Thursday, September 15, 2011

distillery / summer sketches (2)

Checked the usual boxes at the district. Keys work okay, but I don't like the creaking. Drop a little grease in the hinges next walkabout, I guess.

No red ink, nothing in black or blue. No postcards, no envelopes, no letters. No news is fine. I want to send word to WI and MI, give them a heads up in case I find a courier to run the route for me. But we agreed, no calls ever and I would never write them unless it was a fucking emergency. And right now I'd just be running off a hunch, so no go, slowpoke.

It should be a no go, because that's what we agreed to. But summer's got me off balance. Summer's got me off balance bad. I keep wanting to call zoe and...fuckit. Moving on. Moving on.


Stopped for a quick coffee after my walkabout. Tried to sketch two maps from memory, horns marking birds of paradise. Both from summer. Both...somewhat sanitized. The horns are there but they're not calling out - there's nothing out there to receive. If I were sketching in the distillery area maybe then, but that's not a theory I'm too keen to try. Without Maya around it'd be a suicide run.

One sketch died - jittery nerves. Had a cigarette and tried again. Worked, for the most part.

(bird of paradise 1)

(bird of paradise 2)

Okay. Okay. Feel better now. Temporary reprieve, but still. The pieces fit. The patterns hold. Not...pretty (all those teeth), but these two memory maps are stable. I'll take the win. 


Shit. Maya wants a meet now?

Wait, no, she wants to do a practice run? At the distillery? 

I know we agreed to not schedule these things but I just came back from there...argh. 

I hate traceurs.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

burst transmission / a tale from winters past

The lizard's out cold. I'm awake, coughing sawdust and blood. Maya's awake, golf club in hand and ready to bat. The man in red kneels, hands behind his head. I forgive you, he says. Smiling serene calm peaceful blissful. Teeth rotten. Lips cracked.

I forgive you, he says. I don't care, Maya says, swinging.


Stop fucking with me, brain, stop fucking with me. Maya was kneeling and buying me time and he swung and I went for his legs and we tumbled and he stumbled and...he fell. Shattering glass, window breaking and he fell smiling and soundless. Maya kept me from falling, we woke the lizard and we ran out of the factory.


Six years ago, the lizard found a key. I drew us a map, and Maya ran point. Just three of us, the first time. We went looking for a sign (the mouth or the horns, or even the windmill) and found the smiler instead. The first of them and the least of them, red suit and rotten teeth and oh boy was he just so happy to see us.

Remembering wrong isn't the problem - not this memory, at least.  When they're involved, memory's a finicky thing. Static's a given. I don't remember them by the names they use or their titles - I remember them sideways. For the smiler my trace memory is Maya at the Factory, the beginning of our bad winter.

The details get switched around. The characters switch places. The way their presence affects memory, it's a bit like balancing a thermodynamic equation. Energy can change form but the overall energy in the system remains constant. That's how it's been all this time, all these years.

So when my trace memory for the lizard's starts going blank, it's a bit of a fucking problem.


He takes its limp hand and presses to the wall, to the center of the mouth drawn in grease and engine oil. We're at (I don't remember where we are). There are (I don't remember how many we are) of us, all standing guard around the lizard just in case - hopefully it won't even be a few minutes before he's calibrated his eyes and ears to the last sign.

(I don't remember how many minutes we lose now, how many hours).

its hand is on his face now, fingers scrabbling at his throat, parting his jaws

(I don't remember how it eats his name, only that it does.)

Maya helps
(I've forgotten her name) give the lizard CPR and yells at us to look for defibrillators, for fucksakes, we're in a fucking HOSPITAL!

We look, but the hospital is grey and all its patients are grey and all its doctors are grey and the lights don't cast shadows, not of us, any of us.

(I don't remember how we escape that sideways place. Or who saves the lizard's life. Or why we christen him the lizard after escaping the hospital.)

When a memory gets tangled up, it's an after-effect of having to remember them, even sideways. When a memory starts disappearing, something's out there eating it up, second by second.


I have to be calm about this. I have to be calm.  If I find the lizard, he can help me figure out what's missing and maybe why.

How to find the lizard, when he's gone so fucking spectacularly off-grid, even for him?

Have to keep calm. Have to remember my function.

I find routes. I draw maps. I map territories. I can find the lizard, but I have to be careful about it. Have to remember that we're never the only ones looking. I'm looking for a friend. They're out there, hunting. And worse: recruiting.

A courier, maybe? Two nodes, two packages, the start of a triangulation route?

Not exactly quiet. Things could get messy. But it's the quickest way I know. Not really much of an option when you're running on a clock and you don't know how many minutes or hours or days you have left before the timer goes click click boom.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Traces / summer sketches (1)

There's no set rhythm to when the kink hits my hands. No warning. Typing one second and second two it's like a spider's having an epileptic fit over the keyboard. Always painful and sharp and sudden. Tingles afterwards, between tendon and bone, under knuckle and palm. Running cold water after the fit's done helps, as close to fucking freezing as possible. Running cold water and then a cigarette.

Cold water for jittery hands. Cancer cloud for jittery nerves.


I tried to keep a record this time, this summer and winter. Hardcopies and electronic. Scribbles on little notebooks, fragments on randomly named txt and rtf files. Sketches on graph paper and photographs of appropriate graffiti down by Toronto's graffiti corridors. 

Our first bad winter is almost six years in the wind. One lesson I've learned is to never keep complete records. Never keep complete logs.

The truest map is the territory itself. But the territory is playground to intelligences amorphous and apathetic and indifferent at best. Containing the territory is not....feasible. We tried the first time. I still don't know the price we paid.

For us, little mice scurrying between blades of grass, past predators winged and clawed and poison tongued, for us the best map is one kept in ideas and keys. Memory triggers, sense memories, fragments. Keys to doors and latches to windows, not the doors themselves. And never, never ever the mansions or the forest greens.

I'm not sure I'm explaining this right. I'm able to try to explain it at least....which means this is something I'm allowed to do. Hard to keep the rules in mind, sometimes.


This is turning into esoteric doublespeak when all I really needed to do was post a jpeg. The whys and wherefores matter, but here, the object of the discussion:

(the horns, sketch 5 of 17, original @ wall behind power station)

I've got one full SD card and two notebooks, from everything in summer. But half the images in the SD card are garbage. Took a backup snaps with the cameraphone (like this one) - grainy and low res and impossible to fucking read. Even with these the timestamps are garbled.

I'll go through the backups for now, and type up whatever's coherent and legible in the notebooks. Should keep me busy for the next few weeks or so. Analysis will have to be later...much later. I'll keep busy with this and I won't have to call Zoe and listen to her blank beautiful voice say no over and over again.

Maya doesn't know about this little side project, not yet. She won't like it, but I can't weather storms like her. I can't walk down the graffiti corridors alone, like her, live bait in tow. I'll record, just enough to remember. I'll re-learn the map, find a way to to survive the next winter. A place to hide, rest, and forget.

And then the story will loop. Over and over and over again.

Tesseract, Second Movement

Seven months down.

I spent summer in mourning and now fall promises the death of any joy I had left to spare.

Wait, that's a soft lie. I'm pretty sure after summer in Peterborough I don't have any joy left to spare. Goggle eyed hicks throwing slurs they don't even understand, raving dogs on six foot chains, backyard bonfires and moose skulls on townhouse doors: yeah, I'm sure not gonna miss any of that.

Zoe from the firm - client side contact / hr / corporate imp / lean and pretty and lightyears out of reach and of course taken - seemed amused by my initial "reaction" to the city. That was mid summer, way back in July, over iced coffee after pulling extra hours on a saturday.

She suggested I kill time picking up grad students at a bar over by Trent. Hick free, she said. And apparently being eloquent and having an exotic accent would help. The sheer lack of charm...well, that was just a matter of practice, darling, practice. Said she, in an atrocious english accent. I laughed. And laughed. She kicked my shin, but gently. Wanted to kiss her then, but the spark died and the moment passed. 

I told her being eloquent didn't count for shit if you still sounded like a...what was it again? "fucking towel jockey"? Christ, even sober these hicktown assholes couldn't get towelhead and camel jockey straight. Terrorist slurs 101: not fucking rocket science.

That was just banter, back then. A little harmless flirting. I hadn't started hating the city as much as I do now. My sleep cycles hadn't gone as badly awry again, the twitch in my hand wasn't as persistent. I didn't have crescent scars on my palms.

Zoe won't talk to me anymore. I called her before Labour day. A bad dream, a few hours missing, lights shifting just past the edge of sight - bad shit is going to converge, again, my brain kept yelling at me so I called her even though I promised promised promised them I would never call her or even think of her again.

She picked up and I wanted to confess and explain and I wanted her to absolve me. Zoe, I said. Zoe, I said. Zoe do you remember, I said. Did they let you remember, I said.

No, she said, and hung up.


The story loops.

Past imperfect, future tragedy, present farce. Preset / predetermined / preordained.

I've been back in Toronto a few weeks, tracing my steps from another bad winter seven months deep. Maya's around. I've talked to her about Zoe, about Peterborough. About the summer I spent in mourning. About the things I remember and the things I'm not allowed to.

The Lizard is gone. I thought I'd caught a glimpse of him back in March but trace ran nowhere. Maya's the only other survivor left. She's the only other one I can talk to. Guardian angel, sword all bloody and her smile so red, so red.

She's immune, I suspect. She's survived long enough without hiding as much as the Lizard has. I thought I was immune and my summer in mourning proved me wrong, so wrong.


Hands shaking. Haft stp tpng.



so sry

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tesseract, First Movement

Been in limbo for a few days. Client site, out in the wastelands between here and Ottawa. I'd call it a town, but it's a glorified goddamn intersection. Forget sheesha, nowhere to get a decent drink even. Bland, cheerless hotel staff.

Soul crushing fucking place. My one pack a month pact didn't last. Not two nights at that motel and I was already half a pack down. Three weeks down and six packs in. What a fucking waste.

Back in the city now, at least. Back five days ago. No cigs since coming back, but made up for that with a nightcap of Ouzo. Or three. Or five. Five hours of sleep and a nail-to-eyes hangover four days running. Actually sober today. Had to look non-red-eyed for the presentation this morning. The fruits of my three weeks of labour in hicksville, ontario.


Called the lizard a few times when I was over there. Picked up once. Click. Called again. Disconnected. Last time I called him there was that "no longer in service" message.

The lizard going offline didn't catch, so I called Maya after. Not over the phone, she said. Not now, she said. See me when you come back to civilization, she said.

I went by the Lizard's hideout first thing after I came back. Might have been a little tipsy. Fucking nerves. He wasn't there. Checked the used bookstore a few doors past - off chance he'd be there chatting up some hipsters. Old wooden shelves, old tubelights, creaking hardwood floor, creaking wooden stairs. It was the lizard's kind of place.

No luck. But the girl at the counter looked familiar. Kohl dark eyes. Single red bangle, left wrist., trick of the light. And I was fucking tipsy. And she was hot, in a dark, mysterious broody kind of way. Like a calmer version of Maya, I guess.

Trick of the light. No sword, no wings, no eyes, no teeth, no hammer and no necklace of chattering skulls.

Trick. Bad lighting. Creaking wood. Heavy ambiance. Too much to drink.

Must've been it. Must've been.


Called Maya after, Told her I'd been by the lizard's, told her he wasn't there. Told her I was tired and fucking seeing things again.

Go home, she told me. Go home, wait for me, okay?

I said yes. Yes, I said. I'm so tired, I'm so tired.


She came.

But something had gone wrong when I was away. Her eyes were....her hands were...

I have to see her again, tonight.


I prayed for angels, in my time away, in my brief exile to fucking hicktown. I prayed for angels, but I didn't know it would be her.

By her eyes and her hands and her wings...she'll keep me safe from another bad winter, I know that much. Trust in her that  much.

It's what happens after winter that I'm worried about.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Spinning Sheesha / like a Dervish

The lizard's alright.

I've been hitting up him for sheesha every other month. Feels good to relax with someone not part of my regular circle. Those cats are cool, fun and unpretentious. I still have to watch my words, though. Still have to filter, still have to wear a mask: there's trigger words I just can't let slip past my tongue.

Partly for their sake. Mostly for mine. I'm a coward that way. I don't like sharing pieces of my yesterdays. And it hurts to pick at scabs.


He doesn't pry, doesn't push. I can talk at my own pace. Or not at all. I don't always get what he's on about. Good vibes, regardless.

Honestly, wouldn't even have met him again if it weren't for Maya. She mentioned him being "around" last year and I ignored her like I always do when she starts reminiscing about our merry gang of suicidal fucking morons. So she did the sensible thing and lured me to his shack.

He calls it his back-alley ashram. Fits in with his hipster/ hermit/ sufi / mystic shtick, I guess.


He didn't always use to be like this. Straightest arrow, dean's list shoo-in, cruise missile on the soccer field. Fucking superman, he was. Bit too literal minded about the rules, but one of those all round good blokes. Even Maya warmed to him.

And then we caught the tail end of our first year. All six of us. Or was it seven? I don't remember sometimes.

Bad winter. Bad, bad winter.


We don't talk about not remembering the details. We don't talk about that jagged hole in our heads, seven days deep. At least, the lizard and I don't. Maya has her figure out. Poking at the abyss is her coping mechanism.

Hence the book. Hence her "friend", the goon. Bait, she'd said of him before slinking off into one of those back-alleys on queen st. She said some other things too...but that's for later. Have to sort through it in my head before I put down to plaintext.

Cooling down with cigarettes didn't help. I was still jittery. So I came to see the lizard. What Maya said...I didn't want to talk about it. But when it comes to Maya, I'd rather not talk about things with the lizard than not talk about things by myself.

Good vibes, yeah? He gets it. He's calm about it. And when he's calm, I can calm down too.


Funny. Once upon a time, before our bad winter, I used to be the slacker. The lizard used to be neurotic OCD type.

Through the looking glass now, huh?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Morning Commute, Sights and Sounds of

Sleep cycle's still shot to shit. I was lagged for two days when they sent us to Vancouver last year, but this is something else. Was awake till something like 2. Pretty sure I spent a half hour with my forehead planted on the keyboard. Neck's still sore.

Three cups of tar by now, one with lunch. I haven't been drinking this much coffee since, what, first year? Back then it was a large black for breakfast, medium black for lunch, large black for dinner. Bad times. Bad year, worse winter.


The meet with Maya was good. Least I'm not the only with the jitters. Wish I could hide it as well as her, though. I'm no good at deflecting with witty insults. She didn't bring the book...and her friend, that shifty ratfaced goon....I'll have to write about that later. Too much to write for a lunch hour post.


Last thing, though: this morning, on the subway - guy seemed pretty out of it, like he'd caught the tail end of a bad bender. Dress combo styled up hair, fractured glasses, suited up like a banker but hobo shoes. And that grin. He wasn't just asleep, he seemed KO'd cold. But such a peaceful smile on his face. Serene, even. I know it's winter, and I know windchill's like -16/17 again, but I felt so much colder. Arctic ice over my hand, over that burn scar dead space.

Not as unnerving in hindsight, I guess. I mean, everything about him was, whatevs. Maybe it's just 'cause it was the morning commute. Same sight on a 1am train and I'm pretty sure I woulda just ignored him.


I wasn't the only one who noticed. Morning commutes are exercises in pretending to read books and akwardly ignoring everyone else, but after I saw his grin, I flinched and I looked away - and there was this couple watching him too. Girl and a guy, both girl, arab looking guy, university age, a little younger than me if I had to guess. The guy was scribbling something on this little notepad in his palm, all thoughtful-like. She looked back at me, Black eyes, kohl rimmed. I blinked, I think. She didn't, so I looked away. They got off at the next stop.

She was wearing bangles, glass bangles. Red, shimmering. He had an earring. Left ear. Black. Don't remember what they were wearing exactly, but I remember this. I don't understand why.


Ah, fuck this overthinking. Have ten minutes maybe until lunch is done. Enough time for a quick smoke. I'd rather not have the other office drones see me smoke, but the caffeine's kicking at my head and my hands feel jittery. I need a cooldown.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Paper Pushing

Work's been a cavalcade of laughs. As per first-job-cliche bingo. 


Paper cut from an envelope that's been idling on my desk for a month? Check.

"Oh hey Reza, about that drawing we've been telling you to rush and pull overtime to finish, well, the client kind of backpedaled on us so you can just drop it for now, mmkay? Oh and here's another fire to put out. We need this layout detailed and prettied up by this afternoon. There's another client presentation tomorrow."

Brb, off to get more brake fluid, or whatever it is that gets percolated as coffee around here. And to smash my head into a wall a couple of times. Can't be worse than self medicating with tylenol.


Apprehensive about meeting Maya tonight. Almost want to pull overtime today so I don't have to see her at that dingy little cafe down on dundas. It's not the cafe, honestly. Not even her, despite how charmingly sociopathic she can be sometimes. It's that fucking book I asked her to find.

I'm writing this down because honestly, I can't talk this shit out with anyone. I don't dare. Hard enough to be a happy seeming sock puppet for the benefit of all your acquaintances. Hard enough to keep that act up without letting the crazy shine through.

And I have to start keeping a record, out where I know it won't be tampered with. Can't exactly words put to paper. Can't trust that they'll remain. Can't trust that they'll be read.

Have to do this consistently. I'm not sure about the foundations of my memory palace anymore. The corridors run dark, echoes resound that I can't explain. This place, this will have to be my memory palace, for now.


...How fucking prescient of you, Maya. Of course you'd text me right now.

Screw it, I'll go see her and get that fucking book. Can probably get most of this layout done before five. And then it's off to see her majesty of snark and cheerfully sadistic asides. Maybe if I'm good and she's feeling generous, we'll even get to take a walkaround of the graffiti corridors by queens west. In -15C windchill.

Joy. Bliss. Etc.


Bad things happen in winter.


Not going to do the whole obligatory "hello, world!" / zero-one introduction. Who I am, where I am, none of that's relevant.

Relevant: I'm part of something I don't know the shape of. I don't know the playing field, I don't know the rules. There's black holes in my memory. You know the moments right after waking you can remember exactly what you dreamt? And then seconds to minutes later you don't remember so well? Trying to hold on to that memory of a dream you just woke up from, it's like trying to catch fog.

I've found myself trying to catch fog in my waking moments. Still: minutes missing, conversations others mention that I know I haven't participated in. Trying isn't enough anymore. I have to figure out the rules.

For posterity, if it comes to that: this is a record.


My dad, he used to get a few new diaries every december. Clockwork. From friends at the office, from engineers and bankers and diplomats. He'd give me two every december. Clockwork. I'd use them for a couple of weeks. Scribble, doodle, scribble some more. Then I'd get bored.

I wrote a five page love letter to Anousheh (sixth form sweetheart, Abu Dhabi) in one diary, green leather cover, fake gold trimmed edges. We broke up just before I came here to this cold fucking country for uni. She went back to Beirut.

Still have the letter. I'm sentimental. I hoard trinkets, memory magnets. Letters to her, pictures (pre digital, no less) of my parents and the kid sister, pictures of the stateside cousins.

Six years since I left home for good. Two years since I last got to fly back. When you've spent most of your life moving you learn to cherish the little reminders. You savour them every now and then: you and family, yesterday. Your first doomed romance.


Except  the words aren't right. The doodles are off key. The spirals twist when I'm looking away. I wrote to her in black ball point, not blue ink.

I never wrote to her with these ugly fucking words.

I loved her. I loved her. Never wanted to hurt her. Never did.

And these words, these abominations, these perversions...


There's a picture taken on a yatch, us and two other families, a mini cruise off the coast of Doha, close to the corniche. We're about to dock. There's a shadow on the water, a slender hand past the umbrella stand's mushroom stalk.


The pictures, the letters - this is two months in the wind, now. I haven't been sleeping very well.

I've been reading, though. The hand, its owner - its possible owner. There are other explanations, even though I'm still eyes deep in october country.

My mother told me a story, a long time ago, about two tall, lithe figures standing motionless over her and her brother's bed when she was a child. Black and black and black, no eyes and no breaths giving away their presence, the only way to discern their shape by the light of a winter moon behind them. My nani - my mother's mother - she told us the black figures were jinn.

Restless, fickle, made of smokeless fire, prone to little mischiefs and great evils.


I've spent most of my life moving. Three years here, four years somewhere else, ad infinitum. My old man's job kind of required it. My memory palace, these little reminders of who I am and where I've been, they're my only constants.

I can't surrender them. I don't know the game. I don't know the rules. But I can't give them up.

I can't.

I won't.