by Tammy Tamkin
Because everything matters, nothing matters.
Because nothing matters, everything matters.
So, I go outside for a smoke. I gotta think. Thoughts are buzzing away all around my head, and I need to be outside to let some of them land.
One of the first thoughts I have as I walk into my back alley is, “It’s late, so I won’t come across anyone,” but as soon as I light that cigarette, it’s like a demolition derby outside, except for the actual demolition part. All these cars are all of a sudden in the alley, pulling up everywhere back there, three of them parking up against the building, drunk people spilling out and laughing and talking and making a Ruckus.
This annoys me, because I’m just trying to have a quiet cigarette. Those thoughts I was going to have all rush up and away, hovering above me.
Also, it reminds me of all the times I’ve made a Ruckus myself, back before I Didn’t Know Any Better, and who likes being reminded of those times?
So anyway, all those people spill out of all those cars, and they start walking down the alley toward me, I’m sure on their way to some bar. I hear their voices while I check my phone. I’m not checking my phone for anything in particular, I’m just looking down at it so that I don’t have to look up at those Ruckus people and make them think I’m available for Small Talk.
I know how that goes too, also from back in my own Ruckus Days.
Those people start to pass me by, and I’m breathing a sigh of relief, but then a car pulls up to my building parkade, and I have to move aside to let it pass at the same time as those Ruckus people are crossing by too.
This quiet cigarette has turned into a Real Circus. I just wanted to have a quiet cigarette. I just wanted to come out here and have a quiet, late night cigarette, and let those thoughts land and let those feelings come. They happen sometimes, those thoughts, and you’d be foolish not to let those feelings land whenever they happen come to you somehow. Those thoughts I was gonna have are still circling above my head, but they aren’t landing yet, on account of this all these cars and all these people.
So now that those Ruckus People actually pass me by, and now that the gate closes behind that car that pulled into the parkade, I go back to my quiet cigarette and get ready for those thoughts to float down, and I get ready for those tears to come.
But then from the parkade; the thin keening wail of a baby. Those people who pulled in, they must have just woken up that baby to get it upstairs, would have had no choice really but to move it somehow. And that baby is crying now at being disturbed.
That baby is saying, “I was having such a nice sleep, and now you come at me and rustle me all around, and I was dreaming about sparkly water and cuddly bears, and fluffy clouds, and I hopped up on those clouds and was flying away for a little bit! How DARE you!” screams that baby.
“Oh, I hear ya,” I say. I’m crying now too; a few of those heavier thoughts managed to land on me after all. “It’s a shitty trick all around, I tell you.”
“I was FLYING,” wails that baby from inside the parkade, “I was right in the middle of riding that cloud!”
“Oh, don’t I know it,” I say, “That’s life for ya tho.”
“Life!” yells that baby. “What’s the fucking POINT!”
“Jeez, if any of us knew, we’d all probably make a pretty penny,” I say to that baby, as I wipe away my tears. Now’s Not the Time for them now.
“I mean, you get comfortable, you finally have some breathing room, some space, some time to appreciate something, and then all that good stuff gets yanked away!” screams that baby.
“Y’know, my mother said that to me too,” I say.
“Yeah?” says that baby.
“Yeah. Well something like that, anyway. It was on the same night she first cried to me. God, that’s something. Having your mother cry to you, as a daughter. It’ll happen to you too, I reckon,” but then I remember my manners, and I respectfully say to that baby, “I mean, if you even identify as a ‘girl’ baby. I mean, in the ‘traditional’ sense, whatever that means. Y’know.”
“Yes, I do,” says that baby, a little quieter now. “And I appreciate you asking that, I do. Go on.”
“Ok then, well, one day, your mother might cry to you, and it will split your head, just you wait. It’s a real trip I tell you. My mother also that night told me that she was sorry. And if your mother has any sense, one day she’ll apologise to you too,” I say, taking the last puff from my cigarette. I can cry inside by myself, I say to myself. Once you start these kindsa conversations, it’s important to see them through to the end. The rest of these tears of mine can wait.
“Why did she apologise?” asks that baby.
“For having had me,” I say. “She apologized for giving me life.”
“What?” screams that baby, “What does that even mean?!”
“Well, she said that she seen me suffer. I mean, she’s seen me happy too, but the sadness, well, that’s hard for a mother to take. She gave me life, she said, but that meant giving birth to all the misery I’m ever going to encounter too. It’s a tough one, alright. She said sorry for all of it, but boy, that’s a whole lot of perspective to take in, y’know? Maybe too much for you right now, actually.” I say, as I butt out my cigarette. That baby seems like she’s having thoughts of her own land all around her now. I don’t need to be here for that part.
“I’m sorry, baby, maybe I shouldn’t have said anything. Maybe it’s a little too soon for you to be having those thoughts anyway. Hopefully your mom will have the same conversation with you too, eventually.”
“Why just my mom?” says that baby. “What about my dad?”
Ah jeez. This wasn’t a quiet cigarette at all.
I say, “My dad left me a long time ago. It was easier for men to do those kindsa things back then. Harder for women to leave. I don’t know if that’s a conversation yours will have with you. He should, tho. If he’s a good man, he will. They both should apologise. Tough times out here, for sure. Not fair to slough off responsibility. But anyway, I’m going inside now. You try to have a good night there now, baby,” I say to that baby.
That baby tho, boy she wails and wails in that parkade now. I hear the parents try to quiet and shush her, but is she ever going off. I trot into the building and into my apartment before I have to see them come up the stairs and they have to see me scooting in through my door. Parents don’t need people around when their kids are like that. Makes them feel bad.
But boy, aren’t a baby’s tears just the worst. Pulls at every heartstring, if you feel enough. Embarrassing and sad already as it is, as parents, to then have strangers pitying you for your child’s tears as well, I’m glad I left when I did. Poor baby. Poor parents!
Truth is truth tho; nothing you can do to change that.
As it stands, I can cry myself alone inside.
About the Author
After flunking out of the University of British Columbia (twice), Tammy finally found her forever home among the misfits of Vancouver's film industry, where she dabbled in indie producing before becoming a Location Scout. She's written a slight-overestimation of at least a hundred short stories and scripts, none of which have been published or publicly performed. Up until recently, she was the only living thing in her apartment, but is currently taking desperate measures to keep a gifted fern alive. She enjoys improv, cheering on her nephew at his lacrosse games, reading bedside stories to her dying fern, and writing incredibly honest personal bios.