MY memories of Fredericton are auditory. They travel with me, whispering in the shape of familiar words from friends, or echoes of bike tires flopping over the walking bridge, and the whoosh of weeping willows as they slow-dance—hand in hand—along Waterloo Row. My memories of Fredericton are sometimes deafening. Volcanic conversations spewing above market stalls on a Saturday morning or the constant drip of white noise from my secret waterfall tucked away in the backwoods near Scotch Lake. My memories of Fredericton are a collection of wants. Quick breaths. Riffs of unfinished sentences hollowed by full moons. My memories of Fredericton are of mouths belonging to people who are too bored (or too alive) to ever say no.

• • •

We meet just after dark when Northumberland Street turns purple. You say that purple is the sexiest colour. You say: “Red knows too much about itself. Red assumes it’s beautiful.”

I trust just about everything you say because of that bottom lip. It buoys with refused apologies. Every thirty yards or so, your summer freckles flash under the lamplight. From the top of the hill, I know a poetry professor sits in her split level house, taking notes on how the street lamps make yellowish white puddles and how, from this view, the stars seem to spell out MARY for no particular reason.

We live in a college town where large-hearted men talk about time travel with half-filled draft glasses of flat Picaroons in hand, or they take credit for reviving the beard trend before it was hipster-approved. In our town, an angular shopkeeper might ask if you manifested that checkerboard bathroom floor in your new apartment or if you’ve tried astral projection lately. What nobody says and everybody knows is that our town is stranger than strange. People conduct seemingly normal lives on this gravitational seesaw as it meanders between memory and magic, all the while mastering small-talk and the language of “have-nots”. Our city grows artists and weirdos professionally, alongside government employees and tree planters. But if you ask someone about whether or not that famous ufologist, the original civilian investigator of the Roswell incident, lives just down the road, they’ll probably say I don’t know.

When we arrive at the park, I feel another body by the monkey bars. You swear nobody is there so I decide it’s my guilt, ghosting up around us. I grab you by the hems of your denim shorts and my guilt’s wide back sinks beneath the wet grass. I’ve successfully buried him for a while so that I can kiss you and remember what you said: This is always going to be right, alright?

Green shards of busted Moosehead lager bottles crunch beneath my Birkenstocks as we kick off in the swings. In seconds, your rusted red hair disappears into the smudged night sky. I imagine you dye it yourself—Feria number 67, rich auburn, just to save time and money. You’re simple like that. We swing for a few minutes and you remain unmoved as June bugs fling their hard shells and rubber wings against your elbows for attention. I split the air with my heels trying to catch up. When we’re finally in sync, I can’t find the right way to tell you that you started your life too soon. Even though we’re the same age, you’re already lapping me with expected experiences: house, car, cottage, kid, insignificant other.

Braking with your daisy flip flops, you meet me back on the ground. The seats of our swings kiss at the centre while you wrangle your ankles around the small of my back. You unhinge into Purvottanasana, reverse plank, rooting your fingertips to the sand, electric blue nails facing up. Kissing your tight stomach is my favourite thing. You know this, so you withstand a few before your ticklishness wins and you cave, curling back up. We have a staring contest. Before I even finish the sentence, “I think our bodies might be magnetized for each other,” you flare your nostrils and fake puke between us. We both know what’s really important—smoothing those sensitive apple cheeks of yours. I believe you call them your Nordic bones.

“I have to tell you something,” you say. “But I don’t want it to change anything.”

I already know it will just by the way you’ve set it up. It has to, now. My mood swings from Worry to Hope—the two planets I’ve wandered between since meeting you.

“Whatever you say, it’s just a word or two. It’s just a thing. You can say it,” I assure us both.

Your shoulders lift into something like an apology, “I’m pregnant again.”

“Oh,” I say.

“It was planned,” you continue, lashes blinking twice.

We plunk our foreheads together and I close my disappointed eyes.

I don’t know what to say so I keep inhaling, hoping that my lungs will lift me to a place where I can feel the impact of this, instead of the delayed attacks that I’ve grown accustomed to over the years. Three weeks from now, for example, when I’m volunteering with Habitat For Humanity, I’ll drop a mirror and excuse myself to unfold psychologically. Over you. My instinct is to leave the park and forget you ever existed. Forget the way I want to breakdance with excitement when your shitty teal station wagon thumps its front fender against the steep incline of my driveway. Forget the nights we spent talking about the mystic properties of Merlinite or the over-medicated teenagers we once were.

I unleash you and twist in circles. The metal links bite each other. Anger is a restless funnel that bullies my floating ribs and when the swing unwinds, I see the images of you and me in bed falling from the future.

“Well, then. Congratulations!” I say, levelling out.

We’re not the plan. We’re the aftermath of something else. Something missing from your life’s arrangement. I find it difficult to imagine myself as a person who walks the day backlit by coffee shops and sedated by the comfortable scratch of a stroller against asphalt. You call me your vampire, but what you don’t understand is that I blame the sun for stripping romantics. It makes mothers of us all. It makes us bankers. And bill payers. But what I don’t get, or better yet, what gets me, is that I don’t even have the choice to try that type of misery with you. Because I’m the other woman. The whole time knowing you, I’ve been replaying a Buddhist sentiment: I am not a home wrecker. I am NOT a home wrecker. I’m not a Home. Wrecker. The Dalai Lama might have skipped over queer affairs, but he did mention something about not letting your wants and needs take away from the happiness of others. So, Namaste, to you, your bisexual boyfriend and his fervent sperm.

It’s 11:30—the time you usually leave our play world. But instead you kick off again, perhaps hoping these chains will unfasten and propel us to a place where loving each other is somehow possible, a place where I don’t need nighttime to hear my wants. Halfway up the hill, in the red room of the Harriet Irving library, a young psychoanalyst student is packing up her articles on the cultural shift toward non-monogamy. Not moving quickly enough for us.


A.R. Jardine has been named a “writer to watch” by Governor General’s Award-winning author, David Adams Richards, who nominated her for the CBC Canada Writes Close Encounters series in 2012. She has been named other (less desirable) things by some of her exes. Her work has appeared on CBC Radio One’s: ‘The Point’, ‘Between You & Me’, and ‘Outfront.’ She earned an MFA in Writing from the University of Victoria in 2011.

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BT #014 © 2014 A.R. Jardine. Published by Little Fiction | Big Truths, November 2014.


night swings

by a.r. jardine
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