I woke up on the morning of my twelfth birthday and immediately wished I hadn’t. It was almost ten and the house had that deathly Sunday stillness. I went to the washroom, peed, wiped the seat clean of the yellow drops and flushed the toilet—all as mum had trained me to do . . .
Sultan Uncle placed several glossy brochures in front of Arif and Meena. “I recommend this one.” He tapped the brochure for the Tree Tops Lodge & Resort. “Top class luxury. It will be the ultimate safari . . .
“Neil, what you studying in school, boy? Interracial marriages? ” my mom asked.
“International relations,” I said. Suddenly I was slurping down the rest of my coffee in a rush to get out.
She turned to my father . . .
Was she thinking: grief
is a letter you mail to yourself
once the turnstile’s been turned
at the subway station
x number of times. The delay
is necessary, chosen in advance
for a day like this, when she pushes
the door open into a room
made immaculate, and relatives
made inquisitive, by an infant’s
early death . . . .
Bird shit falls on my face and I want to cry, because before this I have always liked pigeons. They look really cute in pictures and on TV, but I guess photographers and moviemakers don’t like capturing them scrounging and shitting . . .
There is a hum. Surrounding me Toronto respires. It gapes. Gap toothed to the world. I imagine a yawning crater sucking anything that isn’t nailed down into itself. Feeding. Feeding off the teaming life scurrying at its feet . . .
another night on the 504
while away the time watching
the sidewalk crawl beside me
I saw the worn leather boots first
pumping to reach their stop
ahead of my streetcar
black and silver boots running
as the metal beast clacks along
he barely makes it
“thank you” his thick Scottish accent
tumbles through the car at me
and I’m in love with a punk rock boy . . . .
I was surprised but not shocked when my Aunt Milda began to see her dead son up on the telephone pole outside her window in the mornings. At her age, anything was possible. I had to do something, and not just for her sake . . .
The household is in a state of chaos.
My mother rushes around the kitchen grabbing tin foil, plastic wrap and lunch bags for the aloo-chutney sandwiches spread in rows on the kitchen table.
“Oh Ji,” she shouts to my father, who is running up and down stairs gathering picnic supplies . . .
Maybe the one thing people should know about me is that I hate my house. It sounds mean, doesn’t it, like I’m telling everyone that I secretly stick pins into a voodoo doll that looks like my brother, or that I overfed my pet Guinea pig when I was nine just so I could watch it die . . .
When I phone my mother, Blanche Ruth Jamieson Moses, born in 1924, to wish her a happy birthday, she challenges me.
“So how old am I? ”
“You don’t look a day over eighty!”
She rarely talks about the past—she’s so present—so when she mentioned that, once upon a time, she’d been in the Santa Claus Parade, she got my attention . . .