Saturday, 31 December 2011

One more trip around the sun.

2011.

What can I say about you?

I'm grateful for our health, for our continued independence and for our safety, relative to those times in earlier years (and mere weeks ago) when it could not be guaranteed. I'm grateful for the music, the warm house and the beautiful views, a stack of books to draw in and games to play, a reading pile as tall as myself and arms that are always open for me, not matter what. I'm grateful for the food on the table and the memories from which we have learned lessons and found resolutions from. I'm grateful for my life, let's not split hairs on that one, either.

But I'm looking ahead now, not behind. 2011 was another year of change and adjustment and learning to find comfort in new settings with new rules and fresh routines. It was a very very good year with two weddings. No one close to me died either. Hooray for the most basic grace of all.

It was a fine, fitting year and it is over. Any last attempts to pin significance on it will be met with helpless laughter, because we are simply out of time. Try again next year, about eight hours from now, Pacific time.

Happy New Year. May 2012 live up to your dreams.

Here's to beginning again.

Sláinte mhaith.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Ha. Doing shots and drawing entire Jethro Tull album covers from memory. Not sure who our social coordinator is in this house but clearly she is awesomes.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The ballad of Highway 99 (gold, guns and girl, singular).

The money from the sale of Caleb's waterfront condo was earmarked and I didn't realize it.

Caleb is still eating crow, crow that costs a fortune, crow that must taste like caviar and dreams or he would have stopped by now and reverted back. All diurnal business has ground to a halt, anyway. The nocturnal kind is not up for discussion.

When people ask he simply says he decided to retire early and get out on top. That he has most definitely done, having always made sure he had everything precisely in order, not leaving anything to chance. Well, except that one thing in Tahoe but I think or I hope or maybe I'm almost sure that's been looked after now too.

It was easy for him to close this chapter on his life, he did well enough and saved enough and invested successfully enough that he wound up with more than I thought he would.

When his heart gives out like Cole's did Henry will be taken care of. Caleb will not tell me what his will holds for me anymore. This after I told him over the summer to take me out of everything, that his legacy rests in Henry and not in me. He refused to discuss the matter. I threatened to give it all away. He laughed and asked me what made me think he hadn't already done that? I was put in my place rather quickly. I will never bring it up again.

Yesterday we all spent the day playing in the snow up at Whistler. Caleb disappeared quite early on. At one point he sent a text saying he was taking in a few open houses and would meet us at the restaurant for dinner but I didn't get my messages. It was raining so I zipped my phone into my pocket and left it there.

At seven Ben finally reached him and told him we were heading home. He declined to travel in the caravan of trucks and said he would be along in time to say goodnight to the children.

When he arrived home he had a very good bottle of wine and some news. He's put in a bid on a house up there. Maybe to use it as a base and save the ninety minute drive back and forth when we want to go enjoy some snow. I snorted when he said that, for I am still the last holdout, thanks to that isolated final winter in the Prairies. The boys have embraced the mountains in a sort of primal mutual adoration and I still stand behind Ben's arm and scowl toward anything cold, while I pull my wrap tighter around my shoulders. I can be forced to enjoy it but then I am happy to drive away from it. So making me stay there overnight would just be all sorts of punishment now.

Oh, wait. Nevermind.

He asks for a cookie and I tell him Ben and Cole ate them all. I think I leave him unsettled and uncomfortable and on edge. I smile at the thought. Payback will take place over the next twenty-eight years, and then perhaps when I am ancient, tinier still and completely frail I will call it even. He better make it to that moment or I will be vastly disappointed. This is the work Batman and the others have been doing behind the scenes. If I can't manage to leave Caleb in my past then at the very least I am being positioned to always have the upper hand.

Except that all of this hinges on Caleb's reluctance to start up again with his evil and I never know if I can count on his compliance or if it's just another game. Maybe all of this is a game and I'm playing right into their hands. Maybe Ben is still being puppeted and maybe Lochlan isn't learning his lessons the hard way. Maybe both children still belong to Cole and maybe Jacob went running back to Northeast Asia because that's where he first found God. Maybe pigs are up there blocking the sun instead of clouds but I didn't notice and maybe the joke is on me.

I've gotten into the very bad habit of putting on five or six of the same clothing items at once to be warm and standing out on the very westernmost edge of my cliff for hours. Thinking. Thinking hard, something that requires all the concentration I can gather up. Thinking alone while PJ frets and whines into the phone with Ben or follows Duncan around to do something, after being told that he can go and amuse himself and I will return to myself in an hour or two, three at the most. Ben will tell him not to worry because Ben's faith clearly comes from a place of certain and utter earlier brain damage and Duncan is usually preoccupied and not paying attention so he fails to put weight into PJ's concerns. PJ does not rat me out to Loch because Loch would shut the whole mess down, or at least try. The ghosts, well, they do nothing. Maybe they wait for me to cross over to their team. Maybe they wait to see me go back inside. Maybe they can do something but maybe they have hopes that surpass selfishness, even after life.

Maybe I'll learn to appreciate snow again and maybe I'll still wish ski hills were four minutes long and twenty bucks a day, like when Loch used to take me to Martock, instead of Caleb throwing his fortune around on the pipe dream of retaining whatever spark still lights up between the two of us when we are in close proximity. I don't intend to stop using him any time soon to get my fill of Cole-time and he wouldn't deny me that even if his life depended on it.

Sometimes I think it does and so I spend a lot of time glued to the edge of the cliff, trying to think in the wind. What in the hell is he doing? And what does it have to do with me really?

***

Update: He didn't get the house. The loss doesn't bother him at all, he's one of those people who shrugs it off. Another one will come along, he says when pressed to explain his chipper demeanor. When the agent asked him if he would like to go ahead now and put in an offer on another house, he declined and said he was going to wait for the spring to see if something else caught his eye the way that one had. He listened for a few more moments on the phone and then laughed and said, Yes, I do know what I want in life. Briefly his eyes flickered to me and then as quickly he turned away, pretending to stretch. He hung up the phone and said the ninety minute caravans, for now, will continue.

I pointed out I'd rather be surrounded by sand than snow and maybe he should be looking for an island to buy instead. He just pointed at me, jabbing the air and nodding, and walked out of the room backwards.

And then PJ whispered that I am so evil he can hardly believe it sometimes.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Last night I took two of the snowman cookies and put them on a plate. When everyone was busy I slipped out of the house undetected (no worries, the alarms only go off if I leave the relative safety of the backyard, toward the cliffs, not if I step onto the driveway) and took the plate to the garage. I unlocked the side door of the garage and went inside. It was pitch dark at ground level in spite of a small amount of ambient light from the loft windows above. I didn't turn the lights on, I don't think I ever do when I go in there. I just walked across the floor in the dark to the back wall and set the plate down gently on the counter.

I turned to leave and smacked right into Ben. I think I broke my nose and all of my toes in doing so. He's a wall.

What are you doing, little one?

Nothing. Ow. I didn't know you were behind me.

Do ghosts eat cookies?

I am so busted. Mine would, I whisper and put my hands up over my face. I'm sorry Benny.

He pulls my hands back down. Don't be sorry. I would do the same.

Really?

No. Jake can get his own fucking cookies. And I doubt Cole ever ate them. He probably stacked them up and stood on them so he would look bigger. You know, like Loch does.

I laughed. Oh my God I laughed.

And this morning when we went back for the plate the cookies were gone.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

A special performance for an audience of one.

Do you remember this?

That qualified as the World's Most Amazing Christmas Present. The ocean in my arms. The beach. Everything I love in a hand-built box, personalized with my name. I still open it every single day. I have worn the paint off the lid. Some of the roses are missing. There is still sand everywhere all the time because I can't leave well enough alone.

And Ben is still listening, because on Christmas morning he brought me the circus.

The music, the lights, the dizzying spotlights, the ear-splitting, repetitive music. The Fire-thrower, the Fortune Teller, the Magician and the Ringmaster too. The tricks and traps and gasps of an appreciative audience (me) kept me from pinching myself to see if I was dreaming.

And I had no idea what he was up to. None. Not a thing until I was manhandled out of bed that morning, dressed and blindfolded and led down the steps into..heaven on earth. I still had no idea until I heard the first note of the music and my blindfold was taken off.

They put on the greatest show on earth.

My presents were delivered by each performer in turn, each one more surprising than the next until the lights were turned up and Christmas day proper could begin. Everything was rehearsed and choreographed down to the minute. He made a full sized tent even. I begged him to leave it up but let's face it, it took over everything and it had to be dismantled. I would have lived in and around it forever, if you're asking.

I daresay I didn't pick my chin up off the floor until dinnertime. I was cooking, stirring gravy while the music of Fucik's Gladiators played on a loop through my skull. I still don't understand how he pulled it off.

I also still don't understand how Ben turned out to be such a formidable romantic. I just know that positively all of us were entranced, and a little bit in awe of how he managed to top something I thought I could never ever come close to again.

He said it was nothing, but he's wrong. It's everything.

Monday, 26 December 2011

By request.

In lieu of not actually having time to sit down and compose a proper entry, I thought I would fly by and share Ben's annual (and always different but always goofy) Vampire Christmas jokes with you:

What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?

Frostbite!

What does a vampire always get his lover for Christmas?

Something en-grave-d!

And the last one, which brought dinner to a brief standstill:

What do you get if you cross a vampire and a circus entertainer?

I don't know but it goes straight for the juggler!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!


My mother, on the phone this morning, reminds me I had the flu last Christmas too and sure enough, she's right. It's as if I can just flip the switch from keeping the household running smoothly to standing on the platform above it, throwing furniture into the gears until it pops and shudders and explodes into certain ruin. When I am this sick things get done in interesting ways or at interesting times. Case in point, baking and decorating snowman sugar cookies with the children after eight on a Saturday night is about as much fun as frostbite but here we are.

I've heard I need to relax, but that could just be a rumor.

In any event we have no firm plans for the next several days and I like that. I want to get better, watch the children and the boys open their gifts, do the usual cook-and-pray turkey dinner cooking method (I'm not very good at this and it's WAY MORE PRESSURE than spaghetti, especially since I was grilled at the breakfast table.

Do we have...cranberry sauce?

Yes.


Stuffing?


Yes.


Gravy?

Yes.

Real butter?


Yes, of course.


Potatoes?

Yup.

Creamed corn?

Fuck no, gross.

What time do we put the turkey in?

I don't know. It says the time per pound but the label is in kilograms. I have to find a calculator online.

Just multiply it, Bridget.

I can't. We never did kilograms. I think it's 1.5 or maybe 2 pounds is a kilo...


Christ. What did they teach you in school?

Ask me anything about Oliver Cromwell. Or ask me to recite 'Evangeline'.

What are those things?


See? I learned more than you did.


At least I can convert pounds to kilos.


Once a year. We need to do that ONCE a year, Benjamin. What a waste of American resources.

We make really good turkey dinners though.

Really? Okay, you cook tomorrow. I'm sleeping in.


You're on.

The only rule is you have to use common kitchen implements, Ben. So no chainsaws, blowtorches or lawnmowers.


Okay, how about this? We'll cook together. The Americans can do the math, and the Canadians can provide the nuance and....stuff.

Tonight everyone is home safe and sound with me. The doors are locked, the lights on the tree are lit, there's a fire in the fireplace and fucking sugar cookies everywhere. It's awesome.

Merry Christmas to you and yours, from all of us here at the home for wayward musicians and runaway freakshow performers. May your days be psychotic and blown out and may all your Christmases be dark and decadent and wonderful and loud.

And I hope Santa finds you.

xo

Friday, 23 December 2011

Happiness (Oh fuck are they calling the cops? Naw, no cell service)

Today I'm watching the Leafs, Canucks and Jets standings in the NHL and I'm watching boy movies (Conan, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and I'm nursing a midrange fever that just won't quit and I'm watching my husband swim across a creek up in the mountains on a day when I can't even feel my fingers, it's so cold up there and I had to put his clothes on a rock because they were too heavy and I was scared he was going to drown or be swept away and he said it was 'invigorating' and gave the people watching on the bridge a lovely show of his naked butt and possibly full frontal (sorry, please don't put it on Youtube) and talked nonstop until we were home again and he could go find some dry clothes and yeah, this one is unexplainable but very very Ben-like, so nothing new around these parts.

He makes me laugh. I also aged a thousand years.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

"Keep the circus going inside you, keep it going, don't take anything too seriously, it'll all work out in the end". ~David Niven

When he walked into the room I rushed over, wrist held up, bracelet out with a silent request for an extra hand to put it on. I can't fasten the catch with my left hand. It frustrates me every single day.

The Christmas whorenament needs help? No problem. He reaches for the bracelet but I snatch it back.

What the fuck.

Do you need to publicly detail your evenings?

Do you want a job as editor? Because I can't pay you and volunteers aren't given censorship authority.

Bridget, you're incorrigible.

How many times did you read it? Be honest, you filthy pervert.

Four. Now are you ready for dinner?

No. Ben is still dressing.

Did he read it?

I turn and just stare at him. He was there, he doesn't need to read it. And you know that. So drop it already.

You're going to kill him, Bridget.

It's the offhand comments using phrases involving death that derail me. I slam the closet door closed and drop my coat on the floor and I march right over until I am up in his face and I point out quietly, harshly that I'm not the conductor of this orchestra. Caleb laughs at my euphemism, coffee and whiskey breath coating me in surprise.

I know you aren't but at the same time he is still testing you and nights such as those are ultimately going to make you fail your practicum.

Oh my God. Don't run with allegories, please. They're sharp. You might hurt yourself.

Isn't that what life has become, princess? Running away with the shred of an idea and letting it get out of hand before we realize not every idea is a good idea and we're in pieces on the floor?

Such as? I'm picking fights now. May as well, no one else is ready to go yet. Our reservations are going to be missed, which becomes complicated when you book a table of seventeen. I have to call the restaurant and warn them we are running late.

Your commune.

Is a well-oiled machine.

It's an incendiary device waiting to explode.

Sour grapes, Cale.

Obvious signals, princess. I'm looking out for you because you can't juggle so many hearts.

Two. Only two. I'm trained for five, fully.

Four. Or maybe seven if you want to be specific.

What the? Oh my God. TWO. Jesus Christ. Two. You make me sound like a party favor.

I'm not blind, princess. I see things you don't think I see. I know what the others want.

Oh, do tell because now you're composing your own melodies. You're ludicrous. And you're wrong.

He opens his mouth to say something and then abruptly checks his expression as Ben comes crashing down the steps, in a black suit with a steel-grey shirt. No tie. He looks like a pro hockey player arriving for a game. A suit on him looks so amazing considering he lives in tour t-shirts and jeans 360 days of the year and the missing four days consist of nothing (if I'm lucky) but plaid flannel pajama bottoms (Damn!) that make me want to put a bucket under my tongue.

Ben refused to join the argument or listen to accusations, instead scowling at Caleb. He pointed one finger at him and said one word.

Don't
.

He then took my hand, pulling me out to the front hallway to get our coats on. It's late. We've got to go. The others will have to catch up.

I call the restaurant and let them know we're going to be trickling in gradually over the next half hour to an hour and they're very gracious, appreciative of the warning. Unlike me, who takes warnings as direct challenges. Every time someone levels one I leap into my fighting stance and become ridiculously indignant. Or maybe that's defensive. Oh, wait. It's guilt. Guilt and shame and yet I hold my head high, because the show must go on. Because this is what he wants and who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth when it's presented on such a grand scale?

***

(He sat in the chair in near darkness, eyes focused sharply on the scene that played out in front of him. He missed nothing. Not a centimeter of bare skin, not a kiss, not a whisper. Not a lock of hair or a long breath exhaled over a shoulder taunt with effort. He uses the darkness to torture himself, to bathe in his proclivities and marvel at the power he holds now, the ability to give and take away, like the Jesus Christ of Bridget's universe, gifting favors that breathe and laugh in exchange for total compliance. His own private little world, engineered as a means to an end. He found a red and white tent, deceptively small, complete with a fully working circus inside. He shook out the participants and onto the dry grass fell a blonde and a redhead and he found them intriguing. It's a carnival of madness and he is the ringmaster now. Can't take your eyes off him, I know.)

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Solstice (Wait for it).

(This will just be all conundrums and confusion to you. Tough.)

His good hand comes up under my chin, pushing my head up.

Look at me, he whispers.

If I do that it's all over. Obediently I meet his eyes. We are squared and there's a far-away sound of everything falling into place.

His arms pull me in, pull me down into the cool cotton sheets and I break his gaze by closing my eyes. I don't want to love too much or fall too hard but there are some things far beyond my control and this isn't one of them. Oh no, this is engineered by fate and fuelled by history. His skin smells like gasoline, his hair is soft fire in the dark.

The cast is gone again only I don't ask what happened to it, I just watch for him to favor that arm but he does not. He is too busy sharping the points he wants to prove and building up his strength for next summer, the summer he always said he would return to busking full time and go back to his physical showmanship instead of designing and creating things other people will ultimately take the credit for. Twenty-twelve was always a far-away goal for someone who doesn't set goals any more than he makes resolutions. This was an exception to his rule.

Kind of like me.

All he wants is the adoration of a faceless crowd, no commitments and no rainy days on the horizon. No deadlines, no locked windows and no indoor yellow lighting when he could be outside under the fire of the sun.

His lips dance along my earlobe, across my eyelids and come to rest on the tip of my nose. I turn away, it tickles and at the same time it's the most familiar feeling in the world to me now. I hold my breath as he pulls down the zipper on my dress and then he pulls the blanket up over us before I begin to shiver. His skin is warm, so as long as I stay right here I won't get cold.

He kisses across my shoulder, my clavicle, and back up to my jaw. I put my arms around his neck and pull him closer still. I'm going to give up on breathing now, I think I can live on love instead of air. He puts his head down against my ear and begins to rock against me. He's so fierce all I can do is hold him close and hold on tight.

He has my head locked in his hands, pressed against his chest. I am tense and silent. He pulls me up and whispers a command that I breathe for him, breathe with him, breathe him in and I nod furiously. I can do that. I can manage that, even though I can't manage a grip on reality or good graciousness or loyalty. I can manage a breath. He presses his mouth against mine and I can breathe fire now too. His kisses are hard and slow, intensity burning our lips raw but I don't turn away this time.

I can ride the darkness on through to the sun on this longest night of the year and then when the flames lick across the water bringing the blinding light to warm up the morning I will slide off the bed and hit the floor, returning to spend my day with aching limbs and a fractured heart in a reality no more real than the words in some old standard about making believe.

(What did they make it out of and how did they make it hold?)

What do you see? He asks me.

My eyes fill with tears and I shake my head. Some revelations are not meant to be shared. I can't tell you, I'm sorry, I whisper. He understands, oddly enough. He knows precisely what I see in his eyes. Clear as daylight, quiet as candledark, lit by a single torch and so plainly visible to all.

Some things are never meant to be admitted out loud.

(Leave us in the dark.)

(Stay where the light is brightest.)

(In between is safest, peanut. You can still be warm but you can step into the shadows to hide, if there is a time that calls for that.)

(What? I couldn't hear you, Lochlan.)

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Zen and the art of shopping.

It's 11:15 and Lochlan has poured me a honey Jack Daniels and eggnog to drink so that I sleep tonight. It's so strong I can feel my brain crackling as I take small gulps even after being warned multiple times to sip it slowly. They say the same thing about coffee. You should SEE how fast I can drink a boiling hot cup of coffee. It's just DUMB.

What a glorious day. I walked around sipping my coffee and admiring things in stores. I took my time. The only people who spoke were clerks offering to help me find things, but no thank you, I'm not buying today. I'm done. Wrapped and loaded for bear and Santa too. I leaned way over the glass on the second floor and he looked up at me and waved this morning and I waved back and took his picture before moving on. I admired the most beautiful dark green satin strapless dress and then I picked the hanger up and held the dress out and realized I don't need it, I have one almost just like it. My Christmas dress. A Valentino that Caleb had altered and sent to me, tied in a box with silver ribbons. He did this many years ago without being asked. It fit perfectly and I wear it every chance I get. I don't know how he knew my measurements. He's never asked. The story goes that he held it up when the alterations were finished and studied it and said it would work. He's spooky like that. I'm still never sure if I should be flattered or run screaming.

I looked at platform shoes and decided I really need some new things. A lot of new things. Or do I? I do but maybe not platforms. Maybe just standard heels. Maybe flats. Maybe a new pair of Angel boots. At least.

I sat and read the paper on my phone when I got tired, watching the young mother beside me feed her baby daughter lunch. I marveled at how small babies are and how glad I am that my children are tweenagers and sort of silly but how there is only one gift under the tree that is a toy, since Henry is ten years old still even though sometimes it feels as if he is much older than that.

I considered buying a new set of bobby pins since we've reached the end of the year and I don't know how many of my gold and silver pins will make it back to me. The boys have an unspoken tradition of collecting them right through the end of the year and then presenting them back to me in neat little containers and boxes, treasures found and collected the same way I collect sea glass. They learned it from Jake. I think I'll wait and see how many reappear. Besides, the stores didn't have gold or silver. I only saw brown, black or white on my travels.

I ruminated on how deliciously wrecked my goddamned knees are from so many years of running. If I sit too long or walk too much on hard floors now my knees and hips ache. And I wore sensible flats to walk in today. I thought I was being smart. I guess it doesn't make a difference, everything aches tonight. But not for long.

I vowed to pare down my belongings to what I dearly love because there's just so much STUFF out there. Stuff won't make me happy, people do. Feelings do. This freaking eggnog and Jack Daniels does. Like, in a hurry. Time for bed. Very long day after all, even though it's probably one of the more relaxing days I have spent lately.

I really like that. I could get in to this relaxing thing. Lets hope it continues.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Shooting stars.

(I don't have to remind you at this point that I don't actually call him 'Batman' to his face, do I?)

Batman has outfitted his floor to ceiling windows with those incredible lights that drop color down the line in stages, like the lights on the big tree at Kitsilano. All of the windows. I'm so hypnotized by Christmas lights, it almost isn't fair that they're going to conduct their Mine is bigger argument in this way but I have become used to the unbearable tension between Caleb and Batman.

What I have not become used to, however, is the sudden realization that Batman is wearing Tuscan Soul. I know that scent very well, and I'm proud of myself for my ability to pick out a man's signature fragrance from three yards away and have yet to be corrected when I hazard a guess to the wearer. Bergamot is a giveaway in this case, and it's worth noting that Caleb sometimes wears it too.

What do you think, Princess? He's pleased with himself, I can tell. He's smiling out of one side of his mouth, trying to suppress the grin. I make note of the use of my nickname and shake my head vaguely.

It's nice. Looks very pretty.

It really shines when the sun is rising. Maybe you should stay and see that.

I turn around. What is that? What are you doing?

Capitalizing on Satan's tricks of the trade, Bridget. Isn't this how it works? How does he have unlimited access to you no matter what and I can count on one hand the number of times-

Don't do this. Why can't I just enjoy the lights? My whole face is sad. What bullshit. I can't believe he's going to pull this six days before Christmas.

You didn't come here for the lights, Bridget.

No, I didn't. He starts to smile again but I keep talking. I came over to bring your present. I wasn't sure if you were going home for Christmas.

Too far for a few days. I have meetings.

Your family will be disappointed.

I haven't gone home for Christmas for years, Bridget. Home is where your heart is and I'm never there on the holiday.

Where is your heart?

I don't know exactly. His eyes turn darker and he walks to the kitchen to pour himself a scotch. I lost it decades ago. I guess I don't want to admit that I thought I was immune to something and it turns out I'm not.

So what do you do now?

Spend Christmas in a new place, I guess. I'm going to check out Woodward's windows and order a list of movies to watch and get some takeaway. You know. Just try and not work for a few days. Get some rest. I think I'm coming down with a bit of a cold.

He's watching me to see what I do next. I'm known for letting all the words come out before my brain is engaged. And I'm known the world over for not wanting people to be alone at Christmas, above all else. That's how we got Duncan and even Jacob, for fucks sakes.

Yeah, rest will be good for that. There's a bad cold going around. Take care of yourself. I am putting on my coat. My brain is in gear, I need to leave before I am drowning in Salvatore's dreams.

Bridget- Batman grabs my shoulders and pulls me in for a hug. Merry Christmas.

I throw my arms around his shoulders and put my head down against his shirt. I inhale deeply while I have the chance. Merry Christmas, Batman. Take care of yourself and call if you need anything.

What would I need, Bridget? I step back and he holds the door. We're just staring at each other. The lines we don't cross hold nicely most of the time. Like tonight. Actually, you know what I need? The name of something I can take that will let me sleep. I can't breathe when I lie down. What should I take?

Nyquil. Get some Nyquil. The green liquid. It's the best.

You've tried it?

Yes, It's the only thing I buy for us.

They're really lucky to have you. We're, all of us, you know? Really lucky. You're a gift. You're like the best Christmas present of all.

I walk to the elevator and turn and when the doors begin to close I say goodbye. I blow a kiss. I feel thankless and flighty after everything he has done for me. For all of us. I resolve to call tomorrow and see if he feels better. Or maybe I'll just bring him some breakfast and coffee before the sun rises, so I can see the way the silver lights look bathed in the orangy-pinks and purples of the early dawn. And check on him. People shouldn't be alone. Not this time of year. Hard to believe Christmas is less than a week away.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Waiting for the angels of Avalon.

Oh war is the common cry,
Pick up you swords and fly.
The sky is filled with good and bad
that mortals never know.
Oh, well, the night is long
the beads of time pass slow,
Tired eyes on the sunrise,
waiting for the eastern glow.

The pain of war cannot exceed
the woe of aftermath,
The drums will shake the castle wall,
the ring wraiths ride in black, Ride on.
Sing as you raise your bow,
shoot straighter than before.
No comfort has the fire at night
that lights the face so cold.
We have a tree! It's up even. It's in the corner of the living room and it's a Grand fir, which was far nicer a tree than I expected we would get, but when I saw the sad soft Douglases and remembered trying to keep my heavy heirloom porcelain and glass ornaments from bending to touch the floor I set about picking something much sturdier and since it's so fucking close to Christmas, the tree man gave it to me for a song.

He remembered us from last year too. Huh.

But I have no energy anymore. I supervised some wrapping tonight, watching Henry struggle with neat folds and the terrible little tape dispenser, and I offered to cook a big dinner but Ben took one look at me and dialed the Chinese restaurant. I am asleep on my feet, approaching that weird stasis where I have let go of worrying about whether or not Christmas will be a success and instead reassured myself that working doggedly at it for the past six weeks straight means I really did try my best and it's okay to relax and begin to enjoy the holiday now. Hard to believe it's still a week away, maybe we're doing better than I thought we were.

I want to sleep more than I am but it still feels as if I'm breaking the surface when I wake up, gasping for air. I'm sure I hold my breath in my sleep and that frightens me but I don't know what to do about it and once my eyes open they remain open for the day. I'll take the dog up the street, walking slowly in the quiet early morning and marvelling at how warm it is and then we come back and I start the coffee and draw a picture or read the newspaper. Then the exhaustion creeps back in around the edges of me and it gains more purchase over the course of the day until it is resting on my head and shoulders, a weight pushing my heels into the ground, compressing my spine, dulling my eyes against the light.

Maybe that will change this week. I have to be careful not to let the night owls keep me up so late, I have to remember it's just fine to sit down and read a book or watch a movie without it being only after it's too late to do anything fun and everything not-fun is done, like chores.

I have to remember to have some coffee in the middle of the day again. That really works, only the boys don't want me to have any bad habits at all. Good luck with that one, I say.

Oh and in other news, Caleb put lights on the boat. Well, he had them put on. Seventeen sets in all. It's a floating carnival. He pronounced it tacky. I said it was perfect.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Through glass.

Standing on the grass sipping a hot coffee, I am smiling at the lights. Many of the boats have Christmas lights up. I am gleeful about it. Everything looks so beautiful. The lights are stunning, doubled in the reflection of the water, punctuating the night with LED sparkles. Mentally I will my whole body to turn to stone so I can stay here, and be a slight, regal version of an Easter Island statue, gazing out over the beloved blue-green sea toward the future or the past or some semblance of life in between.

Caleb's boat has no lights on it. I'm not sure if I should request it or not.

***

The clerk at Tiffany & Co. informs us that, due to a busy afternoon, there is a waiting list to see a salesperson. If we'd like to add our name, she can see that we are taken care of. Ben defers, and invites me to look around first. I head off to do the diamond loop, beginning with the signature pieces and the bridal counters and ending with the leather goods and the Elsa Peretti collections.

He says all I have to do is point to something and he'll have it wrapped.

I walk straight out the door and turn right. In the window with the yellow diamonds they have a tiny snowy pink and blue carousel that spins around and around and around. I want that. I would never stop watching it.

But it isn't for sale.

***

I'm trying to emulate the girl on the other side of the ramen shop. She's using her spoon and her chopsticks in conjunction to eat the noodles. I'm good with chopsticks but every time I pick up the spoon with my left hand my right hand fails to work properly. I put the spoon down and I'm fine. It's so messy but so delicious. Ben is finished so I need to worry less about soup winding up on my dress and more about eating my spicy akaoni miso so we can go home. I'm tempted to ask for some gyoza to take away, just to eat in the truck on the way home. They are so delicious. It's like I haven't eaten in days. I can't remember if I have or not but for tonight the soup will suffice.

***

It's beginning to rain and we have returned to the house empty-handed, having set out seven hours ago with firm plans to go to the Christmas tree lot and bring home a tree. We have driven past ten different tree lots but somehow we needed to just lose a day, give it away, not become slaves to the hours, minutes and schedules of others.

PJ
and Ruth present matching facial expressions, rife with disappointment but they are not bound by the same constraints of desperate timekeeping. We vow to rise early tomorrow and head straight to the lot. Ben will again tell me to pick out whatever I like best. Easily done, since these are not designer trees, unless you walk to the center of the lot where the Noble firs are. I will stick to the edges, where the misfit spiny Fraser and Douglas firs rest against wooden saw horses.

I want one that is perfectly imperfect, a tree for a home that is also perfectly imperfect.

I will give the man a handful of twenties and he will make a fresh cut and offer to help Ben get it safely into the truck bed. We will make small talk about Halifax, and compare readiness for what has become a dizzying carousel of holiday madness. We will promise to come back next year.

Next year seems like a million miles away but I know I will wake up in a week and it will be here already and Christmas trees will be the last thing on my mind as I fight to honor the resolutions I've been working on so diligently.

Ultimately I will fail, but I always try my hardest. And that's what counts, isn't it?

Friday, 16 December 2011

Apple. Tree. Far. Blah blah blah.

I knew for sure last night when I asked Ruth to return her scissors, markers and tape to the basket on her desk. This morning when I went into her room to put her folded laundry on her bed, the scissors, markers and tape were sitting on the desk right in front of the basket.

Who does that? Goes all the way to a different floor only to be too indifferent to put the supplies back where they belong, to the point of leaving them directly in front of where they belong?

Lochlan does, that's who.

Drives me nuts.

Now times two.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Let's just cover shock, awe and Tahoe all in one go. I don't have much time.

Thank you for your concerned emails, I realize posting an entry Sunday and then nothing since would throw the Internet into a tizzy, I just didn't realize how large. So in order to put your minds at ease, I didn't do any of the following, in case you heard otherwise:

1. Die.
2. Eat so much rice from the new rice cooker that I explode like a wren at a spring church wedding.
3. Run off with Robert Redford to live out my dream of lap dancing on Sundance while he pulls his gloves off one finger at a time. With his teeth.
4. Join the circus.
5. Get killed in a sex game where Caleb cheats anyway and then pretends not to hear my safe word (which almost happened in what..85? 95? 05?, oh, just pick a year and we'll go with that.)
6. See the new Rock of Ages trailer and turn Amish, eschewing all media forever and ever amen because it looks that bad.

So all of those rumors are false, save for the ones I hope for. (Mostly #3 or #4).

Nope, in this case I was buried in presents, parties and pageants and lost track of the week, mostly because I've found lots of alcohol, wrapping paper and carols but very little hot food, sleep or cuddles.

That last one, well, that's a doozy. I am off to empty the contents of our traveling bags into the washing machine, cook something wonderful, and then turn and lock myself into Ben's arms for the night so I can dream of pine trees covered with snow and men in red coats with white beards. Or maybe that was men in white coats with red beards. Or maybe it's black coats and brown beards.

Yes, that sounds just about right. Goodnight, before my face hits the keyboard (again).

Sunday, 11 December 2011

B-Lister.

I found Santa sitting in a plush throne at a virtually empty shopping mall. It was late, past the dinner hour and the crowds have all but vanished.

He was reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, an airport paperback concealed inside a larger, hollow book that purported to be the list of all of the children in the world who had been naughty or nice. The Book of Lists. I always wonder which one my name is on, even though I'm pretty sure it's at the top of the Naughty list, especially if the list is in alphabetical order. B is second to first. And I bet all the As are total Santa ass-kissers, leaving me to head up the line that stands slack-jawed and casual, weaving side to side, hair messed up, clothes and fingertips smoking black.

I stood and watched his irises scan the words. Back and forth, back and forth. I know it's an engrossing book, I've read it myself and so I was quiet. I didn't want to interrupt him but at the same time I had precious minutes to get this done under the guise of picking out a present without witnesses so as to save at least a few surprises for Christmas Day.

I took another step forward and he checked himself, smiling and tucking the book under his chair before pretending to be surprised, thrilled to see me.

Bridget! How are you?

I'm doing okay, Santa. Just finishing some shopping.

Come over and sit with me, then.

I smiled and walked behind the velvet rope. I put my coat and my bags on a hook and stepped up to the chair. Santa held his arms out and true to form I went into them. I sat on his knee and he laughed and asked me what I wanted this year.

Not like it matters, the naughty kids don't get presents. How do you think Santa knew my name? Yeah, the top of that stupid list.

I'd like my ghosts to come back from the dead. Sometimes I want to talk to them. Sometimes I wish they were still here.

Bridget. I'm the spirit of Christmas, not a maker of miracles. For that you're going to have to go straight to the Big Man.

Does he have a chair at the mall? I'll be first in line.

That elicited a huge belly laugh. No, my dear, I'm afraid you need to go to church to talk to him.

See, there's another fallacy right there, poking holes in Santa's red-and-white facade. You don't have to talk to God at church, he's supposed to be everywhere at once. Unless your name starts with a B and can be found at the top of that goddamned list.

So is there anything you can do? Anything at all?

Honey, most people want an iPhone, or a new car, or a raise. Do you have anything tangible that I could leave under your tree to retain enough credibility in your eyes to bring you back to see me next year? I daresay I've never seen anyone work so hard at wanting to have Christmas spirit, and I'd do anything to be able to help you out.

My eyes catch the glowing red sign of the liquor store across the promenade. I can't believe I'm going to let Santa Claus off the hook but I do because I tend to exit gracefully after I bring people to their knees with my pleas for clarity.

Sure, bring me a bottle of Crown Royal Black, and we'll call it even.

I can do that, Bridget. You've got fourteen days to get your name on that other list and you'll see your present under the tree on Christmas morning. Just do me a favour and don't drink it with that other legendary character we all seem to half-believe in, because God is a lot of things but tolerant with those who defy his good graces by cavorting with the Devil isn't one of them.

I won't, Santa. I promise. Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas, Bridget. Now take this candy cane and smile. The elf is going to take our picture. You can purchase it at the counter for fifteen bucks on your way out.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Waiting for Morpheus.

In this life, you're the one place I call home
In this life, you're the feeling I belong
In this life, you're the flower and the thorn
You're everything that's fair in love and war
I am consuming song lyrics in overdrive, every arrangement better than the next. I'm scrambling to hit the repeat button so I can hear them again and memorize them by heart as I lay in the feather bed under the struggling sunrise. Soon enough the sun will disappear into the clouds and it will be time to rise and glint with a dull reflection, instead of shine. No one shines when it's cloudy, we just readjust our plans and take a moment to grab an umbrella, just in case.

But I am loathe to get up. The words, the melodies are pulling me back down into the soft folds of cool cotton, stitches neat and perfect in a row, a stark contrast to the those who sleep on into the morning, the one on my right with a smooth peaceful expression and tousled black hair, sticking up straight at the crown, sheets thrown off his shoulders. His skin is so cool sometimes I still count his heartbeats before I'll believe he's mine. He dreams of all the songs he's going to write when he's finished disengaging from the corporate business and returns to working for himself. He dreams of life without lawyers, royalties, art direction and sycophancy but there are no perfect days like that.

On my left the other one sleeps fitfully, tense. Red curls fighting order, his skin flushed and feverish, stacking his mastered skills in his dreams, watching for traps and ensuring a smile on every face. I'm one hundred percent sure every dream he has involves a perfect full performance and he'll replay the same dreams every night until he gets it right. Only you can't get it right, and there are no perfect days, just great days and not-so-great days, like those with rain or tough, heartless crowds or conflict or equipment failure at a popular attraction.

I don't sleep enough to dream anymore, I just drop off while listening to a song and wake up with words that seem to be arranged in a particularly extraordinary way, or when the music ends. Nothing startles me more than dead silence anymore.

And nothing soothes like a song.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Imitation of Life.

This lightning storm
This tidal wave
This avalanche, I'm not afraid.
C'mon, c'mon no one can see me cry.
We're back on the stone patio in the freezing cold morning. I can see my breath. Today I wish I didn't have to see him. The further we get from Wednesday the more angry and guilty I feel. Shameful. Filthy and corrupted.

You're an adult. You make your own decisions.

Since when, Lochlan? I'm not even allowed to dress myself.


Case in point, another cold day, another hood pulled up and tied in a bow under my chin. Something you do when someone is four and hasn't learned their knots yet. I know my knots and I know some they don't even know. I can tie a bow but I choose to leave everything unraveled and pooled across my shoulders instead. If we're going to continue to repeat history in every different dynamic and incarnation we have at our disposal than I will revert and just stay young and leave it all in his lap. Only he keeps pushing it off and I can't get through to that hard head of his.

What do you want me to say?

What did Ben say?


He said to leave it be. We're not going to talk about it.


Well then why don't we just-


Because you are not Ben. I thought you were different now! I thought you were going to be there. When I went into the water-


Your life wasn't at stake this time, Bridget. Fuck. Do you know how crazy this makes me? I don't even want to think about it. When it comes to that I just shut down. I don't know what to say.

Say you're sorry.

You first.


We are facing each other, his face is set in stone. Expressionless except for that disapproving perfection. That expression that only I get and I hate it.

For what?


For doing what you do best, Bridget. Hellbent on ruining one more good thing to come into your life in a long time.


You say sorry, Lochlan!

I wasn't even there, Bridget!

Exactly! Maybe if you stuck around I wouldn't be like this.

So you're saying if I had asked you to leave, you would have come with me?

Yes.


He walks three paces the other way and then abruptly puts his arms up around his head and turns around, flinging them back down.

WHAT THE FUCK, BRIDGET. I can't fix what happened. And I don't think you care anymore, really. You run to the first person who puts their arms out for you. If you want to pin that on me you're going to have to look in a fucking mirror, baby, because I DIDN'T DO THIS TO YOU!

Stop it. Ben steps through the door and we both defuse instantly. You fucking ever yell like that at her again and I'll throw you off the fucking cliff, Loch.

Oh well. As long as we're doing death threats, happy Friday. It's like I'm not even there.

Oh, now that you've had your fun you're going to grow some balls, brother?

She's an adult.

No she isn't! He stopped suddenly, staring at me. Why can't you both stay away from him? Jesus Christ, just stay away from him. He backed away from me, shaking his head. He's in tears and he wants one thing in his life and he'll never have it. Ever.

I didn't answer him. I watch him go indoors. SLAM! I'm surprised all the glass hasn't shattered to the bottom of the door by now. After a fashion, Ben's voice from behind me. He is still staring up at the house while I have turned to watch the waves.

He needs help, Bridget.

He needs me. Admitting that makes me feel small and hopeless and guilty as sin. And I know Ben's about to measure out a little more length so I can roam just a little further away from him.

So go to him. I turned around. His face wasn't kind or generous. It was a test to see how close to the edges I would venture.

I passed with flying colors.

He'll come back to us when he's ready, Benny. He'll be fine.

I turned away again to provide Benjamin with the dignity of not having his relief recognized. I'm not a monster, it serves no purpose to capitalize on the doubts he won't admit to out loud.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Ricochet (Do anything, Bridget, but just don't you go looking for Cole.)

Little supernovas in my head
Little soft pulses in my dead
Little souvenirs and secrets shared
Little off guard and unprepared

I was never good enough to find
I was never bad enough to mind
In the middle I will do my best
Take me in your arms and leave the rest
(I'm trying to keep my cool but Jacob is standing behind me screaming and I can't concentrate. I can't think. I can't hear anything. I can't block his voice out no matter what I do so I do the things I'm not supposed to do, simply to cope. His efforts are backfiring all over the place. I duck every time one lights off. It's a reflex. I can't help myself.)

I can't help myself when it comes to a lot of things.

The envelope was brought to the door, hand-delivered by Satan himself. Copper-colored. Whereas pewter grey is for me, the copper envelopes signify Benjamin. The invitation was for all of us, however. A little impromptu, belated celebration down at the boathouse. Some king crab, oysters and pate, a little good whiskey for those who know what they like most and a little time together.

When we arrived, Caleb had low jazz playing on the stereo and candles lit everywhere, even outside on the deck. There was a birthday cake on the counter. We were touched.

And old habits die hard, unlike people, who die much too easily for my comfort. Caleb has always favored Ben. Sometimes I don't understand that, and sometimes I understand it perfectly.

Once it grew late, some of the boys drifted up the hill to the house and I took the kids back up to oversee their bedtimes, tucking them in tightly, lights out because the next day is a school day and enough is enough. They had snacked on hot chocolate and gingerbread man cookies and run around long past their bedtimes. They were worn out. I returned to the boathouse once they were settled. Then another few left.

That left four of us. The three aspects of my fate, and me.

And a big bottle of whiskey with my name written all over it in blood, not easily wiped away like my prematurely-made resolutions to do the right thing instead of the wrong thing, every last time.

Lochlan made a heroically foolish attempt to drink as much as possible, so that I wouldn't. His disadvantage became obvious early on, when he could no longer detect his own cleverness, and he promised he wouldn't but then he left me there with two ghosts and two others, but only three people in the room. A riddle. I would play the solution, the consummate lightweight, three sheets into the wind, sailing freely into the dark. I know where I'm going. I just don't know where he went.

We've been through this before. Old habits. He disappears and I pay for that.

I can rock back and come to rest against Ben, who is leaning against the corner of the railing, looking out over the water. Or with the whole world spinning I can pitch forward gently and I will come to rest against Caleb, who is standing in front of me looking as much like Cole as my little marinated brain will allow. I lean forward slightly and his jawline rests against my forehead. A kiss glances off my hair and his face comes down in front of me. Blue eyes I haven't seen for almost six years startle me. I am falling, dropping out of the wind with a resounding thud as I hit bottom. I don't feel a thing.

Just stay for a little while, please, Cole?

Cole smiles at me as his eyes turn black.

I turn away, frightened now. I'm turned back firmly. This is not my choice to make tonight, it's been made for me and that's okay because I want it anyway. I want it really, really badly. I let go of Cole once, under extreme duress. I didn't want him to disappear forever. I don't know if I can make that choice again.

The fallout of my next move is weighed and measured carefully and deemed an acceptable risk. The collateral damage rests here. On me. And I can take it. I can take pretty much anything you throw at me. I say that out loud and that's when Jacob begins to scream.

He is yelling my name, over and over. It's so loud I try and pour more whiskey in to drown him out and it works for a little while. I pull Caleb's hands up over my ears just like how Jacob used to cover my ears with his hands. Hear no evil, completing the proverb.

Caleb uses that leverage to rocket me off the ground and into the center of the earth, holding me there until Ben takes a hold of my arms and pulls me back to the surface. I try to tell him I'm sorry but he holds his fingers up to my lips. The only competition in Ben's mind has red hair and a way with flames. If anything Ben has the upper hand again because this is a different fire. It doesn't burn, it warms. It doesn't scar, it smooths the past and the present together into one colossal tangle of melted memories, softened and mixed.

Cole never put his hands over my ears, he they always cover my eyes. See no evil, Caleb whispers in a laugh.

Ben returns to the comfortable chair in the corner, a glass of nothing more than ginger ale on the table beside him and he smokes a cigar while he watches Caleb light me on fire.

When all of the whiskey has burned off and the flames go out, the sun rises over the mountains, beaming rays of new warmth in through the skylights. I trace the lines in Ben's face until they teach him a path to consciousness. Caleb is nowhere to be found. Breakfast is set at the table and a note on the counter tells us to take our time.

We already did.

We took ours and then we stole the rest from the dead, who have no means to spend it anymore. I am ashamed and burning, loathe to return to the house and face anyone. Hell, I can't even turn around. It's one thing to look at Ben when his eyes are closed but if he's looking back at me I can't do it.
Little variations on my page
Little doors open on my cage
Little time has come and gone so far
Little by little who you are

I can see the patterns on your face
I can see the miracles I trace
Symmetry in shadows I can't hide
I just wanna be right by your side
He pulls my face up until I have no choice but to meet his eyes.

When did he stop screaming, Bee?

When I was back in your arms.


He nods, slower than slow-motion and pulls me into his arms once more. It was a mistake, that's all. A habit we broke that sometimes drifts back and we'll fight it again, starting today. A moment of weakness, giving in, hearing the screams I threw away when he should have only heard me trying to catch my breath.

Speak no evil, Bridget,
Ben warns me. Save face. Leave it alone.

It's too late for that. Fuck you too.
I will give you everything to
Say you want to stay you want me too
Say you'll never die, you'll always haunt me
I want to know I belong to you
Say you'll haunt me
Together, we'll be together, together forever
I belong to you

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Easy to see.

Today I got lost in the Bay store in Coquitlam. Then I got lost in the mall, proper. Then Zellers because I had to get a Hero Factory dude for Henry and do you think they could put toys at the front of the store to..lure people in? Nope. At the back. And the aisles are the tallest I've ever seen. It was horrible. It was dark. It sucked. I can't wait for Target to move in.

Notice both stores I was lost in are owned by Hudson's Bay Company? That should tell you all you need to know. Coquitlam Center is not Holt Renfrew. But you can't buy Hero Factory at Holt because Hero Factory is made by Lego, not Louis Vuitton. And you can't take the small town out of the girl, no matter how hard you try. When I walk through Holt someone will inevitably roll my tongue up on a stick from the floor and hand it back to me. Designer...stuff. Everywhere. But I don't buy anything. Sometimes the boys do. I do all my shopping at the regular shopping centers, thanks. Because you can find things you need. Like toys for my not-so-little-anymore boy.

But it was on the way home that I discovered something amazing.

My car seats have a height adjustment. (One that is not called The Yellow Pages).

Up until now the routine was simple. If the boys had to drive my car for any reason they will ratchet the seat back as far as it will go, and when I drive I ratchet it all the way to the front. I didn't know it also goes up or down. (I knew about the reclining-back part. No one needs that here.)

Huzzah. Thank you, Santa. That is the best present ever. I knew I could freaking parallel park. Oh yes I did. It's so much easier when you can see out of the goddamned car, though.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Performance art.

What used to be a house of cards has turned into a reservoir
Save the tears that were waterfalling
Let's go swim tonight, darling

And once outside the undertow
Just you and me, and nothing more
If not for love, I would be drowning
I've seen it work both ways

But I am up riding high amongst the waves
Where I can feel like I have a soul that has been saved
Where I can feel like I've put away my early grave
Sitting on the edge of the metal chair in the frost, I can see my breath. Good. I can't feel my heartbeat anymore through all of the scar tissue so any outward indicator that my life continues is a blessing. Or maybe it's a curse. Maybe I'm the curse. Maybe the sun only rises to sear my visage from their corneas and maybe the sun doesn't even rise, maybe it's a projection onto the wall opposite the window to make me think life continues on while I hunker down behind the barred door.

Maybe I haven't been paying attention. I am too busy always stacking letters, coloring black inside all of the lines and falling in love to see anything up to and including the hand in front of my face. I see eyes and then teeth. I see smiles and frowns and distracted expressions. I see dead people too but that's a line from a movie and I don't like the expressions that transform their faces when I say that, even when things are fine. Even when I'm only teasing. Which I hardly ever do because poor taste doesn't change with the light, there is no sunset on class and decorum is required at all times.

Call it Bridget's School of Etiquette and Good Graces, call it a freakshow, call it yours. No one cares, we are far too busy being distracted by one other.

Lochlan's standing with his hands in his pockets. Probably turning the flint wheel of his lighter until his thumb blackens into a permanent groove. He does it slowly, partly to keep the cadence with his mind and partly so he doesn't set his pocket alight. He's done that before. Four times, if one is counting, but one isn't because, as I said, we are far too busy being distracted by one another.

You have to pay attention. If you don't, this won't work.

He's wearing a corduroy suitcoat but it's grey, not green. If he wore green he would resemble a leprechaun, and that just wouldn't do. Black vest. Burgundy button-down shirt and jeans. Black fedora. Black tennis shoes. This is his busking uniform, for lack of a more succinct description, and it's perfect. Part showman, part functional. Deep pockets so he won't lose things. Comfortable arms for throwing torches and then easy to remove top pieces until he is in pants and shoes only. Hat to pass later, though he doesn't pass it so much as hold it out for bills and spare change.

The last time he held the hat out for me I emptied my pockets into it. I had a fifty-dollar bill, three fives and seven bobby pins. He brought me back the pins later but I never saw the money again. He is true to his calling, and the money disappears. The gypsy in him manifests as a thief, and I know better than to give him what I want to keep.

But then he smiles and it's hard to remember so many things. Like the day of the week and the number after eleven and my last name (changed so many times I hardly use one anymore, sort of like Enya or Sting). Only when the light changes back to bright do I realize I've been robbed again and I go looking for payback and I find it on the cold stone patio in the bleak morning sun.

The wind and the sea conspire to take his words away from me but he holds onto them, his arm stretching up to the sky, waiting to catch fire on the way down, appearing to hold on to a burning balloon swept away by a renegade gale.

And I am transfixed.

I sit with my hands pulled up into the sleeves of my black wool coat (brand new, not like the threadbare robins egg blue one they all fell in love with that finally fell apart and boy, is that a euphemism for the princess or what?) but I am not the only one. Ben stands on the top step near the door. Frozen to the bone, frozen in time, if just for that moment, having stepped into a history where he has no footprints to follow and no memories to lead the way.

He'll take over, pulling me roughly by the hand as we try to stay on the middle road, sometimes veering courageously to the high road, sometimes settling in comfortably to the low one, but whichever road we take is hard for me to manage because Ben walks fast and he won't let go. I'm at once grateful and fed up and overwhelmed and bemused by what I see here, that's for certain. I'm not the only one who admires the red curls and the lower stage charm of a different kind of showman. I'm not the only one idolizing the wrong people.

But you have to catch Ben in the right light, or you would see nothing at all.

Monday, 5 December 2011

It starts now.

Today has been a comedy of errors. Thought I was a week behind. Then I ran out of tape. Then I couldn't find a box. Then I found out ALL of the school pictures I ordered were bizarre sizes, so none of the frames fit.

I finally had the away/East coast packages ready to deploy and jumped in the car and hit the highway and.....went in the wrong direction.

Got to the post office forty minutes later (instead of fifteen) and the lineup was out the door.

Dear God.

Then the kind clerk tells me 10 business days and I panic and think..it's the fifth, so that means it won't make it by the twenty-fifth. I was never very good at math and so I chose Express Post, which meant the prices doubled and now shipping is more than the gifts and oh dear. Yes, I know. I had ALL KINDS OF TIME for the boxes to make it to their destinations, now they will just get there faster.

No peeking, Nolan.

I was on my way and realized we need milk. I stop in the drugstore to get some and wind up in another lineup. Apparently everyone does all their errands from 12-1. This time the lineup features famous faces. Like Meatloaf, or so I thought until he turned around. I think I was hungry and just projecting.

Rattled? Completely.

Why, you ask?

My daughter's going to her first school dance tonight. Our daughter is, I mean.

Because she's twelve, and twelve changes everything. Just ask her father.

A note to address a recent influx of emails from last week.

(This is not the day's post.)

If you are waiting for me to write about Ben's birthday, you will hold your breath for a while, possibly until you black out and fall over. He requested that I keep it the way it was. Private, intimate. Close. He is forty-three now and he says he doesn't feel a day over twenty-three.

I did not know Ben when he was twenty-three, but from what I hear he was a real troublemaker.

Thankfully he still is.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The designated tool.

Today I found an axe.

I was condensing a shelf full of camping supplies and jammed deep down in one of the big expedition backpacks I found it. Unsharpened, blackened and quite demure, it slid awkwardly out of the case and I laughed out loud. The last time I saw this was during one of our winter excursions to Keji for backcountry camping, long before the children were born.

I remember being afraid of that axe, though Cole was determined that I learn to chop wood for the fire. Fuck that, I'll cut my legs off below the knees, I told him. He laughed and lit another cigarette. Don't be so ridiculous, he told me, reaching out and taking back the axe. I gave it up willingly.

I'm not so good with sharp things, like knives or wit. Only with naming things and making up stories about things.

That night I drew scenes from the campsite with Lochlan while Cole chopped enough wood to last that campsite the rest of the season and the next one too. I look at this tiny, dull instrument and I don't know how he did it only that he was always freakishly strong for his size. I remember him offering it to Ben on later trips and Ben would defer. Ben wouldn't touch that thing, he wanted to save his hands. He was hellbent on becoming a famous musician and said he didn't feel like getting himself killed.

(That turns our prodigal son into the prophet, but that isn't what this about. Also, as I've said before, Ben was a terrible camper so no one expected anything from him but music.)

When I found the axe and laughed PJ walked into the back hallway to see what was going on. I showed him my find and he said it was cool. Hey, we can use this. Maybe it would be good for the Christmas tree farm but I took it back and put it up on a high shelf.

Why are you doing that, Bridge?

It's too small and dull. It's like the lady axe. It's the....the parlour hatchet.

He started to laugh and squeezed me against him. 'The parlour hatchet'. That's great. What do you think would be a better choice for getting the tree this year then?

A 50cc, twenty-inch gas-powered chainsaw works for me.

We've ruined you, haven't we?

Yes, PJ. Completely.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The mighty harmonist.

I'm gonna ask you to look away
I love my hands, but it hurts to pray
Life I have isn't what I've seen
The sky is not blue and the field's not green
Today was all Ben, all the time. He in his Hardcore Bagpiping t-shirt, and I in my military jacket. Matching jeans, matching smiles. Fingers touching, hearts woven tight.

It was freezing on the beach. Not our beach, a different one. Across the bridge and down the hill. Our beach is wicked and sinister and rough, this one is more refined. My toes were numb but my mind was soothed. My fingers were filthy with sand and slippery seaweed and crab shell but my ears were filled with the sounds of the surf crashing and seagulls calling softly. I didn't know while we were there that Ben made a long recording of the sounds while we were silent. He brought home the ocean for me and can trigger tears at will, just by holding his phone up to my ear and pressing PLAY.

The Pacific is such an amazing entity. She and I are someday going to be such good friends but for now I approach her politely and stay as long as she'll have me and then I retreat to the treeline and wait for the next invitation. I stalk her. I lust after her. I hide like a freak in the shadows and count the waves crashing as my breath hitches and rolls in time. I am the harmless thief, filling my pockets with the treasures she leaves behind, the jars and basketsful at home a revelation in deference to my singular obsession.

Ben had so much patience for my nonsense today. He waded and waited, he shot and he sought me out, he brought me shells and gave me hell and he finally suggested home when the dark arrived in a flourish and began to eat away at the edges of the horizon.

I was so reluctant. I kept wanting to suggest he simply come back for me tomorrow but I knew better and so I followed him up the hill, stumbling over rocks and roots as I watched her retreat for the night.

I'll be back soon.

Friday, 2 December 2011

"Bruce keeps Batman human." ~Kevin Conroy.

Over breakfast in a luxurious restaurant this morning Batman took a turn roasting my flesh over the coals. Drinking during a weekday. Ghosts in the garage. What was I thinking?

I played the widow card. When he had lost what I have, twice over, then and only then can he judge my behavior.

He didn't bite so I turned the tides, drowning him in his own failures for a change. His weaknesses. Hit him where it hurts. Peel back the layers until he's burned raw with no protection from sun or salt.

He shook his head and smiled out to sea. He changed the subject. Boring me with industry talk for the remainder of the morning. I surrendered, smiling politely and listening while I sipped coffee. They continued to refill it until close to lunchtime and finally Batman drove me home, staying for a moment to check up on Satan and talk hockey with PJ. Trying to fit in and failing as I watched. Eventually a kiss landed on my forehead, excuses beginning to roll out of his mouth as he walked into the front hall to pull on his coat. He was heading out the door when he stopped abruptly and turned to smile at me.

I'm not the enemy, Bridget. Or maybe I am. Maybe I always have been. One more difficult facet of your life to wrestle with. One more ball to juggle, if I may use one of your circus metaphors. Analogies. Whichever.

Metaphor. That's a metaphor.

Right. Maybe we can do this again? I'll check my schedule. I'd like to check in with you on a regular basis.

Or you could just come here.

Come here? To the house?

Come for breakfast. With everyone.

I'd really like that. Don't feel as if you have to. I understand if you want to do things that way. I apologize if anything seemed untoward when I asked you to come to me.

I know. I am lying through my teeth. I am aghast. He and Caleb are playing Freaky Friday on me today and I can see it so clearly, why can't they?

But he smiles instead. The first genuine, unchecked, natural one in a while. Maybe twenty years if I were to be specific. The last time he smiled like that at me I didn't know a goddamned thing about him. But I knew I could trust him. Now when I look at that smile I wonder if I'm any good at reading people at all.
Bruce Wayne is Batman. He became Batman the instant his parents were murdered. Batman needs Bruce, however hollow that identity feels to him from time to time. Bruce keeps Batman human.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Deficiency.

(GO AWAY. This is not for you.)

Too small to keep. That was beautiful, princess.

You think? Fuck you, they don't have wi-fi in heaven. Who reads to you?

Sam reads out loud and I hear him sometimes.

Do you miss it?

No, I hated being able to see what's on your mind. We all did but at the same time it's incredibly useful. Your brain is a trainwreck. No one can look away.

No, you know what's useful? I am drunk and sitting on the filthy floor in the garage again. My dress is ruined, possibly my knees too. My hair is dark in the back from resting against the blackened concrete.

What's useful, princess?

You being not dead. Could you engineer that for me like you do for these visits? I do believe you have an in with the important people.

Bridget, I-

I know. I know! 'Don't be so pathetic, Bridget'. I laugh and tip forward and my nose almost touches the floor. I put my hands out to steady myself and abruptly I change my mind about my decision to move out here to live. The boys already reclaimed the garage anyhow, and Jacob found a new venue from which to preach his afterlife into my mind and my heart. I can wade into a memory at low tide or in the bathtub if I choose. I don't need to be here anymore but it seems like it's the best place and I don't know why. I don't even care why right now. Only my liver does. I bet it's in overdrive. It's always been competitive when it sees my heart winning all the awards for doing all the work.

Jesus, they let you get shitfaced every day now or what?

Only when they want to know what's on my mind, oddly enough. Just, well, just like you did, Pooh bear. I am poking thin air, since I can't touch him, my fingertips hammering the wind instead of poking him in the chest. He is sitting in front of me, only he doesn't get dirty because there is absolutely nothing bad in heaven and he is halfway there now. He would be all the way but I won't let him go.

I'm supposed to feel guilty about that but I don't.

You're a wreck.

Yeah, I know. It's been a long week. I start to laugh and he joins me. Then I feel ridiculous and insane and I start to cry. He reaches out and touches my face and holds his hand there. I can feel it, his hands feel like Ben's. Cool. Hard. Strong. He can touch me, I can't touch him. Okay, God. Gotcha.

Bridget, you're doing so much better. I can see it. Living here is good for you. Ben is good for you. It's going to be okay. Stop falling into the sea. Stop falling for Lochlan. Stop falling and stand up straight. What happened to Little Miss Hardcore?

I stand up unsteadily and weave my way to the door. When I open it the sun beams into the room, highlighting emptiness save for a couple of motorcycles in the corner. The garage is neatly swept and Jacob isn't here.

You killed her. That's what happened. She's dead too.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Abundance.

(You've forgotten who the prodigal son is, in this case. Think hard, he's difficult to miss, at six-foot-four).

Caleb's putting his fortune to good use. Today we've had a parade of municipal inspectors, engineers and contractors down to see about putting in a removable floating dock. They have to pour concrete pilings and everything. I just can't wait.

I figured I would just be banned from going down to the water ever again. They came close to that until Caleb took one look at my face and offered a solution. One I can't afford so the look came back, elastic panic, we may as well move if I can't get to the sea ever again but the solution was followed by the means. This is nothing five figures won't solve. Pennies to Caleb. More debt to me, mortgaged once again with my soul.

I tell him this and he shakes his head sadly. Safety is a premium, it doesn't matter what it costs.

I should have stayed on the beach.

You shouldn't have to. No worries, it'll be done by spring as long as it doesn't get too cold. Until then, though, I'm not sure what they will want for your margins in the meantime. Don't expect the moon for a bit, okay?

I don't. But I do think they're blowing it out of proportion. Had Lochlan not seen me slip off the rocks I would have continued to work my way back until I could climb up. I'm not a good swimmer but I could use the rocks to stay against the shore and there are several places one can get out. Even with the coat. Even with the surprise and shock of the cold water, I would have been out in another five or ten minutes. I didn't ask to be rescued but maybe I'm in denial.

Ben pointed out that one of my lifelong wishes to see Lochlan step in and cover comfort and safety during or after a major incident is now fulfilled. And his offhand, reluctantly generous comment has set me on my ear.

It was mostly the only flaw Lochlan ever had, ducking and running whenever things went wrong.

He comes by it honestly. If you grew up in the midway and transitioned to the circus you'd be fucked up and have one foot out the door every time something went down too. I just didn't think it would extend to me. Up until two months ago, his method of operation would have been to fish me out of the drink, fling me up to dry land and then take off before anyone saw him.

Instead he stuck around and sorted everything out. He organized some changes and hashed out new rules, he found understanding, he absolved those he found to be in the wrong and he kept everyone calm, even in the face of accusations and outrage and shock. He didn't let go of me for the better part of the past twenty hours or so. This is so new I'm still admiring the shiny wrapper. I don't even know what to do with this.

He said we give him purpose. He can't run anymore. This isn't a roadshow, he can't be the nameless wanderer anymore, he has a legacy. Purpose. People who count on him, and need him to be there.

I have always needed him. It burns me that it took something so fucking stupid to make him see that. The relief that he finally sees it is worth more than that dock is going to cost.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Gratitude and Longitude.

So.

I fell into the ocean this afternoon and if it weren't for all this brandy and the fact that I'm waiting for Lochlan to stop fighting with everything that breathes I wouldn't have even told you.

Considering she said I was too small to keep she did her best, as I was in jeans, boots and a heavy wool coat. The boulders piled up where the drop off is, where the boats can moor in sailing season, proved to be more slippery than they looked today and I chose the water over the alternative of landing directly on the rocks. I didn't want any broken bones, but I've also never been so cold in my life.

Before I could work my way back around to the smaller rocks to climb up, Lochlan grabbed the hood of my coat and lifted me out of the water. Yes, with his left arm. Yes, that unhealed spiral fracture of his ulna? Radial? I can't remember is still there and he's in a brand new cast tonight because they already knew it never healed. They were slated to call him but Ben took him in.

License to hurt, Ben said later as we stood and watched while Lochlan took out his fears and frustrations on everyone in the room, beginning with me and ending with PJ and Duncan, who were supposed to be on duty and did not slip, I was merely given a little bit of leeway to extend my rigid, narrow horizons.

It took him the better part of five or six hours but I think he is running out of steam at last. The painkillers are kicking in, Sam's endless words are sinking in, the adrenaline is wearing off and the fear is wearing through. All's well that ends well. I am still alive. I was not, contrary to in-house belief, purposefully sacrificing myself to the Pacific and I was also not trying to prove a point.

My fingers and toes have warmed up at last and I know that tonight, through my dreams tangled hopelessly with my nightmares, they will be there and they won't be letting go. Maybe the only slip today wasn't on the icy rocks. Maybe we all got too cocky and too comfortable and maybe that's when I need to be the most careful.

Maybe next time Lochlan won't come home halfway through the day and come looking for me even before he disappears into his room to put his things away.

Maybe next time she won't throw me back.

Too small to keep isn't any sort of guarantee. It's more like a warning, subject to change.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Twisted, crooked, broken laces.

Come pull the sheet over my eyes so I can sleep tonight
Despite what I've seen today
I found you guilty of a crime of sleeping at a time
When you should have been wide awake
Too small to keep, he says and smiles. I like that she says that about you. It means I can have you back. Ben is sacked out on the couch. I have thrown myself into his arms and I'm never ever leaving this spot. You can't make me, I won't go.

He laughs and pulls his arms over me. I like being home. You like it when I'm home, little bee?

What a silly question, Benjamin.

It's a valid question, bee. Tell me.

I love it when you're home.

Why?

I couldn't say it out loud so I turned around and climbed up onto his legs and whispered it in his ear. He blushed and said he knew he married me for a reason.

Right. For love.

He smiled. For love. And for what you just said into my ear. You look so sweet and straight-laced and you're the dirtiest one of all.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Chemical Oceanography.

High tide: 7:08 am, 4:56 pm
Low tide: 12:27 pm

His face is soft from three weeks worth of beard growth, his hair uncut since the spring. I am blocked in against the granite of the island. The lights are off and the kitchen is grey, lit only by the skylights above as the rain pours in sheets down the glass. I can't hear it, I feel the rumble, a quavery-light undercurrent to the air, thick and heavy with a post-storm stillness.

He bends his head down until our eyes are even. Blue and green make the color of the sea. Together we are high tide, the dangerous part of the day where you cannot walk on the sand because it's been swallowed by the waves, which now lick against the rocks, seeking further nourishment. I would heave myself into the surf only she keeps throwing me back.

Too small to keep, she says.