Welcome To the Neighbourhood

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Photo in the box

It’s been six weeks since we’ve moved and Gurpreet refuses to unpack all of her boxes. We’ve got a room full of what she calls “not necessaries” in liquor store boxes. I was hoping to be rid of Captain Morgan and his buddy Silent Sam by now. I tell myself that she’s just insecure about moving away from her parents. Moving away from home.


I don’t like moving. I know this now. I don’t like the packing, the unpacking, the focus on how much useless stuff I actually have. I don’t like not having my sisters around. They’re off living their teenage years and I’m not there to tell them that they’re doing it all wrong. Riti is just getting in to boys and Mahi refuses to get way from her studies. They need someone to make sure they do the right thing—without the iron fist of my mother. If only they would be home when I stop by.


I understand the lack of desire to organize your belongings, but it’s over a month already and she can’t be moved in until she has at least half of her boxes. Perhaps this was a mistake for her. This was swift and unprepared.


I did start unpacking. Honest. I did two boxes before I stopped. The third box made me not want to continue, though. I know he wants me moved in, but I haven't even moved out yet. How can you move out when everything you called home isn't able to be packed up into boxes small enough to load into a van?


I was hoping we'd find a place to own by the end of the year. Perhaps that is the stall. She thinks we'll be moving again and doesn't want to get fully settled. Maybe I should give up the house hunting until she's comfortable being in a place of her own first.


Do you have any photos, Mark? No, I mean of when you were a child. Where are they? Do you ever wish you had a copy of any of the pictures? Like the one of you in your grandfather's cowboy boots and diapers. I don't know; to look at? To frame? To go through and remember the smell of your first bedroom?

Gurpreet, did you bring any photos from your childhood? Can I see it? You were a bit of a mess, weren't you? That was your backyard? Nice. They all turn into supermarkets, don't they?


It was my mother's box. I must have grabbed it accidentally from the garage when I was loading up the van. on top was a sari she used to wear, before Riti was born. And a framed picture of me from the same time. There was a shirt Mahi wore in all her pictures that was shredded with love, and possibly garage mice. My dad's old hat that had seen better days was squished underneath a box of hair and teeth. Possibly the most creepiest, yet endearing, object a parent could possibly retain. It was my baby locks and the first few teeth of Mahi and myself. I don't know why she bothered labeling them with Ms and Gs in a black marker that was aging blue. My teeth were pristine. Mahi's were both laced with black from the time she fell face first onto the sidewalk when she was two and broke them. At the very bottom was my mother's attempt at keeping a baby keepsake book for me. I was too much of a handful by the time Mahi was born, and Riti stood even less of a chance, for any other attempts. It was feeble. She got through listing the shower gifts she received from co-workers and described my first birthday before quitting on me. I'm glad she chose to spend time with me rather than write about the toys my uncles would send from India for my first few birthdays. I know she's mad with me right now, and I would do almost anything to change that.


If I were more insecure I would think she wanted leave. Those weeks leading up to moving out were tense. I wasn't even allowed over to help her pack. It wasn't until our two month wedding anniversary that they invited me over for dinner. And that was probably just a ploy to make Gurpreet stay for greater than half an hour before fleeing from the tension. I didn't think I'd be a peacemaker as a husband, but apparently, if I'm not around there is a lot more burning glares.



“Shit yeah.”

Oh great, Penpal's a poet.

“I seen ‘er come out the trees ‘n’ fall on ‘er face, man.”

I just bet you did, you cracked up son of a bitch.

“She was all cryin’ and bleedin’ an’, an’...”

And what, you worthless piece of trash?

"An' dat's when dat bigass hairy dude came out b'hind 'er."

So you can read, then. That was in the paper, Penpal.

"This motherfucker was naked as hell, man, an' 'e 'ad... uh..."

What, old man? Aces full of queens?

"The guy 'ad fuckin' tennacles, man! No shittin' ya!"

Okay, that wasn't in the paper. Paul Stevens chewed on his tongue for a second, and tried hard not to smile at the old-time cart-pusher.

"I know it's crazy, man, but I bin clean for a month!"

That's true; we checked your gear when you stumbled into the station, and it hadn't been fired up for a few weeks at least.

"Tennacles! What de hell is dat?"

Stevens leaned forward and put his weight on his elbows. Penpal flinched at first, but didn't back away.

"Look, Penpal. Imagine you're me," said the burly detective with as much bored compassion as he could muster. "You've got a known user who frequently gets picked up for disturbances and petty theft."

The old man's wide, panicky eyes shifted floorward.

"He claims some hairy half-man, half-octopus slithered onto the Seawall."

Penpal cleared his throat uncomfortably and sat on his hands.

"Then he says this," he looked at his notepad for effect. "He says this 'mutant-dude', to quote him directly, raped an old lady right there in plain view of seven passers-by."

"No man, this hairy dude didn't slither!" Wringing his hands, Penpal shook his head violently. "Naw, 'e kinda... floated in the air, man."

Stevens tried to look surprised. It wasn't difficult.

"Floated?" Just like Jocasta said. But...

"An' man, 'e didn' rape 'er!"


"She was screamin' an' kickin' fer a minute," Penpal's voice dropped to a phlegmy whisper. "But then she went all quiet, man. I hid behin' a tree, an'... an' 'e..."

"Go slow, friend. What happened next?"

Penpal went as white as a sheet, looked to either side and leaned forward. He's terrified, and not of me. What the hell is going on here?

"Turn off the machine, man?"

Stevens reached over and hit the stop button on the desk recorder. We have got to update our equipment around here, for Christ's sake. Penpal leaned ever closer, and waved a bony grey finger to invite the detective to do the same. Stevens could feel the man's hot, unclean breath on his neck. I want danger pay for this shit.

Penpal whispered so low, Stevens had to strain to hear it.

"Come again, Penpal?" How the hell did he know that?!?!"

The bum repeated his statement slowly, and Stevens nearly fell down trying to get out of the room.

He closed the door and barked at the officer sitting behind the one-way glass. "Get Penpal locked up and put a guard on Jocasta Smith."

Officer Park only blinked. "What'd he say, boss?"


As the junior cop fumbled for his cell phone, Stevens leaned on the glass to watch Penpal chewing his own bicep. "This crazy bastard's for real, and so is that bullshit Smith told us in the hospital."

His badge hooked into his belt, a shoulder holster loose underneath a mid-grade tweed jacket, he had one forearm above his head pressed against interrogation glass, the other planted on his hip. Stevens knew he was filling every police stereotype imaginable at the moment.

"There isn't anything cliché about this case, Paul," Stevens said to the empty room. Just like the god damn movies.

Penpal got up and moved to the glass, eerily putting his ugly, unwashed mug just four centimetres from the detective's ponderous face.

"And you, you wacky old fart, I don't blame you," Stevens said with wonder. "Anyone'd be nuts after seeing a Greek monster put a syringe in someone's eye."