Book Two: I

Losing The Thread

You won’t believe how I’m getting to Howey Bay for Christmas. 

Or, maybe you will, since you arranged it by your divine providence. I am riding the whole twenty-six hours from Toronto to Buttfuck-Nowhere with Scott and his family. Yes, that Scott. We haven’t said more than two words to each other since he had his genital sneeze inside me when we were dating and then I dropped him like a hot potato. The only time we spoke, it was so he could ask me if I was a lesbian now. He’d heard about me and Sunny. 

“You turned me into a lesbian,” I told him, and he laughed, sort of.

Mrs J has also asked me if I’m a lesbian. “You’re not going all the way, are you?”

“What do you mean, all the way?” I asked her dumbly. We were sitting on her bed and she was working away at a stick-and-poke tattoo of a snake on her left wrist. 

“Ow, fuck, ow, fuck, ow,” she moaned. Then: “All the way to the other side, dude.”

“I’m not gay, I just love Sunny.”

“Your parents must be freaking out. Mine freaked out when I told them I was bisexual. Then I told them, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll marry a guy,’ and they calmed down. So make sure that yours know you’re going to marry a guy.”

“I don’t know who or what I’m going to marry. That’s a long time away. And my parents don’t know anything about my love life, are you kidding?”

“Do you think you could marry a girl? I don’t think I could live for the rest of my life without cock. And girls are drama, man. Ow, fuck, ow.”

“I don’t know if I could marry anyone, male or female,” I replied.

“Me neither. Marriage takes all the power a woman has got and funnels it right into the MAN,” said Mrs J loudly, stabbing herself with the tattoo needle extra hard. “FUCK! Ow.”

Anyway, this conversation got me thinking about what is the true nature of my love affair with Sunny. I’m almost eighteen, nearly out of school. Will I be with her for the rest of my life? I can’t imagine loving anyone else, that’s how crazy I am about her. 

Why? Because whenever I’m in the backseat of her car, she adjusts the rearview mirror so she can look into my eyes periodically while she’s driving. 

Because she knows I have a thing for people wearing glasses, so she deliberately puts them on when she knows I’m watching. 

Because she grabs my wrist and encircles it with her strong fingers and I’m immediately helpless against her desire. 

Because her mouth is deep and fresh and full of amazing warm kisses. 

Because you gave her to me, that’s why. Don’t try to deny it.

And now I have to leave her for two whole weeks to head back up to Howey Bay and spend Christmas with Mom. Just me and Mom. When I anticipate our visit, my blood chills down and I feel a weakening in my belly and my knees. She will find a way to hurt me, I know. I will go to her hardened and sheltered within myself. She’ll tear down my shelter and insert her sharp hooks inside my organs and pull them out through my orifices one by one, until I’m lying on the floor at her feet, cut and bleeding and weeping. And then she’ll pick me up in her arms and tenderly stroke my hair, telling me I’m hers, I’m hers, she’s here for me. I know all this will happen — and you do, too — yet I have to go see her because she’s my mother.

It’s a long, long trip through the frozen bitter wilds of Ontario. We hit a blizzard on the third day and are forced to stop and sleep in a motel just past Thunder Bay. I look out the window, longing for a cigarette or some kind of comfort that I will never know. 

Outside, the world is nothing but a white slant tinged by amber where the streetlights glow. Scott barely talks to me at all and I think he’s the most boring individual I’ve ever met. I can’t believe his penis ever touched me. His mother is nice; she tries to draw me into a card game, but I am listless. Eventually we all have a restless sleep. I am in a cot and they sleep in the beds. I hate hearing the breathing and seeing the sleeping vulnerable faces of people who are not my family or close friends. I’m like a ghost, but more awkwardly solid and present in the room. I can smell Scott’s body, recalling how he felt plastered against me, his paltry lovemaking and tiny groans. 

Why did I do that? What about my innermost tender sacred parts, what about my beautiful being? I deserve more than a humpy hump and a couple whispers. I may be from Buttfuck-Nowhere, but at least I do know my own worth. I’m the Queen of the North. You have to melt me down to have me fully. I am so glad I’m in this little cot-bed with no one to bother me and no Scott next to me. I lay my little white quilt over my body and slowly masturbate until I come like crazy, taking care to breathe only deep, even breaths, which makes my orgasm even stronger. It’s so dangerous and wrong and sexy doing this while Scott and his family sleep, and down and across sideways blows the driving white snow, leaving us with nowhere to go.

Mom’s face is as white and cool as the snow when we arrive late in the day after thirty-six hours trapped in the motel. All I can say is, THANK YOU, GOD, FOR WALKMANS. 

“You look like a corpse,” she says after hugging me. “You’re so pale. You probably have an iron deficiency.”

My hair hangs, dark and curly, down past my shoulders under a striped toque. I’m wearing a pair of Dad’s old baggy jeans and a two-tone brown vintage shirt with a pointy collar and an owl on the front. My army boots slip everywhere on the hard packed snow.

It’s surreal when we get home and the smell of Mom’s house and my childhood hits me full in the face. It’s warm, cloying and bittersweet. She has two new cats, since the dog died last year. The curtains and all the plants and rugs are the same. Right away I head to my bedroom; it’s stripped of my posters and belongings, but still smells like me. There is where Myname would lay her head on my shoulder while I stroked her arms.

Mom follows me into my room. It feels intimidating. 

“We’re going to Harold and Sharla’s in the morning. Make sure not to stay up too late. And then there’s the church caroling night. I hope you brought some better clothes than that. What are you wearing, anyway?”

“It’s what I like,” I say, moving toward her to squeeze her out. “I’m tired, I want to settle in and go to bed.”

“You can’t tell me to get out, it’s not your room anymore. You’re staying in the guest room, now.” It sounds taunting. For some reason, suddenly I know she’s being mean because she is insecure and small and wretched, and I almost forgive her. But not quite.

“Well, as your guest then, I’m asking you to give me some space,” I utter through clenched teeth. My body is curling inward like a rapidly dying leaf and my heart is jumping like a mad frog. I can’t believe I came here. I can’t believe I’m here. How will I survive this?

Then I remember sitting back inside my eye sockets, resting and cushioning from all that was said, hearing it as if it was from far away . . . It’s an old technique I used to depend upon during my childhood. When Mom would go on and on with her criticism, I would sit back behind this fog, observing yet completely detached from my feelings. 

Mom stands there deciding whether to continue the fight, but I just drop away from her and lie down on the bed facing the wall. A great cold peaceful shroud of wise detachment descends over my whole body and head. I don’t have to talk to her, now. I don’t have to say a single word for two weeks, if she wants to play it this way.

Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas. I repeat these words to everyone I meet for days on end. I feel like a complete imposter. At church on Christmas Eve, Miranda and her sisters walk up the aisle just like the first day I ever saw them, reverent and picturesque and, I know for a fact, all virginal as Mary on the morning of Jesus’ birth. 

Each sister has hair of a different colour: dark brown, light brown, dark blonde, light blonde; but all ever so shiny and thick. They look like Christmas angels. Suddenly my heart clutches and I weep during “Silent Night, Holy Night” feeling the energy of the people around me and all the past years of my childhood, and noticing you again in some way I have forgotten. I remember how much I loved and cared for Jesus, how I cherished him as a little baby and felt so horrified about his death on the cross. It’s not that I wish I’d stayed here in Howey Bay and stayed a virgin or whatever, but I just feel this wistfulness inside, a lonesomeness for something that has passed and maybe never even was in the first place. 

I remember when I was around nine or ten years old and we had to move further north somewhere because Mom and Dad split up for awhile. I couldn’t understand anything that was happening, I just had all my colouring books and my Walkman and tapes and was moving to this new place with Mom. Along the way, we were humming down the road and I was chattering about about something that mattered to me, when suddenly Mom pointed out an old dilapidated barn with an open window at the top. A bit of mouldy hay belched out over its crumbling sill. 

“You’re a mawmouth,” she said, “You are always gaping all over everything. Always talking.”

I felt from that moment on like I should observe, monitor and limit my expression because I was way too much to handle. 

I observe and hold myself within this limit when I’m around these people from my past — Harold and Sharla, who is out-to-here with their little baby boy; Myname, who wants me to get it on with her, but my body, heart and soul are completely smitten with Sunny to the exclusion of all else; the Mennonite crowd, who have heard through Bonnie’s snide rumours that I’m a marijuana-loving queer who’s backslidden so far that I’m never going to get into heaven; and even my old friends Pammy and Cammy and Jennifer, who seem so hokey and redneck now that I’ve been dropping acid and roaming the cornfields north of Toronto for a couple years.

Yes, I feel this same gaping emptiness, a longing that makes me want to fill it with noise. I have a loud laugh, it rings in my ears, it doesn’t sound like it comes from me. Sometimes I feel like I miss something of myself that I don’t know how to find again. Merry Christmas. 

Merry Christmas. I love the white powdery snow, the blackest starriest nights in Canada with the ongoing pastel ripples, the sweet foggy breath of mine and everyone’s, the familiar roads including the ice road on the lake, and the scent of frigid cold ice that freezes your nostril hairs, your eyelashes and brows, the linings of your gums if you dare to smile outside. I love drinking whiskey with Myname, who curls up on my shoulder and tells me about her latest boyfriend. I kiss her on the forehead. But I don’t make a move to fuck around with her, not this time — something about wanting to keep a certain potent mystery alive between us.

Far too many snowy evenings are spent in the company of my mother, who never stops talking about how much of a raging disappointment I am. I am boyish, unfeminine, sloppy, somber, attention-getting, faddish, self-hating, selfish, ignorant, backstabbing, lying, dishonest, unworthy and wrong. Of course I’m also self-hating, by the time several days go by. I’ve gradually wilted from a fun-loving urban sex magnet to a pallid shadow of anxious weakness. 

In the mornings we eat breakfast together and talk about plans for the day, and she smiles across at me, as if last night she did not chase me down the hall into my room and get right up into my face hollering that I’m a sick lesbian now, that I’ve rejected everything about her and you and Jesus and Christianity in general (which I don’t even agree with and don’t think Jesus would either — am I right, JC?). I fell down on my knees and started crying, saying “I can’t help it, I love Sunny and you can’t stop me,” and she reared up and I thought for a second she was going to spank me like she used to. But she just looked down on me and said, “I feel sorry for you.” And her face turned very sullen and cold. Finally, she went away then. 

And in the morning, an omelet, tea, the cats being fed, the sunlight slanting through the kitchen window and Mom leaning against the countertop in her nightgown just like that morning in the summer I was sixteen when she suggested that I go live with Dad. I feel an acute parallel sensation, even more than deja vu — some cosmic alignment telling me the decision I made to go was the right one and soon I’ll be with Sunny again. 

I’m growing up, and away, and soon I’ll be with Sunny again.

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