I have just returned from a trip to Montreal for Dee & Freida's ish-wedding, (they eloped last year), and Madison for Karen & Pär 's ish-wedding, (they eloped 20 years ago), and WisCon, a feminist sci-fi writer's convention. I tried to keep a journal of the trip, an attempt to work towards fixing my awful stillness, sadness, and silence.
I feel like I should be taking more pictures, the signs are all French, there are blue and white flags flapping from storefronts, but it has been a very long day, stretched longer by my restless, nearly sleepless night and the dilation effect of crossing two time-zones. The plane ride was choppy, but comfortable all the same. Not enough passengers to fill every seat, so there was room to stretch, room enough to feel like we weren't crammed in a can. How flat this country is, how bleak, I thought, looking over the plains, but then the lakes began to appear. The lakes that freckle the country are still frozen stiff, even in May, small, tidy sheets of white that gleamed like I used to imagine diamonds are supposed to, blazing with the sunshine even as our shadow touched them.
My friends walk arm in arm, a married couple, beautifully affectionate, sweet and pretty. I adore them both, they make me ache to know the language better, so that I could be as quick and fluent with them as they are with each other. I remember their wedding, the sharp joy they gave out, like flares from lighthouses. They live together now by the Olympic Stadium in an apartment I had never been to before, shared with four cats, each with a distinctive personality, a greenhouse worth of plants, and books deeply piled on every flat surface. We are coming back from dinner, I’m to sleep in the front room, on a currant coloured velvet couch surrounded by novels, paintings, plants, and more art. It’s glorious. The building is old in a way that no buildings in the west are old, with painted over wallpaper raised in a repeating pattern of griffons and urns and dark wooden doors inset with stained glass. They are on the top floor, the stairs narrow, circular, and set with stone. It makes me think of castles and timeworn foreign movies. Someone shoots a gun, there are footsteps, someone running, but all you see is a hand on the rail. I love everything about it. I love everything about them. And underneath it all, a constant, the welcoming perfumed scent of sweet-smelling incense.
Happy birthday Michel!
Much love from Vancouver.
After the Mongolian restaurant that had neither Mongolian food nor (apparently) staff, we climbed out of Chinois Town and left James to go to bed. He’d taken ill with whatever camouflaged “ethnic” food that he’d eaten. Joseph and Michel and I were left unscathed by our meal, though perhaps not by the restaurant, and continued bravely onward, collecting Johnathan and finding Saphir. Mistake. Hipster kids. Hipster kids and hipster goths. If possible, hipster 80’s music. Heavy metal upstairs with a live band and too much badly dyed black hair. Eventually, it was simply too many kids with trendy boots and ironic cut-out plastic earrings and not enough silver lame short short pirates.
So we went on a quest to find funk.
Unsurprisingly, as we’re a fine cluster of geeks, we failed. Not being able to find Rouge, (though I have on good authority that it does in fact exist), the newspaper led us to walking up St. Denis to Mont Royal and the Que De Quat, (sp? Sounds like Kitty Cat is all I know). Also a mistake. Twenty minutes trudging through snow to find that the club had canceled the show was a bit of a disappointment. Lucky for Montreal, next door had red strawberry jell-o. Otherwise, aching ankles or no: bloodbath. Actually, they also had clear plastic dishes of butterscotch pudding. That might have been what really saved the day as the jell-o, though shiny, was terrible.
Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
I’m floating too fast to close my eyes. My skin is still scented with someone else, the edges of them sitting on a bed, handsome head in hands, hair tied in black wheat warrior knot. I feel like I could make music right now, if only I had percussion. Inside my fingers have been trying to dance to a melody that has everything to do with the sounds of breathing. When I woke up, it was afternoon and the outside world was white. Everything buried and I didn’t know where my body began in relation to this strange acquaintance. Snow and light. Snow and a hand creeping into mine, a sigh, and they turned in sleep, delineating the places where my body began and the universe ended. The dry earth can’t kill me because once again I have meaning.
I’m so sorry he didn’t get the part. Later I’ll call in the afternoon, try for a rain check on breakfast. Films are like that. It’s fickle. They drag you in to threaten the other players, they drag you in and blow your face up ten feet tall and thirty million theaters wide. I understand the inclination as much as I understand the way a teardrop tastes.
Before that, in a few hours time, James and I will be calling Michel, finding somewhere for breakfast, and making our way to the Urban Photography Exhibit currently taking up advertising space all over the subway system. After, James will vanish off to be a psychology guinea pig for some group studying how different artists solve the same problem, and if I’m lucky, I’ll have a date for lunch. Late afternoon, Jacob and I are going to hit up the House of Architecture and the skating rink in the Old Quarter. (On Saturdays there’s a fireworks show above the ice). It feels nice to have days planned again, as if now I’m safe somehow because I’m strong enough again to pull a city around me like a blanket. The stars, they are holes I punched there myself merely by searching for them.
It felt strange to be at a party where everyone knew about the Zombiewalk. I stumbled, uncertain how to discuss it before I threw language barriers to the wind with enthusiasm. I’m beginning to recognize that I tread every day on ground that other people could never take for granted. It’s taking me over slowly, like the realization that most of my friends tell their friends that I’m a writer. I was so very good at avoiding that particular phrase. Smacks too much of art and creation, holy things, and I am but a girl who walks through the forest at dusk, who leaves before the gods come out to play.
Walking into a building draped with a giant inflatable orange octopus to discover that it’s a venue converted from a swimming pool carries a vestige of the same satisfaction as reading the line, “Deep Mix is a nice IDM/minimal internet radio station out of Moscow.” There’s just something inherently beautiful about the context, the message, no matter what the medium is discovered to be. “Scientists announced they’ve created mice with amounts of human brain cells.” Same thing.
The white tile basin was scattered with inflatable red cloth couches and various forms of francophone hipsters in black clothing and striped retro boots. A table was in one corner of what used to be the deep end, flanked by lava lamps full of silver glitter and loaded down with copies of the trendy magazine the event was supposedly celebrating. Michel found his friend there, a dyke with pretty hair and a nice taste in shirts. She’s an SFX designer, makes amputated limbs for film and T.V. I didn’t catch her name, Veronique, until she gave me her card. It was hard to hear over the the two musician types on stage. Higher than us, even with the walkway where signs might have said PLEASE DON’T RUN, they stood wrapped in christmas lights. One was a good beat boxer with respectably solid work, the other insisted on crooning into a snorkel for the microphone over and over, occasionally dipping the end into a glass of water for atmosphere. The entirety felt like a film, like the two were too improbable to ever be expected to play music anywhere real, and especially not together. I tried saying as much to Yanick Paquette, but I think I was drowned out by the blurry sound.
Once I was alone, I stood in the dead middle of the drained pool and practically sang “No known human has ever received an injection of embryonic stem cells because so little is known about how those cells will mature once inside the body.” I was loud enough that people standing at the edges looked at me as if I was insane, but I didn’t care. It was just the proper thing to do. These are the sounds that make my world continue spinning.
Downstairs, found through a hole in side of the pool, was a tiny art gallery lined with pieces that I would have expected to be new in a very cutting edge 1986 or an evenly matched 1993. One wall was photoshopped photographs clumsily layered with pictures of women and digital scribbles, reminiscent of the pages of a wannabe Mondo 2000 magazine. Another was lined with mannequins with baby blue and brown corderouy dress suits appliqued with white flowers. To be fair, the smallest wall had interesting illustration examples in blue gesso, but they were badly mounted. The shine off them was blinding and made the art impossible to see unless you stood at an acute angle to the piece you were trying to examine. I gave up quickly on the basement, though it was quieter there, and went back upstairs to examine the space more. The possibilities of such a venue seem almost endless. If you could properly EQ a swimming pool…
Damn me for finally leaving my camera at home.
There are plumbers here. They’ve been taking a quiet forever of time to fix a little leak we found in the kitchen last night. I don’t speak french, so everything they do has been like a pantomime. Over exaggerated explanations of what they’re doing every step. Wiping up water like sins, tightening screws. I don’t care. Just torture the pipes until they stop, alright? I keep nodding okay and trying to get them to ignore me and get on with it. My head still aches as sharp as a judas kiss, I don’t want to have to pay attention. I want to turn the shower on as hot as my skin can take and stand in it for a thousand heartbeats, then find my way to wherever Michel is hiding in the streets of this gloriously chilly city.
I keep checking my fickle in-box, hoping for some distraction past this waiting. I suppose I could say Screw It and have my shower in spite of them, but I feel that would be awkward. I don’t like the idea of hiding damply away from strangers on the other side of a thin apartment door. I would rather jump the queue and have some privacy.
Ah, and there they leave. What a relief.
Now my hair tastes like towel fluff.
We walked four hours, returned, and subjected ourselves and Michel to Guitar Wolf. My head is splitting, the result of a nasty accident between it and the fridge door. An explosively loud japanese rock god movie might not have been the most wise decision. Over my shoulder, James is in his bedroom reading a book I cannot see. Tomorrow he goes to work early and I am left alone in the city.
I will spend time discovering the schedules required between here and Toronto. (I promise, these words are a rudder for you as much as me.) The train takes five hours. Ryan North tells us that the Secret Swing is gone, torn from the chains, but I still want to go. I suspect I will leave early Tuesday morning. Jessie will be meeting me there, she flies to Halifax Wednesday evening, and I have a holiday present for Katie that still needs to be wrapped. (Darren has yet to get back to me.)
My eyes feel as if they have cracked.
The cab driver, a black shadow in a dark cab, asked us where we wanted to go, then turned on house music so loud that the seats reverberated with the bass. “Iz thise alright?” Perfect.
We’d walked to far, my sense of direction ignored for James‘ right of way. He lives here. That way is North. There is snow on the ground, dry powder piles of it that shine into crystal when I throw them in the air. When I laugh, it’s with a new voice. I’m like a child. I love this place. How in every direction, there are people.
There was no grand entrance. They were late, as I knew they would be. Flight times, arrivals. Different than what actually happened. I sat and shared an anemic sandwich with a boy who didn’t speak any english. I liked his clothing, military pants, a coat with antique clasps, a fall coloured tuque. He liked my hat full of feathers. I put it on his head and he smiled. He was gone very quickly, so I left my luggage within sight and went outside and threw snowballs at taxicabs. The drivers liked me. They waved and kept driving. One of them offered to take me for free, but I had no address.
Gladness. Finally meeting Michel, finally being somewhere I don’t know the language, finally having to fend for a little of nothing with people. I was handed a leather satchel. I’m not sure I’d ever handled an object that was ever so clearly a satchel before. We talked about nothing, catching up, explaining computer problems, where in town the chinese food is, how to find, how to, how are you?
We went to a party. Games industry, half of it. Someone from work, his wife’s friends, she said. The women, I don’t know to talk to. They nodded and smiled and pretended they knew what I meant when I said, “Yes, but what about?” In the livingroom, we played games. Hold this, pretend it’s a guitar, now rock. Long convoluted streams of referenced consciousness. Michel left early. We’ve come home closer to three in the morning.
It’s not cold like everyone’s been saying it is. It’s warm here, the chill is a soft thing that covers the city like an expensively sugared blanket.
I reset my alarm, but forgot to turn it back on after Ryan left. Silly me, I fail at mornings. I woke up though at exactly the right time, my door buzzer more persistent than my hollow lack of dreams. Outside the window was a courier truck. Michel has sent me more comic books, an odd thing to find out first thing in the morning. There’s also a Jesus Monkey Pants t-shirt, which I would wear today if it weren’t that I’ve got a job interview this afternoon at one o’clock. Thank you, dear, they’re much appreciated and maybe just what I need. When is good to call? I read the three Dreaming, Weird Romance, and it occurred to me that if I were a better person, more attuned to expectations, it would have struck me bitterly. As it was, I finished the three then got up for my shower, thinking only that it’s sad that he hasn’t called me. I wonder at myself, that there’s no explosion of hateful verbal diarrhea waiting, only a sadness too deep for me to reach bottom in that wants an explanation. Chris said something to me on Monday night that’s been stuck in my head, still quietly humming in my ears. We were talking about Amanda coming home, of what would happen, of an unknowable future. I said, “Dear, I understand. I am terrified of mine.” He replied, “Yes, but see, I like the person I’m in love with, so I’m merely scared.”