Thursday, April 24, 2003


I awake, unsure of what stirs me. Maybe it’s the sunlight streaming through the window. Then I think: “He’s gone…” But I get up. I kick aside the sheets and stand, squinting at the Vancouver skyline.

The mountains are visible today. A Phthalo blue, giving them an ethereal substance. The forest of cedars and evergreens blend their hues into the slopes. It’s one of those first spring days when I remember why I live in Vancouver. After a monochromatic winter, the sun suddenly appears and paints the city with vivid hues. Crimson tulips stretch eagerly toward the sky; the Pacific glitters like the scales of a trout; and I stare, awestruck by the beauty of a robin’s orange breast as it skips along veridian grass.

This year, the panorama feels invasive. It’s too full of joy.

I throw the comforter onto the floor, and whip the covering sheet with an impatient snap so it blankets the bed. With my hand in the shape of a trowel, I shove the sheet between the mattresses. I pull the edges tight and fold precisely. I check the clock and notice it’s 6:15 am: I have to get ready for the gym, work out, and be at the art studio by 9:30. I walk - I should say march - into the standard, formica two-piece bathroom with full bath that gleams with scouring powder and bleach. I keep it military-clean.

In the landscape mirror, I examine myself. Critically. My skin stretches taut over my muscles from weight loss, making them look cut. Attempting humor, I tell friends I’m on, “The Grief Diet.” Or maybe it’s the workouts I began since living on my own. Every morning at 6:45am, I catch the bus to Fitness World. I begin with stair climbing, because I like the way it makes my hamstrings burn. Then I push some other muscles to exhaustion with weights for an hour, until advanced step class begins.

Sometimes in the middle of class I excuse myself and exit to the washroom. I use the one reserved for “Handicapped Use Only.” It’s the jumping up and down that triggers it, or a well-turned phrase in the music the aerobic teacher uses. Whatever the reason, I cry, heaving; the fan on so no one hears me; dry my eyes and runny nose dry with single-ply toilet paper, and bravely return to step class.