Saturday, September 25, 2010

There You Go, You're Gone For Good

Mood:  blah.
Hating:  insane amounts of reading for school.
Loving:  frozen blueberries (no seriously, try putting your blueberries in the freezer for a few hours before you eat them; you will not regret it).
Lip-syncing:  Brooke Fraser -- Scarlet
Quote of the day:  "If actions speak louder than words, than why is the pen mightier than the sword?"


So I've been in back school for just going on three weeks. And I've been struggling with writer's block for just going on three months.

I wish I could blame it on work, on school, on finances, but I can't. In part, those are causing huge amounts of stress for me -- I still have no idea how I'm paying tuition -- yet it's not as though those things are anything new. My life has always been delicate balancing act between working, paying bills, education, friends, and what not. Everyone undergoes similar, if not the same, distractions, disappointments and sacrifices. This time around though, I'm not sure where my inspiration has gone.

Lost:  One muse. Looks like thousands of random story, poem, song, theatre, and/or photography ideas that may or may not be linked with a jumble of words, actions and insomnia. Offering handsome reward.

The worst part is, my lose of creativity is seeping into the rest of my life. I find myself unamused and bored, uninterested in things that should be intriguing and entertaining. My perspective has been lackluster lately, and it's all I can do to simply roll out of bed to go to school, then trudge myself to work.

Wallowing in desolation, I stared at my ceiling for an immeasurable amount of time before I flicked my laptop back on. The screen illuminates little in my dark room, only revealing my cotton sheets, some unread books and articles on my nightstand -- I like to pretend I'll eventually become a good university student and do my readings before class -- a water bottle, my cellphone and my USB key. Ah, my precious flash drive, the incredible piece of technology that seems to hold almost all the contents of my life.

Scrolling through unfinished songs, half-crafted plays, unedited photos, story plans, and other random tidbits, I hoped to find that flash of something that will spark my imagination and artistry. I stumbled across an incomplete one shot.

For those not familiar with the term, a one shot is simply a short story, cutely named 'one shot' in the reflection that (most) short stories tend to only have one chapter.

Back to what I'm about to present. Started not too long before this frigid tundra settled over my talents, it's something that most writers are probably familiar with:  the weaving together of personal experience with a few extras. I think I'm going to finish it someday. But it's only right that I share what I have now, in case it never does see the light of day again, which would be a disappointment to him. It seems like just yesterday, but I realized today it's been years. Hard to wrap my head around. But with the recent passing of Lawrence Stern as well, perhaps it's his way of gently nudging me in the right direction.

Feel free to let me know what you think. Keep in mind, it is an unfinished piece. Yet maybe by putting this out there, it will not only explain the ink etched into my skin, but offer me an outlet through which I may be able to find my muse once again.

Note:  It is named after 'Scarlet' by Brooke Fraser. One of my personal favourites, and I like to think this does reflect the musicality and emotion in the song. However, it's a personal choice whether you want to listen while reading or not...



Step. Step. Stop.

Step. Step. Stop.

I turn to glance behind me again. The road is still barren, the dull evening light casting odd shadows. I could barely make out my car parked beside that bush. But that was the point.

Step. Step. Step.

Step. Step. Crunch.

The paved pathway gives way to loose rocks and gravel as I continue on my way. The salty tang of the ocean breeze reaches my senses as the wind caresses my face, gently brushing against the tears trailing down my cheeks.

It's okay to cry here. It's okay to scream, to let it all out. Tension, stress, pain; they all disappear here, at least for a little while. There's nothing around for miles.

It was here that we always came to find peace.

Moving in and between the overgrown bushes and weeds, I try to find the pathway that hadn't been used in months. It was much more difficult than I remember. But then again, it wasn't often that I trekked through on my own.

Step, step, step.

My pace quickens as the foliage lightens, allowing me glimpses of the twilight sky. The trembling of my hands as they push aside leaves and branches betray how little time I had left. I couldn't keep myself together for much longer.

Step, step, step.


The trees give way, like they always do, to allow me to walk out into the little clearing overlooking the ocean. Nobody else knew about this place. Most just head straight for the sandy shores just a bit further down the coastline, opting to frolic in the water, tan, eat and drink with friends and family while the sun beat down upon them. Even now, I can hear the distant sounds of laughter from a few stragglers trying to squeeze some last minutes of fun from their beach day. The clouds had already rolled in, blanketing the sky in a somber grey. How appropriate. Even without the threat of rain, the beach's curfew was approaching, and most had already vacated, packing their belongings away and climbing into their cars to drive off; almost like it was a regular day. To them, it was. They'd go home, sleep, and wake up tomorrow to carry on with their lives, this day at the beach just another memory.

Just another memory. I hate that phrase.

I swallow hard as I carefully make my way closer, trying to get to the collection of rocks that appear to be balanced precariously on the edge. They're secure though. We had spent plenty of time rolling around, playing and sitting on these rocks. But they too, were now just memories.

Closing my eyes, I take a deep breath; deeper than I had in awhile. To not taste the sterile air of the hospital is more of a relief than I thought it'd be. Now settled into a comfortable spot, I draw my knees up to my chest to rest my head against them. Staring out across the great expanse of water, I feel like a weight is slowly being lifted.

No need to be strong here. No need to pretend. No need to act like it's all okay.

I squeeze my eyes shut tighter as the tears began to pour. Wrapping my arms around my legs, I clench my fists, digging my nails into my palms. Ragged sobs burst from within as I begin to rock myself back and forth gently.

All just a memory now.

This had sort of become our unofficial spot. I recall the day he'd dragged me here. I'd done nothing but complain the whole way, but as the sky with its brilliant setting sun came into view with the waves crashing against the rocks below, I'd understood. I laughed long and hard when he said it, but it truly was one of those places where the sky, land and water meet. It was beautiful. A sense of calm and unity oozed from the very stones of this place. Nobody knew us here; we could be honest to ourselves, and each other here. Countless day trips, midnight escapes, and random excursions had ended here. So many thoughts, feelings, ideas were formed here, breathed in from the harmony of nature. Confessions and breakdowns, laughter and fun, pain and heartbreak. All just memories.

He's nothing but a memory now.

It was here that I found him that day. Busy with work, I hadn't been able to go with him to the doctor. Neither of us had thought anything of it; it was just a persistent bruise. I told him he needed to stop banging that leg into things so it could have time to actually heal. I hadn't realized how wrong we were until I had to come looking for him. I should have come here first, instead of waiting around his apartment. He shouldn't have had to be alone after the diagnosis. But time had never been an issue for us before.

It hurts.

I gasp now, trying to draw oxygen into my lungs. It hurts so much. The emotional ache I'd been suppressing within begins to fight, bubbling to the surface. My body begins to tremble in distress. I can't lie to myself here. It'd be a betrayal of what it stood for. It needs to come out. I unsteadily rise to my feet as I feel the first few droplets plop onto my skin.


The strength of my cry increases with each scream of the question, the thunder in the distance the only answer to the agony in my voice. I don't understand. And I don't think I ever will. Is it something he did? Something we'd done? Were we being punished? Am I being punished? What was it? A test? A mistake?

So young. We'd barely started our lives, hardly had a chance to explore the world. We didn't even really know who we were before we were thrust into this nightmare.

It happens to other people, other families, other friends. It's just a statistic; until it comes and destroys your life. Then you begin to understand the charities, the fundraisers, the messages. I didn't. I let out another sob as my head drops to my chest. The foul taste of bile invades my palate as I remember my goddamn selfishness with disgust. He needed to be strong for me, because I didn't get it. He needed to research, to talk and explain to me about what leukemia was, how it worked. He needed to comfort me when his tests and treatment started. And he was the one who reassured me that everything would be fine.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

When Everything's Made to Be Broken, I Just Want You to Know Who I Am

Mood:  tired. Always tired.
Hating:  how I have to go to a part-time job I hate in less than 10 hours.
Loving:  the way it smells when it rains.
Lip-syncing:  Goo Goo Dolls -- Iris


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

They Say You Don't Know What You've Got 'Till It's Gone

Mood:  sad, but happy to a certain degree.
Lip-syncing:  Jake Coco and Caitlin Hart -- Don't Go


I still remember the day I first saw him.

Wandering through a giant high school that was completely foreign to me, my eighth grade self timidly sat beside my father when we were brought into this dark cave of a room. Black walls, black boxes, black curtains.
"Kind of cliche," I said to my dad. He shrugged. I knew he wasn't a fan of this subject. He wanted me to take music, like my older brother and sister, to be a good little band student. Music makes you smarter, a better student.
"Not this," he replied, waving his hand about the room. This small, stuffy space was definitely not made to hold this many people.

It was made to hold much more.

That tiny, confined room became like a second home to me through the next four years. A safe haven, a place to cry, to laugh, and to love. In fact, even walking in there now stirs a deep, unexplainable feeling in my chest.

Lawrence Stern was an intimidating man when I first laid eyes on him. With his long, grey/white hair, wide glasses, and mismatched shoes, I thought him a bit crazy. Especially when he started gesturing wildly during a small exercise. One detail that stands out was his arm drum roll, the one he did after he made some cheesy joke I didn't understand; that bump-bump-thud, meant to mimic a old-fashioned comedian's drum sound.

How 'Stern'.

For anyone who attended Streetsville Secondary, Stern became a sort of living symbol for Streetsville's incredible theatre program. I was drawn into drama from that very first fascinating  demonstration during grade eight orientation night. Severely disappointed when I realized my first drama class was not until second semester, I eagerly joined the mongrel group of ninth graders hoping to make it into Streetsville's annual fall Showcase performance. We worked closely with another teacher, but this was truly my first exposure to Mr. Stern. Most certainly not my last.

Stern had this intensity, this passion that was undeniable. Actually, I remember being baffled and a little frightened. I smile and laugh at the memory, but Stern's first impressions are always a little questionable. In fact, Stern was a pretty questionable guy. He had the strangest habits, and most bizarre thought patterns. It was impossible to have a conversation with him without having to step back and take a second look at your perspective, and even better, at another perspective on the issue. It's what I truly loved most, talking with him.

I had to be honest. Brutally, completely honest not only with him, but with myself. Stern had that quality about him. He often became my confidant of sorts as the years passed. It's no secret my parents and I have never gotten along well, and Stern often gave me the reality checks I needed to figure out whatever part of my life I was struggling with at the time.

It was a bittersweet day when I attended his retirement party. Although I'd never had him as a drama teacher -- Marsha Legault became my second mother, with all the things she taught me -- I was apprehensive about him leaving. It felt wrong somehow. What felt even more wrong was how I lost touch with him after he left. Weekly emails trickled down to once a months, once every few months, and then next to never. We use to exchange anecdotes, photos, music, and it just trailed off. It's really my fault. Stern was perfectly capable of maintaining friendships with his other students, and now I just feel a little guilty.

Visiting him in the hospice for cancer patients did nothing to ease it. Seeing him, so different from how I imagined, just broke my heart. But I know that's not what he wanted to hear. And the minute he opened his mouth to give me shit about my life choices, I knew he was still the same old Stern. Nothing would ever change that, and in that way I'm glad. To see him suffering through the pain was hard to do, so to know that agony is over for him is a relief.

It's always in retrospect that we see our mistakes. We wish we could go back and spend more time with the people that matter. Despite all the warnings, all the reminders, sometimes we just forget. And then we regret. I know Stern doesn't blame me for anything, but I do. And it's useless to play the blame game, but sometimes it's unavoidable. I wish I could go back in time. Impossible, yes, I know, but it doesn't change the fact that I want to.

But let's not waste anymore time on impractical thoughts, useless things and regrets. Instead, remember those we've lost. Remember them for their laughter, their strength, their passion, their intelligence, the inspiration they provided, the way they pushed conventional boundaries, their insanity and brilliance, the comfort they provided and the love they shared.

And their mismatched chucks.

Rest In Peace, Lawrence Stern.
Go ahead, rock that porcupine hat and give 'em hell up there. May you continue on your path to teach, love and live in the afterlife.


07 Dec. 2010 -- Edit:  There is a facebook group that was created, called "In Memory of Lawrence Stern"
That is the link. Feel free to head there and share your memories as well...