The day I died it was snowing. I was laid out on the floor thinking I had passed out from my blood pressure medication. My blood pressure dropping so low that I fainted, hit the corner of my head on the coffee table, and was now bleeding to death ith no one to help me. I faintly recalled a man being in the room and the banshee yells of a woman but thought it must have been some kind of unconscious dream as I could not identify either person. Looking down on myself I could see the blood trickling from my head and oddly also from my nose. All those sirens you hear going somewhere else, but not your home, in the night? The ones that fade as you drift off to sleep reading your favourite book in bed comfy in the fact of your own safety? They were now coming toward me. Getting louder instead of fading. Creating commotion among my neighbours. The odd thing is, or maybe not so odd perhaps given my status as a single newly retired 60 something, no wife no kids no pets, was those sirens did not appear at my door until two months after my actual death. I had begun to decompose and stink up the place leading to a frantic pounding on the door by my next door neighbour. Getting no response they notified a strata council member who just happen to be my best friend’s mother. She discovered the body. Well she opened the door and found my body then closed it quickly due to the awful smell. No one had bothered to enquire prior to that. I had not answered the phone but then again I never answered the phone always letting the voice mail take it silently without disturbing me. I liked peace and solitude for reading and watching movies. I never got that many calls once I was out of the loop of the work force. People are so busy with their electronic messaging systems, work plans, daily chores, families, and extracurricular activities they hardly have time for each other much less some old fart out in the suburbs merrily doing nothing feasting on all the new found time on his hands. Envious of the mother lode.
Before I dropped dead Ethel Bridge, my fuck mate for the past two years left me for a younger chap, Chip. A boy in fact. She called him chocolate Chip not because of his colour, he was Caucasian but because she liked the taste of him. “He is so sweet. Literally.” She was 45 and always worried about her biological clock.. They went off to make babies in Italy where Chip’s mother lived. And cooked. And made his bed. Now he had two women to pamper him. The two women hit it off like spaghetti and cheese. Ethel in fact talked of hitching me up with Chip’s mom, Maria, who was 68. She was old and wrinkly. She could have had the twat of a teenager but you would have never got me in the same bed with that shrivelled up prune face. Imagine waking up next to that. “Does she even have teeth?” I quipped.
“Hmmm, I never asked. Is that important to you?” Ethel had a bad habit of asking that question all the time. It was like being in a group therapy session. Ethel must have learned the expression from her shrink who she fucked before fucking around with me. Or maybe at the same time. I never knew. Nor did I want to know. Ethel was my group therapy. And actually she was better than that. I had been to group therapy for my drinking and smoking. I decided after hearing everyone else’s god forsaken story of their miserable lives that I would quit the group and continue drinking and smoking. The year had started off badly. First of all I walk into work one day and they tell me to go home. Permanently. I felt like someone had just walked up from behind me, stuck an old fashion Canadian two-dollar bill down my trousers and asked to blow my dick. Or suck my blood out of me from my neck. Would I mind unbuttoned my pants or shirt, whichever was the case, and obliging? All the while I am eating sushi in a snowstorm waiting outside a store that has suddenly cloased for business. I mean how else do you feel. New management new priorities fuck off lady.
The best group I was in was one to quit smoking because it also included meditation. And there the only problems people had were smoking and cancer.
My brother and I were called Chip and Dale at home and at school even though I was Charles Danforth and my brother was David. I don’t know how it got started. I was called Chuck at first and then the name morphed into Chip. It just seemed natural and was a way to tell us apart. We were twins although we were not identical twins we did look enough alike I suppose that people could get confused. When I first met Ethel at the gas station I found her very flirtatious. I liked the way she held her hand up over her eyes to block the sun and the way she talked when she said “let me get a good look at you. She actually recognized me then. I used to be in her science class. Biology to be specific before she became a writer of mystery stories. Successful enough to quit teaching and travel a bit. Although she mostly stayed home here in Canada. She had a cottage up in lake country in the interior of BC and an apartment over in False Creek in Vancouver. Well it was a condo actually. But she was just leasing it for a year until she found a place over in Kitslano which is where she really wanted to live. Ethel was a very straight forward woman. She knew what she wanted. Sex. And lots of it. Ever since her husband had left her from some “younger thing” she had been on the prowl. I don’t know who else she was bedding down at the time but soon enough we were stealing afternoons together in her condo. We would go through a box of condoms in no time. She was insatiable and I was well, young. I could get it on at the drop of a hat. We soon settled on Wednesdays. And it got to be a bit of a routine after awhile. But we did other things too. She would take me to the opera or the symphony and show me off to her pals, many of them middle aged women who also had this certain sparkle in their eye whenever they met me. They appeared envious and began acting like nervous little school girls actually. I felt a bit freakish at these momements like I was the circus act brought out now and then to show off to a certain select audience of middle aged women who were horny from neglect at home.
I wish god damn Pops wouldn’t call me at 3 in the morning drunk, slurring, drooling, Ethel thought as she surveyed her hotel room. Here she was at yet another conference in another city. At least it was New York City this time and at least she was able to squeeze in some personal time so she could get some more of that young stud she keeps pretending is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Somehow Nat, who she calls Pops but who is becoming as pesky as a gnat manages to track her down and blubber about the good old days when he was at the top of his game with the company and on top of her. This hotel in the financial district was a great idea. Away from the fray of Times Square it was actually very quiet down here near ground zero. The hotel had been newly refurbished after taking a beating on 9/11. It had been turned into a temporary hospital the weeks following that fateful day that booked marked everyone who was living on the planet’s. Before the twin towers and after. Ethel had eaten, with Nat back in his greener days, at the Top of the World restaurant many times. Nat liked to drink a certain Brooklyn beer and she enjoyed their famous sky high martinis. Those were the days. Martini lunches and then fuck naps. Work was too demanding to have martini lunches anymore. It was usually just San Peligrino with a light salad. And the love naps had to be put off until around dinner time when she would beg off the evening entertainment since she had had enough of being with conference attendees from 7 in the morning until 7 at night and proceed to work up an appetite with a brisk run on the treadmill followed by a sweaty rub and dub with Chip. He loved to make love to her when she was all sweaty from her workout. And she found this unusually exhilarating. Slipping and sliding. He would turn up the heat just to keep her sweating while they moistened the sheets with their playtime. Then it was shower and a late room service dinner all snuggled in bed watching classic movies on TV. More love making and then oblivion until 5:45 the next morning when she would pop out of bed fresh as a daisy and launch into her day. Chip liked to watch her put on her makeup and stockings and tight suits all he while learing and telling her how much he wanted her right then and there. “Just wait until Saturday dear” she warned him. They had a routine where even though she did not have to go to work she would get up and go through the same preparations as if she were going to work only he would jump her bones and ravish her once she was all dolled up. She would feign to leave and then say something like “oops I forgot my panties” and come back into the room only to be overtaken by his hard body and beguiling kisses and gentle touch. For a 20 year old Chip was not a fumbler, far from it. Pops could take a few lessons from this yummy youngster.
Nat the gnat. Yep that is what she called me. You never know the last thing you will say to a person before they die. Poor Ethel. She will probably regret that was the last she said to me. She has a sweetness and hopefully in time she will be able to forgive herself. I am sure that 20 year old will help her forget. Of course these days where people are pounded with information death is an ohmygod one minute and forgot the next. People don’t have time to mourn anymore unless it is someone terribly close to them like a long lasting marriage or children, parents, deep close longtime friends. She will get over it. And well of course I already am.
It’s not the first time I have faced death. We all dodge a bullet or two throughout our lives and by the time we get to be my age you realize there has to be a little luck on your side. You don’t stomp around 6 decades on the planet without having survived some near misses. The first time was when I was a mere wee tyke, 7 or 8 years old. I was walking to school per usual and standing at a corner of a busy intersection like I am suppose to. I think about dashing across as there is very little traffic but there is this older car, a fast back Ford or Chevy, creeping along. A 1940s type looking car like the kind you see in those old gangster movies where Robert Ryan and Bob Mitchum duke it out for right over might. Anyway this care is creeping along and I notice that a little old man is driving it which explains a lot. He is in no way keeping up with the normal ebb and flow of traffic. Suddenly out of nowhere (why do people say that? Really it was suddenly out of somewhere) a big new Chevy pulls up to the intersection on the cross street to my left. I only spot it because I looked both ways twice and had spotted the slow old man driver’s car. I can see the lady driving the car appears distracted. She has tears in her eyes and she seems panicked. In a hurry. She pulls out into the intersection apparently not having seen this old fella inching along at all. SMASH! She has pulled out right in front of the older car. The most sprightly awake person could not have avoided the wreck. The old car clips the tail end of the chevy and even though both cars are going rather slow. The Chevy;s front end goes up in the air as if launched like a missle, spins around 180 degrees with three of it’s wheels in the air and then lands facing me crashing down within inches. By this time Susie Hawthorne, an older schoolmate of mine, has arrived at the corner and pulls me back just in time as the car is landing. Once back on solid ground the car goes to pieces. Fenders, glass, the hood and headlights all fly off into the air and crash land onto the street and sidewalk around me. Never underestimate the effect of speed when two objects collide while moving. It is astonishing. By this time Susie has pulled me back from the corner just as the hood comes crashing down where I was standing. The woman is in one piece, shaken up, shocked, she has stopped sobbing the starts wailing. The little old man was killed instantly, his head having hit the dashboard and then windsheild back in the day before seatbelts. It was the first time I had seen a dead body and luckily it wasn;t my own. I was inexperienced at dying.
“I want sex. Why do you think I went home with the coat check girl in the first place?
”Because she was young and had big breasts and she was stupid and horny. Just your type:”
“Doesn’t say much about you does it?”
“Yeah well explain to me again why you couldn’t get I up for her?” she then marched into the back bedroom and slammed the door. I ran to the door screaming. “I was in a strange place with a strange woman. And….and…”
It was true. I was in a very strange place and it was an unusual tete a tete. After the fire which destroyed all we ever owned except the clothes on our back my wife and I with our two young boys moved into a big house donated by the local church community. The house would be vacant as the owners were traveling abroad. We had it to ourselves for at least the summer. It was a godsend. The kids had a big yard to play in for a change instead of a downtown tar paper roof outside a cramped apartment window. The space allowed us to be so far apart in the house we almost would get lost. We never knew where the other one was. We could be more independent of each other instead of always on top of each other. I had hoped and prayed this would be fewer rages and arguments. It had been a very tense time trying to get this marriage off the ground. First emigrating to Canada. Getting disgusted with the big city ant hill that was Toronto. Including a bogus job that ended up paying nothing. A job I had worked at for a month in anticipation of great pay and relief from the grinding poverty we found ourselves in. So we packed our little Renault station wagon with it’s cute umbrella handle gear shift, diaper pail for the younger boy who was still in diapers. And headed to the maritime provinces of Canada. Our reasoning is that since we were poor we should go live where the poor people live. We had survived a muggy hot summer without killing each other although somehow in the process Ann had ended up with a broken pinky finger when a coffee table I had shoved out of the way flipped and landed on her. She had held up her hands to guard herself. My god I was turning into my Dad. Full of anger and violence. I was beginning to understand how certain pressures could lead to such despicable behaviour. To top it off Ann had a hatful of anger from what was later to be known as PMS. At the time little was known about this condition. She would rage right up their with me and at times surpass me holding a can of lighter fluid over my head and a lighter at the ready willing to turn me into a protesting Vietnamese monk we saw on tv during the Vietnam war era. Get away, get out of the city, move to a more manageable area remote from the traffic, smells, pollution and crowds of the uncaring anthill. Every day on the subway I felt like I was going deeper and further into an anthill. Everyone I talked to, including other expatriates, were solmemn and sad, disgusted wit their lives, strung out on dope, mundane, impoverished, gray. Every thing seemed grey. Every day seemed grey. Event that hot muggy summer. All was grey so we packed up what little we owned and fled like refugees to a promised land.