Take Two

As I’m writing this, exactly six months ago today was the worst day of my life. No, I didn’t lose my job or break up with my boyfriend. I didn’t miss tickets for my favourite band, get in a fight with my best friend or get a bad haircut. As part of a generation who exaggerates as readily as we breathe, I can without contemplation say that July 8, 2014 was actually the worst day of my life. It was the day my brother died.


Jordan, my brother.

It’s easy to go about your life not taking responsibility for the place you hold. It’s easy to blame other people or say, “good things come to those who wait.” Passivity is, let’s face it, the easy way, and we all do it at some point. But when my brother got into a car accident all I could do was wait and wonder, “why him? Why my brother?” and on that day I’d have done anything to have had an active choice.

Jordan was driving on his way home from work in the rain. It was the worst rain we had all summer. I spoke to a cab driver some months later who remembered this as the day his entire basement flooded—but I’ll always remember it as something more. While the reports are mixed, speed and the weather were most likely the factors that lead to my brother’s accident. After swerving into the opposing lane, he hit an oncoming van and veered into the ditch. The family in the other vehicle was fine, if a little banged up, but my brother was not. An ambulance was called and, according to a paramedic I later spoke to, it arrived on the scene within seven minutes. They pulled my brother from the car, and at this time he was unconscious and seizing for over five minutes. The paramedic said that in his experience, when he has seen an accident victim seizure for more than 30 seconds the person is, as he put it, a “goner.” He said he was sure that my brother wouldn’t make it. And according to my brother’s lawyer’s reports, he should have been right: Jordan died on that scene.

But he was revived.

All the while that my brother was fighting for his life I had no idea. I was at home. It was just like any other day and my brother should have been back in an hour or so. But when a knock came at the door it wasn’t one of his friends arriving to see him. It was a police officer. I had to assume Jordan or my mother had done something wrong. It didn’t even cross my mind that something genuinely horrible could have happened. I dialed my mother’s phone number since the officer wouldn’t tell me what the problem was. It wasn’t until I overheard their conversation that I knew something terrible had occured. My chest tightened up in a panic I’ve never felt before, but one that, since, would become very familiar to me. The police officer hung up the phone and told me that someone driving my brother’s car had been in an accident and was in the hospital.

I pictured the worst. Why couldn’t they recognize him? He must be unconscious and disfigured, I thought. But then I remembered that he left his wallet, as usual, on the kitchen table that morning. That gave me hope as far as disfigurement, but reasoning led me to believe he must still be unresponsive. How bad was it?

Whilst these thoughts whirled about my mind I brushed my teeth, changed my shirt, tied my hair up. I think I was in shock. When your brother might be in the hospital dying, the colour of your shirt ought to be the last thing on your mind, but my mind hadn’t fully grasped the situation. Led by the now heightening panic I had felt initially, I ran to the hospital. During that run, I’ve never felt more afraid or weaker. In that moment my legs were too slow and my lungs were too tight and my body seemed to barely move while my mind went a mile a minute. I got to the hospital and asked a janitor where car accident patients would be. He answered in a nonchalant way, not realizing that saying the words out loud to him was the hardest thing I had ever had to do up until that moment. Saying it out loud made it real. And as I moved in the direction appointed, hearing my mother crying made it realer still.

In a room with lighting and wallpaper as bleak as the immediate prospects of any person forced to sit there, hospital attendants briefly explained what happened. I barely listened. The only thing I wanted to see or hear was my brother. They lead us down the hall into a private room, and there I got my wish. My brother was lying on a stretcher in the middle of the space. His face was fully intact. He looked like he was asleep, except for the seizing and the machines that were hooked up to his body. It was the most surreal moment of my life. That man laying on the hospital bed unconscious was the same one who came home every day from work, the same one who played with our dog and cooked us steaks and made us laugh harder than anyone else could. But it is easy for the mind to compartmentalize and disassociate. From the moment I looked down at my brother in that hospital bed I separated him from the memories of everyday life. There was Jordan before the accident, and now there was this new person whose outcome was as of yet unclear. To allow my mind to fully grasp what was happening was too much.


Jordan and me at our cottage, May 24 weekend, 2014

I realized that my father still had no idea. I called him, and when he answered I could barely speak.
Whether it was my dad’s bad hearing, my muddled speech, or the inability to comprehend such a life altering statement, my father asked me to repeat myself.
“Jordan is in the hospital. Just come here.”

I hung up.

I don’t know how long it took my father to get there. I don’t know where he was driving from but it can’t have been far. When he arrived he looked confused and worried, but perhaps that is an understatement. As he walked into the room and saw his son’s unresponsive body, all colour left his face. At some point we were informed that Jordan was next in line for the helicopter that would take him to get the treatment that could save his life; it was between him and one other patient, and the patient whose situation was direr would go first. My brother was chosen to go first.

I don’t remember much of the scene that followed. I think we can’t have waited more than an hour but it felt like years. Looking down at my brother I felt constantly dizzy and fought my body’s instinct to pass out. My mind had decided that the situation was too much for my body to handle but I fought it. Throughout the wait, I called two of Jordan’s best friends and my father called my cousin. Hearing my father say the words out loud hurt more than saying them myself. Anyone I spoke to sounded like they didn’t believe me when I told them what happened. But when the time came to drive to Hamilton to meet my brother at the ICU, there they all were. I only called two people, two of his best friends, but when I walked out of the hospital three or four were there waiting. When we got to the Hamilton Hospital, there were at least ten. And by the end of the night as we all waited to hear whether my brother would live or die, there were at least twenty of his closest friends and family there waiting.

It’s possible that amongst all the pressure, my narrative and timeline might differ from that of the other two-dozen people who were present. But what I remember the most as we waited for the best or worst news we would ever hear is that the only thing that got me through it were friends and family. Any time it got to be too much, which was a phenomenon that occurred more often than not, there was always a shoulder to cry on, for any of us. By the end of the night we were told that it looked like Jordan would live. But there was swelling and bleeding in his brain and the next 72 hours would tell if he would need surgery. That night we all went home, emotionally and physically exhausted, except for my father. Knowing that my dad was still there in case any thing took a turn for the worse was as big of a relief as we could have asked for at that moment.


We took a photograph of just some of the people who were still there the first night and everyone signed it for Jordan over the weeks to come.

The next day, or maybe it was the day after that, we were told that Jordan would need a bi-frontal bone flap removal of his frontal skull. They would remove two pieces of bone from his head on either side in order to relieve the now growing pressure of his ever-swelling brain. The surgery was done routinely, and my brother’s life was saved once again—but just how much of a life that would be, no one knew.

For the next while, I went to the hospital wearing Jordan’s plaid shirt every day. It made me feel closer to him in a time when, even though I was right beside him, he had never felt further away. I made it to two weeks straight before my mother said it would have to be washed, and she was probably right. Throughout the next few weeks Jordan’s vitals remained relatively stable but his blood pressure was high. High blood pressure meant the swelling in his brain could not go down, and it was this that would cause permanent damage. I sat next to his bed quietly, holding his hand and watching the numbers on the machines. I memorized every medication being fed into his body— Fentanyl, Ciprofloxacin, Propofol, Midazolam—and I listed them over and over in my head to keep from crying. The nurses said he could hear us crying, and I knew this to be true from watching the numbers. Anytime some one would get audibly upset in Jordan’s vicinity, his blood pressure would rise. So I sat there in silence and waited.

One day, during what I think was still the first week post-accident, we were called into a private room for a meeting with a neurologist. Immediate family only was requested, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s who came. My mother, father, and cousin came in the room, but so did three or four of his best friends. When the doctor asked each person his relationship to Jordan, each friend said, “I’m his brother.” The doctor didn’t question it, even though one of the friends was visibly of a completely different ethnicity. For this I’m glad, because in this moment, we all needed to be there—for Jordan, for ourselves, and for each other. It was in this meeting that we learned that the areas of the brain responsible for personality and memory were, though damaged, relatively the least affected. But the motor function areas had been hit the worst. It was called a “shearing” head injury, and one nurse said it was the worst possible brain injury one can acquire, before stopping to correct and compose herself. A few days later we were told that the damage was irreversible.

These days were the hardest thing I have ever experienced. When I was with my friends and family I was distracted. They brought a solidarity and necessary humour into a situation that was otherwise dismal. They wouldn’t for a second—at least not out loud—let anyone believe that Jordan wasn’t going to get one hundred percent better. And sometimes, I believed them. When I was alone, it was harder. When I wasn’t depending on Xanax for temporary mental relief, I felt genuinely crazy. I wondered if my brother would survive, and if he did, would he have a life worth surviving for? I knew that if he came out of his coma without being able to function, that he would have rather died. I feared this the most. I wondered what I would do if Jordan didn’t live, if I would even want to remain living, but knowing that Jordan would need me when he woke up kept me strong.

And he did. Jordan woke up from his coma about two weeks after the accident. This was both a blessing and a huge shock. We still had been holding onto the flimsy hope that when Jordan woke from the coma he would be himself. But he wasn’t. His eyes were open but they couldn’t register. He couldn’t see us and we weren’t sure if he could hear us anymore. But I talked to him and told him stories. I told him about what had gone on since the accident and tried to sound as hopeful as possible. There were a few nurses who said Jordan would stay in a vegetative state for the rest of his life. I couldn’t let myself believe this because any moment where I did was the darkest I’ve ever had. But not long after waking, within the third week, Jordan started proving those nurses wrong—and from there, he hasn’t stopped since.

The first indication that Jordan was still responsive came in the form of a simple hand gesture. We asked him to squeeze our hand if he could hear us, and he did, but it was hard to be sure that it wasn’t his brain misfiring. Then one day, my father asked Jordan to give him a thumbs up, and he did. My dad told the doctors, and they confirmed it to be true and ran and got more doctors. They were all impressed. Jordan was acting against all odds and medical precedent. From there progress was small but steady and significant. Jordan’s eyes began to focus more, he responded to more gesture commands, and he was sat up in a wheel chair with support. Still, despite all progress, even after moving back to the hospital in our hometown with secure vitals, it was unclear whether Jordan himself was still there.

Amongst the hardest days of my life was also one of the best. One of Jordan’s friends, my father, and myself were sitting beside him. I was playing his favourite songs, which he had been responding to by tapping his feet and looking to see where the sound was coming from. Roy, the friend, was making fun of Jordan light-heartedly, and I suggested that Jordan should “kick Roy.” Jordan lifted his leg, and booted Roy in the chest. I don’t think Roy has ever been so happy to be assaulted. As if that wasn’t enough, my dad made a joke, which I won’t repeat here, and Jordan laughed. Seeing him smile and laugh for the first time since the accident was one of the greatest things I’ve ever experienced. I left the hospital that day feeling genuinely hopeful not because I had to be, but because for the first time, I really felt I could be.


Jordan and some of our friends in our hometown hospital. Still kicking Roy.

From that day on Jordan continued to progress at a remarkable—even miraculous—rate. He went from a man who was predicted to be catatonic for the rest of his life to being fully responsive. The first time we heard him speak was one of the best sounds we’ve ever heard. Steadily from there, Jordan got his voice back and started physical therapy. He went from moving his arms and legs to sitting up and eventually to standing and shuffling. After being moved to a physical rehab centre, Jordan began walking. Each day he walked further than he had the day before. It was a surgery that saved his life, but Jordan’s motivation and will are what got him as far as he has come—that, and according to him, the support of all of his friends and family. A few months after the accident occurred, Jordan finally got to come home.


Jordan finding out the expected day he could finally go home from physical rehab.

Now, my brother is walking almost entirely unassisted. He no longer needs a wheelchair and he’s doing more and more things on his own. He has been walking on a treadmill and swimming. But most importantly, he is completely himself. His personality hasn’t changed at all. He still has the exact same humour, the exact same stubborn streak that we love because it was that stubbornness that made him survive. It’s hard not to repeat the fact that this has been the most difficult thing that any of us—especially Jordan—have ever done. Even writing this was a huge challenge. The entire experience is one that I will never get over because from the moment I saw my brother’s comatose body, some part of me had no choice but to start grieving his loss. Emotionally, we all lost something that day we may never get back. But today, exactly six months after the accident, Jordan got his final surgery to place the pieces of his skull back inside his head. Now, both symbolically and physically, Jordan can only get better from here.

On the day of the accident, when we first arrived outside of the hospital as Jordan’s helicopter touched down, there were two rainbows casting their mark in the sky. Though I’m a notoriously unspiritual person, I chose to interpret this to be a sign that Jordan was going to be okay. I took a photograph of it and decided I would show it to him when he woke up. Now, six months later, the shadow of that fateful day has finally retreated, and I think we are all better people for having gone through it. Jordan is alive and well and I couldn’t possibly be more relieved and thankful to know that today…

I have my big brother back.


July 8, 2014



I don’t know how to be
completely happy in any situation
That’s why I keep running
from one life to the next,
picking them apart as I go
Blinded by nostalgia and
some distorted version of hope,
I am destined to be forever
half present in every life I live
Mentally, my bags are always open,
ready to be packed
at the first sign of uncertainty

Maybe I haven’t found the right “fit”, so to speak,
as though it’s as simple as a well-tailored suit
Or maybe I have
and my destructive internal monologue
can’t fathom the possibility

Maybe happiness is stagnant
and I have a fear of standing still

A few more poems

I’m like a depressing Doctor Seuss.


An image of
a helping hand,
admired and revered
Upon which you are all
diluted and adhered

It holds you up
and weakens you
Your strength, unneeded, lacks
So when the hand closes
its fist
I’ll hear as your bones crack

Man Over God

“Praise Jesus”
they say
“Thank God”
they all gasp
but the man
who loses self
to God
is the man
who will come

Take action,
I plead
Go forward,
I urge
For the man
who’s ruled
by none but self
is the man
who will
come first


It grabs ahold of your neck
and digs its thumb into
your throat
It pulls the colour from your hair
and your eyes begin
to float
Your chest caves in,
and canyons bed beneath
your eyes
And you try to breathe
and try to scream
but your airways
are all tied

Some call it stress,
anxiety, depression,
grief, or strife
But the term that I am partial to,
I think I’ll call it


We wait until the fever breaks
I keep quiet for both our sakes
Your face is swollen
It’s hard to take
Choke back tears
It’s hard to fake
Propofol, Midazolam
I’m holding on the best I can
Fentanyl, Ciprofloxacin
These are just names, just medicine

But they keep you here
so I’ll stay with you
Until you wake,
I wish I could sleep too


You hear about it in movies or books: that pivotal moment where suddenly your entire life changes. It seems like an exaggeration. Like you’re going to lock eyes with some one and realize they’re what your life has been missing. Or you’re going to meet some one on a train who changes your entire career path, Jagger-Richards style. But what they fail to highlight in these romanticized Hollywood moments of epiphany—which are real, by the way—is that the strongest ones, the ones that make the most impact, are the unexpected ones that change your entire life in a single fatal blow.

On Tuesday July 8, 2014 my brother, Jordan Houle, was in a near-fatal car accident. A cop car showed up in my driveway as I was about to start a workout. I opened the door, nervous and somewhat annoyed at the interruption. The officer asked to speak to my mom, who wasn’t home, so I called her on her cell phone. He paced back and forth as he spoke to her and I heard him say, “Do any of his friends drive his car? We don’t know if it’s him.” and I realized they were talking about Jordan. I waited impatiently for the officer to get off the phone, trying not to let my mind travel to its darkest assumptions. Finally he asked me if I was the sister. He told me someone driving my brother’s car had gotten into an accident and that they couldn’t be sure if it was him. I knew instantly that it was, because Jordan, who is always misplacing his wallet, had forgotten his ID on the table when he left for work that morning. I ran inside to change out of my workout clothes. I brushed my teeth and changed my shirt twice and thought, why am I changing my shirt? Why does it matter? My brother is in the hospital. I couldn’t think.

I was out of breath as I ran there, my stamina drained away by panic. I tried to convince myself it wasn’t him, that it wasn’t as bad as I was letting myself believe. I tried to remember what the last thing I said to him was and I couldn’t. I felt guilty for not remembering. I arrived at the hospital and could barely hold it together as I asked the janitor where my brother might be after getting into a car accident. He pointed in the direction and as I neared I heard my mother’s cries. I knew instantly that it was as bad as I initially thought. I don’t remember very much else, but suddenly I was beside Jordan’s hospital bed looking down at his unresponsive face, his unmoving body, and in that moment my entire life so far changed.

It’s been less than a week and already I don’t feel like the same person I was only a few days ago. I feel like a fractured, greyed version of my former self; if not distracted then crying or catatonic. In an instant my entire life has been altered. My shallow perception has been molested by grief. I no longer care about my career progression; I don’t care about working out or looking good. I don’t care about my social life or money or living in Australia. I am just thankful that he is still alive.

Jordan was flown by helicopter to intensive care in Hamilton. He is still on life support in an induced coma after going through a bifrontal bone flap removal of his skull, which saved his life. Some days are more optimistic than others, and it is a fresh debilitating pain each time I see him unconscious in his hospital bed, but every day his friends and family are here. I know now more than ever that nothing else matters, not a single person or thing. Nothing is more important to me than being here for him. Nothing is more important to me now than getting my big brother back.



There is something uniquely horrifying about the sensation one feels when they return to their hometown to find out that they are the only thing that has changed within the entirety of their absence. Everyone looks a little older, a little more pregnant. There are offspring running around who look vaguely familiar; the spawns of the people you went to high school with, strange echoes of your not yet passed youth. There are buildings that have been erected since your departure but you almost don’t even notice them. Because beyond the snot-nosed toddlers and recreation centers, the gas stations and old folk’s homes, the air still smells as stagnant as ever, like the faint scent of rotting flesh and discarded dreams. It is a hellhole, wherein, if you don’t get out while you’re young, you likely never will. The hair on the back of your neck rises as you realize: this is the place where people are born to die.

You stay, because you’re committed now, to seeing friends and seeing family. You sleep in your old bedroom, which, let’s be honest, is now little more than a storage room. And you listen to the incessant chatter of “is this your towel on the floor” and you’re a teenager again, getting woken up by the abysmal voice of those decaying around you. No one is happy and it’s infectious. But how could they be? They are the product and infectors of a highly transmittable disease. If you’re not careful, you’ll catch it too.

Suddenly you find yourself sleeping later than you might, if only to avoid the fact that there is nothing to do upon waking. You stay in your room longer than you have to, if only to avoid talking to anyone, to avoid the realization that this is the sound of person’s voice when they’ve lost all hope and ambition. And in your efforts to avoid the disease, you start to become one of them. Like a flu shot that maltreats the elderly, suddenly you’re getting sick too.

Your head is pounding. Your vision is blurry, distorted, misguided, like your decision to come back in the first place.Your breathing is quick and shallow, just like you. Your throat is swollen, swollen with rebuttals and monologues of regret. You’re losing weight. Because you’re sick. You’re sick. Sick. Sick.

         Self-medicate. That’s how everyone deals with their sickness in this town. Everyone has an illness. Not all are identical but the treatment is the same and it approaches you with a smile full of sharp crooked teeth. It whispers in your ear and pokes you in the ribs if you ignore it, with splintered nails and false promises.

I know what will make you feel better
Smoke. That will take the edge off.
Not your thing? Have a drink. We have something for everyone here.

This town has very little but what it does offer in plethora is the ability to numb your inability.

         If you had to count—you can’t, but if you could—think of the calories you’ve consumed since you came home. How many of them were alcoholic? Half? More? And why wouldn’t they be? The food is infected, the land is infected, the people are infected. The only thing sterile here is the alcohol. It’s excused, because you’re home and you’re young and why shouldn’t you party? It’s normal; it’s what everyone does here. But be honest. You’re not drinking just because it’s fun. It stopped being fun a few rounds ago. You’re drinking because of the town. You’re drinking because it’s the only way to never realize that while you stay, your visit is short-lived and so are you. You’re drinking because at least while you’re drowning, you can’t feel the grip that it has on your throat.

         But you’re not one of them. You’re better. You got away. You’re just visiting. You have ambition. You have a plan. You’re from here, but you never really felt at home. You out grew it. It’s like an old shoe, you tell yourself. It’s too small for you now and what you’re feeling is just the blisters. It’s just the wear and tear of your resisting soul, insistent upon discarding its unnatural, depressing enclosure. But it’s just temporary! When you take it off, when you get out, you’ll be better again. You won’t need their treatments, you tell yourself. You’ll be able to breathe again, you repeat in your head. But repeat as you may, the town is still there, holding your hand. And when you leave, it will be there, even still. You’ll think that it’s gone, but you’ll look in the mirror someday, and there it will be, smiling its cracked smile, resting its calloused hands on your shoulders and softly assuring you that you’ll be back. You’re from here. It will always be apart of you. We’ll see you soon.

You hear dogs barking, lawn mowers mowing, people yelling. But no one is going anywhere. It’s the hotel California of your nightmares, and you can’t stay any longer. This time, you have outstayed your welcome.

I think it’s time to go.



One Last Bullet PT 1

They’re talking and they’re talking and the lady next to me wonders if she left the stove on. She’s sure she did. It’s all she can think about now. And they’re talking and they’re talking and are you getting off in Toronto? When? 10:50. Yeah, 10:50. Let me check again. 10:50. We’re all getting off but no one’s ever really getting off. Because they’re just talking and don’t forget where you put itdear. And they’re talking and they’re laughing and some of them are snoring and I stand up and I shout that I have a bomb and if you all don’t shut the fuck up I will blow you all to pieces that even your family couldn’t recognize. But they keep talking and I sit back down wondering if I ever said anything at all. They’re still talking and the train keeps moving and everything stays the same.

I’m coming up to the final stop and I’m relatively calm now. All of the towering buildings around me are half built. They are mere skeletons of what they’re promised to be. But they’ve been building for years and it still looks the same. Everywhere I turn there is a sign that cautions DANGER due to construction. The foreboding signs alarm no one. We are all herded like cattle toward our next moving bullet. Danger has become commonplace. Danger means progression. Danger means makeshift fences and heavy-duty lighting. Danger means temporary floorboards. Danger means the man in front of me tripping on a wayward nail and now Danger might mean I miss my connecting train if I can’t weave around the people helping him. Danger means inconvenience, nothing more.

I make it to my second train. It sits waiting for more passengers that won’t come if they haven’t already. The man behind me keeps tapping and tapping. Why is he tapping? What is he counting? Perhaps he is counting the number of people annoyed by his tapping. He can count me twice. I watch the glass on which he taps and it’s breaking under the weight of his tap-tap-taping, splintering in a circle of lightening bolt patterns. But still he keeps tapping. The glass can’t take it anymore. Neither can I. Something has to happen. Danger: due to tapping. The glass keeps splintering; the radius of broken glass grows bigger with each tap until finally it can’t stand the incessant pressure and it shatters. Everyone on the train is screaming. The glass is in their eyes. It is in their ears. It is in their ears so they cannot hear the tap-tap-tapping. There is blood in my eyes and I wipe it away so I can see the man and he is still tapping; tapping the glass that is now in perfect condition but for the fingerprints imprinted by his tap-tap-tapping. He keeps tapping and the train starts moving. One last bullet to go.

A few rhyming poems I wrote last year:


There are birds in my head
but I fear they are dead
because I haven’t heard from
them in a while

They stopped pecking
so I’m checking
but I can’t get them out

The birds haven’t been fed
maybe that’s why they’re dead!
And now they’ll decay in my mouth 


There’s a funeral in my living room
and Satan whispers in my ear
He spills his wine upon my floor
The blood of Christ drips ever near

I wonder if he wants it back
But he’s not as he was before
Jesus is shooting up in the bathroom
and says he doesn’t need it anymore

There’s no designated driver
Absolved of responsibility
Lucifer looks me in the eye and says
“There’s something here you ought to see”

But Jesus stumbles down the stairs,
He is hammered once again
I ask him where his father is
He says he’s never been my friend

So it’s time to play the game of sinners
Where the rules cannot be defied
There’s a funeral in my living room
I just can’t remember who died 


Tap tap tap
It asks, “Are you asleep?”
No not yet,
how could I be?
When splintered nails
keep poking me
“Remember what you did last night?”
Of course I do,
it wasn’t right
Whether my eyes are closed
Whether my mouth is open
no variations stop
my conscience flowing

Reminder! Reminder!
Set the clock!
Set the date!
This poking, prodding shadow
doesn’t care if it is late

“I noticed your breathing…
I noticed that it slowed
and I couldn’t help but to 
remind you
that I will always know”



Last night I had a dream
I dreamt that I slept
And while I was sleeping
the entire Earth wept
The seas drew from their beds
and collapsed with finality
And while everyone drowned
they had no time
to look for me
Volcanoes shuddered
and threw up their guts
and until everyone perished,
the Earth didn’t give up
Mountains, they crumbled
and fell at my feet
and all of the while
I still stayed asleep
I awoke all too late
and missed my own demise
I missed all of the blood,
burned flesh and the cries
I missed man’s last prayer,
last bargain, last lies
And my punishment now
is that I’m still alive. 


The Blank Page

The empty page: it’s a mixture of both the most beautiful opportunity and the most tiresome, bothersome reminder that you’ve. got. nothing. Eventually, given enough frustrated dedication, it may simply become the arbitrator of procrastination, the humiliating advocate of “turn off the computer and go to bed.” When your only profound realization is that you have no profound realizations, the blank page becomes more like sitting in church on a Sunday morning with a hangover, reeking of cheap beer and creeping inhibition. Though your vision is muddled, you see through its stain-glassed façade, discard all of its supposed possibilities and potential, and as you look down at your shoe and wonder if the stain on your toe is blood, booze or semen, it hits you: Jesus Christ, what the fuck am I doing here?

So give up. Accept that you’re, in this moment, a failure. Jesus is not coming and he doesn’t have any brilliant ideas for you to expand upon. No one is going to hold your hand and guide your fingers to your next astounding literary achievement. You decided you wanted to be a writer but you’re not writing. So, what’s your alternative? A drinker. You can drink, and you will, in the vain hope that this next glass is going to loosen the hinges on the floodgates of brilliance that lie within the depths of your prematurely shriveled mind.

But it doesn’t. All that it loosens is your idea of responsibility, and maybe your ability to keep anything in your stomach. You forgot to eat again and as such, find yourself sitting hunched over the toilet bowl, staring into the dark remnants of drink number god-knows-which. As you watch the acidic mixture float in the stagnant water before you, you wonder: is this my great masterpiece?

If you’re lucky, diligent and have any sort of notable talent, it is possible for this archaic process to be punctuated by eventual success. You can only drink your way to stupidity so many times before you eventually and accidentally stumble over a naked and vulnerable creature of inspiration—a fetal reflection of your lost potential. It is then your job to nurture and build this aborted mutation before near-sobriety jealously casts it away from your clutches. It is imperative that you not tell yourself “I’ll remember this in the morning,” because you will not.  Know that there is no greater deterrent of brilliance than a throbbing headache and the humiliating illumination of the rising sun. So go ahead, write it down. 

Suddenly, you’ll find, you’re no longer staring at a blank page.

An Aspiring Writer’s University Experience: Varying Degrees of Bullshit


If you were to ask me when I decided I wanted to try my hand at writing for a living, I would not be able to give you a specific answer. Rather than an illuminating moment where I knew, “I am going to be the next Stephen King,” you could say I experienced a gradual realization that there is simply no other profession I could see myself enjoying. I can’t imagine myself crunching numbers in a cubicle—although I do look good in glasses—and one might say I’m about as cut out for arguing philosophy or studying engineering as Hemingway was suited for sobriety. Considering these conflictions, my answer seemed clear; I enrolled in the English Honours program at the University of Guelph, Ontario, where I was destined to absorb literature and hone my given craft.

There I spent my first semester alternatively drunk or crying—often times both.  I found it absolutely horrifying that I might have to rebuild my social relevance amongst thousands of equally drunk and confused teens. It was around this time that I, in a debatably emotionally stable state, happened upon my now current boyfriend. It was a modern day fairy tale; we met through a mutual friend on Facebook. From there, we were electronically inseparable, texting and Skyping throughout the day. I compensated for my varying social life with my beautiful, Australian Internet boyfriend. It was through this support, and much coddling from my older cousin—who let me know that he spent much of first year crying on the phone to his mother—that I managed to make friends and hold it together until second year.

There, as a result of a series of ill-fated events, I found myself living with three girls I did not know. Individually, they were perfectly nice people, but because they were my roommates, I was inescapably led to feel an irreparable disdain towards all of them that I cannot shake to this day.  Second year also allowed me to focus on what I had unknowingly come to university for: to pay thousands of dollars to close-read books by other authors, while not actually writing anything myself. Fueled by the contempt I felt for my housemates and Charles Dickens, I relentlessly counted the days until Christmas break, wherein I could finally fly to Australia.

By the time I returned to Canada and reached my third year, discouraged by the assaulting weather and continuingly disappointing university experience, I arrived at another realization: I actually loathed school. I would have rather eaten my own spleen than be forced to sit through another semester of classes I had lost passion and interest for. So, like any dispassionate student, I then decided on the only logical alternative: after cutting my degree short a year, I would permanently move to the other side of the world to a place filled with sun, sand and beaches. There, I could live amongst my bronzed commonwealth counter-parts while they collectively laughed at the way I pronounced the word “about” and told me how disgusting poutine sounds.

Now that I’ve made this move to the land down under a reality, once I’m tanned and tired of working my undesirable-yet-necessary-to-live part-time job, I assume I’ll wonder if I’ve led myself to become a desperate, premature, writer’s cliché. Then, under the weight of my student-loan debt, I’ll recognize that I can and always have been able to write—with or without my diploma. While it would be impossible to deny the fact that university allowed me to make close friends, mature significantly, and become well read, I’ll know from my heart to my pen that it was not necessarily imperative to my inevitable career in writing.

At this moment of realization, I will be struck with a force stronger than sunstroke; a brilliant idea for a novel will immerse me like a salty, unforgiving ocean wave. I will write it, and publish it, and Stephen King, my biggest fan, will join me at the beach every weekend thereafter. He’ll tell me that cutting my four-year Honours degree short was the best idea I’ve ever had. We’ll laugh over margaritas, cheers to each other’s extreme successes, and amicably argue about which of us looks better in glasses.