Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015


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It was a rainy fall day in Toronto, the mid-1980's. A woman in her late 60's, early 70's maybe, she was sitting in the second-hand bookstore that used to be on the northeast corner of Queen and Augusta. The woman eyed me through the front window as I walked past. I did a double take then turned on my heel like a fishhook had snagged my cheek. She was alone in the store. Without any hair-dye or make-up, wearing a pilly old sweater and out of fashion jeans, running shoes - one of them untied, she twirled a pink flower in her fingers and wagged side to side a little in a battered office chair.
I suddenly felt high - she was the most erotically charged human being I’d ever been around. We flirted and I flushed red, stammering, my whole act crumbled. I was smitten and she knew it, reveling in her power. I felt as if we were being drawn closer without moving a muscle. Overcome with a kind of dizzy fever, I was ready to sweep her up in my arms and carry her back to my atelier, whispering all the way… Our love will be implacable, my tenderest...

The room stopped whirling when the clerk returned with some nerdy looking creep. They got all protective and the nerd led her away, saying they had to be somewhere. She looked back at me with just a hint of a smile and mouthed the words another time perhaps... I nearly fainted.

I went by that bookstore on several occasions in the weeks following but there was never any sign of her. My inquiries were greeted with monosyllabic scowls. Some months later, in the spring, I saw a black cloth laying in the window of that bookstore. On it was a black and white photo-portrait of the woman, along with the dates of her birth and death. Beneath the photo was a copy of the novel, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept by Elizabeth Smart. I felt a soft blow in my chest. It was her – the ageless nymph, wanton desire and loving whispers, so much sweet sweet promise, all of it twisting together in a smoky, intoxicating potion. The fact we never had the torrid, life-altering affair I’ve so often fantasized about has been a bitter and enduring source of regret.
That memory has remained with me all these years and decades later. It’s important to hang onto those ephemeral moments that have so much lasting impact. There was a purity to our meeting; serendipity, sure, but something fated too – having had no idea who this women was, astounded at her sheer corporeal power, the openness and lushness of her desire, unencumbered, untainted. Perhaps that was Elizabeth Smart’s genius; How did it happen someone so committed to the idea of being fully, beautifully human was not defeated by the deeply oppressive constraints of her background, the era from which she emerged? Is that the true power of love?

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Basil Papademos

Basil Papademos is the author of MOUNT ROYAL: There's Nothing Harder Than Love, published in the spring of 2012 by Tightrope Books, also available as an ebook in all formats from all digital retailers. His earlier novel, The Hook of it is, was published by Emergency Press. His upcoming novel, How To **** Your Psychiatrist, will be published in the fall of 2013.

Go to Basil Papademos’s Author Page