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We find a picnic table in the park. We eat our pizza greedily. A bum who says he’s from New York and can't get home comes over. I tell him we don’t have any change. He says he likes her blouse before walking away. It starts to rain. People run while we move without cause.  
After the winter. The confinement. We’re dying to breathe fresh air. To be outside. To see people and remember we’re not alone. There’s more than stagnation. To staring at the walls and hoping for anything to happen just because.  I put my arm around her as we walk.  
Un et soixainte-quinze  the clerk demands which breaks me from my reverie of dying in a field like a beast. The angst I’m filled with fades. I place my change on the counter. I look at the scratch and win lottery tickets but know my future isn’t in their bright and shiny colours.   Bonne journée he says as he takes my money. I tell him toi aussi. But I’m not sure I mean it.  
On my way home the wind is in my face. I push. It laughs. I strain. I look at the grass along the canal and think of sleep. I can see myself in it now. Curled up and content. No worry. But I turn a deaf ear to its call. I’m not ready to give up. Maybe tomorrow.  
I watch him struggle through the rooming house door with his bike. He relights a cigarette. When he yells at me to get the boss he’s not halfway across the street. I tell him it isn’t my job. He whines like a little boy even though he looks like a man.
The church steps are littered with bums from bottom to top. They sun themselves like walruses drinking free coffee out of Styrofoam cups. While across the street the local gentry sip espressos on trendy terraces being waited on by those a paycheque away from the steps themselves. I keep walking. 
We ride through the streets of downtown. We smile. We bicker. We pass a park full of bums sitting in the sun. Crazy Train blares from small speakers. I sing at the top of my lungs.
The feeling was in the air and it wasn't even the weekend. Tonight the streets will be full. Teeming with people letting their hair down. Sick of languishing. I’m craving action like I haven’t in years. The plague gave me eyes to see how stagnant I’ve become. I give it my thanks. 
I’m greedy for time. I think of all the people I’ve ever worked for. None of them ever got to go home. They never got to turn off. They might've had money. But I've got liberty. 
It’s going to be hot. We’re all going to cook. And when it feels like you’re in an oven time has a way of slowing down. Of reminding you of exactly what you are. Nothing. I hear the universe laughing.   I try to stop the inevitable but it don't have what it takes. 
All I want to do is give up. To sit in front of a fan with my shirt off. So I walk away from the sound of her voice. I close the bathroom door behind me. The shower is as cold as I can take it.  
The wind pushes like it knows I should turn back. But the breeze don’t need money. And it don't have to worry about a roof over its head. In the bushes there's an encampment. On mornings like this it whispers give up.
I lie on the mattress. The air conditioner is running but I still sweat. I stare up at the ceiling. The television in the other room is a comfort. I think of the days I always slept with one on. The chattering  voices  woke me in the morning. They were a house full of loved ones in a room I had all to myself.  
Passe-toi une bonne journée monsieur I say but he doesn't hear me. His mind somewhere else. The fruit of his work. All those cans. All those nickels. I wonder what they mean to him. I wonder what he does to forget. I’m always looking to try something new.
We lie in bed. Light coming in the window makes a pattern of squares and short lines on the wall. I think about getting up to find my phone. To take a photo. But some things are better forgotten. I trace the length of her with my finger. She shivers even though it’s hot.  
Aggressively a bum flicks his cigarette butt into the street before dirty looking me from a phone booth. I get it. In his eyes I have and he doesn’t. It’s the way we’re all mixed up. There’s always someone to admire. But there’s always someone to loathe.  I play my role either way. 
It’s not a week if I don’t hear him threaten a client. So now that I have I know that it’s over for sure. I walk out the door smiling. Singing to myself. Sure that the next four days are mine and no one else’s. I stand in the sun. I’m free.  
It’s mundane  dull  tedious and repetitive. But this suits me fine. And as long as my co-workers leave me alone I can shut off. I can pass the hours in my head.  Doing what I was born to do.  Dreaming.
When I get to work the streets are empty and the air is still. No cop  on the corner  in his car. The hookers are still in bed or down the block at the crack house their addictions sated for now. Until later. When I'll watch them pace from phone booth to corner and back. Scratching. Eyes fixed on old men who drive by slowly. I appreciate tranquility. 
A bum sitting on the stairs of Église Saint-Zotique calls out soleil soleil soleil like the bells above him beckon the faithful. There’s a chill in the air. But the smell of summer coming is faint on the breeze. And that's all I need.
On the way home we take Rue Notre Dame. The terraces are full. So is the park. It's good to see the city alive. It’s been so long. And I make a vow to spend my nights on the streets this summer. They make me feel young. They make me feel free. These are nice things.
When I walk through the door I stomp because my boots were made to do so. The young barista laughs. You come in…and with so much noise. I tell him with a casual air it’s important to make a grand entrance while regretting I didn’t twirl.  
This is when she's at her most beautiful. When she’s not aware. Relaxed. Because it's too early for her anxiety to start gnawing. Or the day to start demanding. She catches my eye and I wink. Brief moments are most precious. 
The thing is he doesn't have much to lose. A bed in a filthy rooming house. A life where he steals to get high and drunk enough to face each day. When he struts out the door I see a little of my best friend in the way that he walks. I wonder how long until I hear he's dead too.
I sit on my bike at the corner   in the sun . When the light turns green I give in to my destiny. I cut across the street. Down an alley. Not fast. I weave between speed bumps and sewer grates and fallen branches. It feels like it could rain. And I'm in need of being cleaned.  
All I need is what it takes to not worry. To pay for the meagre life that I live. A roof over my head. Enough food in my stomach to keep my feet moving beneath me. And time to sit in the parks. To watch a world I’m barely a part of. Pretending that I am. 
She stirs above me in the mezzanine. I hear her shut the windows. The smallest amount of light and it’ll wake her up. I’ve never met someone so sensitive. I don’t know how she ended up with me.  But even more perplexing is  I don’t know why she’s stayed.  
On the way home we sit by the fountain in the park. I see bums on the church steps laughing. Families with children playing in the morning sun. Young people sit on bright coloured blankets popping bottles of sparkling wine they mix with juice. It’s the weekend. Spring has hit the city. I smile. 
The nurse makes me speak French. I give in. Mille neuf cent soixante-dix-neuf I sputter when he asks me what year I was born. Venez plus proche he says. I slide my chair toward him. In English he tells me he likes my face as he puts the needle in my arm. I’m speechless.  
I sit on the edge of the park. A man apart as it's always been. I smoke a joint in the shade watching people much younger than me enjoy themselves like I don’t remember doing myself. I flick away the roach. I bury my head in a book.  
Lie down on the couch pretty lady I tell her before I walk away. Before I stand under the shower hot water scalding me. Soon I won’t smell of paint thinner and ink. Soon I’ll be sitting for the first time all day. Lately I’ve been dreaming of pulling off my skin. The night is spent quietly and I couldn’t be happier.
Outside the dépanneur in the sun I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the day. I’m exhausted. Beat. Ready to find a spot by the canal and lie down in the grass. Tell the boss I’m not coming in and let my love think I did. Sleep in the sun. Let it recharge me. I think I’m going to die.  
Loss of pride. Killing the ego. Failures shine like diamonds because they are. Think of the time it takes to create a perfect catastrophe. All the pieces of the puzzle falling into place at the same time. It's a beautiful thing I can't ignore.
Each day I listened to the building. The street below. And it was different every morning but always the same. People stomping in the corridors. Screaming. Busses passing by. Fights.  That was my music. My cadence. All t he glorious stuff that life is made from.
Consumed by troubled jitters worries run through my mind quicker than I can keep up. That’s how they get me. It’s how I find myself  squirming  on the floor like a beast in pain.   Ok. Deep breath. My heart knocks angrily against my chest like a fist does a door.
I lie there silent before getting up because the dark is nice. The building is quiet. The city is quiet. This is what I'll miss when things go back to normal. I’ll regret the absence of tranquility as life starts rolling again.  
Instead of telling her what I’m thinking I keep it to myself. The delicate way these flowers feel between my fingertips and the time they return me to is mine alone. So I  guard it in my heart.  There it'll stay precious. I wipe tears from my eyes when she’s not looking. In the park we find a bench in the sun.  
Half a block away he yells you want a new bike…I’ll get ya a new bike. I shake my head while laughing. I tell him that I like mine just fine. It looks like a piece of shit so it'll never be stolen. If anyone fucks with your bike…in Ville-Émard or where ever the fuck you live…I’ll find out. He drags a single finger across his throat like a knife. It's nice to have friends. 
If I never ran away I’d be stunted. A dwarf compared to the person I am now. Which ain't much. Back home I had to live up to the expectations of all the people I’d known since I was young. And there was no chance I was going down the path they all took. Families and careers and safety over art and heartache and failure. I never had it in me to be anything other than a loafer.  
We kiss on the lips before I leave. They’re soft and so is her smile as she shuts the door behind me. I hear her turn the lock. A sound that signals the day has begun and ended all at once. Because even though I have a key there’s no turning back now.   I’ve set it in motion. I’ve given up.  
We wander along Rue Notre Dame. No purpose. Neither of us have any idea of where we’re going. Or even care as long as we’re not back in the apartment.  Breathing the same stuffy air as we have all winter. Outside the sun treats us like a mother does children.  Deserving or not I accept its love. 
We find a bench on the edge the park. All we have are small pleasures. And resting in the shade of a tree watching the world go by without you is a beautiful thing. Shocking it doesn’t cost money. Soon. Someone will see a way to make another buck. A way to wring more life out of living.
I go to the post office. I mail books all over the USA and Canada. On the way home I walk slowly. Out front Église Saint-Zotique a couple of cops are hassling one of the bums who’s set up camp on the stairs. Across the street the park is full of well fed people in nice clothes spending money on little slivers of happiness to be shit out later. Ain’t society grand.
I use a tote bag with two pounds of onions in it as a pillow. Lying down in the grass I stare up at the light blue sky. Sure I’ll get a sunburn this way but I don’t mind. I’ve been so long locked up by the cold that the radiation feels like a kiss. Burn me to nothing. Allow my ashes to blow about the earth. I’m ready.  
An outsider. A damaged soul. A suicide case. Whatever you want to call it there were never a lot of options left open for me. The harder I tried at a fate like all the rest the more I fell. I failed. I was being pushed by hands I couldn’t see. Life makes what it wants of you. I’ve been lucky.  
Who cares about a great big house when you know that your spirit is well nourished. I've got shelves and shelves of old books.  I have my dignity. I have my soul.  
I don’t let it get to me. Water off a duck’s back they say. In my head I see the mallards of my youth coming up from  the  bottom of the creek shimmering iridescent instantly dry but instead of water I repel his words. His intentions of filling me with enough guilt to work overtime. I laugh. There isn’t enough in the world.
This isn't the kind of place where you go investigating loud noises in the middle of the night. All manner of awful things have transpired since we moved in. Suicides and hostage situations. Tenants hauled off in handcuffs and their doors padlocked shut by the police. After a while you don’t even flinch.   It’s impressively sad how much we’re able ignore.  
Sad that kindness doesn’t come natural. That we have to be knocked over the head time and time again. Be nice god damnit…treat everyone with respect…that’s another human being right there. We’ll step on the neck of anyone we don’t know. You better make lots of friends. Or you’ll suffer at the hands of humanity. Even still though.
No one wants to really look in the mirror. To question why they want the things they want. Or if they really do. If the little baubles we're sold don't cut it any longer our satisfaction is harder to come by. Because we're all blind. We never see the things we have. We often forget that love is free.
I pass through John Cabot Square and boy the bums are restless this morning. A flock of pigeons flies off in a huff startled by all of their laugher.  
I should’ve been more like her.   Maybe I wouldn’t feel so low right now.  But  I doubt it. If I’d worked hard at having the good life. A house and a driver's license and a big piece of land I’d still feel the same way. Like the hand of death has my heart in its palm. Its voice laughing softly. Always there to remind me of what I am. Nothing.  
It's nicer out than yesterday though I’m still underdressed. On the side of the bike path I prepare myself best as I can. Stuff the sleeves of my hoodie into my gloves. Zipper of my ill fitting jacket done up as far as it’ll go. Still the wind find its way to my skin. Goose flesh raises as I chill to the bone. 
And as he goes on and on about Islam I can see in his eyes and hear in his voice that his heart is bursting with love. I begin to wonder was he placed here for me. A lesson on how to live my life. If I can learn from him what I should’ve picked up as a child I’ll owe him a debt I can never pay back. But that’s life for you.  
It’s what I was chasing. I wanted to surrender. To admit my defeat in the face of a society I didn’t see myself a part of. Continuing never appealed. Alcohol consoles. Speeds up the end. Two birds with one stone. I gave up on that too though.
I look down on a street that’s often empty but feels lifeless silenced by the curfew. I wonder how far I could get before I’m stopped and fined because I'm going mad without the night. And all I've ever wanted is to know what it feels like to have the city to myself. Faced with a dream what do you do.
The fat I used to carry around with me like a blanket is all but gone now. Muscles and ribs show through. And the way the cold is in me like never before feels like a prelude to death. I’ll be ready when it comes for me.
Stripped of my jeans and t-shirt I lie back on a bed that’s only a mattress as I stare at the ceiling letting my skin catch a chill. No matter what the hands on the clock have to say it’s the right time to give up. Sunlight makes patterns on the wall as I fall asleep.  
I take my day's pay and wish the boss luck while wiping my hands of the place until next week. Outside wet snow falls. I pedal away under the the gaze of a hooker shuffling around on the corner like a dance to stay warm. I hope her next trick comes quick. I hope he turns up the heat.  
I don’t bother with clothing as I make my way to the coffee pot. I hide in the warmth of the tiny bathroom as it brews. I sit hunched on the edge of the tub practicing French. When I fail I get angry with myself for being so miserably stupid.  
My eyes pop open at 4h00 but I don't have any fight left. Instead I give up. I start my day like everyone else.
I’m sure all the booze I drank will be the end of me. I was a fool and I pushed the needle into the red more often than I should’ve. If I were an old car I wouldn’t be worth the trouble.
Cases of the plague on the rise. Provincial borders closed. 8pm curfew. Socializing is fast becoming outlawed and the chance of being vaccinated is slim. Staring out the windows on the empty street below I don’t see things getting better. This city is in for a long and gruelling summer. Drinking in the night air was my only hope. 
I didn’t believe in myself though. So instead of chasing a dream or settling into a family and a car and the types of payments that even thinking about make me cringe with fear I languished. Without drive or confidence I let myself sink to the bottom of the lake like the anchor my old man tossed overboard on those afternoons I was coerced into joining them and their friends. I hated every second of those days and they knew it.  
Damp and musty the dirty metro station feels older then its forty years or so. The benches where the bums were always drinking last fall are empty this morning. Either too early to imbibe or they’ve all been warned too many times now. The rules have all changed. Public gatherings banned on every level of society. But it makes me wonder. Without one another how are we supposed to live.
Here...try this on...it’ll never fit you…I bought it for myself…it's perfect in the shoulders… but too big otherwise. It slips on me like it was made to measure. I look great. I laugh. Not much of man I hear the voices say in my head that remind me of the men I knew when I was young as she wraps her arms around me from behind. 
As long as I have the time to write and the money to keep this apartment another month another winter another year then I’m doing good because in the past I did so poorly. Fail magnificently in your youth so whatever comes to pass is a success. Even from the gutter you can see the sun.  I drink a cup of coffee before I go to a job that's killing me.
It sounds like a long month. As westerners we don’t have what it takes to abandon ourselves to something bigger like that. Tell one of us to give up all forms of entertainment on top of fasting on top of government restrictions  Good luck. He’s one of the toughest motherfuckers I know because his mind is clear. Sharp. He knows his purpose. He lives his life for love.  
The sounds of the street simmer down as the sky slowly goes dark. The 8pm curfew back in effect. Standing at the window looking down I wonder how long the city can take this. Soon it’ll be hot. Nights too humid to be indoors. What then are we supposed to do. As long as we all go mad confined it doesn’t matter. I shut the curtains. I walk away.  
At a little after 4h00 I get up off the couch. I stop in front of the large round mirror with the bevelled edge. I admire the shadows the red light over the stairs throws across my body. The lines it creates and the defaults it hides. I run one finger down my ribs before walking away with a smile.
I listen to them lament the restrictions. Being online isn't the same. Where is the rest one of them asks in her husky French accent. I wonder as well. Intimacy is forbidden. Little bits of humanity like moments with strangers took for granted now gone. And I haven’t been fucked in forever she sighs.  Life is certainly cruel.  
Rushed by the sound of high heels behind us we walk to the stone walled Univers Culturel de Saint-Sulpice at the top of Rue du Fort. We kiss in the shade on the corner. She looks good walking into the sun. Gravity pulls me as I head back down the mountain. Psilocybin shivers give way to laughter. Before I know it they turn to tears. I cross the street to get out from under a cloud.
In the dark I pretend to rest with the covers over my head though I’m restless. I know it’s a joke but I’m not laughing. I roll over. Consult my phone for answers that only it can give. I scroll through endless photos on a quest for beauty fully aware I can never be satisfied. Now that’s modern life for you.
I tell her it’s making me think about the walls I’ve put up and the people I’ve let down. I have to change...my heart has to open. If beaten dogs rescued from the pound can learn to love than so can I. With tears in my eyes I say the lessons I got taught as a child are hard to forget   then I watch her cry too. Reminded that sadness is also a beautiful thing. 
My entire body is sore but at least the time goes by quickly. And it’s almost quitting time before I know it. So I hustle through the last hour my head filled with thoughts of being at home out of these clothes. A hot shower and a belly full of food. The arms of the woman I love wrapped around my waist. When he gives me my money I leave like a storm.  
We walk along the canal. People everywhere. Down on some rocks at the water’s edge a lone young man expertly plays an accordion. The image he cuts makes us both laugh like fools. I smile at bums and old ladies and babies and lovers and they all look at me with a desperate light in their eyes that says fuck…I remember...I'm alive.
I stand under the shower crying. It feels good. Natural. Tears drip off my face blending with the water running down the drain. When we die are we not the same. Do our souls also become one with the infinite. Boundless. Life never ending. Head hung hot water on my neck I can only hope so.  
His words were going to haunt me whether he lived to be a thousand or not. They cut like no knife can because I knew that he was right. And all the years before I was hiding. Keeping what he saw and others who should’ve known me better than he did all to myself. He put the first crack in the wall. I cry because he won’t get to see what he started.  
And as I break apart the marijuana for a joint I tell her I’m cold. So standing behind me she wraps her skinny arms around my chest. I feel the warmth of the blankets and bed and I tell myself the visions behind my eyes I now see are her dreams. I shiver with her love.  
The rain holds off. But I place my yellow slicker in my bag just in case. We kiss  before I leave. In the corridor the tenant from down the hall with the dogs that don’t like me is walking my way. I step back. I let her pass through the fire door with as little recognition as possible. Like when we see each other at the bus stop. Pefection.  
I smoke a joint while we finish our coffee sitting at the table in the sun. It's a pleasant ritual. And i t won’t be any better than this all day s o I try to drag it out as long as I can. But the minutes tick off like seconds. I leave reluctantly.
At the top of the stairs I put my arms around her. She’s fresh from bed and warm. I’m not. Her little head on my chest I worry about falling over backwards. Nothing I could do to save us. And maybe it’d be better if we did and I didn’t. No more worries for the future. I tighten my hold.
A line out front the café of people waiting to take a coffee. Small pleasures are all we have left you know. She says lookout as we pass Église Saint-Zotique before I slip in a puddle of vomit. I inspect it as we walk by. Rice and beans in a watery sauce. Mulligan stew fresh from the stomach of a bum too sour to take it.  I'm lucky I have someone looking out for me.
Anything that fills a hole inside is good. Even if it’s bad. If the holes aren’t filled then they never stop growing. Pressure from inside always building building building until finally you explode. I’m doing my best to avoid that. I’d like to live in peace.  But let's be honest. I'm asking a lot here.
There aren’t many people out. The virtue of rain. In contrast to yesterday’s spring time air it's like a curse from an angry god and the villagers are too scared to leave their huts. Ha ha. We like to think we’re better than. But nothing has changed in millennia.  
I've been wearing these jeans for two weeks now. They shine in the light. Mais je m’en fou. They barely reek…yet. Only lost their shape twelve days ago. Gone baggy in the knees. Sure I look like a fool. A clown. But what do you do when you can’t be bothered to care about yourself.  
When he goes out to buy his afternoon chips I turn to Baba. Long god damned day with the boss right up your ass…got to work like you mean it. I’m sure he doesn’t understand. English isn’t his tongue and I mumble my words because as a child I didn't want anyone to know what I was saying. But he lets out with his howling laugh all the same. I’m not even close and I take a step back.
So I take my time. Tell myself there’s no rush. That it doesn’t matter. Work can come later. I can enjoy the sun and the breeze and the sounds of the crows calling to one another as I pass right now. This is what’s important not money. I brush a strand of hair from my face. 
While waiting for the boss to come get high I watch the men across the street. Their leader stands topless in the sun. Beer can in hand. A prostitute I haven’t seen before at his side. Behind him in the frame a long haired male makes rabbit punches in the snowbank as his buddy cheers him on. It looks like spring has sprung.  
The apartment is freezing when I wake up. I scurry about the living room looking for clothing to wear. I find black jeans ice cold on the floor in the shadows. They go on stiff. I shiver thinking beggars can’t be choosers then flick the radiator on before going downstairs.  
I go through the motions because they make me feel good. A little bit of control. Deep breath. The world around me is a swirl. Like sitting on a merry-go-round looking out stripped of any cheer in my soul. Palms placed on the countertop I hang my head. What day is it again. Steam rises up from the coffee pot.  
When I wake up the day is the same as all the rest. Dates and times no longer matter. The joy of looking forward to something so distant I hardly remember. Like faces of people I used to love fading in my mind with the months. Another year and I’ll be long gone mad for sure. I tell myself the summer will save me. But I know better than to believe a word I say. I return to bed with nothing to show.  
It’s not as warm today but the feeling in the air is here for good. Winter is over. So I stop  in the middle of the street . In a patch of bright sun. I stand stock still. No worries of being run down like a dog because my mind is somewhere else. Facing the sky I believe I’m free. Facing the sky I feel myself come undone atoms floating away into nothing. Imagine my smile. 
Listening to her talk is like taking medicine. Because soon I forget about the day behind. And all I’m thinking about is the night ahead. Me and her and the sound of this dog down the hall barking and whimpering for its owner. For a little love of its own. Over time the sadness in its yelp has become our song.  
Tears run down my face as I pass the old brick factory and the sunny fields of melting snow on my left. There’s nothing I can do to stop them. Because I’m stuck in the dread. And I feel like life is slipping away. A sinkhole forming below me. And soon I’ll be gobbled up. Swallowed. So I breathe deep. I wait for its arrival. 
I leave the apartment in a rush. A flurry. I feel like I’m going fall down but there’s nothing I can do now. I’m late. If I don’t make the bus I know I’ll never wait for the next one. I’ll go home. Give up call it quits pull the blankets up over my head. Wake me when it’s time to change the clocks again. I’ll gladly disappear.  
The time change has got me. I’m low. She asks me if I’m tired as we sit at the kitchen table together. I tell her no but don’t elaborate. I don’t want her to worry. I don’t want her to think I’m unstable. Even if I feel like giving up for good.  
The day is quiet. Tranquil. No sounds of argument or joy coming from the corridor. No screams and shouts of self disgust gurgling up through the pipes from the maniac below. The street under our window still. Rarities of high value. So I sit without making a sound. I let the sun set without turning on the lights.  
The gallery itself is near empty. A couple young women over by the far wall that's it. They whisper in French. I watch the brunette push her long straight hair from her face. Not a single painting stared at yet and I could leave content to know my eyes are blessed already. It’s been so long since we’ve moved among strangers. They’re the ones I miss the most.  
I’m revelling in the hustle and bustle of living in a city where everyone is near mad with cabin fever. Outside for the first time in months. Frostbite no longer a concern. I see them feral in their cautious movements over sheets of ice that in better weather are sidewalks. Beasts. Animals. Every single one of us. Springtime in Montréal is truly a beautiful thing.  
I wake up late. Almost 5h30. The panic hits. Like I’ve already sunk the ship. It’s over it’s finished I’m a loser and should lie down in front of the next train that passes by out back. Mais merde. Restez calme. Give yourself a break. The sun hasn’t even started to tint the sky blue yet. There’s still time. I gather my things.  
By the time we eat I don’t have any stamina left. I gave it all to the job like a fool. And as much as I hate to admit it I’m not the young man I was. Slowly I won’t be able to hack it. Slowly I’m going to have to find other ways to make money. Life has never been anything but a fear of tomorrow. I wouldn’t change it if I could.
And as I walk along the empty streets. On my way to work. I occupy my mind with thoughts of the coming summer. More pleasant than those of the day ahead.  Back and legs too sore to stand.  Smelling of paint thinner. At the mercy of someone who would've hated me in high school.   This is what a life amounts to if you let it.  
Mushrooms or Zoloft. Who cares. It doesn’t matter. As long as it keeps a smile on your face and the murderous visions that often play behind the mask you call your face from becoming a blood stained mess on your clothes. Sirens in the distance. Fear like you’ve never tasted richly coating your tongue.  
From over the top of my screen I can see the bag of bluish mushrooms. It’s like they’re peeking at me. After my attention. Calling through the ether. Eat me. Nibble me. Mash me with your teeth. Which sounds divine. But for now I resist their song. It’s barely five a.m.
By the time the sun sets I’m pacing back and forth through the studio. My heart’s about to jump out of my chest. Madness seeping down my spinal column spreading through the rest of my body like a colony of ants. It burns. I stand at the wind rattled window looking on a street covered in ice and snow like an alien planet. I'm cracking up. 
I harbour dreams of running off to Europe. Countries where the winters aren’t as harsh. But I should face up to reality. I’ve always been a loser. A history I can't escape from. I'm too great a burden for immigration. But I could take a trip. Toss my return ticket in the trash. Disappear. The only option I have left seems the most like me. 
I squandered my life. Spent it listlessly. No drive or ambition until it was too late. I never thought I was capable of doing anything except failure. The words put there by his wife so many years ago that it’s impossible to shake them now. A scar I see every time I shut my eyes. Rough and jagged.  
As the clock runs out I smoke a joint. We both sit quietly. She gets up to open the blinds. Sunlight pours in the studio. It bathes the plants and I can feel them drink it up.  But I know better. At this time of the year so much sun is a trick. I check the weather. -26 C with the wind. It'll only make me stronger. 
I step off but don’t move. The bus pulls away in a roar. I remove my mask. The air I breathe feels like bliss. I stand on the muddy sidewalk looking up towards the sky. If I were a man of faith now would be the appropriate time to start speaking in tongues.
On rue Notre Dame the sidewalks are full of people just like us. People starving for sunlight and something to look at other than the walls of their apartments. The faces of their lovers. The blaring of the television and its boring lies. We need to see the sky. How else are we to live?
Last ditch effort before I fail for good. If I'm unable to make that work then I’m out. I’ll fade away. Keep writing for me. Let the dream die. I was never meant for it anyways. Everyone can see that.
This is the fear I’m full of. When the plague is under control everyone is going to go nuts. Apeshit for human contact. It’s going to be hard to get out of all it. Excuses like I’d rather sit on a corner alone. View the people walking by like entertainment. Talking to strangers instead of the ones I know.  No one understands. And that right there is my curse.  
Up the foot of the mountain I cut through the edge of Westmount. Richest borough in town. Big old homes with rooms inside the size of my apartment stare at me with lifeless windows like eyes. I imagine the people behind them. I tell myself they’re cold and numb. I might be poor. But at least I’m full of soul. 
I turn on lights but not all of them. I don’t want anyone under the impression that the shop is open. Of course I locked the door behind me. But that won't stop the impatient from hammering on the windows if they think someone’s here. I hide in the shadows at the back until I hear the boss use his keys to get in.
Life is funny like that. Often when I’m on the edge. About to fall. The money I need will come to me as if I'm deserving. A gift from the gods. If these were ancient times I’d find a healthy goat and slice its neck in veneration. In appreciation. But in a civil age how I am to let the cosmos know I’m thankful. Will it notice me on my knees if there’s no blood on my hands?
I walk slowly. Out here along this stretch of rue Saint-Jacques the fields of snow on the other side of the rusty chainlink fences are totally untouched. Drifting over old cars and trucks. I stop to take it all in. The abandoned factories. The crumbling homes on rue Saint-Louis. They have the power to remind me of better times.  
She says oh god as I slip the air horn in my back pocket. And as I open the door I’m convinced there’s a complete band set up in the stairwell. It wouldn’t be the first time. Once as the sun was rising brilliant red over the city I had to toss a Québécois folk group into the streets. A prouder moment of speaking French I’ve never experienced.  
The page listens. It’s the quiet friend who'll eat all the shit I’m able to produce. Suck it up with a smile. Give me more it screams. This endless whiteness is my dumping ground. A place to bury all the things I'll never say out loud.
I roll off the couch where I slept. It’s cold standing there in my underwear. But I take the time to look myself over in the mirror because the red light throws pleasing shadows. And this is the hour when I feel my best. My skin is tight. My stomach small. I shiver. I’m happy.  
I walk the streets to see other people. Smell coffee and pizza in the air. Hear strangers laugh. Cars honk their horns with impatience  This is beneficial to me. And beautiful. Cocaine for my soul. A way through the long cold winter without surrendering to insanity. Of making it to spring still in control.   
On the bus I sit near the guy no one wants to. He bobs his head back and forth. Greasy hair flip. Jaw twisting turning in demonic ways. When he pulls his pantleg up to his knee to furuiously scratch away at his greying flesh. I wonder how long he’ll last. I wonder what he was like as a boy.  
Because I never liked being alive until last year. In the midst of a plague I found happiness though. Sure I was spiralling like everyone else. Fear was in the streets and it ran free. But terror is a wonderful motivator. My hands knew what to do with it. They killed the person I used to be.  
When I get off the bus I walk slow no matter how cold. This is the last bit of freedom I’ll taste until after dark. So I want to remember it. To close my eyes against the pain in my legs. And escape to these tranquil streets lined with old factories now quiet. Abandoned. For me they’re full of hope.  
There was nothing wrong. I only dreamt to suffer in different ways. Different locations. But now sitting here with the cold seeping in through my thin cotton t-shirt. Muscles cramping. I wonder if I was wrong to run. To turn my back on what I came from. To live a life in exile. It's better not to think about.
It’s barely ten a.m. and I’m already restless. I don’t know what to do with myself. I pace around the living room for a bit. I see the allure of pulling out my hair in tufts as a way to stabilize the madness. I tell myself it’s too cold to leave the apartment. And there’s nothing out there anyways. Still life. 
By the time I butt out the roach I’m silently crying. My heart hurts for the loss of our relationship. But I’ve managed without his guidance. Kept out of prison. Stayed off the streets. Found a woman to love. And to love me back. It’s not all bad. I’m not completely alone. Or totally lost.  
And in my youthful pursuit of letting life do what it wanted with me. I was lead exactly where I thought I would. Behind a keyboard like all my heroes. But I was a fool. I remained ignorant of things like I’ll often go without like they did. And that for me to do this it has no right being easy. So now I relish every kick I take. I tell myself it’s all practice baby. 
An abandoned stretch  along rue Saint-Joseph  where I’m always the only one. A car slows down and stops in the middle of the road. I slow my pace. I tell myself that this is it. The instant. And in my pocket I make a fist. The largest key I own protruding like a weapon.
And not many engines can handle that kind of stress. So I have to wonder when mine will start to shake. Crack. Come shooting up out of my chest in a deafening scream of torn flesh and broken bones. Streams of blood in the air and a smile on my face. Because I pushed it as hard as I could. I never gave in to thoughts of my safety.  
She’s doing the dishes when I walk through the door. Bright red sweater. Tight plaid pants. I grab her ass when I get close enough. Kiss her on the lips. Then tell her I love her as I take off my clothes. Because the odour of paint thinner is burning my eyes.