It was the number 11 bus that was taking me from Parc to Ridgewood. My fingers were meshed like soupy ice cubes within the polyester mittens. The twin girls I babysat for 5 days a week - Julia and Jeanne, were learning to crawl and today when their mother came home from work and sang come to mommy to them, they crawled on their soft little knees towards me, racing each other to be the first to touch my toes. I looked at the mother and she looked more miserable than me. Jeanne was larger and rounder than Julia. The mother had told me that she had managed to eat most of her sister’s food in the womb and had leeched on her oxygen supply for a good chunk of time before she showed me an hour of the birthing video. Julia was always coughing up formula and room temperature breast milk on my shoulder before squeezing my little finger in her tiny moist hand, as if she knew she will always be second at everything, the less beautiful one who almost died from forced anorexia. Before I left, the mother shared with me that when Julia came out she was hideous compared to her rounder sister, who was also hideous when she came out but less hideous than Julia and she wished more than anything for her to not grow up ugly and I silently wished she would just get to grow up. The mother then handed me my paycheck and told me that I didn’t need to come anymore except when she needed an occasional babysitter on certain Saturday nights when she and her French husband go out to see a beautiful ballet filled with beautiful people dancing to the saddest songs but being so beautiful collectively.
A yellow tea kettle I bought at Sears a couple of months back had broken earlier in the week and the ceramic pieces were piled on top of the trash bin because I had lost my steady babysitting gig, I figured I didn’t need to throw out the trash since I didn’t have any money to buy more trash. I filled the red tea mug, a souvenir from the 2013 Montreal Formula One, with boiling water from the kitchen and nuked it for 3 minutes in the microwave before brewing a lipton green tea bag in the hot water which seemed to be gathering a milky white froth at the very top. It tasted like dust and paper leaves and I decided to eat nothing but dried apple slices for a week.
During the middle of 2015, I wanted my then boyfriend to be my ex boyfriend but I had a short form and long form birth certificates in one hand and no pride in the other. There was a name that I wanted to never take out of the envelope, I wanted the paper to devour it because it was not mine. I asked my boyfriend if he could drive me for 22 hours to Nova Scotia so I could get on a ship and tell the government that I didn’t want my name, it didn’t smell like me. We reached an agreement where he’d drive me and I get to watch him jerk off to hentai haven. I bailed at the last minute because animated cum is too much for me and asked you to drive me instead. We left at 2am because you had to prove something to me and made it to New Brunswick and I had to pee so bad, I thought about strangling myself after digging out my bladder with your Swiss Army Knife that your brother gave you as a fair warning against false diggers. We got a flat tire and the car almost flipped over in the worst downpour since that one time when a man hit a moose with his car and the moose hit the car back. It was raining so much that the man freaked out when his blood became the moose’s blood and ran a shared river down on King George highway. Your were losing patience and I was losing consciousness. We locked the car and went into the country grass and knocked on houses in search of bladder relief. The first house we knocked on, a grey older woman with two Shih Tzu puppies on her feet answered, she stood behind her front door and I saw real fear in her eyes. She refused to let us in and told us to try another house. She said she didn’t trust us and I thought she had no reason to. I felt like we were Bonnie and Clyde in a bad Bonnie and Clyde made for tv movie with voiceover moaning closeups for sex scenes. By the next house I felt like this is the end. I tried to make myself pee but I couldn’t. I blamed the rain and my vagina simultaneously, I could feel the pee inflaming my organs and I cursed my uterus for lacking in room. A big man with a big beard with all shades of white let us in. His house was carpeted in a combination of red and green and his walls were a rolling graveyard of antler heads and tail skins. He pointed at the bathroom down the hall and I didn’t care if my skin would leather his couch next. The toilet seat was cold and I layered it with fresh toilet paper before sitting down. That was the best pee I ever had. I saw my life flash before my eyes and heard doves singing through the cheap liquid soap that smelled like stale plastic. I was free and didn’t care if I got brutally murdered in New Brunswick. As we left his house, the big man told us how he wasn’t sure if he should let us in his house at first because you never know nowadays. He suddenly seemed less big and his beard wilted under his big chin, hiding from rain and the everythings of nowadays.
We drove to a Shell gas station and you filled up the car tank. Your hands were swollen and your skin was bubbling in fragile transparency on your palm. Your hand had slipped while changing the flat, you kept going anyway because you hated the rain the most and the ground was covered in oil clouds. It was pouring so hard that real life outside seemed like a 90’s virtual reality game, pixelated in deep melt of technology. You had been driving for 10 hours straight or something and were on the verge of real tears. We decided to park at the Shell gas station and you slept with my rain jacket under your head. I tried to force sleep and drown out the rain by focusing on the jacket label under your ear - the starry A in the pink all caps GARAGE embroidery turned into a fire lit Ferris wheel and I dozed off into an uncomfortable dream. I saw a faceless mother disappointed in me and a recognizable shadow trying to touch my breasts, I saw my neighbor’s dead cat multiply into more cats, I saw snakes and cockroaches withering under my silk pillowcase that I had left at home and my face was made of boiled eggs with gaping holes and I was smiling. A tree branch sprouted blackberries and my childhood friend Runa broke her foot, green beans and giant ants came out of her bones and she grew hair all over her body. I rubbed her foot and she told me she liked me the least amongst all of the other breastless hula hoops that joined hands around her and sang to her death. She whispered in my ear about hating her yellow foamed owl and I smelled golden stardust on her breath.
We drove for another 5 to 6 hours before fatigue started to become unbearable again, especially for you. We stopped at a Subway and I got lettuce topped with Swiss cheese and you got a chicken teriyaki on Italian bread. You showed me my fake ID that you had ordered for me on one of those highly obvious fake ID websites and my name was appropriately North American. I was going to use this ID to get on the ship because I had cut up my real ID due to bad memories and lack of identity and too much seedless oranges. My real ID was not real either, not to me. My fake ID said I was Alicia Norman and I couldn’t help but think how suitable that name is for a middle class serial killer who likes to kill men in their sleep because she’s too scared to do it when they’re awake because of childhood trauma and blatant patriarchy and too much religion or perhaps not enough of it.
Both of us now were reasonably psychotic from lack of sleep and were entering deranged territory taking baby steps. We were only an hour away from Nova Scotia and we had to make it if I was going to make the ship before it left and I had to, the next one left in 4 days and I didn’t have money to stay that long in Nova Scotia. You were crying and begging me to keep saying things to you so you don’t fall asleep at the wheel and I started to talk in a stranger’s voice about body hair and how I was genuinely concerned about the extra bone that had been growing on my right foot, I was hysterical and screaming at this point about the giant golf ball bone that was protruding next to my big right toe and how it hurt when I walked. I looked at my foot, I felt my head throbbing with bone pain and my muscles were burning with fever. You were full on sobbing now and I was screaming at my foot with aching intensity when we suddenly found ourselves in a line behind 10,000 cars. We had made it without dying mostly. We were in the line for my nameless ship, with other thousands of people. The quiet set in and we didn’t speak or acknowledged existence.
Alicia Norman showed her ID to the check in lady. The check in lady didn’t glance at Alicia Norman and gave the ID back to Alicia Norman. Alicia Norman said thank you and the check in lady said you’re welcome.
At the last minute, you decided that you were going to come on the ship with me. You gave your real ID to the check in lady. You said you didn’t go through all this shit just to see me off. You wanted to see me get my name to be mine. You wanted to see me change as a person, I told you that’s not how it works. You said you’d get me food and got a jumbo bag of Mars bars. We sat on reclining seats and saw the ocean move, becoming bigger than our bodies.
We were driving again. It was nighttime and the sky was eating the ocean. The stars were the most abundant in this sky. The ship had dropped us off at Labrador and it seemed to be where earth and all the skies met to ponder over everything that’s wrong with us and our petty lives. We had to drive another 10 hours or so to reach St John's in Newfoundland, which is where I was going to get my name to be mine. I had already brushed my teeth and doused my face in my acne cream in the women’s bathroom aboard the ship. I looked like shit but at least clear shit. You had gotten some sleep in your reclining seat so were okay to drive. I took out one Mars bar but remembered that I had already brushed my teeth so I put it back.
The day came and it was beautiful with running blue sky and no moose on the highway despite alarmingly vast amount of moose warnings. As we entered St John’s, I thought we entered Andy Warhol’s death. The houses were painted in the brightest, happiest colors, all shades of reds and orange and yellows, blues and greens, mustard grass and people laughter. It was clear that it was a touristy city the size of a town heart. The houses were lined up and down on tiny, steep hills and the one street long downtown was lined with seafood restaurants, taverns and bars, all clean, all fluent in accomplished money. There was an air of cheeriness and openness about the place that was carrying welcome signs for most rational people. Maybe because it was in the middle of summer and everyone was happy to be covered in their neighbor’s sweat instead of their own wet or maybe it was the over priced broiled salmon and raw oysters, who knows and no one cared. As we got a lemon sorbet each from the best ice cream shop in town, we now had to answer the tough question: Where do we stay? I was in such a hurry to get here, I had forgotten to give a fuck about booking any place to stay. I was going to camp out in front of the Vital Statistics office building and chant a rhyming mantra I found on a very purple website, till they opened the next day but it seemed like a bad idea now, the bright colors were messing up my head. As we called upon the Google gods to help us find a basically-dirt-cheap place, we found a room in a house that was not too far from the office building. The place was was worth exactly my one arm and one and a half legs, good thing I was used to cutting off my limbs on a daily basis for survival and mouth foods so it was not a big deal. I just hoped they didn’t mind the dried blood and bone fragments attached to my limbs due to cutting them off so often.
The little room was enough for one night. The tiny window was shaped like Beyonce’s Illuminati symbol and I thought that was cool. The walls were blue and I took it as a real sign from the Queen. I woke up in the middle of the night to the ruffling of the plastic bag that I had put the unopened Mars bars in to stand in later for a wholesome breakfast. I woke you up because you were not bothered by the sound and that bothered me. I turned on the light and holy fuck it was a mouse. I yelled fuck to get some reaction from the dead you and saw the mouse jump and run off, slipping under the door crack. I ran to my bag of Mars bars and closed them tight and hid them under my pillow. I turned to face you and you were sleeping with one eye half open.
Next morning was the day where I make my name happen. I had 2 Mars bars for breakfast, you were still high from the early morning Prozac that you had taken to wake yourself up but not too much. You parked the car in front of the Vital Statistics building but I made you move it, I wanted to give the impression that I was independent and self sufficient. I pointed to a spot far enough and hidden under 100 year old tree trunks aping rocklike veins, to park your car. I was going to go in alone and make sure they validate my independence by exhaling slowly through the mouth so I can rub my indifference into their worn out, state funded chairs. It reeked of air conditioned cigarette smoke the moment I entered the office, there were 3 middle aged women working behind the Customer Information desk and one middle aged man with plaid open chest hair shirt and khaki trousers standing in line that was all his own, he looked in my direction as my indifference touched the back of his head lightly. It was underwhelming and I was told to wait as someone will be with me shortly. I sat on one of the chairs that looked like it was on its last leg, it was soft but in a deflated, burnt out sort of a way. After less than 5 minutes a big, smiling woman came out from behind one of the closed doors and asked me to follow her inside. The room was small, with a simple desk and a chair on either sides. It could fit in as a police interrogation room if it weren’t for the giant open window in the middle of the wall and bird excrement resting on the window sill. She asked me how she could help, without breaking from her smile even once. She had kind eyes and her lips were mauve with tiny smooth lines that can be easily missed if you’re not paying close enough attention. I put the short form and long form birth certificates on the table and told her I don’t want this name but I wanted my own. I expected her to ask me why or anything, but she didn’t. She took out a sheet of paper and told me to write the name I want as I wanted it, clearly and left the room. I started at the closed door for a few seconds, underwhelmed. I wrote down a name that looked like me, that I searched Google for but didn’t find, the name that I lost many nights sleep for before seeing myself in it and the woman came back after a couple of minutes. She took the sheet and looked it over, smiling and bright eyes. She told me I should get my new certificates in 3 to 4 weeks, they’ll be mailed to my address in the form, addressed to my name. I asked softly, pausing after every word, if that was it and she said yes, that’s it, I could go and be my own name. I walked out and stood outside for a moment. I had wrestled with this decision most of my life, I had planned this trip for a year and it was done in under 20 minutes. I felt lightheaded and my joints filled with air. I had nothing left to do with myself.
We drove away and I cried into my hands. You asked me if they were happy tears and I didn’t know if they were. We went to the little blue ivy room and you saw the mouse this time, you chased after it with your Aldo shoe and I spaced out and forgot I didn’t live here. We had a huge fight before we left when I said you didn’t care and you said I already knew that. I called you a coward and you called me disgusting, we screamed and threw around shit that didn’t belong to us. After we were bruised in some places on our bodies, the house owner called and told us the neighbors were scared and bothered and called her about our violence. She told us to get out within 10 minutes because she had already called the cops on us. You pretended to be calm and blamed me for everything. We gathered ourselves and spilled into your car. You parked in an abandoned parking lot under August heat and slammed the car door in my face. You screamed inside and outside and I left myself inside my head and drifted into heavy space. Before we left the city, you said you were sorry and took me to The Keg Steakhouse for a medium rare steak topped with grilled shrimp and sea air, your breath was light and regretful with a promise of an encore.
On the way back we spoke less and slept more. We ate more than sugar and Subway meats. You smiled more and I smiled less, I hated you more and you hated yourself. We stopped at diners and drank addictive black coffee and ate maple syrup eggs and maple syrup everything. We saw a moose almost hit a car and completely hit another car. We saw no rain and you paid for a private room on the ship because you were still regretting. The room had a shower big enough for not one person. The ocean smiled in sharp blindness and I felt as if all of this was enough to die. We slept for 8 hours on the ship or was it 5? I took a shower for the second time in 5 days. There were fried eggs and bacon, toast and beans, pancakes and maple syrup. I drank coffee with a spoon of maple and no cream. I watched a woman tell how she lost her son to marijuana on tv and blame dreadlocks and head dress flute music for the evil in society. We got off Nova Scotia and you drove us to the Millbrook Cultural & Heritage Centre. We saw stones, wheels and sticks. We heard drums and history legends. You whispered in my ear how you felt your heritage killed their heritage. We met a beautiful First Nations woman, she sang for us a tale of injustice and death. You donated extra dollars for whispers in my ears and applause for death. We drove back 22 hours and stopped for power naps and gas tanks. The rain didn’t come this time and New Brunswick looked a tender pasture sprouting emeralds and hazelnuts in squirrel mouths, bagging the hush hush of everyday. I thought of asking you if we should stop by the big man’s house where I peed but wasn’t murdered, I remembered his big man beard and the wilt was not something I wished upon him again so I didn’t say anything. We entered my city and it was still August but with my name. I looked at my neighborhood with my name and it felt okay to call it mine. You stopped in front of my apartment building and asked about the bruises you gave me in St John’s and I showed them to you. You were regretting that your bruises were healed. You called me by my name and I thought I had never met you before. I gave you the leftover Mars bars and didn’t invite you up. I said thank you, let’s never be in your car together again and together. I went up the elevator and texted my ex about my name. He said he doesn’t know me anymore and asked for my Netflix password. I took a long shower and stared at myself in the fogged up mirror. I said my name and looked around. I looked down at my hands and my skin was clinging to my bones. Red mug of F1 beeped for a long second in the microwave and went dark. I updated my resume with a name and my ears felt hot at the tips.