My foot is on the break on the corner of First Street and W 4th, just a few blocks from Granville Island. I debate turning right – do I really want to deal with parking on the island right now? No. I pull straight through the 4-way stop as LCD Soundsytem’s ‘I Can Change’ starts up on the stereo.
I can feel the vibrations through my feet, and I reach over to turn down the volume. There is a tingling in my left ear that I’ve been trying to shake for the last 40 mins. I clench my jaw and weave between the potholes, pulling into the parking lot just by the fisherman’s wharf. As I’m turning into a space, the gravel spinning beneath the tires, a pain shoots right into my ear. My hand slips from the wheel and pushes into my ear, as though putting pressure on it will somehow stop the pain. It doesn’t and I quickly put the car in park. Taking my foot off the pedal, engine still running, I smack the dashboard out of frustration. Hard. The faceplate on my stereo pops off and lands out of reach. Distorted sounds of ‘hoping and hoping the pain goes away’ scream through the stereo. How apropos. I hit it again, forgetting the car is still running. The radio is not spiting me, really.
Turning the car off, I grab my wallet from my purse, hands shaking, fumbling for my credit card. Stepping outside, the wind cuts right through me, and I immediately wish I had brought a hat. I pull my scarf up over my ear to protect it, walk to the parking machine to pay. The shooting pain is still there, I make a wish for a dull ache.
Going back to the car I put the ticket on the dashboard, grab my books and lock up. I can feel tears forming in the corners of my eyes but I try to open my eyes wider, as though that will somehow make them stop. It doesn’t. I take W 2nd until a block before the island and then cut back around the Culinary Centre. I can taste the salt on my lips from the tears, at the exact moment the salt air hits my nose. I look at the tourists leaning over the railing taking snapshots of pelicans, as boats bob up and down in the harbour. I weave my way through the bodies on tip-toe, making a bee line for the bank machine in the public market. I have just enough time to grab something to eat before class.
I buy a cup of chickpea salad, and a cookie. Chocolate chip. Resting the cookie on top of the cup of salad, I nestle a half drunk bottle of Fresca under my arm and attempt to walk back through the crowd to class. The smells of the market are almost intoxicating. I make a note to remember to buy bagels on the way home.
Back out on the street, the cookie shakes on top the salad. I move it to my purse and quicken my pace. The heavy glass doors of the school greet me, and I heave them open, noticing the light catch off my blue nail polish.
Inside, I’m greeted by the warmth of the electric heat. I pull the scarf from my ear and use it to cover my nose as the smell of fresh paint greets me through the lobby. Take-down. New installation coming through. I run up the metal stairs to the second floor, pass a dozen doors or so until I’m at room 268. Walking in I’m greeted with familiar faces and I dump my things onto a table and start to set up. The classmate I usually sit with comes in a few moments later and we discuss our respective weeks, and somehow get talking about zombie gingerbread houses. I nibble away on my salad as we talk.
Suddendly I remember the lyric assignment. Inwardly I sigh, thinking how the last thing I want to do right now is recall a lyric to a song I can’t even hear properly anymore. It’s here, staring at the graffiti filled desk, I realize I have never really allowed myself to get upset over the situation yet. I keep trying to use humour as a defense mechanism, but it’s suddendly very real. Painful both inside and out. I’m interrupted from my thoughts by the teacher talking. I keep pushing on my ear in hopes the pain will subside.
She explains how we’re going to do something unexpected today, life drawing. We’ll get to the writing in the second part of the class. We get out our sketch books. A great sense of relief comes over me. There is nothing I’d rather do right now than just draw and not think about words, lyrics, hearing loss, whatever.
Pencil to paper calms me down. Figures quickly start to appear from the graphite. The feel of the paper against the side of my hand creates a rhythm.
I know I can draw my own line, and walk back from the ledge.