Wednesday, October 21, 2009


she said, ‘sometimes
I can’t bear to punch in
how I’d love to push this cig
right into his skin’
so she sucked back 10 more
and she scorched her lungs sore
she was staring daggers
at their bedroom door
'and my rage doesn't come from neglect
it comes from regret'

he said, ‘at the next sunrise
I’m quitting this franchise
3.5 pink slips
for that look in her eyes’
and so he closed his workshop
when it was long after dark
with all those projects
that he could only start
'and I can't pretend for one more day
a coward would stay'

I said, ‘I don’t want this job
because I never applied
all the bosses’ problems
always become mine’
so I hid my best drugs
and let loose a flood
a stomach filled with pills
stained the welcome rug
and we 4.5 are set to go
set to explode

blow the roof from this institution
turning the key was my contribution
the wind will scatter all of our remains
I pray they don't come to lay too far away

we 4.5 are set to go
set to explode

My parents are good shits. They got married just five years before I was born, then, after two decades of fights, reconciliations and counseling, they called it quits. Needless to say, at fourteen, I hated their fucking guts for it all. And everything I seemed to do in my teens was a reflection of that. Too much boozing and too many half-assed suicide attempts put me in front of half a dozen shrinks, and landed me in drug and alcohol counseling. a youth's understandable lack of understanding about what his parents were going through during this period, had me fist fighting my dad on more than once occasion, and avoiding my mother's company for six years straight.

Two decades later, I don't feel like being such a little cunt about it. Forgiveness is much more enjoyable than resentment and bitterness. Dealing with what you have is much more beneficial than longing for what never was.

Sure, I’ve got bones to pick with both of them, but who doesn't have issues with their parents? Mine tried their best, they fucked it up, and it exploded all over them, my older brother, and me. I fought all of them over it for a long time, with varying degrees of intensity and blame. But I had to get past that shit, I had to get past the notion that their failed marriage meant they were failures as parents, and that, by default, we were a failure as a family. Everybody makes mistakes. I’m a better son for realizing that this applies to my mom and dad as well. I can't comment on how in love they were, or weren't, when they first got together. All I know is what I saw growing up - a relationship that was light on affection and passion but heavy on resentment and spite. They had to work to stay together, so much so that near the end the whole thing probably just felt like a shitty job. I’ve quit a lot of shitty jobs in my day, how can I blame them for doing the same?

The pressure for them to stay together must have been excruciating. My dad is a Mennonite, and like most sects of Christianity, they're not too keen on divorce. Likewise, my mother was the only one of her siblings to ever file for one. None of the other families on our block, as far as I could discern, had fights that matched my parent's in volume and frequency. No one else's parents separated as often. As far as I knew we were the only fucked up family around. TV never showed me husbands and wives that screamed at each other every morning over scrambled eggs, and every night over pork chops. Ward cleaver never threw June through a set of bi-folding doors. Elise Keaton never threatened Michael with a knife. None of the Brady kids chickened out the second a razor blade drew blood. That, of course, is because none of those families were remotely realistic, and the image of the family that was being perpetuated by popular culture and religion never took into account that the people involved are, in fact, human beings capable of making mistakes that aren't fixed in 22 minutes or cured through the recitation of a few archaic verses.

I don't want to make light of the emotional ramifications that a divorce can have on a child. The notion of living in a house with one parent while the other cooked dinner alone in some other town was terrifying to me. It was a concept so alien that it felt like my entire understanding of the world was being called into question. But the unease and pain I endured had just as much to do with the loss of stability in my life as it did with this idea that the divorce was some sort of failure - one that I, even as the youngest member, played a role in. In my mind, what was happening when they called it quits wasn't what was supposed to happen. Moms and dads stay together. Those are the rules; families live in one house, no matter what. I had internalized the definition of family that religion and television had shown me. I was thinking about our family in terms of how things should be and not how they actually were. This is a problem that a fair number of us encounter every day. Humans aren't terribly fond of change, and we have distaste for those of us that steer away from tradition. Divorce, rather than being an altering of the family unit, is viewed as a destruction of it. Marriage is supposed to last until death and families aren't supposed to split up.

Things have changed a lot from the time my parents called it quits. My family's situation is fairly common these days. Even I think it was a good thing they got divorced. They had fallen out of love and couldn't stand to be together. Forcing themselves to endure day after day of disappointment and contempt just to fulfill some cultural standard they could never live up to, would have been brutally cruel for them and for me and my brother. They both needed a new start, and the daily structure of our family had to be altered if either of them were ever going to start enjoying their lives. The traditional definition of family has been expanded to include ones like mine. Not by everybody, but by most.

Stepping out from such strict guidelines about how life should be, found us all doing a lot better in the long run. My brother and I became comrades in the trenches. The divorce messed with both our heads, but it was on common ground of confusion and pain that we finally set aside all of our differences and actually began to be friends. My mother went back to university and got her MA, living all over the country in the process. My dad rediscovered romance and remarried, providing me with a new batch of siblings that I’ve grown to love and am happy for knowing. Letting go of the rigid definition of family that had burned all of our eyes to tears for so long, allowed us to reshape what we are, and truly appreciate it.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think marriage is pretty awesome. Even when they don't work out, the two people involved still had one moment in their lives so full of joy and passion that they were convinced it would last forever - and they wanted everyone to know it. Those moments are what we should all be longing for. Even if it only lasts a short time, and comes back to bite you in the ass and make you feel like a fool, love is the only thing you'll want to remember on your death bed.

And, as horribly fucking corny as it sounds, love is all you need for marriage. regardless of other traditional definitions of what marriage is - sex, race, religion and gender mean nothing when two people are in love*. Marriage is not a domain exclusive to heterosexuals. It is the domain of the love drunk embracing permanence. It belongs to anyone willing to roll the dice. If homosexuals can't be legally married simply because some people think that they aren't supposed to be, and that their union will make a mockery of such a sacred institution, then my parents should be forced to shack up again. And trust me, no one wants that. Culture isn't stagnant; it is constantly occurring; shifting and changing. Our intellectual evolution as a species continually presents situations that bring into question the very customs we have created to define ourselves. And each one of these situations only proves that there is so much about us that we still have to figure out.


*It should be noted that this essay is in no way in opposition to polyamorous relationships - yeah, that's right, polygamy. Love is a many splendored thing and it is constantly changing and needing redefinition - culturally and personally. my reference to the 'two people in love' relates strictly to the type of marriage that I am most familiar with - it is not meant to imply that love must be limited to two partners.


  1. Wow, so insightful, as always. Please keep these essays coming, they are honest, well-written, and inspirational.