October 2, 2018
“why men love stoicism”
I googled that in bed while waiting for my West Coast editors to arrive to work and reply with edits to my draft, filed late; also, for the smoothie in my stomach to settle before going for a swim—my first since joining the new big box gym a seven-minute drive from my house. I googled that too: “wait swim eat.”
As it turns out, waiting to swim after eating is no longer a thing. But I didn’t move.
My cat, a short-haired Calico that the Humane Society told me is probably around 12 or 13 years old, is always affectionate. I called him Buddy because his number one priority is being warm, so he tends to stay close by. I sometimes think that after he’s gone, it will feel like a phantom limb — his physical presence, no longer pushed up against me, that will be so disorienting. He nestles close, under an arm, in front of my laptop, or behind it, stretched out on my shins. Or wound in a circle in the nest of my crossed legs.
I mostly did what I do every damn day, which is to make sure that by the time I give myself permission to smoke weed and watch horror movies I’ve already seen and look at Twitter, I’ve done at least enough to not slide over into self-loathing.
I’ve been trying to find a way to not end up like nearly all of the adults, fictional or otherwise, whom I’ve perceived as deeply unhappy. That wasn’t going to be me, unable to solve problems like dinner and not having enough time for “self-care.” But all I’ve really done differently is more nothing. It would be nice to learn from this and join the human race.
Realizing that it might be a few more hours until my editor returned my email, I finally put on my swimsuit, jeans, a hoodie, and put a towel in a bag. I drove to the gym, and accidentally tried to use my pharmacy loyalty points card instead of my gym card to get in. I shared a laugh (“trying to score points at the gym, eh?”) with the bored, athletic customer service reps, and made my way to the changeroom.
It’s the nicest gym I’ve ever been a member of. It’s massive, and I’m so pleased that as long as I come here in the daytime, I’ll never feel crowded. “The pool is almost always empty,” they told me when I signed up. Perfect.
A few men still glanced in my direction as I headed to the locker room—it was amazing to me that they couldn’t just not stare straight ahead at the gym, even in Toronto! I thought we’d all made a silent pact to not look at each other here. We would just look past, or right through our fellow humans.
I forgot a lock to secure my stuff, so I slid my phone and car key into one shoe, and wallet into the other, then put a balled up sock on top of each. I took a shower before going to the pool, but I didn’t use soap as directed.
They were right. No one was in the pool. The water in the long, Olympic-length pool was still and flat. It’s only three lanes wide, with two giant windows, one facing the weight room, the other the parking lot. There’s another wall decorated with pastel, pixelated images of palm trees. In the middle, an enormous face of a pixelated black-and-white woman looms over, meant to look encouraging, I think. There are words, those words you always see on the walls of gyms, surrounding her: excellence, participation, perfection.
Perfection? It mildly offended me, but it was something that had motivated me on other, worse days.
While I was doing my first length of the pool, I thought I heard someone else getting in the pool behind me, but when I turned around at the other end I realized it was just my own body making waves.
I stayed for about 25 minutes, gliding back and forth, loving how my taller-than-average, softer-than-before body feels in the water. My face was that strange combination of wet, hot, and dry after getting my heart rate up.
While I’d been swimming, traffic had gotten really bad. My neighbourhood, originally designed for commercial spaces, manufacturers, and shippers, is defined by train tracks. You’re always looking for cute ways to navigate around them on the overly congested streets. It was the end of the school day, so it would be hectic back on my street. I decided to drive to the weed store instead, my one errand.
My hair was wet and I smelled like chlorine, and I felt great. It’s funny, the cannabis industry folk here are always talking about “reducing stigma,” but I can often spot my fellow dudes who are also going to the weed store. I spotted one; he got to the door first to ring the bell. Sweatpants, beard. Me.
I asked if they’re going to keep their illegal store open after the legal one opens online on October 17th.
“We plan to close on October 15th, see what happens, then probably re-open after the 17th,” said the oldest man there, who seemed to be in charge. I asked for a half-quarter of Sour Diesel. “Oh, sorry we’re out of Sour Diesel. What do you want? A hybrid? You should definitely try the Mondo.”
I turned away from the chalkboard, scrawled with strain names I’ve never heard of. I didn’t understand what cost what. I had never heard of Mondo.
“Oh ya you gotta try this Mondo,” said the other guy behind the counter, pulling a jar off the counter and opening it. “It’s so purple! Take a look.”
He was right, there were some big frosty buds in there. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’ve smoked deeper purple buds before because he was so excited. I just want to make people happy! I bought a half-quarter for $35 and headed home.
I ate some applewood smoked cheddar on crackers, half stale, half not. I still hadn’t heard from my editor, but I heard from another. I made zero changes to his changes, and sent it off: “Looks awesome, thanks!”
My partner Jerry came home, and I showed him my new weed. “Oh ya,” he said. I found a great streaming link for John Carpenter’s The Thing, and we watched the first half together, catching up on our days when there was a lull in dialogue. I paused the movie to chop vegetables to simmer on the stove for pasta sauce, and returned to the film. I loved the special effects, the models of distorted, alien faces and ketchup blood. I despise nostalgia, but it’s hard to enjoy current movies. It doesn’t seem like they’re having any fun making them anymore.
We went back and forth between the pasta and the movie, and we finished both.
My arm muscles felt used, in that good way, from swimming. I rolled and lit a joint and took a few puffs in bed, and my focus softened as my body, particularly my legs and feet, became a little weightless. I was reading Zoe Whittall’s book, The Best Kind of People. It was due back at the library the next day, but I’m only 100 pages in. It’s about how anyone, even people you love and think you know so well, can commit sexual assault. I fell asleep reading, just as the antagonist’s daughter began to trust her friends more than her family.