On Masculinity and Relationships: “When I’m Alone”


I’m pretty sure she fucked her ex at a wedding once. I mean I can’t be sure but I think that’s probably what happened.

When she’s away I wear the same pair of underwear at least two days in a row. I throw a little party for myself in the kitchen with a bottle of wine and I cook food that I know I won’t have to share. I always thought, Why does dad make spicy food when mom’s gone? Why does he cook steak?

            When we first got together (yes it was summer, and yes it was humid, and yes the light on her face through the lace curtains in her room was dappled and soft) we would talk about how we’d never cause each other any pain. We would talk about how we should never leave the bed and we would wish we never got hungry or thirsty. We would scrunch up our eyes and wish we never had to get up to go to the bathroom.

            She goes away on business sometimes or to visit her mother in Vancouver. I don’t know what she does while she’s there. I send her text messages and ask her what she’s doing. But I don’t tell her I’m sitting by the kitchen window eating a whole pizza, getting drunk and chain-smoking to reruns of Seinfeld with my laptop on the table.

            The two of them went to this wedding together and it was no big deal because we’d just spent a whole week in bed wishing we didn’t have to go out to buy milk. Now that we live together, I think about it. Some time I’m going to ask her, Did you sleep with Bryan at the wedding? (I won’t say fuck him, I’ll ask if she slept with him.) Or I’ll say, I know you slept with Bryan at that wedding. 

            I always clean the apartment before she comes home. She brings it up when we fight, that I don’t ever finish cleaning the place. I’ve always got laundry to do and it takes a long time to vacuum the carpet. I’m usually hungover so it takes more time than I thought it would.  

            Once she’s back, I apologize. I ask her how her trip was and I make a salad or pasta for dinner, then we eat in front of the TV.

              When she’s home I go out for walks by myself.

these words by Sandy Martin were inspired by the colour of Alex Andreev

How We Deal With Trauma


word by Keah Hansen

colour by Garry Tugwell Smith

content warning: violence

Her steel flanks glisten under a sordid sun. Scream white when sparring with that heady fire which scalds and percolates. Steam abates and disappears under the softer consciousness of the moon. In a world of duality we see seek healing our gendered symbols. We trail our fingers with alacrity over constellations of great queens. Bury our toes in the soil of wildflowers.  In a world of gender, the male deftly danced us to the mantelpiece and left us there to sweep and decorate and gaze about winsomely. Coddling the hearth with a dainty steel prong. Another wary night- the room is aflame as steel and her fire twirl and jest.

At the present moment we find our battleship sinking into black waters. She heeded caution and wore her armour willingly, heaving bells of alarm when the first missile singed her pristine sides.  In that vast ocean of a house, the cries besides the mantelpiece dissolved at the mudroom, unheard by the neighbours outside. Dashed twice on the rocks; a champagne flute smote under his gaze; the fire burned the scented candle wax and the moon waned to hide the rosy cheeks of the slipping ship.

Watch her picking ash off her skirt. Laundering out the lingering smoke of last night. Watch him watching her as they resume position- his fire rising out of that chimney and filling the world with another declaration of maleness. The delicate steel prong with flower etchings rests mutely by morning, like the battleship that poises leaden on the ocean floor. Salty water urges rust to spread up her shoulders and into the newly formed cavities.

This water mutes and oppresses. It won’t offer rebirth to she who has so many others to birth and support. Her body is a symbol of victory for patriarchy- the self-effacing female imprinted onto the minds of millions like a postcard of a battleship at rest. A war song rolls over the banks, prettying words of chauvinism.

For now, we pour our healing and ourselves into smaller symbols of identity. The ocean will someday offer its support– after countless battleships have chipped away and yielded to the currents- then women too will claim this territory as reverential. The mythic female will nest in these digressive and mysterious tides and the battleship will morph into a chanting pacifist baring flowers and peasant skirts. Identity is formed by such symbols- the kind that animates and roars and threatens to enflame a house with words.*

From the author:

“As I started writing this piece, I was inspired by the symbolism of the sunken warship resting on a seabed, and reflected on the processes of healing for different types of people, honing in on women in particular. However, these musings inspired a digression on the symbolic as a catalyst for growth and as a figurative location for anchoring, which unleashed a self-reflexive essay on the transience of the meanings behind symbols and the potency in claiming symbols for tangible social change.”

Read more words on mental health by Keah Hansen

See more colour by Garry Tugwell Smith

Lines & Anemones


word by Charlotte Joyce Kidd

colour by Burkhard ller 

Every day that I leave the house I feel that I am leaving it wearing a sign (or maybe an expression? An outfit?) that says “here I am, world. Have at me.” I feel this way even though – when I do leave the house – I leave it also wearing the cozy winter coat of privilege, not to mention an actual, real winter coat. I can’t imagine how hard it must be without these things.

There are these little lines in between everyone’s lives, aren’t there? There’s this space in between everyone and it’s like we’re all just extending these tiny tendrils across it, these little, feeble gooey white groping things with suction cups on the ends, and sometimes we meet someone and we manage to say things that make sense and actually express anything that we really feel or mean, and if they do too and enough of our tendrils stick to enough of theirs, then we feel better for a bit, like someone actually knows us. But even if you do that for your whole life, your whole life with the same person (and that’s problematic, too, let’s talk about that) how many of your little limbs could you extend? How many of theirs could you touch?

I got on the streetcar after spending the night with a boy and on a cold corner I saw a couple walking by and I thought about how he would react if I suggested that we spend an entire day walking around and telling each other every single thing that passed through our minds. We could take turns, do an hour each and then switch. He’d told me in words that were decisive and made sense that we could never understand each other completely, because I’m white and he’s not and I’m a woman and he’s not. I agree. There’s something noble in the futility of trying to understand, though, isn’t there? There’s something beautiful about learning to replace understanding with empathy, about reaching out and touching the tendril even though you can’t stick to it.

Sometimes there are chasms between people. Sometimes the lines yawn. Sometimes two people have pushed enough times that their plates push further and further apart, sometimes one person has made a moat around themselves because of something that happened. Sometimes that moat is not a bad thing, sometimes it is not wrong to require someone to have very long limbs before we let them reach us. 

So we’re all alone, playing a giant game of tic tac toe, reaching out from our separate boxes with words written or spoken or felt, or with devices, these electronic arms with which we send cries into the ether and hope for ethereal responses, echoes in the chasm. And maybe some people are closer to the edges of their boxes than others. It’s all very lonely and very hopeful.*

word by Charlotte Joyce Kidd

colour by Burkhard ller 

On Art and Relationships: “Extending the Pattern”

for josh

word by Josh Elyea 

colour by Mojo Wang

          Jane knows that compartmentalization is the key to a healthy relationship. She’s put all the little boxes where they belong, and for God’s sake, she’s going to leave them there.

          Jack says the simplest things in life are the most insidious. Comfort, for example. No good can come from comfort, he says. He’s speaking while deftly disassembling a French press that hasn’t been cleaned in months; Jane is only half listening, since she’s just put on Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros and is ruminating on the late singer’s post-Clash career with a keenness she’s not able to summon for the tired lecture aimed in her general direction. Rather, she’s enamoured with the sound quality pouring from their new BOSE Sound System. You really do pay for quality.

          It’s only after a large purchases, like a new BOSE Sound System, when Jack and Jane fight about money. It’s only in those moments that Jane’s chosen profession matters; only after the limited square footage of the apartment has been claimed, carefully cordoned off with a clear presence on either side does it matter what she does for a living. Jack wouldn’t go so far as to suggest she do something else with herself; no, he’s fairly certain art is where she belongs. He’d sure to like to see her make some money from it though, and he’ll be damned before he feels awful for saying so. Or, at least, that’s how this argument went the last time they had it, and the time before, and before…

          It’s not like Jane is overburdened; student loans notwithstanding, she owes a few hundred dollars on a VISA and has an unpaid cell phone bill in collections (she’s only recently stopped receiving calls where a bland, deathly voice asks “Hello, may I speak with Mrs. Jane _____ about an outstanding and quite frankly egregious debt…”). Other than that, she doesn’t owe a cent to anyone. So she’s just getting by right now – so what?   

          Often, Jane wished Jack would try and understand what it meant to be an artist, what it meant to try and create something from nothing. She wished he wouldn’t stare so obviously when she said she didn’t make much progress on her novel that day, and that he wouldn’t move with such reluctance when removing his credit card from his wallet to buy things like BOSE Sound Systems. Hell, she wished he’d stop buying things like BOSE Sound Systems so she didn’t feel so indebted to him, so she didn’t feel like she owed him anything.

          Jane looks towards Jack and sees there’s a torn piece of wallpaper where the counter-top ends; looking behind it, she can see that the little black and white boxes don’t end where they appear to, and the pattern extends far beyond her cursory understanding of it.


See more colour by Mojo Wang


On breakups: “Almost”

rivet 1
word by Hannah Chubb
colour by Stephanie Rivet 
I don’t care what anyone says, it’s the almosts that hurt the most.
It kills me to watch this go down the drain.
You must have dipped your tongue in ink before you said those three words because I can’t find anything strong enough to erase those eight letters. My mind is black and blue with thoughts of you and my sclerae scream red because I can’t categorize these feelings I have for something I may have just created in my head.
You were almost there.
I have no label for you and it hurts because I need to know that I’m not delirious and that my feet were on the ground. I swear to god I remember yours being there next to mine because your shoes were too-white and the left one was always undone and I just wanted to tie it back together for you but I didn’t know how to say it.
I almost told you.
I swallowed a different brand of turquoise pill than you did and I never knew why but maybe that was the problem. Mine came on a shelf and killed the pain while yours was handled by grimy hands crusty with tangerine-tinted drugstore lipstick and made you feel anything at all. You always swallowed more than you should have but I let you because I didn’t even know that version of you and maybe you never wanted to know me anyways. I guess I’ll never know if you wanted me to stop you.
You almost felt like reality was enough.
We never held hands but we spoke in colours and sometimes you walked me home at night. Your mother never knew my name but your roommates sure did because your yellow walls were thin and your voice is loud when you drink enough to drown the monsters in your skull. I swear I could have slayed them but our time ran out too soon.
You almost asked me to stay.
I almost did.
Your mother should have named you Almost because I think that’s all you’ll ever be. I can’t stand you and your stupid razorblade tongue of promises slicing down my already raw throat. I think I belong up North because my head is a messy Aurora Borealis of the colours you used to turn my skin before you left and everything around me turned to black. I tried to be your fuchsia sky but you never told me you were colourblind.
I am a catastrophe of colour aching for the comfort of canvas, but darling, almost is just never enough.


A Wild Animal


Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault 

We’ve gone to counseling a few times, but I don’t like it. Tom keeps saying the same things over and over again. Why are you so angry with me? he asks constantly. I want to say, When you start off loving somebody more than you can even imagine is possible, there’s only one way to go, but I don’t say anything.

The counselor asks us to initiate sex more. She says we should both initiate at least twice a week. The word initiate makes me feel extremely unsexy. When we get home from the session and turn off the lights and get into bed, Tom moves down to eat me out and I say I’m not into it and he says You love it and I try to push his head away but he starts licking my clit anyway. I clench my fists and close my eyes tight and I see spots that look like they belong on a wild animal. I tense my whole body as I feel the beginnings of an orgasm, and I am so frustrated I can feel a million bees pushing against my organs, trying to break through my skin from the inside. Tears force their way out between my eyelids and run down my cheeks, and I thrust with my breathy sobs. I come but everything else is still inside me. Tom moves back up and kisses my face and I wonder if he can taste the salt. See, I knew you’d love it, he says.

word by Leah Mol

“This piece made me think of two living things that exist in the same place but will never really be joined together, and the conflict created as a result. So, I wanted to write a story exploring a relationship that has serious conflict, but neither party can really explain where it comes from. Relationships are complicated and confusing and boring and exciting. We are all just animals, in the end.”

colour by Chris Gismondi 

“I am an artist and an activist. I know this because I lie awake at night thinking about things in my life, in our world, and I think about communicating them to others. Not in text or song, but in performance, acrylic and instillation. I do not like the way the world is: I want to change it, make it better, loving, healthier, sustainable, tolerant and accepting. At first I thought my two passions of art and activism were disconnected, but as my thoughts came alive in performance, mixed media, acrylic, print making and body painting, I realized they were one in the same.” 

On Breakups: “Rome 2.0”

Adriana 1

Fucking Rome. We got to the hotel and she cried.

It was meant to be a four-poster bed, not a four-poled bed. It was meant to be a terrace not the top step an iron staircase. It was meant to my swansong, the trip to show her what she going to fucking miss out on: the thing to remember me by. I wanted her to feel soaked in guilt when the final blow was delivered.

“Hey, come on, it’s not so bad. Let’s go out and grab some food, start looking at the city”

The sobs went from a 6 to a 9. Wails grew and smashed into me, wave after wave.


“Come on. Let’s go. Now please”


My tone had lost it’s grace and just robotically pressed.


The scrunched face emerged, drained with deep black holes for eyes, and we traipsed into silence into the city. My mind flicked through the situation, questioning all reason.


Her birthday, I wanted to impress so I took her away – how could I possibly be in the wrong?


I knew I felt warped and knotted. I flicked off topic and watched the people passing in the street. They all seemed so beautifully ignorant to unhappiness. I tried to add context: where was he off to? What did she do for a living? What does he think when he wakes up in the morning?


“tell me what you’re thinking”


She looked up at me with watery pupils. For a split second I felt for her, then firmly shut that inkling out.


‘well we can’t go on like this’


We walked over a bridge – it was brimming with life. Food, flowers, painters, water. Beautiful when I removed myself from the presence.

There was a warming delicateness to the city’s atmosphere, an over-whelming sensation that right here and now was an immersion in history.

More silence filled space between us.


“do you want to go to the Colosseum?”




It’s an odd sensation that the connection between two people who shared a decent chunk of their life together could be actively worse than that of strangers meeting in the street.


Upon entering the Colosseum we both administered the look to walk separate routes in opposite directions around. I felt like the abiding balls of a Newton’s cradle. We passed at the mid-way point.


Rome was the city where I knew for sure I had fallen out of love.


word by Sam Fresco

“Ok, hands up. This was actually not-so-loosely based on personal experiences. The art reminded me of a lot of *that* bridge mentioned in the story so it felt natural for a piece to reflect a snapshot of how I felt in that moment. I wanted to make the experience as visceral as possible, really convey the coldness entangled with the helpless dependency you feel in that moment.”

colour by Adriana Coluccio

Adriana Coluccio is a visual artist based in Montreal. She earned her BFA in 2008 from Concordia University where she studied Studio Art and Film Animation.  In her early years as a multidisciplinary artist, Adriana was initially compelled by video art and experimental film.  After dabbling with these for a few years, she discovered a true affinity for painting.

Adriana’s painting practice is invested in her passion for traditional forms of oil painting, while drawing influence from her explorations in experimental film, video and digital media.  Her paintings are informed by her fascination with the instability of an image and the manner in which images are reproduced or transferred across media. She builds up her canvas with scenes that are potentially on the crux of formation or disintegration.

Adriana exhibits her work extensively in North America , notably in Montreal and New York. Her work can be found in private and public collections, notably in the office of the Deputy of Montreal-North.”


floating-away_650 (1)

Ken and Mavis lived at number 9 Flosstooth Avenue. Ken loved Mavis like a dog loves its favourite bone—he would chew on her every now and then to remind himself what true gristle could taste like, but then he would bury her, and all that she meant, and would wait for weeks or months until he dug her up to gnaw at her all over again. That way it was special, and that way Ken knew he would never get bored of his favourite bone. Mavis didn’t like being gnawed at every few months; she told him just before she asked him to leave that she expected constant gnawing. He hadn’t realised that, and offered to never bury her again, but by then it was far too late.

The summer before the end, the neighbours on the side with the dead rose bush that looked like a mutant spider moved out. A few weeks later a dual-cab UTE was parked in the driveway when Ken got home from work, and after some careful investigating from the kitchen window through Mavis’s homemade gauze curtains, Ken gathered that their new neighbour had moved in, and that he was a tall, broad-chested man, with the necessary bulges to wear only a singlet as he loped from his UTE to the door with boxes and bags. Ken saw that the man with the necessary bulges had two lean and hefty dogs. Ken was terrified of dogs, ever since he had been chased by a pack of gnashing greyhounds up and over the slide in the playground one afternoon when his father had forgotten to pick him up from school. He felt trapped in the house, and told Mavis about it when she came home weary from the salon, but she didn’t seem to be listening, and just stood and watched out the window until the sun went down and there was nothing to see anymore.

A couple of months later on a Friday Ken decided to leave work early. He arrived home to see that Mavis was already there, and though he called out for her in every room in the house but he couldn’t find her. Mavis didn’t like to walk anywhere; if her car was there, she had to be too. Ken poured the tap for the kettle and as he poured he looked through the gauze straight into the man with the bulges’ living room. There he saw Mavis, completely naked and dancing around the room with the man with the necessary bulges.

Ken hadn’t wanted to leave, even after watching Mavis and the man with the bulges in a variety of positions all over the living room that made him begin to sweat under his arms and in between his elbow creases. When she came home that night, crumpled and smelling of dog food, he had offered to stay in the spare bedroom. That she simply agreed, and didn’t seem to need to ask him why, told Ken that he would never unearth his favourite bone again.

word by Laura Mcphee-Browne

colour by Ilya Shipkin

From the author: “When I first saw this illustration by Ilya Shkipin, I saw the man and the dogs he was feeding as dangerous, as hostile. As I came back to look at the illustration again and again, I began to feel that there was a special relationship between the man and the dogs; that they knew each other well, and perhaps looked after each other.

My story, ‘Ken’ is about a man who does not feel comfortable in his own skin like the man in this illustration surely does. It is about the threat that confidence and mystery can be to a flailing relationship.”

the artist

Paper Cut

She would look back in later years and ask herself if she had been right. It was irrelevant, quickly became removed from the frame of present life, but, still, she wondered.

Never one to plan for failure, she had certainly positioned herself to be right, that night: she had worn the right dress, invited the right people, ordered the right drink. She had educated herself thoroughly on questions of technique and style. Where necessary, she had asked Paul minimal questions, inquiring about his influences but not prying into his inspirations: she wanted to appear intellectual, perhaps in possession of knowledge unavailable to the simple attendee, but not to flaunt her connection to the artist.

That night, she lingered in front of the pieces known to be masterworks, gesticulated near the controversial (and higher-priced) items, pointed out canvases that she thought friends and connections would enjoy. She lost sight of Paul only a few times throughout the night.

It pleased her deeply to see that he seemed to be enjoying himself, was engaging in conversations with pleasure, losing the usual rigid reservation that bordered on condescension and inevitably settled over him in groups.

In other words, the evening was going well, until she saw it.

She couldn’t fathom, at the time, how it had arrived there, how it had come to be hung on the wall with a little white card next to it, a blurb and a title and a price, without her having noticed, without someone (not Paul, certainly, but someone) informing her of its existence. But exist it did, on a scale more immense than anything else in the gallery: her head, her bare shoulders rising above the gathered party, her face drawn in either ecstasy or a half-sneer of pride.

The other form on the bed, she had to assume, was Paul, sprawled at her knees, legs spread.

He kissed the arm, flung sideways, that pinned him to the bed. He had no face, no skin, no shadows, a collage of bright colours with the outline of a human man. Beside him, she looked like stone.

Other onlookers moved away as Faith stood looking up at it, overwhelmed by unidentifiable emotion. His hand was on her back, he who seemed to prefer not to touch her when he could avoid it. In later years, she would remember thinking he had drunk too much; through the tide of wounded shame washing over her, she had that one petty point of clarity.

He moved so that he was standing in front of her, between her and the colossal painting.

“Is this a confession?” she asked.

He faded from her life, some time after, managed to evanesce though there had been papers to sign and furniture to divide and accounts to split. There should have been a shared existence to break apart but really there was just the painting and then the wondering, occurring at larger and larger intervals in the life that followed him.

word by Charlotte Joyce Kidd

colour by Eugenia Loli

From the author: “I was initially curious about the male figure in this piece. The crime-scene outline seems to indicate that he’s absent, but even if he has already left the bed, his relative colour and movement give him a presence and appeal that his companion lacks.

Where has the man gone, and why has he left? What is it about him that would leave such an imprint behind? Has he left it on purpose? Art naturally demands that we tell stories; it presents us with startling, intriguing, even troubling images and leaves us either to supply our own explanations for what is happening and why, or to remain startled, intrigued, and troubled.

In this case, my answer to the picture was to write about the woman in it, who I thought was likely to have her own questions about it.”