I watched “Final Cut” tonight, a dvd starring Robin Williams. In the not so distant future implanted microchips record every single moment of our lives. When we die a “cutter” like Robin Williams character edits the footage of our entire life down to a 90 minute’ish memorial film. It’s an interesting premise. Got me thinking about my footage so far. I tend to see my life in film terms anyway. I don’t know why. I don’t know if it’s the way other people think about their lives, if it’s normal. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I see my dreams like movies, and I have a lot of dreams. Or that I visualize a lot of things that come to pass. So in a way I’m planning a lot of the shots, rehearsing, before things happen. One of my exes used to say I saved things, that I never said anything until the situation I had planned to say it in came up. He’d never known anyone like that before. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but it is what I do. Nobody ever noticed before him or if they did, they didn’t call me on it.
Not that I’m very deliberately living my life, calling all the shots, planning every conversation. It’s not like that, I just believe in the power of visualization, believe in anticipating predictable situations and being prepared. But the most movie-like moments of my life have all been unexpected, a surprise. And I don’t know if other people don’t have as many of these moments as I do or if they don’t recognise them when they happen or if they just don’t talk about it, but it really seems that I have quite a lot of movie scenes playing out in my life on a regular basis. And last night I was reminded of one of them when talk turned to questions of where I grew up and went to high school etc. I’ve probably written about this here already before, but here it is again anyway.
Eighth grade in the spring, we were hanging out a little bit with my cousin and her friends in Blackville. Being a year younger and from Barnettville, we were not exactly the first choice of friends by the popular stuck-up village girls but they didn’t say too much on account of my cousin. I didn’t care that they really didn’t want us around because my parents would actually let me go to Blackville and stay all night at my cousin’s house, where I’d get to go to all the Catholic Hall dances and hang around John’s Take-Out and under the bridge and Herbie’s Pool Hall and meet boys. I was very interested in any activity that would allow me to meet boys, could put up with a lot of crap as long as I got to meet boys.
I knew how to deal with boys. I understood boys. It was the girls I couldn’t read. I expected more from girls I think. I expected them to be more open and honest, to mean what they say and say what they mean. My Blackville cousin and her friends didn’t do this though. They said one thing and meant another.
For weeks my cousin complained about a boy who wouldn’t leave her alone, who kept chatting her up and asking her to dance, no matter how much she’d ignore him and turn him down. It was all she talked about, how disgusting and creepy this boy was and how much she hated him. I went with her to the next dance and the boy was there. She pointed him out to me and hoped he would leave her alone. He noticed us, smiled and started walking over to us. She was freaking out, asking me to help her. He came up to us, said hello and then asked me to dance. I had zero interest in this boy but thought it might help my cousin if I danced with him, ended up dancing with him most of the night. It seems like we might even have made out in a dark corner for awhile or went for a walk or something. It was a long time ago, I don’t really remember. But I do remember that my cousin was livid. She wouldn’t even speak to me. I had betrayed her, stolen the boy, how could I have done this to her, yada yada yada. I just thought the whole thing was foolish, why go on and on about the boy being a pain if she really liked him? I mean if she couldn’t tell me she liked him, who could she tell? I would’ve never given the guy a second glance if I thought she had any interest.
But that wasn’t a movie moment, I’m off track explaining how that Blackville cousin never told me the truth about anything. The spring of grade eight my cousin and I were still friends (though that would change before school even broke for summer). Rare for us to be walking around Blackville, just the two of us without the brood, but late one Sunday afternoon I found myself alone with her walking toward Herbie’s Pool Hall where I would disappear out behind and walk the tracks back to Barnettville. I believe this might have been a forbidden excursion, unsanctioned by my parents. It was about 4pm and overcast, ugly rain clouds boiling in the sky, that dead air that sometimes precedes a bad thunderstorm. I was in a hurry to get home before the storm, before supper, before Mom and Dad figured out I’d left the Barnettville Road. There were a few people standing outside the pool hall. I don’t remember who all was standing there, though I knew everyone of them except him. Him, I remember. Hands in his jeans pockets. Jean jacket open. Light coloured snap shirt. Hair curling around his ears. Crooked nose. Dark eyes. Shy sideways grin. I thought he was the most adorable guy I’d ever laid eyes on. And he was looking at me. I don’t know if I smiled, if I said hello, or if I was dumbstruck, but as soon as we were out of earshot I demanded to know who that boy was. My cousin shrugged like he was nobody special, said his name was Jeffrey, said he had a girlfriend already, said he’d never go out with somebody like me anyway. And I believed her. My heart sank.
Movie moment number two happened later in August, the summer before grade nine. Stacy and I went to the Chatham Exhibition. A Friday night seems likely, as that is when most young people go to the Chatham Exhibition. It was just the two of us, not sure how we got there, but we were wandering around playing games and getting on rides. It was very crowded and we knew lots of people, it seemed like everyone from our school had picked the same night to go. Walking through the crowd we turned a corner and found ourselves facing our arch enemies, a girl from our road and her best friend from Renous. We hated each other, but we’d still speak to one another, say hello, especially if we had something we could throw in the other’s face like about a boy we’d gone out with or something. So when we came face to face all four of us flinched and pasted on our phoney smiles as we met up in the crowd. We said hello and then I noticed they weren’t alone as the two boys (I believe Gary, my now brother-in-law, might have been one) stepped up alongside them. I saw him! Jeffrey! My jaw might have dropped. I’m certain my eyes went big. Huge intake of breath. May even have stepped back or flinched like I was punched. And Jeffrey looked equally as surprised to see me. Oh and how those girls preened and gloated that they were there with these gorgeous boys and we were there alone. I could not get away fast enough. It was terrible, but a movie moment.
Fall, grade nine, with the first school dance coming up. That was the year we were part of a church youth group and got to meet boys from White Rapids, Chelmsford and Millerton that we would never have met otherwise. For dances students were allowed to sign in one guest that didn’t go to our school. Stacy had promised a boy from Chelmsford at our youth group that she would sign him into this dance. The only time we got to see those guys was once a month at our meeting. I didn’t think he’d show up. I thought she’d be wasting her sign-in power on him. A friend of mine had convinced me to go out with a boy she knew at the dance, but I’d have to sign him in and he’d only come if his buddy could come.
The signing in thing was a really big deal, EVERYONE signed somebody in, whole gangs of drop-outs and kids from other schools would come to these things. Our best friend, Donna, had just started dating a new boy, Ronnie, that she was signing in. Our other best friend, Gloria, had just started dating her future husband, David, that she was signing in. There was nobody left in the school to sign in my date’s buddy. So I convinced Stacy to do it. Convinced her the church group guy wouldn’t show up anyway and my guy’s buddy was cute, so why not?
I was excited about that dance. We were a little drunk when we got there. People were hanging around outside the school in the driveway. I remember making our way through crowds, saying hi to people we knew, when we came across a couple of guys from our road and they were talking about this idiot boy from Chelmsford that they wanted to beat up. It was the boy from our youth group! The one Stacy had promised she’d take to the dance. I felt like crap that I had talked her out of signing him in. I felt even crappier when I realised neither my guy nor his buddy showed up. We talked to the principal and tried to convince him to let us change Stacy’s sign-in at the last minute, but he wouldn’t let her. We didn’t know what to do and the teachers were ushering everyone inside and getting ready to close the doors for the night. So Stacy told me to go on in and she’d stay outside with him, we’d hook up after the dance and go home. I felt like double crap! But there was nothing to be done about it. I was the last person admitted into the first high school dance Fall 1984.
I stepped into the loud music and flashing lights of the cafeteria. The place was packed. I stood in the doorway at the top of the stairs scanning the room for friends. Gloria spotted me and called out to me, waved. There were a whole lot of people standing around, surrounding the chairs my friends were sitting in. I went over, excused myself through the crowd, turned around to say hi and there he was! Jeffrey! With my friend Donna sitting on his lap. Not Jeffrey at all, Donna introduced him to me. This was her new boyfriend, Ronnie. I had been crushed seeing him with my arch rival, but I was even more crushed seeing him with one of my best friends. I didn’t hang around long, a boy asked me to dance and I went off with him, spent the whole night dancing and kissing and smoking in the art room.
A few weeks later Donna asked me if I wanted to go out with Ronnie. She wasn’t that into him and he was apparently interested in me. I said yes and the rest of course is history. I remember walking around that first night with him, talking about all the near meetings we’d had. When we finally met, finally got together, there was that excitement of being with someone new but there was also this feeling like “Ah, there you are.” It was comfortable, like I had known him forever. From the moment we laid eyes on each other there was a sort of recognition. He felt it too. We talked about it later. He had tried to find out who I was but nobody knew or nobody would tell him. He nearly fell off his chair at that dance when I stepped into the circle. So we became somewhat volatile and mismatched sweethearts. My first real boyfriend. It lasted off and on and mostly on until I graduated and moved away. We’re still friends, still talk, he still calls to wish me happy birthday.
We were supposed to be together for the time that we were, nothing more, nothing less. I know this because of the movie moments. They are unscripted, unplanned, and generally knock me off my feet. But they are strong indications that I’m on the right path, I’m where I’m supposed to be, I’m meeting someone important in my life. That’s the way I see it anyway. It’s the only thing that makes sense to me. And watching that movie tonight I would hope these would be the moments that would make it into my memorial film. If I was the cutter the Ronnie montage would be blips . . . him standing in front of Herbie’s pool hall sneaking a shy look at me, his grin when he saw me at the Chatham Exhibition, the shocked look on both our faces when I stepped through the crowd at the school dance, him shivering on a chair in my kitchen, us kissing in my dad’s car, us on my parent’s living room floor, us on the step with his car parked at the edge of my driveway the outline of someone sitting in the middle, me sobbing as loud and hard as I ever have into my pillow, us asleep on the couch, us walking in the rain and holding hands, us pulled over on the 401, me standing in the window watching him drive away on Foch with tears streaming down my face, us sitting on cots in the basement having a serious discussion, him and Gary standing at the front of the United church . . . the whole thing would take 15 seconds and the music background would be a few bars of Islands in the Stream.
Listening To: my jaw snapping
Hair: still ponied, forever ponied until I take the scissors to the mess