Calgary 1980. A time when anything could happen but nothing ever did. There was a store, and one store only, that stocked N.M.E. (New Musical Express) which I presume had traveled by boat from England. I would devour them, six months old by the time they arrived, but still fresh to me.
When the aliens came down to Earth, they immediately understood everything; How motors worked, how matter grew and eroded, the death of the ‘verandah.’ The only thing that puzzled them that day and night was, “Why is there laugh tracks on TV?” It couldn’t compute. Made their gadgets go ga – ga. It’s hard to explain laugh tracks to aliens. It’s so true it should be a cliché. But I digress which is something an alien never does. The only other thing the aliens didn’t understand is, Why were there so many lonely people? Why didn’t they simply ‘pair up’? Simply ‘get together’? They said they could understand one lonely person, like at a dance, hands folded, toe tapping, wanting to dance but smiling bravely at the rest, saying, “I’m fine. I’m not lonely I like to stand here alone… you guys go have fun. Go have children and holidays and warm backs to cuddle. I’m fine standing here.” The aliens understood one lonely human. But not an army of soups for one in the grocery check out. Not an army of ones renting ‘Failure to Launch’ or some other dull piece of shit every Friday at the video store. Sleeping alone in a ten year old shirt. Not an army of one’s brushing their hair for no one. The candleless birthdays. Those trying to keep practiced in love with a bird, or a dog, or by simply ‘remembering’. A million lights quietly shutting off. The aliens were almost deafened by the sound of pages being turned in the books read by the lonely. The aliens were almost deafened by the sounds of all those waking up to just a clock radio. “Why don’t they just get together?” asked the aliens. I just couldn’t explain it to them. “Don’t tell anyone we were here” Who do I have to tell? After they left I solved the mystery. The laugh track is for me. The laugh track is to remind us: We are not alone. Not in the universe but in this and every other city.
I live a life of quiet dignity. Which is to say I live alone, and unfucked. But, like most of you I’m sure, I’m as complicated as it comes. At night when I can’t sleep, I make lists in my head. “Number one, make a list Check mark. That was easy.” It’s like I’ve already succeeded! I find it numbs me to sleep on those nights I need numbing to sleep. Did I mention the unfucked thing? Other times I lie there and I think of practical jokes I might play on my cat. Wouldn’t Mr. Noodle be surprised if his bowl was on the top step?
Every morning I go into Starbucks. I move past the pretty half-shirt girls ordering complicated coffee drinks. I order tea. I’m already an outsider. I like to keep my interactions to a minimum. If I ordered a fancy coffee, everyone would look when they called out my name.
“Chandra! Neven! Marzipan!”… I hate drawing attention to myself. I pee at home. I can’t stand having to ask for the bathroom key. Why is the bathroom key dangling off that degrading length of wood anyway? Why would that piece of wood need to be so long? Are they contemplating some trouble in there? An ambush? Hoowah! Is it some kind of exclusive club? Hardly. Because I know, as we speak, a homeless guy is in there rotating his clothes.
I order tea. But at night, I imagine if I ordered a fancy coffee, what my Starbucks name would be. Corrindifer. Corrindifer breaks hearts with a glance. Her cat is not named, Mr. Noodle, her cat is named “Cocaine,” and not because he’s white in color, but because she actually does cocaine off of him. Corrindifer doesn’t wear panties, because she left them in some guys glove compartment. Corrindifer says things like, “Listen, are you going to suck my tits all night, or are you going to fuck me?” Honestly, I’m not sexy and I know it. I don’t really have one of those bodies. If a bit of my stomach does show, someone says “You might want to do something about that.”
But today I walked into Starbucks, and I was wearing, as fate would have it, my little sister’s jeans. Er, actually, she’s my older sister, she just seems younger because of all ‘the mistakes’. The jeans were a bit tight, they lifted and separated. They re-organized things and then brought them back together in the most kick ass way, I walked in and realized everyone was staring at me. Men looked up from the screenplays they were writing, and you know REALLY took a good long look. I must also say, and we don’t have time for this, but I have a very complicated relationship with my hair. And for reasons that are too long and technical to explain, it was the perfect combination of dirty, windswept, and spit-laden, that made it, dare I say “perfect”. I stood there the centre of attention being devoured by all those onlookers!
And I realized – I was the best looking girl in Starbucks today! When I got up to the counter – I ordered a drink of just foam. They wrote “Corrindifer” on the cup…