Thursday, December 3, 2009


Ben called me tonight.

CS: Hello?

BR: Hi please don't hang up I'm calling to apologize.

CS: Sure man. It's no problem.

BR: I'm not trying to make excuses or anything. I'm not... dealing with this well. I don't want to come out on the other side of this as an alcoholic. I can't let go, you know?

There was a pause.

Sometimes I hear her voice. Not like she's talking to me. I'm not saying that. But sometimes I hear, like something she said before, or something. Except it's so clear, like she's in the room. Like a really delayed echo.

CS: She's irreplaceable. I get that.

BR: You know when someone takes your picture with a flash, and you have a spot right in the center of your vision for a few minutes?

CS: Oh yeah.

BR: Well she's that spot in my eyes, right in the way of everything. I can't even have a thought without her in it.

CS: I never thought about it that way. Hey, for what it's worth, I'm sorry too. I don't really know what to say most of the time. Whatever you need through this, just let me know, ok?

BR: Yeah sure. Hey I'll call you back.

CS: Ok, man. See ya.

BR: Bye.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Someone told me once, that the original humans were created by God. These first people made such a fundamentally wrong choice that it eventually killed them. On and on, people make the same choice and die. But God didn't design in the ability do deal with death, because he didn't design them to die in the first place. But we adapt. Some of us better than others.

I'm going to visit Ben today. I feel pretty good about it, because he's known for his ability to bounce back from difficult situations. I would understand if he has a terrible time coping though, especially after what happened at the hospital. He hasn't picked up the phone the few times I've called, but I feel the need to check up on him anyway.
I knock on his door, expecting to hear his kids shouting, or running around inside, but I hear nothing. The lights are off. I guess they're not home, but I ring the doorbell this time. Nothing. I head back to my car, and I am nearly at the end of the sidewalk when I hear the padlock opening. I turn around and walk back to the unopened door and go inside.
It's dim and unkempt. There is an unusual amount of empty, and nearly empty, 2-litre coke bottles around, on the kitchen counter, on the floor near the garbage, and on the kitchen table. There are fewer, but still a large amount of empty bottles of Canadian Club whiskey, gathered on the floor in the corner of the kitchen. He must be in the living room already. I walk down the hallway to the TV-lit living room, but he's not there either. He must be sleeping on the couch lately. There's a blanket on the couch, and the back pillows are on the floor. There's a half-full bottle of coke, and a bottle of whiskey on the coffee table, but no glass where the circular wet ring indicates it should be. The living room is messy, but not the usual mess that having children brings. There is a vacant corner next to the closed curtains where the toys used to sit. Instead, the floor holds 7-11 bacon cheeseburger wrappers, empty cans of Alphagetti and used kleenex. The commercials on the TV come to an end, and Rachel Ray comes back on.

I head upstairs. I round the 180 degree turn mid stairway and see through the open door that the light is on in their bedroom. I approach the doorway and see him in there, sitting on a kitchen chair, facing the left side of the bed.

"Hey man."

No answer. Just a slight lift of the shoulder. His full glass is sitting on a narrow table in the hallway outside the room.

This room is different. It's bright and clean. There's the odd toy here and there, including Ajax's favourite train. It's strange seeing him without it, it's somewhat of a security blanket for him. The bed is made, and clearly hasn't been slept in. It smells quite nice in here, a contrast from the dank of the lower floor. It dons on me that it smells like Agnes. I tear up a little. He gets up and turns to me.

"It's too bad that human cloning thing never worked out." He snickers slightly through his nose as he says it.

He shows me a few strands of hair he must have gathered from her pillow. He puts them in a porcelain dish on the mirrored dresser with what seems like a few others.

"Let's go downstairs."

Next to the dish on the dresser is a piece of looseleaf paper with a poem written on it. I look and read it.

After the Hydrogen Bomb destroys the cities
And the plagues and famines kill a fourth of the world
And after the stars fall out of the sky
Turning the moon and the seas into blood
I'm gonna hold you so close to me
My dazzling pretty girl
Cuz nothing and nobody matters as much to me
Inside or out of this world.

We'll watch as the meteors boil the oceans
And volcanoes explode in the sky
As hundred pound hailstones fall all around us
With a sulfur inferno beside
I'm gonna squeeze your hand so tight
My glittering sugar girl
Cuz nothing and nobody matters as much to me
Inside or out of this world.

When the seven bowls of wrath pour on the earth
And the people are covered in sores
When fire and blood rain down from above
And jet-black plasters the world
I'm gonna kiss your gentle cheek
My starry tender girl
Cuz nothing and nobody matters as much to me
Inside or out of this world.

And when the lightning sparks in the dark
With the violent shudders of earth
Leaving the world in broken remains
So it seems like the face of the moon
I'm gonna float with you up to heaven
My pure and faithful girl
Cuz nothing and nobody matters as much to me
Inside or out of this world.

I place the page back on the dresser and go downstairs to join him, blinking tears out of my eyes the whole way. His glass is gone and I can smell him as I descend down the stairs.

I pick up one of the cushions and place it back on the couch and sit down. After a little while I start to feel like I should say something, but nothing comes. The harder I think, the more urgent it feels, but nothing comes. Thankfully, he finally speaks.

"I've been writing. Here."

He hands me a coil notebook from an Architecture firm he did help desk temp work for when he was in school.

Too many knives to count
in my dried out heart
I should make an effort
so few do.

My soul is like a dusty cloth
whipping in the wind
Maybe I could just lie to myself
but it wouldn't numb

My leprous heart heaves within me
As the film on my soul remains undisturbed.
No one must touch nor see me.
To do so would be
facing. beside.

My life is a blinking cursor.
Waiting for me to make it something.
Nosebleeds all over the desk.
My organs like filthy water balloons.

I turn the page.

The Wasteland

The old civic center
with its marble walls.
They're here, they found me
tonight, tonight.

Darkness bleeds through
a child's play world.
Wheels keep turning.
Sounds strange, doesn't it?

The end of all you've done.
Your art was a nightmare.
Now we can sleep in peace.
Never more happy endings.

What do I say?

"Wow. These are neat" What a dumb thing to have said. He seems unphased though.

"Thanks. Kinda dark, I know. I've been pretty down lately, of course."

"I bet." I bet?

The next thing he says makes me realize he's drunk, and I look to see that his glass sits empty on the coffee table.

"My parents have the kids. They came over a few days ago and got a bunch of stuff and took them. They seemed kind of mad or something. Whatever."

I didn't want to know why, but I already knew.

"I think I scared them." He slurred that last word.

"My mom said "They're sad too. They miss their mom just as much, if not m-more than you. You have to deal with this. For them" Easy for you to say. The love of your life didn't just die. So they're with my parents now. I was just way too depressed to get off the couch. I think I kind of scared myself a bit too."

He looked over at a little orange bottle of prescription pills. They had Agnes' name on them. I hadn't noticed those before.

"You're gonna get through this. It has to get easier. You have to do stuff. Eventually you have to get on with life."

He shouted. Loud. It startled me and I almost peed a little.

"NO! You don't get it. My life is over. She's gone forever. GET OUT!" His teeth were pushed together so hard. I've never seen him so angry.

"Okay, okay. I'm sorry. But I'm taking these."

I got up, quickly walked around the coffee table, grabbed the pills and narrowly missed the fist that he swung at me as I did so. I headed for the door and shouted at him from down the hall as I left.

"This isn't over."

I drove away and at the first red light, I started to calm down. My hands were shaking. Even as I write this I'm almost brought right back to that living room. I guess he needs more time.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Thanks to everyone who came to the funeral. I'm sure Ben and Agnes' parents were touched. I'm posting Agnes' obituary for all to read.

Reynolds, Agnes.

Agnes Reynolds, of Calgary, Alberta, and Prague, Czech Republic, passed away, October 16, 2009, at Peter Lougheed Hospital, in Calgary. She was born, March 30, 1980, in Prague, Czech Republic, the daughter of Miklos and Eliska Biskup. Agnes graduated from Zatlanka School in Prague, and Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary. She worked for Siemens Canada for 2 years, and was an Electronics Technologist. Agnes married Ben Reynolds in Calgary, on June 12, 2003.

Besides her husband Ben, she is survived by a daughter, Israel (3), a son, Ajax (19 months), a brother, Milos Biskup, Santa Monica, CA, and a sister, Ivana Jelinek, Prague, Czech Republic. She was predeceased by her sister, Marjeta Biskup in 1984. Funeral services will be Saturday, October 24, 2009, at 4:00p.m. at Foster's Garden Chapel Funeral Home, 3220 4 St NW, Calgary, with Rev. Mark Alexander officiating. Interment will be in Queen's Park Cemetery, following the ceremony. Calling hours are Saturday, from 2:00 p.m., until the time of the funeral. In lieu of flowers, please consider the North Calgary Community Church, c/o Clay Stanwick, 5720 Silver Ridge Drive, Calgary, Alberta.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Ben called me this morning and according to the caller ID, it was from his house. I interpreted this as good news.

CS: Hey man. How's it going? How's Agnes?

BR: Oh, she's still in the hospital. I'm about to drive over there now. Did you want to come?

CS: Totally.

BR: Okay. I'll pick you up in twenty minutes.

CS: 'Kay thanks. Bye.

BR: (hangs up)

Brian pulled up half an hour later. I expect the snow held him up a little. I hopped in his car and we were on our way to the Peter Lougheed Hospital.

CS: So how's she doing?

BR: Well that's hard to say. On one hand, she's hospitalized. She's had trouble keeping food down. She looks different. She doesn't have the energy to talk much. But on the other hand, she's still got a positive outlook. She tries to smile at me, or at the the kids a lot. It's weird, she comforts me when the doctors give us updates, because she doesn't seem to be upset by it. I can hardly handle it. Without her help, I'd be a mess.

CS: ...Uh... what does she have?

BR: I never told you?! Oh man. She has pancreatic cancer. They're going to operate as soon as she's a little bit better. I think they're going to remove it. Actually, they're messing around a lot in there. I guess it's pretty major, so they have to wait a bit.

CS: ... (I was speechless. I'm terrible at these things.)

BR: But she's getting a little better, well, what I mean is, she comes and goes. And today is a good day, so that's why I wanted to bring you. My parent's are bringing my kids too.

It's at this point where Brian becomes silent. We pull up to a red light, in the left turning lane on pretty dormant street about halfway to the hospital. He puts the car in park and opens the door. I could sense some sort of tension, so I didn't say anything when he opened the door and stepped out onto the snowy median. I looked over at him, about ten meters behind the car. He was on his knees. I knew I had to go to him, but not yet. Somehow I knew he had to be alone right now. I waited. I heard some snow crunch and looked back to see him returning to the car. I was nervous. His eyes were open wide. He seemed shocked. He started to speak, and every word affected me, like it had substance and passed through me.

BR: God just put his arms around me and was holding me back there. She's dead. Craig, she's dead. He was preparing me for that. I see now, that he's been preparing me for days now.

I was as shocked as he looked.

BR: Can you drive? I wanna go see her.

I got out and walked around the car and got in. I started the car, and continued to the hospital.

His phone rang.

BR: (Flips open his phone, reads the number.) Mom? (his voice is so troubled)


BR: I know... I'll be right there...(hangs up)

What I heard next was completely unbearable. Brian was breaking down. His hands were shaking. He was wiping his face with his palm from ear to chin deliberately and slowly. His hand was completely stiff as he did so. He said things that were moans of pain but were simultaneously words. His speech was so quiet and desperate. He was breathing as though he was shivering.

BR: tsk no..... oh no... no no no no....

My eyes teared up and I had to blink my tears away so I could see the road.

BR: no...oh...oh... not my baby... tsk... my sweetie's gone... Oh no... no...tsk I can't.

I wanted to tell him I was sorry. But there was a lump in my throat. I half cried, half spoke.

CS: I'm so sorry.

For the rest of the drive neither of us spoke, and he just slumped in his seat and stared out the window, looking at nothing.

***At this time I have to take a break from writing this up. It's too hard. My apologies. We'll miss you Agnes. You were one of a kind and the best kind of person.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Right after typing up the previous interview post. I received a call from Ben.

CS: Hello?

BR: (His voice sounds forced.) Hey man. Um... when we went home after meeting you, Agnes, uh, started getting food ready for the kids and (sigh) she, uh, collapsed. Thank God she wasn't, uh, holding one of the kids or something.

CS: No kidding. Is she okay?

BR: ...

Brian takes about a minute here before he can talk. I know it's because he's overcome by emotion.

BR: Sorry. They don't know what's wrong with her yet. They took her in the ambulance. We're at the Peter Lougheed now. The kids are at my mom's. Something I'll never forget is...

He takes another 30 seconds here.

BR: Something I'll never get out of my head as long as I live is the look on Izzy's face when Agnes collapsed. She was so scared and confused. I can't explain it. Agnes hit her face on the chair I guess and there was some blood. We were all scared. But Ajax didn't understand, really. He was startled by the commotion. But Izzy seemed to understand better. When Agnes fell, Izzy's face was terrified and her arms trembled a few times. I've never seen anything that awful on a kid's face.

Brian took the phone away from his mouth, but I could still hear him, quietly. He let out a frustrated moan of pain. He came back shortly after.

BS: Hey.

CS: I'm... so sorry, Brian. Can I help you guys somehow?

BR: I think we've got it covered, for right now. You just go into, like a serious 'get-everything-done-right-now' kind of mode when stuff like this happens. It was weird. I stayed really calm, and didn't get emotional until just now. I'm sorry you had to hear all that.

CS: Man, it's no problem. At all. Just let me know if I can do anything. And let me know when a good time to visit would be. When you guys are ready.

BR: Sure thing, man. I'll let you know. And uh, put this on your blog thing so readers know why there won't be any interviews for a while. I better get going though.

CS: Really? Okay. I can do that. Talk to later. Take care.

BR: Bye.

I hope she's okay. That must be so hard.


I've been trying to come up with a good time to meet with Agnes and Ben to conduct a second interview. It seems that they are as busy as I am. It's been over a month now. I finally got to meet with them today, after a lengthy game of phone tag.

CS: So what's kept you so busy lately?

BR: Well the kids keep us pretty busy. Having kids means you have to plan in advance if you're going to do anything without them.

CS: I appreciate that you're making time to do this for me. Thanks. When I called you a few weeks ago, you said Agnes was sick. (To Agnes) How are you feeling now?

AR: I feel pretty good. I've just been fighting this backache. That's why I picked this comfy chair.

CS: I see. Did you fall down, or try to lift something heavy?

AR: Well I fell down a while ago, but it didn't hurt for a few days. Then I got a bruise on my arm and my back hurt.

BR: Yeah, it was a weird bruise. Pretty yellow. (To Agnes) You looked like Ajax when he was born.

CS: Did you get it checked out?

AR: No, not yet. I think it's going away. I have an appointment in a week or so.

CS: I hope you feel better soon.

AR: Thanks.

CS: So where were we? Ah yes. How did you know the other person was "the one?"

BR: We were in our Final Project class and I was watching her present the group's results to the class. We built a remote controlled car that could control itself, and learn to not run into walls and stuff.

CS: That's pretty cool.

BR: So I watched her, and I noticed how beautiful she was. Not just pretty on the outside. I thought about who she really is, deep down. She's fragile, imperfect, but so kind and warm. It was this fragility that made me think, "this is someone I could spend my whole life taking care of." I know she doesn't need "taking care of." But I knew at that point that I wanted to spend the rest of my life being a shoulder to cry on, being someone to laugh with, and just being there for her, with her.

AR: Sorry. Just a second. (Agnes points her eyes up and wipes her lower eyelids, to prevent mascara from running. She sniffles.) When he told me that the first time, I knew he was the one. We promised that we would stay together. No matter what happened. We promised that no matter what mistakes we made, we would never let our hearts get hardened against each other.

BR: So far so good.

CS: That's really nice, you guys.

BR: Yes, yes we are. (chuckles)

CS: Agnes, you look pretty uncomfortable. Did you want to get back home?

AR: Actually, yes. Sorry about this. By back is worse.

BR: Your bruise is bigger, Agnes. Maybe you should go to the doctor sooner. They might put you under those fluorescent lights, like they did to Ajax when he was a newborn. You can wear that sleep mask with the sunglasses drawn on it. (laughs)

AR: (forces a smile)

BR: Too soon? Ok. Sorry. Let's go.

CS: Okay, thanks again, you guys.

Thus concludes the second interview. Hopefully Agnes feels better soon and we can continue this more regularly.

Monday, August 31, 2009


I have a pair of friends that fascinate me. It's not their jobs or personalities or their lifestyle that makes them stand out for me. It's how they love each other. I hadn't ever thought of myself as someone who would notice, much less care about this kind of thing. But here I am writing about them. They have agreed to let me interview them for this blog, and have an ongoing dialogue. First I'll introduce them.

Ben and Agnes Reynolds live in Calgary, Alberta and are 32 and 29, respectively. They were married in 2003 after meeting in college. Ben was born and raised in Alberta, but Agnes was born and raised in the Czech Republic. Her name is actually Agneska, but she prefers Agnes. They have 2 children together; their daughter, named Israel (they call her Izzy), is 3 and their 1 1/2 year old son is named Ajax.

CS: So you met in college. Tell me about that.

AR: My parents felt that I should study in Canada, since my english was pretty good. Things in the Czech Republic weren't great at the time. This was before the EU. So it cost more money, but I studied at Sait and met Ben there.

BR: Yeah, we were both in the Electronics Engineering Technology program, so we had almost all of our classes together. She was an amazing student. Me: not so much. I think that's why I first approached her. I was actually pretty nervous, because, I mean, look at her. I asked her to explain some digital circuit to me. She had this amazing accent, and she missed nonessential words. It was so cute. It kind of made her less intimidating. I thought she was really, like, cold, but she was just shy.

AR: Most of the students thought that since I didn't speak perfect English, I wasn't intelligent. Ben was the first one to see past that.

BR: Yeah! I don't get that. Why people from other countries, with superior educational systems come here, get by speaking a second language, which is quite a feat on its own, and they're considered the unintelligent ones. It doesn't make sense. Oh well.

CS: No kidding. That's an interesting point. So your first interaction was in class. How long before an attraction developed?

BR: For me, not long. For her, I still wonder. Just kidding. (To Agnes) What would you say?

AR: He was so different from the boys back home. I thought he was weird, and not a good student. He didn't seem to take anything seriously.

BR: Yeah, I could have done better in school, I guess.

AR: Well, no, that's not it. As I spent more time with him, I could see some of the reasons he was like that. And it was okay. He had a hard time in school when he was younger. He was bullied, and he had learning problems. So making fun of everything was what he did to deal with it. I think at Sait, he did it to distract from him not being smart. Well, that's not what I mean, because he is smart, really smart. I studied almost every day, and he never studied, and almost did as well as me. He just loved learning it.

BR: I have trouble with math. But I love electronics. That's a difficult situation. (laughs) I get Agnes to do the math.

AR: Actually, Ben comes up with things and understands things that I never could. It's really amazing.

CS: So, Agnes, when did you find yourself being attracted to Ben?

AR: Ben asked me to help him with our Control Systems class. We would study in the family room of the host family I lived with until late at night. After a few weeks, we would talk until 2 or 3 in the morning, and Ben would have to walk home - and this was in the middle of winter! I saw through the way he is outside and saw something in him that was important, and special.

CS: That's really cool. So did you start dating right away?

BR: There were a few guys that wanted to date Agnes at the time. Like, she was friends with them and all, but I think they wanted more, y'know? But I called her one day and asked if she just wanted to walk around downtown with me. After that, we saw each other almost every day. I think some of those other guys were annoyed, but whatever.

AR: (To Ben) I think I just liked you the best.

CS: I think I'm going to stop there. We'll continue this next week. Thanks so much you guys.