Just this? Just gathering up your things and moving out? Is it really as simple as 1) longitude and latitude and 2) your possessions, your stuff, your paraphernalia, your crap, your endless boxes of things?
And what kind of generosity is this (leaving him the brandy decanter since he was the drunk)? It sparkles, this brandy decanter. Simple, heavy, built for multiple generations. Though one is all it’ll get.
The Alcohol Papers: her memoirs — or his? — in three or four decades. She imagines Paul Smith-painted dinner plates, a review in Canadian Art, an interview in Saturday Night, a long article in The New Yorker. Not going to happen.
Think, she thinks. Forget the dishes, forget the pots and pans, forget the spoons and forks and knives and myriad little things, the innumerable gifts and sentimental objects. Who cares, there will be more. Though she’ll have to come back to the studio when he is out, to get the books, the skis, the piano.
The things she puts in the garbage bag are underwear, wearing thin; socks, same; jeans, dirty; sweaters, too many; dresses, two; shoes, not enough. Skates. The things she leaves behind are his clothes and the brandy decanter. The brandy decanter stands alone as the only item in the entire place that could figure in a magazine ad.
She thinks: Are you a Remy Martin man? Do you own: a gold watch, a painting of Napoleon, sleek cognac glasses, keys to an Alfa, tickets to the opera, a woman in a satin gown, and a Sri Lankan leopard?
Here is an ad with Paul’s stuff in it: a parking ticket with a sticky bottle ring on it, a fat capless half-tube of cyan blue (hard and heavy as clay), a cracked Saskatoon coffee mug, a package of Winstons, a dusty bottle of Polo aftershave, a scratched Edith Piaf record (78 rpm) left out of its sleeve, and a feral long-haired cat with one orange ear chewed off. And now, since she has decided to be so generous, a beautiful brandy decanter.
The cab will come at 7:15 a.m. It will take 45 minutes to get to Mary’s. That was the earliest she could persuade Mary to be up and ready for her arrival. Meanwhile, it is 11:15 p.m. Eight more hours of this.
Paul is out, but he’ll be back eventually. Maybe around 1 or 2 or 3 or 4. He’ll be swashbuckling. His beautiful green eyes sabotaged by whatever was available to drink that night, his dark hair tangled up by the evening’s adventures. Destruction in his wake, “accidents.”
So far, only her faith in their future has been broken. Tonight, she hopes he’ll only have lost his jacket, a shoelace, or the buttons on his shirt, exposing his rail-thin hardly-eats alcoholic physique.
She’ll feel a clutching of the heart, and not just fear. He’s a drunk, but it still breaks the heart. At his best he’s a working class hero. At his worst, a bleeding waste of time.
Their place is big, above an auto-body shop, and cold at this time of year. Aside from the larger studio area, there are smaller spaces she could be tucked in.
Think, she thinks. Think about where to be.
And think about keeping your sense of humour. At least remember why you’re doing this. Assess the balance between hero and waste. Assess how many years in the rest of your life. Save tears and forgiveness for later. Remember he’ll be drunk. And he’ll be that again. And again.
Not that you don’t like a drink yourself sometimes. Quite often, actually. But.
Smile. Square yourself. Be glad there is no kid. Pretend you’re the spunky heroine on a TV show. Or, think bigger. Think: Are you a Dom Perignon woman? Do you own a buttery soft Maison Scotch leather jacket, Broadway tickets, a David Hockney print, a selfie photo with Lenny Kravitz and Harvey Keitel, and a pair of Pomeranian-Maltese?
How about an Oscar de la Renta suit, orange suede Alexander Wang Emile bag, tickets to the Concord, keys to a sleek Jaguar convertible?
No again? How do you feel about old TTC tokens and a bent, out-of-date, weekly bus pass on the windowsill, along with the ubiquitous dust, nickels, and bent nails?
She sees Paul’s burgundy cotton jacket hanging on a nail, its lapels spoiled by bleach and oil stains from wee-hour hamburgers designed to fend off hangovers. In the corner a lone grey tennis shoe squashed under a crow-bar, and beside that, the heavy door with its rusty chain hanging down.
Well, give him more than that. You loved this guy.
Okay, then, cappuccinos, lots of cappuccinos. Paint-stained Levi’s, hand-painted ties, a row of vintage airplane seats with seat belts, another row of bright abstracts on a white wall. Sketches of Spain. Love, yes.
Then there’s a buckling but charming cream-background chesterfield covered with happy golden-wheat Scottie dogs, all good for Sunday mornings listening to the CBC and reading the Times.
She holds her hands over her eyes to stop the streams of things from appearing.
She’s tired of the game, doesn’t want it anymore.
But what does she want? Now there’s a thought. There’s a question.
Something honest, perhaps. A piece of paper, a pencil, a glass of water, a child laughing and banging at the piano.
Something to depend on, like the gentle day continuing into a gentle evening.
She stands and walks to a mirror — her mirror, but she’ll leave it for Paul, it’s so big — propped against the wall.
She hears the door fling open behind her, at the other end of the studio, chain clanging.
It’s hardly midnight yet.
Move away from the mirror.
He’s never hurt her body, but he’s got a scar down the middle of his chest from jumping through a plate-glass living-room window.
Behind her something crashes, and something rolls.
Tricia Snell lives mostly in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada, and sometimes in Portland, Oregon, USA. She is currently working on a novel that spans both countries. She writes stories, poems, essays, reviews, blog posts, and songs and is the author of the book Artist Communities (Allworth Press). Her writing has been published in Art Papers, Oregon Humanities, The Oregonian, and The Grove Review, and been read by actor Barbara Rappaport on the National Public Radio show, The Sound of Writing. She also plays the flute and teaches both music and writing. For more information, go to www.triciasnell.com.