Thursday, February 22, 2007

How can you say I go about things the wrong way

I reach into the freezer and withdraw a jar of coriander, which I had frozen for future use. I open the jar and to my astonishment see that the process of freezing has made the coriander into a smooth paste. This is obviously a dream, as just yesterday, the jar I had put in the freezer would not open. I proceed to add a spoonful of coriander paste to some dish I am cooking, maybe its lamb curry?

I am then sitting with my sister and my boyfriend at the dining table in my apartment. Except it more closely resembles the apartment that I had resided in University because of the formation of the furniture. I hear a key turning the lock on my door. I have a moment of panic. I have a vision which shows me the other side of the door and I see my parents. I have an initial urge to run and clear the place of all items that would bother my parents i.e. alcohol, drugs and pork. I resist this urge and remain seated. My parent’s barge in to the apartment and at that instant I look over at my boyfriend and he is now wearing a lavender sari.

The detail of the sari comes to me later when I am showering. It is a beautiful sari with delicate embroidery work of paisleys in pale purple sequins. I recall a photograph from our family album, which shows my mother wearing said sari in 1978, on a trip to Niagara Falls which we had taken. In the photograph my mother looking impossibly young, she is holding me at the age of one, with the tail of her sari fluttering to the side. Her hair is parted down the middle, with her plait of braided hair falling just below her hips. In the background is a white man, with a thick moustache and a mullet, wearing short red shorts and a tank-top in the fashion of the late seventies. The contrast between my mother and the trailer park trash in the background makes the picture stand out in my memory. And, now when I recall the dream, an image of the photograph passes through my head, as if it were part of the dream. Dreams become so malleable after the fact, so unreliable in terms of authenticity.

The dream now becomes flashes of images. My parents are storming through my apartment. My mother picks up a bottle of rum and screams. My father sees a bag of weed and gives me that disapproving stare which is his trademark. I don’t recall them leaving the apartment, but they seem to have vanished. I did not make excuses regarding what they saw but I also did not declare that this is how I live. The dream then rewinds and gives me a flashback; like a Quentin Tarintino film. I see my parents coming up to my apartment, pushing a buggy that is loaded with groceries. They have decided that they will tolerate me living on my own and to show their acceptance they have bought groceries for me. Now it shows my mother talking to me with the buggy of groceries in-between us, and while she doesn’t open her mouth her thoughts come clear to me, “I could accept you living on your own, but I can’t accept your life-style”.

The dream is jarring. I wake up feeling drained and empty inside. I don’t want to get out of bed. I keep going back to sleep, saying to myself, I will rise the next time. I am partially allowed this indulgence as my boss is not in the office today and no one really watches what I do. I finally force myself out of bed at an entirely unacceptable hour and staring out the window I feel remnants of depression. I have the sensation that I am doing something wrong and there is a slight edge of panic. I feel like I did that year in University when I had my first nervous break-down. While I get dressed quickly just throwing on the first item I grab from my closet, I try to understand these feeling of despair I have. For, I haven’t felt like this in ages and these emotions are no longer applicable. I am not in school flunking out of all my classes with mounting debt and dwindling cash in my bank account. If anything, the situation is quite opposite, I have a cute apartment, a successful career and am earning more money than I have ever before. But, their does remain one constant, my parents, who seem incapable of understanding me.

I haven’t spoken to my mother for close to two months. Every day that goes by, which lengthens the silence between us, makes it seem more difficult to break the silence; like a dam solidified with cement every day we don’t communicate. When I first moved out, I would call her every other day. Then it became weekly and eventually bi-weekly. It would always be me calling and our conversation would not last more than two minutes. Our conversation would basically consist of me asking her how everything was, and she would ask me the same. She would then ask what I had to eat for dinner and then wish me a good-day, thereby ending the call. My sister revealed to me that my mother had told her to stop talking to me. My mother’s rationale was that if I felt cut-off from my family, I would feel compelled to return home. I shook my head in sadness when my sister told me this, as it indicated that she still didn’t understand. I also learned from my sister that my mother was outraged I had allowed my sister to have a party and sleepover with her friends at my place, as this broke rules of Muslim propriety.

“That’s so wrong, how could he have four girls sleep at his home,” my mother had supposedly declared.

“Don’t worry, Bhaijan would never do anything, their like his sisters,” my sister had said defending me.

“I know, I know, but what would others say?” my mother had purportedly asked.

“Which others are you talking about Ami? Who is watching what I do?”

After learning about this argument, that my mother knew about my aiding and abetting in a lie to help my sister, I didn’t want to speak to her. It would lead to an argument that would be unpleasant.

I feel the dream is fairly explicit in outlining the impasse that is my life in terms of my relationship with my family. I have gained independence from my parents and now have the freedom to live my life as I please. They will never understand the choices I have made. I always will pause and look away as a chord of sadness is plucked inside me, when me and my boyfriend talk hypothetically about getting married, discussing how we would have our wedding. For I know, that would be an event my parents would never attend. And, if by some miracle they did attend, I would not know how to behave, as I would be plagued with guilt at having to subject them to such an event. My life is on a path that is incomprehensible to them, a Friday sermon describing the evils of the West come to life.

On the way to work, I racked my head, trying to explain the feeling of depression that had infected me in the morning. I realized that I am not eating well. When I first moved out I made a concentrated effort to eat well and to save money by cooking as often as possible. For the last two weeks I have eaten strictly take-out, lots of deep fried foods, lots of saturated fats, and not a vegetable or fruit in sight. In fact, my diet is similar currently to how I ate that horrid year of University. I have definitely found that there is a relation between how I feel and how I eat. And, then I remember the start of the dream, I was cooking some sort of curry; my sub-conscious is giving me a nudge to clean up my diet.

After writing all this, I think I will call my mother tonight. She might have been mad at me before, but now she probably feels that I do not think about her, or can not bother to check up on her. I will make sure that I eat better, so I do not return to an unhealthy emotional state which should remain in the past. Still, I do not know the solution to my impasse, how do I include them in my life? How do I have a gay partner who I potentially might want to live with forever and conservative Muslim parents that believe “the gays” should be shot? This question has plagued me in one form or another since I was a tender young teen and now that I am approaching thirty and the answer is still elusive. Our respective visions of what life should be like are mutually exclusive – how the fuck do you reconcile that?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Twenty-Four Hours in Montreal

Last week I started a new position at the Big Evil Corporation and as a consequence had to fly out to Montreal for a day this week. I was quite excited at this prospect, thinking it was wonderfully fabulous that I was being flown to another city at my company’s expense, and that in-fact this would become the norm. This may be ordinary for many people already, but for me was an exciting novelty.

Upon arrival to Montreal, I had the following first impressions of the city: (1) it is much colder in Montreal than in Toronto, (2) all the cab drivers are Arab, (3) the general population is better dressed and more attractive. I immediately became self-conscious of my thick Anglo accent. While previously I had always felt French-accented individuals to sound comical, with their pluralizing of every word, I know felt that their English sounded pretty, like fluttering butterflies. My own English sounded like rough sand-paper and at any moment I felt like a mob of people would attack me for speaking the Queens English.

I check into the Hilton which is supposedly in the heart of their downtown. I wonder to myself where everybody is, as the streets seem deserted. I have an uninspired meal, with a Martini, which I savour a little more, as it will be complementary after I submit my expense report. I retire to my room and sit on the edge of the bed and miss my boyfriend. Hotel rooms are now forever tied to that period of our relationship, where that was the only place we could spend quality time. I pictured him standing at the window, with me trying to coax him to lie in bed with me.

It’s late and I am tired and I should get to bed for my early start tomorrow morning. However, this is my first time in Montreal and I have a hankering to visit their gay quarters. An internet search before leaving had indicated that Montreal boasted North America’s largest gay village. It was a Monday night though and quite cold, but still, against my better judgment I found myself donning my petticoat and Kangol fedora hat and telling a cab driver to take make to Rue St. Catherine and Rue Amherst.

A club that was supposed to be open on Monday nights appears dead. I walk for a few blocks and indeed it seems this gay village is never ending, the gay rainbow flag is ubiquitous and seems to constantly be fluttering in the far distance. I walk by a couple of boys who are shivering on a snow covered bench rolling a joint; I smile indulgently at them. I walk by a convenience store and see advertising for beer. I recall that they are civilized here and you can purchase alcohol anywhere.

I hear strains of bass spilling out from an establishment. I look at the posters covering the wall and while I can’t read French I discern that this is a male strip club. With no other entertainment options available, I enter the club. There are maybe only a dozen patrons at the establishment, the majority are young groups of two, who only seem to casually glance at the entertainment on stage, with a sprinkling of aged men, who all are flying solo attention squarely focused on “men-tertainment”. I walk up to the bar and see a fairly attractive man on stage with his back turned to the audience and his plump buttocks exposed. It seems that the men from a swim suite calendar have stepped out of their photographs and are milling around and dancing for my viewing pleasure. I order a Heineken and take a seat and take in the view. I suck in my gut, making a mental note that I will have to start going to the gym regularly. I assume from the current performance, that all I’m going to see is lots of ass tonight. The “dancing” only goes on for a song and the dancer saunters away and the DJ announces his name and a number. It appears that if you wish, you can get a more intimate dance, if you head to the back of the club. The next song begins and a male emerges from behind the curtains on-stage. My eyes bulge. His fly is undone and the belt buckle dangles, and out of his black underwear, a fully erect penis is thrusting out. It’s pink and unbelievably huge. It’s not real, keeps going through my head; it looks like a Muppet cock. When he lowers his underwear and I can clearly see that it is attached to his body, I am shocked and mesmerized. I feel I can look at nothing but his appendage, but I don’t want to stare, so I try to look away, but my eyes are instantly drawn back. I feel self-conscious. I have never before felt inadequate in terms of what I am packing. I have never left anyone disappointed and always see that my measurements are a pleasant surprise when unpacked for the first time. But, now seeing this anaconda, in front of me in the flesh, I feel I should be bigger.

The dancers appear in a pattern. The first dancer only exposes his ass. This is followed by a dancer who walks around at full-attention. Every once and awhile a dancer disappears in the back with an old man. Another aroused dancer appears on stage. He also makes me feel inadequate. However, he is quite attractive. His swagger indicates that he probably listens to hip-hop. He has a base-ball cap turned to the side. And he is just walking up and down on stage, as if he were on the street, except his cock is jutting out. My head is beginning to spin at the surreal nature of this place. The next song is “Killing Me Softly” by the Fugees and I feel that I am sitting through a climax of a Wes Anderson movie. I finish my beer, grab my jacket and leave.

I attend training in our Montreal office the next day. While walking around and especially when I got in the cab to return to the airport to fly back to Toronto, I had the feeling of being illiterate. Everything was in French, the advertising, road signs, menus, and I was unable to understand. I suddenly had an appreciation for what my Mother must have experienced when she first migrated to Canada. It’s almost as if you are blinded, being surrounded by hieroglyphics which you can’t comprehend. I have been to foreign countries before, like Pakistan and the Dominican, where I have been faced with a similar situation. This is different though, because in the other situations, I was in foreign countries, where I did not expect to understand. But, here in Montreal, looking out the window, at a city that at times closely resembled Toronto, it gave the impression of being in a parallel universe, one in which I could not read.

I recall a grade nine essay I had submitted, which was supposed to express our opinion on the new French law that mandated that all signs be in French and not English. I think my closing line read something to the effect of, “the people of Quebec should relax and not make such a big deal about signs.” Now, as an educated and informed adult, I now admire what the Quebec government did at the time. They had an understanding of how important language is in terms of being a gate keeper of culture. I have heard it expressed before, and I would agree myself, that Quebec is a slice of old-world Europe preserved in North America. I think this can be largely attributed to the language laws passed here.

I sit in a bar, in the departure gate, seeming to have entered a secret club; that of the business traveler who is en route to a destination. Everyone seems to be laughing and drinking gaily, striking up conversation with their neighbour randomly, exchanging flying horror stories. Black Berries are a must have as they are intermittently taken out and consulted in mid-sentence. I eat my meal in silence and take out my own Black Berry every once and awhile, to make evident that I also am a business traveler, even though I have no new emails to check.

I learn that my flight is delayed by half-hour. I calculate that I will now arrive home close to 11 p.m. Business travel doesn’t seem that glamorous anymore.