BY LAURA JANE FAULDS/ ILLUSTRATIONS BY JEN MAY
I like waking up the morning after I got really drunk and watching the hazy pictures of what happened in my head like when we were kids and there were still photographs, they were glossy and the paper had a bit of a snap to it, you’d shuffle through the pack of them really fast one by one and even as a kid when your fingers were crayons it was like slight of hand the way they moved. You did it elegant, like when you have to count money for your job and you start off pretty awkward but two months later your fingers know how to move around the weight of that paper. Fingers are good at paper. I want to be that lazy kind of elegant about everything.
I like aging. I used to wake up the morning after getting really drunk and I’d watch the hazy pictures shuffling and I hated them, I’d done a bunch of stupid shit and I regretted it. The truth was heavy, it was trash, I didn’t want it. It was a dumb person’s body pressing down the back of my ribs and I hated everyone and I hated myself for hating them. Life was something I looked forward to, not the thing I did.
I’m older now. When I wake up and remember what I said and did the pictures make me laugh. They were the cool kind of stupid. I had a great time and I liked my friends and I still do. I said everything I wanted to say and I did everything I wanted to do. I represented myself perfectly.
There’s no song about what it feels like. I’m not depressed. I eat whatever I want and I grew my hair out. I can run really fast, I run every day, I don’t want to run away but I’m leaving. I haven’t lied in a million months. The only thing that bums me out is other people lying. At the gym there’s three TVs playing three different 24-hour news stations and the news is always people dying. Death is the news’ favorite news and I get why- because it’s spooky, but it’s also so boring! The news is all, “Who died in the most interesting way today?” or “Who is the most interesting person that died today?” when it could just as easily be “Who lived in the most interesting way today?” or “Who is an interesting person?” but I think maybe the dirty logic behind it is that the news is there to remind people no matter how crappy their day was at very least they’re not DJ AM or Oscar Pistorius’ girlfriend. People feel so fucking sorry for themselves for not being a statue at the Louvre carved out of sapphires draped in chiffonade and jellied lilac leaves while their favorite band drinks champagne cut with lemonade and plays their favorite song at their ideal volume as their statue self gets fucked by the 1950s movie star of their choice and they are twenty pounds skinnier than they actually are and also billionaires, and then they watch the news so they can feel guilty about it and feel sorry for themselves for feeling sorry for themselves! Which is such an interesting and useful way to live your life.
At the Bathurst subway station there’s a skinny restaurant that sells baked goods and pastries and empanadas and scones and Jamaican patties. I have no idea what it’s called. It’s one of those secret cool things that young city people like themselves better for knowing about. It’s great luck to live off that subway stop because it means you can eat there more. The baking smell smells so good. The food tastes so good. It’s all sweet and oily clear yellow bread stuffed with stuff. They give it to you in a paper bag. It’s like 1970s style cheap.
This was yesterday I’m talking about. It was a Tuesday and it was the seventh straight night I’d worked in a row. I had one of the best very drunk nights of my adult life, slept through a dentist’s appointment and woke up to 20 likes on Instagram and I had no idea what I’d even Instagrammed. It was a picture of me with my co-worker’s snake draped around my neck. I look a little bit scared. His name is Charles. I was talking to my co-worker’s roommate and I asked her what year she was born. She said, “What does it matter? Why do you need to know that about me? What would it change about this conversation?” and I said “It doesn’t, Because it’s interesting, Nothing,” but she still wouldn’t tell me, she did NOT want to tell me, so then I gave up and asked her her favorite color and she’d kind of screwed herself into not being able to tell me that answer either. I don’t understand why the only type of people who give enough of a shit to try and enlighten somebody else always have to be such dicks about it. I wandered away from her. I knew within twenty minutes of waking up that I was going to eat a pastry with meat inside it from that place that night.
“What’s that?” I asked the lady who worked at the place, pointing at a thing. It was a rusty metal baking tray covered in a sheet of wax paper gone clear with oil and brown around the edges. The pastries on top were gummy yellow logs gone brown around the edges. Somebody’d smashed the backs of them with a fork.
“Beef,” she said boredly. I let that bullshit response fly as being an acceptable answer to my question because what it really meant was “The thing you’re seeing is stuffed with beef,” and that’s what I wanted. So I said “Yeah I’ll have that.”
It cost me two dollars and twenty five cents. I ate it while listening to “The World’s A Mess; It’s In My Kiss” by X while leaning against the subway platform wall and waiting for the train to arrive. Just blasting out my eardrums. My ideal volume.
I kept listening to that song over and over again. I have been all week. I love it because I think the world’s a mess and I want to know if you could tell I think that just by kissing me. Probably yeah. And I love it because it’s the only song I can think of that’s got a semi-colon in the title, which is very cool to me. I love them, semi-colons. Punctuation is the third-coolest thing after words and the sky; after punctuation comes water, music and animals. Semi-colons are coolest out of all the punctuation marks, so semi-colons in music are very high up for me in the world. Semi-colons about water would be slightly better.
“The World’s A Mess; It’s In My Kiss” was on the first mixtape Liz Barker ever made me. I was fifteen. “Lost In The Supermarket” was on that tape too; I remember sitting in a grey-carpeted classroom looking at the word supermarket written out in Liz’s loopy penmanship on a Maxell sleeve. “Los Angeles” and “The World A Mess; It’s In My Kiss” were one after the other on the tape, with a slash between them, and I thought they were one song for the longest time. Until I was in my twenties. I thought they were like an Abbey Road medley/”A Quick One” kind of thing. That was twelve years ago.
Now twelve years have passed and there are no pennies. On the last day of pennies one of those stupid gym TVs put a picture of a rotating penny against a pure white background and next to it wrote THE CANADIAN PENNY, 1858-2013, and I started crying. I couldn’t help it. I just felt really sorry for pennies. And then I started feeling sorry for penny loafers! I felt this insane urge to run home and impulse-buy a pair of penny loafers off the Internet and sift through my tulip vase of pennies to find a couple from the 1960s and slide them through the penny-slots of those penny loafers I never ended up buying. Whatever! I never actually care. I hate February but in a couple months it’ll be nice out. The new cross-eyed dishwasher at my work writes lesbian erotica and told me my voice is “peaceful.” Mostly I’m just the girl stumbling home listening to a twilight raga, or a morning raga, or woman, or lady. I honestly have no preference. You can call me chick or dude if you want. All I care about is the adjective. You can call me a marmot or a horse or a bitch.
There’s people who get to dance around and have their picture taken and people who’ve got to make sneakers and right in the middle are people who have to transfer subways. I’m a subway-transferer. I’m pretty average in that way. But I work at night, which is a little weird.
I was mostly thinking about that yellow pastry with beef in the middle. I could have eaten three of them. I put my whole iPod on shuffle and said the second song it played me would be my theme song for the day. I do that every day. It played me “Wild Honey” by the Beach Boys and I sang it to myself about myself. I sang myself “Sock it to me, Wild Honey Pie.” I’ve sung myself those words before.
The train came and it was one of those new trains. The light is too white and there’s not enough chairs. There’s just a bunch of white empty open space but not enough railings for people to hang onto. At the nose of every car are three seats that flip down. The hinges are so stiff and it’s tough to pull at them. And when you stand up they often hit you in the ass. I like to sit on those chairs and listen to “Song of the Viking” by Todd Rundgren and imagine I’m a Viking. I like those ships. I like to sit on those chairs and tell myself the sentence: “Moving to India is the ace up my sleeve.”
I can do it. I can do it whenever I want. I’ve got a cup full of cash and I can use it to buy whatever I want. I can fly to the mountains and meditate the rest of my life away. I can sleep at the foot of the holy river Ganges, pronounced Gonga, and I will forget about Instagram and I’ll forget about you.
Instead I’m saving up to move to London for no reason. My new thing is when people ask me why I want to move to London I roll my eyes and say “Because the Beatles have British accents.” I honestly have no idea why I’m doing it.
I’m lying. I’m doing it because it feels like the thing I’m supposed to do. I see God in everywhere everything and I trust it. The subway is stupid, but that’s a game I play with myself too, like the iPod I Ching. The iChing. I’ve only believed in God for fifty-one days, and the subway’s the ugliest place I ever am. So that’s the challenge, trying to get myself to see God and really feel it, know it, on the ugs subway. I figure if I can see God on the subway then there’s definitely God, and that’s what I’m gunning for. I definitely want there to be God. I don’t always care enough to bother looking for it but it’s taken my breath away in moments. Everybody’s face looks like a child’s. They’re shining like they just put moisturizer on.
On the train I won't stand up for old people. It has nothing to do with God. I start work at 4:30 and I get off around midnight. I don’t get to sit for any of that time. I think I deserve to sit down on my way to doing that more than a person on their way to go do a bunch more sitting. If you’re old it means you’re retired but young people have to go to work and do work there. Old people can go home and sit around for the entire rest of their lives if they want.
I was sitting in one of those stupid fold-down seats that smack you in the ass when you stand up and an old couple got on one stop after I did. They were pretty cute, but I didn’t move. “Stick to your guns, Laura. You’re not looking for God today.”
I was only looking for time to pass. I wanted to get to work so I could make myself a latte and put cajeta in it.
I sat in the middle of the three stupid fold-down seats. The lady on my right was old and so had no obligation to stand up for a different old person. The lady to my left was middle-aged and ferret-faced and stood up immediately. It’s so weird the way we are about the elderly, respecting them out of pity. The woman from the old couple nodded and took her place. I’d taken my phone out of my bag and was looking at Instagram with a furrowed brow to make it seem to the train like I hadn’t noticed any of it. I saw a lady a few seats down rise for the old man and he took her spot. I put my phone away once I knew I was in the clear. Ferret Face gave me the old stink-eye and I played dumb. I looked around the train. A couple more middle-aged ferret ladies gave me pointless stink-eye too. It’s not like they really cared about the well-being of the old couples’ knees or whatever. It’s not like if the old couple hadn’t sat down on those seats they would have fallen down and died. I looked at the three major ferret ladies and tried to figure out how their faces were different from each other but they weren’t. They all wore knee-length black puffers. They were all the same face.
The old lady who’d sat down next to me was texting on an iPhone and I rolled my eyes; if you’re young enough to text on an iPhone then you’re young enough to stand on a subway. I listened to a bit of a slow and sad record called Colour Green by the German actress Sibylle Baier. I like it because all the songs are so simple, just guitar and voice and the crackle of the crappy recording, and all the words are about normal things like coming home from work and meeting a guy who’s got a red-haired wife, sitting at the kitchen table, rolling up the bottoms of your trousers. I was sad when I figured out she was singing “You were so kind at the banks of Italy”; I’d wanted her to be singing “You were so kind at the bank,” just a stupid CIBC or whatever. I want everything to be as boring and regular as the ducky brown specks of slush up the backs of your jeans or stockings any time you blink this time of year. “Ducky” is not a real word, in case you were wondering what I meant by that. I meant nothing. All I meant was that the “colour brown” of slush up the backs of my jeans reminds me of a duck’s boring feathers. I hate ducks and I hate slush.
I craned my neck to read what the old lady was texting. She was typing with only one finger, her right index. She wrote “Son we will be at finch sta tion in 30 minutes.” It broke the fuck out of my heart.
One stop before mine another old woman came aboard. She was older than the couple. She wore a blue and burgundy paisley silk kerchief tied around her head, knotted under her chin. Her hair was long and white. Her blue eyes were red and wet. Her hair was in a braid. Her eyes were a hand. They made me think the word “rheumatic.” They punched me in the stomach; I stood up without even thinking of it first. I would have stood for her on an empty train too. I’m a writer so I’ve got a short-list of words that I always want things to be like, not because I want things to be any certain way but so I can get to use some weirdo word that barely ever applies to anything. When I saw her the word SAGACITY came to me twenty foot tall and rimmed with infinitely-watted lightbulbs made of stars. The seat smacked my ass as I stood up and then the hem of my dumb dress got caught in the seat.
“No,” she said, “Sit down, sit down.”
“But I stood up,” I said.
“I’ll sit down,” said the fattest of the three ferrets: trying to be cute, I guess. She laughed at her own lame "joke." It was kind of an "Am I right, Ladies?"-style thing. She darted her ferrety eyes around, expecting to make eye contact with a stranger reacting. But no one reacted.
I sat back down. I don’t remember what song I was listening to anymore. I looked up at the old lady and she was saying something but I couldn’t hear her because my headphones were loud. I took out one headphone but all I could hear was the fat ferret’s lame response. Her voice was a bubble she coughed up. I don’t know what Sagacity said back to her but I gathered it was something about getting off at the next stop. The moment passed. Everybody stopped pretending to care about a person they weren’t. A song ended or a new song started or maybe the whole time it was the same long song. Maybe I was still listening to Sibylle Baier. I think it’s a dumb device to name this old lady character Sagacity so I’m going to can it now. She has no name. I’ll never know her real name ever.
She was a very old lady, maybe she was wise, maybe she just looked wise, but I’m pretty sure she was very wise, and I looked back up at her. It felt like she’d been waiting for me to do that, and was pleased when I did. She smiled down at me, and her mouth like her eyes was hands. I’d been wanting to be touched.
I smiled too. It was such a good smile! I wish I could smile at cute dudes the way I smiled for that lady: a smile for every blade of grass and morning, for every time I’ve ever been warm. It was the dew at summer camp. It was why people do drugs or become astronauts. It was the point of looking at the moon.
In that moment of our smiling I was a lot of people. We were both all of them. I was myself running very fast and I was myself reading the Wikipedia entry about ski deaths. I was the night sometimes, I was every night I’ve woken myself up out of a good deep sleep to freak out about how dying is scary and I was a snake around my neck and I was that picture of myself which will live forever. I was every person on the train, the ferret ladies sadly, the two dead Beatles, my parents and myself on the days they’ll die and myself on the day I’ll die when I was younger than my parents and them that day, waking up and I was a little kid eating the marshmallows out of a box of Lucky Charms one night I couldn’t sleep and I was sleeping and I was the guy who invented marshmallows. I was myself in fifty years doing whatever’s the fifty years from now equivalent of texting your son a text beginning “Son.” I was my drunk self yelling about how I’ll never have kids, the world’s too big of a mess, my drunk self yelling “I just want to write a raga!” I was a very old woman who didn’t want to sit down on the subway. I was cool and in my life I wrote like four ragas. I lived a good life and I loved somebody and I was always the same way and I saw this girl, I couldn’t even tell how old she was. Seventeen? Thirty-three? I’m like ninety or whatever; I honestly can’t tell the difference. I liked her. I hadn’t thought about what it felt like to feel like that, to be at the beginning of the thing, in so long. In like fifty years I think? It was hard, not knowing. I don’t miss it. I might never get sick and I might never forget. I’ll always remember all of it. I spent my whole life dreading it, but then I got here, I did, I’m here, and it’s the only thing that’s ever made sense. Everybody’s dead and I know the answer. Life was perfect.