Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 25-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.
He’s there, standing in the bamboo section of the garden store, heavier than I thought he’d be. He’s very nervous. We walk up to the Drive for a coffee at Calabria. Fred talks a lot, telling me about his childhood and things he did before he got married, had a kid and divorced. After an hour, I want to get going. I am sad about not being attracted to him. I try to recall how I came to have a different image of him.
I log on to Lavalife to look at his photos. I see how he has carefully cropped them, selecting poses that are most flattering—as we all do. He has ticked the box “fit” as opposed to “a few extra pounds.” I update my profile, ticking boxes “slim” and “muscular” rather than having no preference.
Thinking about successful relationships over the years, I add a comment to my written section: “Seeking someone who is actively involved in culture rather than passively waiting for a big break.”
Several days later, Fred arrives unannounced at a Mecca Normal performance: an art auction to benefit books for prisoners. I’m very surprised to see him since we didn’t really click over coffee. The place is full of punks and artists, Vancouver’s impressive crossover contingency of underground musicians and political activists. Fred looks out of place in his white button-down shirt and Dockers. He stays for our set and leaves without saying good-bye. The next day I am lying in the sun, thinking about the art auction; my painting was bought by a guitar player I really like. I step inside to get water and check the computer. Fred has sent an email:
I am certainly a green light on this “relationship” thing. It was hard to get any signs from you in the weird atmosphere of a poorly ventilated room packed with prison activists. I was way more nervous at the art gallery than our first meeting. The few words I exchanged with you were delightful, and further cemented my promise that I shall like you no matter what.
I am sorely tempted, like some chump from Shakespeare, to win your heart. Thank god I am attracted by your talent. I really am. You recall an old fire in me. A punk thing. You meld your clear intellect with feet planted on the ground. No pyrotechnics, you are completely there in the moment. I would leap at the chance of directing you in a play. You are true and have a broad range of expression and skill. I could go on and on and on.
I’ve been writing on silk since meeting you. My project has a whole new energy. I haven’t felt this good in ten years. The timing of your arrival is significant. It won’t be a setback if you say the magic just ain’t there for you—I will be sad, but life will pick up again. Do let me know as soon as you can whether you wish to continue.
Meantime, great show, thanks so much, you rock.
Lying down in the sun again, eyes closed, thinking—I don’t feel like responding. I don’t have to tell him yes or no on demand. I don’t know. I wasn’t attracted to him physically last night, but I was in performance mode. One coffee meeting and him appearing unannounced at my show and he needs to know if I want to start a relationship with him? Crikey. I try to imagine him being romantic or sexy. How would that be? Do I want to see him again? I’m not sure. He’s not even asking me out. Why doesn’t he just ask me out for dinner?
10 p.m., email from Fred:
So I deserve finding out how you feel by a revised Lavalife profile? Such hostility. I made a point of warning you I was stocky with a spare tire. Was I wrong to presume that a woman of your age would have grown beyond letting surfaces be quite so important? For the record—like you give a fuck—I fight the war constantly.
Re: passively waiting for a big break. I’ve had huge achievements working with major talent. So sorry I erred on the side of modesty in our Calabria meeting. I’m not waiting for a big break because I’ve had mine baby. The rest is gravy. You don’t know anything about me. I deserved a bit more investigation. I can tell you I sure as hell never sold my achievements in a ratty old suitcase at the end of any of my shows.
An established riot grlll? What a calling card. Riot grlls are expected to behave badly. You are only doing what you are expected to do.
You perpetuate the Lavalife disposable syndrome, judging me this way. Good luck with your shopping list. I was more than content overlooking your imperfections to instead explore your inner beauty. That short story you sent me was staggeringly incomplete—I could not understand how you would show that to anybody, let alone send it out to magazines. I was simply astonished at your idea of structure.
I came to your show in good faith. I even bought your CD knowing this might happen. Were you always such a drama queen?