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Alone

'Until now, I always got by on my own,
I never really cared if you loved me,
and now it chills me to the bone -
How do I get you alone?
How can I get you alone?'
Heart – 'Alone'


When the day starts out strangely, it is probably best to just roll with it because, it seems unlikely to me, that any amount of effort is going to straighten it out. At the same time, I have to wonder if the day is already strange before surfacing to whatever form of morning consciousness or, due to the aforementioned morning fogginess, I am unaware of certain susceptibilities present – perturbations of brain function and perception – that, in such a state, quickly lead to the development of strangeness. Nevertheless, as you will already have understood, for me, this Sunday, December 12, 2010, is one of those days.

I awoke late – it was already on a quarter to ten in the morning. It is my normal habit to be up at about 8:30 on Sundays so as to accomplish my errands and keep them all neatly packed into the hours before noon so as to leave the entire afternoon free for whatever personal projects as I find myself willing or able to attack. However, due to a combination of avoidance behaviour, psychological state and having stayed up to watch the whole of 'Once Upon a Time in the West' on Saturday night, my rising was delayed.

I am not now and never have been a morning person; my mom says that even as a little guy, I was far more active in the evening and night than ever during the day. Given that, to say that I am on autopilot in the first hour or so after waking would be an exaggeration: think shambling zombie or drug addict out for one thing and you are not too far off although, to be very honest with you, I am neither a zombie nor a drug addict – just a man. That one thing I require would be my morning cup of tea.

Having painted the picture in this way, you now have the details necessary to proceed. I walk out of my room half-naked, down the hall and through the living room. There, some neuron manages to fire and I pause to turn on the stereo. The room instantly fills with music from a local 'hits' station – I have no idea why I continue to listen to it since I am not a 'hits' sort of fellow. I am also aware, however, that the heady days of 'album rock' are dead, buried and, long since, crumbled to dust.

In the kitchen, still unthinking, I retrieve the kettle from a cabinet, fill it and plug it in. Yes, I have been known to forget to fill it. Then, while it begins to steam and burble and, with the mug prepared, I have my first cigarette of the day, leaning heavily against the counter with my eyes slowly opening and closing, I attempt to gain control over what and who I am.

By the time the tea is prepared and the cigarette finished, I have, hopefully, achieved the level of intelligence of an extremely self-aware rock or, perhaps on a good day, a salamander. Then, while gingerly holding the hot, full and steaming mug in both hands because, more and more it seems, my hands are not so steady in the morning as they used to be, I return to the living room and my overstuffed, tapestry-woven sofa and open my laptop, connect and proceed to thoughts.com.

It is a sort of ritual for me on my days off work because there is time to do it and it gives me the pleasure of seeing what our friends, near and far, have been up to in the time that I have spent suspended in my senseless void of sleep.

On this particular morning, however, the process did not come off with the carefree abandon of usual. In fact, two things happened in rapid succession that, whether it was already there or not, caused the strangeness to begin or, minimally, become apparent.

In the early morning, my friend greunie had posted a blog called 'trust is illusion'. It is rare that I comment in the morning being, as I am, in such a minimal state of humanity. Nevertheless, I felt a strong urge to read it. At the same time, approximately, a song by Heart came on the radio. It is called 'Alone' and I like it although I think my favourite offering by Ann and Nancy Wilson is 'Barracuda' or their cover of Led Zeppelin's 'Rock and Roll'.

You see, sitting there with my warm mug, my chest bare and slightly chilled from the air entering through the scarcely opened balcony doors, I was susceptible to the inputs received from the two sources: blog and song. Something began to form in my own mind. It must be, therefore, that by that time, some level of neuronal activity had begun; chemicals and hormones were bathing the cells of my brain and they, in entire independence from my own conscious volition, began the process of linking, sharing, expanding and associating which is my creativity. I had no say in it; I am a slave to my own mind.

The thing that is interesting is the force of the combined inputs which I received. It would be fair to ask, 'Why? Why was it so potent?' I have no idea. There was, evidently, something about the two, in which, somewhere, there was a perceived connexion – some likening of sentiments or a blurring of the senses into one that give a blog a particular perfume or, to a song, colour.

Needless to say, after that, I was lost. I could not turn back because, once begun, the process must be allowed to flow to its conclusion and produce, as in this case, a new story or, on rarer occasions, I will be compelled – there is no choice involved in it – to take pen to drawing paper or paint to canvas. It is ready when, in the universe of the mind, time and space collapse, becoming a singularity and, in that moment, from the vantage of the mind's eye, all things are possible – past, present and future – and, the story is born be it written word or image; I make no distinction between the two as both recount the vision.

I'm certain that, later, as I proceeded about my errands – laundry and a bit of shopping – I was somewhat of a disconcerting figure. There are physiological symptoms that come along with the feverishness of the mind that is the necessity to express some concept which is coming into being: I know that, buying my coffee, my hands were shaking and I dropped my change on the counter. The girl behind the counter seemed wary but smiled pleasantly. I know that, in that state, my eyes tend to be different – less relaxed – wider and the gaze a little more distant and less focused than usual. I know also that I tend to become confused easily – like putting my keys in the wrong pocket whereupon they are completely lost and invariably lead to a panic search.

Some of my friends have asked me previously, 'Is that you in the story?' My habitual response is: 'I'll never tell you where the man leaves off and the fiction begins – or the fiction ends and the man begins.' In fact, there is a man behind the poorly designed and endlessly jovial avatar – he works, has hopes and dreams and strives to realise them. At the same time, I expect that any work of fiction – good, bad or indifferent as mine may be – must necessarily contain the shadow of the writer. After all, they emerge from my mind, born of my thoughts and becoming mature – real - for better or for worse, my children, in light or in darkness, upon this virtual page. This time, however, I am making it easier for you: the universe has collapsed – all things have become possible. This is the point where the, more or less factual, laundry list of my morning becomes the story born of this strange day.

I met a woman.

There is a great satisfaction that comes to a man with that phrase. There is, contained within it, an admission. It is an admission of hope, an admission that, not only did she come into his life but, she entered with the force of a hurricane, leaving his habits upended, his sense of contentment shattered and, in his moments of idleness, her image hangs before him, enticing his psyche with her presence and his desire for that 'other' that completes what was not even perceived to be incomplete.

We met about a month and a half ago and, no, she is no longer in my life. She was in my life for about five minutes – maybe a little more.

It was the strangeness of the circumstance that lingers, thrusting its impossibility in the midst of the throng and anonymity of the city upon me and leaving me to doubt my own senses were it not for the fact that, in my mind, she is there, indelibly tattooed to my memory.

Was she beautiful? Yes. Perhaps, when I saw her in the art gallery, that is what caught my eye; she was tall and leggy, dressed in a casual, dark suit and studying a sculpture. What is more, however, was the impression that came from her; call it a wave – or a warm breeze – of intelligence, perception and sensitivity. Jim Morrison referred to them as the 'New Creatures' – those who, hidden among us, see more and sense more; those who, despite their efforts to the contrary, reveal themselves in glances that are far too sharp from eyes that are far too bright and comprehending.

Later, she was on the street. I stopped, remaining transfixed by her, the slow sway of her hips as she wandered window shopping. Suddenly, she stopped and I shied as her eyes rotated, scanning, and she found me on the other side of the street. Her gaze toward me was impassive, immobile and evaluating. Summoning my courage, I nodded and, at the distance, there was the slightest hint of a smile as cars sped by on the busy street and, then, she was gone, swallowed up by the crowds of weekend shoppers – almost as though, in a moment, become immaterial.

Finally, tired and longing to leave this vision – the dream within a waking dream that is my conscious life – I called the elevator to descend toward the requisite floor of the parkade. She was there, alone, but her presence filled the space as I stepped in and pushed the button. I stood apart, too aware of her senses crawling over me; exploring, tasting, smelling.

“Are you following me?” she asked and her voice was like a comfort that had never been found.

“I might wonder the same,” I suggested. I had to smile. She returned the favour.

“Sometimes we just get pushed together,” she commented and scanned the lights as the numbers descended.

“I'm not minding that,” I said, turning to face her. She did likewise.

“Neither am I,” she affirmed and stepped closer.

We had about twenty seconds or so together after that. I gently placed my arm around her waist and her hand came to rest on the collar of my coat, the fingertips barely touching the skin of my neck. Our eyes were closed and, outwardly, there was nothing but, inwardly, there were more things that I will ever realise. I wanted to expand – to extend my essence – beyond myself and my confines and to impregnate her mind with mine and to share all that, in our physically imposed solitude, we are forbidden to share. I tried and sensed every atom of her composition. Before she stepped out, I kissed her cheek and thanked her because, on that strange day, not terribly different, because of the possibilities raised when the universe collapsed, from this strange day, I met a woman and, for moments fleeting in the rapidity of time, we were not alone.

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