Out of Water

I am a clownfish. I told Aggie this when we met and again after our mothers set us up and she tried to put me in a hot air balloon on an otherwise bland double date.

She didn’t do her research.

“Those them cute ones in the tank at the Chinese restaurant?” she’d said, mimicking some southern belle and winking.

Today, August 21, 1963, she thinks she’s done better with a canoe trip and picnic along Lake Huron. Only we’re in Ontario and she’s packed “fresh” lobster. I wonder how long she’s had it in the basket.

I wish I could have breasts like hers, I think, standing on the beach with my hands shoved deep in my corduroys while she putters around in a yellow bikini and whisks out a table cloth. We need the music from Bewitched. I’d like to try twirling a parasol right now, anything but those fishing poles and the heavy paddles. Man, I’d do anything to get my hands on a perky cross-your-heart bra. For myself.

She lays the pieces of coral crustacean out like surgical tools. I play with a tail and she’s already licking her fingers, gabbing about her friends’ engagements and her progress with tennis and angel food cakes. The sand and everything is too white.

“The girls, you know, they all think you’re a little on the feminine side, can you believe it? But me, I just say, well ladies I like a clean and tidy man. I mean I’m clean and tidy. You must like that about me.”

Under her Rita Hayworth coiffed bangs, she stares over at me before tossing her head to the side, laughing. I feel sick, catching a faint whiff of ammonia from the lobster mixed with the wet algae smell.

The sun is blistering my shoulders and there’s sand in between my molars but I can’t go anywhere because my mother’s already asking too many questions and looking too worried when she catches me with her Chatelaine. It’s just her and I, now that Dad hightailed it to Florida for another woman—the fishing capital of the world, don’t you know it—and she said she wants a new, normal life carved out of the ripples he left. I don’t know how normal can manifest in something like moving water.

Aggie doesn’t seem to mind my inaction when it comes romance. Or conversation. And I know I’m going to have to keep it up and marry this girl who fed lobster to a clownfish and thinks something like blue and pink come from separate oceans.

Maybe one day I can explain about the clownfish.


Renée Francoeur is a 28 year-old Canadian journalist. By day she writes for contractors and by night she blogs, paints nudes and writes poetry.

She won third prize for the 2016 Women Inspirational Poetry Contest. She’s also written for Standard Criteria and Squawk Back and been published in Three Line Poetry and Poetry Quarterly. She is currently working on a chapbook about the intersection of broken heartedness, rebirth and geography.

She loves coconut coffee porter, wild buffalo, striving to bring gender and minority issues to the forefront, old tombstones, baking strange recipes (kale cake anyone?) and sustainable, GMO-free agricultural endeavours.

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Like Any Relationship, Really

I knew if I ended up with America, I ran the risk of losing my friends who remained on the fence. But they respected that I wanted that intensity, and teased me whenever we saw him at the bar.

“Trista, look, there’s America,” and I’d look over to his smooth jaw line and dark bourbon drink, “Do you want to go over?”

“No, I think I’ll give him some space, the financial crisis just happened and he’s probably not looking for any company. Maybe in a few months.”

And that’s what I did. A few months later I went up to him and ordered the same but neat. As I suspected we were more alike than different. I thought about his request for a relationship over sorbet and I felt he was being genuine. He whispered how “he’s seen people succeed beyond their wildest dreams with my strengths and ambition” and that’s when I leaned in for a kiss and a possible nest egg.

“America had his friends who wanted to work with me, offering a bank account, a lease and a high-interest loan. I passed on the loan, but I knew I could ask for anything: I was with America.”

The first year together was bright eyed and festive; there wasn’t a bad memory to recall.  It felt like only sunny days and warm nights, a welcomed change from the Northern cold. America had his friends who wanted to work with me, offering a bank account, a lease and a high-interest loan. I passed on the loan, but I knew I could ask for anything: I was with America.

A couple years later he asked me to move in as we had a drawer at each other’s place and I started to anticipate that he wanted to spend the night. So we agreed and had a key made, I put it on my ring and stapled in the visa. That night we went shopping for new sheets. When I saw America reaching for the auburn and beige paisley set I knew this was love. I realized in that aisle that this stability is what I had needed this whole time.

For hours we would hold each other, and for nights make dinner with fresh ingredients. He would tell me his problems and we’d work on a solution on ways to get out of some fiscal issues and politically lead on others. Some topics might not get the reaction he desired, but it needed to be said: this is the time to expose. I promised him I would stay by his side and he confessed how he needed us, that he couldn’t go through these huge leaps alone.

“I wanted to scream from the rooftops – America is mine, all mine and we’ll be together forever. So when he got down on one knee and asked me to marry with a green card in a princess cut, I smiled.”

When he spoke, the world listened. I wanted to scream from the rooftops – America is mine, all mine and we’ll be together forever. So when he got down on one knee and asked me to marry with a green card in a princess cut, I smiled. I didn’t show my disappointment in his choice as I’m an oval type and simply nodded ‘yes.’

This felt right and it was a good time in my life. I loved him and he loved me. I’ve never experienced so much emotional growth in such a short period of time, so why would I doubt this won’t last forever? And then I felt his phone ring in his jacket pocket and I read the caller ID, it was his ex.

It was not the reasonable one who I can see calling him to wish him well on the engagement and to ensure their colleagues were still connected. This was the unreasonable one, the one I never understood why they lasted so long. The one who stalked us online at the beginning  and created fake profiles to ‘like’ my public photos. He said that for months at the end of their relationship she couldn’t cope with the idea that they were over. In her mind she thought they were still a couple, so would show up at his place. And I know America; I know he invited her inside.

I always felt he preferred girls like her, the ones who adorn themselves in his presence and hang off his every word. I refused to see how he enjoyed those kinds of games and her call showed to me how blind I was. When I told him that I was breaking up with him, America thought I was being unreasonable, that I should give him a chance to create a healthy boundary.

But I know better.

I heard she moved in a few weeks later. She likely threw out the sheets and immediately replaced the towels with ones that are monogrammed. Our lamps, curtains and utensils are still around, being judged and kept as a reminder of the time he had that mutual stability.

“To this day I know America and I could have been something real, with a low-interest mortgage.”

To this day I know America and I could have been something real, with a low-interest mortgage. I was desperate for the hope of change and always knew under the surface there were signs that were louder than America’s desire to enact that change. I opened my heart and it was broken with no regrets – just lessons and an escape plan.


Trista Hurley-Waxali is an immigrant from Toronto, who finally listened to her parents advice and moved South. She has performed at Avenue 50, Stories Bookstore and internationally at O’bheal Poetry Series in Cork, Ireland and a TransLate Night show from Helsinki Poetry Connection. She is writes weird short stories and is working on her novel, At This Juncture.

Untitled by Moss

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“Wish You Were Here” by Moss. You can peruse and buy their art here.

my head against the van window/i hear snippets of conversation/“…jenner”/“i just don’t understand that sort of thing”/the conversation moves on/as these conversations do/i say nothing

the bathrooms here are unisex/i hear a parent say to their child/“these are for men and women”/i look at the bathroom sign/i am the white line in between two defined areas/i say nothing

“and the waves of conversation/laughter/shouts/around me are suffocating”

i can’t find the people i came with/and the waves of conversation/laughter/shouts/around me are suffocating/i went to the ocean once and was knocked over by waves/even now i can feel the riptide tugging at me/my phone is dying/i find a quiet spot and say nothing

the city is stretched out before me/i find some solace in its multicolored lights/i find more in the calm living darkness above it/lit softly by stars/3 students take pictures next to me of themselves/of the cityscape/laughing

“are you ok”/i am fine/(i am not fine)/(i am thinking about so many things)/the thin white line drags me down into its riptide/overheard conversations rise to greet me/i say nothing/and keep walking

morning comes/as mornings do/and music is the background for it/breakfast is content and filled with coffee/and meaningless words

“just what i like to see; beautiful women in a kitchen”/presumptions and assumptions/the thin white line is here as well/cutting off the words in my mouth/i say nothing and drink coffee

“why should i be careful / they were as careful as they should have been & they are dead still”

“our thoughts and prayers”/”be careful”/i am not careful/why should i be careful/they were as careful as they should have been & they are dead still/i wrap cardboard boxes/thinking of other boxes made of wood/and say nothing

“i am angry”/”i am sad”/god, i am terrified/i know i don’t belong/i say a few words and eventually they all come pouring out/i am on the bathroom floor texting my family/my sister asks my pronouns/my brother calls me by my name

i still feel that thin white line/but it is thinner now/the riptide is still there but i can swim in the ocean/i speak my thoughts/i keep walking forward/even as the water rises


Moss lives in a weird little room in a weird little house in a weird little city where it rains a lot. Sometimes they make tacos at night while swigging orange juice straight from the carton, in clear defiance of sanitation and a sense of human decency. They think the world is equally weird and beautiful, and they try to make art that is certainly weird and maybe a little beautiful. Their digital art can be found at redbubble.com/people/kmossifer