Confined Tricks

May is a special birthday month for Mabelene [Mabel] Rimmell who was born in 1956, and who would now be turning 56.

 

She was the second born in Vancouver to two loving parents, and soon became a middle child and then a typical middle child stuck between an aspiring upcoming scientist and an average kind of guy. At an early age, she strove to soar like an arrow from a bow to beat the odds and do better than both her elder and younger brothers, and everyone around her. It was an uphill battle, but she strategized and focused, and carried those skills and her determination with her everywhere.

 

Her early schooling began in the isolated community of Haney, at West Waterfall Elementary, a few blocks from home. Each morning she would be up, bright and early, to get ready for school. The bed had to be made, the curtains opened and the body fed. On went the frilly white bobby socks and crinoline multi-coloured skirt, with a well-starched, perfectly ironed blouse and patent shiny leather shoes. With the long black crinkly hair in either a French braid or piggy tails, off she would go alone down the hill, around the corner and along the street – same route each day going directly to school and coming directly home.

 

During her spare time, after school, after doing her homework, she would dress and undress her dolls -- indoors on bleak days and out on the back lawn on better days, just her and her dolls, along with her favourite teddy bear and her imaginary friend named Yo Yo watching from the sidelines. They were her friends – her only friends. Nobody seemed to mind.

 

After grade seven, students in that neighbourhood transferred to Willingdon Junior High, a school with a very bad and scary reputation of the drug kind. It was the late 1960s. Mabel’s approach was to stand above all of that tainted image, arrive at school at five minutes to the starting hour, go directly to her classes, hide out in a classroom every lunch hour to do her homework, eat her lunch and read her book. At the sound of the afternoon bell, she’d speed off to her locker, grab her coat and run out the side door, down the pathway to the back roads leading her home.

 

Once home, she’d eat the cookie and drink the milk her stay-at-home, wheelchaired mom had placed on the kitchen nook table, before heading to her shared bedroom to get on with her homework until dinner time. She’d help with the dishes and one other chore, and back again to her bedroom, to work on her school assignments or to play with her dolls. The phone never rang for her; the doorbell never chimed for her. She was alone; all alone.

 

The three years at Willingdon Heights led to two more years at Haney Central Collegiate – a fair distance from home, requiring another extended bus ride with a transfer. This was Mabel’s branching out period where she was determined to be more like the others. She joined the drama club and became an instant star in two high school musicals. If her parents could not drive her to and from the rehearsals or performances, she would take her bicycle. She had found a new niche and loved performing, loved acting and make-up. It exposed a voice, a body, a personality that few, if any, had ever yet experienced. She practiced being a new person with a new beginning. But, it might have been a little too much, too late as people were not warming up to her – still no phone calls and still no doorbells chiming.

 

After graduation, it was off to Paragon University – not very far away from home, but far enough to wish she had an apartment closer to campus. An hour to and an hour from the campus each weekday, and sometimes to study on weekends, took its toll in year one. Mabel took a big step and lived in a basement suite nearby.

 

To pay the rent, she assumed a new persona: Candy Cai and worked the strip bar circuit in the Downtown Eastside where she was sure nobody would notice her. It was her secret; her secret life; another performing art and a great opportunity to dress up just like her childhood dolls. But, the secret did not last – someone spotted her as a former high school classmate placed a twenty into her thong. She was mortified, but did not quit. She needed the money and those hours fit into her schedule. She studied by day and worked the circuit by night. On weekends, she would study in her basement suite or at the university library, alone, all alone.

 

Soon, word got out about her pastime and that did nothing to help her hone friendships. Few even so much as said hello to her as their paths crossed the same hallways day after day. For team projects, the professor assigned her a group. The team players never asked her for her insight and left her with the grunge jobs which she took in stride because passing the course was job one.

 

Mabel was lonely and all alone for most of those university years, until in year four her eyes caught the attention of someone who winked at her and asked if he could sit at her table in the student cafeteria. There were no other options for him at the time, so he sat there and they began to talk. He was a first year law student and, although he could not stop talking about himself, she suggested they meet again, the same place, same time, the next day. Tom showed up and that led to a movie date, a warm and passionate goodnight kiss and an invite to spend the night – all in the span of ten days. It was her first date, her first kiss and the end of her innocence.

 

With all the talk about law school, moot courts and precedent-setting case work, Mabel was inspired enough to take the LSAT – the official entrance exam for prospective law school students. She studied and studied, alone and with Tom, for hundreds of hours before test day.

 

The extra efforts, which always came naturally for her, paid off and she just made enough to reach the lower limit for acceptance at Paragon U Law School.

 

That summer, Tom’s dark side began to show and he became verbally and physically abusive. It took a near knock-out punch to get Mabel to walk away – she walked away from him, but not her pursuit of a law degree and career. The School of Law was big enough for her to avoid any interactions with Tom who was a year ahead of her.

 

Mabel again needed to make some quick money so she got back into her secret life for a while – just long enough to build a pot of money to sustain her expenses for that first year. It only took her seven weeks of day and night shifts on the circuit which now included poll dancing and lap services. She and that pole were so very good together and the men would come, and some women, from far and wide to see her special show. Enough was made by the end of August and she was ready to roll for a year of Law School.

 

During orientation, she met Edgar – a young, shy Iranian; a settled refugee, new to the Campus. He asked her for directions to the used book store and she offered to walk him there. It wasn’t a long walk, but long enough to exchange pleasantries and to suggest they meet again later that day in the Campus Pub. They both arrived at the same time and Mabel felt like she had just fallen in love. They dated for a month, studied together, went to classes together, argued cases together and then, they slept together.

 

Except for class time, the two were clung to each other’s hips; inseparable. They were together in the hallway, in the library, the cafeteria and in the classroom. He sat to her left and she sat to his right. He walked on her left and she walked on his right. In bed, he was on top; she was beneath. It was routine; all routine and never anything out of place or out of the ordinary -- structured and sequential, neat and tidy, all day and all night. Everything in place.

 

When Edgar went to visit family in the province next door, Candy Cai would do a quick round of pole dancing and stripping gigs around town to generate a lot of extra income. He had no idea she was slipping into her other persona, in and out of her secret life.

 

In their fourth and final year, Edgar decided to do his Articling in a remote town 500 miles away. He needed to focus and felt the distance would make that easier. Candy Mabel understood completely and she was especially secure about this plan as he proposed to her and set a wedding date before he left.

 

For an entire year, they rarely saw each other, and phone and internet reception was difficult. They both kept busy and Mabel was especially busy with her Articling year, making money secretly and making wedding plans on her own at the same time. He gave her free reign and basically stepped right back from the entire process, including the payments of related expenses. She did not mind; she was in love, in love, in love. Edgar showed up the day before the wedding date, played his part and that was it – they were married August 1987.

 

Mabel did not complete her Articling requirements, but her grades were sufficient to become a Notary Public. Once the paperwork was complete, she and Edgar looked into opening up their own law firm, a small one, just the two of them, in a small community west of Hope.

 

No sooner had they put up the awnings and hung their shingle, Mabel realized she was pregnant. She kept that secret for a while as the timing was bad, really bad. She needed time to figure out how it could all work.

 

Change is not always easy and sometimes it happens at just the wrong time.

 

Eventually it came out; they discussed it and the decision was for Mabel to work until drop day, become a stay-at-home mom for six months and then return to fulltime work at the practice.

 

It did not quite work out that way as the business was suffering with just Edgar at the helm. Mabel needed to come back to help out earlier than planned, with one baby in tow and number two on its way. The performing pages of her life were now turning much more quickly than ever, leaving her head spinning faster than her body ever could around those poles.

 

Many a day would come and go, over the next twenty years, where she was contemplating getting off the spinning wheel. Things got so very bad that she had to be put on medication for life and occasionally institutionalized for brief periods for her own protection. She felt so alone, and was so alone ... no dolls to help, no teddy bear to help and her secret friend, Yo Yo, was so far gone, she did not know where to begin to find him again. Nobody dropped by to replace him. The phone was still not ringing nor the door bell chiming. The husband was too busy. The children were too busy and Mabel did not have it in her to draw her parents into her turmoil, her personal struggle, feeling they would not be understanding and helpful.

 

Lost and alone, yet again; but, her life did not actually end there. The business ended; the marriage ended; the parenting ended.

 

But, a brand new personal opportunity, a new beginning was presented to her, something nobody could figure out, nobody could understand, nobody wanted to ask about; and, she was completely okay with that; completely okay with being alone, all alone, trapped within a secret world, a secret life,  shrouded with secret fun, secret gifts, phone calls and visits at all hours of the days and nights, secret laughter and smiles – a new life, not really all that different from before: alone, all alone, void of real happiness, self-esteem and self-respect. Alone, so very much alone and yet, she went on believing she had found happiness and a purpose for her life, until it all came to a sudden halt – the two of them were outed, and that curtain fell with a huge bang including legal action, estrangement from the children, some family and some friends, as well as embarrassment, anger, disappointment, shock and dismay across the board.

 

Mabel’s heart finally gave up in March 2010 at the young age of nearly 54; her curtain fell one last time.  She died alone and her cremated body was poured into an urn shaped like a Yo Yo, as per her written wishes filed only weeks before her self-imposed passing.

 

The unique urn was placed at the foot of a special pole, a white shiny pole, erected inside the special memorial building of Haney’s oldest cemetary – Saint Patrick’s Garden of Peace. The string was affixed to the top of the pole as the Yo Yo urn hung lifeless five feet down;  no more spinning, no more pulling, no more cradles, no more tricks and, best of all for Mabel -- no longer alone nor abandoned: Yo Yo and his Mabelene Rimmell immortalized and notarized, forever together.

 

A secret person, a secret life, put to rest in character as her final act.

 

May she rest in peace.