Monday, March 19, 2012

Good Night Darling...

Mark and I had been living together for over a year. During that period, we had adopted a cat. Although adorable, she was a bit of a challenge. Life had made her a complete nervous wreck. Swift movements and great guttural laughs were a thing of the past in our home. All our efforts were focused on making her feel safe.

One night while we were all sound asleep; Mark had one of his typical nightmares. They use to scare me to no end when we first met. In the dead of the night, Mark would start screaming in that quivery spectrum of sounds made by someone attempting to scream yet only managing to make horrible creepy sounds. He would also reach out for something that he alone could see coming to him, making him look like a walking dead from the 1950’s zombie movies. The worst for me were the eyes. He would look at this coming danger eyes wide open in terror. I would, in turn, scream with perfect pitch while sitting bolt upright in bed wondering what the matter was while contributing my fair share of confusion. Most nights, Mark would not even wake up, other times; when he did, he would clearly show annoyance at my hysteria, he hated these nightmares of mine which woke him up. Either way, the night was over for me.

On that particular night, prior to Mark’s nightmare, we were a happy sleeping family like many others. Mark was to my right, by the window and my cat was curled up by my left shoulder. Then it all began. Mark had one of his sudden nightmares. I produced one of my perfect pitch screams, but this time, it was followed by such horrible pains that my screams morphed into hysterical laughers. Mark suddenly woke up and started screaming in hope of shutting me up; after all, we did have neighbors, to no avail. No amount of shaking or poking would calm me down. In order to shed some light on the situation, Mark got up and switched the light on. What he saw was pure carnage. There was blood everywhere. The walls, the ceiling, the bed, Mark and more importantly my face were covered in blood. I was disfigured. At first sight, I had been in a fistfight with a razor blade and did poorly. My nose had been slashed open down to the bone from the nostril to the eye; I had gashes all over my face and neither one of us could figure out what could have happened. Mark tossed me a towel; the bright white one of course, put a pair of jeans on and took me to the hospital. By then all the neighbors were awake, watching the scene assuming family discord. At the hospital, we still could not provide an explanation as to what might have taken place, making it highly suspicious. Poor Mark, on that night he lost his virtual good boyfriend gold star in the eyes of onlookers. By the time they finished the last stitch of my new facial railway tracks, we were free to go home.

As we walked in, the scene seemed more ghastly still than it had appeared an hour earlier. The sheets had been tossed aside, the blood on the walls looked like arterial gusts and paw prints were all over the window. The cat? The cat! Oh goodness gracious, the cat! It turned out that when Mark had his nightmare the cat jumped in panic, landing on my face, struggling to get a good grip to bounce off the bed.

Nowadays Mark does not get that many nightmares anymore. It may have something to do with the cat relocating her sleeping grounds nearby his shoulder. Either way, we sleep much better than we used to.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Clean Slate

I have not spoken much lately. I have kept most everything bottled up inside for fear of dulling the pain I feel. My mother gently let go of life at Christmas, quietly, without warning, without bothering anyone. Even though I had often wished I was ride of her, it had never occurred to me that one day, she would actually be dead. I just wanted to escape her ascendancy over me. And now, I have no one to fight. Fighting was the luxury of the livings. My destiny is now mine to live, except perhaps for the fact that this is also utopia. We are linked now, stronger than ever, and I’m surprisingly fine with it. I wish she had a better life, I wish I could have done more for her; I wish I was a better daughter. But she was my mom, she came first, she was the example, the teacher; she thought us life, love, character, but she desperately lacked intrinsic knowledge of these matters. She guessed. We learnt what we could out if it. I have gotten to know her more in death than I did in life. We were unexpectedly very similar. We missed our shot. We made a mess of it all. In spite of life’s curveballs, my mother leaves behind a legacy through her children, and she deserves for her children to be inconvenienced by pain for a little while, as I am sure, it will dull on its own fast enough.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Language

It is interesting to listen to English speaking people talk about the French language. In their mind there are different types of French; amongst others, the proper French and the French-Canadian. It hardly ever occurs to people that indeed accents, colloquialisms, or education may play an important part in clarity or delivery of any language and that ultimately, it is but one language: French. Anyone who speaks French will understand a French speaking person. Sometimes there is struggle, but it is no different than a Canadian guy trying to understand a Welsh or a New-Zealand guy. Yet, it would never occur to most Anglo Saxons to split the language into the proper, the American or the Canadian. In people’s mind, it is the same language. Somehow, they seem to believe that if they were to learn French-Canadian French, they would never be able to understand or be understood by French from France. Little do they know that generally their English accent is so strong that either way, nobody can understand them.


It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Sadly enough, it is true. Recently I became an active member of Facebook. It happened after a childhood friend contacted me. At first I was quite put off, she was after all a bully. What made me reconsider accepting her as a friend was her comment that she had such wonderful memories of me. It took me a while to realize that although she was indeed a bully, I never was her victim. I was also quite curious to find out what these - wonderful memories - could be since I had so very little myself. Almost right away, a flood of old high school buddies started to appear, people who had apparently been looking for me while I was pointlessly in hiding. High school years were good to me and I remember them quite fondly. Once I opened the gates, it was only a matter of time before others showed up.

I reconnected with the girls I used to hang out with, those same girls I had spent countless of hours with, dreaming of the ways we would change the world. Some stayed put, some others moved away, some got married, divorced, some had great career, but none of them had children. What more might we all have had unknowingly in common? I wonder. Although almost thirty years had passed, they all looked more beautiful than ever. The years had not taken its toll of them. However, the same was not true for the guys we used to hang out with. I could hardly recognize any of them. We had countless of times fought against the terrible prejudices that awaited us, future women of the world, but we had never realized how much pressure there was on boys to succeed, to provide, to make things happen, and not all of them had the ability to do so. It was sadly obvious.

I also reconnected with old flames, dear friends, endearing acquaintances, previous neighbors, old colleagues. At first, everybody’s life looked amazing, fulfilling. Gosh, I felt like a looser. How was it that I had done so very little? That is, until I realized that people put up a good front. Their lives were just as ordinary as any other. They put their best pictures up, their best smiles, and hope to convince themselves even more than others.

Some old friends quickly became precious friends again. Some others took the opportunity to use a faraway sounding board to share strenuous details of their lives with someone they had no risk of inadvertently encountering on the streets. Others, the castoffs of those years, those who invested much of their time into successful careers, in an attempt to prove to the world that even then they were worth it, are now investing themselves into fantasies where the past is being avenged by an imaginary present, yet stumbling still on the same rejections.

It is an interesting tool, to observe human behavior certainly, but also to compare, to appreciate the distance traveled. It helped me realize that once upon a time I was amazing, and I lost sight of it during my college years which were in retrospect, truly the worst ones of my life. Even though at first my life felt rather pale in comparison, it turns out that it’s not that bad at all. And as they say, I’m not dead yet, am I.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mr. Rabbit

I have been looking at all these old pictures for almost three weeks now. Actually, I have mainly been looking at the young girl I was. She holds such mystery to me. I even asked my father to send me all the pictures he had of me before the age of twenty. Childhood pictures are quite a rare commodity in my household. Although I am sure we must have taken as many as any other families, a bitter divorce and later on the flooding of our basement, where the photo albums were kept, impoverished the collection even further. The pictures, I was told, glued together face to face, forever hiding their content. Only those that were secured away prior to any of these events remained accessible.

My father sent me two dozen pictures, half of which I had never seen before or at least, not in a very long time. The memory of these days was still very vivid, except perhaps for the fact that I had not thought of them since they happened. However, the impact of those days on my life lives on, sometimes rather clearly, other times more subtly. These were the formative years. They contributed in shaping me into the person I became.

My father’s pictures, added to the ones I already had, provided a good sampling of my early years. Once they were all scanned and arranged by date, a few patterns started emerging. The first one: there are no family pictures. There are pictures of individuals or pairs, only twice is the entire family gathered in the same frame, each times I am under the age of four, and both times my mother is distancing herself from us. Several pictures were taken during the same family gathering. I was obviously young and obliging enough to be passed around from hands to hands, since I am being held by a different person in every frame. Everybody is holding me at some point, except for my mother. Even though she often appears in the pictures, she systematically looks away from me. She would be standing between her two children, turned away towards my brother.

Another noticeable aspect is the fact that nobody ever smiles. Until I am about four years old, I am obviously out of place as I smile from ear to ear without restrain. Afterward, I just look sad; there is no hint that attempts were ever made, except once or twice and it looks rather more like a forced grimace. My face starts lighting up again late in my teens and the pictures then, are never in family settings. There is an exception I must reveal. I must be about seven years old, I am holding carefully a small white rabbit in my arms and there is a glimpse of unrestrained joy in my eyes even though my smile is reserved. Later on that day, Mr. Rabbit will become my first little companion.

I also noticed that whenever a few of us were forced to pose for the camera, we hardly ever touch each other and, in the rare occasions we did, the discomfort was palpable.

The saddest realization of all came from a group picture of nine little girls goofing around like eight years old do. I am sitting in the middle of the crowd and I look as if I am fourteen years old while indeed, I am the youngest of all these jesters.

I am sure anyone could argue that if I look and scrutinize long enough, I could detect almost anything I want from almost any expression I see in these pictures. It might be true. But others have reached the same conclusions without enticement. I also understand that we live in different times and back then, abuse was not something we talked about, least of all, interfere with.

Still, I cannot help but see a brave and strong little girl who faced something terrible and somehow manage to extirpate herself from that situation, all by herself. No wonder they stayed at bay, they failed her in every possible ways. Fortunately, childhood can only last so long and one day we wake up and it’s all over. And sometimes it takes a little while longer.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Spring Cleaning

Spring seems to rhyme with cleaning. This year, I have set my mind to scanning all the old pictures and burn them on DVDs before shredding the hard copies. I am not sure why this task suddenly appears important or even necessary. Perhaps it is part of the purging process. Never-the-less, I have been scanning all of them one by one, watching my story unfold frame by frame. Although it can be heavy at times, it’s also interesting to notice the progression.

The incredible thing about a picture is that no matter how long ago it was captured, a fleeting look will transport you back in time, making that moment eternal. If for no other reason, one should never take a picture in vain as good times will be remembered with vivid clarity, but so will be the bad ones as well.

I did allow myself the privilege to tamper with some of the evidence, destroying a few pictures here and there. After all, the 80’s were cruel years, but so were the forceful smiles which never quite reached the eyes. Although I did - Photoshop - my past a little, I have no desire to completely eradicate it. This is, in spite of everything, the only true comparison I have with the present, the only way I have to attest of real progress. On print, it is easier to observe changes more objectively.

The most peculiar discovery so far is the fact that each and every one of my old girlfriends resembled my mother in some ways, and the fact that I never was quite myself with any of them. Most of these friendships entailed making much compromises on my part, and continuously walking on thin ice.

The other interesting discovery is the fact that my mother did not always look like a malignant and reprobating witch. There were times when she looked light and rosy. But even then, the emotion did not seem to be directed at the photographer, rather at the opportunity to portray a perfect moment. It seems that objectivity has no place between mother and daughter. My mother and I always had a very enflamed and harsh relationship completely void of respect. It feels as though I spent my life erupting at my mother’s perfect stoic. How could anyone remain so professedly indifferent to her child suffering? Unless the goal is to make the child suffer more still. I think early on, some deep instinct and intrinsic awareness alerted me to a profound and irreversible imbalance between us. And not unlike others, I spent an important part of my life trying to prove myself wrong. She did, in moments of rage, tell me that she never loved me, but who ever means it? However, it must have been true and I felt it. It might also explain why I never sought her for ally in difficult times and why she never volunteered.

It is puzzling to look at all these pictures. Her posing betrays very little. Yet, for the most part, I remember quit clearly how miserable, how cornered and guilty I felt moments before these pictures were taken. The fighting and bickering were too savage to underline deep love and after years, it left but a feeling of modest discomfort. When I look at these pictures, my heart feels like a mushroom left in the fridge for too long.

When I started scanning these pictures I wanted an easier access to them. Who ever takes the time to flip through envelops and boxes stored at the bottom of an old trunk? Will I look at them more regularly now? Probably not. These pictures attest only of my past.

As far as I am concern, the past, although interesting to understand, analyze, comprehend, accept and finally to let go of, is by no mean a clear indication of the future choices to be made ahead. It certainly is, in great part responsible for shaping a person’s character, values and choices in life; but the response to all these stimuli remains unexpected as human beings learn, grow and overcome.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Catharsis

Writing this blog does much to clear my mind of emotional dust bunnies. In a previous blog – The Soul – I was surprise that my mother’s lack of love for me was still something I cared about. I thought I was well over it. It seemed to go against pretty much all the work I had done with John over the years. It’s only later on, once the story was posted that I understood. It was not a cry for her love, but a farewell.

It was the fact of writing it which confirmed its conclusion. So long as there is hope, however faint, there is no moving on, but hope is a private emotion which lodges deep inside oneself. It is rarely shared, because just as deep inside, we know the hope is vain. The admission, though sad, opens the way to letting go.

"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves. We must die to one life before we can enter another." - Anatole France