At six-thirty in the morning shadows have a certain modesty. Yes, they’re there, enjoying their last moments on the dance floor; but when the sun slowly rises they don’t ask the DJ for one more song. They realize their limitations and call for a cab home. And as I pedalled my way to work, bleary eyed and revelling in the fact that I’d finally put avocado on my sandwich for lunch, I was incredibly thankful for the self-awareness of those shadows. Without it I wouldn’t have seen you and your family dart from behind a car and skitter across the road; your young ones getting into a tussle mere feet from my tires. It was then that I truly understood why you liked to work in the night: the darkness was a keen, compassionate and stylish partner. It didn’t ask questions and was always up to salsa. I looked back at you one more time before cycling into the loud, clumsy Macarena of day.
Portrait by @Jorobot for #POBEshow 2014
Of course it was premeditated. I should have caught the signs. The licking of the lips, the fluttering of the eyelashes followed by looking bashfully at the ground – these were all strategic moves in an effort to reach a final, confusing preteen endgame: the kiss. Not that I was fighting it. I wasn’t nearly the last kid in grade-seven to kiss someone but I sure as hell didn’t want to be in the running.
Later she’d told me that the latest issue of Cosmopolitan had told her that in order to let a man know she was interested she should slowly trace her lips with her tongue while maintaining eye contact; which I thought was strange when it first happened since I’d just told her about my dog having been treated for worms. And now, as I licked an embarrassing amount of poutine gravy from my lips, I felt a similar strangeness, but hoped that my interest in you was clear, albeit messy.
Portrait by Justin Longoz for #POBEshow 2014
Fifty-dollars. Phone calls and tinny voice mails every weekday from a different number and an ominous letter each Thursday over fifty-dollars. Payment for the two separate splints I’d gotten for my broken pinky is what they were after. I was a month late on the bill and Revenue Services Canada had sicced the outsourced hounds on me. When I finally answered the phone you seemed completely nonplussed. “Sir, why have you not payed your bill?” Seeing this as a great opportunity to exercise a budding interest in improv, I proceeded to spin a tale of woe:
A botched job putting the pin in my finger had led to a nasty infection. Days later I’d woken up to no feeling in my arm and found it discoloured to a horrid shade of porkchop-left-on-a-hot-tin-roof-for-three-days. A nurse fainted and hit his head on the admitting counter when he saw my mess of a limb. The doctor told me what I’d feared: they’d have to amputate.
After four hours of excruciating pain due to my unfortunate allergy to anesthetics, I laid in a pool of sweat and blood on the operating table. The good part of the whole ordeal, I told you, was that the doctor said I needn’t worry about the fifty-dollars for the splints. This was his bad and he’d cover it. And he even let me keep my arm!
There was a long pause that I took as my cue to hang up.
Portrait by Karston Smith for #POBEshow 2014
It was strange, the way you leaned into the urinal as if it was your first time using one; hiding your penis behind the receptacle’s short porcelain walls. That and how you anxiously looked around the bathroom like you were on lookout as you rolled a flaccid, fleshy joint. I had been having a good day. I’d told a few zingers in the lunch room, had already far surpassed my work quota for the day and was happily washing my hands before heading home.
All that combined gave me the confidence to try and lighten the mood, to alleviate whatever anxiety was making you comically thrust yourself dick first into a public toilet. “Don’t worry, man. I’m just here to watch.” As soon as the words left my mouth I knew I’d made a mistake. You asked me to repeat myself. “It was a joke I never should have made to my manager.” I shouted behind me while slow jogging to the exit.
Portrait by Sophia Ahamed for #POBEshow 2014
When we lifted the first person up and onto the hands of us crowded into the living room of the house our friend’s band was playing in it was fun and exciting. Then one by one, further friends were raised and surfed and it was still exciting and even more fun. Towards the end of the set the band and all of us who swelled around them were sweating, yelling and doing our best not to slip on the hardwood that had seen more than a few beer drop and empty onto it.
Then they finished with a clash of cymbals and the last friend was lowered from her throne of fingers and palms and I was left feeling empty – I was the only one who didn’t get to crowd surf. Did I weigh too much? Was I too sweaty? Unappealing to the touch? I probably wouldn’t like it anyways I told myself, what with all the hands pushing and grabbing my butt and everything. I shook my head as I biked home alone; that would’ve been my favourite part.
Portrait by Mark Illing for #POBEshow 2014
The sliding door was wide open and Michael, the Japanese exchange student, sat in the backseat, clutching onto the fur of the great white expanse of dog that was Jenny. I waved at Grandpa as he drove the van past us. He waved back but Michael didn’t, I assumed because Jenny would have leapt out into the road like the buffoon she had been if not restrained.
When I told my mom and grandma this their faces dropped and they asked me to go into the other room. It was only a few years later that he wasn’t able to remember my name. Now, as I watched your elderly hands slowly steer the Oldsmobile up and over the roundabout, I wondered if anyone had spoken worriedly about you behind closed doors yet.
Portrait by James Lauder for #POBEshow 2014