When Catharine was a child, her parents told stories. Some were written in books, others improvised or recited from memory. Catharine’s mother would sit on the edge of the bed in lamplight, reading. “Why?” asks Catherine: for every story, Why. Sometimes her mother knows the answer, sometimes she invents. Catharine makes pictures of her mother’s words. The pictures come to life as dreams, embellished by the hopes and fears of a child.
Vaja has crossed the water alone after burying Tahna under darkness, debarking at sunrise below the eastern face of the limestone promontory. The windswept yellow sand of the savannah is in his beard and mouth as he makes his way up the rock, to the cave some twenty metres above. Soon the weather will change from the dry warm wind of the levant to cool and wet days on open scrubland. Everything changes, says Vaja, to no one.
[June 21, 1975]
I am on my back a half-naked animal fever bitten with a blade of noonsun dissecting my sweaty torso and the ceiling pulses I may heave again into the blue plastic bucket at my bedside. When I feel able I turn but it’s useless for though I pitch as a ship in weather nothing brings me comfort and I fear nothing ever will and in this moment I ask myself Am I dying Yes comes the brainword Yes as if twisted from a fetid cloth like the one that has fallen from my brow. Yes I am ready to die. Reason claws at the skin of this ocean and although the churn is sucking me down down I know it is only the fever speaking and I swim. I am ready to die but not to go down into these waters.
You were a fool but then youth is wasted on the young. Suppose I could go back. I told myself if only I knew then what I know now without considering that there are always new mistakes to be made. Perhaps that’s just my way of consoling myself over what’s impossible. And anyways, what is life without mistakes? There’s just one thing I would do differently, but it’s too late now.
I am a spoon in a laminate pressboard drawer, my pitted bowl heavenward to the darkened underribs of the countertop. My back and my tip are scarred, and, yes, I have lost plating in spots. But my neck is strong, patinated yet still bearing the crisp hallmark of my pedigree. My beautiful handle is etched with neo-classical and Arabesque motifs. I feel needed and useful in this world.
You have to understand My darlings. Yes I’ve come back but not in a conflagration or with the fanfare of a host of angels or a wrenching of the firmament and such. Drama like that belongs to an earlier period of My output. The truth is I had decided I would never return. The truth is that although I am that I am I am not that I was. That is what you must understand.
I’ve come for socks and I am leaving with a glass vase that I don’t need. The clerk dispenses my change like a backhoe grapple. A coin falls to the counter. It is flu season and I have not washed my hands since leaving the subway. The Persian woman is careless: her delicate fingers touch a man’s lips. She is tender. They will leave the mall and later they will have sex as I am wondering where to put my vase.
People are cunning and determined and focused. As you read these words, people are busy at the relentless work of ruin. I know that evil exists and I know that evil exists because I know that people exist.
Morrie is from Valley East in the Sudbury Basin, a long way from this west-end Toronto bench. Call me Mo, he says, shaking my hand. He tells a fishing story that begins with his wife giving him 30 dollars and ends with a store-bought salmon fillet and a night spent on the couch. In the middle of the story he is in the city, spending the money on drink. Next to him is the beer from my LCBO bag.
It was a huge number of years ago. I mean, I don’t know, like a hundred years. A hundred? Yeah, say about a hundred. It doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter. A tremendous number of years and our fathers, folks they were the best fathers, and they brought forth a new nation on this land, a free nation. Tremendous freedom. Freedom like you have never seen, believe me. And they said, listen, all men are created equal. So true. They said men but, you know, they said we’re equal.
From the somewhere beyond a pedicel has pricked the baseboard and attached itself to the telephone. Or perhaps it’s the opposite, a root burrowing outward to the world. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I have permitted this stubborn parasite to remain and I don’t know why.
I was in an Upper Manhattan bar with Herbert J. Gans, around the time he was writing The War Against The Poor, and once again we were discussing media bias. Journalism would be better without objectivity, I argued. Better to be truthful than objective. Report the facts, and never be afraid to declare and defend a position. I had the best arguments that day.
Everywhere I go, I see them. I am talking about the celebrities.
The day arrived when I understood. I had not found them, they had found me. It made sense. I wasn’t looking for the celebrities: it was the other way round. A celebrity is always on the lookout for me, hoping that if she just stands on a dais I will buy a ticket and applaud. Or at least pay attention.
My brain was on a loop, forever reprocessing the same irrational thought, so I slept poorly. In the morning, I couldn’t recall the idée fixe over which my subconscious had obsessed for what must have been hours. Tell me what you can’t remember, Freud once famously said. I grope in the mist but nothing solid remains.
The bar in this small central Pennsylvania town is like many others. A few tables, a mounted television, branded tap handles, metal tube stools. I order a draught and scan the snack menu, turning my attention to the TV because it’s impossible not to.