Jul 2, 2024

Doused in Mud Soaked in Bleach

My first home and the first Christmas lights I ever hung.
Mica and Caspian, the little guys next door, loved them. They'd never seen Christmas lights before.
Christmas 2020 Hornby Island

Come doused in mud, soaked in bleach 
As I want you to be 
As a trend, as a friend 
As an old memoria 
 - Kurt Cobain, Come as You Are

It was Christmas Eve on the Island, and I wanted to dress up. 
I’d only packed a few things in my duffel bag for my two-week stay, 
yet here I was on week thirty-two. 
I’d been wearing the same thing every day for months because it was all I had packed: 
men’s vintage jeans - six sizes too big 
wool sweater – heavily repaired 
burgundy toque – stretched out 
men’s fifty-year-old down coat – shedding feathers 
hiking boots - muddy 
I felt as dumpy and worn out as my clothes. 

I can’t remember if I was wearing my fake fur coat when I took off from Vancouver nine months prior or if I’d shoved it into my bag on my rush out the door. Nevertheless, the fake fur hung on a hook-shaped piece of driftwood nailed to the wall beside my front door—now, more of a dusty boho decoration than a wearable garment. I knew it would be my cat's, and possibly my dad's last Christmas, but something in me wanted to get dressed up, and that fake fur coat was the dressiest thing I had.

My fuck this, I don’t give a shit anymore attitude wasn’t fully developed yet at nine months in, but it was strong enough to construct a whatever; I’m going to find some people to stand around with. I polished up my boots and grabbed my dusty fake fur coat on the way out the door. I was headed to Ringside to see if I could find some humans. 

Ringside is Hornby’s version of downtown and is located at the Island’s only four-way stop. It consists of six vibrantly painted hand-built caravans organized in a circle - hence Ringside - a conglomerate of local artisan wares, tie-dyed tourist crap, seasonal tacos, and city-priced coffee. It’s also a dependable spot where locals gather for rumours and news. You go to the gas station parking lot to find out where to get an iron clawfoot tub, but if you want to know whose nephew is sleeping with Colleen’s daughter, you go to Ringside. 

The past nine months were hard for everyone on the Island because of the pandemic. The Co-op was constantly running out of food and supplies, people were divided by medical beliefs, and the winter hurricane winds had started early. I wasn’t sure what I’d encounter at Ringside, but I’d hoped it was humans. 

Walking across the gravel parking lot, I saw that I wasn’t the only one who had made the Christmas Eve pilgrimage. Ringside was bustling. Folks dressed up in moth-eaten fur coats, Halloween top hats, silver garland boas and a vast array of Christmas accoutrements. Some stood alone, some in pairs, but most looked awkward and uncomfortable. 

It was a gathering of misfits, bound not only by our haphazard Christmas finery but also by faith and resilience. We’d pulled ourselves together in whatever way we could and left the isolation of our homes to acknowledge a tradition that not many of us usually followed. We were drawn together with the same hope—a welcoming face and a friendly smile. As much as our situations were ripe for despair, our faith and resilience won. 

I didn’t talk to anyone on Christmas Eve, but being surrounded and connected to those raw souls was more than enough.

The Wind