Beyond the Grain

saint john

The art affected me almost instantly. We went to the gallery to support Adrienne, a Toronto-based artist who was exhibiting the work she completed after spending a few months in Syracuse, New York. She left to take part in the artist residency program and came back with a large body of work, most were pieces painted on wood bearing feminist and lesbian messaging, the lines in some designed to look like vaginas. Some of the pieces were colourful and abstract, while others were subdued and sad, exuding a feeling of loneliness and loss.

It was the latter that inspired us to buy a piece, our first real art. As we stood in the gallery two summers ago tipsy off complimentary wine, another friend offered to give us a tour. She was familiar with the work and had a way of describing the paintings in a manner that made you fall in love with each one. Not that the work wasn’t great in and of itself, but the stories played a quintessential role in our decision to buy the art. There were these intricate details behind each of the works that resonated deep within me. Story after story, I felt myself admiring each piece in a new way.

But when we came to the one we would buy something stopped both of us. The piece contains five pieces of wood, each one found somewhere in Syracuse, assembled in such a fashion to create one larger work. At first glance, all you see if the five pieces of wood, but upon further inspection it is clear the grain is actually painted on and stained. It is a work of five paintings of wood, painted on wood, against the grain. It is an illusion and a lie. It is control and chaos. It is beautiful and dark. It is haunting.

I loved it before I knew the story, but I loved it after I knew the story more. Adrienne felt a deep isolation in Syracuse. A college town, she was there on off months when almost everything was closed and no one was around. The town, my friend described, was broken and lonely, a series of abandoned homes with nobody to love them. Adrienne was staying in a room in a house that was shoddy at best. One night, she noticed a perplexing repair. It was painted wood, maybe along a floorboard, but whoever painted it had done so against the grain. Adrienne couldn’t understand why someone would do that; make such an obvious mistake. She felt like it summed up her trip perfectly.

TJ and I had just returned from a trip our selves. We had left Toronto for Saint John, New Brunswick in a hurry upon news that a dear friend of mine had been in a horrible accident. The ATV she was a passenger on had flipped and landed on top of her, crushing her beneath it. She was alive, but the accident left her paralyzed from the waist down. When I heard the news I was devastated. I could not stop crying and I called everyone in tears, TJ, my mother. It was hard for me to breathe. Shyla and I had been friends since middle school and she was like a sister to me. I felt like I was mourning her. I felt like she was dead. The news hit me so hard I had to keep reminding myself that she was alive.

Seeing her meant going to Saint John, a town that sounds to be much like Syracuse. On the way to New Brunswick we got delayed at the airport in Montreal. I cried into TJ’s lap for what felt like hours, devastated that we would arrive in Saint John too late to visit Shyla in the hospital. I hated the airline. I hated the feeling I felt in my stomach, this horrible knot of despair that turned and coiled until I felt so sick inside I thought I could die.

By the time we made it to Saint John it was pouring rain and midnight. The cab driver asked what we were doing in town and when we told him, he already knew of the accident. It had been all over the news. The scenario of seeing her in the hospital played out in my head over and over like a broken film reel with missing frames. The emotions were so strong they overrode the images. I couldn’t see her smiling in my visions. I couldn’t see me smiling in my visions. I saw only unparalleled sadness. I felt this sense of complete and utter loss even though she was alive.

Visiting hours were over and so TJ and I had little else to do but waste time in Saint John until we could see her in the morning. We grabbed an umbrella and decided to check out area. It was so late and we were exhausted, but we thought we’d better grab a drink somewhere down by the water and experience a taste of the town while we were there. We were also hungry, but nothing was open. Saint John is a port town, a place for cruise ships to stop through. But it felt like a ghost town, the rain sinking inside our bones and forcing us to confront the shiver we felt inside.

We weren’t able to see Shyla in the morning. She had a rough night and barely slept, finally resting her eyes some time after the sun had come up. So TJ and I decided to explore Saint John in the daytime. Even in the sunlight, the town felt desperate. The buildings and houses were so old and evidence of a fire that wiped out half the town many years before still remained. Nobody was around. In a coin and collectibles shop, old men talked about wars of the past. We walked down streets that were so empty we could hear our footsteps on concrete. It was a place without many sounds. As a city girl used to the noise of the streets, the silence disturbed me. I don’t remember hearing any birds.

When we finally saw Shyla, the experience was hardly the depressing scene I had been imagining and instead she possessed this unworldly acceptance of the accident, of her fate. I never saw her cry and she never once looked like she might. Everyone else, including me, was a total mess, but Shyla was calm. She knew something we didn’t yet. She knew that everything, including her, would be okay.

Back at the gallery, our experience in Saint John still haunted us. While our visits with Shyla turned out to be beautiful, the town itself had left scars on our souls. It felt like the painting knew this, that it recognized this inherent confusion, this suffering and intensity that we had experienced in the days leading up to our visit to Saint John, and the kaleidoscope of emotions that came with it. Some people don’t understand why we purchased art that reminds us of something so depressing, but the work continues to speak to us each day, forever its meaning just slightly evolving. These days when I look at it, it reminds me not to take things for granted, that everything can be taken away from you. Whether it’s in a minute or gradually over the span of a few months, you can lose things you never knew you could lose.

But more importantly, it tells of the power of turning something painful into something meaningful, and of seeing the beauty beyond the grain. It inspires me. It reminds me that everything is going to be okay.

Friends With Benefits

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It was a feisty summer evening in 2011. It was around ten and I was with my best friends sipping cheap beer and chilling endlessly at an infamous park in my hometown, where I have spent an inordinate amount of time. As it is often the case in big gatherings, our crowd kept getting larger. A small group of people that I did not know arrived. Of course, as I always spot the cutest person first, he instantly caught my eye. He was black, beautiful, dressed pretty well and he seemed funny for some reason. He was instantly nicknamed the ‘‘blipster’’ (black+ hipster) by my best friend.

I was twenty-two at the time and I was sporting huge glasses that people either loved or hated. He said ‘‘I love your glasses’’, and I responded: ‘’I love you!… well, your outfit’’. We both laughed, but I felt a little awkward. We talked for a bit, and he asked what I would be doing later. He took my digits as we were off to different bars. Like many these days, this is a relationship that started by text messages. He came over to meet me and subsequently, we made out on the dance floor. We left the bar as it was closing, quite drunk and full of juvenile energy.

We were heading back to my apartment on bicycle, and on the way, we tagged a warehouse building in the Mile End. I wrote ”Lili loves you”, my classic and silly tag, with hearts replacing the ”i” dots. A couple of days later, he tried to find the tags we did to no avail. It seems like those tags were the product of a single encounter and that they disappeared into the city landscape pretty quickly, just like the possibility of being a couple.

I was living in Mile End at the time and there was a couch on my front porch. He used to smoke cigarettes in the morning, a trashy hangover gesture. He used to call me from outside ”come on baby, come over here!”. He made me laugh and it was comfortable and fun sitting next to him despite the foul smell.

After a couple dates though, I came to realize that he wasn’t boyfriend material. I felt that we had good conversations, sure, but not the most enlightening ones. Also, the sex wasn’t working, and it was tedious to get his member up and running. He became heavy or annoying at times, and I realized that I did not liked him like that. I especially recollect one afternoon when he tagged along with me and my friend to the Mount Royal and I felt that I had to take care of him. I thus ”broke up” with him shortly after this, and enhanced that we would never be more than just friends.

A couple of weeks later that same summer, I ran into him outside of a bar in the Plateau. He was going elsewhere. ”Do you want to come with me? I was going to this other bar. I’ll buy you a drink if you come!”. I agreed, but in a friendly manner only. I did not realize then but my PMS was taking over so I was moody and highly sensitive that night. I did hold his arm at some point while walking, while simultaneously clearing the fact that we were just friends now. How to send mixed signals, basically. I was also wearing my chic black cape dress and being a little princess-y. When we got to the bar, his friends were gone so we had a beer and talked. We were both feeling quite knackered and he was living around the corner at the time. He told me to come over, but I did not want to for obvious reasons. I ended up staying the night, but I slept in my fabulous cape dress. I woke up drenched in sweat in the summer heatwave. I left his house before collapsing from sweat or being obliged to take my dress off. I stopped by my godfather’s to give food to my cat that he babysat at the time. Evidently, I had my period.

Fast-forward one and a half year, he invited me out for coffee. We might have looked like a couple as I ran into one of my college friends, but I was actually on a break with my then-boyfriend at the time. He invited me to his place to drink wine. I still found him insistent and I did not want to go, especially since I was at a weird place relationship-wise. We left it at that, and we barely talked for a while. He texted me sometimes, but I made it clear that I was in a relationship with somebody else. I heard about him sometimes. For instance, the following summer when I was in Germany, he took a German class with my best friend.

A year and some months later, I was working the cloakroom at the venue I work in. I turned back to the counter and I saw him standing there, a black panther shining in the night with a neon yellow beanie like a signpost. He was with one of his friends, a small nervous girl who I initially mistook for his girlfriend. I asked her if she was, and he came back at the same moment. I guess my question kind of showcased a jealousy and a puzzlement at his romantic situation. He came back to talk to me twice and after last call, he tried to convince me to go to an after-party. Being exhausted and having something the next day, I declined. He took my number again. He asked ”if I text you, will you be answering?”. I nodded in agreement.

The next morning he texted me that he was really happy that he had seen me again, and that he had forgotten how honest and good-natured my smile was. We texted a couple times. He subsequently invited me out for diner on Valentine’s Day. Being single but not desperate, I thought it could be fun to spend time with him to rediscover our relationship under a different perspective. We went to this insanely decorated restaurant, with an incredible array of weird objects. We came back to my place to smoke a joint and he tried to come closer. I felt noxious and I kept pushing him away. ”You know, your’e like an old friend, it’s just weird, I don’t want sexual contact. You can hold me, sure, but that about it for tonight”. He tossed and turned and was sweating so much that he decided to leave. He was not mad, just annoyed I guess,as he wanted to have brunch the following day. That was a good sign, I thought. He did not necessarily want to sleep with me.

We have realized that we are a little more than just friends, but at the same time never to be lovers. He loves touching me, although he respects my boundaries. I can massage his shoulders and give him long hugs. We are very different but there is a kind of fun tranquility when I am in his presence. He expresses himself best through music and images, while I can and write, read and talk endlessly.

‘‘That’s why I love hanging out with you Lili, you’re so fun and alive and you talk constantly, you always tell stories… I’m not that great with words’’.

He told me over beer on Bernard Street one Monday evening: ‘‘your name fits really well with you. When you think about Lili, you think about a sweet, gentle girl, no?’’. That night, we kissed a little bit but could not go beyond that without feeling awkward or uncomfortable. He said: ‘‘we’re really platonic’’. I don’t know if it’s because I aimed to try to prove him wrong, but I aimed to unbuckle his belt, something I have never been skilled at doing (I think it’s the equivalent of boys trying to open girl’s bras). I put my hands in his pants, trying to go further, maybe. It had been so long and I needed some but he stopped me right there and then. I was happy that he stopped it afterwards, because he was right. We are too platonic. I just cozied myself with my head on his shoulder and my hand on his chest. Ifelt asleep in seconds.

I woke up slowly the next morning, and I could already hear him tap slightly on his keyboard.

I opened my eyes, stretched, and looked at him: ‘‘coffee?’’

‘‘Yes! It should be ready by now’’.

He came back with two cups and gave me a vintage one with ‘‘The Toronto Skyline’’ written on it in a dark orange. It was a fitting match since I was about to move to Ontario. He told me that he thought of me when he saw it and that he had chosen it on purpose. We gave each other a big hug that morning. I put my boots on, and we hugged again. I left his place to find a misty and foggy Mile-End under a slight rain.

A week or so later, there was a party for his birthday on a Friday night. It was a hype event with three other roommates and a slew of familiar faces involved. There were many people that I did not know, of which many seemed self-important. I was about to leave but he kept trying to convince me to stay. I agreed after much frustration and argumentation. We went to his bedroom, he closed the door, he poured me a glass of wine and showed me a book he made for school. I critiqued it and we talked about it, and he told me that I was the most important person to come that night. He kissed me, and was being a bit heavy on me. I left while feeling that I had to fight with him to quit his place. It made me sad as I made my way home. That night, I was battling with demons in my dreams. I woke up thrice drenched in sweat.

The next day, he texted me. ‘‘I’m sorry, I was a bit heavy last night’’. He rang me up later that night and it was probably the first time in a relationship that has always evolved around text messages.

I have come to realize that being friends with benefits is not that simple. There is always a push and pull happening and an aura of mystery and deception. But most importantly, this is a friendship I can count on. It’s another kind of love that doesn’t need to be labelled. As I moved, I found his set of keys that he had lost at mine’s a month ago. He wrote to say that he will miss me, and I responded that I will too.

Lili Monette is a multidisciplinary entertainer and writer, and the Montreal editor of Blonde. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre & Development from Concordia University and is currently a student in the Master of Arts in Journalism at the University of Western Ontario.

Photo: Lili Monette

The Love of a Good Man

sheenatkmic

He came to me when I least expected it. Love is so funny like that. It comes up in the most unusual places, hidden out in the open at crowded bars, appearing seemingly out of nowhere like a magic trick, a magician on the run. Just like that love can appear and disappear, which is why I tell my friends when you have the love of a good man to hold on to it so tight and to keep it close to your heart, to fight for it and cherish it and to never let it go. The love of a good man is hard to find, I know this. I never for a minute forget how lucky I am that I have it.

I had love once before, but it was a different kind of love, a youthful love, one that doesn’t know the bounds love asks of its believers. It was a love reserved for the young, a sweet, short romance that gave me everything I needed it to give me. It taught me how to care endlessly for another person. It taught me how to open up, how to be honest with myself and accountable to another human being. It taught me how to share secrets and feelings and emotions so strong it’s easier to leave them in the pages of old diaries, but more rewarding to talk them out. Most importantly, it taught me love comes in and out like the seasons and that it doesn’t always stay. You can have this whirlwind romance and it can end just like that. Those feelings can change and there are reasons known and reasons unknown for these things, but it won’t stop anything from happening. It taught me that some love does have an expiry date, a rest in peace sign, a cross marked at the intersection of youth and womanhood.

My new love is different. At the beginning, it seemed, it was destined not for greatness but instead a summer romance, a taste of excitement breathing between university semesters that would end when September came and the leaves changed colours. But I quickly learned that nothing is ever as it seems, things either are or they aren’t something. This love was meant for something more.

We met at a bar on Bloor Street in 2007, a defining year if there ever was one. This was the year I moved from Etobicoke back home again and eventually, finally, to the city. This was the year my first love ended and my new love began and between them a few bad stories for good measure. This was the year I became me.

It was also the year we became us. I noticed him right away and it caught me off guard when he approached me shortly after and asked to buy me a drink. I was drinking Tom Collins in those days because I was 20. He was 26. He was older and had sexy hair and a good job and a Guns N Roses belt buckle that pressed into me as we danced into the night. He was messy and the night was messy and that’s what I wanted. I wanted to make mistakes. I wanted to be wild and reckless and so did he. We saw each other at the time as a taste of the good life, but our definitions of the good life were flawed. Both relatively fresh out of long-term relationships, we saw each other as attractive distractions to our everyday lives, which were sadder on the inside than we showed on the outside. We were sadder, but we were never sad when we were together.

We met early in April and by May I knew I loved him, a love that made my heart beat so hard I thought it just might tear from my chest and escape someplace far away. I didn’t know it was possible to love somebody so hard so quickly, but I did and I loved him with every part of my being in a way I had never experienced before. It was passionate and raw. It was terrifying. I didn’t want to be in love like this, it was foreign and I didn’t know how to navigate those waters. I thought I had sailed before but this was different. I was scared of what was happening to me. All my thoughts returned to him, all my nights went to him, my heart went to him, my body went to him, I just let this love wash over me and even if I had tried I knew there was nothing I could do to stop it. By the end of May we ended all our phone calls with “I love you.”

This was almost seven years ago now and many people ask me how I have spent the entirety of my 20s with one man and I have told them that when you find the love of a good man it is as though time vaporizes. There is never quite enough. He is such a part of me that I feel his presence in my bones. When he aches, I ache. When he bleeds, I bleed. When he’s happy, I’m happy. He is the kind of man who will make me homemade chicken noodle soup at my earliest inclination of feeling sick. He is the kind of man who treats my nieces and nephews with such love I can’t help but imagine him as the father of my future babies. He is the kind of man who knows everything about me and loves me anyway, loves me even though I can be hard to deal with, hard to live with. He is the kind of man who showers me in this love, whose hugs and kisses embrace my entire body, whose jokes make me laugh, whose touch drives me wild, whose voice makes the world feel alright, who makes me feel alive.

There have been hard times, oh yes, bruises on our hearts from times we were not our best selves, our best us. There were times we would look at each other and feel only despair. But we worked through those times because we recognize that sometimes you have to work for love, you have to fight for love, you have to try and try and try again to make things right because there is nothing more magical, nothing more beautiful, than a love worth fighting for. A good love takes work, it takes dedication, it takes determination and it takes time. It takes effort. When people ask me how we’ve survived for so long, how we still show such affection and compassion for each other, it’s because we make the effort to be the best versions of ourselves we can be, for ourselves and for each other. We put in the effort to do things that couples do when they’re first starting to fall in love. We go on dates, we go on trips, we cook new recipes for each other and we try new wines. We laugh. We touch. We kiss. We care. Our secret is that we try.

When you find the love a good man, appreciate it. Love it. Take a minute each day to soak in its rays. Tell him you love him. Show him you love him. Hold him close like he holds you. Protect it and work for it and don’t be afraid of it. It wouldn’t be worth it if it didn’t make your heart race. Nothing is.

Sheena Lyonnais is the founder of Blonde. You can follow her on Twitter @SheenaLyonnais.

Girl’s Best Friend

Mags Trell Sleep
Maggie is my shih tzu. My girl. My geriatric mostly blind, deaf and legitimately demented girl. I love her to bits, which makes my sentiment terribly difficult to admit and even harder to deal with: I’m prepared to say goodbye because I’m running on empty.

I don’t like taking care of her anymore, watching her walk around in circles and listening to her whimpers of confusion. The difficult part is when she doesn’t act sick at all, it’s when she goes and finds one of her toys and barks happily at it. Or she runs around outside and I swear I can see a smile on her face. Her steps are even peppy. But then it’s back to being fussy at meal time. Peeing in the kitchen. Wandering around in the middle of the night until she’s lost in the living room and whining until I retrieve her and bring her back to her bed. She has to feel tired of this charade that is our daily life too, right? Who’s to say? Not me. Not now. She’s physically still “okay” (despite renal dysplasia, failing kidneys, being mostly blind and deaf and full-on in the throws of doggy dementia). So what do we do? We keep on going. I keep taking care of her because she’s my dog. She’s my girl. I love her. I miss her. She’s in there somewhere, but she doesn’t come out to play very often. And I’m sad during parts of every day.

Mags Back in the Day
Maggie, the month after I brought her home

I’m not sure what I was thinking when I adopted her. No, I do know. I was feeling excited, nervous, scared – so what are all of those emotions rolled into one? Anxious? Yes. Anxious. I was going to adopt a dog! I really wanted a dog. I had always wanted a dog. As a little girl, an only child growing up in suburbia, I asked my parents for a dog for every birthday, Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and at the beginning of summer holidays.

“No, you can go and visit your friends’ dogs,” my mother would say, “NO!” And my father would always defer to her stern rule.

I remember we babysat my friend Kelly’s dog, Sandy, for a week when I was around seven-years-old. It was great. I felt blissful. Sandy and I ran and played in the backyard until the sun set. She slept at my feet in the evenings. I brushed her. I didn’t watch TV for the whole time she was there! Even reading a book was better with a dog by my side. Ever since I was a baby, I would spend part of my summers in Newfoundland with my Aunt Dolly, Uncle Ray, cousin Chris, Nanny Marge, and my favourite one: their dog Mandy. Mandy was a mutt. A real mutt. She was black and white, had scruffy fur and a tea-stained hairy snout. My Nan used to leave her half drunk cups of milky tea on the floor and let the dog lap up her dregs. I remember I was crying one day; I don’t remember what I was crying about, but I remember Mandy the mutt sniffing out my hiding place with a box of tissues clenched in her jaw. I loved that dog. When my aunt called to tell me that Mandy had passed away, I broke down. Heavy tears. Cried so hard my whole body hurt. Newfoundland wouldn’t be the same without her. She’d been my bestest pal since I was a toddler and teenaged me, naively, thought she might live forever if I hoped hard enough. (Years prior, she’d been hit by a car and broken her legs, her insides all sloshed around, and she recovered from that. She was a tough girl. I thought she was invincible.) This was the first time I had to say goodbye to a furry part of the family. Yet, I had no idea what heartbreak was truly like.

Maggie Sideways
Maggie liked to sleep in my bed and would spread out after I got up in the morning. She doesn’t do this anymore.

Mandy and I only spent one season per year together; the other three were filled with distance and dogs aren’t really the telephone or Skype types. I didn’t miss her so much everyday because she was never part of my everyday. Not like Maggie. My Maggie.

It was March 2003. I was in my early twenties. I was anxious. I wanted a dog. I was going to get a dog. I’d studied for all of the questions I was told I’d be asked in the “are you suitable to adopt a pet” interview. I’d visited the Toronto Humane Society heaps of times before and I was determined to come home with a furry companion. I wanted. a. dog. Specifically, I wanted this little shih tzu who had just been rescued from an abusive home, had surgery to remove mammary tumours and be spayed, and was afraid of everyone. I hadn’t even seen her. She sounded like a handful. But she felt like mine. I walked into the room of pets available for adoption. It smelled of urine and fear and hope. There, in a giant cage, crouched a frail and precious creature. The name plate said “Portia.” Okay. She didn’t look like a Portia, but we could change that. I walked back to the waiting area and paced until it was my turn for an interview.

I was ushered into a small room called the “meeting” room, where I was told to wait for a THS worker to go and get “Portia” and we’d meet in this room to see if she liked me. So now the dog interviews me? That’s a crazy, yet awesome, thing. They brought her in. She looked like a puppy in the arms of the attendant. She was shaking mildly. He put her down on the cold linoleum floor and she so very timidly stood there, gazing up at me. (I guessed that she was looking at me. Even when she had full sight, it was hard to tell where Maggie was directing her gaze because her eyeballs are angled in opposite directions. She literally looks like a Muppet.)

I knelt down and put my right arm out. She inched toward me, this charcoal and white smoosh of a shih tzu, a real live fluffy toy with giant (Muppet) eyes. Slowly making her way closer to me, almost there, she stuck out her neck to sniff. I crouched down and stuck my face closer to her. She crept closer, stretching herself out further, extending her snout, and then she licked my nose and backed up with the ferver of a cartoon and stared at me. What a little fart! I teared up and smiled so widely I’m sure the corners of my mouth graced my earlobes. I scooped her up and she was at ease. No shaking. Okay, where do I sign?

As we went for our first walk, Maggie thought it made sense to sit down in the middle of the crosswalk. This is when I first experienced that stubbornness of hers. She wouldn’t move. She became 900 pounds of muscle and brut strength. Luckily, in reality, she was only eight pounds, so I could easily win the stand-off… er, sit off.

Pumpkin
The first of many Halloweens I made my pumpkin wear this costume. She’s a good sport.

Name-changing time. I almost called Maggie “Petunia.” But she was a Maggie. She IS a Maggie. And still stubborn as a mule. We’ve been together 11 years. She’s been my constant companion: through three boyfriends, our beloved kitty BuffyCat, a move to Vancouver and a move back again, a house (home ownership in suburbia wasn’t for me), and now another apartment. She has put up with countless costume changes, above and beyond the necessary layers to keep her warm in winter, all in stride. She has greeted me with barks and jumps and licks after long days at work. She has been my hot water bottle and made my muscles feel better by lying on my abdomen during my time of the month. She’s been my partner in play at the beach and in the park. She’s watched movies in bed with me on sick days. She has the purest heart of any creature I’ve ever had the honour of knowing.

Right now: Maggie whines a lot. I mean heart-wrenching whimpers and whines. Maggie’s not whining due to her physical ailments–at least, the vet doesn’t think those things are at the root of her whimpers. The dementia is eating her brain. When she feels restless, she whines. When she wants a cookie in lieu of her food, she whines. She mostly wanders around the apartment randomly whining, trapping herself in corners, as if she is lost. The only times she isn’t whining is when she’s sleeping in one of her three dog beds (she snores) or when she’s peeing… which is a lot lately. I go outside with her no less than four times per day no matter the weather – ice storm, freezing cold, rain, and in the ridiculous wind tunnel that exists around my apartment building. I take her out when I’m sick and often (usually) when I’m tired. I’ve recently purchased doggie diapers for those times I just can’t keep up with her demanding and impromptu bladder release ‘schedule.’ She won’t use a potty-patch. She won’t go on the balcony. And I’ve lost patience with mopping the floor constantly. Maggie takes medication and it must be administered by way of her hand-fed meals (special prescription food complete with homemade beef stew broth) twice per day; and, although I can play with meal timing a bit, there isn’t much leeway (so that means every day is an alarm clock day). Do I sound like a neurotic pet owner yet? Probably. But I don’t know how else to be (and if someone has advice, I invite constructive words).

Maggie will be 16 years old in March – well, approximately. Nobody really knows for sure since her abusive former owner wouldn’t disclose her age, so based on her condition 11 years ago, the vets guess she was about five. The age guess was due to very bad teeth and mammary tumours that had developed because she hadn’t been spayed by the douchebag who had owned her. When she wasn’t getting yelled at by this scum-of-the-earth guy – or kicked, or left outside in winter – she was being neglected. She’d been matted down to the skin. The reason her teeth were so bad was because she ate only table scraps and had never eaten kibble or hard foods. (She still won’t eat kibble, but she does chomp on the hard milkbones. Win. And our vet says her teeth and gums are amazing now.) Maggie also has colitis. Her little body has a hard time eating and digesting. And the hand-feeding is because she’s usually too freaked out to eat on her own. She’ll stare at the food or hover over it and whine. If I hand-feed her pieces of her own food, something in her psyche tells her that it’s okay to eat that. It gets a little messy, but there are worse things.

Watching her fade away is one of the worst things. It’s mentally and emotionally draining day in and day out. When we go for walks, they’re more like meanders and just stand there time. Sometimes, she walks in small circles. Every day, Maggie is less and less like the charismatic, loving companion she once was. She does have her good days, when she actually runs around outside and I can feel how happy she is and it’s like a fix of emotional pain medication. But it’s those same days that make the bad days even harder. I feel like an asshole because sometimes I wonder how she’s hung on this long and how she continues to hang on and wouldn’t it be more convenient if I didn’t have to take care of her anymore. (Even the vet told me the other day that she was surprised Maggie is still alive and that she’s kind of a medical anomaly.) But she’s not physically at a point where it’s “time.”

Mags Van
When she could see, Maggie was a ham for the camera.

Which leaves us at an impasse. Our situation is not ideal. It’s laborious for me. It’s inconvenient. But I can’t put an end to her because she’s inconvenient. I love her. I don’t want her to suffer. I don’t want to kill her. But I also don’t know how to keep going as we are because each day I feel my patience fading away. And, each day, I feel guilty about that. Part of me wishes I could give her to a loving home to live out her days so I don’t have to watch her deteriorate, but that would be giving up wouldn’t it? Am I actually an asshole for feeling like this? Maybe. I can’t stand the whining. I get no peace. I’m always on edge. Judges, go ahead and rule. I love my dog. I also feel like I lost my dog a long time ago and in her place is this helpless, moody, distant creature who acts like my Maggie just often enough to pull at my heart strings and give me strength to keep on keeping on.

I can understand why my mother never allowed me to have pets growing up; however it would have been beneficial to know such love and loss before I was an adult. Children process hardships better. They don’t overthink things. They see a situation for what it is at its core. When it was time to say goodbye to my dear, sweet BuffyCat in August 2012, I remember my mother was so distraught.  She said, “See, this is too hard. This is why you couldn’t have a pet.” I think my mother didn’t want to be responsible for the decisions that need to be made toward the end of a pet’s life, specifically: THAT decision. A kid doesn’t get to make THAT decision. Making that decision for my BuffyCat wrenched my heart and soul and mind in more ways than I had ever imagined or experienced before. I never want to make that decision again… of course, I have Maggie, so unless she spares me and peacefully passes during her sleep, I’m going to have to make it. And I’m going to be judged for it. I was judged for even asking if it was time due to her mental struggles. Apparently constant whining due to mental illness is totally fine. She’s miserable. I’m miserable. So what’s the solution?

Perhaps that’s what you sign up for when you adopt a pet. “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window” is a terrible song because the sentiment in it is completely and wholly shallow and does not even hint at what being a pet owner is about. I commited myself to my pets. I have to make the best decisions for them, which are not always the the best decisions for me. I would not forgive myself if I gave up on Maggie before her time; and, simultaneously, if I prolonged any suffering. This literal flogging of my feelings is beyond circular at this point. I think I know. I don’t know. I’m wrong… I  believe (finally) that I made the right decision for my BuffyCat. It’s funny – I always thought Buffy was invincible. She was a street kitty who found us. She took care of Mags and me. I thought she’d be there to help me through losing Maggie. I thought Maggie’s body would give way before her mind. Fucking dog. She is in diapers only because I can’t keep up with how often she needs to go pee. I’ve stayed home from social engagements to be with Maggie because I’ve felt like guilty for even thinking about leaving her again after leaving her alone while I’ve worked the whole day.

Yesterday’s vet visit cost me $150. Food for her averages out at about $80 per month. And time spent taking care of her (not playing with her or having a rare cuddle) if tallied in billable hours would easily equal three hundred and fifty minimum wage dollars per week. I haven’t purchased a new pair of boots in three years. I’m also in a long-distance relationship and plane tickets are expensive. It takes me a long time and much financial creativity to save for a plane ticket. And when I do manage some vacation time, I have to arrange for temporary care for Maggie. I love her with all my heart; but I can’t say that anything about having my dog is easy or great anymore.

I believe that Maggie has been a gift in my life. Gifts come in all shapes and sizes and forms of tangibility. Loving Maggie has forced responsibility, compassion, generosity and gratitude into my being. Maggie has challenged me every day we’ve been together. Somtimes moment by moment.  I was very much a kid when I adopted Maggie. I never thought I would be taking care her of her alone (read: in my early twenties I couldn’t fathom not being married with a family of my before age 30, so naturally adopting a dog was part of this fairytale thought process). My life wasn’t supposed to be like this. But apparently the rule of the universe is you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. (Maybe my cosmic GPS is broken?) Based on where I am now, I think Maggie’s made me a better person, in spite of the days I feel and act like a sad and bitter bitch… and in spite of the days Maggie acts like a sad and bitter bitch.

Trell Mags Christmas
I used to make her pose for a Christmas photo every year. Bless her heart.

Trellawny works in advertising, loves cooking, and her boyfriend too. Her latest goal is to try and find the happy in her remaining days with Maggie.

A Canadiana Christmas & A Happy New Start

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In the month of November of my seventeenth year, I left the Canadian metropolis of Montreal to go inhabit the lunar landscapes of Northern Alberta. My knack for adventure had propelled me to subscribe to a youth program where locations were picked for the participants after their acceptance into the program, which was aimed at a bunch of 17 to 21 years old who were about to live three months in three different Canadian locations for a total of nine months. It was not the first time that I ever left home without any family, but this time, it was about to be a long and far-flung adventure, and anything seemed possible. At the Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, I instantly recognized two girls from the same program as me because of their badges sewn onto their backpacks and tuques, and so the three of us embarked on our first flight of the day together. We landed in the snow in Calgary, quickly grabbed a coffee and boarded another plane to Grande Prairie. The plane was noticeably smaller that its predecessor, and its passengers consisted almost exclusively of fellow young participants and their accompanying authority figures. We talked, laughed and interviewed each other. Me and the girls even did rounds to get a view from the window. Of course, we were a very excited bunch, deserting our hometowns, starting ourselves anew. It was the beginning of what already seemed like a year-long summer camp for late teens.

We arrived in Grande Prairie at night in the tiniest airport, one without chain stores, long corridors or hundreds of people. Instead, the airport consisted of one huge room and a snack bar atop a mezzanine. There were now about thirty to forty participants hanging out there, clustered on leather seats in the common public space next to the greasy spoon. The bunch of young folks, waiting to depart to their respective destinations, was sprawled in different directions, speaking French or English, and more rarely both. One of the purposes of the program was that the participants would become bilingual by the end of it, which was bound to happen, but as nerves were sensitive and travel exhaustion felt, most people kept to themselves.

A couple of minutes later, I embarked on a couple of charter buses and, while the first group was dropped in Grande Prairie, mine stopped at Falher and the other group was bound to settle in Peace River. The first thing that really hit me was the lack of light: there was not a single spot in sight in the few hours of bus after Grande Prairie. The only lights came from oil tanks at the side of the road and even more rarely from garages and convenience stores. The moment was quiet and kind of scary. I felt like I was about to live in the middle of nowhere (which wasn’t that far from the truth, come to think of it), while also feeling incredibly tiny in the infinite land.

We finally made it at the house, bleary-eyed, and were divided into three different rooms: three girls in two rooms, and the boys downstairs. The beds, made of white-painted metal, were noisy and uncomfortable. We were just about to start our own family in this house as we got accustomed to live together in it, doing various volunteer jobs during the day, and coming back at night. There were always a team of two that had to clean the house and make food daily, and we even learned how to bake our own bread.

The times were the most joyful with the group. There wasn’t a city to discover, and that helped us to bond. We were always playing in the snow like there was no tomorrow: having snow fights, making angels in the snow, going for walks. At one point, we even witnessed white and green Northern lights on a nightly walk. The sky was gigantic in proportion to the flat land and the connection to it was primordial in a way that doesn’t happen when surrounded by tall buildings.  The sense of space was all-encompassing, as if the sky could dictate our moods and lifestyle.

The program was a moment of togetherness, despite our differences of language, culture and hometown. We were always traveling in a mini van, doing various activities such as swimming or thrift-store shopping. Alas, the summer camp for late teens also came with a downside and its share of boredom:  the volunteer work I was doing involved too much time spent on MSN chatting with my friends back home and not enough time being challenged.

I learned to become happy in everyday life, with such small events as coffee breaks with fellow coworkers, but my gut was telling me that I needed to get out. As days went by, I realized that although I loved the group, I didn’t like how the organization was ruling our lives. I increasingly started feeling like an inmate living by strict regulations instead of living a grand adventure. I thus announced my departure and then, two days before Christmas, I was officially kicked out of the program. Luckily, I was taken under the wings of my lovely coworker, Yvonne, who had the same age as my dad’s but was already a grandmother many times over. Yvonne and her retiree husband’s André lived in huge house and they even had prepared a plush guest room for me. After sleeping on a bunk bed for weeks, the queen-sized bed felt like a dream.

I spent Christmas Eve with the couple’s family: their children and grandchildren came along for an evening of fun, gift-giving and card-playing. The whole family made me feel more than welcome, and it was the best gift I could have received that year, miles from home. It was another kind of Canadiana Christmas, not the typical Québécois one I was used to, but still one where food was abundant (there was a chocolate fountain!) and laughs galore.

On Christmas day, I returned to the group’s house to hang out with everyone. It was beyond frozen, and energies at the house were low as we watched movie after movie. I felt a tinge of melancholia as I saw the group together for the last time, while simultaneously feeling ready to face loneliness, challenges, and independence.

On December 26th, around 5 AM, Yvonne dropped me to the bus stop, direction Edmonton, where I had a plane to catch. I was so lucky that, when transferring my ticket booked by the organization to my hometown, an engaging young man decided to give me a first-class seat, with the explanation: ”it’s Christmas, right?”. In the bus, sunrise was starting to work its magic. For the last time, I got completely immersed in the boundless landscapes of the Northern part of the province.

I made it to the airport, and it was the first time that I was boarding a plane on my own. I remember writing in my notebook, sitting in the luxury lounge, feeling so many emotions at once, something that was to become frequent in following trips. The plane ride was short and sweet, under an hour and a half and filled with fresh coffee, crudités, the Vancouver Sun and a warm towel to watch my hands. I felt like I was becoming a grown-up.

I arrived in Vancouver in a overcrowded airport, and got picked up by a friend of my mother’s, who lived there since years. That night, at his place in the suburbs, I went to sleep with a smile on my face, proud of such a huge change in a matter of days. The next morning, I woke up at dawn armed and ready with a considerable pile of CVs. I walked outside, looked at the lush West Coast vegetation, embarked on a bus and went on exploring. It was a brand new day,Vancouver was just about to be discovered and I was learning (somewhat intensely) how to be a grown-up.

Lili Monette is a born-and-raised Montrealer and an artist by DNA and by choice. She holds a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Theatre and Development from Concordia University and can be found around the world entertaining people and gathering stories.

Cougar At Twenty-three

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As the delicacy of just baked young male flesh seemed to be the hormone-driven cougar women’s main nutrient intake, I was led to think that they held the secret of pleasure’s longevity, of tight thighs and happy bouncy breasts for the years ahead when other couples might desperately wonder what show to watch that night.

Looking forward to enjoying the pleasures of youngsters at a later age, does it seem normal to say that I first spent some time exploring intimacy with father figures? Well, what can I say? If their mental age was about mine, which meant just around nine, we were then a perfect fit! After touching more and more wrinkled skin, the day came when I thought to myself: “Oh! How do I crave young fresh flesh!”

What was the problem with me? Why was I finding it so hard to be attracted physically or mentally (let alone both at once) by guys around my real age? Maybe I didn’t know how to live in the now and lived my future to distract myself from my fear of it. Maybe I had met those people in past lives, forgot why we broke apart and was foolishly happy that we might be united again. Maybe I just wasn’t confident enough with myself to realize that I could get a guy my age if I wasn’t losing time dating deadbeat dreamers who were ready to craft a new world between their bare bloody hands for ungrateful me.

Well, it had to happen. Seeking to attain balance, doesn’t one often go from one extreme to another? I fell in love with the freshest flesh on the meat market: a not yet legal virgin with no facial hair but the softest duvet! My encounter with this young fella happened two seasons after I told the last could-be-my-father type “ta-tah” and started re-flowering myself to have it just like a virgin with someone I would, for once, truly go crazy for, would truly get moist for, that I would get to know bit by bit until one day, one lovely day, naturally and without any questions, we would start to… ah, I do not dare to spell that delightful and censored rite! I have shivers down my spine evoking the sensual pleasures I have once known that are no longer familiar to my body.

I did not think about this new guy too much at first, but as my interest and desire grew into a constant stream of fantasy that my body made half-real, I faced my emotional self and realized how much I was delusional in my relationships. I tried to rationalize to keep the friendship going, in a platonic way of course.

His cute attempts to get closer to me made me smile at first since we were not of the same league. Slowly, the honesty and intensity he deployed in his innocent courtship grew on me. I became more and more vulnerable to it.

As he crashed at my place when he was in town, I did really good at appointing him a bed that wasn’t mine. The dreaded day came when, out of my control, the situation called upon bed sharing.  “Oh Divine, please help me!” I cried as I sealed myself up with clothes and took place next to him (oh his fresh scent) in bed, not ready to give up on the vow I took a few months earlier. The first night went okay, I do not recall sexual dreams leading to an orgasmic awakening, although I did get drenched in sweat, being used to sleep naked.

The second night was painful. All day I had been delighted by the sight of his strong and tanned body, wet with salt water, shining in the August sun. Not being in the city nor surrounded by society, the social age conventions were evaporating out of my mind. Again, we went to bed and the following morning, it was not the sunshine that awoke me, nor heat, but my inflamed ovaries yelling at me: “woman!! Will you get us or not to work and reproduce? Come on, we’re ready for a little sport!”

I understood why my cat (my friend pet and not my own pussy) would meow and rub herself onto anything, painfully, before being fixed. I had myself never accumulated such sexual energy, since I would normally do like lots of other people do: get drunk and get low with whoever was cute enough for a blurred late-night vision. Frantically, I got out of bed and took on whatever tasks I could find to use up that energy and to hold myself from acting like my cat. But really, it was too late: I was hardly remaining focused in his presence, imagining intensely caliente scenarios.

We did get closer and closer. We slept holding each other’s hands, then bodies. One day we had our first kiss (how soft was a duvet-covered lip against my feminine mouse-stache). I was experiencing stages of intimacy I skipped with previous partners. Stepping back a little and living these moments enabled me to grow. I was letting him lead, forgetting my seducing patterns, even becoming clumsy as we touched. We went on like this for a moment until one day…

… to be continued!

*
Nessa, back in Montreal, was shocked when someone made her realize that all she ever speaks with, writes with, shares ideas or shoots interrogations at the world with are the same 26 letters arranged or not in assembles. Alas, that realization didn’t help her scatterbrained intellect to find center.

Photo: Madonna and Jesus Luz for W Magazine, photographed by Steven Klein

No More Notches in His Bedpost

white-bed

­I told myself I wouldn’t go back to see him. But it took me less than 18 hours from landing to end up back in his bed. I can blame it on being part of our whole routine. I can blame it on habit. Or I can be honest with myself and blame it on the comfort of being with someone who still liked me despite knowing me when I was 17.

I arrived at his door. He answered it looking just as tall and gangly and skater-boyish as he did when he was 19. I guess I still found those same things hot. He showed me around his house. This must have been the fifth or sixth house of his I visited. Then, as always, we ended up in his bedroom. I congratulated him on the fact that he finally had a real bed, and not just a mattress on the floor as he used to have. Because of this, and him, I probably didn’t have sex on a real bed until I was in my twenties.

I sat down on his new bed and he started to kiss me.

This had been going on for six years.

Over the years I have come to know many different relationships with boys. There have been boyfriends, one-night stands, and fuck buddies – but my relationship with this boy never fit into any category. We were friends who would hang out, run errands together, go for walks, but most of all, sleep with each other regularly.

From the beginning I was attracted to him. But never enough to want to be in a relationship with him. When I was still a teenager, I might have fantasized a time or two about our sleepovers and hang-outs to be something more official and consistent. But as more time passed, and the more times we continued sleeping together, more and more I knew I never wanted to date him. So I began pushing him away and started being more persistent about getting me over. Not that it ever took that much effort on his part.

He never knew that he took my virginity. I never bothered to tell him. That first time, like most first times, was awkward. But we were both drunk. And I wanted to do it. Most of my friends’ v-card stories involve a boyfriend, or a tragic night with a crush or stranger who never called them again. But no person has ever been able to offer me insight on how to navigate this particular type of relationship.

Because to them, it was strange. It was strange to me too.

Ours was my longest relationship. I have never been monogamous with any other guy for longer than a month. I always thought it was because I am emotionally retarded. Now I’m thinking is because I have always had the comfort of having him in the background that I have never had to make myself vulnerable to another guy.

Other than having sex, everything else we did was kind of relationship-y, or at the very least friend-y. We would confide to each other personal struggles– whether it was our weird family situations, jobs, living, or other stuff. We would go hang out together – in non- sexual ways. I would go find him at the skate park when he lost his phone and he would attempt to trek to my house in the freezing cold when I wasn`t answering mine.

And in our five+ years, I cannot say that he was ever dishonest with me. Other than an occasion or two when he told me to come over and I did – but he forgot to be home. It ended up being these types of slip-ups – the ones that showed he had no respect for me – that made me eventually end it. But it still felt like 80% of the time he treated me exceptionally. And for a friends-with-benefits situation, I feel like that was adequate.

My friends would often ask me why he and I never dated. And to be honest, I could never come up with a good answer. Maybe it was because I was always either focused on my studies, or work, or other boys that I actually wanted to date. And it wasn’t because I wasn’t attracted to him. After all we did have great chemistry and nasty – fun sex. But despite of the deep conversations and sexual chemistry – there was never anything more. I always let that fantasy go, because I knew that he would have to get his life together. And year after year, he didn’t change.

Finally after over six years, I think I have let him go. After all there is only so much a girl can go through. When I didn’t hear from him in over a month I decided I was over it. Literally five minutes later I received a text message from him with the inevitable invitation. Then I received another call from him. This time, I decided to give in. I missed him, or sex with him, even though it had only been a month since I last saw him. But as I began walking to his house with no sign of him texting me back I grew furious. Since he had done this to me a couple times before, I couldn’t trust him. But unlike those times I no longer had the patience or forgiveness for it. I finally decided I am worth more.

As always, he managed to appear in the precise moment I chose to end it – as though he could sense when I was at my weakest. But for the first time, I stuck with my decision to end things. So I told him it was over. Actually, I think I said, “You know what? I am done. Don’t call me ever again,” but in a slightly more drunken drama queen kind of way.

For about ten minutes he called and texted about a dozen times. Thankfully for my dignity I was already on the subway home, or else I might have answered one of his desperate pleas.

The next morning I woke up with those giggles and nervous laughs you get when you did something stupid the night before. But instead of feeling shame or regret, I just felt freedom with a side of uncertainty.

I finally accepted that I had grown out of our relationship. That I had changed too much. That I wanted something more. Him – the only thing that had changed was his new bedframe.

Written by May Hailer.

Haunted Hearts

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Ghosts and hauntings are something that have been alive in legend for centuries. The tales of being followed by an unwanted presence is enough to run a shiver down anyone’s spine, especially when you’re haunted by the thought of “Where did I go wrong?” after a date, a relationship, or hell, even just a hook-up.

I have avoided stores, bars, cafes, even entire intersections. For a while I would not go to the Annex at all. Simply, because my favourite part of the city has been peppered with disappointing reminders of the fact that guy I really wanted did not want me. This situation with the Annex changed when my beautiful friend Taylor said to me: “You avoid College and Bathurst? How do you go to Sneaky Dees?” Well my first date with a guy was across the street. What if I ran into him? Pretty unlikely. It took 23 years to meet him in the first place. Chances of seeing him again were slight. I realized she was right. No man should separate me from the Kings Crown. (If you don’t know what that is think of a fries supreme on an extreme level.)

Regardless of whether or not my fry cravings were satisfied, I have spent months reliving each conversation. Was it something I said? Was it my outfit? Did I slurp my martini back in an unsexy manner? Maybe it was because I didn’t really eat the sangria fruit, but I just don’t like mangoes! Is that why? Is it because I don’t like mangoes? The worst thought… Am I a bad kisser? Exasperated and torn you just want to know why. No matter how long or short lived a romance these thoughts can and will haunt you if you really liked the person. These thoughts stalk you quietly and strike like Jason Voorhees. Instead of a machete that brutally kills you, it’s cringe-worthy thoughts.

Also, you feel crazy. Like in any ghost story when people talk about seeing ghosts, what happens? That person is crazy. Not just crazy, the town nut. Always. I don’t care what anyone says, but after a bad heartbreak I swear to the god of above that I just “saw” him from the back, nope… not him. When did every guy start wearing glasses and plaid shirts? I work as a Barista. Do you know how many people in the world has his name? Worse, do you know how many times I have had to write that name daily? This is like trying to un-study for a high school geometry test. My brain mass is still filled with math formulas I will never use.

Try not to think about it you say? How? Let’s think about horror movies. What is the source of Freddy Kruger’s power? The fear of the children. However, you can’t be afraid of something you don’t believe in. Since this last serious haunting I have dated others, taken more chances, done more writing and spent more time with my friends. I know I won’t feel this way forever and I that is the key to helping any ghost pass on. Deal with the unfinished business and exercise that new mini skirt and stop limiting yourself. March into your favourite haunted café, restaurant or bar and if you see the ghost… Well I don’t know. Say hi? Remember, like any haunting there was a connection there in the beginning. And like anything that upsets us, it can only upset us if we care.

I wish I had the answers and I wish I was above this whole haunting thing. The fact is we all have our ghosts and sometimes we have to face them whether they are a Casper, a Poltergeist, The Headless Horsemen or Patrick Swayze. Light your ghosts a candle and remember just like everything else in the world all things come to an end. Still try to keep your coffee shop. A good café is rare to come by. Also if it didn’t work out, there is probably a good reason. I admit thoughts of what those reasons are still baffle me in some cases. The fact is that the coolest people in history have been dumped and rejected. Janis Joplin, Marilyn Monroe, the Goblin King and Dr. Frank N Furter.

Ultimately, when I’m writing a piece I try to leave you with advice, or something to think about. This time I have nothing. I mean this is a subject just as mysterious as the paranormal. Part of me wants to tell you not to read any relationship advice books or take any relationship advice from anyone because every relationship, date and person is different. But that would be a generalization. Like Mark Twain once said. “All generalizations are false, including this one.” If after reading this you find yourself saying “Well, that wasn’t helpful.” I apologize, but I want you to know just because you’re single doesn’t mean you’re alone. There are more of the haunted out there and there will definitely be more ghosts haunting your future. I just hope they are friendly.

Andrea Holz is a Toronto-based award winning writer, actress, comedian and coffee master. 

Normal Girls Are Boring

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“Normal girls are boring,” my boyfriend said, as he does on those lucid afternoons where instability swirls around us like sparkler streaks on Canada Day. In these fleeting moments my own delusions work in my favour and it dawns on me that being crazy is a hall pass. It’s a way out. Being crazy forgives me for things normal girls could never get away with. Sometimes its memories that go missing in the deep, dark crevices of my mind. Sometimes it’s too many T3’s and JD and not enough skirt on a Tuesday in winter when I should be writing or sleeping. Sometimes its door slamming and item throwing followed by confusion, crying and often hugs. Normal girls could never get away with that. But crazy girls? We get by just fine.

Crazy girls mean things stay interesting. I used to be self-conscious in my craziness, but now I embrace it whole heartedly so much so even the word “crazy,” as politically incorrect as it is, has brought with it such adventure, I am beside myself in gratitude.

Crazy girls mean things always change. It means no plan is set in stone. Ever. It means talk of R&R but trips booked to Vegas. And once you become one with your craziness suddenly life seems different. New. Like everything before was rose tinted. Like we all had blinders on. Like we’re older now and more grown up. Improved versions.

Two point oh.

Normal girls know themselves, or maybe they don’t, but the normal girls I know do. They go to work and make lunches in advance and take on the world prepared, effortlessly almost. My normal friends do normal things like buy popcorn AND candy at the movies. And they drive cars like normal. And they dress normal. And they buy houses like normal. And they fuck normal. And I used to envy normal because at least there is structure in normalcy, something every crazy girl needs now and then. But there is also discipline. And explanations. And accountability. And I don’t always have those answers or even know the questions to begin with.

And I used to feel bad, horrible even, a guilt conscience that ripped at my heart and made my insides bleed and spill all over the floor, through the drains and into other dimensions, every time I couldn’t explain myself.

Sometimes crazy girls get confused, I’d say. Forget the day, forget the time, forget meds.

Sometimes crazy girls get lost and found and lost again.

Sometimes crazy girls don’t get it, any of it, ever.

Or maybe that’s just me and I’m the only crazy one or perhaps not even crazy at all.

Maybe he never even said that.

Sheena Lyonnais is the founder of Blonde. Follow her on Twitter @SheenaLyonnais.

J’ai peur

1st Halloween

I love Halloween. I dress up every year. I haven’t always gone all out in the costume department–and it was my parents who took care of it for my first few years–but, as sure as Chucky is a creepy doll, I mark the occasion with a masquerade.

For my first experience of the door-to-door ritual North America calls “trick-or-treating,” I was dressed as an angel. I was two years old. My friend Katie, who was my next door neighbour, was dressed as a clown. That was 32 years ago. Thirty-two. Years. As a little girl, before puberty and after most of my baby teeth had been replaced with the permanent choppers, I had a real obsession with dressing up as a gyspy. Who knew little me was so clairvoyant. When applying for my latest apartment, I was forced to look back at my residential history. It appears I’ve moved a lot. I’ve been restless, I suppose. Or perhaps I seem more transient because of the people to whom I compare myself.

Katie is a single mother to a son and works as a law clerk. Joanne has a son too; and a daughter, a husband, a dog, a cat, a nice teaching job, and a mortgage. Joanna isn’t married and doesn’t have any kids; however she works with children, as an instructor therapist. She’s getting her masters and she does yoga. Sarah is a high school teacher with an accountant husband, two children, and has a third one incubating. It’s not often we ladies “hang out” anymore, but we come together for the big stuff; the important stuff; the happy stuff; and absolutely the sad stuff. We catch up on what’s new. Laugh about that time when that happened and, she said this, and we wore that.

We were together a few weeks ago and for a moment, it was like we were teenagers again: full of hope and ideas and laughter. But then the conversation shifted. The topics were not on my life resume. Conversation obstacles galore! Child birth: nope, haven’t done that or actually witnessed a live birth. Not pregnant. Nothing relevant to say there. Next: curriculums. I’m not a teacher and it’s been 12 years since I took a course of any kind. Dietary concerns: not so much. I have dietary preferences. I can eat as much cheese as I want to. And then the conversation shifted to the reason we were all together: losing our parents. We were at a funeral. Joanne lost her mother to the dirty bastard that is cancer.

Only two of us have both parents. One of us has had the misfortune of losing a father and then a step father. We’re not getting any younger; which means our parents are getting even older. And those of us who aren’t parents yet? Maybe we won’t become parents at all.

When did I get old? Or, rather, when did I get stuck in this weird zone where my 20’s seem like a distant, fuzzy dream? When did the idea of dealing with a hangover become more unbearable than child birth without drugs? When did I become the person who worries about taking care of my parents–and why does it scare the shit out of me?

I’m terrified that I won’t have a family of my own–and I just decided I want one! The proverbial Everyone tells 20-somethings You that You have LOTS of time to decide on something like becoming a parent. But you don’t. You really don’t. You get to your 30’s and all of the sudden–tick. It’s the–tick, tick–biological clock that is tick tick TICKING (yes, that’s a My Cousin Vinnie reference, thank you Marisa Tomei). What about my health; sure I can take care of myself, but… Joanne’s mom was only 57. I say only 57, but then I turn around and say 34 is old. It’s a perplexing time. I’m afraid to die and I’m weighed down by life. I don’t have the career I always thought I’d have (let alone the income). I haven’t traveled as much as youngster me had planned to. My bucket list has a load of empty checkboxes, including the “get married to someone who is in love with me completely and whom I’m in love with fully and completely as well.”

I have a friend Angela who has been married for 10 years. I was the maid of honour at her wedding. We talk a fair bit and I know she has some of the same fears and concerns about her own life as I do about mine. However, I totally have a “grass is always greener” envy going on when I look at her. She and her husband Mike are like fictional characters Lily and Marshall from How I Met Your Mother. They’re amazing together. To me, while, sure, she could do lots of things starting now and becoming future Angela, to me she has something to be so proud of: that relationship she has with her husband. And, just like Ted from that damn TV show, I want that. I want what I think they have. And I’m petrified I’ll screw it up.

I’m dating someone right now, you see. He’s wonderful. I want to marry him and spend the rest of my life with him. I’ve never been so sure of anything. And what comes with this clarity? Fear. BIG FAT FEAR.

I love Halloween. It’s this day where you can dress up and be someone else. Be someone fictional and legendary. Be someone ghoulish and creepy. Be someone magical. Halloween is magical. When I’m someone else, the next day, when I go back to being just me, I’m not diappointed, as my ramblings might suggest I would be. I’m relieved. I look in the mirror and there is familiarity the day after Halloween. It’s me. And I’m alive. And I’m not so bad (I have some pretty darn good friends who I would not have if I were such a fuckup). And I have a whole bag of tiny chocolate bars.

Trellawny works in advertising, loves cooking, and is in a long-distance (but totally awesome) relationship. Names of her friends have been changed in this post due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter.