This ends in sin. Yet, to this day, it remains one of my best ideas. Or was it hers (if you can’t remember, it was probably hers)? What does it matter? We were in love (well…). And that’s what people in love do! They share things, ideas. And when these are the facts, the ideas flow like grape juice sacrament, baby:
You are both twenty. She’s wearing your letterman jacket without irony. You catch yourself trying to include a jersey number after your signature on the lease to the coach house. The church is behind you. Who cares if you had to go with your second backup date because the chapel was booked ‘til October? It feels like you are the only two people in the world with The Light in your eyes.
You will rise early and there will be no tolerance for negativity or caffeine. You’ll fast talk about your respective futures (marine biology; the mill). About the distance between then and now: her scholarship applications and part-time gig at Cactus Club, your new knee and gross misinterpretation of a “gradual return to mild physical activity”. About a dog first and a baby by senior year, lord willing.
But first…dance lessons! Between the two of you there are three left feet and the congregation will need something substantial to tide them over ‘til the Christmas pageant. The dance lessons aren’t the great idea, though. The great idea is this: separate dance lessons.
You will each learn the same steps but never actually move together until The Big Day. Your first dance will be your gift to each other.
You won’t speak of the lessons or how they are going because that would ruin it. But oh, how you’ll want to. And when you see her swaying over the kitchen sink as she dries the dishes you will almost cave. You’ll want to grab her hips and pull her under the fluorescent skylight and rumba. But instead you’ll sigh and suppress the urge (you’re a pro at this by now). Watching her do it alone will have to do.
Her classes will be longer than yours. Or maybe it will just feel that way because she’ll choose to shower at the studio whereas you’ll wait until you’re home. But you’ll actually begin to question your commitment to the great idea when she starts to return later and later each week (blind blind love). You’ll even ask Him if the fact that she is clearly more serious about this whole first dance thing than you is a bad omen for the marriage. You’ll wait for a sign. You’ll be so patient. You will sit in bed and remind yourself in a whisper: “It’s her day” and “She’s been planning this her whole life” and “Of course she wants it to be perfect” and “You are so lucky” so “Get some sleep” (wake up).
The last I heard they live together in his native Belarus (or some fucking way away place with a ‘B’) where he set up an independent studio and she’s almost done her degree, still without child.
But you should see me now (you bitch), how effortlessly I float across the laminate floor of the newly renovated church common room. Salsa singles night is really picking up. It was my idea.
All’s I really wanna do is wake up early, swallow a caffeine pill with my multi-vitamin, go running while I listen to fairly aggressive semi-conscious hip-hip, drop some fresh fruit & veggies into a Vitamix. Tap pulse. Read a book, write a story, do some push-ups, rest my eyes, pull food full of ingredients whose names I can pronounce from the rainbow inside my refrigerator. & watch a serious movie on my laptop with someone who smells like cream and is able to support their argument for “Why I Get To Pick The Next One”. That’s pretty much it. Oh. And all of it can take place in Tofino, ASAP.
…and it was fun to watch her barter for treasures at vintage shops: large hats, old photographs (as long as someone had written something on the back—a date or a place or I Love You), cassette tapes, things made with feathers, and rings. Lots of rings. She had stories to go with each piece and in the beginning that was fun, too. But the stories began to repeat themselves and it bothered me when she didn’t think I’d heard that one before. Bothered me to think that these stupid stories took up more of me than they did of her. It bothered me that I cared. So I stopped.
I stopped commenting on them or adding my own chapters and, eventually, I stopped hearing them altogether. But it didn’t stop her from searching. Or from filling another shoebox full of stories. Hoping to one day imagine one that would…never mind.
The Fall. I start to grow my hair out and she stands on her tip-toes to comb through it with her fingers while we wait for the elevator. Her motions are somewhere between I’ve-Got-A-Ken-Doll and I’ve-Got-ADHD. But I don’t stop her. I love the grooves that her rings carve when she pushes my bangs back. I admire them in the elevator mirror on the way down. Since she’s been gone I can never get my hair to lie like that.
In a church basement I sit. Holding a photograph of Dad holding me when I was a toddler. It is old in the sense that it was taken over 20 years ago. It is new in the sense that it was printed off this morning from a facebook family photo album. And therein lies the difference between myself and the eleven other men—and only men—in the church basement. The tokens of their fathers are older in every sense, as are they.
I am the same age as the grown man in the photo I hold in my lap. When he was my age he owned his own business, owned him own home, was married to my mother, and had me. When my father was my age he already had ahold of me. I am the age he was when he had all these things—I barely have ahold of myself.
A line is drawn down the middle of a chalkboard and we make two lists of words. The first is of terms associated with Youth today and it includes the likes of: unattached, disassociated, reckless, sexual, impulsive, confused, free, experimental, and many others I have since forgotten. The second list is to describe Old by today’s standards and it reads: settled, alone, nostalgic, wise, disassociated, and many others I have since forgotten.
We break into small circles and sit on foldout chairs in the church basement. We look down at our fatherly mementos. Then we embody our fathers. In this way, we take turns talking of the relationship with our “sons”, ourselves. I speak…
I wake with the front of my face pressed into a hardwood floor. I know this floor, this apartment. What I do not know is how I have reached this position or for how long I have been here, but there is an immediate understanding that it was not by choice. My upper body is in the hallway and my lower body is in the bathroom. Where is everybody else? My throat is dry and it hurts to unstick my tongue from the roof of my mouth. What feel like cookie crumbs are caked to the cracks in my lips. I groan. I gather my bones into a propped up fetal position, bringing my stomach off the floor and resting on my elbows and knees. I moan. My nose tingles as it is peeled from the cold floor and begins to reform. It must be broken. I run a finger slowly down the length of its bridge. I know what a broken nose feels like (click here) and this is not it—no crooked cartilage, no blood. Any brief sensation of relief is muted by the absurd amount of time and effort my heavy hands required to complete this nasal assessment. I feel light but my head is a medicine ball. It hangs there between my elbows, inches from the floor. I have no strength. I feel scrawny. When given full rein over a depleted body, the mind is free to wander its own path. As if to offer a solution to my current state, I retrieve a memory of an eighth grade pizza party.
I ate an entire large Panago pepperoni pizza by myself. To wash it down, one of the older kids let me finish his Rum ‘n Coke. I got up off the couch and wobbled down the hallway. My head was spinning and I wanted to lie down. Is this drunk? I found a bed and minutes later I vomited in projectile fashion all over the floor of my friend’s bedroom. I instantly felt awesome again and continued about my night.
My brain has offered me a solution. Solution: vomit. I just need to puke and everything will be fine. But I am so weak. I swallow and gag to try and force something out, anything. Nothing. My mouth is dry. I pass my tongue over the backs of my teeth and along my gum line to generate saliva. I stop once I reach my front teeth. There is a void. I tongue the same path again, hoping for a better result. Same vacant space. What remains of my two front teeth is jagged, sensitive, and coarse as sandpaper. I guess these aren’t cookie crumbs stuck to my lips after all! I need to survey the damage. I tell my body to move but such decisions seem largely out of my control. My limbs will not support my weight and the coming moments will resemble a baby horse trying to find its legs for the first time. Every motion comes with a hazy time delay. A lag between my thoughts and actions like the empty moments between an anchorman in correspondence with a reporter live on location in the middle of nowhere. My mind is present; my body is in the middle of nowhere.
Slowly, the signals begin to seep through and I manage to peek my head over the bathroom sink and muster a smile into the mirror. My vision is blurred and the mirror is foggy and nothing is gained. Someone is in the shower. Someone else grabs me. I know it is a friend because they say my name and follow it with some incomprehensible drones in which I detect sincere concern. I am worried about the integrity of my smile. For an instant my legs are back under me and I use this newfound strength to steady myself. However, the strength is not my own and I falter under the grip of my friend Cole who has come to my aid. I am heavier than he is and we both go down. He lands on the edge of the bathtub and remains seated there. Not by design, but due to the weight of my limp torso pinning his legs. My butt is back on the bathroom floor and I am propped up with Cole’s knees as a backrest and his lap as a pillow. Another friend hovers naked over us from the shower.
My entire body feels like it is on fire and I have closed my eyes. I try to open them but my eyelids won’t budge. I try again. Still black. Again. Darkness. I cannot seem to summon a blink. I bring my hands to my eyes to force them open but, before I have the chance, I feel an eyelash brush across my index finger. The eyelids are opening and shutting just fine. The problem is that they only offer two options: black and pitch black. I am blind. I am a blind person now.
Amid the physical darkness my mind, again, shines bright. Memories of everything I have ever learned about the blind community and interactions with every blind person I have ever met come flooding in. Now that I am blind I am going to have to deal with this. As least I will never have to see how my teeth look. I try to find some sort of center in this chaos, a calm. Of myself, Cole, and exposed Alex standing in the shower, it is I who likely has the best idea of what transpired here, and the extent of my knowledge is this:
It is Thursday, June 16th, 2011. It is the morning after the Vancouver Canucks lost 4-0 to the Boston Bruins in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. It is dark and I am scared…