that place where artists go to drink

The 44th Draft: how to love a dying man

One theme, one prevailing right from the beginning, the first theme, the theme that started it all – death. A recurring theme. Like the dying and those about to die, those who have loved ones who are dying, all seem drawn to me, over and over. Long and in-depth encounters, or brief liaisons with strangers beside one another at a bar shooting the breeze. I still don’t quite know why, but this unposted post is an example. 

The reason I’m sitting here in my little parlour kitchen rather than in the other room scrunched up against the wall in the entryway is due to one dying man. He got me thinking, took me back in time, showed me things I had forgotten, told me I was something I never thought I was, never thought worthy of the title. And he kept at me about how uncomfortable the space felt, change the colour, the arrangement, and in the end it was how I crawled away from him, bit my bit throwing out all the garbage that sat in that corner preventing me from enjoying the beautiful light, with my back to the west, and death, and dying men. 

Stalling {big sigh}

I recall I was bored that night and as many of my literary heroes were raving alcoholics I decided I may as well partake, just this once, I said to myself as I locked the door and headed downtown.  Down to my favourite Scots pub for a pint and perhaps a parlay with someone live and in person who would inspire me, feed my mind with new ideas, visions, voices, characters, yes, those people, places and things. 

Knocked that ball outa the park, as far as goals go, yeah me and blawdy home run.  Wrote more, with everything his presence had brought and wrought inside, and that December I was chosen as a feature on WordPress’ Discover, I was Freshly Pressed, and the first person I told? You got it Pontiac, December 24th, 2016, I spent that Christmas Eve with him, and we slept on his concrete floor amongst the chaos of his half-finished-is-being-kind condo downtown, with him cuddled up behind, spooning. 

He was the best of them, he was the worst, he was an arrogant ass, he was proud, too proud, he was cocksure and completely wrong, and scared shitless, and he was all bad news, and I loved him.

Ah, my Danny Boy, my BealArt guy, I wonder where you are today? That initial ‘reunion’ began in late September, and even today I don’t know how to talk about him. The things he told me about his life, his infant daughter dying of SIDs, his marriage being destroyed by it, him shutting down, more of his addictions, and resulting in his serious heart condition, and cancer, and whether his narcissism was nurtured or nature, he could manipulate like a pro. The abused little boy had become a raging alcoholic, who rarely ate anything, and when he did it was merely noodles, and ONLY from this one particular place in town, anything else he just bitched about. 

And he had this habit of just getting up and leaving, just leave like he had just been bit, or forgot an appointment. He told me I messed him up, messed all his plans up. He had it all straightened away, he said, he was going to die a lonely old raging alcholoic and there I came along all empathy and compassion, and now he would have something to miss. And so he raged, at me, and it and them and everyone, anyone that would listen, until they all turned their back.

I guess, or so he told me the last time we spoke. 

One day, at the beginning, he sat here in my chair, dead eyed, and told me everything that made him, unmade him, told me like I was his priest, his, I still don’t know what I really was to him. 

Riding home from work last night and figured that the drafts now would be heading in this direction, and I remember the day of that reunion back these 2 and bit years, I recall what I was thinking, not of him, not of art school at all, but of being an artist, seeking inspiration, words, something. 

The summer had passed, the garden was doing its last hurrah, still writing letters to the dead mother, a bit lonely, and I was restless and strange, and I wanted out of these letters to the dead. The night I saw him there at the end of the bar and had no idea who he was, didn’t recognize him at all. 

I almost want to just delete this whole time, you know? It is still raw, to describe, to explain, to think about, to give this relationship the attention it deserves though I must, given our history, and that my heart still hurts when I think on him. Of him, regardless of what I say, what I feel, what I rage at, I will always love him, some part of me. Always.

We had met at art school, we were young and free and believed we were headed off to become great artists, him a lithographer, me a photographer. I was 18, I think he is a couple years older, and back then we did not tango, or entangle, but I cared about him from afar. Distanced myself from him, though, as I never quite felt good enough, I felt he was more than me, better than me, I was a pretender and he was the real thing, with his long designer black trench, scruffy day old beard, he always looked the part with his  dusty dud’s, looking as though he’d dragged them around the driveway a few times so as to look the scruffy artist.

Sorry, I lied. Just realized, forgot, we did entangle the once. It was disappointing and sometime towards the second year of BealArt and I recall we met up at this bar downtown, not planned, just happened to be the place where all the artists hung out. After that one night, I didn’t see him again until years later, after I had seperated and I was living with a girlfriend.

Again, just happened to be in the place where the artists hang out. 

The next time I saw him 15 more years had gone by. For close to 30 years we met and separated, met and separated, and this time was the first we had actually taken any time to get to know one another, other then that once strolling through the old Pier 1 that used to be downtown, me feeling all friggen honoured and shite that the great BealArt Guy had deemed me worthy of a chitchat.

I still care about him, I love him. I wish it was different. Getting to know someone, you find out why the universe kept you apart. If we had got together back then he would have eaten me up and spit me out, and I would have been crushed like a cigarette under his designer loafers. Actually, he said that himself, this is not just idle speculation. 

It’s not that he’s dying that I couldn’t handle, not the alcohol, not cancer, the heart condition that means we couldn’t have sex. No, in fact, it was because O’Danny Boy is a f’n dickwad, all wrapped up in an angry bitter bow. 

he can
wound me, more.
i can’t let him in.
the broken
even so.

i liked him, i loved him
from November 2nd, 2016

Last time I saw him I got so drunk I don’t remember, much, other than feeling pity for him. Pft. AND that I wasn’t ever, ever, ever going to see him again if I was lucky.

Well, so far so good, it has been well over a year, and I know where the artists go to drink, but the one time I ventured forth I didn’t have the courage to ask if they know how he is. I just don’t want to know, I suppose, or not yet.

But, back then I didn’t know any of this, or, er, no, that’s a lie, no, I knew but I was stupid blind and thought that love could get you through. No, it can do a lot of magical things, but sometimes you just have to love from afar, and you can not heal a heart that is just too broken to mend. No wabi-sabi here, the angry arse wouldn’t let you get that close.  

From November 26, 2016

himIt’s not that I don’t care. In truth, the problem could be that I care TOO much; at the cost, sometimes, of myself.

This I know, the dying can be very draining, and sometimes they cling to the edge of the cliffs of denial with all they have, and will if they can use whatever energy they can beg, borrow or steal. They can be vampiric, as I have learned from experience.

It is the thing that probably most caregivers really never discuss, is that aspect of an almost narcissistic nature the dying can have. They can lose all sight of anything but their own spirally descent, and they can try to take you with them. To drag pieces of you away, never to be entirely yours ever again.

It’s like I can see the whites of his fingertips as he clings to the edge of the lies he has told himself.

stoic hand of fate

He did finally call, btw, Mom. Last night, and we talked for a good while. I hung up once, and he called back.

With a fear in his voice he could not hide, he admitted to what I already knew – that he also has cancer. It hasn’t been discussed, and he won’t, or hasn’t, looked at it full on. I know he is terrified. I could hear it. There are things that are happening, and in his words, you are the only one I can talk to about this.

And there lies my problem, I guess. I really don’t need him, and in some ways, he’s rather toxic, but…but… he is scared, and he’s all alone.

As much as I could quite easily walk away, I also in my gut know I don’t want to walk away. But I do need to set some ground rules, and I need to step back and collect myself before I again wade into the waters.


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