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.