‘Adam’s Eve’ by Michael Vincent Moore

Adams Eve

Illustration by Andres Garzon

 

Adam, in a horrid state, rouses himself up and searches about, no one to be seen. He stumbles up from the patch of leaves he is laying on. Adam wanders, nude, distraught, seeking. He catches a glimpse of Eve in the distance, stretched out in the shaded grass next to a pond, equally nude. He joins with her. As Adam approaches, Eve looks up at him, and observes his discomfited nature. Before she can formulate a word, he attempts to untangle his disjointed thoughts.

“Eve, I, you.”

Eve, incapable of grasping Adam’s swollen and despairing countenance, nor of embodying his inner turmoil, barely glances at him before returning to her peaceful rest.

Adam, desperate to impress upon Eve the horrific images he has just perceived, proceeds with much effort to render in words his tumultuous tale. “You could not believe what I have just beheld; a dreadful event is poised to burst after us. Such horror, such hopelessness, beyond apprehension.” He lets himself fall next to her, in abject wretchedness.

Eve turns back to him, astounded. “What? Horror, here?”

“No, it was not within this space that I saw it.”

Eve, lost in thought, ponders his words for a moment, then focuses back on Adam, curious. “But we have never been anywhere else.”

Adam fixes his gaze to the crystalline reflections of the star’s rays upon the pond as he endeavours to understand this event. “I was here, then I slumbered, then I was there, and then I was here again.”

Eve raises to her side and leans on Adam’s knee, as the mystery of his experience captures more of her faculties. “Adam, are you implying that he brought you to another place?”

“I am not certain where I was, but it was not here that I conjured these things, this I know.”

“What things?”

“The most horrible things: Agony, decay, pollution, craving, sordid creations. So many people living in fear, living in torment of the worst sort.”

Eve caresses Adam’s flowing hair, attempting to assuage his ill feelings. “I still do not understand. What horrible place do you speak of?”

“It was called Earth, and its history was conferred to my existence in an unending succession of ghastly images. Part of me was there. Part of me endured all of it with them, through them.” He pauses, sorely recollecting those sensations. “A whole world. Inhabitants born, living short suffered lives. Inhabitants who then died of disease, lost hope, regret, hunger. Even murder!”

Eve freezes, her hand still intertwined in Adam’s hair. Her eyes widen. “Murder?”

“Yes, murder, and so much worse still.”

Adam looks at Eve earnestly, trying to gauge her level of discernment, of how far he should delve into the reality of what he has seen without compromising her innocence, her amity.

“Things worse than murder? How could such a place even exist?”

She resumes caressing his hair. Adam further contemplates Eve’s well-being and chooses to discontinue the elaborations of his descriptions.

“I have perceived things that I ought not repeat to you. I have seen what it is that some of these people have done to one another.” He temporarily interrupts his discourse, the painful images coming back to him in the moment. “It is so hideous that it induces a magnitude of displeasure to my being. Billions of people, struggling, over and over again. Life and death. No respite, no end.”

“My dear Adam, even though I am familiar with all these words you speak of, I am at a loss to comprehend the consequence of them, or to sympathize in any way.” As Eve speaks to Adam, she gently slides her hand over his arm in  tender affection.

“Be grateful of that,” Adam replies. “For I have felt their anguish, and I would spare you of it at any expenditure.”

“Was it all so evil? Was there not any redeeming attributes to this place you have sojourned to?”

“Some, but all far eclipsed by the governing perversity to which the beauty could be measured in drops, but the suffering, in oceans.” Adam shakes his head in a dejected manner.

“How can he have brought you there, and why?”

He contemplates Eve’s query, and a faint impression springs forth to him. “It was for a purpose, and,” Adam, arrested in mid-account, his eyes fixed to the ground, becomes exceedingly faint. “Oh, I saw how this place came to be.”

“How it came to be?”

A flash of horror thunders through his mind, and a subsequent expression of great heartache ripples across his facial features, distorting them to an almost unrecognizable form. Eve recoils in fright.

“It, it was because of us. We were responsible.”

Of a sudden, Adam obediently bows his head and shamefully shadows his appearance nether the veil of his consentient palms.

On hearing of Adam’s self-recriminations, of them being at the origin of this harrowing other-worldly disturbance, Eve overcomes her momentary displeasure to Adam’s harsh judgment. She becomes defensive and asks: “How could we be responsible for such a place?”

Adam is despondent and Eve pulls at his hands. At his grief-stricken expression, she grows concerned. “Adam, speak to me!”

Adam takes a few moments to constitute himself, and hesitantly proceeds with the account. “It was that which you were attempting to prevail over me. Us. Our parts, joining together.”

Eve wrenches herself away from Adam in consternation. “How can that have anything to do with this place you called Earth, where you witnessed countless people suffering so dreadfully?”

“I do not know, but he admonished us not to do certain things. He said that there would be grave repercussions.”

Eve cannot come to terms with this inference, this connection that Adam is implying, particularly not through any fault or influence of her own. “But how can there be such grave repercussions for anything we do here? This place is so idyllic?”

“Again, I do not know. But his essence left me somehow within that moment. I experienced darkness, loss of harmony, and we became them,  all of it was created from us.” Adam trembles as he unsuccessfully attempts to dislodge those impressions from his knowing. “Please do not try to persuade me again, do not even refer to it any longer!”

Having difficulty facing Eve and her insistence in the matter despite an admonition of this horrifying outcome, Adam turns aside in dismay.

Eve still contests Adam’s resolve. “But, Adam, I yearn for it in a way I cannot explain.”

Delicately resting her head on his shoulder, Eve proffers an embrace.

“Eve, I beg you. After what I have been through, I would as soon tear it off and burn it to ashes before I would even attempt such a thing with it, the consequences are far too important, just because of this, union, you yearn for.”

“Adam, do not be so hurried to settle your judgment. Please, consider my feelings further.” Through the sensations they are communing by their corporeal link, Eve feels Adam draw back. She reasserts her longing by keeping to him in a more coercive clench.

“No Eve, my word is final. There is nothing additional that you can do or say to convince me otherwise. I am going to Father now, to impart to him what I have witnessed. I will make him aware that he can rest assured, never will I be betrayed to go against him.”

Forcefully parting with Eve, Adam stands. “He will be disappointed of hearing about this deception that we have considered, our contemplation of going against his word. But he is forgiving and will be reassured of my renewed convictions and obeisance.”

Adam distances himself, as Eve, disheartened, sulks into the ground.

 


MICHAEL VINCENT MOORE is a social science writer and lifelong meditator, with extensive studies on human behaviour and dream research with over 30,000 reviewed dreams, and an active dream journal spanning over two decades. Fascinated by the potential of dreams and consciousness and their connection with our ultimate reality, he has devoted much of his time attempting to unravel the mysteries they contain through himself and others. Much of his insights and findings are translated into both his fiction and non-fiction writing. He is also the founder of TheOneHumanProject.com, a global initiative with a mission to scientifically prove that we are all connected.

Copyright © 2019 by Michael Vincent Moore. All rights reserved.

‘Before I Confess’ by Ian Kent

before i confess

Illustration by Andres Garzon

 

I confess it again and again. What does it look like to always come back to this same pew, this same church, staring ahead to the altar, but glancing at the confessional door, week after week, confessing the same thing, never changing? Is cyclical forgiveness still forgiveness? The woman beside me just smiled at me. Did I just sin again? At least I think she smiled at me. Her hair is tied up in a bunch at the back of her head, and her hands are resting on her knees. I know her. I’ve met her before—at that singing thing. God, I’m a shitty singer. Did I just sin again? For saying God like that? I went to the singing thing because I don’t know many Catholics, and I want to meet more of them. They were all there after Monday Mass, even the priest, which I wouldn’t have even gone to if I hadn’t had the need to confess right after paying that woman for, God, I don’t want to say it, even think it—it is too difficult to admit even to myself. It was last week, and it was sunny. Sitting on the beach felt good until I got tired. Now, I’m not tired. I’m nervous. I’m not staring at the altar anymore. I’m pretending to stare at the confessional door, but really, I’m staring at her.  I wish she’d let her hair down so that I could touch it. Did I just think that? Do I actually want to touch someone’s hair? Is that my fetish? Should I confess that? God, what does it matter? After what I’ve done, losing all that money in that place simply because she said so, that longer would be better, she’d do everything, but it wasn’t longer, it wasn’t better, it wasn’t everything. We couldn’t even finish because cops surrounded that barren house because someone was abusing some dog. With crack? Was I going to be arrested? Were my desires finally to be chained? I had to leave. I had to get to work. When I went outside that cop said make better life choices and I lied to him saying I just got them McDonalds and he wanted to know about the dog, and I didn’t know and I just left. God, I wanted to kiss her. I even paid her way more just for that, but she wouldn’t let me. She wouldn’t let me. I just want someone who will transact a kiss. Will I ever stop desiring that? Should I confess that never-ending desire? If the sin is every inch of you, do you confess your very being? The sin of inches. I can be funny sometimes. Actually, I can be funny a lot. Even cruel. Too cruel. That’s why I said what I said on the beach; I wanted to be funny. To show how funny I can be. But I ended up being cruel. Their reactions were probably the funniest thing about what happened. No one laughed, except for me and that other guy. Some of them gasped and some of them looked sad and that priest just went on and on about clichés and how they are important. Grounding truths. Cornerstones. She’s looking at me with those eyes, blue like the sky even though it’s raining today, and she laughs. Did she just laugh? It sounded like laughter, and I laugh… because that man from the beach who told that horrendous joke is right beside me staring past my eyes to the confessional door. I remove my hands from my knees and lightly brush my hair bun that I so delicately tied. I stare at the door too. That door is mesmerizing. It’s so polished that it shines. Or glints. There is a thin window at the top of it that tapers into a cone. Neither the Priest nor the confessor are in its view. It’s a soft laugh, so I’m not sure he hears it. I confess that my cheeks are red. They’re whispering. Should I confess that? It’s eavesdropping. That’s a venial sin. The confessional isn’t traditional. You sit right beside the Priest and you look him straight in the eye. Even as a Catholic woman, I’ve never been afraid to look them in the eye. I’ll just tell him the confessional needs better sound proofing. Father Samuel is in today, I think. We met when I hosted that pro-life workshop for the Catholic kids at the high school. His voice was so soft. It charmed me. He wanted me to do more talks. Perhaps even to the adult parishioners. Yes, maybe. Maybe I can do that. Am I nice? My friends say I am. They also say I’m driven. Ambitious. Can kindness and ambition go together? Or do they clash? Should I confess that? Must I always confess it? How many times? Seventy times seven? That sounds tiresome, so I lie to him, my boyfriend, my betrothed, instead. Is the secret a sin? I lie. I don’t love. I don’t. Am I the only one who sins? Have I been staring at that man beside me the whole time? He requested we sing Hallelujah at the beach, and we sang it. I think he liked that. Then that young woman said that cliché “Jesus loves us this much,” and she stretched out her arms as if she was on the cross, “and died.” And then that man who is now beside me on this pew made that joke. God, she didn’t have to say it. It doesn’t matter if it’s true, or if it’s only true on some level. I gripped the sand and groaned when she said it. I shouldn’t have done that. It probably encouraged him to say the joke. On the beach his hair seemed pristine, untouchable. Now among the beauty of the church, the iconography in the window of Jesus crumpled under the cross, his hair is so messy. I bet his house is as messy as his hair. Clothing on the floor. Dirty dishes in the sink. Dust everywhere. A house needs to be kept in order. I have to be comfortable within my living space. He’s cute and his eyes change colour. That’s fascinating, isn’t it? He’s looking at me too. I blink. I’m so tired, and I rub my forehead… like I’m thinking, but I’m not really thinking. I’m a priest and I’m just trying to listen. There’s two others waiting outside in the pews. I’m hidden from them and exposed to this man who confesses to me. I’ve heard this confession before and respond with worthless platitudes and maybe the parishioner feels better, maybe he feels forgiven. Maybe not. I should be hidden from him. It is easier to accept forgiveness from a mysterious voice. Should I renounce my priesthood? Should I confess that? How innocent is that thought? Is that the first time I’ve thought that? I’ve certainly felt it for a long time, but duty breeds you past the feeling. You hope that it’s just a cyclical occurrence of emotion, that it will go away. That you are happy, that you enjoy your work, that you find it fulfilling. Still, how innocent am I? Did someone just scream? I ignore the confessor and open the door. He’s shocked and stumbles over his words. I don’t care. Someone screamed. It’s…what’s her name? She has her hands on her lips. Anne? Anna? No, it’s not that short. But someone called her Anne, I swear. It’s something longer. Anastasia. No, that can’t be it. I’m close though. Oh, and that guy. The jokester. “Jesus only loves you this much?” he scorned after that woman said that wonderful cliché (yes wonderful!) while stretching out his arms maliciously, “That’s not that long. It’s not that far. Only that much love? He only loves you that much?” I understand it’s a tiresome cliché and everyone says it, but did he have to make a joke about the length of God’s stretched out arms? Clichés can be grounding truths that hold us up like a cornerstone. And yet, we still reject it. The image works on so many different levels, and not only plays with length as a mathematical concept, but plays with it metaphysically as well. Length going beyond itself: mathematically metaphysical. So, really, it’s not a cliché. Annalise! There we go. That’s her. She listens. She really listens. Maybe I should tell her. I’ve got to tell someone. I’m not sure I can tell another priest. I’ve told one already. He’s back in the confessional, was just confessing to me, everyone confessing to each other—who forgives? It won’t matter. Even if he hears it and jokes about it, it won’t matter.  Men are usually a bunch of contradictory ideals, and I think he knows that, so he’ll understand. After all, I’m the one who will forgive him. He has no reason not to forgive me. Do I still have that power? If I want to leave, have I already left? Has God already left me? I reach out my hand to Annalise but that malicious jokester beside her on the pew reaches for her hair as if to touch the tips that curl over her forehead. But, he does not touch. His fingers suspend in unbelief. “Oh lord I believe! Help my unbelief.” She grabs his fingers and propels them into the braided bun at the backside of her head. It’s a swirling temple. His fingers scrunch against it and he yelps. Their lips mangle into each other—I wouldn’t call it a kiss, but I’m not sure what I would call it. Should I leave the cloth? It’s a sucking and a crinkling. A nervous chewing. Their lips smother over their teeth then smash into their cheeks and slobber onto their chins. She pets his eyes. It’s grotesque. She screams again. He slides off the pew onto the floor. She makes sure her hair hasn’t fallen loose. Then, she rests her hands on her knees. I cross myself. “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” Holy Ghost? Ghost? Who said that? I turn—

 


IAN KENT wrote, produced and directed the play “Abattoir Morning” for or; theatre (ortheatre.com). In India, Ian taught Shakespeare to Tibetan artists in exile and edited and contributed to Contact magazine. His poems have been published in Quills Canadian Poetry Magazine, The Prairie Journal, Scrivener Creative Review, Rhubarb and Contemporary Verse 2. His fiction has appeared in The Prairie Journal. His non-fiction has appeared in Rhubarb.

Copyright © 2018 by Ian Kent. All rights reserved.

‘It’s a Match’ by Lea-Maraike Sambale

screen shot 2019-01-03 at 11.05.22 pmscreen shot 2019-01-03 at 11.05.32 pm

 


LEA-MARAIKE SAMBALE is the winner of the nation wide literature competition of the Eckenroth Foundation, Germany (2006), and the young Literature-Forum Hesse/Thuringia, Germany (2008 and 2013). Her work has been featured in the anthology “Nagelprobe 25,” and “Nagelprobe 30.” After moving to Montreal in June 2018, she started to write her poems and texts in English and experimented in combining them with selected sounds.

Copyright © 2018 by Lea-Maraike Sambale. All rights reserved.

‘No Promises Required’ by Samuel Guest

you do not have to promise me anything
our agreement has already been written
in the silt beyond the hills

high above the crags
the clouds are weaving together
the story of you and i

 


SAMUEL GUEST is a Jewish/Canadian author, poet, and educator. His poems “Wing Envy” and “Easy to Tell” have been featured in Half a Grapefruit Magazine. His book “The Radical Dreams” became available on Amazon back in April of 2018. He currently lives in Toronto, Ontario where he works four jobs.

Copyright © 2018 by Samuel Guest. All rights reserved.

‘Brown Paper Bag’ by Blake Patrick Swan

brown paper bag

Illustration by Andres Garzon

 

The collective standing of forty civil servants in unison either signals lunch or end of day. Right now, it’s lunch. Today Jared is not among those rising. For him, lunch is no longer a moment of euphoria the way it is for his coworkers. 

Jared didn’t always dread lunch. A short while ago, he had stood with the rest of them, and had walked with swinging arms and a gum-revealing smile on his way to eat a lunch he had been thinking about for hours. Lunch had offered Jared the opportunity to step away from the penetrating blue light of his computer screen, to quiet his stomach, and to enjoy half an hour of oral stimulation. Nowadays, lunch only offers Jared a short break from the tedium of his cubicle. Nothing more. 

The problem began with a grocery store run-in with an old acquaintance, and the fair amount of shaming that followed due to the ground beef and chicken breasts that sat in the upper deck of his cart. The interaction only came to an end when Jared agreed to watch a Netflix documentary on the meat industry. And from the moment he got home and pressed play, things spiralled out of control. That night, all of the newly purchased meat in his fridge—save for the fried chicken he ate during the documentary—met the black plastic of a garbage bag. It didn’t stop there. Each night, he watched a new documentary. Each night, he emptied his cupboards a little more.

In a matter of weeks, Jared had watched every food-related, environment-related, or toxin-related documentary on Netflix. By the end of it, Jared hardly recognized his own life. 

Jared’s lunch served as a microcosm of the changes he had made. His lunches now contained very little. Partly because it’s tough to find organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, non-waste producing, sugar-less food, and partly because Jared’s new method of bringing his lunch to work drastically limited the amount of food he could bring. You see, in an effort to avoid any single-use packaging, as well as the toxins in reusable plastic, Jared had begun carrying his lunch to work in his bare hands. This made soup a difficult dish for him to bring, and he was forced to stop riding his bike in the mornings, not having mastered the no-hands turn. 

When Jared arrives at work in the morning, he empties his hands on his desk. And that is where his food sits in two little piles until lunch. Today those piles consist of carrot sticks—grown in his own garden—and a lump of pumpkin seeds, unsalted and unroasted. Scooping his lunch up into his hands, he joins his colleagues in the lunchroom. The lunchroom has begun to look the same each day he enters it. Everyone overcrowds the round tables, and people are pressed together uncomfortably, knee to knee, and their garbage takes up each square inch of table surface. But every day, the same table, appropriately sized for four, remains empty, with only one chair left beside it. 

Jared isn’t naïve or oblivious. He knows that the daily empty table is no coincidence. He knows that the others have become tired of his judgmental and didactic conversations. That they’ve grown sick of his glaring eye watching their chicken wings and Styrofoam takeout containers and salivating mouths. He knows that they all just want to enjoy their lunch in peace. 

But today is different. Today the lunchroom dynamics are altered just slightly because of a new hire. And coming into the lunchroom late, she sees the table occupied by a single person as the obvious choice. She takes an empty chair away from a neighbouring table and slides it beside Jared’s. 

“May I sit?” she asks.

Jared is caught off guard, and after he acknowledges that someone is, in fact, willing to sit with him, he responds: “of course!”

She places her brown paper bag down on the table, and she eyes Jared’s dry carrots and wet seeds. “Looks like you’re almost done here anyway,” she says with a smile.

Jared cracks into a carrot stick, and close-mouth smiles back. 

Jared’s guest unfolds her brown paper bag and relieves it of its contents. He watches closely with a curious eye. First comes a granola bar wrapped in shiny, metallic plastic. A Wonder Bread sandwich inside a plastic sandwich bag comes next. And lastly, she takes out a yogurt cup. 

Jared stares with contempt at the dairy product packaged in a single-use plastic cup. So much wrong in such a tiny cup, he thinks. Misremembered stats run rampant through his mind. 

Jared continues his watch as she pulls the sandwich slightly out of the bag, grips the plastic on either side, and bites eagerly into the bread. She chews and swallows, and Jared thinks he sees a smile while she does so. Then, as if she’s just remembered something, she blurts out: “I’m Carley, by the way.”

Jared manufactures a polite smile and responds: “I’m Jared.”

“Nice to meet you, Jared,” Carley says cheerfully before she bites into her sandwich again. 

Jared attempts to return his attention back to his own lunch, alternating between carrot sticks and pumpkin seeds. He still hasn’t gotten used to the pumpkin seeds, and he finds them tough to chew. Their presence in his mouth seems never-ending, like a stick of gum. Every few minutes he needs to get up to stick his mouth under the tap in the lunchroom sink to wash things down. Jared’s hunger grows as his piles of food shrink. 

It’s either his own hunger he can focus on, or the unethical food being consumed across from him. His mind chooses the latter. Watching and thinking about all that is wrong with what she is doing, the urge to inform Carley of her near-sighted decisions grows within Jared, like the fruit fly population around his compost pile. She needs to know. How can he not tell her? How can he stand by and let her be ignorant to so much? But if he does say something, he risks driving her off. He risks returning to an empty table the next day. 

Maybe he can fight off the urge. Maybe he can let her enjoy her food with a smile, and he can enjoy sitting next to that smile. 

Jared manages to stay quiet. He holds his thoughts in like he did his bowel movements during the first few weeks of his diet change. He watches her peel open the top of her yogurt. He bites his inner cheek, and he sees her look around the table with confusion. An audible, oh! followed by a hand back in the brown paper bag. What more does she have? he wonders. And that’s when it happens. She takes out a plastic spoon, and Jared can’t hold back any longer.

His thoughts flow from his mind like a surge after the breaking of a dam. They show up in his mouth as words, and he can’t swallow them. Out they come. 

“You know, there’s a great documentary about plastic use in everyday life that you should watch. It’s really quite informative,” Jared says with both a level of enthusiasm and a feeling of superiority that he cannot hide. 

Carley takes the spoon out of her mouth. “Oh, really? I’d totally watch that.”

“Great!” Jared quickly replies, surprised by her enthusiastic response. “I’ll write down the name of the film for you.”

“Perfect!”

Jared sits back in his chair. The internal struggle has passed. He no longer has to worry about informing her about the issues related to the plastic she’s using. But his body is still tense as he watches Carley finish her yogurt. His eyes are no longer on the spoon, but on what it holds. 

“You know, there’s also another really good one on dairy consumption.”

“Oh, yeah? Maybe I’ll have to watch that one as well.”

“Definitely!”

Carley finishes the last of her meal and starts to pack up. Jared can’t help himself. “Oh, and one about non-organic oats.”

Carley takes a little longer to respond this time, but as she stands up from the table, and places her chair back where she found it, she says: “Ok, I’ll have to get the titles from you some time. Nice meeting you.”

“I’ll send you an email,” Jared calls out as she’s walking away.

Jared doesn’t hear a response, but he doesn’t need one. Getting up from the table he washes his hands at the sink, takes a quick sip from the running water, and dries his dripping hands on the front of his dress shirt. Scurrying to his cubicle with zeal, he opens his email and starts a new draft. He ignores the email address for now, fills in the subject field, MUST WATCH, and jumps to the body of the email. He sits there with a wet shirt stuck to his chest and a growling stomach, and he types out the list with vigour. 

The list goes well past three. 

 


BLAKE PATRICK SWAN is a writer from Sudbury, Ontario. He holds degrees in literature from St. Francis Xavier University and Lakehead University. Having recently graduated, he now occupies a sessional professor position at Cambrian College. He is currently  working on a collection of short stories that examine hypermasculinity in rural Canadian areas. 

Copyright © 2018 by Blake Patrick Swan. All rights reserved.

‘Cheater’ by Julia Bernut-Kaiser

You really took me by surprise.
Was it all in my head?
Was I delusional?
Or just happy to be here
Excitement pumping in my veins
Confusion rolling in my brain
Butterflies between my legs
You know you should

Leave me alone

She is already broken
She won’t be forgiven
The day she will see through
Your lies and smiles
And she will wonder everyday
Who you sleep with before
Lying next to her in bed

 


JULIA BERNUT-KAISER is an interior designer from Tahiti who choose Montreal to be her home for a while after travelling the world for 10 years. Passionate about poetry, yoga and nature she started writing when she was 10, inspired by life events that touched her soul, travels that marked her mind, the moon looking after her and the energy people surrounding her provide.

Copyright © 2018 by Julia Bernut-Kaiser. All rights reserved.

‘This Thought, This Circle’ by Emily Blatta

 

this thought this circle

Illustration by Andres Garzon

 

When does a thought become a curse? 

On the plane ride home after a long year, I am weary of the question, and profoundly scared.  Amidst the circle of thoughts that inhibit me, it’s hard to see this one clearly. There have been so many inquiries, trials, and attempts to break free—most of them now futile, or exhausted, or abandoned. It takes a spark of curiosity to lead me down the road of obsession and I feel as though I am already burning. 

However, I wonder if this is a necessary start in my attempt to build an observation deck first above a series of moments and then into the heart of what might be stored away, maybe even undone. Like a curse, such a question demands to hold something accountable, something outside of me. It also demands that I be held accountable, no matter my reservations, no matter the nausea I feel from looking down.

How does a thought move? 

Perhaps in downward strokes from where it originates, but I can’t know this for sure. What I do know is how it travels through my bones and fills the whole of my body. I know it moves in circles because that is the shape I am. It makes a two-dimensional cut-out of the shape, mocking the weight I carry. Where the potential to thrive exists between us, there is also the commitment to die. We are stuck together, alternating this way. 

In a lineup for the bathroom above the prairies, I have a thought that I am capable of doing something terrible. At any moment I will lose my grip on control, kill someone I love. It is startling how real these thoughts feel, and I am terrified that if I pursue them, they will actualize. Even their meaninglessness coerces me, and points to a chaos I don’t feel equipped to look at. 

Over the Rockies it happens again, then once more above the West Coast. Days later I am similarly blindsided, this time over dinner with my mom. She is sitting across from me in the nook by the window, sipping a glass of wine. It’s a comfortable scenario: we share Greek food at our favourite restaurant, pacing ourselves to a rhythm of honest talk and loving pause. Listening comes naturally to such dinners, and when we eat it is to the sound of two inextricable lives. I am grateful for the bond. 

Before the Baklava there is the same thought from the plane — the possibility that I am capable of doing something terrible. There is the reminder to push against where I am fragile, the vivid unrealities to which I am chained.

Blood in the wine, a broken arm, my knife in the side of the woman who birthed me  . . . I keep my knife under the napkin where I can’t see it. I have the thought that, from now on, each of us is kept alive this way. 

We make it home, where afterwards I tell her about the protection of the napkin. 

“So how did it feel to stab me?” she asks. We laugh. Later, I wince. 

Sometimes the suspension of oneself feels like an invitation to become vulnerable.  Above the prairies—that belt of land I’ve never seen up close I feel the weightlessness of a thought’s ability to unleash me. In the bathroom, where I have come undone before, I feel desperate not to go that way, to go back and reverse it. Not now, I think. I brace myself for the descent into something difficult, unforgiving. I know about the undertow of a brain’s mistake, how there is that pull of an unruly direction. 

When does a thought become a curse? 

I’m not sure it does. Nor am I convinced that we become our thoughts, although they convince us of something. Mostly, we shapeshift, humming across a spectrum of reactions to ourselves. Any therapist or poet will tell you so. They, or I, might also say that in the narrow mind of rumination, this separation is difficult to remember. To think is an impulse. Perhaps this is the curse.

Down here on the crust, nothing seems to change. There are no sudden answers. There are, however, the routines people create to cope —those of seeing, of believing, of lunch. I make my own individual routines too: I avoid certain places, I research compulsively, I spend too much time alone. Sometimes, they feel like answers. 

Laying in bed one night, I think to check how deep the ocean is, the Straight of Georgia by where I grew up. It has a mean depth of 157 metres and a maximum depth of 448. Less deep than I thought. In one way I rely on this information because it is a quick fix to the question of what I might know, a treat I have been brought up on. It hangs there in the search bar like bait. In another way I rely on the reminder of how much one thing can hold, evolve, vary. It is confirmation of that, if I am one thing, I am also many.

When does a thought become a curse?

Reads the sign in front of me, reads the sign in front of the circle of my body. I yell at it to shut up, that I don’t know. It spits at me. I stare it down. This time it leaves.

Most times when I’m out at a restaurant, I will excuse myself to the washroom more than once. I require such moments alone. The privacy is permission to be real, to walk myself through the fear of something imaginary. I am so often irrationally afraid, and this is frustrating. But it’s also simple and therefore I feel it justified. Fear is unborn, it is necessary, it is unnecessary. To exist at all, it must exist somewhere inside us. 

One night, returning to my seat from the washroom, I trip on another thought, or rather another question. 

Are you good, and strong, and worthy? 

This has been happening lately. As expected, I don’t know the answer. I only know what I can feel. Right now, just the floor, its point of contact with my heart. I can feel our togetherness. Perhaps this is the curse—to not know. Perhaps like this I am brave. 

 


EMILY BLATTA is an emerging journalist and creative writer based on the West Coast of Canada. She graduated from Ryerson University in Toronto and holds a BA in Creative Industries. Her work strives to sift through delusion, and creates a sense of empathy out of the abstract.

Copyright © 2018 by Emily Blatta. All rights reserved.

‘Kanto Series’ Gideon Salutin

 

tokyo 2kyoto 2osaka 1tokyo 4tokyo 3kyoto 1

 


GIDEON SALUTIN is a McGill development and history student, and has published photography in McGill-based journals.  He started photography when someone gave him a Fuji polaroid-style camera when he was 15, and later was given two definition film cameras.  The featured pieces were taken on an Olympus OM2000, using 35 mm film on ISO varying between 400 and 800, in Japanese cities throughout August 2018.

Copyright © 2018 by Gideon Salutin. All rights reserved.

‘Somewhere with a Pool Table’ by Clayton Longstaff

pool table

Illustration by Andres Garzon

 

She had just started washing the cutlery when the phone rang. She pulled a towel off the oven handle and used it to lift the telephone from its receiver.

“Hello?”

“Hey, is this Emily?” It was a woman’s voice. “It’s Vera from the gym.”

“Vera! You used my number.”

“Yeah,” she said. “And it’s not a fake! What are you doing this weekend?”

“Nothing,” Emily said. “What’s up?”

“I don’t know. How does drinks sound? What’s Nick up to?”

“Great, drinks sound great.” Emily tried to remember Vera’s face, and wondered if they would recognize each other in normal clothes. “But Nick hasn’t been doing too well,” she said. “I’d love to though.”

“Great,” said Vera. They agreed to talk again on Friday, and Emily placed the telephone back to its receiver, careful not to let it slip from the towel.

***

Emily got off work at 3 on Friday. On her way home from the diner she pulled over at the liquor store. She placed a bottle on the checkout counter and searched for her wallet. “That’s all,” Emily said. “Thanks.” She handed the cashier a twenty. 

There was nobody behind her when she reached their driveway, so she didn’t bother with the signal before pulling in. Nick’s socked foot resting on the sofa’s back was visible from the road.

“Hi honey,” she said walking directly to the kitchen and putting the bottle in the cupboard.

“Good day?” He shifted from his back onto his arm.

“Fine,” she said. “It isn’t finished though.” She pulled a glass from the cupboard and ran the water from the sink a few moments before filling the glass. “I’m so pissed,” she said. “Do you remember Dana?”

“Dana?”

“Maybe you haven’t met her,” she said between sips. “She’s a new girl. You probably haven’t met her yet.”

“Oh.” 

“She called in sick.” Emily filled another cup of water. “Did Vera call?”

“Who?”

“Vera.”

“Oh yeah, she did call,” he said. 

“And?”

“I said to call back.”

“Hm.” Emily opened the fridge. “We’re going for a drink this weekend,” she said. “She’s a girl I go to the gym with—super sweet girl. We’re thinking of going to that place you used to go to. She insists on a place with a pool table.” She laughed. “I don’t know who she thinks she’s going to play pool with.”

“I’m busy.” Nick started shifting on the couch and sunk back when he found the remote.

“Great.” She closed the fridge and moved into the bedroom to look through her clothes. 

He changed the channel from Nascar, to the Nature channel, and then to a BBC program. He raised one knee and bent the other off the cushion to fit, then messed it all up to reach for his cigarettes from the coffee table and an old cup to ash in. Emily was back in the kitchen looking in the fridge when the phone rang.

***

The next evening Emily was back at work. Nick grew tired of waiting, so he went into the bathroom. After splashing water on his face, he looked in the mirror. Then he closed his eyes and looked again.  He’d go to the place he used to go and have a bite before Emily was finished work, he decided. 

Nick took a seat at the bar and stood up to take off his jacket. He didn’t recognize the bartender. 

“Kitchen still open?” 

“Yessir,” said the bartender. “A server will come around in a minute.” He placed a laminated menu in front of Nick from over the bar. “Need a drink in the meantime?” 

Nick looked at the taps. “Yeah,” he said. “Your stout.” 

The waitress came around and Nick ordered a hamburger and potato wedges, and before she could ask, he said “garlic mayo.”

When the bartender asked how he was doing, Nick nodded his head and raised a finger. The bartender waited. “Does”—he finished swallowing. “Does Joe still work here?” he asked.

“Yessir,” the bartender said. “Joe got switched to days.” 

“Oh,” Nick said. 

“You know Joe?” 

“Yeah, I know Joe. Hey,” he said. “What about Vera?” He dipped another potato wedge and rubbed it around the ramekin of garlic mayo. “Does a girl named Vera still come in here?”

The bartender shook his head slowly and pinched his lips. “Vera,” he said. “I can’t think of any Veras.” The bartender made eye contact with a man who walked through the door and smiled. He started pouring a pint and said, “but I don’t know the names of everybody.” He placed the pint in front of the man who sat a few seats down from Nick. 

Nick finished his wedges and used the napkin. He looked back at the pool table and scanned the bar for any faces he might have missed, then he got up and pulled on his coat.

Nick could see the lights in the kitchen were on from the road. He began unbuttoning the top of his coat. The door was unlocked.

“He exists!” Vera said, raising her arms in mock surprise when he walked into the kitchen. He walked over to Emily and touched her back while he made his way to Vera who stood up to shake his hand with a sergeant general’s face on. 

Nick smiled at her. “Nice to see you,” he said.  “You must be Vera, right?” 

“I am! Nice to finally meet you; Emily has told me so much.” She tugged at the bottom of her dress that had ridden up and loosened her shoulders. “Emily was just telling me a story from her work.” She sat back down and picked up the glass she was holding before.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah,” she said. “Some guy who preferred to be shot at than to be with his own family.”

“Nick knows all the stories,” Emily interjected.

“I don’t know if I know this one,” Nick said. “Hey, what are you girls drinking?” He went over to the cupboard.

“Jack and ginger,” Vera said.

“I thought you were busy,” Emily said from behind her glass. Nick broke out a few cubes from the ice tray.

“What happened to playing pool?” Nick asked. 

“Vera met me at work. I wanted to drop off the car, so we figured we’d have a drink here.”

“There’s always later,” Vera said. “Now, the story.”

 “Yeah, I know.” Emily took in a mouthful of whiskey. “So, this guy goes to Iraq, right? He goes to fight in the war and leaves his wife and kids at home.” 

Nick crossed the kitchen floor with his glass and pulled up a seat at the table.

 “Then he comes back, all in one piece.” Emily picked up her glass from the table and leaned back a little. “Boring story, heh?” She lifted the cup back to her lips and took another sip. “But that’s not all.” 

“Oh my.” Vera put down her glass. 

“No,” Emily said. “The thing is, is that the man went back! He went back to Iraq! He missed getting shot at I suppose.” 

“He went back?” 

“He missed being in the war, so he went back. Can you imagine?” she asked. “Can you imagine the kids? The wife, and the kids?”

Vera shook her head. She narrowed her eyes into slits. “What do you mean he went back?”

“I mean he went back! I don’t know,” Emily said. “I guess he said he got something at war he couldn’t get at home.”

Vera shook her head.

 “I can’t imagine.” Emily looked down and started picking at something on her sleeve.  “Anyway, it was the poor wife who told me this.”

Nick got up from his seat and left to the bathroom.

“That’s terrible.”

“Yeah.” Emily stopped picking at her sleeve. “I don’t know. You never really know, do you?” She went to the freezer.

“It’s true. You really don’t.”

Emily was breaking more ice when Nick came from the bathroom. “Never know what?” he asked.

Emily replied with her back to him. “Who the man you marry will become.” She turned and raised her eyebrows at Vera, but Vera was looking away.

Nick got up after sitting down and put his cup into the sink. Outside was still dark. He tried to remember if there was snow this time last year but couldn’t seem to place it. 

***

After that night, Emily spent less time at home. Nick was on the couch each day Emily came home from work. “Nothing yet?” she’d ask.

“We’ll see,” he’d say. “We’ll see.”

Nick was spending less time at home, too. After the first snow, he decided he needed warmer socks if he was going to go out looking for a job, so he took the car out before Emily had to leave for work. He drove out to a department store on the edge of town. Coming out of the store he threw the bag into the trash and wore the lined socks over his hands across the parking lot. He went at his pockets for the keys, but his hands were too big, so he tucked the socks under his arm while he opened the door and ducked into his car. 

The snow had melted into a small muddy puddle down at the pedals by the time he turned his car off on the street outside the bar. He kept one hand rested on the steering wheel as he read the advertisements hanging in the window, remembering that he had once actually gone to a Karaoke Thursday—he had once actually come for the Happy Hour Special. The posters were so faded that it seemed impossible the advertisements could still be applicable. He tried to see through the other window but all he could make out were the neon lights of the video slot machine screens near the front and the light that hung low over the pool table. The rest was dark. He stepped out onto the sidewalk and locked the car. 

The view of Vera sitting at the farthest end of the bar entered Nick’s vision like a warm distant memory tethered to a smile, which she flashed up at him at the sound of the bar room door as it crept shut. The pool table in the corner stood empty. 

It was hours before Nick finally got the car home. Fitting the key into the lock, he noticed he couldn’t hear the television. Inside, the lights were all turned off. He tossed his socks onto the couch and went to the kitchen table, but there was no note. So, he went to the telephone. The last call was to the diner, and the call before that was from the previous day. Crumbs were all over the counter. Nick sunk his hands into his jacket pockets to feel for his keys and carried his new socks from the couch to his bedroom, stopping in at the bathroom to look at his face in the mirror. 

He could hear the engine still ticking as he locked up the house. Nick found Vera’s car still parked across the street from the bar with a light coat of snow blanketing the windshield. He pulled into his same parking spot out front and killed the engine.

Meanwhile, at the diner Janice was busy telling Emily about the elderly couple seated at table 13. She tilted her head a little in the table’s direction while tearing out a leaf from her note pad. Janice was always talking about the customers. Emily didn’t know of any coworkers who took notice like Janice did. “They don’t tip,” she was saying. “They don’t come in during the day, but you’ll see them when you work nights.” She tucked the order slip beside the others and started to untie her apron. “Honey I swear,” she said. “It ain’t you. They just don’t tip.”

“Oh,” Emily said. “Okay.”

“Yeah. Somethin’ must’ve happened and they still come by here, but they won’t tip. Honey,” she said. “Trust me, it ain’t you.” She said she was going on break so good luck. 

Emily lifted a pitcher of water from the counter and carried it over to the sallow looking elderly couple then to another table where a large man in a suit read the menu carefully. When Emily was coming back from the tables, she switched the water pitcher for a coffee pot, and carried it over to an older gentleman in a tweed blazer who’d been sitting at the bar with a paper a few seats from where Janice sat down. While Emily filled his cup, she felt Janice’s eyes follow her. Emily brought over a cup and a dish of creamers and sugars and placed them on the counter. 

“Thanks darling,” she smiled up at Emily. 

After she brought the food out to all her tables, Emily carried a glass of water over to Janice and took a sip. “Can I ask you something silly?” 

Janice crossed her arms on the counter and pulled her seat closer using her ankles.

“What’s it like to be married?”

“What’s it like?” Janice asked. “What is it like? You and Nick are married, aren’t you? I always thought you were married.” 

Emily shook her head and brought the coffee pot over to the older gentleman. “No,” Emily said, coming back to Janice. “We aren’t. I guess it isn’t any different though.”

“No, exactly,” Janice said. She said it really wasn’t much different. 

“It’s strange though. I feel different. It’s funny to say, but I really feel different.”

“You don’t say,” Janice said. “And just how are you feelin’?

“Well,” she lifted the coffee pot up to Janice, but Janice shook her head. “Okay, so,” she said, putting the coffee pot back. “So, this might be really crazy, but I sort of have this feeling like everything is about to change. I feel like really everything might be about to change.” 

“So, what’s the big change?” Janice said. She leaned a little farther onto the counter, grinning.

“So, the other night, after I had this new girlfriend of mine over—we had a few drinks, whatever. Then, after she left, Nick and I went to bed. But something was different. It felt—” she slowed down in her speech, trying to better express how it was different. “When he was on me in bed like, it felt like I was looking in on a younger lady’s life.” She put her hands on her stomach, and Janice put her hands to her mouth. 

“It’s weird, right?” Emily smiled. “I know, it sounds crazy, but I really think things are about to change.” She picked up her cup of water. “But I’ve been off, too. I’ve been feeling really off these last weeks.” She flashed a look down at her stomach, which she pushed out a little and laughed with Janice. Emily brought the cup to her lips, then hesitated. “It’s crazy, right?” she said. “Isn’t it just crazy?”

 


CLAYTON LONGSTAFF is a short story writer and poet from Victoria, BC, currently studying English Literature at Concordia University, Montreal. 

Copyright © 2018 by Clayton Longstaff. All rights reserved.

‘Snail’ by Mackenzie Shaw

Unbothered because my foes don’t have opposable thumbs to pluck me from my place
And aware that crushing feet could be my end
My body is my home and it grows as I do, moves when I do; vagabond
I can’t see the swirls or symmetry that have become me
And inside I am not the beauty they tell me
My only left behind, translucent goo
My only neighbors, unbothered too

 


MACKENZIE SHAW is from Kitchener, Ontario. Born in 1995, she currently resides and writes from the Okanagan Valley. She is on instagram, tumblr and gmail: @kentries2.

Copyright © 2018 by Mackenzie Shaw. All rights reserved.