Gastown

 

Gastown

 

            Rain, rain winter rain. Vancouver hell. I scream – Shanti! Does this mean I am weeping too? The dock is peopleless and depressing. The type writer clunks but I cannot tame my mind enough to be coherent. Five books on the go – reading Camus, French short stories, Chekhov, Hermann Hesse and Pablo Neruda.

            Rain, rain, winter rain. All day, every day, grey drizzling afternoon skies. Cobblestone roads where the welfare dreamers walk on and bury their eyes in leather hands which are buried in Scott-Mission coat pockets which are infested with another man’s memories and another life’s despairs and hopes. Just across the bridge are the beach and the yuppie-side of town. Just down the road is a park where so many starving, bony fingers feed their only meal to fat pigeons that your heart aches with love. You can see the mountains from the hotel window, but it does no good, because you know nothing’s for free and you’ll never reach those frosted heights because you just haven’t got the guts or the strength or the knowing.

            We are at the Gastown Lodge, I am nineteen and heading off for Europe in a month and my ulcer is eroding mercilessly away and my stool is beet red and my period has lasted 12 days now and my legs and my hands are turning pale purple and I have no money and there are woman-screams and knife-wound blood just outside my door and a blue budgie is flying terrorized in the hallway as two cocaine-snorting red-eyed son-of-a-bitches chase it out the window, and the manager runs up to my partially-open door, screaming – Don’t open it! For fuck’s sake keep out of it! The police are coming! Monday early morning.

            Monday late morning. And it happens again; the screams, the trail of fresh blood, the sirens…

            You are holding my hand. I am at the hospital and they have to go into my neck-vein to take a blood sample because I am so damn anemic, and you are still holding my hand even though the sight of a needle makes you want to vomit.

            We go home with five-years of potent ulcer medicine and you make me stir-fry for dinner and I throw it up and the cockroaches drown in the brownish mess while you take me into your room where your husband is sleeping and you play me a new and beautiful song.

            Every time I laugh, it hurts. But I like it better this way, being with you and your big, bright teeth, and your comforting smile and your motherly touch. I like it better than anything in the world, and I can’t tell you how much this means to me or how wonderful you are or how your kindness, our friendship has taught me more than any yogi-guru or Buddhist-religion or Gurdjiefff/Ouspensky philosophy or Krishnamurti-movie or Christian-priest ever has and probably ever will. I can’t tell you I am sorry for the future when I abandon you for these desperate dreams and walk a thousand worlds just to tell you we will never be the same again. I can’t thank you for the sense you knocked into me or for always remembering the root of our togetherness, and dragging me forward, beyond my self-doubt and spiritual shame…

            But back then, we were dancing in black Moroccan-dresses with all the lights off as we tossed the last of our meagre riches into the street below where the Westcost sky oozed and drooled its darkest rain on the lonely apostles of a shell-shocked god. And you would say

– We are on the edge. Be brave. We are swinging from a very thin branch, over a great gaping abyss. And all around us is music and tears, so dance. Though nobody gives two shits about our firework dreams, dance –

            Then you would say

–  Something about me likes this joint. You know, I’m sort of proud of being able to endure all this hell. Did I tell you? Just the day before you came some guy pushed his way into my room and tried to rape me. I broke a coke bottle and warded me off as he chased me around the bed, screaming something in another language that sounded so equally pitiful as it did vulgar that I got confused whether to feel sorry for the pathetic fool or just plain despise him. Before I could decide, the manager came and dragged him off to the police station –

            Then

– I lost my footprints, somewhere in a childhood awakening. From that point on, I could harm nothing, reject nothing, create or love nothing. Don’t you see? It’s because I needed the spider as much as I detested the sun. –

– It’s so cold and lawless on this side where I sit, beyond all common afflictions, above all shadows and below a laughing, bitter moon. Do you understand? Do you love me? Does anybody love me? Was I born to be dry, a thief unleashed among the naive and the generous? No, you don’t understand. One minute my hands are like ash, lame and lifeless, the next, they hold the power of a dozen angels. Was I born to be like lightning, a horsefish, silver and racing and shining like a jewel for the poor prisoners of the serious sea, who will never know the danger in being, totally, entirely free? –

– I cannot step outside my agony, my desperation for perfection; it stays like a swollen tattoo ironed to my skin, like a howling infant dangling from the tip of my tit with vice-grip strength. Sometimes I think I might explode just like a pretty rainbow bubble. Sometimes I think I might just disappear… have you ever felt that? –  You asked.

You asked,

– Have you ever hated yourself so much you couldn’t face to look in the mirror? Have you ever loved someone so much you thought, this must be a gift? Who am I? and the magic sought you out and you were consumed by an ideal and a speechless passion, and then one day you are on a subway train and you find those love-sick butterflies lying dead on your lap, and you pick them up one at a time and crunch their handsome leaf-wings between thumb and finger until nothing is left but you, but never you, never all of you, again? –

Allison Grayhurst © 1993

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Copyright © 2015 by Allison Grayhurst

Fire and more cover - Copy

amazon.com/author/allisongrayhurst

 

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First published in CRASH- a litzine” under the titel “Kyle in the Sky”, 1993

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“Grayhurst’s poetry is a translucent, ethereal dream in which words push through the fog, always searching, struggling, and reaching for the powerful soul at its heart. Her work is vibrant and shockingly original,” Beach Holme Publishers.

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