quiet in the city


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first snow

it isn`t the first snow today, but it is the first snowfall to stick. the very first one happened before halloween- for ten minutes the sky was thick with it. biking down st. ambroise, i rounded a small bend and there it was, heading for me like i had suddenly crossed from fall to winter, one cut-out season to the next. it stung my eyes and froze my ungloved hands but i leaned in. i love when snow first comes, the tension of waiting disappears and you can accept that it is, in fact, winter. like waiting for your name to be called for a check-up, one conclusive step closer to what you are dreading: the long stretch between december- when everything is winternew and beautiful- to march, by which point snow will have become a dreaded obstacle. right now it is beautiful, the soft snow outside, lots of thick french toast on my plate topped with dumpstered strawberries, the cats settling on my bed.

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this afternoon i have to walk to the unemployment office in verdun. i’ll sit through a meeting about my job prospects, talk about my anxiety to caseworkers who have never met me but are in charge of my file. then back out into the snow and across the river, the canal, home again where the cats will still be asleep on my bed. sometimes life is dreamy and sometimes its too much, usually both in one day or the same hour, a single minute pulling me from both sides.  at least today i have snow.


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my body has made its way through twenty-seven rotations of the earth and apparently my cells have completely renewed themselves almost four times. i’ve seen five birthdays in this city and my cat has been with me for four of them. i’ve celebrated birthdays with my family (bio and chosen) my friends, my dates, and even a couple of strangers. i have never once spent a birthday alone or without at least one person i know for certain loves me.

twenty-seven is going to be a year of collecting myself, of changes (planned and unplanned) that ends with me stumbling right into my saturn return… and my departure from montreal almost exactly a year from today. so many things to consider between now and then, so many possibilities. so much to do.
i’ve started writing here again because i miss it- i find myself composing entries in my gmail draft folder all the time but never publishing them. so here i am again, talking to myself? to strangers? i’m alright with either possibility.


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and then, eight months later…

i am eating a free sausage on a bun, standing under the awning of an expensive restaurant in one of the loft-condos attached like a parasite to the lachine canal. it is raining, i shift my bag and the on-sale wholebean espresso lets out a cloud of coffee smell. home isn’t far away and that word feels solid, safe. last summer is almost a year gone, and  i’ve put most of those bad memories out with the trash. i’m eating the sausage in huge bites, satisfied and proud of myself, my whole body triumphant with a day of sweet friendship and self-sufficiency. two well-dressed men climb the steps, giving me the space i would normally give them. one smiles tentatively. i think about what he probably sees: my face smeared with ketchup, messy hair and scraped legs. i smile into the wind and it rains harder.
but what i’m feeling isn’t shame for looking dirty, or eating a sausage under the awning of an expensive restaurant. i’m wiping my hands on a napkin, licking my lips for crumbs, putting on my helmet again. i’m feeling like the freest person on that street and when i step onto the pavement, it has stopped raining.


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no more letters

the weather turned. suddenly 10 degrees and cold, enough for my favorite sweaters and leggings under my skirts. i like to cover up, feeling safe in my warm clothing, exact comfort against my body. i’ll take my comfort where i can get it, these days.

i went to a theme party, danced in a small dark room.  these days, i’m slowly realizing just how much i miss romantic intimacy, how easy it is to crush on strangers when i’m drunk on cheap booze, hoop earrings hitting my face as i nod, shyly introduce myself. really, all i know is:

one. i miss kissing, the way desire crawls up my back when i breathe in against another mouth but
two. inviting even a person who is willing into this little hurricane of self-doubt is still emotional manslaughter.

this is my personal ultimatum: a job and a place to live by mid-november or i head back west. hyena tells me that it is more than a step back, and i believe him. we walked on the canal and i couldn’t see myself leaving the city, but i’m running out of time to make it work here. if only i didn’t feel more true to myself in montreal than anywhere i’ve ever lived.


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letter i want to write, no one to receive it. (part three)

dear,

this morning i made potatoes that remind me of vancouver. cilantro and red onion, soy sauce. green onion was an after-thought. reminding me of mornings off hastings sitting in my landlady’s small back-yard, eating potatoes and tasting the early morning like something you would sip gently not because it is delicate but because it will not last. i miss the west more and more, think of vancouver, that strange squatter whose love i want and reject simultaneously. and often, thinking of vancouver while in montreal makes me feel like i am missing one lover while still learning how to love another i desire just as much, and sometimes more.

i’m still trying to push together the pieces of june because toronto hurt more than i’ve told anyone in actual words, though the thick sobs i couldn’t keep in at pride after seeing that street art performance were some of the hardest to cry, even in front of my friends. i’m never sure why i feel so raw still, if maybe it is some flaw in my genetic makeup that makes me re-visit trauma like hitting myself in the face over and over, convinced that eventually it won’t bruise. often people make up for it, and i will keenly remember ___ holding my hand to ease my intense fear at that rally (even if we are no longer friends) as strongly as i will remember another friend covering my body with her own like she was protecting me from bullets as i gasped every bad feeling i could into the grass at lionel-groulx. both made summer warm for a few moments, even in my cold chest.

i’m going to go finish my cold coffee now,

v.

p.s. lately i am so prolific when writing that i have to cull several paragraphs if i decide to share. i feel like it is probably part of healing and am letting it happen publicly, here, when i would normally censor myself completely. consider this my alternative to screaming on a streetcorner, then, because i am a quiet person with a tremendous need to be heard but a sound sense of keeping it contained to a place where people can choose to see it.


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letter i want to write, no one to receive it. (part two)

dear,

the coffee is hot and strong, thick in my throat and i’m sitting in my bedroom on cazelais feeling french and english heavy on my tongue like i’m balancing weights there, in the small middle-groove i can dip into a bowl to hold liquid. i take “oui” out flick it back and forth through my mouth like i’m shaking a dusty sheet over the balcony out back. oui. oui. everyone knows that oui means yes. when practising, start small, start with oui. practice saying yes when speaking french. i’ve said oui jokingly into the mouth of a lover, biting my smile into sections we can share. and i’ve said oui, seriously, to someone in a shop “oui, c’est ca. merci.” often, i feel an obligation to say yes.

i m trying to halve my possessions, trying to get rid of my things in this bedroom where i live on leased time anyway. i’m figuratively homeless as of the 1st, couch surfing and sleeping in a closet with my cat and my boxes. i haven’t been here before. maybe this sad, but never sad and without a space to entrench myself and heal.

they are doing repairs on the turcot, pieces of cement fall from its legs day and night; we go to sleep with it and wake up with it. at  times it pulls me out of a dream and in my sleep i wonder if the world is ending, buildings caving of their own accord around the neighbourhood.

i don’t even know how to leave this city on foot or by bike. i’ve done exit-ramps on buses, but thinking about it i realize i really couldn’t walk out of montreal on a whim. imagine highway stretching grey and thick for miles and miles, neutral territory without buildings where cars mimicking wild animals cross the open space that is not naturally tree-less. i want to leave the city. iwanttoleavethecity.

as for the rest of the week, if you want you can picture me in the social assistance office, sitting like a doughy easy-bake treat under hard neon lights. if i were i ship i’d be the titanic, i’m that sunk. my mum would diagnose post-traumatic stress, maybe, the way she was worried i’d start having nightmares after what happened to me in toronto. but mostly the dreams are just jarring and cold: i’m sleeping between my mattress and the wall, in the small gap  with the box-spring below me, comfortingly unyielding. my body ends up there every night like a planet attracted by gravitational force, sleeping and unable to resist its pull.

but there is always a sick beauty to feeling this fucked up, a sort of openness of possibilities because there are so few options left you just have to make some up. and i have never been the kind of person who forgets to love fall and its crisp, cold air with a magnetic undercurrent of dead leaves. and i am building a new piece of me inside every secret chamber of my body; i feel like soon this sadness will roll over in submission to the person who isn’t ready to be breathe quite yet.

no poetry today,

v


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letter i want to write, no one to receive it. (part one)

dear,

cafe mariani seemed sort oover-ritzy when i first saw it, but since our internet got cut i’ve come to (if not like) at least appreciate it. most of the time i sit at the window, crossing my legs tightly at the ankle so no one can see up my skirt. across the street in my direct line of vision is a parking lot flanked by a funeral home and a large, white bank. i’ve noticed a group of men congregate in that parking lot almost every day with their matching blue-and-white coolers to sit and talk, sometimes for as long as i sit i the cafe, quietly envious. sometimes they return to their cars and drive off before i leave. other times they are still there when i get up to go, shouldering my grey backpack and trying to walk like i have a purpose- which i don’t, these days. i barely have a place to live, if i’m being honest. but these two factors only really pull me in a bad direction if i sit still for too long with nothing else to occupy me.

these days, all i want are new words, as though that would do me any good. look, it’s storming outside and they keep the airconditioner on too high in here so i’m sort of shivering in my layers. but i’ve been hoping for this rain. the man sitting at the end of the row of four seats keeps looking at me like his mouth can’t help the words he wants to pass over his red-covered book, but i am studiously ignoring him. old men always want to talk to me but i rarely want to hear what they have to say, maybe that i’ve got sweet blue eyes and flushed cheeks or my body curves invitingly, unthreatening as a plump river that would never exceed its banks, so placid and shallow a cursory glance reveals all its depths.

i love fall, but lately all i can think about is rain and yelling at time for leaving me so fast and far behind.

Perhaps there is someone in this world

To whom I could send all these lines. Well then!

Let the lips smile bitterly

And a tremor touch the heart again,*

v

*that’s anna akhmatova, in case you were wondering.


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hiatus

i’m putting this blog to sleep, for awhile… both it and i need rest. the things i want to say these days are too personal to say here, too angry and sad. the end of june/the month of july were hard for me- a lot of things that i didn’t like happened. and people who i don’t want to be privy to my thoughts (you know who you are and you know why) have access to this blog, so i feel uncomfortable speaking openly at the moment.  you’ll forgive me (i hope) if i step away from this for awhile. maybe no more than a month, maybe several. we’ll see what happens.


please feel free to get in touch. my e-mail is, as always: quietinthecity at gmail.com. i’m always looking for penpals and new friends. don’t be shy.

take care,

vaughn


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the spaces in between not okay and okay.

my cat misses me. i come home and she’s angry, intolerant of affection, constantly needs to be near me. i can’t explain to her what’s going on, that i’m hurt and sad and can’t be in the apartment where i used to be happy. why i’m sleeping in friends’ spare rooms or their empty beds or on their couches until august 1st when i can move out and put distance between myself and the last two weeks of sadness, mistrust, and loss. all she knows is that i’m never home anymore, there’s no one to cuddle up to on those sweltering hot nights in the muggy loft bed where all of the day’s smells have risen and are trapped between our bodies and the ceiling. and she isn’t sure why i haven’t honoured our morning meeting on the fire escape where i drink coffee and she sunbathes with her tiny nose bent upward, reading the wind like a newspaper. i feel bad: she has a history of being abandoned and while i’m trying to visit her as much as possible between feedings, it just hurts too much to spend time there and feel nostalgic for the friendship i’ve lost.

that’s where we are these days, my cat and i. we’re stuck between not okay and okay, waiting to move on.