– March 2012
Markers, paper, pastels, a magazine, stencils, and pencil crayons were strewn across the bed. Sitting cross-legged on the bed, in the middle of the muddled mess was Joey Shulist. It was 8:30pm and my day began at quarter to six. The past night and that day had already pushed me beyond my comfort zone. The other assistants in my house were away; either sick, or travelling.
I was tempted to just jump in and start cleaning up the bed of debris. Joey had just begun to colour a piece of paper with a green marker. All I could think about was getting myself to bed, but Joe looked too concentrated to be disturbed.
“Hey Joe, would it be cool if you drew for another 5 minutes? …and then I can help you get ready for bed?”
10 minutes had gone by. He was about half way done his sheet, shading tactically. His marker was running out but he was determined to finish. I reminded him of our deal, but soon I could tell that my strategy was going nowhere. My desire to tumble into my own bed made me impatiently agonized as I stood silently, watching him fill his page with a dying green marker. Exhausted and somewhat defeated by the day, I cleared a spot on the corner of the bed and sat down. Silently, time passed by. 5 minutes. 10 minutes. I thought. Joe coloured. I wasn’t stressed anymore. It didn’t really matter to me how much time passed by. I was relaxed for the first time in the day.
On a normal night, after that first compromise “heads-up, bed-time-soon-warning”, I would set a boundary. But something different happened on that Thursday night. Rather than speak and perhaps be an insistent pest, I decided to listen to his message. Joe’s wrist stopped moving. He put the cap back on his marker and looked at the filled page critically. He then handed me the drawing and released an uncontainable, contagious smile. He drew a jungle with a waterfall and stream. He wanted me to keep the drawing in my room, and I always will because of the significance of the moment. There was reciprocity and we silently listened to each other. His silent scribble: just hold on, it will be worth it. Just hold on. The silence of my weary eyes: I need to relax. I need something in this day.
In a world where everything is engineered to go faster and faster, efficiency is encouraged, and our lives often seem accelerated by a creeping force of stress and technology, Joey will be there to bring me back down to a comfortable speed. We miss a lot when we go too fast. We don’t listen to each other’s subtle cues properly. I find it tragic to think that I may have asked Joe to clean that mess up a half hour earlier.
– Skye Wattie is presently a co-op student/assistant from the University of Waterloo living at the Green House.