53: Sage co*k

In 53 days I will be 30

“I only ask for opportunities to be kind.” I write that in a prayer this morning.

I am simultaneously drinking Bailey’s in my coffee, stolen straight from my parent’s wet-bar at 5 AM. I sneak it off the shelf as quietly as I can which is not quietly at all. The bottle clinks against its neighbouring liquor vessels. I never did this as a teenager. I might as well indulge now, nearly 30, when it can only end in humiliation.


“We drink black coffee and eat quinoa bowls,” writes Chloe Caldwell in I’ll Tell You in Person.

I sit up at Jack Astor’s, the place I go when I feel like reading and getting as drunk as a woman who sits alone at  Jack Astor’s.

I have told exactly two people that I come here. I have made sure both of them know that I want no one else in the world to find out that I get drunk and read at Jack Astor’s even though I know, just by confessing to anyone at all, that I am subconsciously preparing myself to tell the entire world on the internet.

I sit up and imagine a new version of my writer self: Black Coffee and Quinoa. The writing diet. Writers don’t need food. We never move.

I usually love moving when I write. Yoga and running infuse my work with physical energy, impulses, sensations. I cannot write if I am not physical, not properly, not the way I want to write.

Right now I have a knee injury.

It’s a running injury. It isn’t serious. When I was a student at The University of Toronto and I was racing, I acquired a serious ankle injury.

“Do you know how to cure an injury?” A smug physio-therapist at the Athletic Centre looks up at me from a list of exercises he has in front of him, three of them circled for the benefit of Curing me. “Don’t move. Don’t worry. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t move.”

I worry a lot about getting fat.  “But, what if I get fat?” I couldn’t ask him about getting fat because he normally works with very fit, young, U of T athletes. “But, what if I get fat?” He just doesn’t care.

I still need an answer.


The pool is swampy.

Normally a robot cleans it for us.

“I think the water is too high,” explains my mother. “It isn’t going into the filter.”

Remarkably practical. I always forget how practical my mother is. I try to swim. With a painful knee, it isn’t really swimming, it’s more like pushing water in multiple directions while I try not to move my leg. Baby toads float helplessly in the water. They play dead. I understand.


M sits at the window. I haven’t seen him in four months. I broke up with him in September because I could no longer ignore his anti-Semitic misogynistic “teasing”. He used to imitate me in his Jewish Lady Voice. I pulled the plug on our relationship on Yom Kippur. The guilt was too appropriate.

M messages me the day he saw me on Bloor in my running clothes. I had run to Long and McQuade to buy a Ukulele. It is one of February’s most fruitful days.

“Hey if you heard someone calling your name today, that was me.”

I still have his number in my phone, which is rare. Usually when I break up with a guy, I delete and block his number. Good thing I hadn’t deleted his number or his message would have been terrifying.

“Oh hey. What?”

“I saw you at Bloor and Ossington. I was calling your name.”

“Weird.” I stare at my phone. I was having drinks with a friend just previous to him messaging me. I was complaining to her about Original Eddie and how he never gets back to me, he probably never will get back to me, oh god he is never ever going to get back to me. “Do you feel like getting laid?” I ask the obvious.

No answer.

I get home.

I walk my dog.

Finally I hear from him, “whoa, shitty time for my phone to die. Is the offer still on the table?”

I think about it. “Yep. But you can’t sleep here.” M loves to overstay his welcome, forcefully.

“No problem. Be right over.”

He brings over beer. A lot of beer.

When we were dating, he would leave cigarettes in my home. He told me he liked to leave his shit around so that I would think about him. I would smoke all his cigarettes. He would bring over more. He would feel good about doing it. I never liked him.

This time he brings beer. One Shots. Fucking trucker disgusting bitty cans of beer. He puts them in my fridge along with a random selection of craft brews (classic M, not cool at all but trying) and says, “I brought a bunch of options. You can keep whatever. Hey, how are you?” And he kisses me. I remember how much I hate kissing him.

He has a pointy tongue. He flicks it around. I HATE it.

We talk, smoking out the window, an activity he mentions he “missed”.

He tells me my place looks good which makes me happy because I recently threw out a bunch of stuff and color co-ordinated everything, added some plants, burnt some sage. As he talks, idiotically, through the changes he is seeing in my home, telling me it looks “De-cluttered”, I realize, oh damn it right: I did this to detox you.

I cleaned my home. Burned sage for days. Detoxing the men away. Emptying shelves, dampening rolled up tiny clothes, pushing them into dusty corners, replacing old “sexy, attractive” items, clothing, Impressive Shit, throwing away the ego, adding green: Green plants, green books, green dishes.

I refreshed. I refreshed myself. I spun myself around and let the men Go. He has been let go. Along with everyone else. How the hell did he get back here?

He says, “I can tell you lost some weight.”


I run up mountains in Montreal.

It is just one mountain. They have one mountain in Montreal and, during the last few months of my three years that I have been living here, I start running up the mountain almost every day. It isn’t a long run but it helps me build muscles around my knee so that I can avoid injury. I have been running almost twice a day.

I keep having panic attacks. I have been here for three years. I have been studying playwriting at a theatre school. It has taken over my life. In less than two months I will graduate. The change will be sensational. I am unprepared and I do not know if I can handle it. I keep panicking. Nevermind the nearing doom of living in North York with my parents, I am also caught up in a sickening love affair. I am sure that I am in love for the first time and I hate it.

I cannot stop thinking about this guy, some guy, some guy that I decided was important, I just start thinking about him, relating everything back to him. He says it is mutual. He has a girlfriend. I am caught in that High space, that emotionally-driven, gritty, edged-with-blood-and-shit space where someone else Really matters and I can’t remember anything else about myself, about the world, about time.

I run up the mountain. I run down the mountain. I am with my dog. I have been listening to Madonna non-stop. I cry, I cry a lot, I cry so much that I fall to the ground with dramatic predictability (later in my life a new man I love will tell me that everything I do “might as well be on camera”).

I text my best friend.

I drop off my dog. I throw a bunch of shit in a bag while singing to myself because I have recently learned that singing to myself outloud calms my anxiety. I go to her house. I get into her room. I burst into tears on the floor. She holds me. It ends. We go to dinner. After dinner she works while I stretch in her living room and read Norman Mailer.

The next day I get very drunk. I put whisky in my coffee at 5 AM. By 5 PM I am crying while walking home from a bar, alone. I get a message from a mentor/spirit guide of mine. He says something ridiculous. I say “I THINK I AM DYING”.

“Burn some sage, Ganz. I know it sounds stupid but it works. Go home. Clean up.” Most of what he says sounds stupid but then works. I know I have to go home and do everything he has ever told me to do: Ask myself a question, take a nap, wake up and sit with the answer. Sure, let’s just add a layer of sage.

Before getting home, I buy sage. I burn sage. I don’t know how to burn sage. It sets on fire. I drop it on the ground, it blows out, the aroma and the smoke and the realization that fires do not necessarily ruin things–I “clean up”.


“You look like you’ve lost some weight. I don’t know if it was intentional, but-” M is staring me up and down.

I have gained weight. I smile.

“I’m actually excited to see if you notice a difference in me. I’ve been working out a lot, like a lot a lot.”

He takes his shirt off. He touches his stomach. “See? Is it good.”

I fuck him. Not because his stomach is “Good”. It has nothing to do with his stomach.

The sex takes forever (M describes himself as “insatiable”).

I am really ready for him to leave.

He will ask me to fuck him again tomorrow.

I will tell him no and invite him over the following night.

He will give me my first UTI which will turn into a kidney infection which I will be SURE is gonorrhoea. I will get mad at him for nothing, for refusing to get tested, for insisting that all the other women he has slept with are clean, for nothing, for just being nothing.

I don’t have gonorrhoea.

I binge on alcohol while my poor kidney tries to heal and I get fat.


My mother and I find a book called Dr. Joshi’s Holistic Detox. I am in high school. We are detoxing. This is the first time I will ever read about Gluten. We become gluten-free.

After the 21 days are up, my mother buys a bunch of gluten-free cookies from The Big Carrot.

Her and my dad go out of town. They leave me alone in their home. I smoke weed. The cookies are still frozen when I eat them.

I know I am fat.

But then, I wonder if fat even has anything to do with actual Fat.

Maybe Fat is really just the state of getting high and eating twelve large health cookies.

I go to Yorkdale Shopping Centre by myself for the first time. I get on a bus and I go to Yorkdale. I don’t want to be fat anymore. I don’t want to wear the oversized vintage clothing I have been wearing to school. I want to get up and go out and look good. Today I am going to Yorkdale to look good. I will bring home bags of things and I will look good.

I take all the money anyone has ever given me. I have a bank card with Bat Mitzvah funds and gifts from bubie. I step off the subway. There is a “Health” store near the entranceway to the shopping mall. I see HEALTH and I think: oh. Ok.

I look around. The smell of sage and dust fills aisles of white bottles with purple lids, protein powders and capsuled micronutrients, it all leads me to the aisle marked WEIGHT LOSS.

I find a product called Xenedrine, a “natural” weight loss supplement.

I buy a bottle.

I don’t ask about the caffeine content of each pill.

I don’t know about my bi polar disorder.

I just want to be skinny. And this is a HEALTH store.


I have not lost the weight I gained during that kidney infection I contracted when sleeping with M.

I tell everyone it’s from quitting smoking twice in one year.

No, it isn’t.

I gained weight because I felt ashamed of fucking a man who I hate.

I did the same thing a month ago.

I confessed yesterday to my psychiatrist, “do you remember that guy, C? Well I fucked him again and I guess I just wanted to have sex with someone and he isn’t physically threatening and I figured it was csaual because he has two girlfriends and he doesn’t care about me, he doesn’t care about me so I figured it would be ok to have sex with him.”

“I think there’s a problem,” I sink because I have known my psychiatrist since I was fifteen and I just want to be grown up and impressive by now but instead I am almost thirty, single, still fat and still craving alcohol and cock I can’t have, “I think there’s a problem with deciding to sleep with someone based on how little they care about you.”

I sip on my black coffee and stare at the ground.

At home I lie in bed with my mom, watch Masterchef planning tomorrow: wake up, write, light sage, meditate, black coffee and tums, shrink.

“Don’t move. Don’t worry. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t move.”


Thank you so much for reading! If you like my work and you’d like to contribute, I have a show in the Toronto Fringe festival that needs your support!

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2 replies to “53: Sage co*k

  1. About 4 years ago, I went to a new Psychiatrist for medication management and he asked me “the question” about alcohol intake. I told him. It isn’t a lot, but it’s very, very consistent. He told me I will quit. Like that, “you will quit.” And that stuck with me for over a year. And then I did quit. The bastard hit me with some sort of voodoo that made me quit. And it sucked, sucks. Now two and a half years later–30 months–I’ve still quit. From my sober high-horse it’s easy to spot a problem drinker. It isn’t just getting drunk alone, it’s the way we talk about alcohol. We talk about it like it’s our friend. Someone we have a relationship with. I found your post sad and compelling. I rarely read anything without paragraph breaks because I have diplopia, which is a fancy way of saying double vision. It’s hard to keep my place. Please print out your essay and maybe some other recent essays. Take a highlighter and highlight every sentence that bothers you. Then take it to someone you trust, maybe your mother–you seem close, and tell her this is the list of things you need to fix. I never had an intervention except that Psychiatrist. I wish I had one sooner.


    1. Hi Jeff, congratulations on your sobriety.

      I use my blog as an avenue to validate those of us who feel alienated by our failures. Most of us aren’t perfect. I write to make sure we all know that imperfections aren’t a reason to give up.

      I appreciate your experience but I found your comment more triggering than anything else.

      Men LOVE to tell me how to fix myself and it rarely has anything to do with helping me.

      Please be careful with your influence.
      Cheers bud,


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