I was thinking it was a chance to see my best friend who'd been living there for years working on the longest BFA known to mankind. I also wanted to visit Maria, a girl I'd met on the beach in Cuba. We'd spent day in and day out talking about our lives, our hopes, our dreams, our anxieties, our emotional baggage, I was certain we were destined to be friends forever (and did not realize yet how quickly most vacation-based friendships fade in the light of coming home). I also needed to pick up a bag of stuff at my ex-boyfriend's house and finally, 6 months after the break-up, close that account forever.
What I was not thinking was, that despite the fact that I hate being cold, I was going to Montreal at the end of January. As it turned out, I happened to plan my weekend getaway for not only the coldest weekend of the year but the coldest weekend of all known and recorded history.
Things started well enough, Friday afternoon I jumped on a VIA train with a friend who wanted to visit her brother. We brought snacks and books and music, as well as plenty of witty banter. We even snuck a bottle of some strange Finnish booze into the mix and arrived in Montreal in both literal and figurative good spirits.
But as soon as we hit the street and the cold air hit us, my mood started to sour. By the time we'd tracked down Maria in the noisy techno club where she worked I was completely regretting my decision. The free beer she was handing me went straight to the stomach-ache-and-cold-wet-feet-noticing area of my body instead of the forgetting-all-my-troubles-and-flirting-with-Frenchmen zone.
I did not want to visit with my new friend Maria. I did not want to meet my friend's brother and marvel at how the two of them were oh-my-god so similar. I just wanted my best friend. I wanted to crawl into her arms and tell her that I'd destroyed the best experience of my life with doubt and first-world arrogance and to somehow have her heal me and make me laugh. I had not accounted for the possibility that since I'd last seen her she'd fallen head over heels in love.
We met up at a coffee shop and I knew immediately that something was different. She'd just got back from a few months in Berlin. I thought maybe her Swiss-German roots had been lit up over there and that's what the change was about. But nope, it was love. Her normally cautious and particular nature was being thrown right out the window of this cafe, she was ready to go wherever he wanted her to go, do anything to be with him. She had never felt this sure of anything in her life. She just KNEW! I was so happy for her, honestly I was, and yet I also wanted to crawl under the table, curl up in the fetal position and not ever move again. She was the one person I expected to bring logic to my problems and here she was, a heart-shaped puff of her former self, waxing poetic about the power of international love.
When it was my turn to talk, I didn't know what to say. I had grown tired of telling the week-in-Cuba story as a joke, with Juan the big, sexy punchline. But I didn't know if there was another way to tell it. I just started telling her everything at once. How I knew this guy wasn't my future but yet, how awful I felt about what I'd said to him. Here I was, pining away for everything he had, wanting to live in Cuba, to experience his life and yet I was the one accusing him of trying to use me. I'd made him a caricature in a vacation story told over and over to all my friends. For fear of being laughed at or called a fool, I'd removed all meaning and depth from the experience, made him the exotic little island boy in my neo-colonial travel narrative. I'd been lying about my feelings for him to everyone, pretending he was nothing to me, pretending I didn't care at all. And yet he was the one who was being called a fraud?!!
I pulled out a book I'd been reading, The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño, opened it to a passage that I couldn't get out of my head and read it to her...
Go get another bottle boys. It won't be the same as this one but it will still be good. Isn't it too
bad that they don't make Los Suicidas mezcal anymore? Isn't it too bad that we have to grow
old and die and that everything good goes galloping away from us.
And then, in the middle of that trendy little Montreal cafe, I started crying and crying and crying. My heart-shaped best-friend looked at me so sweetly, floated on her love-cloud to my side and hugged me tight.
'Oh buddess,' she said, 'I've never seen you so beautiful and so raw.'
I don't really remember how I got home.
|Admittedly, despite not wanting to, I did do a touch of sightseeing|