March 5, 2015

Another Reason to Drink Coffee

Stone sculpture of two lovers embracing

Something was wrong. I could see them through the glass. They were outside, directly in front of the entrance, and creating a roundabout for anyone trying to buy a coffee. Normal, I like to think I’m discreet but I couldn’t look away and that alone suggested something awry.

He was young, taut and rangy. Untamed curls bounced around his neck. A measuring tape hung from his pocket. He was facing the café and would have had no problem seeing me if he looked up, but he didn’t. His hands stroked her arms and then ran down her thighs. She quivered, rested her head on his chest and sobbed, prompting him to hold her tighter. Dodging customers were uncomfortable. The waitress rolled her eyes. It really was a bad place to break up with someone.

From the back I could see that she was short but well-proportioned. Her blonde hair was cut into a bob, she wore a fitted leather jacket and carried a Marc Jacobs handbag. Her distress got louder as the show, as long as fifteen minutes, continued. Poor girl, I thought. But I was also eager to see her face.

Suddenly he gave her one last squeeze, pulled away and headed down the street, cell phone already in hand. She lowered her head, wiped her face, opened the glass door and headed towards a table where her mother, her aunt, her social worker or perhaps corrections officer had been sitting the whole time. It didn’t occurred to me that it was a friend until I got up to pay at the cash.

Leaving the café, I looked over at their booth. The friend was leaning across the table holding a hand and before I reach the door I finally caught a glimpse of the blonde as her hair slid away from her cheek. Pleated skin, cavernous eyes, soft loose cheeks and a forehead marked by sun spots placed her around seventy. My shock was profound.

For hours I decrypted what I saw. Everything about the scene was unusual, dare I say unnatural and it made things more exciting. I fell into the odd moment thinking absentmindedly about it; the setting, the role of each character. The next day I went back to the café hoping to see at least one of them, but it was over. I felt disappointed. It was a story I didn't get to finish but really wanted to.

February 24, 2015

Where do you come from?

picture of receipt
'1 ppt for 10 years for his wife Natasha'

“What’s it like being the only brown-skinned person in the family?” my brother once asked me.

“Not half as bad as being the only girl.”

Sometimes, in the summer, when my skin turns thirty shades darker, I jump at the sight of the chocolate-coloured hand holding my vanilla ice cream, but this is the extent of my self-awareness. I just don’t stare at myself all day. It’s only when it becomes an issue for others that it becomes an issue for me.

“Where are you from?”


“I mean where are you really from?”


“What are your origins?”

“My origins?”

“Where do your parents come from?”


Using my skin as a conversation piece is like picking on an unusual mole or striking birthmark. It’s like asking a person with a prominent nose what religion they are.

And it makes me feel like I don’t belong. Dissimilar does not mean incompatible. I eat turkey and I watch hockey. That’s my culture. I didn’t flee war or come from a village where my one-legged father sold a goat to save me from a life of crippling destitution. I wouldn’t be ashamed if that were the case, but it also wouldn’t make me spiritually fulfilled. And above all, my Canadian passport was not given to me as a wedding gift, which is what the woman at the Canadian Consulate assumed.

Yes, I live in Switzerland, I speak English, my name is Russian and I wear brown skin. Where do I come from? My mother’s vagina. Where do you come from?

January 23, 2015


Be Courageous With Your Story

January is a big month. A new year, another birthday and another round of resolutions. Tomorrow is January 24th 2015 and there will never be another January 24th 2015, ever.

How will you write that day?

January 15, 2015

A Different Kind of Workout

“Is anyone getting changed?” he asks.

I’m in the locker room and a girl in a blue bra looks over at me. “Yes.” I say.

“Is anyone changing?”

“YES,” I say.

“Are you changing?”

“YES,” says the girl.

He’s now next to me. I’m jutting my head, thrusting my hands, stretching my eye sockets. “WHAT are you doing?”

“I asked if anyone was changing.”

“This is the women’s locker room.”

 “I work here.”

“And I said yes.”

“I didn’t hear you.”

“She said yes.”

“I didn’t hear her. What is ‘yes’ supposed to mean, anyway? Yes you’re changing, or yes I can come in?”

“You should never come in.”

“I’m here for your security.”

“And I feel so much safer.”

This is our first encounter and yet afterward, I press the elevator button and he’s on it. I buy groceries and he’s ahead paying for cigarettes. I go for coffee and he’s at table 12, sipping on a coke. I've determined that he's less of a threat and more of an idiot but I’m still spending my life looking the other way, shift directions while he holds up his phone and talks loudly so I can hear him.

You went to Ibiza? You got a raise? You have a new girlfriend? Poor girl.

It’s intolerable. I should have won this argument but I left before the apology. I want a redo. I want submission, I want to take the phone and tell the person on the other line what a jerk he is. While I consider moving to a new neighbourhood it suddenly occurs to me I know where he works, I know his favourite song, I know how long he can drink coke before using the bathroom. He only saw my shorts. Take that for privacy. Ha. I win.

July 9, 2014

A Post Filled with Love

I have to make a Caramel and Macadamia cheesecake today. I shelled out $15 for one box of Graham Crackers; I spent five minutes figuring out how to use a vanilla pod; when I eventually whip the cream cheese it will have to be by hand. I’m not at all qualified to make this cake but I made a promise. The party is tomorrow and I can’t back out now.

There will be a lot of stress. It will manifest itself first through the brown avocado I bought only this morning. Then that dog, his poop and the owner that didn’t pick it up will gnaw at my serenity. I’ll ruminate over an email that wasn’t returned for two weeks and feel hard-done by having lost all my contacts because my thoughtful husband updated my phone. A lot of aggression will be building in that kitchen. To mollify it I’m going to have to turn on Book Riot.

For the last two months I’ve been following the Book Riot podcast. It’s a girl and a guy (sometimes girl-girl) with a microphone talking about the book industry, the latest book releases, reading statistics, library programs, book expos and applications available for book buying and reading. It’s encouraging, analytical, frank and open-minded. I play it off my computer while I’m cooking and I think it’s simply awesome. I’m now enjoying books by authors I’ve never heard of before. I feel in touch with books in the same way I do when I walk into a bookstore and browse the shelves.  It soothes me.

So bring on that cheesecake and high expectations. Disregard the budget, the lost afternoon and the shredded fingernails. Remind myself this recipe can’t be my enemy; it comes from a book. Books and cake...I love you all.