Desireless

12016697_10156070822685072_1180893091_n

Could this sign have been created by some guru? After all, a guru’s primary task is to show the seeker in some effective way that he or she already possesses that which is being sought after.

Shānti Flying

Accents, much like requests, get lost in flight. Please understand he wants a beer, not a bill. You smile courteously, but deny him twice. Determined to procure and guzzle alcohol hours before the sun has climbed to the top of a cloudless sky, he makes a third attempt. I pass no judgement, at least not deliberately, for his addiction might pale in comparison to mine. One can leads to two and two will certainly give way to three, as you draw uninvolved conclusions, just remember that he may know that obstacle removing god personally. He, along with the rest, sit upright as you spray the cabin, citing regulations drafted by international bodies. Your announcement of the imminent arrival at our destination is worthy of a celebration. If I ask politely will you overlook my vague intentions and place a shiny glass containing any substance viler than beer on my tray? Reasons evolve in three, but I can manufacture more if need be. Can we discuss how the unfortunate odours of perspiring souls combined with your toxic fumes are unpleasantly tickling my nostrils? Their traditional wrinkles reveal an uneasiness that in quiet diligence I seek to discern. Perhaps not everyone who flies wants to land. Thus, gravity has never been an enemy and despite our heights we can never be above it all.

With sight being the only unbiased sense in this environment, I see her. The colours and lightness of fabric accentuate the glistening deep of her skin. Hopefully my searching gaze doesn’t interfere with her duties. And if through no fault of our own, it does, may you show greater understanding than you possess by granting us the necessary time to dream. After all, she hasn’t paused since putting on your imperial apron, shouldn’t loyalty, the kind shown by her to you, be rewarded with tangibles? Not even his pungent belch of contentment, which vulgarly chocked whatever clean oxygen remained in the air, could halt thoughts and realize chimeras. To varying degrees, we, passengers at the mercy of aviation technology, find enduring comfort in myths. She’s asking for my empty cup. I’m longing for her gentle hand. You interrupt with an incomplete form. He amuses me with inebriated pitches for number four and five. They, anxious about their belongings, clutch everything in their field of vision. From an acceptable distance, her voice broke through the noise of the bustling cabin when she asked for my good name. Unsure of the customs, I’m wondering if inquiring about hers would be far too audacious. But, can my ears, and hearing, for that matter, even be trusted when descending from heavenly altitudes? Before you order her to sit as an employee, please accord us the longest second or the shortest day; what’s time in the divine anyway?

Lauded by Lovers IV

The ocean was near, yet we continued to swim in private pools. Surely, salt would have stung and possibly tormented every remaining wound, yet the disinfectant nature of chlorine violently removed whatever restoring power lies within any body of water. You spent mornings sweeping that balcony, while I spent nights pacing along the ledge of my roof. Individually we sought the beauty of a nuanced sky, but forgot to remove the paint. We’re embarrassed members of a generation of forgetters, despite knowing how the the past drips into the present like sap out of a maple tree. The clouds of unknowing wept, yet clothes remained dry as we clung to idols formed not of metal and wood. Mothers encouraged the building of faith, but failed to understand how clinging to ideas of God eliminated the possibility of a supreme vision. Thus, we remained trapped in the gyration of blind energy that some perceive as reality.

For some time, the pursuit of security became an obsession we rarely addressed. My gaze grew more ambiguous as your insomnia became all the more determined. We overlooked the obvious concerns in order to cordially fit into the constraints of working weeks. Didn’t we once believe that health is more than the absence of disease or injury? Whenever pressed, I valiantly defended the makings of my manhood, even when it offended the sovereignty of your womanhood. A silent agreement halted the indiscriminate attacks, but peace remained galaxies away from my soul. My uncontrollable rage, which was on display within the confines of my pathetic darkroom, appalled visitors.  Endeavouring to institute calm, they proposed a burning of all negatives that depicted you. Their naiveté was dumbfounding. With all their education, they somehow believed the ritual of fire would speak to that void you created. They, similar to  the handful of friends and family members that tolerated these outbursts, pitied my existence and hoped for a renaissance. I suppose, they were unaware of the developed photographs lodged deep in memory. Some were in black and white, most were in colour, all helped to further a suffering that was undeniably self-induced despite my wild allegations that tended to implicate you.

Whether it was due to loyalty or a lack of facts, informants relinquished few details. Then again, hearing his name, place of birth and character traits would have merely increased my disillusionment. Didn’t you know that a year later, mornings were still difficult? I wrestled with your ghost while cursing his being. My downward spiral had countless lows, which I grew tired of sharing. One morning, I awoke before the alarm, but kept my eyes closed. Entering my darkroom, the mission was clear: destroy every lingering image of you. But discernment is complicated business for an agitated mind, particularly when engaging in a discipline that often blurs the lines between truth and fiction. To my surprise, I found you in places I visited alone, working jobs you never held and nurturing children we never made. In a tone that was most unsettling, my scissors repeatedly commanded me to cut memories that had yet to be. Anxious beads of sweat sprouted from my forehead as my body started to tremble. Rebelling, I questioned its wisdom by asking why reality is limited to the happenings outside of self. Uninterested in an answer, I released my weapon and opened my eyes. Unable to stand for another moment, I knelt on the cracked floor vowing to surrender everything except my breath. I grabbed the pen and notepad from the nightstand and commenced the most cathartic exercise of my life. My heart spilled onto the paper in black ink like Malevich’s with his black square.

Your letter arrived six months after I sent mine. A few seconds, perhaps less, was all it took to realize that I still yearned for your words. Nevertheless, a day, perhaps more, was the time it took for me to open the envelop and extract the four pages. Your telling of our history reminded me of why we were once lauded by lovers. It reminded me of why company is never satisfied with the limited space I offer. His name arose when discussing your living arrangement, which you eloquently portrayed as uncertain. Time had apparently given him the confidence to ask the most unfathomable of questions. Fortunately, time, an illusional force capable of much  harm, had not thoroughly extinguished the flame of our courtship. At least that’s what I gathered from your curiosity about where we would be if sight hadn’t vanished. You correctly asserted that we all have a desire, or even stronger, a fundamental need, to be seen. On the final page, you placed a photo of that park bench where our story began. You confessed to visiting that indelible park a handful of times and concluded  that we were lauded by lovers because we dared to love.

 

Technology & Loneliness

As our cyber connectedness grows so does our loneliness…

Lauded by Lovers III

Serenity avoided our restlessness as individual supplications went unanswered. The counsel given by a jury of peers did little to halt the crumbling structure we categorized as home. We, unknowingly, began relying on the folly which outlined our embraces, caresses and kisses to guide us through the rubble. It, folly that is, can be defined within hundreds of colours and thousands of shades, but a guide it is not. The removing of layers, led to the laying of blame. These outbursts of anger over what we failed to be and sadness over what we once were preceded our passionate demonstrations in bed. Euphoric moments were often followed by the most contemptuous silence…silence that only well-documented enemies insist upon sharing. Disillusioned and fatigued, we packed whatever remained from the wreckage into separate suitcases, fled the disaster zone and moved into new spaces within the same decrepit town.

When winter arrived, we discovered that empty rooms are impossibly difficult to heat in the same way that products stored inside plugged-in ice boxes refuse defrosting. For weeks, friends flew in between our new addresses like dutiful white pigeons, transporting hurtful messages written from the lowest and darkest steps of unforgiving souls. Words from such hollow wells, wound even the most resistant flesh and leave stains on the most simple fashion. Their lingering property served as a painful reminder of what can transpire once a couple, who was lauded by lovers, forgets to rebuke hate’s most ruthless narrative. The stench of disdain became unbearable to even our most loyal audience. One by one, family and friends climbed up into the balcony, wanting to distance themselves from the imploding stage, while some decided to explore the exits of our theatre.

Echoes of loneliness criticized our picture-less frames as my search for meaning commenced behind the curtains of raunchy casting calls. I received little information about the nature of your auditions, but hearing that actors were welcomed through your back door, which had shockingly been left ajar, gave birth to my rage. Evidently, our story ceased to write itself, it was as if personal aspirations and destiny conspired to shoot down one soaring vessel. Not even the most diligent housekeeper could sweep away the clutter that had gathered in my chambers. Confessional monologues made over pots of simmering wine yielded more guilt than mercy. My pride went from being a formidable weapon to a reprehensible weakness. Murmurs of regret would not be voiced during the rising or setting of a boundless sun. At night, I, defiantly declared that not even the spotting of that park bench could alter my heart’s downward trajectory.

 

 

My Shadow

For as long as memory allows me to remember, it has watched, in deafening silence, my flawed and often lamentable existence, offering no tangible support or proven wisdom.

Without question it was present on my very first day of kindergarten when I pleaded with my father to not abandon me inside that brick building.  In the same way, it was present whenever I protested the mandatory naptime and overly structured drawing activities. It had to be present every time a classmate called me out of my name and teachers shot me disapproving stares.

Surely it was present on the many occasions I was made to feel subhuman and used furious fists to affirm my humanity. It was certainly present during my lifetime of masquerading for their admiration, throughout my innumerable experiences with unrequited love and bouts with the many heads of perversion. Wasn’t it present on that morning I acknowledged the illusion of identity and forsook religion in order to pursue God? It was undoubtedly present when the tears I shed for forty straight weeks left me soul parched and my body dangerously cramped.

It, for reasons I fear entertaining, chose to ignore my obvious need for empathetic company. In retaliation, I made numerous attempts to destroy it…none of which were successful. How does one dispose of such a useless creature? Lacking the patience to wait for answers from the sky, I decided to run away from any giver of light. I concede, this wasn’t my most brilliant hour, but for a moment I wholeheartedly believed that I escaped it. Upon noticing its presence, I unleashed the most venomous tirade on cowardly behaviour that was known to man. It never responded. I vowed never to address it.

Well-acquainted strangers was how we remained as every new year violently elbowed the fleeting one off the calendar.

Then, on the most opportune of nights, last year’s winter solstice to be precise, it happened.  During the dark of that seemingly endless night, when my breath was deathly faint and the moon looked down with such disdain, my shadow provided the shelter I longed for. It questioned the moon’s celestial status and confronted the air’s density. Speaking on my behalf it defended the circumstances of my birth and demanded that leniency be accorded for past transgressions.

My shadow, draped in clothing I have never worn, defeated the circle of loneliness and miraculously transformed into the friend I’ve never been.

Comedy Bar

The kowtowing host highlights approved symptoms and fetishizes typical absurdities over potent cocktails.

His guided routine concludes with a veiled  announcement to enliven the masked crowd.

As she walks onto the stage, he declares that tonights punch line will come from a wounded healer whose wisdom is present in song, tears and silence.

Broken notes and clouds of smoke hover above applauding attendees while the doormen herd in more with toxic candy on breath.

She greets them with vivid description of an empty funeral, which ruffle a few.

After humouring their fear of death, she stalks the room for a love story.

Some detail the roles they play.

Others speak of the characters they slay.

Most contemplate their last lay.

Their awkward laughter fuels her war dance.

She encourages the stares and entertains the dares.

“Who amongst you cowards will finger the enemy?” she asks, hoping to

challenge their account of modernity.

Confessing her emotional estrangement and her bouts with temptation, she paints misery.

They cheer her final display of bravery.

She says when truth telling is an anomaly,

critical thinking becomes comedy.

Going back to Wenzhou

 

Regardless of the amount of time I spend visiting and even living in various cities, I always enjoy going home. Although my actual home is Montreal, when I’m in China, I give Wenzhou that title. In addition to being the place where I began my teaching career, Wenzhou is also where I  became a novelist, met my friend Henry (the proud father and husband in the picture above) and took baby steps in learning Mandarin. Although I often criticize the business minded town for it’s lack of interest in arts and culture, I was ecstatic about returning in order to pay Henry and his family a visit during last week’s October holiday.

Mornings with Henry’s son, were especially enjoyable. Before hitting the carpet to complete a strenuous workout regiment (At 4, he’s able to do ten push-ups and even more sit ups…the ball exercise we’re doing in the picture was definitely his favourite), mornings tended to begin with him telling me about his dream then a bit of airplane flying or dinosaur hunting. Watching him create whatever reality he desired was incredibly inspiring. He made me realize how tragic adulthood can be, in that most of us forget or relinquish the power we possess to create. I can’t remember what I was like at his age, but I do know that I wasn’t talking about airplane propellers and dinosaur fossils, also I couldn’t speak Mandarin and understand Russian. I doubt my little friend, who refers to me as Uncle Fimo, understands how much he taught me during our four days together, I just hope he knows how much I’m eagerly anticipating hanging out with him again.

It’s no secret that in the past two decades there has been a steady drop in the number of cyclists in China. This decline has coincided with an explosion of motorists that have overtaken the streets that were once flooded by men, women and children on bikes (According to Forbes.com, 14.5 million passenger cars were sold in China in 2011…12.8 million were sold in the US). So when I came across this bicycle sharing stand, I smiled and snapped away. Despite only spotting three stands and all of them being full, like the one above, this is clearly a progressive step in a city, and country for that matter, where it’s basically impossible to avoid inhaling exhaust fumes. Perhaps Wenzhou’s initiative may mushroom into the one seen in Hangzhou where in less than four years, its bicycle sharing system has become the world’s largest with over 50 000 bikes around the city.

The owner of a small English language center that I taught two classes at, during the spring of 2003, was quite fond of her Jaguar. Even someone like myself, who knows and cares very little about cars, found her silver vehicle aesthetically impressive. Yet, at the time, what dumfounded me was discovering that in addition to the hefty purchasing price, she had to pay a very high luxury tax on the car.  I use to frequently journal about the Wenzhounese having no qualms about shelling out small fortunes in order to ride and live in opulence. So as I walked around the city last week, I wasn’t surprised by the number of Porsches, Aston Martins and Ferraris I spotted. Though I don’t have any  statistics to support my claim, I’m convinced that Wenzhou has the highest number, per capita, of luxury vehicles. I took the picture above as I walked pass one of the many 5 Star hotels that have been erected in recent years.

Around the corner from the 5 Star hotel, where lavishness was being celebrated, I came across this middle-aged looking woman who instead of awaiting the grand opening of the Dolce & Gabbana boutique or shopping at the Louis Vuitton and Gucci shops located a few kilometres away, was preoccupied with finding gems in the waste bin. This is by no means a condemnation of Wenzhou, thus, images such as the one above can be captured in any city around the world. Income inequality is not restricted to Wenzhou or China, it’s a global problem that unfortunately isn’t a priority for heads of states and the economic elites they socialize with. Sometimes I wonder if a century or two from now, people will look at our current indifference to the poor with the same disgust we view those who owned slaves and supported that inhuman and vulgar institution.

From February to July 2003 I lived in the  middle apartment on the second floor of this residential building on the campus of Wenzhou Medical University. Standing near the entrance, I was transported back to that period of my life when after fleeing a dubious school that was hidden inside an industrial zone and didn’t have the legal right to hire me, the dean of English at the university decided to take a chance on an inexperienced 24- year-old. On top of my university classes, I taught a group of employees at Chint (China’s leading manufacturer of circuit breakers) on Wednesday nights, three middle school classes on Saturday mornings and young adults at that center owned by the woman who drove a Jaguar on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Because of my hectic schedule that only seemed to get busier as the months went by, I spent most of my Sundays relaxing in bed. It was in that apartment that I cried myself to sleep after the death of my grandfather and worried about my health once SARS became the biggest story in the news. I watched American soldiers invade Iraq (for a second time), celebrated my 25th birthday alone and practiced my cat walk in that apartment (I was hired to walk in a fashion show). In many ways, it was there, on that second floor, where I began to figure out the kind of man…human being I wanted to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lauded by Lovers II

Our courtship transpired outside of time and ceremonial fringes. Memory welcomed our stills and championed our moving images. Experiences that memory was unable, or at times unwilling, to capture went  unrecorded. Devices were available but we mocked the obsessions of self they nurtured. To ascend we pursued humility. Recognizing that energy spent celebrating our shells translated into the chasing of wind or the grasping of water. We longed to locate our sentience and telepathy, for if  suffering was rooted in attachment to impermanence, we believed our focus on the spiritual would grant us immunity from the dramatic confrontations and eventual breakups that often plague unions.

Hopelessly insecure, we flaunted our soul-stirring love before the confused and uninspired masses under the guise of community outreach. We described our approach as innocent, but what innocence abides within a lie? The stage had become our home and the audience our reason. The stones beneath our feet were dropping by degrees, nonetheless our performances highlighted heat. Elements that were never permitted inside our circle started to linger. The creation of poetry was becoming laborious and our music repetitive; still the applause persisted.

Our denial was undeniably tragic. We denied the existence of a past. We understood the folly of jealousy but denied its power. We denied ourselves time outside of ourselves. We denied that fear had infused denial. Absent from our rhetoric was a word of admission…utterances of reprieve. Battles weren’t won daily, neither were they  fought at such a suicidal rate. Time, tallied in months, sped by the vehicle we were being transported in. Finally, on the most peaceful of days, it arrived: a mutual acknowledgment of the war we never intended to wage.

 

 

 

Lauded by lovers

 

It was summer, or perhaps a warm autumn, when favourable circumstances arranged our meeting on the most mundane of days. Some would have described that afternoon as fate: souls finding that which many believe is unattainable.  Even the most cynical of creatures would have to admit, when considering all the variables and obstacles, that neither of us should have been in the park that day. Much less, alone, with nothing but questions in our hearts and gratefulness in our eyes. Thus, the idealistic lovers of the past surely launched into celebration as we embraced and exchanged names, asserting that our lives would never be the same.

Over the years, I’ve wondered if the sighting of that park bench still evokes feelings of genesis. Do recollections of that cool breeze, given to accentuate a stifling heat, stir up indescribable sentiments which accompany familiar passions?  Remember how family coined our behaviour as reckless? How about friends who demanded an explanation for uncontrollable desires? We would arrive late and escape early. Time apart was considered life’s cruelest form of torture. Thoughts of an existence without one another would lead to mini depressions. Wasn’t the sharing of space a natural manifestation of two dying drops of water longing for the unity flowing within an ocean?