This week's story is the first part of a multi-part release. I say multi-part because I'm not sure how many pieces this story will be broken into.
Anyway, so this story is taken directly from my book. In its original form, this section of the story is immediately followed by my 2-part story from a few weeks ago, First Harvest Ministries, which serves as a kind of flashback sequence before picking back up with this storyline. That being said, if it feels like it ends rather abruptly, it's for a reason.
Okay. That's all.
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The Swinger and the Handyman (part 1)
I made the trek over to Amanda’s in the Halifax early October cold. It was about a mile and a half and the wind was blowing against me the whole way. Wind would occasionally find an opening in the knitting of my beanie (excuse me, tuque) and send shocks from my scalp down the back of my neck. I walked along the sidewalk next to the park and felt the full brunt of the wind from the east as it surged, unencumbered, over the soccer fields, through the scant trees delineating the park’s perimeter, and overcame my left side. I had to pick up the pace; get the heart rate going. Soon I would be through the crosswalk and into the safety of the buildings that lined the street ahead.
I crossed the road when the traffic died down, took a left into a quiet residential area, then a right onto Amanda’s street. When I got to her apartment I rang the doorbell and heard her clomping and creaking down the mid-century wooden stairs.
‘Yay yay yayy…'
We exchanged a quick, cross-body hug and I wedged off my shoes from the heel and followed her upstairs to the kitchen.
Amanda’s roommate Donny was upstairs sitting at the kitchen island when we walked in.
‘Duuuude..’ I said as I reached out and greeted him with an upward-turned frat-boy hand shake, complete with a pull-in, one-armed hug. Donny was debilitatingly shy which made me want to be extra emphatic with him. I liked to see him come out of his shell.
‘Alex. How’s it goin’?,’ he said as he stood-up to receive my bro-brace.
‘I’m just livin’ th’dream!’ This was one of my favorite responses when people asked how it was going. I picked it up from my friend Craig and usually said it with a kind of jolly, out of breath laugh. In fact, I enjoyed saying this so much that I had to keep mental tabs of who I said it too and when so that it wouldn’t become played out. As far as I knew this was the first time Donny had heard it. It was probably Amanda’s fifth time, but she laughed anyway.
Amanda had just finished grinding some pot in an electric coffee bean grinder and she was currently engaged in rolling a joint with the freshly prepared, mossy looking pot grounds. She started using longer filters on her joints ever since she noticed how long I made my filters. It made sense. Why would you scorch your lips and burn your finger tips for the last couple of hits of a joint when you could just make the filter an inch longer and not have to worry about any of that shit? It was me, Amanda, and Donny and we sat on barstools around the kitchen island and passed the joint around. Donny was talking about farming. He’d recently won some farming training grant and he was constantly reading books about how to grow crops or whatever. He lived in a bedroom on the top floor of a two-family suburban home. He also had two cats.
Donny was very quiet. So was his sister. He may or may not have a brother as well that I may or may not have met on at least one occasion. I feel like I did, but he said so little that I have no real memory of him.
Amanda brought out some beers; Propellar IPA. That was a local brew. These Canadians were into their local brews. They were also big into home-brewing as well, which was most-likely due to the price of alcohol in Canada, which was about a 2X mark-up from the states - fuckin’ Canada!
My downstairs neighbor, Herman, brewed his own mead and I would occasionally find amber and piss-colored bottles with little sediments of fruit shavings waiting for me on my back porch. I would wash out the bottles when I was done and return them to him to use in his next batch. Herman was a Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy and he was quite intrigued by the fact that his upstairs neighbor was a veteran of the US Marine Corps. I would wait until he was home to return the bottles and we would talk on his back stoop while I smoked a joint. Herman was from Cyprus, by way of France and Acadia, so his Cypriot-French-French-Canadian accent prevented our conversations from ever getting too deep, but I could tell he was a good guy and I liked talking to him anyway.
We smoked the joint down to the filter and then shared a quick bowl. We finished off the beers and threw the bottles in the recycling. Then Amanda and I layered up and put on our shoes and embarked out into the evening.
Tonight’s party was at Juliana and Marco’s. It was going to be the usual crowd; most of which I had met on several occasions before, but had never really broken the threshold with. I think it might have had something to do with Freud, but I just wasn’t as good around people as I used to be, and I knew it. Actually, I’m pretty sure that it started with Freud then moved onto Lie to Me then to Dr. Paul Ekman then to the Facial Action Coding System (FACS). I couldn’t stop reading people's expressions, which was distracting enough, but I also became paranoid that people could read mine too so I tried minimizing them, which meant that I didn’t move my eyebrows a lot which meant that I looked like a creep when I talked to most people. But I had 30mg of Adderall XR pumping through my system complemented by a decent marijuana buzz, so I should be good for at least a few coherent conversations without coming across as being baked out of my mind.
We brought some beers over and opened up a couple shortly after coming in through the sliding glass doors in the back of the house. In addition to being in a band with some of the other guys at this party, Marco was also a handyman for hire. And, as is the case with most handymen I’ve known, his home was in a constant state of renovation. There were shining appliances mixed in with plywood and exposed drywall. There were random spackle spots everywhere. But, to his credit, I must say that everything did look structurally sound.
Amanda and I waded in through the crowd of dimly lit guests and unpacked the rest of our beers, one-by-one, onto the bottom shelf of the fridge. There was a bathroom (excuse me, washroom) immediately on the right after you came in through the back patio. The lighting in this washroom was not quite finished yet, so there was a porcelain lamp on the floor that cast low shadows that gave the half-finished bathroom a more dramatic feel than was probably intended. I shook the last couple of drops of pee off, zipped up, and washed my hands. I was thankful that they had paper towels and hand soap. Hygiene would not be a concern at this party.
As I returned to the kitchen, I noticed Matt and Saul over by the stove. They were trying to figure out the vented hood. We played around with the knobs for a bit and couldn’t get the fan going. We traced the line and figured out that there was, for no obvious reason, an external switch that controlled the power to the hood. I flipped it on and the fan whirled to life instantly. Matt took out a thin little joint from a plastic container that he pulled from his left jacket pocket. Saul and I watched him take a quick couple of puffs to get it started, then two full hits before passing it over the stovetop to me.
‘Alex…,’ said Saul, as he watched me take a strong drag and hold my breath, ‘what’s new man?’
I shook my head as I exhaled, ‘nothing, man. Just doing this physics shit. Staying pretty busy with classes. Getting out to party when I can.’
I took another long drag, held it in, and passed the joint over to Saul, with the filter pointing up towards him carefully, like you would pass a tiny pair of scissors.
‘Nice, nice.’ He nodded as he gently accepted the lit joint from my hand. ‘How’s that going?’
‘Not bad,’ I said in a high breath as I exhaled slowly. I watched the smoke plume burst through the steady thin stream coming from Saul’s hand and recoil off the hood in a scattered burst before being pulled up in the fan blades overhead. ‘What about you. What you been up to?’
Saul was of a slightly husky build, but in more of a big teddy-bear kind of way. He was in a band with Matt, Amanda’s ex-boyfriend, whose joint we were currently sharing. Upon first sight of him, you could tell that he was one of those guys that’s oozing with testosterone. This mental image reminded of what Mark said to me one time. I remember Mark telling me that he could see the demon of lust dripping from me when he first met me at Elizabeth Pizza. Mark was a prophetic minister so he, quite literally, envisioned the sin of lust dripping from me as I stood there, shaking his hand at the end of the aisle of booths, by the trashcans with the restaurant style flip-open fronts. I’ve come back to those words time and time since and, even now, over a decade later, I must say that I still find it to be a fairly apt description of myself. I am plagued by my sexuality. He could see that upon first meeting me. He saw a certain type of desperation in me and he called me out and told me that it was a prophetic vision from God. I don’t blame him for taking advantage of me. I was in just the right place for his work, and, for all I could tell, he thought he was doing the right thing the whole time.
--to be continued...