Tuesday, November 29, 2011

City To City

(A Younger Version of My Father, Cruising Around in Someone's Boat, Feeling Rich But Feeling Free, 199-)

Did I ever tell you how my folks met? I'm not sure, I probably talk about myself or movies too much, I'm really sorry about that.

Both my parents came from boats, they came to this country (Canada) on two separate boats, coming from two completely different places, and then their paths one day, one fateful day, met. And it wasn't just seeing some beautiful stranger on the street, or in a cafe, smoking and reading Catcher in the Rye or some Vonnegut book, or off the internet (which didn't exists at the time), it was something romantic, something that if there weren't two people in the world that can back it up it would sound like a work of fiction, something old people in their eighties or nineties say how they met. Well, it isn't, ok, this actually happened, and I'm not lying on this one either.
In 1970-something, downtown Toronto, in City Hall, on the iceskating ring the city prepares each and every year, open to the public, my dad was figure skating, graceful like a bumble bee glided over hard slick ice like it was air. It was night, the mood was just right, people sipping on hot chocolates, bundled up, keeping each other warm, it was colder then too, but my dad was out there in his dark red leotard and shiny black skates, Italian made, probably the most expensive thing he owned at the time. He was all but missing a headband, in the same dark red as his leotard, but he had long hair, smiled a lot, loving every minute of it, doing a 360 in the air over the fat kid who fell on his face. Somewhere in all that mess of tourists and clumsy idiots a white swan, also in hi-end Italian made skates, pierces the crowd like shots fired in a riot, my dad, who wasn't my dad at the time caught sight of her, probably in mid air, floating back to earth like freaking angel, and saw her, long red hair, soft white skin, blue in the eyes, grooving along the ice in her own rhythm, in her own world. My dad probably thought that his moves would one day get him a girl, and that one day that girl would be his wife. He probably spent all the money he had on those hi-end Italian made skates, and probably someone, one his few white friends at the time told him, in Canada, that's how you get 'em, by skating. I was never told how my father came to learn and become so well at ice skating, let alone figure skating, I couldn't imagine it being that popular in China during his youth, all I know is he was a natural. A Natural.
My mother, who wasn't my mother at the time, caught glimpse of my father, she was watching his moves, he was moving for her, without ever looking over, confident like a stray bullet, curve after curve with that grinding of ice being shaved by perfectly sharp stainless steel blades here and there, to show off, points for style. Eventually he had gotten my mother so riled up she couldn't take it anymore, she wanted to know this man, this graceful asian man on ice. And so she went up to him, and started to skate beside, and they just moved with each other, in their own grooves, but in the same rhythm. All night long, or at least until City Hall ice ring closed back then.
I could imagine them doing this every night, at the same time, for weeks before actually dating, seeing each other outside, with non-bladed shoes on. They both had to know, without words, that they were meant to be. And they have been with each other ever since.
Now this part of my father not knowing English at the time is true too, at least he didn't know a lot of it. Which is probably why he just skated and communicated in that way. And with his moves, the only one that could understand those wordless words was my mother, who is very understanding. They would eventually date, and a few years later they would marry. How much English my father knew when that happen is still left a mystery, some say he never knew he was getting married, he wondered why this event just for him and his Irish girlfriend was happening outside of their anniversary. A priest spoke to him, telling him to repeat after him, and he tried his hardest to replicate those meaningless sounds as good as he could, and when the priest motioned to apply that ring around my mother's thursday finger he did exactly that, sealing a bond that which he may or may not have known he was sealing. Whether he knew mattered not, for they are still married, after over thirty-four years. And these days, when everyone is surrounded by divorce, dysfunctional families, whether you're in one or were in one, close to one, had friends, or an uncle, that bond is cheaper than some hollywood version of what love is, it appears beautiful, wonderful, amazing, everything at first, and for a while, but the movie ends, ends before things could get bad, and if you think about it, why do so many Hollywood romance movies end with marriage, like there is any reinsurance on that shit, happily ever after, like a skipping stone, or the ending of Inception. Is it all in our minds, no, there are some things that stay together, that are tales of true romance, and it is real, it is possible to love someone forever, but you're going to probably hate them, possibly imagine killing them but never doing it of course, just curious, and you will find love again, in them, and things will be good for a while, and just like your life before marriage, it was up and down, but this time you have someone, which makes it harder, easier, harder, ahh-idontknow-anymore...,better, worst, like a square wheel rolling down the road, the sky is clear, animated birds are singing, the sun is whistling, and everything is good, until that pointy edge of the wheel meets the ground, the weight on both of your shoulders hits you, and some of the load is displaced, your wife is covered in oil, your husband in covered in manure, then the point passes, the threshold is over, and you're back to the planes, and you suddenly appreciate when shit isn't crazy, when you're not yelling at each other, ASK FOR DIRECTIONS, I KNOW WHAT I'M DOING, YOU'RE DRIVING THE WRONG DIRECTION THERE ARE CARS COMING AT US!, YOU FORGOT TO PICK UP THE KIDS, THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE! When you aren't using all caps in your voice, when you're able to stand each other, when the sting is gone, when it is easier. When it is easer, ahhhh (relaxed, deep exhale, ahhh, the opposite of a sigh). Easier.


Anonymous said...

you're dad can't skate

BrendanGeorge said...

says smelly anonymous. believe me, he can, and he does, he's well into his sixties and does circles around people a 1/3 his age. I shit you not, anon. I shit you not.

Melissa Jean Clark said...

This is SO lovely, Brendan.

I love hearing stories of how people met. Always seems like it was more exciting back in the day.