Clodette says that the war with China has already begun. She says that it’s just a matter of time before Russia is involved too. The whole thing will last decades, she says, maybe centuries, and will ultimately determine the course of the new era. She cannot, unfortunately, be more precise in her forecasts. There are certain key events that remain hazy or just beyond the scope of her inner vision. This is perhaps due to the microchip that was implanted in her brain, shortly after her birth, thirty-four years ago. It distorts her perception. She assures me, however, that Vladimir Putin is personally involved in the operation to dismantle the entire network (the one that was set up to both surveil and guide the thoughts of the countless microchipped individuals), and that, even as I write this, agents of the KGB are ever closer to apprehending those responsible for the network’s creation. Preparations for the trials (to be held in Germany for reasons that are not entirely clear to me) are already underway, and all her fellow South African victims are currently being tracked down. No mercy will be shown to the primary perpetrators of this abomination, she says, and, in the end, all the silent sufferers will be freed, their thoughts once more their own. 


I was listening to an episode of a show last night that our national public broadcaster first aired several years ago (apparently this is part of their summer programming strategy – on Sundays, for instance, they’re now filling the noon hour slot with a program hosted by someone who’s not even alive anymore), when there was an interview with a guy who had written a book about lucid dreaming. (Having investigated the subject myself, I channelled a moderate amount of attention his way.) And this guy recommended a well-known practice one could adopt to enhance the possibility of awakening to the dream state and then consciously utilizing it to indulge in all sorts of outrageous hijinks. He said: In your ‘waking’ life, every once in a while when you’re passing a light switch, pause and flick it on and off – and, while doing so, ask yourself, “Am I dreaming?” I.e. make a habit of lightly investigating your assumptions about reality while simultaneously performing a little ritual centred around a light switch, thus implanting the image of a light switch and its associated thought and behaviour patterns deep into your mind.
        Anyway, around five this morning, I was wandering through a wasteland that looked like one of those photographs of bombed-out European cities during WWII – you know, cathedrals with half their walls missing, rubble everywhere, the sky clotted grey with smoke – when I noticed a light switch on one of the battered buildings – the kind of light switch I have in my apartment. And I thought, “I should do that exercise to help me to be able to activate lucid dreaming when I’m asleep.” So I flicked the switch on and off, but nothing happened – which made perfect sense. “Of course nothing happened,” I said to myself. “There’s no electricity! You’re in an apocalyptic scene of cultural devastation and despair.”
        Then, a moment later, I thought, “Oh, wait a second…”


It is sunny and warm and basically spring here – cherry blossoms in bloom, perpetual birdsong, short shorts – and I am, partly because of that, and partly for inexplicable reasons, emotionally overwrought. 
        I went to the local credit union today to begin the process of opening a new, top secret chequing account – apart from the regular one I already have with another institution – because you never know when some welfare agent’s gonna demand a printout of your banking activities for the last three months. Shortly after my arrival I was accosted by the desire to get obliviously drunk. But I have to go back tomorrow morning to finish the account-opening process, so I can’t do that. (I’m told the meeting will last approximately one hour. That seems absurdly long.) I was led into an office. When asked about my employment situation I found myself spewing lie after lie. I even uttered the words: “The company I work for is essentially a subsidiary of Publicis, which has its Canadian headquarters in Toronto.” We (the credit union employee and I) agreed that I was a contract worker. I also briefly flirted with veracity when I mentioned occasionally producing paintings on the side (while omitting any reference to the galerie in Montreal or the fact that, up until a week ago, they hadn’t sold anything of mine in over three years). By the time she asked why I’d chosen to take my business to their hallowed institution, I was severely dwindling, and all I could come up with was: “Honestly, I don’t have a good reason for it.” Then we talked about the weather. After that I gave her my home address and my phone number and my email address. I authorized her to conduct a credit check and let her photocopy my passport. Near the end of the interrogation she summoned and introduced me to the person I have to see tomorrow morning, and I was thinking, “Oh shit, am I supposed to stand up?” – and my impulse was to stand up – but I didn’t stand up. And note: aside from the previously mentioned prattle, I tried to keep my mouth as shut as possible through the whole thing – not just to avoid idiotic outbursts, but because I found out this morning that my fake upper front tooth (unused for several months) no longer fits into the gap anymore due to the shifting around of the remaining teeth. So, like I said, I didn’t stand up but tried to act delighted in a mostly close-mouthed manner, etc. 
        The one true bliss is the bliss of being released from the prison of identity. 


About a week ago (or maybe it was two, the dregs of September), after I had temporarily let my mind off its leash, Clodette and I were messing around on the internet one night. We only communicate through Facebook these days (though I prefer Gmail), and she was performing this routine that consisted of publicly posting her password and daring people to log into her account, saying that anyone who did so would immediately be under Russian surveillance. And I told her that’s a fucked up thing to be doing, and what’ll happen when somebody logs in and changes the password? And she was like: THE KGB WILL BE ON THEM BEFORE THEY KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENING. So I said: Okay, suit yourself – and logged into her account, hassle-free, and posted on her timeline: YOU SEE WHAT A BAD IDEA THIS IS? Then I told her it was me, and suggested – to prove it – that she check out the location history data. (I’m the only person she knows from Canada.) And while she was doing that I used a VPN and attempted to enter her account and make it look like I was someone from Europe. This time, though, it wouldn’t let me in, and instead Facebook sent her one of those “We’ve received an unusual login request” notifications – which included a command (quickly obeyed) to reset her password – along with the location of the party attempting to access her account, prompting her (about a minute later) to post a screenshot of the notification accompanied by the statement: PUTIN, SOMEBODY FROM SWEDEN IS TRYING TO GET INTO MY ACCOUNT. (Most of her posts are addressed to Vladimir Putin.) Finally I let her know that it had actually also been me behind the failed Swedish login attempt, and that she should regard my little performance as a demonstration re: how easy it is to deceive people on the internet. And she said: OH NO YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE DONE THAT NOW THEY KNOW WHO YOU ARE THEY HACKED MY PHONE LAST YEAR AND COMPLETELY DISABLED IT AND NOW IT’S TOTALLY USELESS.
        Shortly after that I went to bed and had an abnormally restless sleep. When, after groggily rising the next morning, I turned on my laptop, I found to my horror that the keyboard was completely disabled and the contents of my computer inaccessible since I couldn’t type in the password to unlock it. This sort of thing had never happened to me before. But my phone still worked, and Google revealed that there’s an “on-screen keyboard” one can access using the touchpad. This saved me. (Although if you’ve ever used the on-screen keyboard you’ll know what a drag it is. It would probably take almost an hour to type everything I’ve typed up to this point in this section if I were using the on-screen keyboard because you’ve only got one cursor instead of ten digits to move around to each key.) Then I spent the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon googling “solutions” to “my keyboard has been disabled windows 8.1” – and tried every single one I could find. None of them worked. (It turns out I’m not the only person whose keyboard has mysteriously stopped functioning, though most other people’s problems seem to revolve around installing this or that latest version of a particular operating system, which was not the case with me.) Fortunately one guy on YouTube mentioned something that I ended up using as a compromise solution: an external USB keyboard. Which is to say: I went to the only thrift store that was open (the other two were closed again because of the rumour that there was a Covid outbreak here) and spent 7.50 CAD + tax for a gigantic “ergonomic design” keyboard – the one I’m using right now to type all these words so swiftly.
        To conclude: Clodette says that the KGB will restore my laptop’s keyboard to a fully functioning state once the trials in Germany are over some time next year.
        I remain doubtful.


I dreamt that I had just taken part in some kind of onstage conversation before an audience in an enormous gymnasium. I was standing in the wings, and someone told me to head out and take a bow. As I stepped back onto the stage, I was overwhelmed by a deep, pervasive silence. I looked across the vast expanse, and it was entirely filled with people, each one bent forward so that I couldn’t see any of their faces, only the backs of their heads. None of them were angled in the same direction. And all their arms were up, parallel to the floor and seemingly linked together, resembling a canopy of trees seen in an aerial view of a rainforest. Suddenly a slight rustle of limbs occurred a little to the front-left of this massive human mesh, and it gradually grew and spread out diagonally towards the back-right of the room, like a giant ripple. And that was when I realized that I was the spectator and the audience was the performance.


Completely gave up on ever seeing that woman again – the one who used to be a regular at the Salvation Army food giveaways. She disappeared shortly after it started to become clear to me that I wanted to get to know her. (Actually, I tried to pretend it wasn’t happening. She was obviously a junkie. Thirtyish. Spoke with others in a lively though hushed manner. A subterranean exuberance. Always friendly. And even though I looked away every time she glanced at me while we waited in line, eventually I couldn’t deny it any longer: she delighted me.) Until a couple weeks ago, I sometimes biked past the building where I thought she lived, seduced by the bonehead hope that one day I’d pass at the miraculous moment when she’d be stepping outside, alone. Pointless. She never appeared – alone or with others – again, and I finally figured she’d probably moved. Or was dead.
        In other news: Headed off to the library last night. Halfway there ran over something that punctured the tube of my back tire. Walked home. Tried and failed to repair it (not enough glue). Gave up on that too.
        So, this morning, I marched my body to the bike shop (saw four deer lounging in somebody’s backyard on the way) and bought two tubes and a new repair kit (having decided it’s best to be prepared for future catastrophes), then started trudging back along Marine Avenue, staring broodingly (is that a thing?) at the sidewalk most of the way. Just when it was getting close to the place where I had to cross the street, I looked up. There, in front of the weed store, next to the bus stop sign, was an extraordinary sight: the vanished woman, suddenly rematerialized in all her dishevelled glory, completely alone. I thought: How wonderful! Fate has concocted this entire chain of events (the punctured tube, the failed repair, the early morning marching, the minutes spent in the bike shop) just so I can stand before this elusive apparition and greet her with great joy, exchange a little small talk, and ideally arrange for an entertaining rendezvous involving a bottle of wine or three and several hours of scintillating conversation. It was exactly what I’d been hoping for.
        I was about twenty feet away from her. She fidgeted a bit, then stepped away from the bus stop sign and began walking in my direction. I readied myself. And then we both walked past each other without saying a word.