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Category: rough draft

falling down, springing forward

I’ve been working almost non-stop since I got back to Toronto. The late shift suits me. I push off on my bike at around quarter past two, pedaling hard between hesitant cars and past red lights down down down. Shaw Street hills into Bellwoods and across Wellington, past condos and cops, past portly shirtless old men in socks, past couples lounging lazy in the grass, pedal pedal pedal.

All those weeks in wintry South Africa I couldn’t wait to come back to a warm summer. But I’m here now and I can’t feel the heat. Can’t feel the sun, can’t feel the stickiness, can’t feel it pressing on my skin, filling my lungs, creeping through my clothes, or trickling down my back. I can’t feel any of it.

The newsroom stays quiet on a summer Sunday eve. I try not to wander.

At the end of the night I walk though a dark, narrow alley to collect my lonesome bike. I don’t even see the shadows. Don’t see the blinking reds and greens at the intersections, don’t see the inky blackness between the full nighttime trees, hardly see other bikes and cars and people on the road. Hardly see the road. I don’t feel the darkness, don’t feel the breeze. Don’t feel the ache of my weakened thighs pushing uphill, don’t feel the moon in my belly. I don’t feel the sleeplessness that tugs on my eyes, don’t feel the exhaustion heavy on my shoulders. I’m up by five the next morning because my body doesn’t feel the time. All it feels is the past. Somewhere else, I would be waking up now. Somewhere else, this would make sense.

the never-written that could be, etc


Ryszard Kapuscinski, lonely in Lagos with “some sort of tropical infection, blood poisoning or a reaction to an unknown venom, and it is bad enough to make me swell up and leave my body covered with sores, suppurations and carbuncles,” fought his hot, sweaty affliction with Claude Lévi-Strauss. Ryszard quoted Claude, and now I quote both:

By whom or by what had I been impelled to disrupt the normal course of my existence? Was it a trick on my part, a clever diversion, which would allow me to resume my career with additional advantages for which I would be given credit? Or did my decision express a deep-seated incompatibility with my social setting so that, whatever happened, I would inevitably live in a state of ever greater estrangement from it? Through a remarkable paradox, my life of adventure, instead of opening up a new world to me, had the effect rather of bringing me back to the old one, and the world I had been looking for disintegrated in my grasp.

Then then he went back to Poland, where he no longer existed. Friends would pass him in the streets, looking quizzically at the apparition. What are you doing here, stranger? You’re supposed to be gone, off reporting from somewhere tropical, alive in your dispatches. Existing in abstract. He went away again and was revived.

Realness is a slippery eel.


Aprendió dos cosas, una en la calle, mientras tenía los ojos abiertos, y otra en su piso, cuando los cerraba para dormir: la primera es que hay hombres que sueñan con los labios; la segunda, que hay muchas formas de ver la luz, pero sólo una de estar ciego. Cuando murió, lloraron por él en cinco ciudades distintas.

El hombre que escuchaba, Benjamín Prado.


The stuff of documentary, the stuff of fiction.

With my eyes open, Toronto is fiction because there are many versions of it. They feel mostly unfamiliar. Madrid is documentary because, preserved in closed-eye memory, it has stayed intact — every street and haircut — for five years. New York is somewhere in between. Paris, I’m starting to forget. Canal-side afternoons, the périphérique as viewed from a speeding taxi on my way to work at 3:30 am, the moment at Chez Georges when the crowded cellar overwhelms with its heat and Piaf, the fussy bakers, the saggy dog with no knees, the thin man with no voice who’d pour me too-sweet Kir or espressos, the round bar, the greatest hidden gem on rue Ramey, knowing every inch of the metro, and the awkward clusters of foreigners who are just so excited to be there. I forget if I tried to remember.

Esta maldita ciudad. Estas malditas ficciones.