Sometimes we would sneak into the factory after it had closed. There was something exciting about that; I remember feeling a charge, a sense of exhilaration as we chased one another through the rows of dormant machinery. Our footfalls echoed of off the machines’ polished steel before their frantic clatter was captured by brick.
Even then, I knew the factory quite well; but she knew it better. She would duck into some corridor or tiny crawl space, stifling her breath and later her laughter as I ran blindly amongst the factory’s lonesome steel. Over and over, I called her name, with increased urgency as the night wore on; seldom did she choose to reply.
There were nights when she refused to give herself up no matter how loudly I screamed. She snuck silently out the door, into the night and home to bed where I’d find her several hours later, a grin fixed upon her sleeping face, mocking my worry. Though I was relieved to see her buried in linen, I hated her, but by morning my hatred had inevitably dissipated.
She was a mystery to me for as long as I knew her, revealing herself in fits and false starts. The things she chose to reveal were often nothing more than fabrications, lies that rose up, introduced themselves, and ultimately disappeared into the dark depths of whatever textile or stone that lay near.
She told me she was born in Edmonton. She described in detail the hospital where she came into the world as she supposedly revisited the place in her early teens when a first attempt at drinking turned into a stomach pump. She described the nurses and even the patterns of tile in such vivid detail that I was unable to merely entertain the thought that it wasn’t true. I found out later she was born here, not too far from where I grew up; that one especially cut to the quick.
When I called her on it she paused before laughing, saying something like, “Well, you didn’t really believe that, did you? Of course I was born here!” She then went onto something else… can’t remember what, but I’m sure it was equally as captivating, equally as deceitful as the rest of those stories.
She lied about trivial things as well. When I first met her, all she talked about was oysters. She talked about the texture of the things, she claimed to use her tongue to grind them against the roof of her mouth until they’d been pulverized enough to warrant a thin swallow; she claimed never to have used her teeth when eating them. She spoke of preparing their beds, whole underlays of ice on which to rest just a few tiny shells when she had the money to have them shipped in. Though I never liked seafood, I found myself craving it after listening to her lengthy praises.
And so for her 34th birthday, I spared no expense in having some raw oysters shipped in from the West Coast. They were caught in the early morning hours of August 16th and arrived at my flat just after four of the same day. I remember how foreign they looked to me at the time though I’d been researching them for months prior to their delivery.
Their beds of ice were prepared by the time I hauled their noisy styrofoam casket into the kitchen. I used a paring knife to open the plasticized nets in which they came, pouring them out one by one checking for open shells as they fell; all were alive and well, ready to eat.
By the time she arrived, my entire kitchen table was prepared with the strange fruit of the sea. Also, three varieties of hot sauce, a bowl of pre-cut lemons, a home-made offering of horse radish and every other side you could possibly imagine. The card made for her that year was in the shape of an oyster. It read, quite simply: “I’ve heard shellfish make you horny, hope it’s true. Happy 34th. With love… Evan”.
Candles were lit, and flickered to the frantic rhythms of a jazz music she supposedly held so dear. Her heels announced her arrival well before she knocked on my door, which I opened before she’d finished… a rose was cradled on my bottom incisors, and I passed it off to her with a kiss as she entered the threshold of my apartment. Everything was perfect; I’d planned it as such, but as she spit the rose from her teeth to her expectant left hand, I knew it was all wrong.
“I’m so sorry, Evan. You’ve obviously put a lot of thought into this, but I’m just not feeling oysters tonight. Let’s save the wine for later, and get a burger and a beer downtown. Whatdya think? Maybe we could call some people an have a bit of a get together?”
I obliged. I didn’t even take the time to rescue the oysters from their icy fate. Instead, I hid the card, grabbed my jacket and phoned a cab to take us downtown to our usual haunt. I smiled, but I felt like shit. I’d of tried to get used to it, if only I knew back then. I didn’t.