Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bad As They Seem

The absolute worst month of my life was spent living in a tiny trailer in Barrie, Ontario. I had just graduated from high school and September and university and freedom were so close I could practically touch them. But practically was not actually, and this scheme concocted by myself and my friend Kathleen looked like it just might work.

Kathleen's family had a cottage in Barrie. It's a weird place to have a cottage. My understanding is that when the cottage was built, it was still very much on the outskirts of Barrie, and that any neighbours were far afield and fellow cottagers. But by the time I was introduced to Kathleen's cottage, it looked like a fairly rustic but basically ordinary house on an ordinary suburban street. It was just a couple of blocks away from the lake, but it was equally close to the Loblaws. We didn't spend much time in the cottage, though, except to make use of its indoor plumbing. The cottage was used not only by Kathleen's immediate family but by aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents as well, so our residence thereabouts was conditional on not actually staying in the cottage. We lived in the trailer out back.

I had always thought it would be cool to live in a trailer. I really don't anymore. The trailer Kathleen and I shared was especially tiny; one of those little metal boxes where the one bed folds down to become the kitchen table, and the other bed turns into the sofa. The tiny refrigerator worked, and we kept out food there, but when we wanted to make meals we had to transport the ingredients into the cottage itself. The toilet didn't work, either. Nor did the sink. The trailer was really only practical for sleeping in.

My mom later confessed that she never would have allowed me to move to Barrie if she'd actually thought we'd be able to find jobs there. But we had; both of us were hired to work at Taco Bell, where we suffered all the degradation that accompanies working in a fast food restaurant. We additionally suffered a sexist manager who didn't let girls work the deep fryer; instead both Kathleen and I were on the front line - taking orders and cleaning the plastic tables.

I honestly don't remember much anymore about the month we spent in Barrie. Little incidents are recalled like snapshots. That time we had a "party" and invited some people we worked with over to drink beer and listen to music. A dozen of my cds were stolen that night. There was the oasis-like evening Kathleen and I spent singing Christmas carols in the public bathroom down by the lake.

Kathleen claimed to have food poisoning, and she took a week off work. I didn't believe it then and I don't believe it now, but I don't know much about Kathleen, and I really didn't then, either. A few years ago a friend of mine made a comment - completely unrelated - about someone else whose closest friends all seemed to live far away. "Well of course she thinks they're her best friends," this person observed, "It's so easy to be friends with someone you never see." I'd never thought about that before, but it immediately made me think of Kathleen. Her two best friends were childhood friends. Neither of them knew much about the actual events of her life. One of them, Kathleen confessed, would have been horrified to know about some of the things she had done. One of these friends lived in Barrie, but the two of them didn't see each other at all that month. Of course it hurt her heart. And there were other things going on with Kathleen, as well. She was miserable, uncommunicative, probably clinically depressed.

But I wasn't old enough or experienced enough to know how to deal with Kathleen's allusions or depression or secrecy, and she wasn't comfortable enough to be honest with me. That little tin box just felt like resentment and the ghost of a friendship.

The way we left things makes a good story, but there was nothing good about the experience we kind of shared. And I got off comparatively easy. If Kathleen is anything like who she was when she was eighteen I'm sure she's haunted still by things I've never known.

We had a stupid fight. I have no idea what it was about, but having had enough of Kathleen's bitterness and coldness and negativity I finally told her to "Fuck off," to which she responded, "Don't ever tell me to fuck off in my trailer." I was bawling my eyes out as I telephoned my mom at two o'clock in the morning and asked her to come pick us up. We kind of made up as we sat there waiting for the sight of my mom's headlights. Or at least we reached an understanding about how some things are just insurmountable. I really loved Kathleen, but we weren't ever really friends.

All month long, I listened to Hayden's little indie cassette in my yellow Sony sports walkman; taking the bus to work, walking to and from the grocery store. I obviously can't blame the dirgey tone of that album for my misery, but it sure didn't help. And yet, it was perfect. I just wanted to wallow, and Hayden did it for me, that's for sure.

Bad as they Seem - Hayden

Girl of my dreams...
Things are as bad as they seem
She is only sixteen
That's why she's only a dream
Woman of my dreams...
Lives right down my street
Has a daughter who's sixteen
That's why she's only a dream

What do I do this for?
Got to get out some more
Go down to the grocery store
Meet someone I'll adore
Someone who'll make me laugh
Someone to be my better half
Keep me warm under the sack
Share with me my midnight snack

Job of my dreams...
Things are as bad as they seem
Working where I did at fourteen
Making less pay it seems


House of my dreams...
Things are as bad as they seem
My parents' house I'll stay for free
Until I'm at least fourty-three

No comments: