Children under water, divers swimming to surface, water, Mark in canoe
Mike voice-over: It looks like he’s here, but he’s not. He is such a master of disappearance, that his vanishing act goes unnoticed at normal speed. Look at the crease in his brow, the tight mouth clenched. The magician begins in anger. As the camera pulls away, he covers up that feeling. The thing he can’t say, even to himself. Here, Mark shows us his first and best disguise, the mask of happiness.
Image: Mike at desk writing, smoke blowing, pictures of Mark, all glimpsed in superimposition
Mike voice-over: When we met for the first time, he didn’t say hi. He asked, how could he help me? He never had his own room, or car, office or telephone, and because he bought his clothes secondhand even those didn’t seem to belong to him.
He was never alone, so he could develop the knack of knowing what you needed, before you did. Instead of a private life, the invisible man dedicated himself to service. The armour, the shield he always carried in front of him said, ‘You can’t take something away from me, I never had.’
Image: Man and woman kiss, she throws a flower in the water, breaking their reflection.
Mark (speaks to camera): Hope you liked the show, and if you want more shows, you know, I can totally find shows, and maybe find you segments and I could send them to you regularly. We could set something up with that. So if you like that, that would be great. How about I talk to the mirror and that will be a bit easier. So I think that’s about it. I hope you enjoy the show, and I hope you like the movies, and I hope you have a very nice holiday. At least mommie, you don’t have to worry about us getting in your hair and having all these problems. I know you probably miss the problems now but, that’s OK. I hope you both have a nice time, OK? I’m thinking of you. I hope you like my hair too. OK bye bye. (kisses camera)
Image: Hand on blue monitors, car driving.
Andrew Vollmar: Now we would usually walk, we’d cut through the town houses over here, and cut through here and spit out onto Sunset.
Hi, my name is Andrew Vollmar and I’ve been Mark’s best friend since the age of three.
We grew up together in this building. I still live here after 34 years, in the same apartment.
It’s funny, we never really started out as friends. I was his bully or something. Somehow we always got in fights. I was picking on him and he just stopped dead in the tracks one day and said, ‘Why are you fighting me?’ and I didn’t have an answer for him. I said, ‘I don’t know.’ He said, ‘Well, do you want to come over to my place?’ And before you know it we were like peas and carrots.
Image: Mark throws stick for Olga, his dog.
Mark: Olga. Come on. You want to go swimming, don’t you?
Image: Teenager breaks records.
Andrew: I remember I went over to his place one day after he had broken all of his records. He whipped them, he just kept hitting them with his belt, and he had carved X’s into his chest, and he had cut marks up on his arms, up here.
Image: Young boy and rabbit.
Image: Mark pets pigs.
Andrew: What happened to Mark scares the hell out of me. I feel so responsible. That was the only job I had as a friend, was to be there for him, then, and I wasn’t. That’s the biggest failure I’ve ever done, and I’ve got to carry that forever. You know, Mark lived a very bizarre life. I’ve talked with friends that we had, and they don’t really want to talk about that part much. I don’t know if they’re embarrassed about it, if they feel unsure about it. I don’t care. I don’t care what he wants to do. I don’t care about the choices he makes in life, what he makes he has to live with. I just wanted him there. He was everything to me.
Image: Invisible Man puts water on face
Mike voice-over: When Mark died he hadn’t seen Andy in ten years.
Image: Buildings, night traffic, Mirha holds her dog Seamus.
Mirha: My name is Mirha-Soleil. Mark and I met in 1997 at a place called Who’s Emma. We were partners, involved romantically, sexually, politically up until his death in April 2007.
Mirha on stage: To introduce them, Xanthra is my former girlfriend, Mark is my current boyfriend, and we all live together.
Image: Photographs of Mark sleeping. Mark in sleeping bag.
Mirha: Going to bed?
Mark: Not yet.
Mirha: You look evil, stop doing that.
Image: Trans fest trailer.
Mirha on stage.
Mirha: There’s too many nails on that stage. OK, Operations manager. Mark is my dearest, loving, so sweet boyfriend, who does not publicize one second being with a transsexual woman. He doesn’t go around and whine about everything. He’s with a transsexual woman and it’s not a big deal. But behind the scenes he does tons of work. He’s been such a sweetheart. We’re not rich, he earns very little money and I earn a tiny bit more because I’m a whore. But because he’s such a stable boy he’s succeeded in getting a gold card. So in order to produce this event we loaded his credit card up to the top, and he’s taking a huge risk and he works countless hours on this in the last few weeks and he’s not a transexual, he’s not intersex, he’s not transgendered. He just likes me and he thinks it’s great work that we’re doing as a community. So a big thanks and Mark come up here and show your face. Mark Karbusicky!
Image: Mark and Mirha onstage.
Mirha: OK, bon. Mark, are you ready?
Mark: I’m ready.
Mirha: I’ll probably make a mistake too so I’m sure you’ll enjoy it and find it all so experimental. It was planned. Whatever mistake I do was planned. OK, 1-2, 1-2-3-4.
Mark (sings): Old MacDonald had a farm. But on this farm had to go.
Image: Bicycle images.
Mirha voice-over: Mark rode his bicycle every day and all year round. When he’d come back home, whether at lunch time or after work, he’d always ring his bell several times, which was his way of telling us, his family of dog, transsexual and cats, all of us here who had been anxiously waiting for his return, that he was back.
Image: Mark as Blondie.
Mirha voice-over: Mark liked to imitate Mick Jagger, but only behind closed curtains. Every so often I’d catch him dancing and pretending to sing while listening to loud music. He’d be super embarrassed for about a second or two. But his number one impersonation was Blondie. I actually have a video of him doing a pretty nasty Blondie at a fundraiser for our radio show Animal Voices.
Image: Mark shows study to parents, he is behind the video camera.
Mark: Now here’s our study.
Mirha: What are you doing there?
Mark: I’m just filming them some of our apartment.
Mark: I’m just filming them images of the turtles and stuff like that.
Mirha: Is it messy?
Mark: No, not too messy. We cleaned up a little while ago. It’s not too messy. Here’s some of our books. Transsexual books. Animal rights books. Really nice books. Very happy.
Image: Small kittens play.
Mark: How about one close-up of you two?
Image: Mark videotapes Mirha, making still frames with his video camera.
Mark: OK, so ready? It’s recording now. That looks nice.
Mirha: No, I know I’m not photogenic. I don’t like my face there.
Mark: I think it looks super nice. So we’ll take a few more?
Mirha: Yes, a few more. Straight up. Regular height now.
Mark: Like this?
Mirha: Try to catch the boots. Oh, that’s alright.
Mark: Guys out of the way.
Mirha: Out of the way, guys. (laughs)
Mark: She gets to the bottom and slaps Lada out of the way. OK, ready? Do something with…
Mirha: …with my hands. (laughs)
Image: Mark night vision
Mark: What did he say?
Image: Mark and Mirha in car. Birthday party.
Titles: Why I’m happy? OK I’ll tell you and I’ll get all mushy and stuff. Because this girl here did so much work. And she makes me feel so happy. Honestly, this has been the best birthday of my life. For the past six or seven birthdays it’s been terrible. But now I just feel so good because she did so much. She did basically this whole evening. I thank her so much. And I almost cried earlier, I’m not as emotional now but I’m still a bit. But it’s very nice of her to do all this. And I’m very sincerely thankful. And I love her so much. And we’re going to do this again next year.
Image: Mirha performance, she turns, puts hot knives on her arms, plays accordion while looking at slides of herself as a child.
Mirha: The overall feeling that I’m trying to produce from that performance and that video is sort of a ritual, a healing ritual I’m conducting for that kid who was me and who was hurt because of being effeminate, because of being girly and because of being androgynous. So I use different things. I use five slides, five pictures of me as a kid which translates something very true and authentic about how I was then and how I was perceived, and I also use self-injury as a way to heal the pain I carry now from when I was a kid and onwards.
Image: Car drive, beach.
Antony song: Candy says, I’ve come to hate my body and all that it requires in this world.
Candy says, I’d like to know completely, what others so discretely talk about.
I’m going to watch the blue birds fly over my shoulder. I’m going to watch them pass me by.
Image: Mark and Mirha on stage, setting up.
Mirha: We’re going to be setting up, it’s going to take a few minutes so have a drink and chat with your neighbour.
Image: slide of Mark with cast comes into focus.
Mike voice-over: This is a picture from Mark’s archive.
Three small boxes mostly filled with videotapes, and old Rolling Stones records
and this cast of his arm when he was 12 years old.
On the underside there is a single sentence hidden from view.
The truth was the thing I invented, so I could live.
Image: Mark pulls dog on wagon, driving, chickens being pushed into cages, chickens being freed by activists.
He asked many times if I’d like to borrow one of the tapes he’d collected
about the animals he loved more than himself, and I always put him off, knowing I wouldn’t be able to take the planned cruelties of factory farming.
When I see them again, now, for the first time, I can’t help wondering:
why did he feel that these pictures were home?
Image: Mark and Mirha at beach. Birds. Mirha asleep.
Image: Lauren Corman in recording studio, outside.
Lauren: Hi, my name is Lauren Corman and I worked with Mark on the Animal Voices radio show. Naj and I inherited the show from Mark and Mirha-Soleil. I guess Mark did all the technical work for us for two years and that’s when I really got to know him.
Image: archival radio workers.
Voice-over: It’s time for us to end this hierarchy of who has the right to live, who deserves not to suffer.
Image: archival radio listeners.
Lauren: One of the joys of radio is creating your own network, tapping into activists around the world. Most people aren’t interested in animal rights, so to forge ahead in the midst of family indifference, or a larger public thinking you’re wacko, you end up really clinging to each other. We’ve had people write us from all over the world saying that they don’t feel alone anymore.
Image: Archival dancers, animals seen from overhead, a bite on a woman’s neck turns into a wolf, women’s liberation and civil rights demonstrations in the 1960s.
Voice-over: There’s a moment in a typical hunting scene when a wounded animal looks back into the eyes of the hunter as it dies. How can you deny that it is alive as it looks at you, that it exists in the world with its own dreams and desires? You say to yourself: it’s only an animal. This is the beginning of racism and genocide. We never truly believe it’s only an animal, so we’re haunted by it. The human subject has been haunted by animals and by everything that has been excluded. By women, people of different races, different sexual preferences. The civil rights movements, the gay and lesbian movements, animal rights struggles and feminism, all are reshaping our idea of what it means to be human.
Image: Mark and Mirha at sunset.
Image: Lauren in recording booth.
Lauren: It’s really difficult in a context like this to express who Mark was. I was mentioning this to Kristyn that Mark was a presence, and it’s really difficult to describe a presence in words. He made you feel good, it was like being around a radiator that was warm and kind. And I felt like if anybody met Mark, I think it was this unstated thing, that we all knew he was probably one of the best people we’d ever met, if not the best person. You just knew talking to him. He’s really someone who cared, and we’re talking about animals but it was everybody. He cared.
Image: Mark holds open file drawer.
Mark: This has become my cabinet. This is for the radio show. This is a lot of files which I use to archive and keep up locally and nationally.
Image: Kristyn on bike.
Kristyn: Hi, my name is Kristyn Dunnion and I’m a friend of Mark’s. I met Mark in the mid-90s at Who’s Emma, which was a radical bookstore and punk rock music store in Kensington Market. It was a kind of anarchist, collective run thing and we were both volunteers there.
Image: Kristyn on bike.
Kristyn: Mark and I both worked at Trinity Square Café, which is a café and a catering business and a job training program for people who are living with mental health issues. I moved on to a new place called Habitat Services as a housing worker with people who are experiencing severe mental illness and living in boarding homes in Toronto and Mark joined me there in 2007.
Image: Mark and Mirha
Xanthra: So why don’t you talk about what you’re doing Mirha?
Mirha: I talked so much this week I don’t feel like talking. I’m making up Mark. He’s about the only drag queen in it tonight. It’s a very open-minded and inclusive troupe. Is it? OK, go ahead Xanthra and film the intro.
Image: Kristyn on bike, inside her apartment.
Kristyn: The tenants that Mark worked with, he connected with people who, in a couple of cases, hadn’t left their room for years. He didn’t even speak the same language. There was one person in particular… he saw a chess board in the guy’s room and gestured to play. They played three times a week. Every time Mark came to the house, the guy was sitting there with the chess board set up. He was trying to learn Vietnamese so he could speak with him and other tenants in that particular house. They loved him and were just amazed. They were always, you know, the boy on the bike, and he would toss his scarf and ride in and ride out, and they loved that about him, that carefree… He seemed so different from all the people they would meet in that capacity. I would get asked if he was my brother, that guy with the shaved head, that’s your brother, right? I guess because we had this hair, or we both ride our bikes. And I thought yeah, he is, he is my brother.
We went to a drag king show at Buddies, and Mirha-Soleil and I had a few drinks and we were encouraging, “Il faut l’encourager,’ but she was also saying we could so much better. We picked the song 2 Ladies. Mirha forced Mark to be in it, he didn’t want to but he went along with it. I since learned he had more of a penchant for dramatic flair that he admitted at that time. We were bruised from rehearsing. We tried to get the dance steps just right, but I wasn’t tall enough. I was playing the male character, the MC, and they were going to be the two ladies.
2 Ladies song
Two ladies. Two ladies. And I’m the only man. Ja.
They like it. I like it. There’s two for one.
Two ladies. Two ladies. And he’s the only man. Ja.
They like it. I like it. There’s two for one.
Kristyn at desk, on couch
The last time I saw Mark it was at work and we were in our cubicle. It felt so homey, and it was so hard to go back. It’s so hard to be there sometimes still. I had, I don’t get headaches. I had Advil. I had Advil out on my desk, I don’t know why, I don’t take it very often, maybe I had cramps or something. I wasn’t in a good state I was stressed with some stuff, working on a book and publishing and I was really under the gun. I had felt very stressed all of April, and I remember saying to him, ‘I don’t think I’m going to get through this month,’ and he was like, ‘Yeah, I know, tell me about it.’ I say that because I feel if I hadn’t been so distracted with these other things I might have been looking at him more closely and I might have been more open, more perceptive, I don’t know whether that would have been the case.
But he came in and he was happy-go-lucky as usual and he was like, ‘Oh Advil, do you mind if I take some?’ and I said, ‘Well actually, it’s funny you say that, because we had this workshop recently on workplace safety and health. One of the things that the instructor said was that you’re not allowed to hand these kinds of pills to your co-workers. If you’re friends and you give them an Advil outside of work, that’s fine, you can do that. But if you do that in your workplace and something happens to that person you’re liable. These strange bureaucratic rules. We thought that was hilarious but it really stuck out. So here he is asking for these things. How funny that I now know that I can no longer hand you this. We could step outside to the parking lot and I could give you this contraband over-the-counter medication. I kept saying, ‘No, I can’t, I’m not supposed to.’ And he said, ‘Why? Why?’ And I said, ‘Well, some people have adverse reactions.’ ‘Like what?’ I said, ‘They die. Sometimes people die when they take these.’ He was like uchh. He had his foot up in the air and his hand up, ‘I’m not going to die.’ He said, ‘I’m not going to die,’ and ‘I’m used to way stronger than that,’ I didn’t know what that meant.
The reason he wanted it is because his shoulder hurt. I never really found out why it hurt. How do you hurt your shoulder? I asked him and he didn’t say anything and I just filled in the blanks, I said, ‘Oh from your job, you were probably lifting people and carrying them, right?’ He didn’t say and I was trying to show him a yoga position where you lay on the floor and you put your knee over, it’s supposed to help your back. I showed him and then he did it, and I was pushing his knee, I wasn’t even pushing, I was guiding his knee and he yelled out. This is a man who could walk through a blizzard in sneakers and a windbreaker and not make a comment. He seemed impervious to physical discomfort. So I knew he was in a lot of pain, I knew he was quite injured and I was like, ‘I don’t think this is going to help you if you’re in that much pain.’ I couldn’t understand why he was that hurt. But anyways he took a couple and I said, ‘Please don’t die on me,’ and he started laughing and then he was pretending to die, like he was flopping onto his desk and laughing and we were laughing. It was funny, right? But it wasn’t. Suddenly I stopped laughing, it felt spooky and superstitious. I said, ‘Mark it’s not funny. Stop laughing.’ I don’t know what possessed me because I’m not a very sharing person, but I said to him, ‘If you died, I don’t know what I would do.’ I said, ‘If you weren’t here on this planet I wouldn’t want to be here either.’ I just said I wouldn’t want to be here if you weren’t. I remember I didn’t even look at him when I said that, intimacy issues, whatever, and I did look at him after and he was smiling and he said, ‘Oh, that’s so sweet. Oh thanks.’ You know, and that characteristic Mark… He wasn’t flitting around all the time, but he just had a few gestures that he made, quintessential Mark, and it was like, he didn’t have to say anything, he could just do that thing and everything would be OK. But I felt quite morose, and off he went and he said, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow, we’ll have coffee,’ and I said, ‘No wait, no, I’m calling in sick tomorrow I have to finish my book. I won’t see you Tuesday, I’ll see you Wednesday,’ and he goes, ‘Oh no, I’m taking Wednesday off.’ I said, ‘OK, Thursday. Thursday I’ll come early we’ll have coffee.’
I was so excited to see him. I know this sounds like I’m making it up but I really had a sense of dread, not dread, but I felt anxious, I felt anxious until I saw him again, probably because I had felt uncomfortable about the joke, I guess, I don’t know, I can’t explain it otherwise. I didn’t get to see him again. I came to work early Thursday, I was excited to see him, I brought vegan cream for the coffee, and snacks. I never used to go early but everybody was in a flap because he wasn’t there. He was supposed to be there for some appointment. I guess there’s more, but that’s enough, he wasn’t there.
Image: Jack runs night
Mike voice-over: When I speak with his friends we can’t stop him from dying, again and again.
Image: night shots.
Mike voice-over: Mark and I grew up in the same town
Image: Jack skateboard, skateboard pov
Mike voice-over: We went to the same high school.
Image: Mark throws stick in water, Wizard of Oz
Mike voice-over: But we didn’t meet until they took the yellow brick road and turned it into a house where Mark worked as my editor for six years.
Image: Charles Street Video, man in rainstorm comes home
Mike voice-over: Even during snowstorms he cycled over from his real jobs with the handicapped, the psychiatric survivors.
Image: Cameramen, Mark by railroad tracks.
Mike voice-over: We took pictures already made and recycled them to tell new stories, so they could keep our secrets company.
Mike voice-over: When I think about the machine of community, I think about Mark. I think about someone who was so very close and so very far away, at the same time.
Image: man runs
He rushed off after each session, always working so hard, I wondered what he was running away from?
Image: Mark reads sign in French, Dr. Frankenstein lab.
Mike voice-over: He had done something with his talking before we met.
Taken it into some personal laboratory and recreated it one word at a time.
Everything that came out of his mouth was sunshine, so even and smooth.
He had given his words a second childhood.
I never heard him worry or complain.
And the prayer he passed between us was always: no problem.
Image: Photos Mark and Dylan, Nicole. Dylan in LaSalle Park clip,
Mark on rock with Dylan and Nicole, Mark jumps on rock
music: I am a pilgrim of sorrow
cast out in this wide world to roam
I ain’t got no hope in this world for tomorrow
I’ve started to make heaven my home
I’ve started to make heaven my home
Image: Jack walking on sand (and shadow)
Mark still photographs (Mark on beach, Mark in New Zealand
Image: timelapse shadows, Lorena in chair, on couch.
Lorena: I am Lorena Elke, Mark was my friend.
Image: Mark eats (turns to skeleton), dog at window, Lorena at window.
Image: woman paces, cat paces.
Lorena: The animal rights work and rescue work, being vegan and being politically vegan is part of my being a witch and understanding that we’re connected to cycles and nature and animals and because of that I can’t partake in the slaughter or any of the ways in which animals are used as commodities.
Image: Lorena lights matches, Mark fire.
Image: Mark at night, mist, man out of mist.
Lorena: It was winter and he’d built shelters for all of these homeless cats in the Bleeker co-op. He was feeding them and going to each one and checking inside. His mannerisms when he was working with the ferals, he was just so graceful and in tune with the fear of the ferals. He knew how to manoeuver around them. He knew how to be gentle. He knew how to love them from afar.
Image: bar lights, woman writes in notebook, feral cats feed.
Lorena: Even amidst his crazy working schedule he ran into some ferals at Cherry Beach and he was going out every night or every day to feed them too. It just didn’t stop for him. And I understand that because in the rescue work I’ve done it just couldn’t stop. That’s why I ended up with so many cats. I adopted the throwaways, the ones that people didn’t want mostly. And that was like Mark.
Image: feeding cats at home
Lorena: He tended to not only his own tribe of animals but the homeless animals. How in the world did he have that energy? At what cost?
Image: Mark feeds bird.
Image: Mark and Mirha walk in woods.
Mark: You know what? I think we took the wrong route.
Mirha: Oh no.
Mark: That’s ok. I think I know…
Image: Mark holds out hand.
Mirha: It’s not coming.
Mark: I can tell you when. I just had one come on me. Oh here.
Image: Lorena at window. Lorena on chair. Beagles in Huntington Labs, animal experiments.
Lorena: Tell me when you want to start.
Lorena: Mark started up a chapter of SHAC here in Toronto, it must have been four or five years ago. SHAC stands for Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, and Huntingdon was a lab in the UK breeding animals, predominantly beagles, for use in experimentation and research, in the pharmaceutical or commercial area.
Image: Mark plays with dog.
Lorena: There was a whole movement that started in the UK and went to the US and came to Canada. This organization really drew attention to what this particular company was doing. And Mark organized the first chapter of it here in Toronto, organized protests against companies who were buying these animals to use in experimentation.
Image: Mark and megaphone.
Mark: The reason we’re standing here in this location today is that we want to tell the company, Sumitomo, which is on the 28th floor of this building, that we are fed up with their support of Huntingdon Life Sciences. Thousands of animals will be saved once Huntingdon Life Sciences closes down.
Image: Mark and mother slides.
Image: Mark’s mother Zorka talks to Mirha
Mirha: She said Mark is going to learn Czech properly?
Zorka: Yes, she said he’s good and her husband likes him too. I said to her, I just wish Mark was a little bit neater. Because he has spots on his clothes. And I said to her when he was young, before he lost his hair, before he went to New Zealand, how beautiful his hair was. You should have seen him then. You wouldn’t believe it, how healthy and thick his hair was.
Mirha: And what did she say? Did she say he’s dirty?
Zorka: No, I was talking about the hair. Now he doesn’t have any hair because he shaves it, but I said to her you wouldn’t believe it how much hair he had. But he went to New Zealand and met these girls and they bleached his hair and damaged it. What do you think? Is it possible?
Zorka: It was because he went through depression.
Mirha: That his hair changed? He started to lose it.
Zorka: I know but it must have been something. Do you remember he has these marks on his skin?
Mirha: Yes he was depressed but that doesn’t make you lose your hair.
Image: Mark and Mirha outside with Olga (dog). Mark goes inside. Dying cat.
Image: Eyeball. Tear. Rainy windshield.
Lorena: I knew that Mark had moods. I knew that he carried something in him. I knew that he had wounds from his childhood. I knew about his uncle who committed suicide because they named one of their cats after him and I was told the story at that time. I think it was Ladislav.
Mike: What did he tell you about his uncle?
Lorena: Just briefly that he had committed suicide when he was young, that he was very connected to that uncle, and it had a very big affect on his life. Mirha said that Mark reminded her of that uncle in his ways. He was a quiet man, gentle man, too.
Image: trees, sad Mark, boy in forest with flashlight, boy on fire, Mark and campfire.
Image: Mark at campground.
Mark: My morning shot, to get me through a morning of camping.
Mirha: Olga come!
Mark: Espresso, campfire style.
Mirha: Tell us what happened with Olga?
Mark: She excitedly rolled around on a cadaver. And it was nice and rotten.
Mirha: A cadaver of what?
Mark: A bird, a duck I think. And if you out there, there’s more of them. You see? There are about three or four.
Mirha: Where? Oh.
Mark: The wild, wonderful kingdom.
Image: Red wall, Mirha makes bed.
Mirha: Mark dreamt very little, that’s what was weird. And then what happened is that I haven’t dreamt since he died, I didn’t want to. I wasn’t dreaming, but I did dream this time. Sometimes that’s what happened that in the middle of the night, we’d just wake up and we’d be kissing, and we wouldn’t know how it happened. We’d all of a sudden become aware that it’s four in the morning and we’re super horny in a super primitive way, and we’re just kissing and we don’t know how it happened. It’s almost as if we were having an erotic dream both at the same time. We thought we were dreaming. We’d often start having sex that way. So what happened in the dream I had right now was that I dreamt that this was happening. But as it was happening I felt sad, I thought omigod, Mark I dreamt that you had left me and were no longer there. I always had this recurring dream that he would leave, that he was no longer there, and I would wake up and he would be right beside me in bed. I had this dream all the time, I have chills now. The whole time I was with him, ten years, every week, maybe two or three times a week, I would wake up in a sweat and I would be telling him I dreamt that you were no longer there. And every time I would be so relieved that he would be beside me, recurring all the time. So I had the same dream, but when I woke up I was expecting him there because that’s what used to happen, only he wasn’t there. Fucking horrible, no?
Image: Mirha paints apartment, moves, Mark and Mirha photos.
Image: Mirha in forest, Mirha talks.
Mirha: Next thing I know I’m opening my eyes. There’s birds chirping and bright light from outside. There’s a smell of the spring. So then I get out of bed to make sure he’s not late for work, and as I make a right there and I’m going in the hallway upstairs, I saw a fucking dog leash. I started to cry and I started screaming No. No. No.
And I went down the stairs but then as soon as I was in front of him I started to talk to him. Somehow I was convinced that he was still there, even though he might be dead he could still listen to me, and I was telling him because of all these nightmares about him leaving me and being insecure, you swore you’d never leave me, you said you’d never leave me. And I’m grabbing him at the same time and he’s fucking hanging.
Somehow I feel he’s still there behind the eyes even though the eyes are starting to die, they’re funny, they’re not normal, but I could still feel him there. I’m trying to get at him but then there’s another split because I split in chunks all the time. Another split of me that’s saying OK, we have to lift him up because he’s hanging. I can’t leave my boyfriend hanging. Even though he was dead, I don’t know. So this other part of me while I’m talking starts to struggle with the body to pull him up. That’s when I realize that, I always saw him not as a big guy, as a tall skinny shallot we used to laugh and call him that way, a tall green onion. But then I realized he’s very heavy, and very stiff, he probably died hours earlier.
Every time that I pushed it went (breath) (breath) (breath). Every time, there might have been dozens of breaths, if not hundreds before the ambulance and the police arrived. Every time I pushed on his chest, every bit of dead air that came out of him, it put my whole soul into a state of hope, only to be right away thrown into a state of abandonment. Because you know that’s dead air. But then you continue, maybe it’s not. With every breath you go through this cycle, it almost happens in slow motion. You pass from hope that he’s alive to, no, it can’t be, this is just dead air coming out of the stomach.
I think as soon as they walked in they knew he was dead. But I’m there and they realize I’m the spouse and they don’t want to say, ‘Ma’am he’s dead, get off there and go sit on the couch.’ But I know that’s what they’re thinking. I get up to leave the place for the guy, I go sit on the bench, but as I’m doing this, I know he’s just going on Mark to do it, he doesn’t want to not do it, because he wants to give me some satisfaction because he tried. So I’m sitting there and I know he’s dead by then, there’s nothing to be done. The guy goes four times on his stomach and there’s nothing that happens, and he doesn’t even say anything like, ‘He’s dead.’ to one of his colleagues, he just gets up and then they talk with each other and everything, and then five minutes later he turns his head towards me and says, ‘So ma’am, do you realize what’s going on?’ He said it in a compassionate way, he didn’t sound sarcastic like this, I’m not doing him well. I said, ‘Of course I know, he’s dead!’ and I started to cry again. And then I don’t remember. Everything after that is like a blank. I remember I was upstairs and they were asking me questions about him. If there were people in his family who committed suicide, if he was taking drugs, if he was depressed. You answer the questions but then you’re gone for a long time after that.
Image: boys running.
Mike: He never came first, he didn’t break the record or find the cure – he was too busy helping others for that, staying in the background where he felt he belonged.
How do you make a picture of the background?
As these boys run towards the men that are waiting for them in their old age, who in this hopeful scrum would declare themselves content with an ordinary life, an ordinary love affair? An ordinary kind of happiness?
Image: Andrew Vollmar, Mirha, Mark’s parents, Lauren Corman, Kristyn Dunnion, Lorena Elke.
Mike: In the year after Mark died, his friend Andrew got this tattoo, and after 35 years, he moved out the building he and Mark once lived in together.
In the year after Mark died, Mirha moved back to Quebec and Mark’s parents moved back to Burlington so they could be close to their remaining son Paul, who got Mark’s Rolling Stones records.
Lauren and Karol moved to a new house where they continue to work for animal rights on their radio show.
Lorena moved in with her girlfriend and her 13 cats.
Kristyn broke up with her girlfriend and I started editing movies by myself.
Image: Golden streets, runners and shadows.
Mike: To create a picture. To leave a mark. To be marked by him.
It seems he didn’t quite succeed in becoming invisible after all.
Mirha Soleil-Ross, Andrew Vollmer, Paul and Zorka Karbusicky, Lauren Corman, Kristyn Dunnion, Lorena Elke, Jack Fuller
Additional Material from the archives of Mirha-Soleil Ross and Mark Karbusicky
Thanks to: Paul Karbusicky, Tomas Tetiva, Andrea Cohen, Steve Sanguedolce, John Price, Ray Boudreaux, Aleesa Cohene, Alex Fuller, Helen Pancic, Gerry Hoolboom, Marleen Hoolboom, Aldershot High School.
Music Fragments: Machinefabriek, Hana Hegerova, Keith Jarrett, Kid 606, David Darling, Cokiyu, Eric Cordier, Christian Fennesz, Jacob Kiekegaard, Khonnor, Washington Phillips, Zbigniew Preisner, Rolling Stones, Arnold Schoenberg, Zegunder
Thanks: Ontario Arts Council