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The Birthday Dance - Friday, Dec. 20, 2019
Friday, Mar. 22, 2019 @ 12:28 am
I walk to the train station. As I arrive, three full buses also arrive. I weave myself into the stream of bodies swiping through the fare gates.
I listen obsessively to an ambient album, loudly, and the music makes everything come even more alive: the blossoms, the sunlight, the tender part of my heart, the rhythmic patterns of movement that form from urban life. The quiet spaces in the music, the dynamics. I relish in feeling everything so intensely.
The train arrives. People pile off the train. People push around me to board the train. I take off my backpack and slip into a space that I think might exist when the door closes. I hold my breath, and the door slides closed; all of my body parts are intact and inside the car. I turn to search for a rail to hold.
Beside me, a stooped and crooked woman reads a newspaper with the pages spread wide, her face buried in the tabloid, oblivious to the value of real estate within the train. I am standing very close to a man, but not touching, and I take him in and decide that he is kind. The lady’s paper is splayed across his chest and he has to move his face as she turns the page.
I smile to myself, at the absurdity of the situation. I glance up at the man’s face to gauge his temperament. He appears nonplussed. I quickly look down. I feel him looking down on me. I feel his breath against my neck. I’d forgotten about that, about how when someone is close they move the air around you, that their warmth can come up against you without touching. The train hurtles around a corner, and I fall into him a bit, my shoulder into his arm. The train straightens out, and I jostle back into my own space. The lady folds up her paper and gets off at the next stop. I turn towards the door, away from the man. I can still feel him looking down on me but I don’t dare glance up to find out. I don’t need to know the real story; I like the one that I am inventing.
My imagination, all of the things that I make up in my head. I create these short episodes to amuse myself. But maybe they are real, at least small parts of them.
Maybe later. Maybe later I will dare to glance up to find out.
After work, I attend a lecture at the downtown university campus. I talk with a woman that I met at a networking event at the science centre. She doesn’t remember me. I think about this and know that I am not generally memorable. Average height, average weight, average hair colour, average age. I contemplate interesting glasses that would make me remarkable.
Escaping from the lecture early, I walk outside in a cardigan, let it slip from my shoulders to expose my bare arms, the warm air a relief, reminding me of the freedom of summer. I walk past the patio of the Cambie and recall other nights, sloppy nights and short skirts and my feet sticking to the floor.
A man walks by, his entire face and neck covered in a mural of tattoos. Men play cards in the lobby of the Salvation Army. A young couple sits closely on the steps of the bank. A woman with a tidy outfit and a formal posture, the carriage of an RCMP officer.
I am in the midst of moving back across town. I have my bag with me: three outfits, toiletries, my casual boots, a book, a cross stitch project and my yoga mat. I haven’t needed much beyond this in weeks – months - and I’m starting to get used to the impermanence of where I sleep.
I wait for the bus, eating leftover popcorn from the lecture, my pack at my feet. I forgot my comb across town and haven’t done anything to my hair in five days. I look like a ragamuffin. This is what happens when life is unsettled. I get it. I get a lot of things that I didn’t get before. I’m not actually homeless, but there’s a tinge of it, and it’s enough for me to understand how it can affect so many other things in life.
Timathy messages me, wants me to come over. Talks about breaking up with his girlfriend. Calls me his unicorn. The only one who he ever truly loved, truly made love with. All of this is nice, but I need to be careful with this. He’s not what I’m going back to.
The moon is full. I stand under it and listen to the wind blow through the tall cedar trees that line the street.
This is the second full moon since the night of the eclipse, the night of the fracture. My period arrives and coincides, once again, with the full moon. Another month, another month of surviving – no – emerging.
I fumble an apartment viewing. I tell the lady on the phone that I’m quiet and don’t smoke or drink or party. She groans and says, “Well, I already had four monks call me today.” I feel shamed by her comment, but I realize that she is right. Of course everyone says that to her. And then, I proceed to show up on the wrong day. After she tells me of my mistake, I walk away and start crying. The goddamned birds chirping and the blossoms falling around me, and I feel so stupid. I consider bailing on the showing the next day but the floor-to-ceiling windows and glossy parquet hardwood lures me in despite my shame.
I arrive on the right day at the right time. Call her again. “Oh, it’s Shannon, the monk, arriving on the correct day.” The only way to survive this is to own it. She comes to let me in, and I put all of my people skills into practice. I match her voice tone, I mirror her gestures. I find out that she did engineering drafting, similar to me, before she retired and ask her all about that. I smile and am warm and.... the apartment is perfect. It’s comfortable and broken in with a pink bathtub. It meets every single item on my criteria list. And it’s the cheapest one yet.
I sit in her office and fill out the application form. Her office is roasting hot. I take off my cardigan. She stares at my arms. Puts her hands down on the table, leans forward, and looks me straight in the eyes, “Do you work out?”
“I ski. That uses a lot of poles and arms. I also swim.”
“You have incredible shoulders and arms. Wow.”
She reviews my application. Says she’ll let me know tomorrow, either way.
I ride my bike back towards work. Stop at a cafe and eat lunch and dream about how I will leave the living room wide open like a dance floor, to stretch up with the sun blazing over me each morning, to fold over like a swan, the hardwood floors warm beneath my feet.
I notice that I have a voicemail.
It's the ballet studio.
I won the raffle for a series of free classes.