Fri, Jul
9
2004

Perpetua and the Lives of the Saints

Fri, Jul 9, 2004

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This is nearly a first draft, written directly to my blog from this computer here at the Dana Porter Library of the University of Waterloo. It proceeds directly from the new opening of The Night Girl (which I will try to quirk up a little more [waves to Dan]). I don't know if this scene below will be kept. But that doesn't stop the fun of blind writing.

My apologies in advance, by the way, to the people of Grand Bend and to fans of Viktoria Vizin. It's not me speaking, here, it's Perpetua. And, as Perpetua would say, it's nothing personal.

My name is Perpetua Viktoria Collins. It's not my fault.

No, really, blame my mother. I do. So does everybody else who hears my name. Between shaking their heads and looking at me as though they've come upon a beggar, they blame my parents. And since my father is not around to take the blame, it all lands squarely on my mother.

Thing is, they usually blame her for the wrong reasons. More than once, someone said to me, upon hearing my name, "so... your parents (my mother)... they (she) must like Shakespeare a lot. And you live close to Stratford.

I do. Sort of. Let's backtrack a minute. Before I came to the megapolis of Toronto I lived in Grand Bend, Ontario. Those of you who have visited Grand Bend may be surprised to learn that people actually do live there, year round. We are a resource town, and our main resource is a long sandy beach on the shore of Lake Huron. Our town, not very big to start with, gave itself wholly over to the tourist industry. We don't have a main street so much as a midway. It's like Lundy's Lane in Niagara Falls, except for the fact that Grand Bend never fought off the Americans in the War of 1812.

But people do live in Grand Bend, and I'd like to say that we are a hardy bunch. Certainly a flexible and a tolerant bunch. We go from near solitude in wintertime to teeming millions in summer. Those of us who don't leave (and why would we? The only reason to live in Grand Bend if you aren't retired is to work for the summer tourists) must accept wild swings in human company.

And it is true that Grand Bend is about two hours or so down the road (several roads) from Stratford, Ontario, mecca of Shakespeare affectionados and Canadian casting in the western hemisphere. And Perpetua does sound like a name Shakespeare would give to a character who discovers her long-lost twin sister casting spells to reunite lovers while soldiers from the War of the Roses carry home MacBeth's (yes, MacBeth. Not "that Scottish King". MacBeth! MacBeth! MacBeth! See? I'm still standing.) battered body home to be mistaken for the ghost of his father, all the while disguised as a boy.

But Perpetua is not a Shakespearean character. I know. I looked it up on Google. Perpetua is a saint.

A Roman noble, actually, who married, had a son, and then shocked everybody by converting to Christianity, along with her good friend Saint Felicity. Here's a quote I found:

When, she said, we were still under legal surveillance and my father was liked to vex me with his words and continually strove to hurt my faith because of his love: Father, said I, Do you see (for examples) this vessel lying, a pitcher or whatsoever it may be? And he said, I see it. And I said to him, Can it be called by any other name than that which it is? And he answered, No. So can I call myself nought other than that which I am, a Christian. Then my father angry with this word came upon me to tear out my eyes; but he only vexed me, and he departed vanquished, he and the arguments of the devil..

She refused to renounce Christianity, despite desperate pleas from her father, and the threat of being thrown to the lions. Actually, she ended up being thrown to a rampaging cow, which trampled her without leaving a mark, much to the audience's consternation. She finally had to be beheaded. Apparently, my namesake is the patron saint of cattle, dying children and martyrs.

My mother is not Catholic. I went to the public school, not Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I doubt the denomination of her protestant church shows up on the Canadian census. But something made her name me after this ancient saint that few people reading this have likely heard of. And since my father isn't around to be vexed by me, she fills in for him.

It's not that I'm not Christian. After all, didn't Jesus once say that those who weren't against him are for him? It's more that I wasn't mother's type of Christian... Or child... Or teenager... Or human being...

Look, let's just say we don't see eye to eye. And between that and getting tired of only half living in Grand Bend (a town that's alive only half the year, in my opinion), I got out. I fasttracked my way through highschool and hopped into a friend's van as soon as I picked up my diploma. Went down the road three hours to the big city looking for life.

And spectacularly not finding it. At first.

...oh, and Viktoria? My mother likes opera. I hate opera. Oh, well.


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