What, you’re uncomfortable? You don’t know what I look like? Well, take Angelina Jolie and put forty pounds on her, make her hair way less perfect, take off the make-up and add some freckles. Make the bone structure not quite so perfect, and take a few inches off her height, I’m average. I wasn’t always overweight though, not that I even look fat for my age really, just not skinny anymore. Hang on a minute, someone else is here. Oh, it’s Marsha, my longtime friend and she’s laughing her ass off. What, Marsha? I don’t look like Angelina? Not even if the Hunger Games prep team did overtime on me? Huh? Well, at least my husband is better lookin’ than Brad Pitt. There, that did it, she’s just giving me the raised eyebrow look now ‘cause she knows it’s true.
What? Now you don’t think he is. How did I get someone like that and what does he look like? Slow down, honey. I’ll tell you. One question at a time. Way back in my youth I was fit, really fit, an athlete who could run ten kilometers and win medals, trophies. It wasn’t that hard really, just putting one foot in front of the other until the finish line. Truthfully I enjoyed it. Whether it was a country road or a tarmac street the steps became miles and they passed in a wonderful, exhilarating blur. There were faces, people clapping, the refreshing wind. At the end if I wasn’t falling over from empty legs I never really felt like I’d given it my all. I competed hard and I always won my category. Not that it makes me a super runner, I bet a lot of girls could have done it, but most my age were too busy thinking about boys and make-up, but they were normal, I was the loner freak - but a toned one. But enough of that, it feels like boasting about someone else, that’s how long ago it was. Perhaps I’m just throwing my ego a bone, it’s hard to keep that healthy at my age, hence all the mid-life crises .
But you want to know about my man, right? He’s a private guy so you can’t tell you much except he’s got that brown skin adonis look going on, brown eyes that make me weak at the knees. He has the heart of a lion and the soul of an angel. He’s a fair few inches taller than me, which I like. He’s slim, muscular, with an almost perfectly symmetrical face. He has an African heritage that shows in his features and body type. Everyone loves him, they’re drawn to him. I see it in the way they hang on his words and reciprocate his smile so quickly. They want to be close to him just like I do. If he wanted to he could have more friends than hours in the day, but for the most part he just wants me and the kids and for that I feel truly honoured. He could have had almost anyone, he could have had someone with a bigger bust, a smaller waist, blonde hair and more self-confidence. He still could, men don’t age as fast as women do they? Not in our culture. We’re over the hill at twenty six and their good till sixty, more if they stay trim. But he doesn’t want anyone else. Apparently, my love is enough.
Hang on, Marsha’s back. She wants to know what I’m doing and who you are. I’m giving her the “not now” look and shooing her with my hands but she has no intention of moving. So I tell her I’m in the middle of creating a new writing genre and she says, “What?”
“Fuction,” I say and she almost spits the take-out coffee she’s drinking.
“Dai, I think you missed out an “n.”
“No, Marsha. It’s Fuction, functional fact fiction. Fuction.”
“Sure you don’t wanna put a “k” in that?” She dissolves into a puddle of laughter and I can see her stomach shaking as she fights a new gale of giggles.
“No, Marsha, I don’t. And I’m kinda busy right now. I have a new friend over too.” She looks around the room. Thankfully she can’t see you there, I guess you’re blending right into the couch. Well done. She pulls her mouth to one side, like a lopsided pout and I can see her cogs turning as her eyes narrow just a bit.
“Maybe I should stay, Dai. I mean, um, let’s talk about your new ‘friend,’ shall we?” Now my back’s up. I know she’s a psyc nurse but I can see her pulling the professional side of her out of the closet. She’s known me fifteen years and I insist she puts her ‘stethoscope’ behaviour away or no dice. She’s not coming in today. Anyway, you and I have a walk to go to, right?
“No, Marsha. You know me, always the creative type. I have to sink myself into these roles you know, whether it’s love, hate or betrayal, I have to be six inches under when I write it.” Her face muscles sink a bit, she’s crestfallen. She likes to rescue people, I know she does, she’s good at it too. But all her department has to offer is the removal of all your clothes in front of a half dozen people of both genders and an injection in your ass. Lucky for me I’m not crazy. I’m perfectly lucid, I can write, I can do algebra (if I want to), I can debate and talk finance. If wanting to save the world makes me crazy then I don’t want to be “sane.” You can keep it. I am fully able to lie to protect myself and those I love, there’s no guilt in that.
“Are you trying to save the world again, Dai?” She has her serious nurse look on again, I know she’s shooting for ‘concerned friend’ but she’s been in the business too long not to wear it when she’s having these thoughts. So in as much as she thinks she’s ‘reading’ me, I’m reading her. After five years of having ‘check-ups’ the psychiatrists have declared me psychosis free, sane. So they can stick their rooms with iron doors and handles right up their asses. They can keep all their pills from big Pharma, except maybe the odd sleeping pill. My mind does blow a bit hot sometimes.
“No, Marsha. That’s crazy talk.” See what I did there, I used the word ‘crazy,’ psychotics typically won’t do that. They get scared of the word. “Saving the world is crazy, no-one can. No, I’m going for a walk at Colony Farm.” Bam, another blow. I shouldn’t want to go near that forensic hospital out there. “Then I’m baking more buns for the kids, you wanna come back when their done?” I know she won’t. I win. I love Marsha like a precious sister, but she can’t be the boss of me. She’s the bossy kind anyway, opinionated and strong. I have to help her stay in the “friend zone” though, if I become her ‘work’ too then we lose our relationship and I can’t have that. It means a lot to both of us and she knew me before I got it in my head that it was my task to save the entire planet and everyone on it.
“Dai,” she pauses, I can see she’s in a bind now. Push me further and she’s medicalizing our friendship, back away and it’s against her instincts as a nurse. She wants to offer me drugs I can feel it, slip me some risperidone or ativan at the least but I’ve been off that poison for months now and living a normal life. I’m just as intellectual as I ever was. I follow conversations and show interest in the lives of others. I’m a fantastic mother. I can show a full range of emotions and I’m in control. I’m never manic and I’ve never been depressed, not ever. That’s not my bag, thankfully. In fact, until recent years I had perfect mental health, I was the most stable of the stable. Zero wobbles, an atheist who had been looking for God since childhood, hanging on quotes for Jesus and wondering about the meaning of life. But I was “sane” then, I dismissed the possibility of God with heavy heart. There was no evidence but books thousands of years old and those books contained hate and fear as well as love and that never sat right with me. I won’t worship fear and hate. I refused then and I still do now, maybe I didn’t change so much after all. Now I realise I’ve been thinking too long, it’s a dead giveaway for having internal dialogue. If I was on her ward those pajamas would be staying on, but I’m not and I’m not stupid enough to get committed.
It’s all in how you phrase things. Stand up with passion and say you are “an angel of God sent to save the earth” and about six nurses will jump you, there goes your freedom and your ability to serve the Lord, the Creator, the Divine, whatever you want to call Him or Her. But say, “you know what, my views are somewhat unorthodox. I believe that God is Love and Love will save the earth, save humanity. But I’m not running around trying to convert people. I’m just a writer. All I have are words to encourage people to be loving and do the right things. I’m a creative writer, it doesn’t mean I believe the things I write are true.” Then you get the basic questions to test your mental functioning. Tell me about your childhood, what was your last vacation like? How is your sleep? Is anything worrying you? Easy, easy. I could answer them in my sleep. My mental functioning isn’t impaired, I can remember their lists of things and I walk out the door looking like I remembered to shower, wear clean clothes and put on make-up. So the shrinks don’t scare me anymore, they can put their needles away.
Back to Marsha. She smiles like she’s at ease, that big wide grin that makes her so beautiful and she says, “OK, Darlin,’ call me if you need anything, and I mean it. Day or night. Never too busy for you.” Now I know she’s worried, normally she talks about her life non-stop and I never tell her much about mine. I don’t mind that at all, I love it really. Her life is interesting, glamourous at times. Mine? Pretty static, but that’s what I need. We’re all different, right? I need home and “boring,” she needs sparks, fire, hot energy. But when it comes to our souls we’re aligned in ways I’m not sure either of us understand. We’re such an unlikely pair, me and her, but it works. My smile mirrors hers, to the street at large we’re two friends smiling but we both know what just happened. I’ll see her in a few weeks I guess, time usually heals these little rifts pretty well.
“Love you too. Don’t work too hard.” She leaves, windows rolled down, radio on loud. Her car pulls away fast, as always. She doesn’t really notice speed limits that one, but she has a clean driving record so who am I to judge? She looks after her three girls like they’re princesses for the most part, albeit princesses that have to pull their weight around the house and not back-talk. They know they’re loved though. Anyway, now it’s just back to you and me.
It’s a beautiful day out there, have you seen it? This is British Columbia, Canada. It’s green of course, what did you expect. This is a temperate rain forest, or at least it was before all these homes were built. There are trees right up and down the wide grey tarmac street that snakes up the steep hill and turns out of view before hitting the main road to the newer homes further up the mountainside. They aren’t regimented in rows though, it’s a more organic look. Owners have planted their own and some no doubt went into the ground when the street was new some thirty years ago. Maple is the dominant choice, japanese reds as well as the green leafed ones. You can’t tell that right now, all we see as we look at the trees is naked branches with swelling buds. But for mid-March that’s actually pretty good. Some years we’re still in snow, still shivering like the east coast is right now.
Look at the sky. It isn’t the perfect blue of yesterday, it’s like it got diluted with a can of white overnight and there are soft grey clouds, more than a wisp but not enough to threaten rain. Sometimes the bears stroll right down the street, sometimes deer, sometimes racoons, but it isn’t common. Just don’t run from a bear, mostly they’re shy and wonder off. Avoid eye contact, back off slowly without turning and pray real hard. I think that’s all you can do. They aren’t grizzlies in this neck of the woods. The black bears are more partial to fruit and grubs, mostly they prefer their meat a bit rotten so unless you’re a zombie I’m betting you’ll be just fine. Feel that wind? Don’t you love it?! Just enough to be refreshing, not so much you’re cold. Unless you’re from somewhere hot? Are you? If so you can bring my jacket, I won’t need it. It’s a big size so I think it will fit. It’s on the hook by the front door, take it if you want. I’m going to load up the bikes and get the dog ready. Unless you’d rather walk? Either way is good with me. Or maybe you’re the fit type that likes to go fast? You’ll have to slow down a bit for me. I’ve been sitting on my back-side typing for a few years. That and I lost all the muscle tone I ever had when I got sick some years ago...but enough about that. What a blabber I am! Couldn’t keep a secret if I tried. Well, a secret about myself. I won’t gossip about you, I’m good like that. Are you hungry? Want a bite to eat before we go? The kitchen is stocked. I was baking yesterday - buns, bread, pizza. Oh wait, we ate all the pizza. But there’s cheese and English brown pickle for the bread, try it! I’m getting the dog’s leash and I need a few moment to get the crap out the car. Did I say that? Whoops. See what I mean. No secrets here.