Excerpt from Chapter 5:
Baked, Sizzled and Fried
A few months later in my very eventful nineteenth year, the fucking daily tyranny in my parents’ house and the reign of irrationality in my father’s office was gutting me. I have to get out! My mother’s verbal abuse hurled at me at all hours of the day or night and my father’s quiet yet unrelenting control are killing me. Their hypocrisy is strangling me. I’m losing my mind! And I’m losing my soul, which terrifies me even more. I have to pull myself out of my smoke-induced, dreamy illusion of freedom to make freedom a reality. I have to go cold turkey! I can’t fathom one more day of trying to limit myself to one, two, three, four, five joints after 8 p.m., 7 p.m., 6 p.m., 5 p.m., 4 p.m.—fuck it, I’ll have one now, even though it’s 7 a.m.In a hot-headed, intentional moment of clarity, I decide to get the job done by locking myself up in my father’s frigid, gloomy mercury-vapour-lit storage depot and shipping dock. It holds a huge antique oak table, eight chairs, one captain chair, a desk, an armoire, many, many tins of stripping fluid, a furniture scraper, steel wool and industrial rubber gloves. Perhaps this is the setup for the spray-room scene in Banff … I seem to have always known there are many ways to remove an old finish, some more difficult than others. Ha!
The Doors ride that storm with me. Yep, Jim Morrison—of all people and of all bands! I feel stoned just listening! Maybe that is the secret. It is the perfect high-flying soundtrack for my detox, my toxic-fumed, muscle-powered, elbow-greased and frenzied quest to reveal the natural beauty of the oak and my truth. The furniture project drives my heart’s crusade for hope and happiness, my zeal for perfection; it distracts me from my pain and intensifies my delight in my venerated St-Hubert chicken feasts.
I emerge somewhat victorious from the mercury-vapour gloom bearing the wounds of perseverance only to be summoned, a few weeks later, to my father’s conference room. With its beige-on-beige textured wallpaper from hell, oversized fake oak Arborite conference table and way-too-large-for-the-room peacock blue velvet bucket chairs, one can barely escape once ensnared in its overstuffed magnitude (but I did).
“You’re high as a kite!” (He knows these things—and he really does—more on that later). “Actually I’m rather not, if you wish to know.” And now, as usual, he comes down heavy with his new rules of engagement: “You can’t fool me! You have to quit drugs and your art and play by my rules if you want to work in my office and live in my house.” Lucky guy, he hasn’t interacted with pure me on real moods and no art in three years. That’s way more intense than any of my self-medicated artsy party states. Quit my true self and art now? “Never! Do you hear me? Never!” “Bon, ben … j’te donne vingt-quatre heures pour sortir toute, içi pis à maison. As-tu compris? Vingt-quatre heures!” So, fine … I’m given twenty-four hours to collect my stuff and get out of the house. “That’s it, that’s all!” he says. “I disown you!” “You dis-own me? Ha! That’s a good one! I wasn’t yours to own in the first place. Twenty-four hours, man, to gather my belongings and get out. Fuck you … you old fucking bastard! You think you can scare me. You want to see me beg. You think I’m going to slink out of it. No fucking way, man. I’m calling your bluff. All you’re going to see is my paint-covered ass! Watch it good, cuz you might not see it again.”
Well, that was a stone-cold-sober trip I’ll never forget! Going back to the house, packing a suitcase with the few things that seemed essential, my father nowhere in sight, my mother and Mamy, my beloved maternal grandmother, in shock because my father has failed to let them know what is going down. I still see my Mamy, in the living room sitting on the gold-leafed olive velour sofa beside yours truly, clenching rumpled tissues in her shaky, arthritic hands, dentures gnashing, eyes watchfully taking in every detail of my tear-streamed face and I of hers because we both know it will be years before we will once again hold each other tightly, as we so often do.
No more Hockey Night in Canada with the Montréal Canadiens, Guy Lafleur (my favourite player) and Yvan Cournoyer (hers, and Maurice Richard back in the day when they played real hockey), no more St-Hubert chicken dinners (she was an even more devoted customer than I), no more gloriously tipsy giggle-fests lubricated by my father’s vast stock of white wine, no more Tom Jones on Sunday night, or René Simard on Radio Canada, no more sleepovers in my double bed, no more sweet, gentle and honest pillow talk, no more hair brushes under the covers waiting for her unexpecting toes to be pricked, no more. No more. I entrust my little Mies to her, my adorable grey miniature poodle named after Mies van der Rohe, my most admired architect. She called Mies “Lyne” from that day on (she never got it straight after the shock). That little grey dog is all she had left of my living, breathing and loving essence for five years. Our intimacy was shattered. Later, we only saw each other twice a year if that, and only in my mother’s annoying, cloying and censoring presence. I did not lay my head on her lap or soft bosom and she did not gently stroke my hair or comfort me or I her until twenty years later, the week before her death.
Because truth be told, there wasn’t only one.
Until she died, there were two white flowers in that field of manure.
Hers was a beacon of grandmotherly love and glee I always celebrate.