Semi-Fiction

I’m Tired of Dates

Photo of a tree trunk shot from below going up into a blue and cloudy sky. Branches are naked except for a few leaves. Branches from a coniferous tree are visible in the top left corner.

Content note: this piece contains several references to the COVID-19 pandemic.


On our pandemic date, we walk with masks around a snowy park. We run into an old teacher of yours and make polite conversation. Then we fall into the snow. It takes us on our separate paths. Our trains pull into different stations. We’re looking for something we won’t find here. Not at this time, not in this place. Not with each other.

I try to find easier ways of doing things, but nothing gets any easier. I am exhausted. I haven’t stopped working. My wrists ache from typing. My days off aren’t that at all. Sometimes, I think about giving up this way of living and pursuing what I love. I think about it in an abstract way because abstract is better for fantasy. When I try to pin down the details, they flutter away. These butterflies are alive. They can still fly.

I still don’t know what kind of writer or person I am. I want to read a book called The Courage to Be Disliked. I want to be courageous. I want to publish my book, but I’m terrified of putting my story out there. It’s painfully vulnerable and I don’t know if I could stand having it picked apart. I need to figure out how to separate myself from my story. Can that be done?

I watch another trans person come out and I almost cry several times. I think about voice training again. I think about binding. I think about growing my hair out. I think about cutting it off. It’s good I’m not trying to access healthcare right now. I can rarely get a hold of my doctor.

The routines I create save me and crush me simultaneously. The rules are necessary and I hate them (but also, not really).

My house has a big window and the man who builds my shower tells me I need curtains to keep warm. Blankets, even, if I can find them. I buy shower curtains at the grocery store. Nothing else is open.

I say when the pandemic ends and my date says if. I should text them, tell them I’m not cut out for this. I’ve tried. Trust me, I’ve tried.

I find meaning in everything and I am usually wrong about what things really mean.

Identity is troublesome and fleeting. Identity can be expansive or reductive. Identity can be as hard to pin down as a live butterfly, and as painful. Why are you trying to pin this poor creature? Why am I?

I talk to the gods almost every morning. It’s helping.

I play music in the background to make my writing feel more profound. I have never done mushrooms alone. I want to. I am curious and afraid. That would give me a way to go somewhere without having to travel.

I’m tired of going on dates, of glowing screens, video chats, and socially distant walks. Even if things were normal, however, I think I’d still be tired of them. There’s something notably unromantic about dating.

Time is a precious resource and it bleeds out of everything. I’m trying to hold time in a cheesecloth. I bought margarine because butter is hard and because butter runs out. Margarine is, apparently, not good for you. I don’t really care.

I’m tired of dichotomies. I’m tired of routines. I’m tired of typing.

I begin in pieces, in parts. I begin where my date ends. I begin in motel rooms. Cheap, seedy motel rooms that are surprisingly clean. I begin to write, to really write, and I begin to feel better.

Semi-Fiction

After

Photograph of a glowing yellow outline of a heart hanging in a window with window panes in front of it. Outdoor window frame with a dusting of snow around the window. It is dark outside and all illumination comes from the heart.

I’m on a date and it’s awkward and uncomfortable, but I’m grateful because I get to be around other people, meeting a new person. There won’t be a second date, or maybe there will, just because we’ll want an excuse to go out again. That happens a lot these days. I look into this other person’s eyes as we speak and I don’t see a potential partner there, no, but I do see a human, and I’m enraptured by the beauty of another human being’s non-pixelated eyes.

I’m at a party and the music isn’t any good and the beer is swill and the people are just okay, but I’m having the best night of my life because I get to be around other people and some of them are new and that is amazing. We’re shouting over the unfortunate music and no one is listening. Our eyes and voices are animated. You’d think we’re all high, but only a few of us are. Someone tells a joke that isn’t very funny and we all fall over laughing.

I’m walking around a mall looking at the pretty lights and colours even though I hate malls, but I’m having such a lovely time because there are people, people everywhere, and I have no reason to be afraid of them now. As I move, I catch bits and pieces of mundane conversations that are made interesting by over a year of isolation. I go into stores and don’t buy anything and the shopkeepers smile and say hello. I get an ice-cream cone and sit on a bench in the centre of it all and breathe in the stale air with a sigh of gratitude.

I get on a bus and then a train and both are delayed, so it takes a long time to get to my destination, but I’m not irritated in the slightest. I’m going somewhere, somewhere I’ve wanted to go for ages. I watch pavement disappear and then I leave tracks behind. The buildings grow taller, taller, taller until they enter the mist. The train arrives in the station and then we must wait to walk down the stairs with the size of the crowd that pours out. I am overjoyed. The city is a place of fun again, not fear, and I can come here for a day without worrying about fatal consequences.

I’m sitting in a cafe writing and the noise is actually helping me work. It was difficult to find a chair. Lots of people go out for no reason now. The seats are uncomfortable. I’m typing away on my computer. My latte is burnt and lukewarm and delicious. I’m happily writing nonsense. Someone bumps into my table, spilling my drink and disturbing my focus. I love them for it. “Sorry!” They say, reaching out a hand to steady my situation. I smile up at them. They smile back.

Semi-Fiction

Quicker Than a Streetcar Can Say Surprise

Content note: this piece contains references to the COVID-19 pandemic.


I miss sitting somewhere in public and writing even though I never did that. I want to go to Fran’s All Night Diner at some ridiculous hour and eat greasy food and pull out my notebook and write about it. I’ll ask if they have decaf and they’ll have to put on a pot and I’ll feel bad, but don’t worry, I’ll drink a lot. The refills are endless. I’ll get through the whole pot. They’ll ask if they should put on another and I’ll say no, that’s alright, thanks, it’s time to go visit my brother. And they’ll say their shift isn’t up yet. And I’ll say, no, not you, silly, me. It’s time for me to go visit my brother. And they’ll say, oh, yeah, isn’t that that guy who works at the café? Yeah, that’s the one. I’ll get the bill, please. Oh, certainly. Then I’ll be off, off to where the buildings are tall. You know, I’ve actually never visited my brother before because of the pandemic. What pandemic? Oh, have we forgotten already? Thank goodness.

Then I’ll be up and outta there, quicker than a streetcar can say surprise. I’ll be crossing that old town at lightning speed just to see the only other redhead for miles. Now that can’t be right, we use kilometres in Canada, but you know what I mean.

I’ll cross that old town and be haunted by its memories, but hey, at least I can actually be there without the fear of catching my death and spreading it. No one will look directly at me because they’ll know I’m not from around there and I won’t mind one bit. I’ll keep quiet and we’ll all agree that it’s better they don’t look. But you just wait, just wait until I get to my brother’s place because then, I’ll talk. They’ll all talk. Not about anything specific. Not about anything that matters, just the kind of talk you use to make everyone feel better. You know the kind. You use it all the time.

I’ll get to my brother’s place and I won’t have the door code, so he’ll have to buzz me in. The building he lives in is 83 floors tall. It rivals the CN Tower. No, it doesn’t, don’t make me laugh. But the CN Tower is right over there, see? He’ll buzz me in from above and I’ll walk into a lobby I’ve never seen. It’ll be unremarkable. Elevator doors will open and my brother will step out. Where’s the red hair? I’ll wonder. It’ll be dark blue, but he’ll still be my brother.

Would you like some coffee? He’ll ask.

He brings his work home with him (quite literally).

Would you mind putting on a pot of decaf?