Books

Remembering the rush

Susan Oh April 30 2001
Books

Remembering the rush

Susan Oh April 30 2001

Remembering the rush

RAE JOHNSON, 45,

painter, Flesherton, Ont.

It happened the year I was dating, between my second husband, [painter] Brian Burnett, and meeting my third, [theatre director] Clarke Rogers. I met a painter at one of those nights when artists gather at The Cameron House in Toronto. The attraction was immediate and mutual, but he was married. We talked all evening. Just sitting together with that kind of connection is sometimes more erotically charged than the actual act of sex. I went home and couldn’t stop thinking about him. I started to paint at around 1 a.m., imagining romantic embraces. I

finished the painting in seven or eight hours in a steady burst of creative energy. It was so erotic, so physically exciting—almost like making love all night. The painting turned out to be Red Interior—an oil of my actual bedroom in a loft—a critically acclaimed piece that’s now on view at a public gallery in Owen Sound. For me, he represented a sense of freedom and ro-

mance that I felt I lacked. Men artists talk about finding a muse—I guess I found mine, for the night, anyway.

SUSAN MUSGRAVE, 50,

poet and novelist, Sydney, B. C.

The most passionate episode in my life has to be when I met and married my husband, Stephen [Reid, currendy serving 18 years in prison for armed robbery and attempted murder]. In 1984, I was writer in residence at the University of Waterloo, when a criminologist doing a study of bank robbers across Canada brought me the manuscript of his autobiographical novella, Jackrabbit Parole. As soon I read it, I had adrenaline pumping through me. He described his experiences

of robbing banks with such humour and sensitivity that I fell in love with his character on the spot.

I wrote to him [at Millhaven Institution] saying I wanted to edit it. I must have written him 10 letters that first week. We wrote each other for two months and fell in love before meeting. For two years, we visited but couldn’t have sexual relations. In 1986, we married in prison. There was a guard standing over the cake knife. We were bonded from the start through writing. And then having worked through such terrible things—like his heroin addiction and relapse—I see being with him as a gift where I can learn more than just about myself and my needs. Fifteen years later, I’m still as much in love and obsessed.

CATHY JONES, 46,

comic actress, Halifax

Women really understand and identify with their predators. Here he is trying ruin your life and you’re like, “But I understand him!” In the past, I’ve picked men who are aggressive, who are the male side of me. I fell in love in my early 30s with a man who was like John John Kennedy and wore Brooks Brothers. A friend of mine in St. Johns saw him and told me, “I saw the man you’re going to marry.” We went to the restaurant where he was a waiter. I was madly in love with him at first sight. I was just dying with love. We had a relationship somewhat, but he was never in love with me. He had this mercilessness about him. We were

together only a few months, but I mourned him for two or three years. That experience turned me into a Buddhist.

I tend to hook up with these men who were abandoned by their mother or parents at a young age. I see the abandonment in their eyes and I think, “I can love you, little fella.” And before you know it, you are trying to love this thing that doesn’t know how to be loved, and they unleash this maelstrom of cruelty. Men you try to rescue have a tendency to turn on you. What I realize after all this time is that I thought I could be completed by a man, but I now know I can be a complete woman and find a complete man.

Susan Oh