the return of el niño
\”He ain\’t dead. He\’s just asleep.\” – r. zimmerman
In the last days between December and January I placed an order for a Chinese timepiece. To see in the new year. I lost a week waiting for that watch. The courier\’s knock at the door, the gnawing of the letterbox on bubble wrap. It was a good thing I had no way of knowing the time precisely. Shooting stars winked and went. IFK, not J. Aladdin Sane. Librarians made a deal of androgyny. Men in suits puckered their lips and swooned. I counted the days by Dope City Free Press. Nathan on the west coast campaigning. I lost my appetite for hard liquor. Cigarettes, to a lesser extent. I idled through one stretch into the next billowing vast clouds of milk tea laced with jasmine. The Nicotine down to 0.6 of a gramme, or something along those lines. You do the math. The weather was neither ferociously cold nor especially clement. Entire causeways were swallowed up by the rain a few miles to the south and east. I reside these days in a tenement perched half way up a steep incline. Untouched by drowning hands. The river rushes past and does its thing. I am a hermit through Monday to Friday, a father on the weekend. When the wristwatch finally arrived it was missing that piece of its winding mechanism designed to negotiate the change in time zone; a tiny stud detached in one corner of a rudely opened envelope. The Chinese are like that. Deft with their hands but inscrutable. They build things cleverly only for them to fail or fall apart. Customs officials rip and prod and joke among themselves while calculating taxes. One gasps at the attention to detail even as the wheels come off. My younger son is no longer the infant but no less curious for it. He constructs things out of brightly coloured Lego bricks more durable than watches. Elaborate conceits on spider legs held together by sheer force of will. He eats like a bird. Cereals mostly. Nuggets of chicken smothered in ketchup. Where other children resemble Buddha, he looks like a fasting monk. Catsup may have etymological origins in the late 17th century, I gather. The Cantonese dialect. Stir the most ordinary of waters and one uncovers odd half secrets. Filaments. Conducting wires and threads in a soup of shared DNA. A Portuguese peasant floats his tomato. A Chinaman aboard a junk spears it. You may read of El Niño. A warm front pushing up from Peru and Ecuador. Donald Trump failed to proscribe it. Like King Cnut he could not turn the tide. Everybody in the world eaten up by waves blames the Christ child for their ills. Before he got nailed as our Saviour. Come Easter, they have forgotten about all that unseasonal heavy rain. They are all too busy carving out a slice on the bid to rebuild the dam. It is a shame Miles Davis is no longer around to riff on it. Don Van Vliet too. Together they might have blown away that misconception. January, it seems to me, is a good month to lie low. I still wish from time to time that I was back on the 22nd floor. Tossing my bags down the hall. Well. You can wish in one hand and piss in the other, as they say. On the back of the mildest of drafts, I go where I am bidden.