Friday, January 12, 2007

University Line, thinking about resting his eyes.

Black male, late 30s, with goatee and sideburns, wearing a zipped up black fleece jacket and yellow scarf. A Pottery Barn bag stuffed with bath towels sits beside him. His head nods slightly. He catches himself, chuckling with the woman next to him. "Long day?" she asks. "Long life," he replies.

Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures: Stories, Vincent Lam (Anchor Canada)

Page 174:

I drew lidocaine into the syringe. The anaesthetic swirled into the graduated barrel. I flicked with my finger, clearing the bubbles toward the needle, and expelled the air like a sneeze with a quick motion of the plunger.

"I don't want it to hurt," he said.

"It's gonna hurt."

He stands in the shower facing the faucets. He’s long finished but wonders if there’s something new he can do so he doesn’t have to get out just yet. He looks at the coarse loofah, a gift, then his thighs. He resolves to drink more water. Running his finger along the tiles, he tries to remember the last time he cleaned the grout. He'd tried to get the landlord to redo the bathroom. It’s very, to use their word, “ethnic.” He doesn’t mind it; the avocado green tiles and pink paint remind him of any number of happy childhood memories, certainly the kitchen appliances in his mother’s home. But he likes a spruce-up, so he’s taken on the cosmetic upkeep of his basement rental. Maybe that’s what he’ll do this weekend, and the caulking too. He’ll need 24 hours to let it settle. If he sees his friends Friday night, and he caulks the bathtub beforehand, doing the math, yes, by Sunday morning it will be good and ready. He just has to avoid anyone he knows all day Saturday.

He notices one of the tiles has a slightly different pattern than the others. He studies the rest. This one is upside down. It irks him a little. The water starts to turn cold. He adjusts the taps and turns to assess the other walls. No rhyme or reason; the tiles are, to use his word, willy-nilly. Yes, this irks him. He looks over his head at the pink ceiling, paint chipping. He feels enclosed, reaching up to draw a streak through the condensation. What does this pink remind him of? He’s transported to his grandmother’s hospital bed. Her breath is shallow, her head tilted back, mouth slack. Hairs have grown in, her dentures are ill-fitting. She rests her hand on his and stares at the ceiling, occasionally confused by the sunlight that comes through the blinds. He can still pick up traces of her Chantilly. He’s swabbing her lips with a Q-Tip, the roof of her mouth pink as Pepto-Bismol.

He steadies himself against the tile, grabbing the loofah, holding it in the stream.


Orange Blossom Goddess (aka Heather) said...

Excellent post. Really enjoyed this one.


Julie Wilson said...

Glad you liked it; I didn't know how I felt about it. Now I feel good!

shannon said...

Totally transported me, beautifully written (dare I say it, better written than the Giller winner!).

Oh, you're gonna hit me, but "He looks over his head at the pink ceiling" might be a little hard to accomplish...!

August said...

Interesting... that's the exact passage where Lam ended his reading when he appeared on the Words at Large podcast (they still haven't aired your interview, btw; I am most disappointed).

Julie Wilson said...

Thanks Shannon! And no worries; I do well for having a editor to look over my writing. Poor guy, he's probably still spinning in the shower.

Julie Wilson said...

August, seriously? I have to admit picking a passage for this one was difficult. The reader wasn't right in front of me so I had to guesstimate over about twenty pages. There's one heck of a lot of dialogue. I wanted to post something that felt like it had a hook in the story and settled on this. Still, yes, interesting!

I asked the Freestyle people if Words at Large would include my interview. Selfish reasons aside, it was a fun interview and drew a lot of attention to the site. I, too, hope they'll tuck it into a future podcast.

Sarah said...

I really love your site - brilliant idea.

Julie Wilson said...

Thanks Sarah! It seems to be working! ;)

Stop by any ol' time.