hot mess storytime

My wrist has been bothering me quite a bit this past week, luckily not the hand I use to draw/tattoo, but the ache is enough that I finally went to go get it checked out today.

The Dr. I got to see at the walk-in clinic was bangin’… as in “hellooooo-please-check-my-temperature-and-I’ll-play-with-your-stethescope” bangin’.

Apparently I may have carpal tunnel syndrome. Dr. Bangworthy said this can sometimes happen with dominant hands as we get older. So I explained I was a southpaw, not right-handed, and he then asked what kind of repetitious movements I may be doing with my right hand on a daily basis that could possibly cause it.

All I could think of as an answer was “diddling”.

Diddling, diddling, diddling… DON’T SAY DIDDLING.

So I just sat there in silence staring at him while I could feel the hot flush of my blushing furiously creep up my face.

“Oh. Ummm.. well, you know… like typing on a keyboard…” he suggested helpfully.


I may have replied a tad too eagerly.


my Opa...

He is half of my namesake. Both my Opa and Oma are… Rita + Jan = Rian.

He could write his first name with his left hand and his last name with his right hand… at the same time.

He’s the reason I’m an artist. I inherited my creative side from him. He was much better with painting than I, especially with oils, and often critiqued my work which was sometimes hard to take as a kid but it only made me try harder and get better.

He used to smoke a pipe. I have only vague memories of this because I was only 3 or 4 at the time he still smoked… but whenever I smell that sweet musky pipe tobacco smell it always reminds me of him to this day.

He wore a suit and tie every day of his life, except when he would vacation at the seaside, then it was linen pressed pants and polo shirts that would make Gatsby drool. He defined dapper.

He was a well-respected and loved principal of a local school. He kept in touch with many of his students and sent them yearly cards for xmas and bdays.

He loved to garden and would build his own bird houses where my Oma would put crumbs after breakfast every morning. He also made my brother and I a secret little hidey hole spot with a bench tucked away from view in the bushes where we would sit and spy on the adults having coffee and pie in the yard.

He would secretly tuck a few guilders in my hand so I could go buy some dropjes at the Pinky candy store downtown. He would make it seem like our secret and that we got away with something scandalous.

He let me drink my first coffee… I was seven and immediately addicted. maybe not his best choice but I loved our coffee time moments with speculaas cookies.

The neighbourhood boys would play “war” with pvc pipes and paper blow darts but wouldn’t let me play because I was a girl… so my Opa made me a suped-up super fancy pvc blowgun with a scope and it made me the best player in the hood.

He taught me how to play Rummikub and Bridge and Pesten and Solitaire and a bunch of other games.

He survived both World War I and II.

In WWII he was a part of the resistance that helped many Jewish families hide and escape the Nazi stormtroopers invading the Netherlands. Because of this he and my Oma took my aunt and uncle, who were both under 2yrs old, and had to flee to the south of France where they lived off of raw potatoes for a winter. When they returned home their house had been taken over and ransacked leaving them with only a few family photos and my Oma’s 2 tin diving medals from highschool.

To this day, he never liked potatoes again.

He also survived raising 4 children, 3 heart attacks and a triple bypass surgery, outlived my Oma who passed away at 93 and then went on to travel to Canada and stubbornly live independantly in his own house until he was ready to go.

He never got over having to live without my Oma and missed her awfully.

I got a card from him on my birthday last month, with $10 tucked in it to “buy myself flowers”. Two weeks later he passed away.

He had a fucking good life.

I got back in touch with someone I knew in high school a few days ago...

He was one of the more popular kids at school, but the kind that was effortlessly so. Not because he tried or was good at sports or ran for class president. People liked to be around him because he was always so friendly and easygoing, with a lazy smile and blond messy hair that kept falling into his eyes so that he had this way of flipping his head while blowing a puff of air upwards to get it out of the way. He was always goofing around and making people laugh, a bit of a carefree class clown, but smart. So smart I think classes bored him and he never seemed to put much effort into his studies but he easily made the Honour Roll anyway. Teachers loved him. He was in drama class and when he did school plays it was amazing to watch him conform to the roles perfectly. He listened to grunge bands and rode his skateboard everywhere. He would sweet talk girls into lying down on the hot pavement so he could see how many of us he could ollie over. He cleared 6 of us once. Even though I wasn’t quite in his social circle he was a friend, was always rad to me, and would often invite me to go hang out with him and his friends or to parties I may not have originally been included in on.

He took me to Winter Formal dance in grade 11. Because I asked him. Because I told him I was tired of not being asked and figured I’d have more fun going with him anyway. He agreed, maybe because he felt a bit sorry for me but also because the girl he really liked was going with her boyfriend. He would have never asked her anyway, she was dating his friend. But he had confided in me once how he really felt about her then never mentioned it again. He dressed up in a maroon cardigan and bowtie with sneakers and looked like Mr. Rogers. We danced like fools and after he dragged me along with a few others to a nearby park where we sat on picnic tables and he’d make me laugh so hard that beer came pouring out of my nose. That was one of my favourite moments in high school, you know, the ones that you always remember even though you can’t quite recall the details. You just remember that warm, bubbly feeling in your stomach.

We didn’t hang out often but when we did he’d make you feel like there would have been no party if you hadn’t come. That’s why he was popular. He was infectious and addictive. He was fun and creative and intriguingly offbeat and a bit of a punk, but with just enough good humour to be endearing. He was someone who I had even crushed on a little, but would never have admitted to him back then. He moved away before our senior year and we lost touch.

I graduated and moved to Canada. About a year later I heard through the grapevine that his little sister had been killed by a drunk driver and that he then joined the army and took off. It was a shock, his sister had also been a friend and had been on my soccer team. I immediately wanted to reach out to him but I had no way of contacting him and no one knew where he was (this was before Google and Facebook and social media made it easier to find people, besides… his last name was Smith). That was the last I’d heard of him.

And then, recently, he was suggested as “someone you might know” on fb. We exchanged a few messages, caught up. He said he had thought of me now and then and always wondered what I was up to. He’s married with two kids, an army vet, retired and now owns a real estate business. His teenage lanky frame filled out and his unruly mop of hair is now a tidy, neat, somewhat preppy, professional ‘do. He doesn’t skate anymore. He’s not at all what I expected him to be. But then I still expected him to be exactly the same, impatiently blowing the hair out of his eyes, daring me to let him ollie over me.

I tried really hard to reconcile who he is now with that boy I pined for in high school. I can’t. They seem so vastly different. It made me a little sad…

but he’s happy by all reports and I guess that is what is important.

About my dad...

My dad is an incredible musician. At 14 he taught himself how to play the guitar by ear, before he could even read music. If he heard a tune he could mimic it perfectly within minutes. He then taught himself the banjo, ukulele, fiddle, piano and drums. He was in bands that would play the dirty rock bars of Yorkville, Toronto… long before that area became the yuppy-saturated, nouveau-riche, elitist neighbourhood that it is today. He jammed with Buddy Guy once, and the back up musicians for Jimmy Hendrix… they would often show up at those dive bars just to unwind and play whatever they wanted after shows in the 70’s. He likes to tell those stories.

He used to smoke and would roll his own cigarettes. It was a ritual that fascinated me, not because I found smoking alluring or particularly remarkable, but because of the care with which he performed each step of the process. Pinching just the right amount of tobacco from the blue pouch he carried, carefully spreading it evenly in the rolling paper, rolling it tight and then licking it to stick after which he’d always take a few seconds to admire his work before lighting it. It’s a weird thing to remember, especially since he quit by the time I was 3.

He was mostly a quiet man, content to just sit in silence with the exception of his fingers drumming a rhythmic beat that only he could hear the music to. He would give the best swing set pushes, pushing me so high I’d swear I was going to flip right over the top. Sometimes he would do under-doggy pushes where he’d duck and run completely under me as he pushed, which always made the swing jerk unevenly on the backswing, flinging my legs willy-nilly. Those were my favourite.

He’d take my brother and I tobogganing in Blantyre Park, dragging the toboggan back up to the top as many times as we wanted. He’d encourage us to go down the steepest part of the hill and then laugh his ass off when we’d fly off on the way down and eat snow. No coddling, he couldn’t even fake concern with a straight face. He also taught me how to ride a bike at that park. Running behind me while I screamed “don’t let go daddy!” in terror. He let go. I biked all by myself. But I didn’t even care because I was so mad he had let go when he promised not to. The other time I was utterly disappointed by him was when he told me that Santa didn’t exist. I didn’t care about the whole Santa thing; I just couldn’t believe that he had lied to me. He had sworn to me that one night in a snowstorm he had spotted a red glow outside and then saw Rudolph perched on a street sign. My little 5-year-old brain just couldn’t process that he had lied to me. That disillusionment stuck with me for a while. It was the first time I saw him as flawed.

He still would play on his guitar whenever he could escape to his little “studio” room, but that would never be for long. My mom would eventually nag at him to help out with us kids or dinner or the dishes or something that absolutely couldn’t wait and had to be done that very moment… he’d be lucky to squeeze in a half hour. I remember feeling bad for him and resentful towards my mom for not just letting him play. It was like he could escape into his own world when he played. He’d lose track of time, forget to eat, forget anyone else was in the house… it’s when he was happiest. I think my mom was always a little jealous of that world she wasn’t a part of.

He always understood me for liking my solitary moments. He also completely understands the choice I recently made to leave the security of a well-paying corporate career and chase a non-conventional dream job that most think me foolish for going after so late in the game. He never criticised me for not “settling down” or pushed me to “start thinking about finding a good man because I’m not getting any younger and you know, children”…

Instead he told me “Do what you want Rian, because if you just go through the motions because you’re expected to, it’ll suck the life out of you”. That one sentence hit me hard. Because I’d always known my dad wasn’t happy. Yes, he loved us, but I’d always sensed that he was caged, restrained. It wasn’t the life he had wanted, it was the life he resigned himself to. It made me sad for him. I’m now even more acutely aware that he sacrificed a hell of a lot for us.

That picture I posted is my favourite photo of my dad because it’s my dad that I never knew. He’s 5 years younger than I am now in that picture and had just met my mom… I wasn’t born yet. And he’s doing what he loved. It’s a snapshot of who he really was, before he had to give it all up.

I got an email Friday.

The kind that brings back memories and makes you wistful.

He always did have a way with words. using the prettiest ones and writing them all down in the most attractive sentences that you want to read over and over while mouthing them silently because the way they make your tongue play in your mouth reminds you of kissing him.

I want it again. but I don’t. I remember it all. and wish I didn’t.

There’s no bad feelings. only fondness left. it was a brief moment years ago where time stood still in the most clichéd of ways. and it’s not that I wish I could go back to that time or that it had a different ending either. but I still find myself reading those words on repeat. and wondering all of the what ifs. and missing what could have been. even though it never would have been possible. and that weird happy-sad feeling of remembering something gone sits like a little tight ball in my chest if I think about it all too long.

I don’t know how to explain that all in an answer.

So I just reply “I’m glad you’re doing well” and never hit send.

I grew up on an international military base because my dad used to work for NATO, although I wasn’t technically a military brat because my dad was just a civillian. It was a pretty normal life… not really like in the movies with tanks and barbed wire and jets and guns everywhere. Just basically like a little gated community, where a lot of people wore uniforms.

My community was made up of military service men and women of various nationalities. my neighbours, teachers, sports coaches, classmates, friends, their parents… they were all military. Most military brats I grew up with later joined the service, mostly because it was the only life they knew, it was tradition, it was pride. For some it was mandatory by their country.

I knew many who served during the First Gulf War and the Bosnia Herzegovina War. Some came back fine, some not, some with unknown illnesses caused by suspected bioweapons, almost all traumatized in varying degrees. I had a friend who lost her mom in the Gulf War and one of my neighbours who never returned while his door slowly disappeared beneath flowers and ribbons.

Even after I had already moved back to Canada, I knew many serving in Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11, only now they weren’t my friends’ parents but my friends. They come back strangers. Some are still there. Some never came back. I found out that a kid I used to babysit had died because the helicopter he was in was shot down. When I first heard I didn’t understand why he was even there because in my head he was stuck at the age of 11. Time’s funny like that when you leave a place. Everyone there is stuck frozen in time and they don’t age. But I guess he did age… that little brat kid with the big smile who was a handful and made me work to earn the $20 his parents paid me to watch him. He was 22.

I think that one hurt the most. because to me he was still just a little kid. Just doing his job, following the career footsteps of the only life he had known.

It’s not Memorial Day here in Canada… we do Remembrance Day in November. But those two days aren’t the only times I think about it.

I’m not justifying or defending or vilifying the reasons, politics and actions behind wars. I’m just acknowledging those who aren’t here anymore because of them.

I don’t have much else to say really.

Truth about me and dreams...

I know you dream every time you sleep, however, I never remember them. Unless they are nightmares. There is only one good dream I have had that I can remember. It involved a huge magical tree and I lived in it with a bunch of jolly rancher candies that were in the shape of the fruit they tasted like, but they walked around and let me eat them when I was hungry. That dream was awesome. Just trust me on that one.

Although rare and not in ages, I also used to have the most vivid night terrors… wake up sweating, heart pounding, crying and a few times screaming. I’ve died in my dreams and felt pain, sometimes so bad it has woken me up. Most of them involve me being chased to my inevitable death or me chasing after someone to rescue them to no avail. I’ve been chased by bears, monsters, rabid wild animals, exes, “bad guys”, natural disasters and worst of all the unseen ominous beings that I can only hear coming after me. When being chased I am always terrified and know I will end up dying. I also almost always end up turning to confront my pursuer head-on in defiance to at least go out with a fight and in a last-ditch effort to do as much damage as I can on the way down.

I haven’t remembered a dream in eons, well over a year… until last night.

It was the begginning of a zombie apocalypse. and I was with a group of friends and a few randoms trying to get from point A to point B. I was also had a significant other but don’t know who it was. For some reason everyone turned to me for the decision making, which I would do, albeit reluctantly. I didn’t want to be responsible for everyone dying because I made the wrong choice. People would also balk and cower when attacked and not fight back, so I would have to defend them, screaming at them to fucking fight already. People were getting mad at me and the guy who I was in a relationship with had to keep the peace and defend me from their angry bitter criticism. Yet no one else would step up to the plate to take the lead.

One by one people in our group were attacked and turned and we’d have to kill them off. it was smelly and disgustingly gory. The terrain was wooded with some sort of rotting tree house village akin to the Ewoks’ homes that we unsuccessfully tried to seek harbour in. We had to fight through deep forest brush and scramble down sharp rocky cliffs onto a beach. My knees were skinned, my hands were bruised and cut and I could feel each abraision.

By then there were only three, maybe four of the group left besides me. We were running across the beach along the water line, we had killed so many zombies and were way ahead of the ones left chasing us. We were going to make it. I was lagging behind, couldn’t seem to run as fast as the others, my lungs were burning and I had rolled my ankle which was throbbing. My “boyfriend” was just a few paces ahead of me though.

And then a zombie reared out of the water to my right, lunging at me. I felt it’s teeth sink into my neck, ripping a chunk out and a burning in my stomach as I fell to the wet sand. It had ripped open my gut too. The “boyfriend” ran back to me and killed it but the others didn’t stop running. He was holding me and crying, and I could feel warm sticky blood oozing out of my neck and my innards slipping out of my abdomen. I was already changing and starting to crave his flesh. The smell of rotting carcass was filling my nostrils and I could feel my blood and my nerves and my mind changing. I tried screaming at him to get away but my throat was mangled. I just stared at him begging him to kill me with my eyes making gurgling raspy sounds.

And then he killed me by smashing my head in with a rock. I was kind of watching this happen from above but I felt each blow as it came down on my skull until it all went black and I then shocked awake. I checked my phone, it was 5:22AM.

I couldn’t fall back asleep, I was wide awake.

I am exhausted.

fuck dreams.

"It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love."

~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in a Time of Cholera

The first time I read those words it was in a letter.

A farewell letter of sorts, I suppose.

From a boy I had spent extremely brief, extremely intense, dizzying moments with four years ago.

It was completely unexpected. An echo from the past, reminiscence and nostalgia of back home… and then the undercurrents of an attraction slamming me off my feet even though I tried my damndest to resist… and failed miserably.

Like I was drowning in a tide dragging me under. And I didn’t even miss air.

It was perfect and beautiful and messy and confusing and so very much illogical.

First I pushed him away, he had so much living yet to do, he lived far away, he’d be giving up too much, I argued…

Then, one day, he finally gave in and agreed with me. And I immediately wanted to take all those logical arguments back.

I was too proud to ask him to take me with him, mostly because I knew he wouldn’t… but I would have gone wherever he wanted me to.

And then I got that letter. He wrote words in the prettiest way and built sentences that made my chest feel too tight for my heart and lungs.

But that quote. I looked it up and then read the entire book. And I finally understood what those words really meant. how he meant them. bitter and sweet all dressed up in a perfect sentence.

I hate those words.

Because since the day I read them it’s like they’ve become a part of me, my chant, my mantra, my story on repeat. I’m fucking fated to live them out over and over and over.

I can’t shake them.

I love those words.

Because they so perfectly explain that feeling.

I can’t forget them.

and I don’t want to.

I’ve yet to meet someone who makes me feel that same way.

Friendly, fun, nice, outgoing, easy going, comfortable, ridiculous, rambunctious, hilarious, kind, caring, compassionate, nerdy, crazy, artsy, edgy, tall, really tall, too tall, smart, confident, stoic, alpha female, intimidating, emasculating, total package, consuming, hot, pure sex, addictive, a drug, magical, someone you could fall for but… deserving of something better, too nice to you, too good to you, too good for you, not enough for you, not what you want, it’s not me it’s you.

of all of these words used to describe me… none are what I would use, none are what I wanted to be and none of them really are me.

All I wanted to hear you say was “mine”.

I want to feel your music wash over me

That song that brings shudders and raises goose bumps

And I can hear the lyrics before they are sung

Stinging my lips as I mouth them and leaving them swollen

Touch each inch of my skin with your harmony

And rhythm

And beat

Those vibrations

In synch with skipped heart thumps and quick gasping breaths

Your fingers pluck at my strings

Just like so

Here and there

Until my entire core hums

Strum them strings make me think dirty things.

When the strings of a banjo tug my heart hard
When I feel the warm lick of sunlight slowly moving along my skin
When I see something so fucking beautiful I skip a breath and it’s forever branded behind my eyes
When I smell warm baked bread and freshly ground coffee grains
When my dog curls up tight against my ribs and lets out a puppydog sigh
When I smell coming rain or salty sea waves and flowers heavy with dew
When I have a perfect bite of cheese flavour-kicking my tongue into ecstasy
When I sneak my cold toes under your bum to warm them
When I look at my friends and hurt from loving them so
When I get paint all over my fingers in a beautiful mess
When I squint my eyes at fairy lights and they become star bursts through my lashes
When I can’t help it but spin and dance and dance and dance because that beat won’t let me go
When a thunderstorm half wakes me up and my bed never feels quite as comfy as that moment
When a sip of good whiskey makes you warm in the most delicious of places
When a movie or a book or a song or conversation leaves me lusting for more
When you touch that one spot just so that always makes me shiver
When I can’t get enough of you no matter how much I indulge
When I know I made you cum so fucking good right then
These things make my soul breathe deep, my lungs expand and blood hum.
These things turn me on, make me tear up and light a fire in my heart.
They make me feel things there are no words for. No way to explain.
Maybe by sounds, murmured and whispered and moaned, sweet notes sung, or screamed at the top of my lungs.
These things are the music to my life song.