K.P. Kingston Pen. Used to be so quiet here. It’s true, the prison stole my harbour view, and trying to reason with that despotic monster was just talking to a wall, but what I lost in prospect, I gained in privacy and wind-protection.
Those were the days. I stretched in the sun, lolled at my leisure, clean and happy and untried—because, let’s be honest here—who walks past a prison for pleasure? A few stray dogs, the odd drunk weaving his way to town from the Portsmouth Tavern—that was the worst of the traffic I had to shoulder. In fact, compared to my cousins over at the Market Square or those poor slabs over on Princess, cracked up and cast aside and recast time and again these past few years, all so City Works could fix the sewers, I have to admit, I had it good.
Until they closed the place. Then they stabbed me with an A-frame sign advertising tours, of all things, and sent me to daily boot camp. Did they ask? Do they care? Did they help me to prepare? I’m not as young as I once was. I’m not in good enough shape for this! People on my back from dawn to dusk—townies and tourists, busloads of them—and I’m supposed to carry every one without complaint? Tramping on my spine, stamping on my shins, slopping their sunscreen and sweat and spit and Gatorade and God knows what on my poor, pathetic, pockmarked face.
Oh, Voltaren, my saint and saviour! Whoever it was who left you here has earned a lifetime of easy passage. Never will I trip or trouble that good or just plain overburdened soul, the one who dropped the open tube and failed to notice. Nor will I rise up against the one who now approaches, ready to press and squeeze and smear the medicated ointment underfoot. Out here, in the full glare of the sun, weary, beaten, broken, I splay in my sad condition for all to see.
Go ahead. Rub it in.
Susan Olding is the author of Pathologies: A Life in Essays, selected by 49th Shelf and Amazon.ca as one of 100 Canadian books to read in a lifetime. Her award-winning writing has appeared in Maisonneuve, The Malahat Review, The New Quarterly, and the Utne Reader, among others, and in anthologies including Best Canadian Essays, 2016 and In Fine Form, 2nd Edition.