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November-December 2009

Great Canadian Literary Hunt 2009: Dear Dave Bidini by Janette Platana

Janette PlatanaWebsite

Editor’s note: We’re posting the winners of the 2009 Great Canadian Literary Hunt to promote the 2010 contest. Look for one new poem and short story each day the rest of this week. Enter today and you could be published in This Magazine, and win a cash prize of $750!

Great Canadian Literary Hunt 2009 - Fiction, 1st placeDear Dave Bidini,

I hate hockey, but can we still be friends?

As you can tell, I am a 15-year-old boy, and this is true. I lie on my bed and listen to my mom’s old albums. I am listening to Whale Music, and I feel like you know me even though it was recorded before I was born.

Dear Dave Bidini, did you think the world would have changed by now? When you were growing up, did they have trans?

I think I am trans. I am not really a boy, but when I think about having sex, I always imagine that I am a boy doing it with a boy. In my dream, I have a penis, and I am doing it to the other boy with my penis. I lied about being a boy. This part is true. Dear Dave Bidini, I hope this is not embarrassing for you.

HockeySolomon is in my Algebra class, and is called Sol. His parents home-schooled him until this year. Homeschooled kids are supposed to be different and openminded, so I might be able to be friends with him. Tomorrow I am going to give Sol a note in Algebra.

Dear Dave Bidini, I asked Sol if he wanted to come over to my place after school tomorrow. He said yes.

Dear Dave Bidini, Sol is coming over today. He barely looked at me in Algebra.

Dear Dave Bidini, Sol will be here in a few hours. Dear Dave Bidini, I just shaved my head. Sol didn’t mind it. He said he thought it was cool. And when he sat down on my bed to do homework, we did homework. Dave Bidini, I wish we’d had sex. His skin smelled like rain. When he was reading his textbook, the back of his neck looked very smooth and brown. There were fine hairs on it in the shape of an arrow that pointed to a place that made me want to put my hands down the front of his pants. Are everyone’s thoughts this dirty? The backs of his ears are beautiful.

When he left, I lay on my bed, rubbing my crotch against my palm. I pretended Sol was on top of me, and that I was fucking his butt. I’m a girl, Dave Bidini, so this is trouble.

My mom came home from work about the time I had finished making supper. I made hamburgers and frozen French fries and Caesar salad. When she saw my scalp, she didn’t say much. She couldn’t, exactly, having told me, my whole life, “A mohawk, dear, is always a good fashion choice.” She is obsessed with the Clash, and they are dead. But I could tell she didn’t like it, because she started pulling out hats after supper, asking which one I was going to wear to school tomorrow.

Dear Dave Bidini, today at school Sol ignored me. No one noticed my shaved head, or if they did, they didn’t say anything. I wore a hat. No one ever looks at me anyway.

There is a girl in my class who everyone says is a lesbian. I’m not interested in her. The thought of her bust against mine just makes me think of hugging an air bag. It would be soft and squishy and I would sink into it like it was an air bag on impact and I would die from the thing that was supposed to save me. I can’t even think about what it would be like on her down there. I want to feel my hard chest against Solly’s hard chest. I would like the sound of his teeth knocking against mine when we kissed.

Dear Dave Bidini, when I came home from school today, my mother was already here. She was crying at the kitchen table, holding a Polaroid of her mom. She told me she was crying because she was remembering her mom, but that it’s not my job to carry her emotions. Yeah, right, like she really means that.

When I went into my room, she was still crying. I could hear her. I started thinking about a song I could play for her to cheer her up. I went out to the kitchen and put my iPod buds in her ears, so she could listen to “Record Body Count.” Dear Dave Bidini, she just kept crying. I wonder if she has depression.

It’s just me and my mom, Dave Bidini. We are a single-parent, single-child family. There was never a father, Dave Bidini. I think he was some guy in a band. It’s the only thing that makes sense to me, Dave Bidini: my father was a rock star, and my mother was a guitar. I am not some one, Dave Bidini. I am some thing. I feel like a thing, when I listen to music. There is a guitar solo you do in between “Rain” and “Queer” that makes me feel like it is actually being played on my stomach. It’s not so bad.

When my mom came into my room, she sat on my bed and kissed me and told me she loves me. Then she said, “You should tell people how much they mean to you before they die.”

God, she is so creepy sometimes. But I am thinking, Dave Bidini, that I should tell you how much your music means to me before you die. Are you old, Dave Bidini?

Sol again. He came up to me in the parking lot and asked if I could come to his place. His mom was picking him up. I said yes and got in their car with them. I didn’t call my mom, Dave Bidini. Not right away.

Sol’s house is incredibly cool. There is a live tree growing in their kitchen, in the middle of the table. It comes up out of the floor, and when you go in the basement you see this giant hole his dad must have dug when they built the house. They built the house around this tree.

Sol is very mature for his age, and has a great vocabulary, and is what my mother would call “emotionally intelligent.” When we were sitting on his bed, getting ready to do homework, he told me that he always thought I was too cool for him. He said he was intimidated. I thought, “I thought you hated me.”

And then, Dave Bidini, I leaned over and kissed him on the mouth. When he kissed back, I took his hand and placed it on my breast, inside my shirt but outside of my bra. Sol froze for a sec, like he was startled, but then relaxed but stayed completely still.

Then, after a second, he started moving his hand around. A lot. We did that for a long time, while kissing, first with our mouths closed, but then it was so great my lips kind of opened on their own and a noise came out of me like I’ve never heard myself make before.

Sol got up, went to his bedroom door, which was open, and stuck his head out and called, “Mom?” She didn’t answer, and he shut the door and locked it behind him.

“Is she gone out?” I asked.

He shook his head. “I don’t think so,” he said. “She’s probably outside stirring the compost. But we’ve talked about sex, me and her and my dad. They said I should only have sex with people who like me, and that it should be pleasurable. They also said it was better to have the first time here rather than in the back seat of a car.”

“I like you,” I said.

Sol took off his glasses, and I unbuttoned my shirt. He put his hands and then his arms around to my back. Then somehow, we were both in our underpants, kissing like crazy. Dave Bidini, we touched each other everywhere, and I didn’t feel like a girl or a guy. I just felt like me.

When I got home, I didn’t tell my mom I had had sex because, technically, we hadn’t. What happened is that I had my crotch against Sol’s thigh, and he was rubbing it against my crotch, and my breathing got faster and faster and suddenly I felt a little dizzy. The kissing was crazy just then, like we were eating ice cream out of each others’ mouths. I know it was the You Know. The Orgasm. What a dumb word. I was dizzy and I was puffing and I had my hand tight around Sol’s god I don’t even know what he calls it and he arched his back away from me at the same time he pushed his forehead against mine and the mess was not as bad as you might expect but it was warm and there was a lot of it, Dave Bidini. It was great. I can’t wait to do it again. Sol has to go with his parents to Tofino tomorrow, but he’s coming over to my place the next day after school, which is Friday, when my mother works late at the radio station!

Now it’s tomorrow. Dave Bidini, I think she is cracking up. “What noises do rock stars make that you like?” she asked me.

“Huh?”

My mother doesn’t understand, Dave Bidini. She thinks that I love you. I don’t love you, Dave Bidini, I want to be you. I think that if I had been a boy, Dave Bidini, I would have been you. Is that the same as love?

“It’s usually the stuff other than the words and the chords that really pull you into the song,” my mother is saying.

“Like…”

“Like Joe Strummer crowing like a rooster in London Calling. That’s what got me, the first time I heard it. I thought, ‘What would make him decide to do that?’ That’s the kind of thing that has always gotten me. And the Beastie Boys—”

“Beastie Men is more like it.”

“—uh, and I was just…wondering…if you listen to music that way.”

“Well, Dave Bidini does this thing—”

“Oh, Dave Bidini!” she interrupts me. “I saw him the other day. He was with his kids.”

Ohmigod, Dave Bidini. You’re still alive. And if you have kids, then you’re probably the same age as my mother. And maybe you know each other. She knows lots of rock stars because of her job. But Dave Bidini, are you still the guy whose voice I hear on “King of the Past”? I want to know, because I don’t want to be a rock star, but I don’t really understand why I love you in the way that I do.

“Tell me more about what you listen for in a song,” I ask my mom. I can tell she’s happy, because I don’t usually seem very interested in what she has to say. I am, but I don’t show it, and she can’t tell, so she usually seems disappointed and tries to hide it.

“Oh, I like the squeaks and the feedback and the scraping sound the guitarists’ fingers make when they skate up the strings during a solo, almost as much as the solo itself, and I like those things that singers mutter close to the mike when they’re not singing, but they decide to keep them on the record anyway. And the breathing, the inhales. And I like real drums. You didn’t have to live through the ’80s thank god, those stupid drum machines were as perfect as laugh tracks.”

I am drifting a little bit, and she is going off in her own world, all happy to be talking about rock and roll, and about herself. She’s a really good mom, Dave Bidini, but she’s different.

“I’m going to have sex here tomorrow with Solomon Mellor,” I say.

There is a very long pause. “I thought you’d like to know.” “Thank you.” “We, um—” “We need to talk about birth control.” “We’ll probably get some condoms.” “Is this the first—uh, should you have been on the pill, or the patch? Before this?” I can’t bring myself to say anything. “I, uh, I thought—” she begins. “You thought I was a fucking queer.” Now she says nothing. “Everybody does, just because I don’t wear my underwear on the outside of my clothes and have a word on my pants you can read off my ass.”

Neither of us has ever really heard me talk like this, and we’re both kind of shocked, I guess.

“I guess you’re right,” she says. “I did think maybe you were gay.”

Then she says, “Look, it doesn’t matter to me if you’re straight or gay or what. You know that.”

I do know that. She would probably be thrilled if I were, so that she could be the first parent in our building to start a chapter of PFLAG.

“You’ve told me a few times,” I say.

“What’s important is that the boy is nice to you, and that you only do what feels good for you.”

“You sound like a hippie.” “A what?” She is totally horrified. “I know this kid whose mom is a hippie and she told him the same thing.” “Mmm. Mm hm,” she says. When she stops using words and just uses sounds I know she is offended and trying not to be.

“Maybe punks and hippies aren’t that different,” I say.

“Oh my god,” she says.

“Like, nobody even uses those words anymore,” I say. “Hippie, anyway. And punk doesn’t seem to mean much. Or maybe too much. I don’t know.” “Would you call yourself a punk?” she asks. “No way,” I say. She looks at me. I want to change the subject. “The Clash—” she begins.

“Weren’t even punk, by London Calling,” I finish, and then there is a long, long pause.

“I guess you’re right,” she says.

“Look,” I say, “Out of all the parents I know, except maybe Sollie’s, you are still cool.” I don’t tell her they’re hippies.

“Sweetheart,” she says, “I am so glad you think so. But you cannot imagine how much I have sold myself out.”

“What are you talking about?” I ask. “You work at a radio station, you do all that stuff for the NDP, your hair is blue, and you buy all that Nicaraguan fair-trade coffee.”

“Strummy,” she says, which is her nickname for me from when I was small. She calls me Strummer now, all the time, which is better, but the kids at school generally call me Bummer, and I am going to ask Sollie to call me by my middle name, Patti.

“Strummy,” she says, “I have not lived up to my own ideals. It’s a hell of a realization when you reach my age.”

And she pauses here, then adds, “But my disappointment and sense of failure is not your burden, capice?”

See what I mean about how she puts her shit on me all the time, and then says that she isn’t? I know she tries to understand me, but I don’t want to have to understand her. That’s just too much.

“Look,” I say, “so you’re not a punk either, even though you were 30 years ago, or whatever it is—”

“Twenty-five.”

“Twenty-five. But you still believe what you believed in then, don’t you? I mean, you told me that being punk in those days was about wanting to change things, not just bitch about it. D.I.Y. All that.”

“And?”

“And that’s kind of what hippies were like, right? Only in the ’60s?”

“Highly debatable, but the idealism of protest music, which punk was, and folk music, which—”

“Mom?” “What?” “If I think about talking to or writing to someone who made an album 20 years ago, and that someone is alive still, what does it mean?”

“It means you are talking to or writing to who that artist was when they made the album.”

“Okay. Good,” I say.

“I mean, are you going to be the same person you were 25 years ago?”

Huh?

“Am I the same person I was 25 years ago? Well, yes and no.”

“I thought so.”

There’s another pause, while she looks at a spot in the air above my head.

“So, if I called you a hippie, Mom, I didn’t mean it in a bad way. More like some of the hippie ideas were like your punk ideas, and that makes hippie better, okay?”

“Okay.”

We’re quiet again, and I’m thinking about you, Dave Bidini. Are you still the guy who wrote “Beerbash”?

My mom says, “So now I am indistinguishable as a punk. Ex-punk. I could be an ex-hippie, even.”

“Mom,” I say, “are you okay with me and Solly having…you know…here. Tomorrow night?”

“I guess I always hoped we’d have that kind of relationship when you grew up, I guess, where you’d feel okay about talking to me about this, I guess. I mean, I tried to raise you so that you would feel—”

“Okay. I’m telling you.” “Okay. I’m glad. Yes. I’m glad you told me.” “Okay.” “I’ll be home late.” “Okay.” She gets up to go do something. “Mom,” I say, “I’d rather be raised by an ex-punk than an ex-hippie.” “Why?” she says with a smile that says she doesn’t believe me. “Because of all my radical ideals that have flabbed out around my butt into hippiness? Because almost none of what I believed in came true?”

I don’t quite know what to say to this.

“Listen, Pattismith—” she starts in, remembering to use my middle name this time, which I suddenly realize sounds incredibly lame when she says it, and I guess I make some kind of sound because she repeats it.

“Pattismith,” she says again, doing one of her bigdeal inhales, but this time she surprises even me with her big deal. “Having a lot of ideals is like having only a bit of talent. You expect too much, and like yourself too little….

“No,” I say. “The ex-punk thing … just better music. No love songs.”

Dave Bidini, I can hardly wait until the day after tomorrow. But now that you’re real, I’m not going to write to you anymore.

And even if I did, Dave Bidini, even if I did, when you read this it won’t be me who’s telling you the story that I’m telling you right now.

Janette Platana was born in Saskatchewan and now lives in Small Town Ontario, where she writes, plas music, and makes short films. Her website is janetteplatana.com.
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