The Peas Are Working

The city of Toronto is run by raccoons. We have north, south, east and west-side gangster raccoons. They are afraid of no one and do as they please. One summer we could barely use our deck due to an east-side family having taken up residence there.

The raccoons are the reason I currently have two metal pins sticking out of my ring finger. Two weeks ago I took our dog Lexie out for a midnight pee. A massive pandemic-fat raccoon named Fred was perched on our backyard fence. All 34 pounds of Lexie went ballistic. But Fred didn’t move an inch, he just stared at us with a look that said, “you are inferior to me, go away.” Lexie wanted to battle Fred over her turf, but instead I dragged her down the alley and around to our front door.

Turns out that during the drama Lexie had, on her adrenaline high, pulled me quite hard. My ring finger was swelling quickly and turning black and blue.

“I’ll just ice it with some peas, it’ll be fine,” I told my partner as I grabbed the frozen bag. He eyed my finger, then eyed me like I was completely nuts.

“Your finger is twisted, you probably fractured it.”

“It’s fine. It doesn’t even hurt, these peas are already working.”

The next day, after emailing finger photos to my doctor, (by then even I had to admit it looked a bit crooked), she immediately sent me to get x-rayed. After x-raying me the technician said:

“Ya, it’s totally fractured, go to the hospital right now.”

Yay, it was only fractured, I thought, not realizing that fractured was the same thing as broken, (I have zero excuse for not knowing what fractured meant.) A couple of days later I was operated on by a lovely plastic surgeon, awaking from surgery to find two metal pins sticking out of my finger. I also had a large cast that because of the anaesthetic felt like a 100 pound salami.

Throughout the week as I became accustomed to the cast, (I’ve never broken a bone before), I started doing more things. I decided that my lockdown-hair, (Ontario has been in lockdown for a thousand years), needed to be twisted up in a bun. I almost had the bun complete, though to be fair it wasn’t the chic-est of buns, when I realized that my hair was caught on the two pins sticking out of my finger.

“Oops.”

“What did you do now?” my partner asked.

I walked over to him with my arm stuck to the top of my head.

“What the hell were you thinking?”

“I just wanted to put my hair up in a bun, I…”

“Christ Almighty.”

He carefully extricated my hair from the pins without having to cut my hair (though to be honest a little haircut wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world). He sighed deeply.

“Can you please just take it easy, this thing needs to heal, it’s serious.”

“I know it’s serious. It’s just that, what am I supposed to do with my hair? I look like Crystal Gayle from the seventies. Remember how long her hair was?”

“For the love of God. I’m going to Costco. Don’t touch your hair while I’m out.”

Why tho?

#torontolife #torontodogs #raccoons #personalessay #pandemiclife #pandemichair

Flowers in a Spaghetti Can

This summer I received wild flowers in a tin spaghetti can. The flowers arrived with a package of butcher’s bacon. Yes, that’s right, I received flowers and bacon together.

At my B & B in small-town Quebec there was a knock on my door. I checked that I was presentable, threw on my Covid mask and opened it.

A thin, sun-hardened arm reached out and passed me the flowers. They were lovely and had clearly been arranged with care, not simply tossed in the can.

“These are beautiful, what a sweet gesture, thank you so much, I…”

The same thin, sun-hardened arm reached out again and passed me a package wrapped in brown paper.

“It’s for your breakfast with your friend. You’re going to visit her today, right? It’s bacon.”

Wearing a black goth-y mumu, hair in a giant bun, floral mask on, I stood holding the flowers and bacon. I felt like an actress in a scene from a quirky indie film. The gift-giver was my ex-boyfriend from 30 years ago, we had dated briefly when we were just twenty years old.

I had come to Quebec specifically for a late summer, covid-safe outdoor visit with one of my oldest & most beautifully eccentric girlfriends. When I realized my old-boyfriend lived nearby I thought it would be fun to have a coffee or a glass of wine with him and catch up. I was not prepared for flowers and bacon, nor for what I had experienced the night before.

The previous evening I had spent sitting in a field with my ex and two other men, one a close family friend of his and one a straw hat-wearing man whom he appeared to loathe. A somewhat alarming-looking fire roared nearby in a metal barrel and a giant pirate’s flag decorated the outdoor workspace behind us. Music blasted from somewhere as we drank wine from jam jars that had seen better days. At various points in the evening the guys took turns peeing outside.

“If u need to go pee, you can just do it out here, don’t worry, we won’t look and you’ll be safe. I’ll protect you,” said my ex.

On the walk over to his artist-meets Hells’ Angels living quarters, I discovered that the man I once knew was buried under layers of pain. He had a hard time making eye contact, he fidgeted and he was drunk. Though he smelled like beer, he smelled more like suffering; layers of suffering. Like a trauma layer cake with his old self as the bottom layer. Followed by a layer of deep grief and loss, then a layer of un-treated depression and self-destructive behaviour, iced with a thick layer of sadness. I knew he had been in the Service, so added to the layers were sprinkles of PTSD.

I felt his spirit had been so badly broken, that he had given up and now resided at the bottom of the trauma cake, unable to cast off the layers.

Later that night, alone at my B & B, I was overcome with sorrow. Deep sorrow, sorrow so intense that it alarmed me. I wanted to help him. I wanted to witness him with his spirit intact again. I wanted to smash that trauma cake.

So no, I was not prepared to receive flowers and bacon the next morning. But I will never forget them. The moment was tender and real and awkward and despite the sadness I had felt the night before and still felt, it was also beautiful.

#trauma #oldboyfriends #lifestories #quebec

Rituals

With the Covid nightmare, trick-or-treating is not really happening – at least it’s not supposed to be here in Toronto. Yet this year I found the rituals of Halloween soothing, but in an odd way. Soothing in the way that putting calamine lotion on a mosquito bite calms the itch for 2 min but then you need to put more lotion on. Like a slightly obsessive compulsive soothing.

I probably went to the Dollar Store 15 times, each time buying a couple of skulls, or ghosts made out of hideous flammable materials. I would stare at the walls of merchandise, (while wearing my mask of course) and think, “I just need to find the perfect witch…” Insert “and everything will be alright.” A vaccine will be found for Covid. Biden/Harris will win the election. I will get to visit my brother in NYC and my Oncologist will find solutions to treat the weird symptoms I’ve been experiencing lately.

I would return home and add the decorations to our postage-sized front lawn. Then I would stare at it, as if I were a fancy landscape artist trying to decide where to plant an expensive shrub. And each time I would think “it just needs one more hanging ghoul, or sparkly pumpkin and everything will be perfect.” Of course perfection never came and finally I had to cut myself off from what was becoming an unhealthy compulsion.

It’s now Halloween evening. I have two giant bowls of chocolate bars and chips and I’m wearing a sparkly unicorn headband. So far we’ve had one early trick-or-treater whom we had planned on seeing: our neighbour’s one and a half year old child, dressed like a terrified fox. He picked a matching fox-orange bag of cheetos from the bowl, a socially-distanced bowl. And for a minute everything felt normal. Our face masks not withstanding, it felt like just another Halloween. A joyful night filled with candy and costumes and faux scariness. The real scariness temporarily swept away by the Dollar Store witch’s broomstick. It was a lovely moment.


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