Just before I began to write Death of the Limping Man, I heard of the sad and untimely loss of Erin Wall, the wonderful American-Canadian soprano. She was young, just 44. We had seen her at Roy Thomson Hall only a year before, radiant, in fine voice, singing the title role of Thais in concert with the Toronto Symphony. Images came back of the night: young couples dressed in their best; others with shopping bags; subscribers greeting fellow subscribers; Jonathan Crow's brilliant performance of the entr'acte, Meditation; limping back to the car park -- I'd banged my knee. (Actually, I'd forgotten that until I started to write this.)
Afterwards, we had picked up our youngest daughter from a friend's party and were on the Lakeshore, heading west. We were talking about the party, the concert, and above all, Erin Wall. She was a discovery for us. A revelation.
A car slowly edged past us on the right as we neared the Boulevard Club. From the other direction came a white car. At the bend in the road just past the Palais Royale, the white car hit the median and became airborne. I hit the brakes. The car beside us did not. The oncoming white car did a barrel roll -- just like in an action movie -- and slammed into the car beside us. Everyone stopped short. How no one was injured was nothing short of miraculous.
All of these images rushed back to me when I heard of Erin Wall's death. Some disjointed. Others, focused by the accident, were ordered in my memory -- sequential.
I knew how to approach my first chapter.
The daily acts of living -- making decisions, eating, wondering what it is the dog wants, smelling something not correct -- are remembered without order because the stakes aren't high. But when something serious happens, sequence is fixed in the mind. And here's the thing: the sequence isn't always true. However, we convince ourselves that it is because we have manufactured a sequence out of what is always and necessarily momentary and most often actually unconnected.
I would begin with broken images and resolve them into a pattern. It's how I ended, too.