The moving stories at Fringe, and there were a few, have inspired me to attempt to be funnier. By giving this aspect of my game away, I fully expect none of the following to be funny in the least, because I’ve removed the element of surprise. On the other hand! May this be seen as an act of contrition for a) making you cringe with mediocre humour and b) repeating a story I’ve already told. So TA DA. In parts because it got long!
If I hadn’t been reading a library book, my life today might yet be quite different. It’ll came down to a night I went to the gym – I’m a rock climber – took off my shoes, tucked my necklace in my pants pocket, changed my clothes, and headed down to warm up.
Pause. My shoes were my ever-present Birkenstocks, since, despite the rain, I’d lost one half of my pair of Keds (which are no more water resistant than flip-flops anyway), with one half of my pair of orthotics within, to the gods of the TTC about a month before. I’d made the mistake of tying them to my climbing harness, and at an unknown juncture, one half of my footwear abandoned ship and made a break for Never Never Land. This irony was later lost on me.
My necklace was the most expensive thing I had ever owned. It was a graduation gift from the theatre company I belonged to in university, a silver ring too small for a finger and intended for its accompanying silver chain. Both were stamped with Tiffany’s & Co. in tiny writing. I didn’t like it as much as those of graduates’ years past, but I had worn it every single day for the four months since receiving it. I tend to fall in love with things I don’t find perfect on first glance.
Unpause. You can’t wear jewelry climbing – that’s just stupid. It’s like a carpenter wearing rings. I happen to like not being strangled, nor breaking my things, so I take off valuables and avoid wearing hairpins that could stab me in the skull.
Climbing is like human Tetris. You fit yourself into nooks and crannies and find methods of leverage that expend the least amount of energy possible to get to the top. It’s really a question of balance and friction, more than strength. You wouldn’t know that to look at the gym though.
Ropey forearms and wide shoulders are an inevitable outcome of enough climbing, whether you use a more truck hauling or a tiptoes dancing method, so if you like looking at Hulks with a hippie-ish couture, a climbing gym is for you. But almost no climbers have helium balloons of muscle sticking out of their skin. We’re compact, and frequently lanky – too much weight means it’s harder to get up. And if you look closer, you’ll notice that our calves are as developed as our hands, our abs sturdy and taught – climbing gives you a full body workout.
I love climbing. I never loved any sport until I found climbing. The puzzle of each climb, the mental fortitude required, and the fact that I can often climb as well as someone three times my size, means I feel at home. Plus everyone is super nice. It’s a big family.
It’s because of all this that, when my brain shut down the next day, I ended up at the gym with little memory of how I got there.
It was still raining when I left, so I repacked my bag, wrapping my library book inside my jeans, to keep it dry. I had a long way to go, back to the Junction, and I experimented with a new route up Ossington. At the subway station, I could unwrap my book and settle into the end of the story.
The Brothers K by David James Duncan. At one point in the book one of the characters is sent to a mental institution where they try to electrocute his war trauma out of him. The irony of this was lost on me too. I was reading it for a book club I partook in every summer, fast approaching. My past roommate had borrowed it from the library, and I borrowed it from her for the latter half of her loan period. I was careful to keep good care of it and read it as quickly as possible so no trouble would come upon her library account.
I got home. I crashed into bed next to my boyfriend, who I’d recently moved in with, and slept.
I’m not afraid of crowds. I’m not afraid of bugs or spiders, dogs or rats. I’m not afraid of touching dead things, and I’m not afraid of doing weird things in public. Which is why, two years later, I can remember how out of place it was for me to think, “If I even breathe, I will scream. I will hit that woman next to me. I will break the glass in this TTC shelter. I will whirl around and punch everyone. I will struggle with paramedics if they come, and I will smack anyone who comes near me.”
I thought this standing at the bus stop. I was afraid that I really would do all these things. So I took shallow breaths and didn’t move a muscle. My shoulders were so tight and high that I probably looked like I was trying to conceal a hickie, or shield myself from birthday beats.
Some unknown amount of time earlier, I had taken my clothes out of my backpack to get dressed for the day. Glasses, watch… I looked for my necklace to put it on, and came up with an empty chain.
It must just be at the bottom somewhere.
Maybe the fabric has folded over somehow.
Did I put it in a different pocket?
Maybe it’s in my jeans.
Maybe it’s in my climbing gear, somehow…
Let’s try the backpack again.
OK, breathe, don’t cry, don’t cry, STOP IT, don’t cry. Call the gym. My climbing partner Kyle said he was going back again today.
“Hey, can you do me a big favour?”
“Ya, what’s wrong? Are you OK?”
“Ya, it’s nothing. I just, I think I lost my necklace. Could you check the lost and found for me? …Not there? What about at the lockers? I used the fourth one over and the third one up. …Not on the ground? Bathrooms? …Stairs? Anything? Is George cleaning today? Can you ask him?”
“I’m sorry, Christina, I can’t find it. I’m so sorry. Are you ok?” – Click. I hung up. Ignored a call back.
Check the bag again. The floor. The living room. Coat. Shoes. Everything again. Retrace my steps. Think. Think. STOP CRYING. Think think think…
When it dawned on me that I’d put the necklace in my jeans, and wrapped the book in the jeans, and then unwrapped the book from the jeans, that I took no heed of my open pockets, there wasn’t much hesitation. I packed all my things back in my backpack and shopping bag I walked to the bus. There were no other thoughts in my mind.