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January 28, 2016

Mitzi Bytes: An Outtake

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The good news is that I handed in my edits today for Mitzi Bytes 4.0. The even better news is that it’s a much stronger manuscript than it was two weeks ago. The most substantial changes involved removing three blog posts (her blog posts, which are from her archives, come after each chapter of the main narrative, which is set in the present day). I liked these blog posts, but agreed that they didn’t serve to enhance the main story enough, so I wrote new ones that really do. Which left me with these outtakes, and thank goodness for the internet, which means they won’t have to go to waste. This particular post I read at the Draft Reading Series in November, and it went over pretty well, I think. It’s situated in the years before my protagonist meets her husband and settles down, during a time in which her tumultuous love life served as excellent blog fodder.

**

So it’s over. Good news for those of you who’ve been leaving comments haranguing me for being nauseatingly in love for the past seven weeks, for even counting the weeks. But come on, post-divorce, conducting a relationship for this length of time feels like an achievement. It’s an actual relationship. Seven weeks, at most times of the year, is a period long enough to include a statutory holiday and/or religious celebration. I met his mom. We had a pregnancy scare. This is the closest I’d come to forever since my marriage went down in sad and pitiful flames. And I see now how the whole thing was really just an experiment in intimacy, but in the midst of it, I thought I was writing the conclusion to the “Troubled” chapter of my life. That all my problems were solved.

But here we are right back where we started. And once again, the problem was me, and my compulsion to overlook other problems that are glaringly obvious. Once again, I really thought we’d find a way to make it work if I were just flexible and accommodating enough. Surely every relationship brings challenges and a couple is stronger for working through these. I really can’t believe there is a single bride who hasn’t lain awake on her wedding night beside a sleeping body and pondered whether she has possibly made a mistake.

Getting involved with D was never going to be a straightforward process—he was upfront about that from the start. He had strong ties to his mother and his sisters, and there was the matter of the son, G. G had been the result of a teenage fling, and he and his ex had worked hard to raise their son together, co-parenting and freeing him of any baggage that might come about from being someone who was conceived in the back of a pickup truck after a few too many drinks.

It helped too that the boy’s mother’s parents were loaded, ensuring that G. was well-looked after while his parents pursued their career goals, and from age six had been enrolled at one of the city’s most prestigious private schools. There would be no pick-up trucks for this upstanding young fellow whose achievements and admirable qualities his father was fond of reciting: the honour roll, valedictorian, vegetarian, peace activist, feminist, cycling advocate, chemistry whiz, philosophy buff, champion swimmer, hockey superstar and he packed boxes at the food bank at Christmas.

Obviously, he sounded insufferable, which was the first time since we’d met that I had a thought I couldn’t share with D, and that was awful. But in a way, I also feel sorry for the kid, because it must be hard to be talked-up like you’re a demi-god when you’re actually a thirteen-year-old boy, which is an awkward kind of person to have to be.

I finally met him last week. To be honest, I could have waited. I was completely okay with pretending this messianic child didn’t actually exist, even in spite of evidence to the contrary: his immaculate bedroom, some photos, a poster on the fridge from the march he’d organized in protest of the Iraq invasion. But none of these things made him real, which was fine with me, because a 13-year-old boy just didn’t seem like a thing my life was particularly missing.

But then one evening, there he was. He’d come down to D’s place after school, so he was wearing his school blazer whose crest was a mess of lions and swords. And even though he was as tall as I am, he was so clearly a child dressed up as a man that I was reminded of those old cereal commercials, the small boy dressed up in a big jacket at a big desk. But the boy took himself very seriously, firmly shaking my hand, sizing me up. “I’ve been hearing a lot about you,” he told me, as though he were the adult and I were the child. “Pleased to finally make your acquaintance.”

He had a moustache. I couldn’t stop looking at it. The most ridiculous thing on his pimply face. Dark and wispy, the moustache was no accident, it was cultivated, and I was reminded of lamb’s wool, of softness and down. Of a boy who’s trying to look like he’s not trying. The effort of being natural. Perhaps I should have identified.

But no, because I was actually trying to avoid natural at all costs. That night, natural would have betrayed me. So I kept a neutral expression as we had our dinner and he explained the ethics of veganism, of how it connected to the pro-life movement, and how he could be both pro-life and feminist at once. He was reading us the world as though it were something that existed in a sacred book we’d never heard of, and you got the sense that he was accustomed to other people being in awe of him, hanging on every word he said. His father was no exception.

“Isn’t he terrific?” D kept asking me after we’d seen G down the elevator on his way back to his mother’s. “I told you, didn’t I? That’s no ordinary kid.”

I managed to keep my mouth shut until we were at his sister’s the following weekend. D’s sister M, I imagined, was a woman after my own heart, completely lacking in pretention. It had been her pick-up truck that G had been conceived in. She still had the truck, and drove it up and down dirt roads in a cloud of dust. She wasn’t afraid to call things as she saw them. She’d already told me she was wary of a fresh divorcee in her baby brother’s life, but I appreciated her honesty. I would have been wary too.

So my guard was down as we sat out together on her veranda at the end of a busy day. The whole extended family was up there celebrating the long weekend, and they’d roasted a pig on a spit. Her own children were now running around the lawn with sparklers. We were each at either end of the hanging swing, legs curled up beneath us, cold bottles of beer in our hands. I thought I was looking in a mirror.

“So I hear you met the kid,” she said. He hadn’t come up with us, electing instead to stay in the city for a hockey tournament. D’s sister took a sip of her beer. “The little shit,” she said.

I waited a minute before I responded. “He’s certainly accomplished,” I offered.

“So he told you, I’m sure,” she said.

“His dad’s pretty proud.”

“He’s hoping the pride will override the guilt about everything else. It’s a mess,” she said. “And there’s no discipline. It’s better now, but you should have seen him when he was little. He got away with everything. They think the sun shines out of that kid’s ass.”

She started telling me stories, and we were still talking when the sparklers were burnt out, the sun set, and our bottles were empty. And up until this point, I’d handled myself with the utmost decorum—an especially impressive performance from the likes of me.

But then it all went wrong. We were sharing our impressions of wispy-lipped, pimple-face G, with his pro-life justice and the burgeoning build of a hockey enforcer.

I leaned in close, my voice low. I was really more than a bit drunk, though it’s still no excuse because I was speaking the truth. “The kind of kid,” I said, “who you just know is going to grow up to be a rapist. It’s practically written right there on his greasy forehead.”

D’s sister was staring at me now with a strange expression. I said, “Right?”

“I mean, maybe it was the blazer, or his teeth—that kind of orthodontia is a huge investment.” I was feeling vicious. I hated that kid. He was awful. “Shiny hair, and he’s just so convinced of himself. He was talking about his school, and he said, ‘They’re teaching us to be the leaders of tomorrow.’ He thinks he’s entitled to the whole fucking world.” But this hadn’t clarified things. “A little rapist,” I delivered finally, futilely. This was going over like a tumbleweed, and any rapport between us on the swing had disintegrated. She stood up and went inside without another word, leaving me swinging there alone.

I should have just found my car and driven back to the city, but I really was drunk, far too drunk to have found my car, let alone drive it. So I stayed in the swing until D found me there, coming in from where collecting fireflies with his nieces. They came up to the porch carrying jam jars full of dying light, and he left his on the rail so he could gather me up into his arms, and carry me upstairs to the bed in his sister’s spare room where we made love beneath a patchwork quilt that had been stitched by his great grandmother.

His sister didn’t get up in the morning. “Too much party,” everybody was saying, and my own aching head was pounding in agreement. D and I left after breakfast in order to the beat the traffic, which we didn’t beat, and I was quite sure that it was over then, as we sat there on the highway. He still had his eyes on the horizon, but I knew that everything between us was about to rapidly run out of gas.

She must have called him that night. I was at home still nursing my hangover with a pan frozen home fries, a fried egg cracked on top of them.

He texted me. “Did you call G ‘a little rapist’?”

I texted him back. “I can explain.”

One more time: “I’m not sure you can,” he wrote me.

And that’s the last I ever heard from him.

2 thoughts on “Mitzi Bytes: An Outtake”

  1. Sarah says:

    Yay! How exciting to finally hear Mitzi’s voice! And how appropriate that the fictional blog posts should find a home here 🙂

  2. JC Sutcliffe says:

    Great to read this! Looking forward to the book.

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