasionally in life you feel like you’re an actor when you’re not even acting.

She feels like a warm-water crab in her mango-kiwi bubble baths. Partly because she is a Cancer (perhaps in more than one way). And can’t bring herself to eat seafood due to feeling too akin to sea creatures. Julie finds it ironic that mental is half of the word ‘sentimental’. And while splashing in her bathtub she thinks about how passing of time makes for the learning of lessons and attempting to move forward (not sideways like she had for some time) in shallow suds.

A program on the Discovery Channel once said: “Crabs don’t congregate; they need their own space and time to keep to themselves. Sure they come across another crab or two at times, but a brief chat is enough, some clacking of claws and they’re off on their way”. Julie sees the crab’s inability to give back massages as a fortunate one. At least for them it’s not a matter of lacking skill, but of lacking the proper implements.

the tale of the DEMON WAFFLE

Someone in my massive Guyanese family decided to get married in India. More than half the members of my ‘family’ are not actually relatives. Being from the same small South American village is enough to qualify individuals as ‘cousins’ ‘aunties’ and ‘mussies’.  Hundreds of names and faces encountered once, maybe twice in a life. Asking “you don’t know who I am?” What this also entails is tons of wedding and funeral invitations. Hindu ceremonies called ‘jhandis’ and ‘jags’. Prasad dough with raisins and loot bags of fruit and soft rice. Flowers and flaming props. Alters. Saris and yellow dye.

My grandma was back from the dead for the 8th time. Like the other times, I wept in disbelief. I told her I was sorry I hadn’t treated her better back when I was a self-absorbed teen. After all the years she’d taken care of me, I told her I wished I’d done more for her. Spent more time with her when she was depressed, old and wishing for death. The disturbing evangelist on the tv screen in her room, her closest friend, seemed to care more for her than me. And all he wanted was her money.

She held me and told me I was forgiven. That she was Ok. But still I wept myself to sleep on a strange floor, crammed amidst 14 other ‘relatives’.

I woke up and dragged my heavy self into the dirty little kitchen in the apartment my family had rented for the weekend. As foreign, hot and uncomfortable as a baked potato in a deep fryer. Smelling of garam masala. Brown skin bustled around me. Me ignored by those buzzing and chatting. Then abandoned all together as I often am at such gatherings. Generous loving people, but not quite the right fit. One edge of my puzzle piece damp and torn. Everyone knew everyone but I knew no one.  Southern-Ontarion more than South-American.

The room was vacated. Save for me, a few grains of stray rice, a greenish-brown smudge of spilled curry on the counter. I rifled through the cupboards – more of a sweet in the morning than savory sort. In the freezer I found the unexpected. A beacon of beaming yellow. Eggos!

I excitedly popped the slightly freezer-burned mass-produced cardboardesque circle into the toaster. I opened the fridge. Over-ripe pineapple cut in cubes in a large white bowl. The yellow fruit’s outsides had been rubbed in salt and weary weary pepper. A deceptively innocent looking currant-like specimen. So hot it made even the most hardcore spice enthusiasts weep.

At the back of the fridge was a wee bit of table syrup in a plastic bottle. I grabbed it. Turned it upside down and shook it a bit, watching the cold drops slowly drip down. The waffle popped up, startling me. I rushed over with a chipped plate. Quickly transferred the hot morsel to it. Spurted the syrup out, a flatulent sound. I rummaged for cutlery – all the knives were serrated, the only fork left in the drawer was bent.

Upon the first bite I was surprised. I’d been excited and yearning for some Western junk food, but it was more than that. I thought “This is the best fucking waffle I’ve ever tasted. This is the highlight of this whole damn trip!”

But as I ate, I started to feel an immense pain like no other in my gut. It was far worse than food poisoning or ulcers or stomach cancer. A terrible burning, but no acid indigestion could be as fierce as this excruciating burning. Weakened, I had to sit down but I couldn’t stop eating. I looked at the waffle and it had an evil smile on it! If I wasn’t aware of the fact that the cunning culprit of cruelty was the source of my pain, I would have thought it was cute. The two spots for eyes, the simple curve for the mouth and angular dashes for brows. Like many cartoon devils I’d drawn myself.

I knew then and there it was a demon waffle, but it tasted so damn good ! It felt as though with each bite instead of me eating it, it was eating me! The sensation of being eaten alive was a horrible one, of course, but the waffle was so delicious I couldn’t cease. Bite after bite I grew progressively weaker and eventually had to lie down, but even then I kept eating.

Later that day, I told my friend Drew who had come along to the wedding, what had happened. She told me the same thing happened to her! And my grandma overheard and told me the same. They both got sucked into the painful situation because no one could resist the demon waffle’s strong spell. Truly the work of the devil.

I wandered off to an empty room. Lay on the floor. Paralyzed as I wracked my brain trying to figure out why the demon chose to attack us of all people. It eventually dawned on me that we all had ties to my home in Galt. My grandma and I had lived in the house while Drew was my neighbor for a short while, though we didn’t really know each other back then because she went to private school.

The pieces fell in place and what a horrific picture it was indeed. The goblin on the edge of my bed when I was a child. His green face. His snicker. His sickening smugness. He cackled. I ran. Almost breaking my neck when I tripped. Tumbled down the cement steps. I was lucky I didn’t need stitches. I was lucky I had a hard head. Everyone said.

My mom, who still slept with the lights on at age 60. How I overheard her on the phone, telling a friend that it was because once she turned off the light and a threatening voice told her to turn it back on. She obeyed. Telling herself it was God protecting her, but never stopping to ask from what.

There were the footsteps nightly at 3am. Dragging across our plush rose pink carpet. I heard them. Accompanied by the sense of being watched. Vicious nightmares. Repeated instances of robbers breaking in and killing my grandmother and mother. Other times, they featured flashing lights. An inhuman voice. Branch-like arms trying to grab me. Fleeing up the stairs from the basement. Which I grew more scared of as I grew older. Unable to stand the rec room space no matter how cozy my mom had tried to make it. I couldn’t practice piano. The demon ruined my dreams of becoming a concert pianist. He ruined my relationships. With my mother, my brother and my grandmother. With my young boyfriends and girlfriends.

Teen angst and failed electronics. Mechanical pencils. Crackly phone lines as if they’d been chewed. Yet no mice in sight. My room 10 degrees colder than the rest of the house. My uncle thought I had a poltergeist. But when I read about them, it just didn’t seem right. The angst came from within, not from without. The angst came from somewhere, maybe something, that knew what I was all about. That knew how to pull my strings tight. To stop the air from reaching my vital points.

When my mom found me smoking pot, she blamed the devil. My brother suspected the same of my obsession with the Smiths and aggressive alt rock which had only been a brief phase for him; his tastes had softened quickly. I had previously scoffed at this devil notion. But the incident with the demon waffle changed all that.

I saw that the demon had always wanted me all to himself. He wanted me to knock myself off some high shelf. I came close. He was disappointed when I moved away. It seemed at first he may have followed me, but he grew tired after a couple years. He thought it was inevitable I’d crumble and turn to dust he could devour to make him stronger for the other victims he tormented. His time was better spent slamming their doors, hurling plates at heads, scrawling Latin across windows.

It crossed my mind that perhaps the demon always hoped one day I would become a writer too –a difficult state of being in itself, let alone for a severely sensitive soul. Turmoil. Doubt. Slim chances. Dashed dreams. He was certain if anything would be my end, it would be my desire to be a writer. The way it would conflict with the sort of person he knew me, perhaps crafted me, to be.

But he’d been wrong. I’d been saved, but not by god, by good friends. The first I’d ever really had.

It crossed my mind that my mom told me she knew the date she was going to die. But she refused to tell me how or when. Vexing. But I suddenly thought, what if it was the voice who told her? What if the demon took the shape of god to win her confidence? An image crossed my mind, my mother’s eyes closing for the last time. I knew in that instant that the undead unliving thing was on its way back to my home in Galt. I knew I had to get home. I had to stop it before it was too late.

I ran out to my uncle, a Hindu priest, and a few others who were present. But no one wanted to believe me. I yelled at them, clutched at their beige robes. Pleading with them on my knees. No one would listen. Everyone believed in God, in good, but no one believed in evil.

No one would take me to the airport. I finally convinced one of my aunts to let me at least try to call my mom, to warn her. But the phone rang and rang. There was no answer. Demons answer for no one. Demons answer to no one. Demons will chew you up and spit you out, and worse of all, they will do so by making you do it to yourself.