Sue Luvs Luc
I’VE COME TOO LATE TO THE BURNING WORLD. WHICH MAKES THIS apocryphal, which is alternative. Everything is going fast and smooth. Like eating instant noodles raw. As soon you think of something, noodles for instance, it’s in your mouth. Poisoning you. That’s the fullness of time. That’s what’s happening here, on the road with my mother.
We’re doing 120k when it’s a passing lane and about 60 most of the time because this is what they’re pretending is Canada. We don’t have air conditioning in the Honda, it broke. And I’m glad to feel something, heat or anything. What in days of yore was touch is now local anaesthetic. Sensuality, nightgowns, wives asking to be tied to the bedposts. Hear that sonic boom? It broke the mirror.
It’s a beautiful planet, viewed from here on the road. We’ve had some laughs. I’ll probably always like making my mother laugh. My mother is a stolen soul. She pretends, even to herself, that she likes my music. The present times are inconclusive, a false start with reverb, which is parody. I bear my burden. I move sideways on the sands of doom. The trees are going riot, stunning. If we were to really stop and breathe it in we’d explode, which would be a spiritual thing but we’d never make it to Toronto.
Every hour, I make my mother ecstatic and punch on the radio for the news. We’re driving three days. News every hour. It gives us a hobby, which is the way to health even in the face of disaster. Especially. What our hobby is: we’re following the path of Hurricane Ivan. A guy hurricane. Anything’s an outlet, no matter how imitation.
Ivan the Guy is “bearing down” on Cuba, having fucked up Granada where the poor people have tin roofs, or had. I picture the rich houses with red ceramic tiles. A man says the tiles blown off the roofs of the rich houses are “bullets.” He says it’s “A War Against Nature.” He’s playing make-believe, blind with nostalgia for “Lonely Man in an Uncaring Universe.” When you know in actuality we’ve fucked it so deep now, we’ve become it. We’re it.
While Ivan is bearing down on Cuba, my mother and I head toward Sault Ste. Marie. My mother has a nice voice but it’s edged with panic which she disguises as enthusiasm. Her brown eyes dart all over the landscape like a herd cow in the chute. She lists off the names of the trees. She goes into detail about geology. Who knows if she’s got it right? It’s only me and her. I appreciate any kind of information. I like the rocks and the trees and let her do all the talking, and I tease her now and then so she knows I’m sincerely here. Which I can’t be totally. Either I’m okay in my own mind or I’m out of my head in hers. A person can’t really go the distance for another. Love waves to us from the far shore.
This is one of the problems of being an only child to lonely parents. My father’s the same way, crazy with loneliness. So he found another family. Which is perfect for him. He isn’t expected to be close to anybody. What’s perfect for one person is perfect for the entire universe. It’s good that I’m not shy, my quantum self being spread so thin; you find yourself in need of love from indifferent hearts.
My mother is still a good-looking woman at forty-five though I know she feels unnecessary, an ordinary drone. I come and go as I please but it’s tiring to live with her, just the two of us in her little house with its crooked stairs and little windows that stare out at the street with the same look of alarm I see in her eyes, a sense of not quite being officer material. As the years go by, this arrangement has become like a wacky coupon that we must redeem. I have to constantly applaud her efforts or the whole world will crash; something painful will happen when tiny bits of our fibreglass lives splinter into space.
In a set of circumstances—which is what the world is now, not a place anymore but a situation—in such a situation I’m glad to make my mother happy. Because when I stop all I’ll have left is shit flying all around, like Ivan’s “bullets,” and the worst thing is, I’ll be watching this in sorrow, I’ll be on the big life raft sucking on oxygen through a tube with some horny goon expecting me to reboot the human race. But you know what I’ll miss when things finally break down to total exposure? Secrets.
Such as this. One time I met a boy at a bar. He had a wellorganized face, dark hair, two of everything. I had to be at the store in the morning but something made me decide to take our clothes off. It was summer then too. We drove over to the park and got the blanket out of the trunk and hid in the trees. He had a steroid body, but okay, I am pragmatic.
I guess I hurried him or like that, I didn’t wait for our eyes to get used to the dark, my mind wasn’t totally his, I didn’t let my hair fall on his neck, didn’t put my face against his and blink so he’d feel big against my eyelashes, didn’t let him undress me and didn’t undress him. I wanted his cock. But I didn’t want to pretend the world isn’t greater than and not equal to a cock.
I wasn’t distracted, I was diffuse. What we were doing wasn’t all that important. But it hurt his feelings. For this I will always be grateful. And I’ll never forget the hurt in his voice after when he said, “You want to get fucked?” and brought out his penknife. It was real. I’m not talking about the knife which was real on a simple plane; I’m telling you the boy had a voice and his voice carried pain from his heart through his throat and I heard it, a boy made real by pain.
I was wearing my DKNY T-shirt, so what’s next is a sacrifice. The boy kneels over me and he’s crying and I go out the back exit of my brain where I can watch what’s happening without fear. Because I’m curious. We are being beautiful, we are being active. I lift my breasts up to him and he cuts a hole in my shirt. He’s earned my respect now. The whole world, every surface thing, all of earth and sky is one great caress of my nipple. When someone gears down all that power into a circle an inch and a half in diameter, you’ve got to be grateful. Then he cuts a hole for my other breast and what just ten minutes ago was diffusion becomes deliquescence, which is delirium. Now his face wears a savage look of innocence as of after crying and I’m going to give him back the sensations and when I’m kissing his cock, he can be forgiven for something less delicate with the knife and I have the scar to prove it.
Of all the mergers I’ve enacted that one stands out.
On the four o’clock news Ivan is headed for western Cuba and they say he’s an “extremely dangerous Category 5 storm” that’ll give the place a “severe but glancing blow.” I have the exact words because I write important things in my journal. I can see my mother give me a stealthy look and I pretend not to notice. She’s like spyware in my hard drive. Another favour I do my mother is pretend life is normal.
When you love someone who has been so hurt, you must disguise love as a joke, in capsule form so she can swallow. My mother “hides her pain” from me. She makes the Grim Reaper by comparison a runway fashion model.
Show me a mother who hasn’t read her daughter’s journal, she’d have to be so totally devoid she lives in Florida. Not that my mother’s spying is 100% fat-free maternal; it’s adulterated, muggy with a mix of love and boredom, that is, love for me and boredom with her own life. Worse than boredom. Dizzy with the futility that she thinks is her fate. My father’s disregard. The sounds of his departure. A door closes, a car backs out of the driveway. After that, nothing. She thinks she has disappeared.
She reads my journal, say, once every growth ring. Read it just last month. Know she did. Read my adventures of cock and tongue. And you know what freaks her to frenzy? Not the Act. The writing of it. She covered with a talk about STDs. It was “an awkward moment.” It’s worse for her to have read that than for me to have done it, because done is active, whereas writing it and reading it goes into my mother’s stone-washed nervous system, into virtual life, like satellite trash. What she can’t do is get over how I am this person who does it, then writes it down. I must be Napoleon or something, a dictatrix, which is a female dictator; she thinks I’m an evil genius because I’m not prostrate. She thinks I’m who she pretends she is.
Here we are in this beautiful pseudo-country, with the horizon spiffed out palest blue by Lake Superior and our little highway practically walking through these little towns with white stores and banners saying “Winnie the Pooh Country,” population 600, counting the dead in the cemetery. Then it’s back out to the far hills that soar over the lake and the highway is dynamited into the PreCambrian Shield, which is older than God. Dickheads have made their pathetic inuksuk, which are to prove that man has been here, as if man isn’t everywhere, as if there’s not one iota of this planet and its entire atmosphere that isn’t sticky with human fingerprints. As if.
Further, as my fearful father says, further, Love wants to make itself known in this place, I mean Self Love. Here, with Jack Pine, White and Red Pine, Cedar Groves, Stands of Black Spruce, Tamarack who lose their pale drippy needles, here in a symphony of rock with forests clawing into it, the highway running by Old Woman Bay where flinty cliffs rise up out of surf and curl off into a beach of white sand with the cold breath of what was once Nature, as yet, almost
the same, a likeness, a death mask on what has been conquered, devoured, made into our own unhappy selves, here, find on fifty feet of greenest granite nothing but a pink heart with SUE LUVS LUC inside it, stuck inside it, just like NATURE is stuck inside the little mind of MANKIND.
Morning comes, we’re in the Sault, they call it, just like people have nicknames for serial killers. My mother’s acting like she doesn’t have a hangover though I know she feels like a litter box. I do the first shift and she puts her seat back, claims she has PMS and closes her eyes. I know she’s awake because she’d never fall asleep when I’m at the wheel, so she’s getting a different kind of rest, pretending to be the child here and making little mewing noises that pretty well break my heart.
My mother is a woman in chronic training for service to the state. To serve it with every nerve, always alert to its bell. Which is why we’re driving to Toronto, so she can get checked out for a job there with Head Office.
She wakes up. Or feigns waking because she has feigned sleep, when we start to climb the smoky stones of Sudbury. It’s hot and the traffic is increasing. We head south on 69. For every Matrix there are five Explorers, for every Civic there are ten Grand Cherokees. It’s going fast. The highway is new and cost billions of dollars.
We switch. I don’t understand freeways. When we hit Barrie the noise is so loud we roll up the windows and “cook in our own juices” as my mother says, making me feel more carsick just to think about her juices and mine, and the wet Kleenex and last black jujubes and Styrofoam coffee cups and hair everywhere, and the farmers’ fields are seedy and ripe in the yellowing late afternoon. It’s hard to look forward to dinner or any meal the rest of my life when I think about the billboards in the corn and all our emissions sifting into the soil year after year for eons unto the final day.
We’re on the 401, my mother and me, when we turn on the radio ten minutes before the news, frantic for distraction, in traffic slowed to 20k, every artery clogged. Corn fields and heavy heads of barley smudged by smog, and then the big silver boxes nearing Toronto and of course we look like ants driven by some implant, some microchip guaranteeing the survival of the species, when what should come on the radio but a documentary about the Third World designed to wake us up to just how lucky we are to live in the expanded boundaries of
liberty, and this documentary is about Sudan or Nigeria and it’s not about oil, it’s about female genital mutilation.
We’re watching the back end of an Acura with one balding guy in it, and we’re learning about girls who have to give birth through two inch vaginas that have been sewn up after the clitoris was sawn off with the lid of a tin can of kidney beans donated by World Vision. And my mother says, Oh my God.
Well, we just have to wait it out because really I’m not the woman she is and I haven’t got the strength right now to remind her that the mutilation is already wide spread.
Then the news comes on and we can appreciate that Ivan the Guy has whumped the left end of Cuba and we hear what just might be Fidel Castro’s leathery voice, saying, “It’s going north through the channel. That’s very courteous. I’m more optimistic now.” And the dead haven’t yet been counted so it feels as if nobody has died.
My mother and I head for the Best Western near the Dixie offramp to get some rest so she can go get checked out by Head Office in Mississauga at 8:30 a.m., and as we drive, talking about ribs or Chinese, that terrible guy Ivan is heading in his courteous way in waves six metres high and winds 260k and nobody in sight because all the rigs of Yucatan have been abandoned, and tonight while we sleep, Ivan will storm into the deep green seas of the Gulf of Mexico without a single human in sight.
I reach to put my hand on my mother’s back, to rub at the tension that’s knotting up her spine. Her shoulders relax a little and when she pulls into the parking lot at the motel she sets the emergency brake and turns to me and she gives me this smile.
The noise and sadness just fade away when she smiles like that.p