As a result of an extraordinary capacity for lying (developed during a demanding childhood), there are a few stories in my quiver that are not true, despite how convincing they have become. Sadly, some of these stories are my best and so I will not reveal which ones they are, yet (they still have work to do, women to impress). Each time I tell one of them, the truth of its inception shrinks in my mind, dries up in the sunlight the story casts on the faces of my audience. Over time, these stories have become more real, more true, and I wonder if one day some of them will have actually happened.
As I start pinning my life down on the page, I have noticed a fear that has crept up, a shadow cast by my lies, my imagination, the limits of my memory. For most of my stories, the truth or falsehood is still clear to me, but for some, like this one, there is a shroud now, that unnameable quality that transforms story into myth.
From the summer of my nineteenth year to the spring of my twentieth, I was known almost exclusively as ‘zippy’. As in, “zippy, get me that wrench,” or, “zippy, nail down that line,” or, “zippy, get me another rum and coke,” or, “zippy, you’re about as useful as a frozen cunt”. I wasn’t special, though, this wasn’t a term of endearment. Every winter across Northern Canada, the oil and gas industry creates a small army of ‘zippies’, skinny, zit-faced high-school grads (or dropouts) complete with fibreglass-toed Sorel “moon boots”, full-brimmed hard hats (skid lids) and navy blue insulated overalls (skivvies). Making well over two-hundred bucks a day and trying to save money for a trip overseas in the spring, I initially felt very lucky to have the job. That was, until mid-January, mid-season, and about as cold and dark as it gets North of sixty.