The milky way: two excerpts.
She tried to make it all romantic, with Dollarama valentines, her habit of leaving notes in my pockets, squeezing ketchup hearts on burgers, saying how I smelled.
Like hickory smoke or musk or little marshmallows. She smelled like air freshener; sometimes, like something snatched from a pile.
Once, a peony.
Just waking she shook her head and her hair fell like a flower, and breathed like one.
That we might stay inside together until it rained and it snowed. Until the floors opened over the weight of trees; that she might make me something warm in a red glass that went down like honey and arrows, that tasted bitter and wrong.
Something damp and heavy, or petals or scales.
While moving through the system, I was asked about what brought me here, or there.
The worst stories yield the best results, if their truth or power implodes in the telling. No one ever wonders if feeling joy is also relevant.
What it is to be dirty and weak, tranced into a memory of sheer bliss that breaks you worse than any beating.
A mouthful of silver hair, riding the bench of a car stalled by an endless black river. A pretty mouth singing assent; walking straight and with purpose; having someone answer when you call.
Spare change, I would call, towards the end.
It came, on occasion, as letters in a sentence about how far I had moved away.
I never speak of my youth, because I have looked too long there as a way of beginning a story that makes no sense.
The idea of being clean, or hopeful disgusts me as lime on a corpse.
I wish I had been hatched on a piece of meat; that is, more sensibly.
I am lying in my bedroom, listening to music as my mother makes dinner; voluptuously depressed. I have no idea what will happen, how the disorder I cultivate will advance and change me.
I would have been listening to something about how I felt, sick and dirty, more dead than alive, oblivious to the idea that if you invite despair, it may never leave.
Then there is love that I assumed would go on forever.
I thought she may be the last, but only because I was tired of its familiarity and phrasing. How it always started wild then turned into the metal or fabric of a cage.
I love you so much, she would say, hanging onto me like a line staked to a cliff.
You too, I always said, wondering at what we risk in case of loneliness.
At how lonely we are, anyways, turning into an X as the night descends, forcing us into dreams of who we are, however loved, and unknown.
Lynn Crosbie is a Toronto writer and liberal studies professor at the Ontario College of Art and Design. She writes a weekly column on popular culture for The Globe and Mail. She is currently reading the short stories of Amy Hempel, Slavoj Zizek's A Parallax View, Corinne May Botz's The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, Natsuo Kirino's Grotesque and True Confessions magazine.