Aug 30, 2010

A Swedish Shower

Being an exchange student in Canada was the most amazing experience in my young life. Far, far from home however, I was bound by the strictest of rules as my new guardians tried to protect the innocence of my youth. Fellow exchange students used to laugh at the rules. They all were easy to remember as they were the called 'The Four D' rules; No drinking, No driving, No drugs... and No dating!

I didn’t care for the driving or the drugs but like most 17 year-old girls the dating was an issue. With hormones bubbling over it wasn’t just the dating that was discouraged – girls and guys were kept from fraternising. Thankfully however, a trip to the countryside provided me with an opportunity to test the rules...

The adults organised a trip to Temogami, a place to experience the thrills of the Canadian Wilderness. Snow-covered woodlands, icy rivers and unspoilt beauty. Log cabins had been booked to house all the exchange students from different parts of the world. We would learn the skills of making fire with flints, orienteering and first aid.

After an exhausting day I was given the task of watching over the fire in the cabin and keep it alight, with fellow exchange student, Inga, from Sweden. Inga would keep me company after all, and I was hopeful that we’d have something in common and things to talk about.

As everybody slept, Inga drew me in with tales of her home in Sweden. The fire burned on, keeping us warm on the rug. Inga was disarming; her soft blonde hair fell on her face as she gently spoke. It was the middle of the night. Was I sleepy or was I finding Inga’s green eyes completely hypnotic? I found myself lost in her words. In a low whisper she said ‘I want to take a shower with you...’ without waiting for my reply she described how she would gently rub my body, my back first to relax me. Then she’d take my neck and shoulders in her hands, lathering, rubbing, and washing me. Oh my God. Was I hearing this?

I felt shivers of excitement. Suddenly, I found myself completely turned on and wanting her. I looked at her. My breathing was shallow. My mouth wide open and wet. I couldn’t even breathe.I learnt something about myself at this moment. Was I 'bi'? I learnt that the only thing that mattered was finding that damn shower-room!!

Aug 29, 2010

The Dynamic Trio

I have always taken ownership of my own actions and choices and for the most part, I was at peace with what I did, but of course, I have had occasional lapses of judgment. Nobody’s perfect! There was a close knit unit of friends and family that were strong long before and after I had come along. There were two brothers, only 1 year apart and looked like twins, and the best mate of the eldest brother; all 3 of them were ginger (or ‘Red Knobs’ was the more common term back then).

I was dating the best mate for quite some time, which is how I had come to join their merry band of Red Knobs. I got to know all the parents, other siblings and even a couple grandparents. I felt welcomed and enjoyed the group dynamic of their other extended friends and girlfriends. I became close with the eldest brother’s girlfriend for awhile, but then she started getting all funny with me. Apparently, she mistook my close friendship with her boyfriend as flirtation and didn’t appreciate it. For Christ’s Sake! It only took that one doubt to create tension amongst the group. Of course, I didn’t have any romantic feelings towards him, especially since I was dating his best mate, but it didn’t matter.

A while later I had broken up with my boyfriend but we still managed to maintain an awkward friendship, which meant I was still invited to parties and other hangouts with the group. One drunken night I was out with the two brothers and the girlfriend and by the end of the night, I found myself behind a bush rounding third base with the younger brother, who I wasn’t even remotely attracted to; I guess it was more about opportunity and availability. It probably wasn’t the best idea I ever had, but there I was, with my pants unzipped, making out and getting felt up and down by the youngest of their ‘dynamic trio’.

Big surprise, that younger brother was pretty proud of himself and by the next weekend, the jokes were not being held back. We were all hanging out in their main room (I was the only girl this time) and after a few minutes of silence, the younger brother offered his two fingers to my ex-boyfriend and said, “Recognise the smell?” All the guys burst into hysterics, but I was completely mortified.

Jump forward a couple years, I had moved away and had recently moved back. I was catching up with old friends and even though my ex-boyfriend had long since moved away, the eldest brother was around. I really did enjoy our friendship back in high school (we had the same sense of humour), so I invited him out for drinks. We went back to my flat and after exchanging stories of the ‘good old days’ and having a great time, we ended up in bed. Surprisingly, it was absolutely fantastic sex and thus I had completed the ‘dynamic trio’. Although we both had no intentions of a relationship, he continued to come around for these ‘special visits’ for a couple months. After the first time, however, I briefly heard his long-since-ex-girlfriend in the back of my mind bitching at me, “I told you so!” O well.

While it was over a span of about 5 years, I still don’t exactly feel fantastic about the fact that these 3 guys, who were brothers, blood or not, all had me in one way or another. I have a photo of all 3 of them together and it’s when I see this photo that I think to myself, “You fucking skank!” Haha.

Aug 23, 2010

Sticks and Stones

My first long-term relationship and I guess my first love, although I use that term hesitantly, was in grade 11. We had met through some mutual friends at a party, but we didn’t go to the same school. If we had, there would have been no way we would have got together. I was shy, a bit of a book nerd and I did very well in school; he was the class clown, a jock and probably averaged ‘D” grades, mostly because school was the last thing on his priority list.

I guess at first I got caught up in the fact that Mr. Cool wanted to go out with me. He was nice to me at first, but the transformation was so gradual from nice to ‘not-so-nice’ that I don’t even remember when it changed. There were constant underhanded comments, which I know now were flat out insults, but he did it so smoothly that sometimes I didn’t even notice. Here is a classic example, “You know, in this light, you actually look almost pretty.”

I never stood up for myself, so he kept dishing it out, day after day. I often wondered how far he would have gone if I had stayed with him for longer than I did... which was already far too long.

His parents were divorced; he lived with his mother and visited with his dad every other weekend. After about 8 months, I had got to know his mother very well but I had never met his father. I finally asked him, “Do you think I will be able to meet your dad? We’ve been together for a long time and I would really like to meet him.”

He looked at me, repulsed, as if I asked the most horribly shocking question possible and replied, “NO. My dad expects me to be dating a super-model or captain of the cheerleading squad or something – You are not pretty enough. He would be disappointed with me.”

It was astonishing that in the time it took him to say those words, he had successfully managed to obliterate the last few remaining fragments of my self esteem. The worst part was that I didn’t say anything and I even stayed with him for another 2 months! It wasn’t until a good friend of mine finally had had enough and spoke up, “Why are you with him? He treats you like complete shit!” Thankfully, she managed to snap me out of his spell that I had been under for far too long and I broke up with him.

Aug 8, 2010

A Colourful Life (Part 2)

At 15, I had my first ‘real’ boyfriend, and I moved in with him. At the time, he was my hero. He was only a year older than me and he was so nice to me... at first. Soon he began beating me and I became pregnant with his child. After he kicked me in the stomach I ran away, back to the streets. I lived the entire pregnancy on the streets. I chose to give my son up for adoption as soon as he was born because I was too young and his father was abusive. I personally picked the adoptive family and gave them my baby – a healthy 8 pound boy – up for adoption with the help of my doctor. A year had passed and I was still so sad that I gave up my son for adoption, even though it was the right thing to do. I went to my friend’s house to smoke a bunch of pot and to just escape my feelings for a little while. I asked my new boyfriend at the time if he would feed my cat at my apartment while I was gone. 2 weeks had gone by and I got a bad feeling in my belly and a gut instinct to go home. In the middle of watching Gargoyles and smoking a fatty, I left. I got home to find my boyfriend and my roommate in bed together. Nice!

I was so sad that I had a one night stand with my son's father, and got pregnant by him... again. Once again I stayed the entire pregnancy on the streets. I was going to give her up for adoption as well, but I just couldn't. I was 18 now and I ran to the lady that my mom gave me to (for that 3 year stretch) for help and I had my daughter there. Within months it was a bad scene and I didn't want my daughter growing up around the same crap that I grew up around so I went back to Toronto and moved in with her father. Big surprise – within months he started beating me. I thought it would be different this time, now that we were older and had a child, but sadly it wasn’t. One day I came home and he attacked me with a baseball bat. I managed to escape and got the police to retrieve my daughter. I went to a shelter for abused women. Even though he was abusive to me, he wasn't abusive to his daughter, so I tried to do the right thing and brought her to his house for weekend visits.

I went back to adult school at 19 and it was there that I met the father of my youngest child. I never brought a man home to meet my daughter because I didn't want her to get attached to random guys. When I finally brought Ted home to meet her I had already put her in a school for children with aggressive behaviours. It was when she met my boyfriend that she innocently asked her teacher why her Dad and Ted treated her differently and then explained what she meant. I was called and notified that her own father was sexually abusing her! I told them to call C.A.S. immediately and I picked her up from school that same day. I took full-custody from her dad with absolutely no visiting rights and Ted adopted her. Soon after, Ted and I had our youngest daughter.

After years of intense therapy, my oldest daughter is doing a thousand times better. There is no statute of limitations for what her father did, so we will not push her into a court just yet. Instead we will wait for her to be strong enough to face him on her own time.

As for me, I went to college and am working on becoming a glass-artist now. I have a union job, and to look at me you would just think I was another pretty girl. I grew out my mohawk and took off the 20-holed boots when I had kids. Since I watched my mother on drugs all her life, I never fell into drugs or alcohol addiction while living on the streets. I have watched many lose themselves to addiction, and many died young. I may not have lived a pretty life, but I'm very smart; I have helped so many, and I'm proud of who I am. I have rescued hookers from pimps; I have gotten good people off of drugs; and I have made street-kids realize they don't have it quite so bad at home after hearing my story.

I out-ran my warrant for my arrest; I stayed out of Durham for 9 years and called them when I was 23 explaining the situation at the time and it was erased from my record, so I have no criminal record. I have lived a complicated life – that of which this article only captures a fraction of. I tell my story through my art and poetry a lot. I hope that telling my story might help someone get through a hard time of their own.

Aug 6, 2010

A Colourful Life (Part 1)

I have lived a very unusual life. Some may say it was scary, or sad, but to me it is what made me the strong woman I am today. All my life I was repeatedly abandoned by my heroin addicted mother. Random people that my mother knew or met would adopt me for days, weeks, months or more; for 3 years I lived with a lady my mom had known for only 3 days. When I was 10 years old my mom was caught scamming welfare for me when I didn't live with her. I was given the choice if I wanted to move back in with my mom and being very young, I chose my mom over stability.

So, I moved in with her and a new step-dad that openly hated me, a new step-brother that liked me a little too much, and my god-father who also had a hated for me for no apparent reason except that I was there, and this guy Rob, who didn't even acknowledge my existence. Very shortly after I moved in, my step-brother, who was a year older than me, began raping me. I told no one because I was afraid that my mom would abandon me again. Instead I took to sleeping in odd places at night so he couldn't find me, or I simply stayed out all night, hanging out at the strip mall down the road and then I slept during the day in class. My teacher Ms. Baker was amazing to me. For my grade 5 graduation she bought me a graduation dress – the 1st dress I had ever owned! It was white cotton with white frills around the collar and down the skirt; I felt so pretty.

That summer I left home for the last time. My mom never called the authorities on me because she didn't want to lose the money she got monthly from the government for ‘supporting’ me. I ran away to downtown Toronto to live on the streets and I kept to myself at first. When someone asked me my name I told them a nickname. I panhandled for change in front of Sam The Record Man. Over time I got to know the people in the strange underworld of street kids. Times were different downtown in those days. On Queen Street the punks ran things and on Young Street, it was the skinheads that ran things. I was one of the lucky ones because I got along with everybody, and was very protected by everybody. In the summer time I got to know a biker and he helped me to go to my mom’s place once in a while by giving me a ride. He was a great guy, never hit on me once.

During the entire time I was on the streets I commuted to school daily. I went to school up until I was 14 and that’s when I got called into the principal’s office, only 3 weeks into grade 9. By this time I had a 2 foot alpine green mohawk, gothic make-up, fangs, wore a kilt, 20-hole Ranger boots, and had a kitten living in my backpack. The principle then explained to me that my step-dad told them I do not live at home, and because I was under the age of 16 and I did not have a legal guardian paying taxes for me, I wasn't allowed to go to school anymore. I was shattered; school was the 'only' stability that I had in my life and I looked forward to it every day.

My mother had a mental breakdown after she couldn't collect money for me anymore since it was proven I didn't live at home. She went to her doctor crying, saying that I was a run-away and she put a ‘Form 1’ out for me. That form tells the police to put that person of concern on 72 hour lock down at a psychiatric hospital. The police picked me up on my way to a camping trip with some friends. I was stuck in the hospital for 2 weeks because I refused to talk to anybody and after 2 weeks they had to let me go. To top it off, months later a Truancy Warrant was put out for my arrest to go to juvenile jail! Lucky for me that the warrant was only for Durham region, so I never went home again since my mom now lived in that area. At least my step-brother wasn’t able to rape me anymore now that I was exiled from that area.

Aug 4, 2010

The Frog Prince

One of the biggest parties I ever went to was an open air beach party at a local decrepit lake. The beach was good enough for sun tanning and on this occasion, for 100 teenagers to get piss drunk on, but the water was usually to be avoided. I’m not entirely sure how this party was planned, but it was for the seniors at a bunch of the surrounding high schools. A group of us met at the train station, loaded with booze and high expectations. My poison of choice for the night was a 26’er of Vodka and 2 litres of Raspberry Soda. The trip was a good 20 minutes, so we all took a head start on celebrating the night. By the time we got off the train, we were pretty buzzed, and my one especially nimble mate even managed to perform some impressive drunken acrobatics with the handle rings that hung from the ceiling of the carriage before we arrived.

The party was a mish-mash of cliques from all over the eastern suburbs. There were skaters, jocks, preps, goths, punks, plastics, and even some of the shy nerdy-types were seen lingering around the perimeter of the beach – trying to have a good time without getting their arses kicked. It wasn’t something I was used to seeing.

I got too lazy attempting to mix my drink, so I would take a swig of Vodka and then chase it down with a gulp of pop. After an hour or two, my mouth was numb enough that I gave up on the pop all together. I would say I had about 24 of the 26 oz of alcohol when one of my mates attempted to cut me off. I caused a bit of a scene with the refusal to give up my booze and the struggle for the bottle ended with it smashing against a tree. Oops! By this point, I was messy drunk and although I probably should have been admitted to the hospital to get my stomach pumped, I luckily escaped with ‘only’ an alcoholic black-out.

I can only remember the rest of the night in isolated flashes of images – like a slideshow: Sloppy tongues. Making out. Water splashes. Searching for my ‘Frog Prince’ (WTF, I know). Neon lights. MacDonald’s. Running. Falling. Where’s my Frog Prince? Train coming! Being pulled from the tracks just before the train rushed by... and that was it.

The next thing I remember I woke up in my mate’s spare bedroom with a bucket beside my bed and sand in my bra and panties. Luckily, I woke up alone, but if I was always alone in that bed was anyone’s guess. I felt like complete and utter shit – probably one of the top 2 hangovers I have ever had in my life. I didn’t even care about the scratchy sand that was chafing my butt crack. I just wanted to lay there and try to convince my body not to hurt. I couldn’t even decide what hurt more – my head or my ankle.

Another hour or so passed and I decided to hobble down to the kitchen. As I walked in, a group of my mates started laughing and clapping. “Here’s the star of the night! Welcome back to the land of the living!”

Apparently, I had made a shamefully famous arse of myself the night before. Apart from fighting with my closest mate and calling her a bitch for taking my drink, I had stripped down to my underwear and jumped into the lake with one of our other intoxicated mates (the acrobatic one). The entire party thought it was quite the entertaining spectacle. Fantastic! At least that explained the sand up my arse. They took me to MacDonald’s to try and sober me up a bit – as I could barely walk on my own. I almost instantly barfed up my meal into the bushes. Then we had to run and catch the last train home, to which I fell and sprained my ankle before almost getting killed by the train! The only thing they couldn’t help me with was this bizarre Frog Prince detail – was it a total fabrication of my inebriated imagination? I was sure I made out with some guy that night, but who he was, and why the hell I called him the Frog Prince was way beyond me.

I felt so ashamed that my friends had to take so much care of me that night. I must have apologised that morning at least a dozen times to each of my mates. I didn’t drink again for a long time after that, and even when I did, I NEVER let myself get that bad again. I could have gotten myself killed that night – 3 times actually! Once, by alcohol poisoning... twice from swimming drunk... and thirdly from the train. I was a very, very lucky stupid girl.

2 years later I was reminiscing about this night with my acrobatic mate, who had since come out of the closet, flaming and fabulous! He looked way better than me in a mini-skirt – it totally wasn’t fair. Anyway, I mentioned the Frog Prince part and he got this weird look on his face. While looking at the floor and avoiding eye contact, he asked me, “You seriously don’t remember who the guy was?”

“Seriously? No! If I did know, I would have told you!”

He turned a light shade of pink, looked up at me and replied, “RIBBIT!”

Aug 2, 2010

Breakup Café

I met a guy at a cute little café in the city when I was 21 and we immediately hit it off – it wasn’t my normal place to go, so it became a little special to me after that night; I thought it was for both of us. We had an incredible couple of months together. Everything between us clicked perfectly – intellectually, physically and everything in between. I was so happy and loved every second we spent together. Sometimes, I even thought that he could have been “the one”.

After about 3 months, he changed a little bit. Any time I referred to us in a future tense (as in a few months, not growing old together or anything) he would passively change the subject. He also became slightly distracted and much less attentive to me, so maybe I should have seen it coming, but I tried to ignore it. I chalked it up to the fact that our “honeymoon period” was coming to a close and we were entering into an official long-term relationship.

I had driven to his place and we usually went out together from there – as his place was a lot closer to the city than mine. He told me we were going to “our” café. I was excited; I thought it was a sweet gesture. We had been together for nearly 3 months to the day, so I thought he was getting sentimental.

We got our coffees and found a cozy little table just for two. I had barely finished putting sugar into my coffee when he took my hand from across the table and squeezed it. It seemed as if he was getting ready to say something, so I stopped fiddling with my drink and looked up at him with love-sick doe eyes and smiled. The next thing that came out of his mouth obliterated the smile right from my face and transformed into a frozen state of shock.

“I think you are a really great person but I don’t think we should see each other anymore. I really want to discover who I am and I don’t think that I will be able to do that if we’re together.”

Seriously? What the hell just happened? I was so confused and I didn’t know quite how to react, so I stared into my coffee without blinking for what seemed to be an eternity. It’s not like it was the first time a guy had broken up with me, but this guy’s method was uniquely warped. He had taken me back to the place where we met... TO DUMP ME. Was it supposed to be a metaphorical “our relationship had come full circle” bullshit approach? I didn’t get it; my mind was short circuiting. No matter how I spun it, it was a really cruel thing to do.

It took every last bit of energy to maintain my composure in the café. I cleared my throat and managed to say one thing, “I need to get my car.” So that was even worse planning on his part– He knew he would have to drive me back after he had shattered me. I couldn’t decide whether he was a complete dick or an evil genius, finding further ways to torture me after the initial dump. The second I got into the privacy of his car I finally let go and broke down. I still didn’t say anything; I just cried the whole way back to his place. He really did blind-side me in the café.

As he pulled up behind my car, I reached for the door handle to leave but then I paused. I thought I had better say something – as our entire relationship (that I thought was almost perfect) had just been reduced to nothing more than an uncomfortable hiccup in his life. I thought that the past 3 months of bliss deserved some kind of defence before their pleasant memories were snuffed out.

I looked straight ahead and focused on the rear license plate of my car. “I was really falling in love with you.” After I said it, I wiped a final tear from my cheek and looked him in the eye for the first time since we were in the café. He tilted his head, fake pouted and in a disgustingly condescending tone he replied, “I know you were.”

Well, that final display of callousness sealed the deal and I actually managed to get over him pretty quickly, but I still have never gone back to that damn café.