And Words Are All I Have

all you need is love
I’ve had a wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.
~ Groucho Marx ~

Complete Me Dot Com

In the Bronze Age, before Twitter and speed dating and online match-ups, men and women met each other one of two ways: at church, or via the newspaper classifieds.
Trust me: It was a thing. The first order of business for scores of unattached urban singles on a Saturday morning was pouring their first coffee and scouring the hook-up possibilities spread across as many as four pages of print in the back section of their city's largest newspaper.

My friend and I, in our 30s and single, although we loved big city life, were losing hope of ever finding our true soul mates. We had been serial dating for what felt like forever and knew far too well the hamster wheel of blind dates, set-ups by friends, and New Year’s Eves spent with the well-worn triumvirate of ABC’s New Year's Rockin’ Eve, Mister Salty Pretzel Twists and Sara Lee Banana Cake.

Fed up, yet ever hopeful, we decided to place a personal ad of our own in Toronto's biggest newspaper, asking for exactly what we had failed to find out there - to narrow it down, a guy who picked up a cheque once in a while and actually liked women.

“We’ll do it for a lark,” my friend said airily, gnawing on her remaining cuticles.

“Why not?” I shuddered, reminding myself to just breathe.

Constructing the perfect posting took us the better part of six months. It shouldn’t be frivolous, we agreed, yet we didn’t want to come across as think tank members. In a scant 100 words or so our ad had to weed out narcissists, health fanatics, married men, taxidermists, and any man who still lived with his mother.

The final draft read something like this: “Do you prefer Gloria Steinem to Vanna White? Movie matinees and Raisinettes to the Triathlon and Weetabix? Room service to buffets in the lobby? Write and tell us about yourselves.”

We ran the ad on two consecutive Saturdays. Over coffee we stacked the voluminous replies into three piles: the promising ones, the sketchy ones and the seriously sketchy ones. One respondent revealed he’d been clinically depressed since the love of his life took up with his best friend the year before, but as he put it, maybe two “wildcats” like us could lift him out of it. A sporting duo wrote to say they needed able-bodied crew for a sailing expedition to Alaska. Were we each willing to chip in $4500 to help defray expenses? One despondent lad said he’d given up on women but was considering entering the fray again because, as he explained, “Any human contact, I suppose, is worthwhile.”

Out of 36 responses the only one that made our cut came from two young men, work buddies who lived north of the city. The ending of their letter piqued our interest particularly:

“Call us. You won’t be disappointed.”

We had visions of weekends in the country and Saturday morning crosswords in front of roaring fireplaces. We braced ourselves and phoned them, agreeing to hang up immediately if they were monosyllabic, defensive, or stoned. After a reasonably pleasant conversation we agreed to meet them for coffee the following Saturday in the city’s downtown.

“How will we recognize you?” I asked buoyantly.

“We’ll be wearing toques,” one piped up. My friend and I later agreed if they’d said matching toques, the gig would have been up.

We heard our dates before we saw them. I never realized how much noise two moving snowmobile suits can make in a quiet bistro. Our new friends introduced themselves, sat down across from us, and began fiddling with their toques.

They both appeared to be suffering from heat prostration. I suggested breezily that they remove a layer or two of clothing, realizing we’d need another entire booth in which to store it.

“No chance, ladies, I like to keep the goods under wraps,” declared the one called Wayne.

HIs friend, whose toque read Ghostbusters, introduced himself as Brad. He said he worked nights and enjoyed having his days free.

Wayne suddenly turned on him. “What do ya mean, you slug? You sleep all day.” He looked at us shaking his head, with a look of disdain.“The guy has to set his alarm to get up for supper.”

“Keep it up, old man,” Brad retorted, who at that point had broken out into a full flop sweat. “And I’ll tell them you’re 45 and still live with your mom.” He winked at us. “He does, you know.”

Wayne decided wisely to change gears. “So this is the big city. It’s not so great.”

“First time here?” I asked, buoyantly, ignoring the red flags that by then were blurring my entire field of vision.

“No way,” said Brad emphatically. “We were down here just last year for the Rush concert.” At that instant they rose off their seats in unison, high-fived one another and let out deafening howls.

Thirty minutes into the date and the toques were still on their heads. Wayne was busy building an elaborate pyramid out of plastic dairy creamers. Brad had just asked our waitress if she was free later.

Their snowmobile suits seemed to be emanating their very own atmosphere. Like an aura, if an aura was composed of inexpensive man-made materials.

Brad and Wayne began arguing over the cheque next. My friend reached out and grabbed it. “This one’s on us," she announced, decisively. We were both thinking the same thing: anything to stop the bleeding.

Standing at the cash register, we heard their synthetic water repellant apparel approaching.

“So what’s going on in this burg?” quipped Brad. “Any hot spots?”

“You bet,” I said, calculating how much time I had until the start of Saturday Night Live.

“It’s called The Duke of Donuts down on the Danforth. I recommend the Boston Cream.

“You won’t be disappointed.”

Quarantine 1918
~~ by Faith Shearin

There were towns
that knew about the flu before
it arrived; they had time to imagine the germs
on a stranger’s skirts, to see how death
could be sealed in an envelope,
how a fever could bloom in the evening,
and take a life overnight.
A few villages, deep in the mountains,
posted guards on their roads,
and no one was allowed to come or go,
not even a grandmother carrying a cake;
no mail was accepted and all the words
and packages families sent
to one another went unopened,
unanswered. Trains were told
not to stop, so they glowed for a moment
before swaying
towards some other place. The food
at the corner store never came
from out of town and no one went
to see a distant auntie
or state fair. For awhile, the outside world
existed in imagination, in memory,
in books or suitcases, deep in closets.
There was nothing but the town itself,
hiding from what was possible,
and the children cutting dolls
from paper, their scissors sharp.

Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy. W. B. Yeats

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None of them ever read fiction as far as I can remember. If asked collectively they would no doubt respond it is a waste of time. It’s unlikely any of them read poetry voluntarily, couldn’t name a poet besides Longfellow to save their lives. The men that have come in and out of my life leave me wondering what they …
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