Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Completely Normal Encounter with Antibiotics

“I’m going to be unconscious for this right?” I wring my hands and try not to tense my jaw too much. The blue chair that I’m lying in is the only colour in the white room.

“Well, you’ll be mildly sedated” says the nurse smiling. The surgeon walks in, Seattle coffee cup in hand. He greets the nurses and quickly acknowledges me.

“No, listen, I want to be OUT.” I start to shake as she moves the needle closer to my arm.

“Just count backwards from forty.” She calmly inserts the needle in to the crux of my elbow as
another nurse puts the laughing gas mask on. I make it to twenty before everything goes black.

* * *

I wake up in a thin bed on my side. I can feel thick cotton balls in my cheeks and my mouth tastes like dried blood. I can feel large holes in the back of my gums where my wisdom teeth
used to be.

I’ve seen friends come out of wisdom teeth surgery high as a kite. I’m surprised at how normal I feel. No dancing faries, no nothing. I dizzily start to stand up as the nurse comes over.

“You can’t get up until your mom gets here,” says the blonde nurse matter-of-factly.

“I’m 20 years old. I’ll sit up if I want to,” I shoot back through the cotton balls in my mouth.

“Lie down until your mother gets here, you can barely stand.”

“Whatever.” The second my numb face hits the pillow my mother walks into the room. “Can I sit up nooow?” I say tauntingly. The nurse ignores my comment.

“Alright Mrs. Goyan, here’s Stacey’s prescription for antibiotics and Tylenol 3, she can take these…”

“WHAT?!” I shout at the nurse, unaware that people are also sleeping in the rooms beside me.

“Antibiotics?!! Are you fucking kidding me?!”

“What’s the matter,” says my mom, shocked that her polite and mild-mannered daughter is yelling in public.

“I can’t drink on antibiotics!” I shout, reminding myself of the three weeks I have just spent on antibiotics due to tonsillitis. “I just finished my exams! I’ve worked hard and I want to go out!

I’m not fucking taking those!!” I start flinging my arms in ridiculous directions.

“You will if you don’t want an infection,” retorts the nurse.

Before I can respond with more colourful language, my mother covers my mouth, takes the prescriptions and sends the nurse away.

* * *

My feet feel like bricks as I walk into Shoppers pharmacy. I start touching strange things in the aisles. My mother finally grabs me before I laughingly start playing with a box of Vagisil.

“Hi there,” says my mother to the young pharmacist, “the oral surgeon said they called over the prescription. I’m here to pick it up.”

I start to think about all of my friends going out drinking without me. I think about the three weeks that I haven’t had a social life because of assignments and exams. I think about the four months before that I spent dealing with mono. I slam my fist down on the pharmacy counter, alarming the technician in front of me.

“This is bullshit. Do I really need to take these pills?”

“Well if you don’t then you risk the wound sites becoming gangrenous, which could kill you,” says the pharmacist.

“But I want to go out! I don’t want to not drink for two weeks! I want a life again!” My tearful sobs sound like a spoiled five year old, mad that I can’t go play with my friends. The only thing that could have mad it worse is foot stomping.

“You can drink alcohol on antibiotics, there are just certain pills that they recommend you don’t.”


“Yeah, some just make you nauseous. Although, from the looks of it, you won’t want to go out anytime soon. Once the anesthetic wears off, you’re not going to be feeling…”

“Wooohooo!!” I shout as I gleefully run out of the store.

The pharmacist rushes to get my mother the pills. “What’s the matter with her?” he asks blankly.

My mom quickly shrugs as she grabs the pills. “Apparently she really needs to go party.” She quickly runs after me, chasing her high adult daughter down the snowy street.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Discussions with God

Dear God, if she’s going to die, don’t let her suffer.

I know we haven’t talked in awhile. I can’t even remember how to anymore. When I think of you, I think of protestors who think piety means politics. I think of school teachers telling me what God wants me to do. I don’t think of these talks. I really should.

The hospital reeks of failing flesh. The room looks like it was meant for two but we’ve cramped it with ten family members. Uncle John left Randi at home. Death is too much for a seven year old. My fifteen and twelve year old cousins make nervous jokes in the adjoining room.

I haven’t seen this woman before. I thought I was coming to watch my Nonna die but she’s been replaced. Some nurse replaced her with a sickly mannequin. Her sallow yellow skin sucks into her face, making her once smiling cheeks cavernous.

There she is, God. She’s closer to you than she’s ever been. Her liver has given up and her food has no where to go. Cancer won. Thanks a lot.

What good did her hours of prayer do for her? She talked to you constantly about everything. No matter what went wrong with my life, she said you had a meaning for it. She didn’t lie to me, you did.

I feel sedated. I try to make my fuzzy thoughts focus on something living. A nurse talks to my dad and uncle about pulling the plug. I cover my ears with my hands and sob quietly into my lap.

You could stop this if you wanted to. You could make it all go away. C’mon, if you’re so fucking great, give me a miracle right now! Let her talk. Let me hear her voice one more time. I don’t care if she tells me to go to hell, just let her talk.

I haven’t heard her speak in a week. I remember going over to her house at lunch and eating delivered KFC in her open living room. “Oooh, don’t you look beauty-ful today buhlah.” She sat in the same chair. The TV was usually on a spiritual program or a children’s show to appease my brother and I.

She spends most of her time resting. I imagine there isn’t much to do in hospice. My mother would know better. She works on the next floor. Despite my parents’ divorce, she came to say goodbye to her mother-in-law. My Uncle John and Auntie Gail try to hide their sniffles, but my cousins don’t really know what’s happening. My brother tries to be tough, but I know he can’t handle this either. I’ve had more time with her. She always favoured her first.

My dad hasn’t cried yet. He looks around the room anxiously as though he has somewhere else to be. He hugs her like a bar buddy and then pats her hands. “My favourite son,” she said to the doctor last week. I like to think she was being sarcastic.

My mother taps on my shoulder. “Go say goodbye to Nonna.”

I wonder if she’s had enough time to say goodbye. A priest came a week ago to deliver her last rites. Do those things have an expiration date? A week feels like a long time for God to remember his blessings. Maybe someone takes notes. Maybe he forgets.

Okay, I take it back. I was a bit harsh on that last one. I’m not ready yet. Two weeks ago she was fine. Now… cancer? A little notice would have been nice. Did you give her notice?

I’m kneeling beside her now. Her formerly bright and welcoming eyes peek out as slits. She’s refusing water, leaving her mouth dry and parched. I just want her to say anything.

I want to kiss her but her skin scares me now. Holding her hand could make the sky change colour but now I flinch. I give her a half hearted kiss.

Tell me what she’s thinking. Will she miss me? Will she be too happy to see Nonno that she’ll forget me? Does she hate me for not calling her back? You can have her tomorrow. Today she’s mine.

She groans as I put my hand on her face. She blinks fast and then closes her eyes. I say goodbye. I’m the last one.

Promise me you’ll love her more.

The nurse checks with my father and uncle whether it’s okay now to pull the plug. Her eyes close, she’s resolved. The nurse turns off the machine. We watch her take her last breaths. They get softer. Quieter.

The beeping stops. The nurse checks her pulse. I wonder if my prayers were heard.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Assignment


I went into the kitchen. My mother was wearing her scrubs and taking things out of our Kenmore refrigerator. She passed me an empty jug of milk to put on the table.

“Honey, can you go downstairs and tell your father that I need a ride to the store. We have no food in the house.”

An assignment! “Okay mommy.” I proudly marched downstairs to deliver the message to my father.

My dad sat cross-legged in our rec room. Homemade shelves of vinyl records covered the left and right walls. A record player hung on the front wall and amplifiers sat on the back wall. Hesitating, I approached my father.

“Dad… Mommy wants you to take her to the store.” I kept my eyes fixed on the floor. I didn’t like asking him for things, even if it wasn’t for me.

My father’s eyes stayed fixed on the strings of his old Les Paul. The way he sat made his large stomach form a bubble. His chubby fingers formed the chords.

“Tell her no, I’m busy.”

I trekked up the stairs into the kitchen. My mother stirred a pot of boiling Kraft Dinner noodles.
“Mommy, Dad says no, he’s busy.”

I could see my mother’s brows furrow. She turned around and placed her palms flat on the kitchen counter. Her head hung lifelessly.

“You tell him that feeding his family is more important than his stupid toys. And I need a ride to work.” She kept her back to me and continued to stir the boiling noodles.

I began to lose the thrill of my assignment. I made my way down the stairs and knocked on the door, which was now closed. I could hear Black Sabbath playing on the old record player.

“Dad.” I said to the bone painted door.

No response.



My father’s yell was perfectly terrifying. I had heard it too many times. Sometimes when we didn’t eat the cream of corn he made us. Other times when my brother and I play fought. My father’s yell taught me to hide, to go to my room and wait it out. Eventually my mother would come home and I would feel safe again.

“M-m-mom says she needs a ride to work and the store is more important.”

“Tell your mother she can go fuck herself.”

My eight year old heart stopped. My dad could get mad, but I didn’t remember him swearing before. What if he was mad at me? I ran up the stairs to my mother.

“Mommy?” I said, choking on the words. “Dad said…”

My mother turned away from the stove and put her hand to her forehead.

“Stacey, go outside.” she said calmly. Without hesitation I escaped through our screen back door. Our cairn terrier, Meghan, followed me.

The thin screen door did nothing to conceal the argument.

“What do you want me to do?” yelled my mom, “take a cab to work because you’re too lazy to drive me? That’s the husband I have: a stupid lazy good-for-nothing…”

“Well I’m not going anywhere when you’re calling me every name in the goddamn book. You’re so fucking smart, figure out your own way to get to work.”

“The kids need food! You won’t even take me to work so that the kids can eat. That’s how much you care about your children.”

“You know what?!...”

Meghan followed me to the concrete slab that sat against our aluminum shed. The shed was no more than seven feet away from the house, but it was far enough. I sat with my back to the brown aluminum, letting Meghan curl up at my feet.

“That’s it! You’re outta here. If you come back home tonight, I’m calling the cops!” As soon as my mother finished yelling, my father stormed out through the front door. I heard the ignition of our grey ’92 Cavalier fire up and then squeal out of our narrow driveway.

I patted Megan’s grey coat. She jumped up on the concrete slab and lay down beside me.

Why did mommy have to go to the store so badly? Couldn’t she just wait?

I could hear the faucet turn on in the kitchen. I heard the boiling water drain into the sink and the refrigerator door open and close.

I thought about my parents. She should have just stopped bugging Dad, then he wouldn’t have gotten mad. I could remember when my father had been so angry that he put his fist through the microwave door. I tried my best to be quiet and not bother him.

The August afternoon warmth kept me outside for another half an hour. My mother came looking for me. She sat beside me and pulled me in close.

“You’re still out here, Stace? You okay?” Her face was flushed and her eyes looked tired.

My throat cracked. I wanted to be a big girl and not cry, but the tears refused to listen.

“Your dad will probably come back tonight,” she said, stroking my long brown hair. “He’s going to be angry. You and Shaun have to stay in your room, okay?” I nodded in agreement.

I couldn’t remember seeing my mother so tired. Her face looked older and her hands fidgeted. Her eyes stayed fixed on our brown brick house.

Without a word she took my hand and led me inside. She did not look down at me. Her grip on my hand tightened as she led me to a chair beside my brother. We ate the half-hour old Kraft dinner. We waited…

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Just Write It

Just write it, she said.

I knew she was right. Why can't I just hammer on the keyboard and get this thing out? I can crank out an article like a machine. Why does this stupid non-fiction piece seem so hard?

The class had just ended and I drudged back to my car. The effects of the rain were evident on the soaked bottoms of my jeans. Lovely, I thought to myself. Once in my car, I dropped my forehead on the steering wheel. I closed my eyes and breathed. That went... okay, I told myself. I expected something else. Walking to the podium, I had prepared myself for a just-don't-go-there response. Instead, I got a lets-see-how-this-goes response. I drove home and fixated on it all night.

Last week, I thought up a great blog entry. I wrote it out and gleefully relived the experience. As I re-read it proudly, those damn words caught me again.

So what?

The more I thought about the blog post, the more I fixated on my "so what." Maybe I didn't handle that very well. Maybe he resented my "so what."

I talked to Susan Goldberg. I needed approval, and I refused to move forward without it. I anxiously approached her podium and laid it out. I told her I didn’t know how to write about a person who is gay without risking being offensive; without becoming a villain for my “so what.”

“Just write it,” she said. "Sometimes it's better to make take these risks." She suggested I write about this—the struggle to write this post. I deleted my old draft and started new, but the puzzle was missing something. Still, I couldn’t let myself write.

Some people don't like talking about sexuality. I think people fear confronting it because they don’t know how to respond. To talk about who people sleep with and love is to risk saying something intrinsically offensive. People think it’s safer to “not go there.” I know what it's like to hate these thoughts, and sympathize with them at the same time.

Despite this, I know my experiences are my own. I am a straight white woman given almost all the privilege in the world. I don’t understand how it feels to be gay. I am just me. I can only be honest with my own feelings.

Eighteen year old versions of Matt and I sat in his red Jeep outside of the Fat Cats on Red River that night. The yellow light from the signage flooded his car, dying both of our faces like the Simpsons. He was looking away from me, holding back. I could tell he was concealing something. I didn't want to pry. I guess he'd tell me if he felt like it.

"Stace, I need to talk to you about something.”

Finally, I think to myself. “What is it?”

He locks his eyes on the ground and murmured. “I'm... that thing."

"What thing?"

"You know, uhh… that thing," he mumbled and shifted his feet a little. “Ummm, I, uh, play for the other team…”

To this day, Matt still won't say the word "gay." In fact, he won't say penis, vagina, or anything sexual unless in a medical context. I tease him for this constantly, and he readily admits to his own prudishness.

I look up at him. I say the first thing that comes to mind.

“So what?”

Oh. My. God! Did I honestly say that?! My inner voice shrieks at me. My chest swelled with anxiety and my throat closed. Instantly, I moved onto the defensive.

“I didn’t meant that. Well, I did, but not the way you think…” Verbal diarrhea poured out as I scrambled to explain myself.

“You really don’t care?” he questioningly responded.

I didn’t know the right thing to say. I tried to determine what he expected. Did he want me to jump up and cheer? Be shocked? Appalled? Confused? I didn’t know. All I could give him was honesty.

“No, I don’t care. It’s great, but you’re still Matt. You’re my best friend, this doesn’t change anything”

When we drove home that night, the pink elephant was gone. We talked about how he felt about it and what his fears were. I liked letting him talk. It opened the door to greater honesty; to an unspoken bond between the two of us that still keeps us strong.

Still, the “so what” haunted me. I will likely never know what Matt felt like, as it’s simply assumed that I’m straight. The term for this is heteronormativity- the idea that the "norm" is straight. This didn’t bother me as much as the idea that I may never know how it would feel to hear “so what.”

This post choked my creative mind. I let the document sit open for days. A few days ago, I got a call from Matt.

"Hey Matalina!" I sing into the phone.

"Stacey, my love, how are you?" he said, as his cool baritone voice flooded my Blackberry.

This was my chance. I let some small talk pass and eventually I dove in: "Matt, were you happy with how I responded when you came out?" I held my breath until he replied.

"Pleasantly surprised," he said flatly. "You were definitely one of the good ones."

Phew!! I breathed in and out. "Really? You weren't off put by my 'so what?'" I prepare to explain myself, but Matt cut me off.

"No, I knew what you meant,” I hear him smiling through the phone “You know, I’m not the person I was a year ago,” he tells me. “I know who I am and I love it. If people don’t like that, then screw them.”

I hung up the phone and went to my lap top. My fingers moved faster and my heart beat slower. I stole his confidence to write this. Just write it, I said to myself.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

No Election as of Yet: Harper finds his "socialist" side

A coalition government but not necessarily a coalition.

Bloc support for Tories to avert election call (CBC NEWS)

PM has new love for 'socialists': Ignatieff (CBC NEWS)

The Canadian political scene reminds me of a disfunctional family. You have the arogrant self centered father-- the Conservatives. Heterosexist and set in his ways, the party calls for tradition and family values, specifically if he can control that family. The loud nagging mother, the Liberal party, is always saying "what about." What about women? What about aboriginal people? What about disabled people? What about multiculturalism? She's always onto the next project, not quite leaving anything completely finished. Sometimes her "what abouts" are really just gestures without any action to back them up.

The NDP and the Bloc would be the two children who take sides whenever they can get the most out it. I can image Layton and Duceppe giggling over their toys. "But mommy promised me increased rights for the marginalized!!" "But Daddy said that we could deregulate the economy!!" The kids are always the smart ones because they capitalize no matter how things go. The voters however don't.

Imagine that this political family lives in a house they do not own. This house is called Canada. Sometimes the family runs up the hydro too much, leaving the people who own the home (Canadians) to foot the bill. It is pretty understandable the the homeowners would be a little peeved with the family. Sometimes they make too many changes to the house. Maybe the homeowners aren't exactly ready for those changes. Sometimes change takes time.

When the mother and father fight, it can get a little violent. The father calls the mother something mean and the mother throws a plate at the father. It happens, right? Well the neighbours hear those words (which don't make the family look too good) and the plate hits a wall (which means new paint). In the end, the homeowner always ends up paying.

So who pays for the election? Harper could. He could lose his job, and that would suck for him. Ignatieff could if Canadians get too annoyed with elections. But do Canadians lose?

I'm not going to lie to you, I'm a pretty solid Liberal. I know they aren't perfect, but at least I get to marry whoever I want and I can keep universal health care. I think it's the way I grew up. I always sided with my mom over my dad.

I think everyone can think of a time when their parents said one thing and did the other. Well, I think I could handle a nagging mom versus a two-faced dad. Don't tell me one minute that the NDP are villianous socialists and affliation with them is like signing over your soul. If that's the case, I hope they find you a cool place in hell.

Ignatieff gets props in my book for standing on his own. This time around, good ol' Mikey is saying "We can take them all on our own." All the same, the NDP and the Bloc are like hangers on. They stick around while the getting is good and then they're off to their next meal ticket. I don't blame them but I don't much like them for it. Think of them as those adult children who hang around in their parents basement long after they should have left the nest.

So what do you think: Is it a wasteful election? Do the Bloc and the NDP deserve more credit? In the end, it doesn't matter if you disagree with me. Whether or not you are thinking about it is what really matters.