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I needed to get my hair buzzed yesterday for Brenda and Judy's wedding tomorrow. Five week's worth of fuzz on my scalp will not do. Sylvie's girlfriend Sarah came over and watched my daughters so I could go to the barber.
Then Sylvie wanted to take them to a movie. I picked her up after work and dropped them all off at the mall, then had an evening alone. I have never left my kids with a sitter in seven years since the separation.
Sylvie likes to run her hand over my scalp after a haircut and call me kiwi.
Brenna was bored, so the girls and I drove to a playground in late afternoon. Nearby, under big silver maples by the river, a young couple occupied a bench. He lay with his blond head between her knees. She was wiry and dark. She kept brushing his chunky chest and stomach with her hands. They talked and laughed. I couldn't resist watching the way she touched him. I never remember feeling so mentally aroused by the sight of a man and a woman together.
I'm starting to get skin starved. I can hardly wait to see Danny again next Friday.
Judy and Brenda walked out the back door of the stone house they built themselves over the past 20 years. Wearing black tuxedos, holding hands, they went and got married under the tent in front of 155 people. After 30 years together, they and their friends and family shed even more tears than I have seen at most weedings. Brenda's younger cousin, Tim, held steadied her from behind as she said her vows. A butterfly danced overhead during the cermony, too exuberant to touch down anywhere. Then Judy and Brenda went and signed the registration forms, making their marriage legal.
At the campfire after the wedding, Brenna came and sat beside me. When she got tired, she rested her head against my side. I put my arm around her. The tenderness feels wonderful.
But it is different from affection with another adult, in which the exchange can be entirely mutual. With my children it feels like energy flows out. It must. They are still finding their identity. I build safe space in which they can grow and develop self-confidence. In the end, I must let go of them. The seed falls from the tree but grows best beyond its shadow.
Weddings used to depress me. It came partly from seeing intimacy between two others, making me aware of what I lacked.
Deeper inside, it stirred up my illicit desire to share an emotional, erotic connection with another man. I thought I could never fulfil that longing.
Now things have changed. I have embraced my orientation and tasted the range of relationships I might have with a man: love requited and unrequited, gratification deferred and fulfilled, awesome and mediocre sex.
Now I am alone, but know how it feels to touch and hold a man. I can experience longing without desperation.
An enigmatic lesson from within.
I dreamt that Brenna had said something cruel to her sister, and I kicked her out. Her mother lived a few blocks away in a strange city. Realizing I had been too harsh, I followed through the streets, but couldn't catch up; it was too late.
On the way home I encountered my older child, who had turned into a 16-year-old son. I sat in the back of his Jeep to talk and he showed me his baby. A surprise! The mother, a Metis, sat in the driver's seat. I held the infant in my arms.
I can barely remember how it feels to hold a newborn baby. Too much time has passed. Our neighbours showed me their new son on the dock last month, but didn't offer him for me to pick up.
I held both my daughters on the days they were born. Brenna's C-section went smoothly. The nurse handed her to me in the delivery room, moments after lifting her from Karen's belly. I sensed her quiet alertness.
Clear images fly away like fairies vanishing. I am left only knowing that these things transpired, wishing I could go back and write them down.
Tonight I am going to see Danny. Fantasy is always different from reality, but I can't help imagining how it will be. I have savoured it for a month. The past week I have let my sexual tension build without release.
I will look into his dark eyes and draw close to him, bringing our chests together. I want to ask him to restrain his deire to please me; restrain his hands so I may touch him all over: hands, shoulders, chest, thick beard. I want to pour all my need into passionate generosity, let my longing flow into giving.
It's a strange paradox my family taught me: physical tenderness and emotional aloofness. Here's one essential fact about me: I wouldn't hurt a fly. I got furious with Brenna last week for drowning harmless daddy-long-legs with the hose.
I am in heaven this weekend: long nights of gentles touches, prolonged foreplay, tenderness carrying on hour after hour. When it comes to feelings and thoughts, I don't let people get close to me so easily, at least not for long.
But we're both seeking friendship more than anything. Maybe without the usual pressure and expectations our intimacy will unfold more naturally.
We sleep on two single air mattresses covered with a single sleeping bag in the humid tent. Despite the heat, every time we lie down near each other we can't resist touching. Long moments of deep kissing and tenderness flow easily into passionate exuberance.
A strange thing happened in the pool last night. He lifted my hips and started caressing me. Huge thunderheads had mounted up in the distance, threatening to suffocate the moon. As I reached climax, lightning flashed silently across the horizon behind his head. I was too breathless to tell him what I had seen until later.
Heads necks shoulders backs buttocks biceps triceps forearms hands fingers chests bellies groins genitals thighs knees calves shins ankles feet soles toes.
Red brown grey sandy hair. A buzzed scalp. Long hair in a ponytail. A neat business cut. Chest hair streaming like water over rocks. Pubic hair a dark cloud enfolding a sharp, pale erection like lightning.
Moustaches. Beards. Long beard like a forest of vines. Hidden flowers exude a morning fragrance.
Pierced ears, pierced nipples. Nose ring. Frenum. Cool on my tongue, rattling against my teeth, grazing the roof of my mouth, my throat.
Fingers. Tongues. Palms. Lips.
Inevitably, I'm home again, alone. My arms are empty.
Someone said we need seven hugs a day to maintain mental health. Four years ago I would often go a couple weeks at a time without touching another human being.
My life is a lot happier now, but I still go through long stretches of solitude. Sometimes it's good for me and my creative work. Sometimes it drives me crazy.
Like right now. I want to be around people. I think this is a healthier state to be in than the one that takes comfort in day after day of isolation.
As a child I was often alone. My parents were there but I frequently felt unhappy around them, so I would sequester myself in my room. Sitting at my wide drafting table I gazed into the light outside. One window overlooked the golf course, the other opened into the deep green shade of a spruce tree.
I started telling myself stories about a world full of beauty and magic. Then I started writing them down. I created characters who became my friends. One of them was alone like me. But when I wrote about him I could practically touch him.
Somewhere in the intervening years between then and now, I lost close contact with my imaginary characters.
I still need to connect with someone. Natalie Goldberg or some author like that said that when you write it is useful to imagine who you are writing to. Without that sense of an audience, I have difficulty writing anything of value.
My creative energy has been restored through slowly developing an internet audience for my various expressions. This is one of the things that has brought me back in touch with the world. It enriches my life. It leads me toward happiness.
I was lucky. My power came on before I woke up this morning, 14 hours after the outage. Another 12 hours have passed, and half the city still doesn't have hydro. Despite general appeals by officials, my building's central air conditioning is on. I'm keeping cool. My life could go on as usual.
Instead I feel like I'm missing out on something. Friends are staying together. People are helping each other. Without a car I can't visit or cart water.
I walked to the corner store to buy batteries. When the teller gave me change, her fingers brushed my palm.
When I write I imagine the ink from my pen carving perforations like scrollwork in a wooden screen. You can see through the screen, the blacks of my pupils and the faintly glowing neural network of my mind into the shadowy backwaters of my soul.
As I work here, the ideas and images only flow one way, outward into the hopeful void. I wish I could see and touch you with my mind, but I can't. I can only imagine you reading. Or perhaps listening to my voice. Yes, that's how I see it in my head.
I need you.
Someone online told me she imagined me reading in a "softspoken, articulate, gentle voice that enunciates every syllable." Actually I'm not like that. I'm shy, and yet I have one of those trumpet voices that gets overheard in restaurants and subways. If you need to get people's attention in a crowd, I'm the one to stand on a chair and holler. In conversation I often stumble, say
a lot. When reading I rush forward with drama and exuberance.
But I wouldn't harm a fly. I have a warm smile, my blue eyes are gentle, and so is my touch
As a teenager I remember feeling physically repulsed by my father. I don't know why. I never remember him hurting me except for the spankings that most children of my generation received, and he didn't deliver many of those.
Every night at bedtime I gave my parents each a hug goodnight. I didn't want to touch my father, but it was compulsory. Who knows what would have happened if I had refused. It was unthinkable for me to express unhappiness, dislike or malcontent. I was their golden boy and had to play the part.
I don't feel that repulsion anymore.
I went out for dinner with Sylvie a week ago yesterday. We met outside on Quebec Street and hugged under our umbrellas. Hers was red, yellow and blue. We went into The Bookshelf and upstairs to the e-bar. I had a pint of cider and she a pot of tea. We shared chicken fingers and a specialty pizza. She leaned forward over the table, giggling, telling me about Sarah. I talked about Danny.
More than a week has passed since I had physical contact with another human being besides the woman at the register who brushed my hand on Friday.
A friend phoned from the highway, asking if he could drop by. I see him twice a year perhaps, whenever he comes to town to visit his parents. His call woke me from an afternoon nap. My sluggish mind hesitated when I heard his voice on the line. He must have noticed.
"Are you sure this is a good time?" he asked.
Yes. I haven't touched another person in more than a week, not intimately. When he reached the top of the stairs, walked into my living room, I took hold of him and brought his lips down to mine.
Thirteen years they claw along bones, gnawing at the roots of life, enfolded in dessicated flesh of earth beneath its verdant shroud. All that time in the blind ground, isolated from light and the community of their species. They are utterly antisocial, need not be otherwise.
Suddenly in August heat they crawl up trunks, split their skins and emerge. Changing to vivid winged shapes they rise, hold council in the canopy. In the dead of day their bone-dry wail thrills the air with electricity. After thirteen years they find one another for a brief orgy. And then the cicadas die.
At dusk near the river I wander aimlessly, letting the wind carress me. I could drift through this sea of fragrance and warmth for hours without losing strength. This is the way I like lovemaking.
One section of the park, where the bicycle path runs, consists of a wide grassy gallery enclosed on either side by giant black willows and a single elm, tall and elegant. As the cathedral dome turns toward dark purple, the light across this wide space slowly settles to deepening shades of gloom. Then tiny bats appear, one by one, wheeling across the faintly shining sky.
Lately I have started receiving parcels from friends I met online. Sometimes gifts come laced with expectation and desire. Loneliness hangs like a shadow over the vast internet community. People disconnected, yearning for belonging. Someone to belong with.
But Danny and I have already connected, so when a parcel arrived from him last night, it contained no hidden agenda. Just a small framed print, a pocket book and a CD of pictures from our camping trip. He could have waited until I see him next week, but it was kind of him to send something for me to hold onto.
My parents arrive to drop off the girls for a few more days before school starts. Marian reaches the top of the stairs and we hug. Why am I relieved to find her glad to see me? I remember my own adolescence, always wanting to escape.
I go down to the parking lot to find Brenna gathering her things out of the back seat of the car. She comes running with bags. I have to squat down, afraid that she'll drag me down with her embrace. She is getting big, and doesn't know her own size, let alone her strength.
I have a bedtime ritual with each of the girls. I start by hugging and telling them, "I love you and I'm glad you're my daughter." I never required a response, but they always say, "I love you and I'm glad you're my dad." Brenna sometimes replaces "dad" with "chew toy."
Then I make a circle of protection by kissing the forehead, then the left cheek, the chin, the right cheek and the forehead again. I learned this from Bill Richardson's children's story,
, about a deaf girl who goes to rescue the other children from the Pied Piper.
One of my friends wrote about riding on the subway, letting his thigh and side rest against the man next to him, how much he craved the touch, wanted to be held, how it made him feel like crying.
I've done that very thing, let someone touch me on the bus to Toronto. I eroticized it, imagined he was trying make a come on. I didn't feel a desperate yearning, just a sense of intrigue.
Bob phoned to see what my news is. Nothing. I have had no social life for the past two-and-a-half weeks. I can't wait for Friday.
I said I wouldn't hurt a fly, but it's just an expression. I'm delighted to catch a housefly, smack between my palms. Suddenly this week, in the summer heat, there are fruit flies, too. They hover blindly over last night's salad left out, and emerge in vague clouds when I open the cupboard door where the food scraps are bagged. I want to kill them all.
This has nothing to do with human violence, and yet it's interesting how I treat so much of nature with respect while utterly devaluing a few species. I believe I sometimes disregard people, too.
Yesterday we went swimming at Lyon Park pool. Marian and I were horsing around underwater and she scratched my face. When it happened a second time, I realized it was deliberate. It was just careless fun. I stopped the game.
Later, on the way back from the corner store she was playing punchbuggy and slugged me in the arm. Usually she only spots Beetles while we're driving, so she barely taps me with her fist. This time it hurt, and I got mad.
I was an only child. Physical aggression, even in play, makes me nervous. She is only eleven.
I hugged my daughters goodbye and watched them disappear down York Road, waving through the back window of my parents' station wagon. I felt weepy standing at the curbside, turning the final page on another good chapter. I'm glad I don't have to be alone tonight.
I'm on the bus to Toronto. Another hour and I'll reach my friends' house. I bought pork ribs this morning, wrapped them with an ice pack and put them in my bag. This weekend I'll serve them my speciality.
I can't wait to get my hands on the first man who opens the door.
Danny and I were originally introduced by Bill, his partner of seven years. Bill also has a boyfriend, Daniel. All of this is open and honest. I have never experienced anything like it. I'm growing fond of all three of them.
Bill was home alone when I arrived. I was half crazed for affection. He folded me in his arms. I am 5'9" but my head barely reaches his chin. Then we lounged in the living room and chatted.
When Danny came home, he dragged me upstairs and we didn't go back down until dinner.
He is rooted in Bill.
Saturday night we all went to Daniel's apartment and I prepared my special pork ribs on the gas grill. Bill and Daniel had bought corn and we barbecued that, too. The four of us ate together, finishing with a glass of port.
The apartment is on the 22nd floor. At 10 we turned off the lights and watched the CNE fireworks display over Toronto Harbour. Afterward Bill and Daniel cuddled on the couch. I sat between Danny's knees, letting him run his fingers over my stubbly hair.
It felt honoured to belong in the company of those three exceptional men.
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