Blood and Berries

Geist - - Findings - DOUG DIACZUK

From Chalk, win­ner of the 38th An­nual In­ter­na­tional 3-Day Novel Con­test. Pub­lished by Anvil Press in 2016. Diaczuk is a writer and jour­nal­ist. He lives in Thun­der Bay.

You spend your nights driv­ing around the city, park­ing in front of home­less shel­ters and soup kitchens, smok­ing cig­a­rettes on the side­walk and of­fer­ing ones to the men and women who ask po­litely. You hang around men’s rooms at bus sta­tions and watch fif­teen-minute seg­ments of TV shows on the coin-fed sets at­tached to arm­rests. You leave mes­sages for L in chalk on side­walks and on build­ings. You tell her to go home and that her mother misses her. You tell her that you’re all right and that the best thing that ever could have hap­pened to you has fi­nally hap­pened. You brush the dust from your hands on your pants and think that she’s prob­a­bly not even in the city any­more, and ev­ery time you think it your heart breaks a lit­tle. You never re­ally knew what your in­ten­tions

were and why you wanted to leave. It might have been the same rea­son that L gave her fos­ter par­ents, maybe you’re just bored. Or maybe, just like L, you’re search­ing for some­thing, some­thing that doesn’t even ex­ist.

You try to imag­ine what you would look like as a woman and how it would feel not know­ing who you are. Do you even know now? In a bar, you fol­low a woman into the bath­room and she screams and tells you to get the hell out.

Can you do me a favour? you ask. I said get out of here, you creep. Please.

She storms past you, smack­ing your arm with her hand­bag, and you can hear her shout­ing on the other side of the door. You look at your­self in the mir­ror, at your eyes, try­ing not to blink, and they look like they have been buried un­der ice for hun­dreds of years. An­other woman en­ters and freezes by the door. She wears brightred lip­stick and her hair is tied back in a high pony­tail. She sees that you are cry­ing.

Is ev­ery­thing okay? she asks.

Can you help me?

She moves closer to you, like a wild an­i­mal ap­proach­ing an out­stretched hand.

With what? she asks. You point at the mir­ror and ask her to kiss the glass.

What?

Please.

Why?

I want to see what I would look like as a woman. The woman catches your arm as you fall over. She helps you back up and you brace your­self against the counter. She takes out a tube of red lip­stick and ap­plies a fresh coat to her lips. She leans over the sink and presses her lips to the glass and holds them there for a long time, then pulls away. You take her place in front of the mir­ror, the red kiss

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