Chapter 7: Montreal Before Pictures

Diego and she had planned a walk up the Mont-Royal mountain in an attempt to enjoy the last few days of warm weather. He had brought along his camera because he had promised her “to take good pictures for her Instagram.”

It was sunny, the path was crowded with joggers, dog walkers and couples walking hand in hand. Diego and her walked with a good meter between them, as if they were strangers or worse, two people on a first date.

He kept looking between the sky and his camera, to change the settings. Every so often, he would stop, look through the camera and take a shot. She would realize two meters away that he wasn’t next to her anymore.

As he took another picture of a kid drinking from a water fountain, she wondered if she was supposed to talk to him about Dublin. Maybe he would have some insight into it. Maybe he had gone abroad for work, for a semester, or a long vacation. Come to think of it, she knew virtually nothing about the man she roughly saw on a daily basis.

“Have you ever lived anywhere else?” she asked.

“I was born in Colombia actually. My family and I moved here when I was 10.” He pointed at a narrow path that cut through the tiny forest the mountain harbored.

She led the way, holding her long skirt up, “that must have been a shock. Have you ever been back?”

He chuckled, “It was a bit of a shock. The winter is cold. And no, I haven’t been back. I want to though.”

She stopped and looked at him behind her shoulder, “You never truly get used to the cold.” She turned around again, “look a clearing!” She ran toward it after stumbling a few times on hidden roots and branches. It was a miracle she hadn’t face-planted.

“You? Have you been abroad?”

She was looking up at the trees when she heard a click. When she turned around, she saw his lens pointed at her. “I have yes. Greece several times. My grandparents are from there.” She paused to think, closing her eyes in the process, “I did a couple of other European countries when I was over there too.”

“I actually went to Switzerland to photograph at the Montreux Jazz Festival.”

In awe, she looked up at him. “Serious? That’s impressive. You need to show me some of your shots.”

As he looked at a picture he had just taken on the camera’s screen, he softly replied: “Ah you can find most of them in magazines if you want.”

She got closer to him, close enough to whisper in his ear: “Hmm maybe, but I want to see the real thing.”

Before she could run away, he pecked her on the lips. “You have no idea how real I can get.”

She furrowed her eyebrows. It took her a couple of breaths to gather her thoughts to formulate a question, but by then, Diego had already walked away.

 

***

 

They had parted - as she had work from the Friday left to finish and he wanted to keep photographing - squirrels, she imagined, with a chuckle.

She walked through the still green park at the bottom of the mountain. Groups of young people lounged on blankets, day drinking and smoking joints. The ground reverberated rhythmically as the dancers jumped to the beat of the tam-tams and all other sorts of drums. A solo saxophone player added a joyful melody to the mêlée. On the further end, where the trees started growing but were still sparse, a rope walker had set up a rope between two trees.

She made her way through the crowd and crossed the street. The beat of the tam-tams were drowned out by screams of happy children as Ellie entered the Jeanne-Mance park. Parents watched their kids play, Ellie watched the parents. Some were as young as her, some younger. Quickening her pace, she soon fell on the teams playing soccer. Among the shuffle of feet and balls, the grunts and the hits against tennis rackets, she relaxed her pace.

Past the baseball field, by the picnic tables, two girls sat on a bench. One played the guitar while the other vocalized. Ellie marvelled at the girl’s sweet yet powerful voice. “We just capture the moments, the moments of our lives...”

She paused and turned to look back on the typical Montreal scene she’d walked through. Was she ready to leave all of this, even just for a while?

“Until we feel so indifferent, like pictures until we die”

Would she ever find a better place? She knew leaving would change her - she had a feeling the move would provoke something deep inside her. Was she ready to walk away from the longest relationship she had ever had? Was she thinking too much about it?

“Oh we just capture the moments, like pretty butterflies...” (1)

 

***

 

The next morning, Ellie woke up late. She rushed through her routine to make sure she got her morning walk with Diego. Sunglasses perched on her nose, she flew out the door onto the street, just in time to catch a glimpse of him. When the door loudly shut behind her, she came to a full stop.

Bon matin, Ellie!” The girl looked up: her neighbour, in the hipster version of business casual, put out a black garbage bag on the sidewalk. He waved at her, “J’espère qu’il va continuer à faire soleil!” (2)

She waved back, “ouais, moi aussi. Ils annoncent de la pluie le reste de la semaine!” She had climbed down the metallic stairs. By the time she reached the last step, there was a silent mutual understanding that the friendly neighbourly talk was over. “Il faut que j’y aille; je suis en retard! Bonne journée Marc!” (3)

She brought her mug to her lips out of reflex but stopped herself just in time. Her coffee was scalding in her travel mug. It was one of those that keeps all the heat for hours even though it wasn’t labelled a thermos. Googly-eyed purple owls and flowers adorned the facade. Because of how cute it was, Ellie refused to use another one, even if it meant delaying her intake of the aromatic drink for hours.

A surprise as strong as coffee awaited her at the corner of the street.

“Hey Ellie,” Diego’s green eyes smirked at her.

“Hey Diego, what are... you… uhh… doing here?” She motioned at the busy street so they started walking down to the metro station.

“I heard Marc call you. So I waited for you to walk together to the metro.”

“Oh, that’s nice… of you… thanks.” Her hand acted out the reflex before her brain kicked in: she drank coffee, burned her lips and spat it out on the ground.

“Holy shit, are you okay? Here,” he reached into his black leather messenger bag and took out a pack of scented tissues.

With a trembling hand, she gratefully accepted it. “Thanks. If only the rest of my day goes like this, I’ll be golden.” She quickened her pace. “I’m so late.”

She wasn’t really. But she did make it to the office in record timing. And she was in her boss’ office before he had even set foot in the building.

“Let’s just be straight about one thing, I don’t want to stay in a hotel the entire time I’m abroad. It’d be nice if it could feel like home. So could I find a room in an apartment?” She spoke in one breath while staring straight at him.

Hassett froze in place, “Jesus you scared me. Was that your goal, so you could get the room? Sure. Anything. Now please allow me to grab a coffee.” He set his briefcase on the table before making a dash for the door.

Ellie followed him, “Great I wanted one as well! I didn’t get much sleep last night.”

They exchanged pleasantries on the way to the kitchen and while waiting for the machine to prepare their individual coffees from the cups. The modern kitchen was warm and already smelled like a mix of espresso, hazelnut and caramel.

“This isn’t because you want to get rid of me in the office, right? I’ll be back. I promise.”

“Definitely not Elena. But who knows, maybe you’ll find love and get married there.”

Jason walked in at that moment, “who’s getting married?”

Ellie’s side eye was so bitter the triple shot of espresso Hassett had just made himself probably tasted like maple syrup on a cinnamon bun. She cleared her throat.

“No one. Yet.” Hassett chuckled. “Ellie’s going to Ireland! We’re going for Guinness soon Jason. Get ready!” With that, and his mug, Hassett left the kitchen.

The machine finished brewing her americano but she was waiting for the last drop to fall in her mug. Jason poured soy milk into her mug then in his own mug with one dash of honey. The spoon clinked and echoed around the room.

“So, you took the job, eh,” he spun the spoon a ridiculous amount of times.

“Yup… Looks like so far you’re still the only one getting married. Enjoy your coffee Jason.”

 


  1. Francisque, C.A. (2015). The Moment [Recorded by Cynthia Aishah Francisque]. Montreal, Canada: HAUS OF KIDz.
  2. “Good morning, Ellie!” - “I hope it stays sunny.”
  3. “Yeah, me too. The forecast shows rain the rest of the week.” - “I have to go, I’m late! Have a good day Marc!”