Poem of the Month
Magnetic Days

By Roland Pemberton

Published on December 7, 2014

I’m on St-Zotique and St-Laurent in the cage on the east side of the street shooting baskets alone. Despite it being early enough for a thin layer of condensation to be covering the grass, I’m in rare form, fluidly knocking down high arcing midrange jump shots from several spots around the court. I hadn’t played outside since the weather made us slip on leaves but nonetheless, I am stroking it. Playing alone with the ghosts of my previous shots as my only competition, I had the mental real estate to make inventory of the fading winter and consider what exactly spring had to offer. A smile forms slowly across my face.

Today, the world takes on an uncommonly cinematic profile, everything looks Kodachrome. My aura feels like it’s glowing and visible to everyone. My circumstances had not changed in any concrete way but I’m definitely feeling lucky. These are the harbingers of a magnetic day.

Babies are smiling at me. It’s unseasonably warm for late March. Dogs aren’t barking. A Hasidic man holds the door for me when I leave the pharmacy. The mail clerk winked and didn’t ask for my ID when I picked up a gift package I wasn’t expecting. I put my iPhone on random and it’s absolutely slaying. It played “West End Girls” by Pet Shop Boys and “Your Woman” by White Town back to back.

I walk into the Chinese takeout place on the corner. The guy who runs the place is usually a real prick to me. This is the kind of place where you wait by the door for your food while he berates the children he’s forced to answer the phones and wildly gesticulates toward his poor wife. You wonder how much of your food is nutrient and how much is his DNA. He spits when he talks and does everything with force: slamming the phone, sharply taking your order, stomping towards the wok, slamming the Kung Pao chicken into the Styrofoam container, sending them bouncing slightly into the air like little deep-fried basketballs.

One time I came into this place and all the tables were covered with brown leather jackets in plastic coverings, fell-off-the-back-of-a-truck stuff the boss was peddling to his employees, suggesting they carve a side hustle out of these starkly outdated garments. There were people who didn’t work there hanging around too, large Polish men pulling at seams, examining the linings, zipping the jackets open and closed. I waited to order for like 10 minutes and then he just kicked me out while snarling at one of the Polish giants for suggesting the fur covering the hoods on the jackets didn’t come from “dignified animals.”

But today, he’s in a breezy mood. He’s smiling, uncharacteristically wearing a pastel blue dress shirt with a mandarin collar. Maybe his daughter got into college, maybe it has nothing to do with me or the universe but he’s smiling, smiling at the round battered chicken balls and the savoury broth he’s ladling into my Styrofoam container. He’s smiling and laughing with his coworkers. He’s smiling the price to me and then looking in gobsmacked disbelief when I tip him for the first time ever.

He says, “You take calendar” and I take the calendar, a Chinese new year scroll covered in golden dragons and red cursive borders. He gave me a gift so I say, “It must be my lucky day” and it is.

These are the days you take calculated risks. You call that girl you met in Griffintown the same night that other chick puked on you in the cab. The same one you hit on at that house party on Bernard when you were dating the New Yorker and got so drunk that you fell asleep on the couch. You invite her to the park with the moat and bring two freezies and seasonally appropriate fruit beer. You can tell she likes you by what she’s wearing: a pale green floral dress that fits her perfectly. She looks like Spring Equinox.

Everything you say is hitting. You sound like a talk show guest. Each story and anecdote sounds rehearsed but it’s actually flowing out extemporaneously. You are wittier than normal and she’s smiling her ass off. Despite spending months writing inside your tiny apartment across the street from a poorly designed overpass that causes cars to honk at each other in confusion at all hours of the day, you’re downright loquacious today.

Your magnetized state attracts an old drunk man to the bench you’re both sitting on. He’s drinking a king can of Molson Ex, no paper bag. You talk to him like you’re old bros and don’t try to shoo him away and it charms the girl. He tells you a glass of beer was a quarter when he was your age.

Other days you find yourself walking through dirty puddles on lightly snowing nights in the hopeless dead of Canadian winter. You’re drinking a large brown glass bottle of bub-
bling rank swill, 40 ounces of 10.1% poison that makes you shit as soon as you get to the art opening. You wander around the four walled room in the company of strangers while you lamely flirt with someone you don’t even like. There’s no name for days like that.

This day is evening into night, the sky bowing to the horizon. You’re treated to a chemical magenta sunset across the firmament that brings Avenue du Parc to a standstill.

You invite the girl over to check out the TV show of the moment with your friends and she’s down. After the show, she stays with you alone and watches the end of a triple over-time NBA playoff game with you. She’s sitting on your lap now and you both jump at every lead change. You have sex with her that night and it’s off the fucking hook. She wants to be with you. That doesn’t happen every day.

There’s no formula so you can’t know how many of these days to expect but know they don’t happen often. You can easily spook a day like this out of existence when it starts rolling so be careful. If it’s happening, just let it happen and don’t acknowledge it. Treat the day like a hot pitcher in the bottom of the eighth.

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