The Chairs Are Purple

It’s 04:01 in the morning and I am awake. I know this because the numbers boasting from the screen of my alarm clock inform me of such. And despite the mention of an alarm, I was not at all required to be awake at such an arbitrary hour. It was no automated beep that woke me. It was the aching mind and its perfidious thoughts that refused my respite from wakefulness. Pain, anguish and traumas once lived slowly and meticulously percolated within the coffee maker of memory before dripping into the cup of consciousness.

It was a Wednesday morning, the eve before a momentous occasion in my life. I should have been awake with a tingling sense of excitement, but alas, my mind does not do what I so often think it should. I rolled onto my back and tossed forlorn glances into the ether of woeful imagery. I saw her face and then her note. Though I have not read it since that day, each scribbled line is stapled horribly permanent to the inside of my mind. The last piece of writing my mother would ever do was from a terrible category of prose that I once had to read plethorically – the last utterances that are penned within the pages of a suicide note.

In the ungodly quiet of that early morning and from the resting place of my sleepless bed, I had become a graphologist; reading from memory each of my mother’s terribly sullen words. This was not done out of intent nor willful application. This is a symptom of a broken heart that belongs to a dented man. I am that man. I am also a boy who has lost his mum. My father, a child molester. My mother, gone. Killed by her own mind. My family? Scattered within the debris of childhood trauma and the recent loss of our mum… I suppose it makes sense that I was awake after all… A troubled mind is not a restful one.

Let me tell you of this momentous occasion that should have held forefront in my mind. It’s an unconventional thing, but a lovely thing. Unconventional Love Stories presented by Brainstorm! Thursday, February 14th of 2019, I was to be a key speaker in a show about love in all its forms, especially beyond the romantic realm. I was due to be in Barrie for 5pm on Valentine’s Day. As such, I decided to head up a day early so that I could rest and not have to worry about travel the day of.

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I withdrew myself from my bed and grabbed my bags and placed them by the front door. I spent the next little while getting ready before calling an Uber and heading towards Barrie. I had a friend with me, Danny. He was coming for moral support and company. He’s a good guy that way. I was now somewhat excited because I know Barrie. I spent a decent portion as a young man there. When I was in the army, my base was a little way’s north of Barrie, so weekends were typically spent in the city, hopping from bar to bar in search of pretty women – typically a fruitless endeavour – I am not what you would call; handsome. And with a shaved head and awkward disposition, I was not at all a lady’s man. But I still tried.

It was going to be nice to show Danny the physical locations of some of the stories that I have beguiled him with over the years. First stop, McReilly’s Irish Pub! This was always our first destination on our debauchery tour on weekends. Seemed fitting to start Danny and I there, too.

McReilly’s is a spot on the main drag of Barrie. It is comprised of old wooden beams and creaky floor boards that lament beneath the unsteady gait of its patrons. I’ll never forget the night that, Ricard had a few too many black and tans and then puked into the stein glass before discreetly placing it underneath of a near by table and then ordering some deep-fried cheese sticks… and another black and tan!

The place was exactly as I remember it. Despite the decade or so that has passed since our last encounter. I walked inside and led Danny to my usual spot. The feeling of nostalgia was instantly sparked when the table that we sat at began to wobble beneath the weight of our resting elbows. When I said nothing had changed, I suppose that’s not entirely true, the menu had been given an overhaul and the walls were kissed by a new coat of paint. Other than that, though, it was the same ole McReilly’s.

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Danny and I sat and had a bite to eat. Danny seemingly enjoyed the retelling of some of my more mischievous army days, and I enjoyed sitting in a room of memories that don’t haunt me at night.

After a quick walk about the town and a dip in the hotel pool, it was time to begin settling for the night. The TV was on, but it acted merely as background noise for me. I was reading in preparation for my story the next day. I orated it aloud a couple of times and enlisted the ears of my buddy, Danny to listen and give feedback. He said it was good and seemed genuine in his critique. Feeling the weight of a long day, I finally began settling in to sleep. Well, try, anyway…

The night was horror free, but restless nonetheless. Come morning, Danny and I lumbered from our respective beds and began to pack up and meet with Heather, my friend and publisher. She was also one of the driving forces behind tonight’s festivities. So, when she arrived, she did so with an accompanying aura of eagerness and drive whilst introspectively completing checklists in her head.

She drove us to the theatre to meet with the staff and check out the arena. She had asked that we help her carry in some of the stuff needed for tonight’s show, we obliged. A worker from the theatre held the door open and I maneuvered passed her while carrying one of the boxes. I entered into a dimly lit entryway at the back of the arena and had to make a sharp left to begin walking down the stairs. I managed one or two before the nefarious nature of PTSD took hold, and like a damp cloth, rang my mind, thus jostling images, tastes and smells free from their hidden nooks.

Ka-thump, ka-thump, ka-thump…

My weighted steps slapped the wood of the stairs as I descended further and further into the bowel of the arena. The descent was not only physical, my mind fell precipitously into the past. The act of entering a doorway, making a sudden and sharp left, then trapesing downward ignited thoughts of, the boy… a fourteen-year-old that I had once responded to as a medic. On the day that I found him, it was at the bottom of a set of old wooden stairs, much like the ones I was on now…

As I neared the base of the stairs, I was confronted by an archway to my right… just like the boy’s… I fully anticipated making that required right turn and then seeing a dead boy swinging from a rope by his neck. I rounded the corner – no boy. No musty basement. No frantic sister trying to cut a brother down while pleading for me to help. I was now fully obfuscated because internally I was somewhere completely different than where I now found myself.

The gift of sobriety and clear mind is that I knew what was happening before ever involuntarily reacting to it. At least, not fully. I was able to convince myself that I was not in the basement of a dead boy. I was able to acclimate to the here and now. My nose, however, was not so fortunate. A sudden and sharp introduction of odorous piss began poisoning my smell. The urine of the boy…

Heather had started speaking to me at some point, but I was not sure what she was saying or why she was saying it. The next clear sequence that comes to me is hearing Heather ask if I am alright. I begin to attempt and explain my odd demeanour. It was a failed confabulation. I began to choke on both spoken word and ghost piss…

I began to break. My eyes failed me and let one tear go, then another…

I cried, horribly so.

Heather gave me the time I needed. She came to check on me at some point when I had collected enough of myself to be somewhat coherent. She was kind and understanding with me. I was not so generous with myself. Inwardly I decried at my recent behavior. I felt bad. Felt as though I had done something wrong. She reassured me of otherwise, but it remained no less frustrating for me. I mean, here I am, in the theatre of the place where I am going to give my first ever orated story to complete strangers, and I can’t even remain present for it. Vexing is to put it mildly.

Fortunately, something serendipitous was about to take place. Something that I could not have scripted even had I wanted to…

Firstly, I should tell you that the story I was going to be reading was a story about my mum. It was of a memory that had come to me back during Thanksgiving. Heather had selected it and said that it would be a great contribution to the stories of the night. As many of you know, my mother is no longer around. So, being able to not only recall fond memories of her, but share them with the world and keep her alive for a few moments longer is an incredible thought to me. I wanted to do well. I wanted to tell these people just how incredible a woman she was. I sucked up the remainder of self-loathing and placed it into the rear of priorities and followed Heather up a different set of stairs that led into the stage area.

We walked into a dark room festooned with dark curtains that hung beautifully from ceiling to floor. The overhead lighting was subtle and pleasing to the eyes. It was cool to see where all of this would take place. As the theatre assistant talked details with Heather, my eyes trundled atop of the scenery of the room. I gaped in marvel at it all. This was a real theatre. A legit place for the thespian. Or, in this case, the talking wounded…

And that’s when it happened; when my eyes ceased all movement and rested solely upon the sight that they were taking in… the chairs… the chairs are purple! My story is about my mum, my pain is of my mum’s absence and my memory is of her life, a life she lived with an unrivaled adoration for the color purple! My mother loved it. Purple everything.

I was taken aback for a moment. I had just come from the hell of downstairs and was now standing in a room where my mother was on every chair around me. It felt as though she was saying, “It’s okay, Matty-watt. It’s okay, you’re okay… Mum’s right here… Mum’s right here…”

The topper for all of this, is that I had a chair reserved just for her, my mum. It was complete with a, “reserved” placard and everything. My mum was right there in that room, all over the place.

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I made it through the night. I told the world of her, of my mum. I tried my best not to cry, but, well, I did. I cried. But I was supported by those around me. I was hugged and given words of kindness. I was also thanked for my tale about mum. An old man walked up to me, his body beaten by time and gravity’s resting hand. He said that he could envision everything that I was saying and that although he had lost his mother over thirty-years prior, he could remember her as clear as anything while I told my story. Compliments don’t come much higher than that.

The end of the evening rolled around and as I was packing to leave a friend and fellow author put her hand on my shoulder and said to me, “everyone needs a blankie.” I was unsure of what she meant at first. But then I remembered a social media post that I had written recently about being afraid to sleep and equating my fear to that of a child without his blankie… I now had MY blankie, thanks to her.

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I went home that night, crawled into bed and felt the fleece embrace of a blanket made with love, stitched with generosity and given in sincerity. I closed my eyes and the first thing to varnish the backs of them was an expansive sea of purple – the chairs, the chairs are purple…

I fell asleep. No nightmares. No bad smells. No screaming wounded. Nothing but love and rest, that’s a pretty great love story for Valentine’s day…

Mum, thanks…

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3 thoughts on “The Chairs Are Purple

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