April 10, 2014

On the morning of Thursday, April 10th, Jakob detected only a mild foreboding upon the dark, oily surface of his espresso. The only sounds in the office were a hesitant typing several cubicles away and the pervasive hiss and thrum of ventilation fans. The day had gotten off to a quiet start for which he was thankful—the day promised to end in cacophony.

That evening his band, Moonwood, had been engaged by Reel Cod Records to perform at a club downtown called the Comfort Zone. The last time they’d played at the club, they arrived to find the dank, underground room littered with drug vials from, one would suppose, the night before. Jakob speculated the small glass containers could have been there for months, there was no evidence that broom or mop had seen the floor for some time. Nor was it the sort of environment which would benefit from a good heave-ho with the spit and polish; elbow grease would only leave another layer of oily residue on the chipped, black walls. They joked, with well-intentioned good nature, it would be better christened with the name Discomfort Zone.

Jakob found himself in good spirits. A pleasant surprise since he’d expected to wake with the familiar sense of dread which always accompanied the prospect of playing live. It was not, as you might expect, a case of stage fright. His nerves were in anticipation of the awkward social interactions that plague him at these events. If his misunderstood jokes and lapses in repartee were hungry, late-summer wasps, he was somehow the plate of watermelon that beckoned them to gather around in a swarm of buzzing discomfort.

No, being on stage would be a sweet reprieve from trying—and failing—to endear himself to the promoters, DJs and other musicians he’d encounter that evening. Oh, the awkward silences he’d have to endure. Oh, the shameful, glazed look on the face of someone caught in the headlights of making the determination between whether Jakob had just deeply offended them with his well-intended cynicism, or if they should risk laughing along with the wry observation and stand up to be judged alongside. Jakob felt they should be pitied to be put in such a position, yet he knew he’d be powerless to do anything other than throw them under the conversational bus.

There’d be so many opportunities to cause people discomfort during the interminably long wait between sound-check and hitting the stage in front of the sure-to-be small crowd of keeners who’d deign to witness the shame of the opening band. Always a bridesmaid, Moonwood rarely played for more than seventeen people—only those brave enough cast social convention aside and dare to arrive on time for a show. Moonwood is a band for the unhip hipsters and the unseen scenesters who will be pushed to the back of the crowd later as the better-looking denizens of the night file in to see the more popular bands.

Mired in these thoughts for too long, Jakob was relieved to discover that the forboding ping from his email inbox for once had brought him good news. He’d been slated to lead part of a planning seminar the following morning but the loathsome exercise had been bumped into the following week. A crisis avoided. Perhaps other crises would be avoided later on. Experience told him that this would be the case; it would be a fun evening. Not every bed comes with a monster hiding underneath.

Take, as an example, the absentee monster he’d expected to find hidden beneath a phone call he’d made the previous day. The recipient of the call had been his mother and the subject was his very recent engagement to his girlfriend of five years, and singer in his band, Jacqueline Noire. In his mind there’d be conflict over the inability of his grandmother, Isobel, declining in health many provinces to the west, to travel to the nuptials. Surely, his mother would push for the wedding to take place in British Columbia, not Ontario. But this conflict, it had turned out, had been a product of Jakob’s imagination. Only joy and congratulations flowed through the line. Even more joyous, no words had implied a hope that this development would finally open the way for grandchildren—a hope, Jakob assumed, had long since withered in his mother’s breast to a nugget slightly smaller than a walnut heart.

On a less joyous note, the reason for his mother’s lack of expectation that plans be changed so that her own mother be able to attend the wedding was made clear. As his grandmother’s cracked and crackled voice came on the line, it was obvious she was unsure to whom she was speaking to and what “good news” she was meant to be excited about. With a frustrated and embarrassed tone of voice, she signed off and gave the phone back to Jakob’s mother. She would not have been able to attend not matter where the ceremony was to take place. Time is in short supply for Isobel. The bad days have begun to outnumber the good.

Time is as fleeting as clichés about Time are constant. Monday marked five years and six months to the day from when Jakob and Jacqueline had met. She drove him out to the location of their first meeting—the pick-up zone at Kipling subway station—and inside the car, with tears of sentimental joy upon her cheeks that beckoned his own to make an unabashed appearance—she proposed in front a line of confused commuters who awaited for their own loves (true, or otherwise) to pull up and drive them home.


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