Porkpie Hat – Unblinking

Rummaging through the attic, a woman comes across a cookie tin filled with Kodachrome photographs. She finds pictures of herself triumphantly waving sparklers in a summer night, tobogganing down an Ontario hill.

She finds pictures of herself lacing up roller skates, riding her older brother’s too-big bike.

She looks at pictures of herself when she was a cowgirl, six years old, in a backyard as large as all the prairies. She has a hat with rhinestones, a turquoise bandanna, a silver star pinned to her chest.

Years after these pictures were taken, she would find herself looking for approval in the faces of others. She would find herself in small, tight places, in rooms filled with shadows and mirrors.

But in the photographs that she holds in her middle-aged hands, she is fearless, untrembling, bloodied, unbowed, on the lookout for evil, ready to travel. She is rough-and-tumble, standing her ground in vinyl snakeskin boots, unblinking in the midday sun.

On the same night, at the same time, half an hour after a fist fight in the hockey rink parking lot, a man sits in his car in the driveway of his suburban home. He is bleeding from a cut beneath his right eye; his shirt is wet with beer and blood.

Listening to a song playing on the radio, he remembers being seven years old, soon after his father’s death. He is up in his mother’s bedroom, wearing a white silk dress and a string of fake pearls. There is a radio on the dresser, Deep Purple singing ?Highway Star.? Coming downstairs, finds his mother crying in the living room. She is sitting on the couch, head in hands. He sits down beside her, and puts his arm across her shoulders. She turns to him, and he says something that first makes her stop crying, and then start to laugh.

Years later, he will fill the space between himself and others with hurtful words and actions. He will lose the honest words that might have made his wife turn around on her way out the door. He will tear his skin on shattered mirrors; break his knuckles on plaster walls.

On this one night with his then-alive mother, though, he finds the right words. He is truthful and fearless, complete and completely unselfconscious. He fills a kettle with water, and puts loose tea leaves in a pot. He holds his mother’s hand, and they sit in the lengthening shadows, linked by love, linked by kindness, knowing without speaking.

On opposite sides of a great city, two strangers begin to remember.

%d bloggers like this: