This week's story is part (3/5) of the Nocturne series. This is where the situation in the Pavillion 22 Market Place starts to turn.
Also, I'll be officially booking my AirBnB and my plane ticket today for Nocturne... and you should too.
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Nocturne (part 3)
‘You know; like an apartment, or a condo or something?’
‘Uuhhh. I don’t, uh...’
‘Nevermind,’ I say as I shake my head and fan away the comment from the air with my spoon hand. ‘This was great, thank you very much.’ I put the jar back on the table and drop the plastic spoon in the paper coffee cup that was serving as an interim trash receptacle.
‘Here,’ he says, ‘lem’me give you a card.’ He reaches out toward me with a business card scissored between his index and middle fingers. I take the card from him and examine it for a period of time that I deem long enough for him to believe that giving it to me wasn’t a waste of a business card. ‘Our website’s on there. All our products are available to order online.’
There was a frontal headshot of him on the left third of the card. Sure enough, it was that same dopey, universally-inoffensive smile that seemed to be his default expression. I held the card out in front of me to where the mugshot on the card and his actual face were to the same approximate scale and I squinted one eye closed. The two expressions weren’t just similar, they were exactly identical. Every little nuance of every curve of facial muscle and fold of skin was in the exact same position as it was on his real face. The only things that were different were the shirt and the background, but the faces were exact copies. I began wondering what exactly this was that I was holding in my hand? Something was off about the picture on this card; the faces were too similar. Like this was a real-time projection of Pat's face rather than a still photograph. I dart my gaze back and forth between Pat's real face and his business card face, trying to catch the two faces blinking in unison or in some other way validating my hypothesis. I kept getting this feeling like I was seeing Pat's business card face winking at me out of the corner of my eye, but whenever I would look back at it, it was stone still and looking straight ahead. After about a minute of this I gave up and slid the card in my pocket and decided to check again later tonight when Pat was surely asleep to see if the business card Pat was also sleeping. That should settle things.
‘Heiya.’ I hear Amanda call off to my right. She was at the next booth over and holding a bulbous, cartoony-looking Titanic statue in one hand and pointing to it with the other and shaking her head in the universal expression of can you believe this shit? I jerked my head to motion her over.
I don’t know how long I’d been caught up in the world of Pat’s Preserves, but I’m certain that the child population had at least doubled since we first walked in. They seemed to be wildly under-supervised and most of them were running around with their tiny hands covered in finger paint or clay and there were miniature yellow and blue and mud-colored handprints everywhere. Let one of those assholes touch my pants.
‘What’s this?’ she says as she nods toward the table and the pyramids of jellies.
‘This is Pat,’ I say. I sweep my hand, Vanna White style, along the length of the display. ‘And these, are his preserves.’
* * * * * * * * * *
We stood in the loosely dispersed crowd that was half-encircling, but not coming too close to, the large, rusted-out object with the man standing in front of it beating a soldier-boy-type of drum. The sculpture looked like an abstract rendering of the hull of a boat made out of dark, rusted metal. In addition to the guy standing out in front, hammering down on the drum in 1/1 time and staring off into nothing, there were other, more obnoxious sounds coming from inside the hull. The sounds were improvisational in nature and sounded like someone variously blowing into a mic or making long, drawn out wooooo sounds.
We were at the end of an outdoor pedestrian mall cul-de-sac , across the street and a block over from the Ferry Terminal. At the entrance of the cul-de-sac was a Boston Pizza.
I stood there with my hands in my pockets. Amanda stood next to me with her arms loosely folded across her midsection and her head cocked slightly to the left. I look over to her and motion behind us with my eyes. She smiles and nods in response and we turn around and walk away towards the front entrance of the cul-de-sac. The soles of my Vans were thin enough that I could feel the texture of the bricks under foot as we walked.
Each side of the pedestrian ass bag was lined with bars and stores and art galleries. There was a Belgian restaurant down on the left that my mom and I had eaten lunch at on the first day after the move. It was the first time I had poutine.
‘So, uh,’ I jerk my head behind me, ‘that guy’s got some real talent.’
‘Right?’ Amanda says, and she closes her eyes and snaps her fingers rhythmically. ‘I wonder if he’s, like, available for parties.’
‘Ha! Right. Go up to him afterwards and be all like "hey, uh, I heard you drumming earlier and, uh, I gotta say, I was pretty impressed. This is totally the kind of sound we’re looking for for our band."'
‘Ha, yeah! Be all like, "yeah, we like to play, like, one note every five seconds. You’d totally fit in."'
‘“Yeah, and bring your friend with the microphone too!”’
Amanda had her hands in the pockets of her jacket and was staring down at the brick underneath as we walked.
‘Shit, what’s this?’
There were sounds of tribal drumming and chanting coming from a studio to our left.
‘Don’t know,’ Amanda says, as she shrugs her shoulders. ‘Let’s check it out.’
We walk over to the studio. As we get closer I can see that there are no paintings hanging up inside. The walls, like the concrete floor, are that off-white color of art galleries. There were a handful of people standing up against the walls of the gallery watching this colorful punk-rock Canadian-Native-American  (sic) guy dancing around in a circle. At the center of the circle was a slender rope that hung down from the ceiling with like a red bandanna and a feather attached to the end of it.
‘Heya aya, huya eya, heya aya, huya eya.’
The punk-rock aborigine was chanting as he danced. But he was chanting in a way that made me think that he was just, like, making stuff up. His dancing seemed equally as unauthentic. We stood in the doorway and watched him.
‘Huya eya, heya aya - come on.’ he says, as he motions for us to come join him in his faux tribal dance around the bandanna/feather object hanging from the ceiling. ‘Huya eya - come on.’
We decline the offer.
Behind the dance circle, about ¾ of the way back on the right, there was a wall that jutted out about half the width of the gallery and just beyond that, in the very back left corner, we could see a doorway with reflective streamers hanging down in front and red and purple and white light emanating out from behind. There was a small concentration of people looking at something just behind the back partition. Some of them were taking pictures.
‘Here, this way,’ I say, and Amanda and I walk into the gallery and toward the back, taking a path along the wall and tangential to the dancing circle.
‘No, come on, come on!,’ the First National calls out to us as we walk towards the back, still dancing in a circle all the while.
Amanda and I walk over and stand to the other side of the small crowd of people that were looking at whatever was behind the wall.
My first thought was that there were bloody handprints all over the walls and smears of blood on the floor. That was my initial instinct, but, upon closer examination the handprints and stains on the floor were actually clay. Like, potting clay.
There was a slightly overweight girl, presumably of First Nations’ origin, sitting with her back to us in the corner. Her legs were splayed out in front of her and she was hunched over digging at something, kind of like she was force-feeding herself something from a bowl. I walked around to the other side of the crowd and leaned in as far as I could over the imaginary line that separated the exhibit from the traffic area to try to get a good look at what she was shoving in her mouth. When I leaned in far enough I could see that she was not, in fact, force-feeding herself. Rather, she was bringing her fist up to about mouth level, and artlessly pounding down into a lump of clay in her other hand over and over again.
I look over at Amanda. She's standing on the other side of the group of onlookers and scanning her gaze around the exhibit with a look of indulgent appreciation. She was awestruck as she looked over at me. I raise my eyebrows and make a pained smile and nod over toward the streamer-veiled backdoor.
‘Jeez,’ I say, as we meet up on the way to the door. ‘That really went to a dark place pretty quickly, didn’t it?’
She puffs her cheeks and let out a plosive phhhh. ‘I liked it,’ she says.
‘I totally thought that girl was force-feeding herself over in the corner.’
‘Me tooo,’ she says, as she slaps the back of her hand against my bicep and hold it there for a second.
‘That has to be intentional, right?’
I use my hand to part the streamers open and I follow Amanda through the doorway and into the light.
* * * * * * * * * *
‘Here. Try the pepper jelly.’ I scoop up a miniature spoonful and hand it to Amanda.
‘What’s this?,’ she says, and she takes the tiny utensil from me and points up towards it with a suspicious look on her face. ‘What are we, freggin’, Gulliver’s Travels here?’
‘Ha! Yeah, I know. He’s got like a whole miniature set back there. He always has to, like, throw out the little forks and knives.’ Amanda snorts through her nose and holds her wrist in front of her mouth to keep from inadvertently spitting jelly out.
‘Mmmm,’ she says as her eyes widen and she looks up at Pat.
‘Yeah, that’s our best seller…’
I hear Pat delve into his sales pitch with Amanda as my attention drifts away and I scan around at the marketplace. Seriously, what was with all these fucking kids? The place was overrunning with them. So much so, that I couldn’t even make out the floor through the thicket of children. The walkways of the marketplace was swarming with little bowl-cuts and pig-tails bobbing by at waist-height. And they were getting aggressive too; I could feel little shell-toed shoes kicking at my ankle every now and then and little sticky hands jerking at my pant’s leg and tiny pointy elbows nudging me in the hollow of my knee.
‘You little shits..’ I say under my breath as I swat down at my legs. Suddenly realizing that I may have inadvertently hit someone’s child, I scan around to see if I was getting the death stare from some parent. Ok, I was clear; no parents in sight. In fact, there were no fucking adults in sight at all! The few adults that I thought I saw in my periphery were, upon a closer examination, actually children wobbling around on the shoulders of other children. Jesus Christ, haven’t these people heard of a fucking Amber alert!? Even the vendors seemed to have vanished. I look over at the metal-smith booth set up across the aisle from us to see a little kid with a full black beard and a leather apron standing on a stool and negotiating the price of a small metal rocking horse with another kid in a pair of stonewashed Lee’s and a powder-blue sweatshirt that said Halifax on it.
Amanda was on her second or third sampling of jelly and, judging by the excitement in her eyes, possibly considering making a purchase.
‘So, uh...’ I looked up at Amanda, then scanned the small army of children around us.
‘Holy shit!’ she said as she followed my gaze. ‘Where’d all these kids come from?!’
‘I don’t know, but it looks like we’re the only adults here.’
By this point the thick sea of children had begun to actually ebb and flow and we could feel the little warm bodies brushing up against our calves and lower thighs and crawling through our legs.
‘Yeah, we got a lot of kids around here.’ We look over to see Pat sitting there, with that tranquil dumb expression on his face, seeming to not notice how drastic of an understatement this was. ‘Look at this little fella here,’ he says as he points toward something over my shoulder.
‘Wha--’ I feel a tiny hand grip into the muscly part just above my left shoulder blade. ‘Jesus! What th’fuck!’ I reach behind me and grab a meaty little forearm and fling it, and the little boy with black curly hair attached to it, out into the sea of children where he floats and tosses around briefly before sinking out of sight, staring blankly up at me the whole time.
‘Are you fucking serious!?’ I look up to see Amanda shaking off a little girl with a bob cut who was attempting to mount her back. She manages to shake her loose and the little girl falls back, toppling over two kids that were balancing up on the shoulders of two other kids behind her.
I look up at Amanda and thumb over my shoulder toward the front entrance, ‘I think it’s time to go.’
-- to be continued...
 This was a little expression that we'd picked up from Ricky Gervais on The (original) Office. You had to say it in a quick breath with a deep inflection in the middle.
 Fun fact; the literal translation of cul-de-sac in French is ass of a bag. In case you’re wondering, yes; sac-de-cul translates to bag of ass. I looked it up.
 The Canadian Equivalent of Native American is First Nations.