167 Unique Instances of Having Lived Together II

As soon as I saw you, I knew we had known each other for ten thousand years. I quickly scribbled down Greek letters, Arabic numerals, and Latin presuppositions, and calculated that we had lived 167 lives together, some of them minutes long, others a lifetime. As I spend time with you more and more flash into my mind in no order - I have begun writing them down in hopes it will tell me more about the 168th life I am in now, to make this the longest and sweetest of them all.

7. Collecting amber on Koenigsberg shores, my bones begged me to get out of that icy water, and my eyes cheated me. You caught me before my head fell under and told me to sleep; when I woke up I was in a warmer place with your hands in my hair. The amber bought us the time and the carriages we’d need to leave that sea behind and find warmer shores.

19. On a local train cutting through rock and rivers, we sat across to each other as strangers and barely said a word. On the layover in Naples I saw you sitting at my favourite spot on the pier and sat next to you, and we spoke about the varieties of exile. You told me you were getting off at Florence; I threw my transfer pass to Bolzano out of the train window that night.

25. Every day at 4 in the afternoon, you would buy four lemons at the fruit stand I ran since my father died. For the first time in that life I suddenly thought of running a fruit stand as a great career choice and wondered how long it would take to build a lemonade stand, and how to ask you if you’d like to run it next to mine.

34. I ran out of the bar at the same time you ran out of the cafe. Even through the rain, we both knew what had happened to the other. I ran across the traffic and down to you in a coat that nearly swallowed me up to tell you my name, but just ended up saying “I want to tell you everything”. You told me I could, and we walked through the rain and the snow to your favourite bookstore.

51. We both ran out of money and decided to work in the alps over the winter as funicular operators. You ran the car opposite to mine and I could only steal your glance for seconds every half-hour. Stuck on that miserable mountain during snowstorms, we planned and planned and decided to jam the cars parallel to one another to hold hands across the drop.

91. Resting under shade from walnut trees, we compared notes from the workshop on caring for small-scale farms; it took only 10 minutes before you fell asleep on my shoulder. I did not want to wake you after the long day, so I spent my time counting birds until the sky turned purple and carried you home, thinking about tomorrow and about the ladders we’d have to build.

118. Labouring under the weight of heavy shadows and gnarled roots, we started our days with black tea, and heard the artillery batteries’ din echo in the valley. A small radio told us where the front was, and every inch it staggered away from us, the weight lifted and we could breathe again. You wondered if anyone would be back to work on the farms that had been left behind.


Jon Babi is happy to see you again.

In the Morning

The tooth fairy collects my wisdom teeth

during a drug-induced sleep.

Now I am only allowed to eat

pureed beets with a rubber spoon.

I vomit in red and eat through

the walls of my bedroom.

Break my teeth on my down duvet.

Catch up on swim club anime

Mid-race Haruka makes me cry,

Oxycodone type of high.

my ceiling breathes with me, through one nostril,

the other is plugged with pus,

and mucus, fills my cheekbone, behind my eye

My mouth sticks dry, tongue tastes my own blood

In the graves where my teeth once stood.


Mahaila Smith found a piece of horse mandible, teeth included: they were much bigger than her own.

Wholesale Baggage

I wanted to give you the full package.

I had so much to offer.

But all you wanted was a quick taste.

I was worth nothing more.

Just a fleeting experience.

And then you were gone.

As quick as you came.

I should have known.

I thought this time would be different.

I hoped you were different.

Talking to me.

Pretending to act interested.

Pretending to care.

But it wasn’t different.

It was more of the same.

Now, you just move along.

And I’m left waiting here.

Amongst the refuse you leave behind.

A constant reminder.

Waiting for it to all happen again.

It is hard.

It is my life.

I am the Costco Free Sample Employee.


Fredrick Martyn is a medical student, humour writer and poet originally from Toronto.

SHELTER

Your first thought was probably, How do homeless people use an app?

Or you wanted to blurt out, How does a homeless person afford a smartphone?

Ha ha. You know, we get that question every time we pitch investors. And the truth is, folks, housing costs have been rising exponentially. Especially since the sea took so much real estate. New York flooded. Boston is gone. Vancouver had that big quake. They’re still excavating where some of those buildings fell. Here in Toronto we don’t see as many refugees from the California fires, but out west that certainly injects adrenalin into the market. Boy.

I personally asked one of our users, Earflap Jack. He’s been sleeping out longer than Pom-pom Jack and No-hat Jack, but not as long as Ball-cap Jack. Before our app he was sleeping in a lean-to built from stones and tarps, under the bridge where the Queensway crosses the Humber. You’ll like this. Earflap Jack told me, “I didn’t plan on being homeless.”

You can see him in this little video we cut to illustrate how the app works. Those two guys plinking up the emergency stairwell at Avenue and Bloor. He’s the shorter one. Looks like they found a unit unoccupied for the night. See the relief on their faces, like water on parched soil. Before using the app, Ball-cap Jack told us he hasn’t felt safe one night since they stopped making cars in Oshawa and he lost the house. We asked Earflap Jack, but he just shook his head. “Never,” he said. “I never felt safe.” Not in any of the foster homes. Not in the low basement bachelor he shared with the trumpet player when he first got to the city. We can only guarantee single nights, but if there’s more data, SQUAT offers users the probability of a unit being available a few nights in a row. If we know the owners are in Ibiza, or Rio.

This next clip is one of our Cindys. In Ultra HD you could see that’s Denim Jacket Cindy; I apologize for this hazy little screen. In user interviews we spoke to Duffel Coat Cindy, Leather Jacket Cindy, Peacoat Cindy, and Cardigan Cindy. You may be thinking, Doesn’t Cardigan Cindy also wear a Denim Jacket? She hasn’t been doing sex work as long. Duffel Coat Cindy also teaches grade six at Charles III Public School: you must know how hard it is to justify wage increases for something that brings no return for investors.

Read More

Steak, Medium

Steak

Disembodied and tasty

Guilty sustenance

They ask me how I want it cooked.

I ask them what are my options

They say the chef only does it one way.

I ask why they would ask my preference if the chef only does it one way

They say that’s the rule.

I let this notion massage my mind. I say, ok what is the option

They say the steak is served as the medium.

I was perplexed. I say that's fine.

They input the order.

//Order: Steak//

I am served a TV set. On the screen lies the image of a steak

I wonder what I am supposed to do with this information

Eat it? my thoughts ar eeatingm e.

The screen lowers and I reach my fork, my hand, into the screen and stab the meat.

I bring the slab to my face, this meat, an extension of my eye

Has bold flavour , I can taste the joy in the revolution.

The waiter asks, "how are you enjoying your perception of the steak?"

As a product of my entireexistence, in the here and now, with the entirety of the future of the

world unfolding before my eyes I say, "It's alright."

But really, it was like chewing on the sole of a shoe.

Turns out it was a shoe sole

Shaped like a steak.

I hit my step count today.


Samantha Greco is from Toronto, Ontario, and spends her free time walking a rose laden heath to find her words by listening to the humming honey bees. 

heist

frankly you’re doing everything possible to placate my anxiety for unconditional affection appropriate to our evolving situation, but i want more: i wanna pull off nothing short of a bellagio heist, brad pitt george clooney & all our pals, right. i need a take-home more substantial than we can split; on patchwork contracts with no clear path & losing the ability to attract potential matches. the stability i seek extends past pills that sublingually edge me to rhythmic breathing: i need an employee to rig the elevator shaft, disable the lasers so i can acrobat to the main safe, eat all the digits i can digest undetected.


a.m. kozak is a social worker currently living in Ottawa.

A Place Past-Midnight

You enter the room in your underwear, for lack of a swimsuit, or preparation.

You’re alone, next to a big indoor pool in a dimly lit room.

You see the reflection of the water on the walls and pool deck.

It calmly sways, just slightly; just below room temperature, but comfortable.

You walk to the deep end. The deck is dry, nobody’s been in here for a while.

You pick up a diving weight, covered in plastic, and drop it in the deep end, watching it slowly

sink to the bottom.

You breathe in - almost as though nervousness does not exist in this place - and hop into

the water, keeping your body perfectly straight.

You let yourself sink slowly down, until your momentum is gone, and then swim the rest of the

way to the weight. You grab it, sit, and wait for your body to command you to move.

But struggle is not a function of this place.

There is no perception of time down here, but it may have been an eternity.

This place, at the bottom, has no bearing on what is, but rather, the absence of it.

Time may not have passed.

You get up when you feel like existing again, dragging the weight up with you.

Nothing has changed, above, or below the surface.

You breathe a deep breath. Invigorated. The air feels better than before.

That place waits until past-midnight to come again.

It waits, for the silence, the calm sway, an empty room, another stranger.

Somebody will be here, in time, to stop existing, but only for a moment.


Russell's from Waterloo, Ontario, and he thinks everybody should spend a little more time thinking about birds.

A Postcard from Home

In two years I moved three continents and while my body travelled my brain refused to adjust. It dove deeper and deeper within itself until all it could do was run in circles in the small space of my cranium. Suddenly, home did not exist but houses came and went: my grandparent’s bungalow where flowers grew between cracks in the wall, a rented apartment in a sleepy canton, another where voices filled with glee could be heard till dawn arrived with rosy fingers, and a three story where the couch became soft from use and the engines of overhead aero planes kept us awake, until it was time to go and now I find myself in a dorm room where the walls are so thin that I hear Hozier, sometimes, in the mornings.

And I sit here and wonder how could I possibly be here right now, when my brain keeps replaying scenes of sitting in wide verandahs with biscuits and chai. That is a home, and another is running uphill towards the gare because if you miss this one, the next is an hour away and your friends are already there with a basket full of bread, so you can sit by the lake and talk about mortality. Somehow, even this place has become a home when you begin to miss laughing so loud you get complaints and waking up to snowstorms and deciding then to go back to the warm embrace of your bed.

I think now my brain is catching up to my body and those pangs of confused homesickness that rendered me non-functioning have been replaced by an urge, an urge to be here and present and fully alive. Somehow this urge also encompasses wandering, here and everywhere, and the need to keep going onwards and upwards to the next place and the next. Life isn’t meant for you to be stationery both brain and body and soul and everything in between because home isn’t a place anymore. It’s yourself.


Sana Mohsin is a Pakistani-Canadian writer who likes tea, the sea, and Sylvia Plath, immensely.

DEADLY ORGANISMS

Have you considered the fact that many of the things that can maim, kill, and ail you are spread by human contact? From cold war to cholera to the common cold, humans are probably the biggest threat to your health. A rudimentary understanding of mortality rates should suggest to you that you are better off alone. It is such a banal insight that it is featured on government-sponsored bus ads advising people not to get to close to each other for the sake of their well-being.

Keeping uncontaminated is easy for me. I work from home. I’m an introvert and mostly a misanthrope, so the calculation in which I weigh the hypothetical pleasure of a hug against the potential discomfort of influenza is an easy one.

That is why I find myself at home on Friday nights, courting my computer. The mice I touch don’t spread diseases. If I wanted to hear someone whispering I could find some lonely soul and put my ear to the sterile speaker. If being wise means intuitively practicing the common sense of the age, then I am one of the magi of generation Y. We are not a people of pilgrimages. Our gold, frankincense, and myrrh travel the world to get to us, while we remain fixed like stars. Each safe in our orbit. Never touching.

The front door rattles. My brother is home with the groceries. We are too employed to live with our parents and too poor to live alone, so we live with each other in a two-bedroom apartment, carefully avoiding going into each other’s bedrooms except in times of dire necessity. He runs errands for me and I offer him free psychoanalysis. It’s a tenable symbiotic relationship between socially stunted siblings. He’s completed his mission, so now it’s time for me to play my part and be a therapist. I put vodka and ice into clean glasses and hand him one. He sits in his chair, staring silently at the ice clinking in his glass as though its hiding the words he’s looking for. I sip my vodka slowly. I love its deadly crispness. No small, insidious organism can survive that alcohol bath.

“I think Lily slept with Shaun,” my brother finally blurts out. “When we all met last week after work for drinks.”

I’m a good psychoanalyst. I don’t say anything. I stare up at the ceiling and knot my face just slightly so he knows I’m concentrating.

“That doesn’t bother me, really. I mean it’s not like I care whether she sleeps with guys. I don’t, what’s that phrase? Slut-shame. I don’t slut-shame. Good for her, if she likes Shaun. But I have this nagging worry about people who sleep around, especially when they’re drunk. It just seems like a good way to catch diseases, you know? People who are less…fastidious than I am about their health worry me. I like Lily, I really do. But what if we dated? What if she, I don’t know, tried to feed me a strawberry? I’d be wondering whether she washed her hands.”

“Hmmm.” I say, as ambiguously as possible. It’s so much easier for me than it is for my brother. It’s simple to avoid touching people when you never wanted to touch them in the first place. But my brother is more neurotic than I am. He wavers between desire and dread on a constant basis. His ambivalence is useful, though. It makes him better suited for going out and getting groceries.

An hour later, I feel like I am floating on a lake, suspended in water and time. The reading lamp is warm and mellow as an evening sun. I haven’t gone swimming in years, you can guess why, but the memory of it is strangely heartening. My brother is in my bobbing sightline. For ten minutes now he has had the look on his face of someone who is trying to work out a poetic way to explain their emotions.

“I want to hold Lily. I wish I could hold her forever so I wouldn’t have to let her go and deal with the potential consequences of closeness.”

I nod with the deep sympathy of a fellow drunkard.

“God I’m pathetic.” My brother is now nearly horizontal in his chair. “Twenty-seven years old, drinking at home with my sister on a Friday night! No offence. I love you. I do. I just wish you weren’t the only person I hang out with who knows how and when to keep their goddamned distance.” He scowls, briefly and almost imperceptibly.

It is an unfortunate time for me to be rushing face-first toward sobriety. I keep my eyes on my hands, waiting for the collision, hoping I won’t have too much of a headache tomorrow.


Jade Wallace is a laggardly, legal-clinic dwelling pacifist, organizing member of Draft Reading Series, member of the collaborative writing partnership MA|DE, one half of the band The Leafy Greens, and the author of Rituals of Parsing (Anstruther Press, 2018).