On Friday night, I was headed over to my buddy's house to watch the Raptors game, and planning to swing by the burger joint to pick up something to eat beforehand.
The spot is on the same street as an old friend of mine who I haven't seen in over half a decade. I probably roll through there once every month or so since moving back to Toronto. Every time I turn onto his street, I half-hope he'll be outside his house (for reasons unknown) so that we can catch up.
Oddly enough, last night I wasn't hoping he'd be there. I suppose I wasn't in a very talkative mood.
Low and behold, he was out there shoveling his driveway. We spoke for about ten minutes, laughing and joking like we used to, but I couldn't help but noting to him that we were having an 'old man' conversation. I'm only 25 (or already 25, depending what side of the bed you got up on).
The last time we spoke may have been 7 or 8 years ago. At the time I was working a bunch of crummy jobs, about to head off to college, and saving up money to move out with my girlfriend. It's amazing how the time's turn.
I remember, at the time, he told me something along the lines of "wanting to live with one girl is stupid, why would you tie yourself down like that?" Flash forward to present day, and he's telling me that him and his fiancee are saving up money so that they can move out of their folks' home and marry within four months. His older brother was expecting his second child (I didn't even know he'd a first!).
Chronologically, my buddy's evolution probably fits a more conventional narrative. Party hard as fuck through high school and college, find a girl, find steady work, and by your mid-to-late twenties, settle down.
But I was on a weird fast track through all that shit when I was pretty young I guess. By 18 I was already living with my better-half (upon reflection, maybe 'other-half' is more apt), halfway to getting married, and though uncertain about the future, somewhat confident that things would pan out.
Probably at a time while I should have been in residence exposing myself to as many different kinds of people as possible (I'm talking about my genitalia) (okay, I'm not talking about my genitalia), I was slumming it in dumpy apartments, living a fairly solitary life. Over the years, the individual parts changed (the pads, the partners, the schools), but the machine that was my life still operated in much the same manner as before.
I'm now over a year removed from what people call 'normal life' and still struggle to figure out how all the moving parts fit together into a cohesive whole. Having depression forces a person to question every part of their existence. You're constantly searching for things that help, looking to get rid of things that don't, trying to make heads or tails of a coin that never stops flipping. To call my everyday life dysfunctional would probably be a compliment. It's all kinds of fucked up.
Nevertheless, the conversation I had last night reminded me how much time has gone by, and how much, or little, people change. My friend is now the polar opposite of what he once was. Meanwhile, I couldn't feel more like I'm still 17 (which is probably a large part of why or how I've ended up where I am).
I looked at some old photographs of myself at age 5, and 12, and 18, and 22. I can't help but feel like whoever that guy was, he probably deserved something a little bit better than this. The funny thing about it is that I think if I had asked myself at age 12 where I would end up, I probably would have guessed right. I've never understood most of what people call life, and have had a tremendously difficult time (despite my desire) to connect to any of it in a meaningful way. I understand as little now as I did then.
My buddy is well on his way to fulfilling the human being's metaphorical prime directive.
I'm the one floating out in space, unsure of which way is up.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Thursday, February 6, 2014
"Ewen told me about the about the last war, once. He hardly ever talked about it, but this once he told me about seeing the horses in the mud, actually going under, you know? And the way their eyes looked when they realised they weren't going to get out. Ever seen horses' eyes when they're afraid, I mean really berserk with fear, like in a bush-fire? Ewen said a guy tended to concentrate on the horses because he didn't dare think what was happening to the men. Including himself..."
Chris left Shallow Creek some months after the war began, and joined the Army. After his basic training, he was sent to England. We did not hear from him until about a year later, when a letter arrived for me.
Six months later my mother heard from Aunt Tess. Chris had been sent home from England and discharged from the Army, because of a mental breakdown. He was now in the provincial mental hospital and they did not know how long he would have to remained there. He had been violent, before, but now he was not violent. He was, the doctors had told his mother, passive.
Violent. I could not associate the word with Chris, who had been so much the reverse. I could not bear to consider what anguish must have catapulted him into that even greater anguish. But the way he was now seemed almost worse. How might he be? Sitting quite still wearing the hospital's grey dressing-gown, the animation gone from his face?
My mother cared about him a great deal, but her immediate thought was not for him.
"When I think of you, going up to Shallow Creek that time," she said, "and going out camping with, and what might have happened - "
I, also, was thinking of what might have happened. But we were not thinking of the same thing. For the first time I recognized, at least a little, the dimensions of his need to talk that night. He must have understood perfectly well how impossible it would be, with a thirteen-year-old. But there was no one else. All his life's choices had grown narrower and narrower. He had been forced to return to the alien lake of home, and when finally he saw a means of getting away, it could only be into a turmoil which appalled him and which he dreaded even more than he knew. I had listened to his words, but I had not really heard them, not until now. It would not have made much difference to what happened, but I wished it were not too late to let him know.
"Have you heard anything recently?" I asked, ashamed hat I had not asked sooner.
She glanced up at me. "Just the same. It's always the same. They don't think there will be much improvement."
Then she turned away. "He always used to seem so - hopeful. Even when there was really nothing to be hopeful about. that's what I find so strange. He seemed hopeful, didn't you think?"
"Maybe it wasn't hope," I said.
"How do you mean?"
I wasn't certain myself. I was thinking of all the schemes he'd had, the ones that couldn't possibly have worked, the unreal solutions to which he'd clung because there were not others, the brave and useless strokes of fantasy against a depression that was both the world's and his own.
"I don't know," I said. "I just think things were always more difficult for him than he let on, that's all. Remember the letter? Well - what it said was that they could force his body to march and even to kill, but what they didn't know was that he'd fooled them. He didn't live inside it any more."
"Oh Vanessa - " my mother said. "You must have suspected right then."
"Yes, but - "
I could not go on, could not say that the letter seemed only the final heartbreaking extension of that way he'd always had of distancing himself form the absolute unbearability of battle.
- Margaret Laurence
Posted by J at 9:38 PM