Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Beautiful Thing (Hard as a Hockey Puck)

First performed, in 2001, at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, Toronto, Ontario, by Jason Leighfield: a great actor and an even better friend.

Charles backs onto the stage talking to unseen people in the wings.

“Oh yes I know, I know, the string section alone it was . . . I was taken away, I was truly taken away.”

He stops and turns to the audience. He takes out a pack of cigarettes and starts the fiddle with it while he talks.

It’s what we desire, it’s what we long for, it’s what we live for. The quest for beauty is at the core of our very being. It’s a need, a shared addiction. In every turn we try to find it, capture it. But if we succeed in getting a hold of it we must be sure not to hold it too close, because if we do then we’ll soon tire of it and the beauty will be lost.

Perhaps, that’s why the things that we secretly find the most appealing, what creates the deepest longing in us, are the things that are denied us: the chocolate bar in the back of the drawer, the magazine under the mattress, the blood on the pavement, the love unrequited. It’s all beautiful, in it’s own way, but we’re not about to admit it in public.

No, we praise the slender supermodel while longing for the renaissance women; denounce the violence while staring at the screen; compliment the vintage while longing for the hop; and God forbid anyone should light up.

He takes a cigarette out of the pack, looks around, looks at the cigarette; looks around, again, lifts the cigarette to his nose, smells it like it was a fine cigar, and *SIGHS*. He lowers the cigarette and returns it to the pack and the pack to his pocket. 

For years I have professed to finding beauty in artistic and intellectual pursuits: the sorrowful sounds of Sibelius, the mournful notes of the cello; or in the madness which lies in the brush stroke of a starry night; in the forms, and even the very blows of the sculptures chisel.

Other times I would say, with great depth, that man can not create true beauty. That true beauty lay’s only in nature and that man’s gift was to be able to recognize it. Then I would point out the irony in the fact that we, the only creatures that can appreciate the beauty that surrounds, are in turn the only ones destroying it. I feel ashamed at my arrogant rumblings, now. Now, that I am about to confess to you what my true imagining of beauty is. One defining image.

I was fourteen. Most of the truly beautiful things we experience in life happen when we are young; that's when we're most open to them. I was with my friends on the frozen lake playing hockey. This, in itself, was a beautiful experience. The sounds of the mental cutting frozen water, the wood hitting the ice, the yells of excitement, surrounded by friends, without a worry in the world and all with one a clear objective.

There was a rush at the our net. My team was fighting them off. I held back, half way up the ice. Their goalie was my best friend Peter’s little brother who couldn’t stop a puck to safe his life. I knew that if my team could just get the puck to me, I could score from centre.

Then it happened, the puck broke free and floated down the ice to meet its destiny at the end of my stick. I quickly got it under control, swung around, lined up, pulled back . . . then I saw her. Against the backdrop of the setting sun she was silhouetted by a sky ablaze with the same red passion that burned within me.

She, was DarlenePeter’s older sister. She was just on the other side of the goal, practising her figure skating, wearing nothing but those beautiful white skates, pink tube socks, a toque and a scarf. Of course she wasn't really naked, it was -15 for god’s sake, but to me, she was in the buck. I guess I left her the toque and scarf to give the fantasy that touch of realism that made it all seem possible.

Oh, how the cold did such wonderful things to her porcelain skin with perfect red highlights, the pours all closed tight, everything so firm as she pirouetted. An airbrush can’t compare to the wondrous winter wind. It was amazing. Watching her somehow ripped me from this world made an interracial part of it all at the same time. I couldn't move or think; of course most of my blood was being quickly diverted away from brain to deal with more important matters.

The trance had such a hold one me that I stayed in it even when my feet were taken out from under me and I glided backward to the cold ice surface. There I lay, flat out. Well, not entirely.

With all the strength of adolescence one part of me defied gravity, as well as two pairs of long-johns, in order to remain standing. That part continued to stand proudly until Brad clipped its tip with his hockey stick.

As excruciatingly painful as that was I hold no ill will towards Brad. I came to realize, years later, that the only reason that Brad did what he did, was so that the others won’t see how captivating he found me. Through my eyes Darlene was the perfect Venice, and through Brad’s eyes I was the perfect David.

Of course, no one would have noticed Brad for they were all to caught up in the game. And Brad and I did our best to pretend that we were that caught up in it, too. That our vision was the same as everyone else's. But it wasn't.

Thinking of it now, though, I’m not sure if there ever was a true shared vision, or if everyone out there had their own dirty little pictures going through their minds—images that they kept tucked in the back of the drawer or under the mattress.

Years later when I kissed Darlene that still wasn't more beautiful. The all-night conversations and debates that lead to the kiss, when we first made love, our marriage, or the birth of our first child, which is what I tell everyone was the most beautiful sight I’d every seen:

“Nature, at it finest, working directly through us,” I’d say.

None of it comes close to seeing her on that ice, with nipples that could cut glass and me hard as a hockey puck and straight as a steel blade.

He pulls the cigarette pack back out of his pocket, takes a cigarette out of it with his teeth, lights it and takes a long drag. He exhales and watches the smoke drift away. 

That, my friends, was beautiful thing.

Copyright © Colin Frizzell 2001. All rights reserved.

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