Sue Luvs Luc

Prairie Fire - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - MARGARET SWEATMAN

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.