Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Saturday, 26 July 2014


One night while my friend Lizzie was sleeping, a bookshelf fell on top of her, and she died. The bookshelf hung on top of her bed. When it fell down, Lizzie couldn’t breathe and she couldn’t escape. 

A few months after Lizzie died, her sister came over to my last shitty apartment in Montreal.  She brought a book and a lamp and a photo.  The lamp was blue and was given to Lizzie by the people with intellectual disabilities that Lizzie once worked with in France.  Lizzie used to work for people with disabilities until arthritis attacked the joints in her spine and she got a disability too.  Sometimes I worry about this happening to me. Like the lamp, the book Lizzie’s sister brought is also blue.  I’d lent it to Lizzie for some English course she had to take. Volume I of the Norton Anthology of English Literature.  From Beowulf to King Lear to Gulliver’s Travels. It stopped before “A Vindication of Rights for Women.”  They started vindicating women’s rights in the next volume.  The book was pretty heavy.  I hope it wasn’t one of the books that fell on her.  I wouldn’t be able to bear it.

In the photo, you can see that Lizzie is wearing a light turquoise button-up shirt with a collar.  She has pink cheeks and brown eyes.  Her eyes are just a little bit bigger than eyes you might call bird-like.  Lizzie used to complain about her nose being too big.  I guess it is a little big in proportion to the rest of her face.  You can’t see it in the picture, but at the back of her head, I know that her hair is scuffed and falling out from the friction between her head and her wheelchair.  You can’t see her wheelchair either. Sometimes Lizzie could stand up by holding onto her wheelchair or her walker.  Or a table, or a bookshelf. 

Maybe Lizzie is happy in the picture – I think they took it on her fiftieth birthday party. But to me, she looks worried and kind of uncomfortable.  Sometimes that happens when people smile with their teeth and the photographer takes too long to take the picture.

The professor that Lizzie and I had during our second year at Concordia was adamant that we shouldn’t write about what we knew or else we’d be in trouble.  He made Lizzie cry once.  She’d written a story about a little girl who’d found her grandmother’s vibrator and her mother, the grandma’s daughter-in-law, felt awkward.  The story wasn’t terrible, but it read as though it had been written by someone who didn’t own a vibrator.  A little inhibited.  But Professor Fraser Richman attacked Lizzie who sat in her wheelchair at the back of the class full of twenty year olds, and Lizzie cried.

“Where do you want to go with your writing?  Is it just an outlet to express your feelings?”  asked Professor Fraser Richman. Lizzie’s eyes fluttered and she didn’t know what to say.  She was a pretty inhibited person.  In class, Professor Fraser Richman used to make us play games to help us to know our characters.  One of them was called “If you were a fruit, what would be?”  We’d go around the table and make up questions like “if you were a drink,” “if you were a car,” “if you were a kitchen appliance... what wouldya be?”  And everyone would have to answer for their character.  A martini, A coke, Earl Grey Tea.  A Volvo, a taxi, a Mercedes.  A toaster, a microwave oven, a hand blender.  The Magic Bullet.  Lizzie could never come up with anything.

“Gee,” she’d say, her eyes blinking rapidly, her cheeks and forehead blotching red. She’d push her glasses up her nose.  “A car?  Gee, I don’t know.  You’ll have to come back to me. Sorry.”  My knees hurt whenever I watched her.  Just say something, I thought, it doesn’t matter. I always sat in class with my legs coerced around the arms of my chair, frozen into an excruciating lotus position.  If you were a tree, a country, a dessert…  What would you be?   Lizzie never knew.

“Think too much and you’ll be in trouble,” Professor Fraser Richman warned us.  We were doomed before we even started.  When Professor Fraser Richman stacks up all his published novels, they stand taller than he does.  The summer after our class ended, I set out to read the complete works of Fraser Richman.  I got bored after the first chapter of – I don’t remember what the book was called.  The trouble with stacks of books is that they can topple over and kill you.  3-2-1, and you’re dead.  The suckers and the fuckers.  Professor Fraser Richman used to warn us about swearing in our stories.  We risked drawing too much attention to ourselves.  The writer is supposed to be silent, yet brilliant.  Like God.  He also said that writing about dreams (you know, the kind you have when you’re sleeping), though they may strike the right chord, was somewhat of a copout since real writers succeeded at weaving the subconscious into the narrative inexplicitly.  Well, shit fuck Jesus Christ, I think I’m in trouble.

I Cop Out
by E. J. Bodhisattva
A few nights ago, I had a dream that I was in a movie about Lizzie.  The woman cast as Lizzie was tall and thin with dark red nail polish and shiny, perfectly smooth straightened black hair that went down to the middle of her back.  Together we rode up the elevator to where the filming would take place.  When the doors opened on the sixth floor, Lizzie walked in.

“Lizzie,” I said.  “You’re here.”

“I think I fit the part better.”  She wasn’t wearing her glasses.  I told the shiny black haired actress that we wouldn’t be needing her anymore.  She got off the elevator on the ninth floor.  Lizzie and I rode to the top.  Lizzie wore a pink blazer.  Her face was less blotchy than usual and her small brown eyes which normally darted back and forth, remained still.
“You’re here,” I said again.

“Yes,” she replied, her voice unwavering and wise.  On the top floor, there was a beach of red sand like in Prince Edward Island.  A little girl was playing in the sand with a bright red vibrator.  I knew that it belonged to her grandmother.
“My grandma’s dead,” the little girl said, pointing to the ocean.  Upon the waves, an old sinewy silver-haired woman lay on a lime green surf board paddling with her arms.  “That’s her.  She’s dead.”

“Me too, I am dead,” Lizzie replied.  Further up the sand dunes, a man in a navy blue Speedo sold blueberries under a yellow tent.  In each corner of the tent there was a video camera.  Beside the tent stood an empty motorized wheelchair.

“I’m hungry,” said the little girl.

“I’m dead,” said Lizzie.

I took the vibrator from the little girl and led her by the hand to the blueberry stand. Lizzie followed us.  As the little girl and I examined the cartons of fruit, Lizzie sat down in the wheelchair.

“It will be sandy,” the little girl exclaimed.  I tasted a blueberry.  It tasted blue and juicy, but it was neither sweet nor sour.

“I hate water,” the little girl declared.  I bought a pint of blueberries and turned around to walk back to the ocean.  Lizzie was already ten metres ahead of us.  She drove the wheelchair over the sand and all the way into the water, until she disappeared underneath the surfing dead grandmother. 

“I hate the water,” the little girl repeated.  “I’m not going swimming.”  I slid through the sand without lifting my feet.  “I wanna go home,” the little girl whined.  She grabbed the vibrator from my hand, ran to the edge of the water and threw it out to sea.  It landed just beyond her surfing dead grandmother.  By the time the little girl came back, an elevator had risen from the sand. “I like elevators,” she said. We entered and descended.

The End.

This is the lamp.
The other day when the sun came up, I yanked it out of the wall and sparks flew.
The Boatman said that we can probably repair it, although we are typically quite terrible of dealing with that sort of thing.

Follow the Boatman on TUMBLR:, and feel free to share his drawings.

The Boatman came back from art camp where he helped the worms draw deeper lines into the clay sand.

Actually, they are miniature shrimp.
I like to say that at art camp, the Boatman got an infection from the worms. But the infection didn't come from the worms. It didn't come from the miniature shrimp either. The infection is going away. The Boatman will be fine. 


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