That One Almost Dance

He had the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. He was my height (which is tall), gorgeous, thick dark hair, crooked smile, and he was my locker neighbour.

First day of freshman year high school, I finally navigated my way to my homeroom and found my locker, in a very ideal spot across from my homeroom and near the cafeteria. I remember hanging up my boy band posters and locker mirror, but I don’t remember my first meeting with the dream guy. I just remember that I was completely smitten.

Up until that point, my crushes had been on boy band members who acted innocent but were skeazy in real life, young actors with mysterious smiles and cute hair, or random boys in school who were sort of cute but as my hormone-ravaged brain needed the drama, these boys became the center of my little world.

In middle school, my friends and I would harmlessly fixate on one guy a year and give him a code name; one boy’s nickname was after a boy band song, and the other was after his unfortunate taste in winter outerwear. We’d narrate his day or talk about things we caught him doing. We’d never ask him out or dream of being asked out by these cute guys, they were simply something to pass the time.

But my freshman boy was different, he made my pulse race, my face flush and my words stutter. No nickname or narrating for this boy. I just quietly pined hopelessly, devotedly to my blue-eyed boy.

We had the same homeroom and a few classes together, and then I walked into the school newspaper meeting and he was there. He was a writer too (mine of course being the better pieces), but I read his words until I memorized them. I don’t recall any one-on-one conversations, but I assume it would have happened. My friends knew how I felt and luckily only one tried to constantly shove me in his path, but I resisted. I was the damsel in the tower, I wasn’t going to call after my prince charming; he can find me himself.

Then it was the first dance of the school year. None of my peers could go, an older friend was supposed to meet me at the dance later on, so brave 14-year-old me, I went completely alone.

Much Music Video Dance, I wore hip-hugger pants, my platform heels (although being 5’7 at the time) and my Backstreet Girl crop top (I may have used Hot Sticks and or glitter gel in my hair). Either way, I was here to dance and have fun and I did. Then, “All My Life” KC and Jo-Jo came on, I swayed alone to the song when a mutual friend of mine and my crush’s found me. She told me that the next slow song, he wanted to dance with me. With me.

I remember smiling so calmly, and said sure, I’d dance with him. My inner damsel squealed and danced around in my mind but as the friend walked away, I stayed where I was for a few minutes then glided down to the washrooms.

I have many fond, dramatic memories of those washrooms, mainly friends of mine having meltdowns or gossiping about girls in school but this was my own moment. I went in, washed my hands and looked at my young and terrified face in the mirror. It was happening. I was going to dance with my blue eyed prince and we’d live happily ever after. Drying my hands I went back upstairs to my destiny.

Sadly, my dreams were just dreams, as no more slow songs played and my prince never found me that night. He never asked me out or had his friend talk to me on his behalf. We just had that one almost dance.

I was crushed, but knew some dreams weren’t meant to be. I moved on and crushed on other boys (real and Hollywood style), but still have fond feelings for Blue-Eyed Boy.

Later, I found out that my crush’s best friend (my arch-nemesis all throughout high school) had a crush on me too. So I tell myself that my crush was being a good friend by not making a move on me to spare his friend’s feelings. It also explained why the arch-nemesis was such a prick to me all throughout high school.

Only fairly recently did I find out that my blue-eyed gorgeous prince was gay (okay to be fair, I FaceStalked him a little). I was a little sad for what could have been and felt a little sad for that 14-year-old me at the dance waiting for my long-waited slow dance.

However, what my blue-eyed boy gave me was much more than dreams and fantasies; he got me out of my boy band craziness and into real life boys and showed me that even if it wasn’t meant to be, I was worth being asked out and maybe fought over a little bit. So, on those days when I think I am not worth it, I’ll remember the boy who sent a friend to ask me to dance (even if there is a little part of me that thinks maybe my prince wasn’t in to me; maybe it was my Backstreet Girl shirt), I’ll remember the feeling of being in the girl’s washroom and thinking I had a happily ever after coming. Someday, my prince will really come.

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Marrying Young

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I met my ex husband by eerie coincidence. I was nineteen years old and living in London, England on a working holiday visa. It was January 2008, and I was looking for a second job, possibly one of the worst moments in history to do so. My best friend was visiting me for three weeks and she was helping me look for work, paying special attention to adds in shop windows. We saw an ad on the window of an exotic-looking corner café. It was written in questionable French, and was looking for French lessons from a native speaker. ‘‘Inquire within,’’ it said. Without missing a beat, my best friend said, ‘’Let’s go!’’

We went in. I was surprised to discover that the person in question was a 23-year-old Polish boy wearing a purple American Apparel hoodie (it was still trendy at the time). We spoke for five minutes and he took my number in order to have a ‘‘trial lesson.’’

A week later, I showed up at another café on the same street.

He had all of his material prepared. All that I had to do was to speak to him in French and translate obscure expressions. My Quebec accent was challenging for him but he was up for the challenge. I found him very serious, but I could tell that he was a good person and that we would work well together.

A few months later, he told me: ‘‘I didn’t think you were the best teacher the first day. But you were so funny that I knew I had to see you again.’’

Twice a week, we met in a café for two hours where we tackled the difficulties of the French language. We spoke about our lives and so we became closer. My dating life at that point was horrible: I kept dating guys that didn’t want to be in a relationship, or slept with me and then ignored me, or other similar situations.

When I was with P., things were different. I felt a degree of trust I had not previously encountered.

One day, he invited me to his place for dinner. I arrived late. He kept texting me: ‘‘When are you coming?’’ I arrived dripping wet and very late. He was with chilling with his roommate in the living room. They had already eaten, but had kept food for me. His roommate wasn’t very talkative with me, and so we ended up continuing the conversation in P.’s bedroom. There was sexual tension growing between us. We got closer, almost to the point of kissing.

‘’I don’t know if it’s a good idea,’’ he said.

‘‘Yeah, but it’s hard to help it,’’ I answered.

We ended up kissing and sleeping together fully dressed, and he hugged me the whole night, not letting me go even once. I knew right then and there that he was a keeper. But I had a little problem: a week before, I had planned a date with a guy I had a crush on and it was scheduled for the next day. In the morning, P. asked to see me again that night, and stupidly I answered that I had a date. He became pissed off and jealous. I should have lied.

Our next lesson was scheduled for the next day. It was February 14th, 2009. I arrived at the café puzzled and sad because my date had abandoned me in the middle of the night and I felt very guilty for pissing P. off.

I had also lost my phone the night before. P. arrived an hour late. He had texted me but I didn’t receive it. He came wearing his black leather jacket, saying ‘‘I know it’s cheesy, but…’’ and proceeded to take out a single red rose from under his jacket. My heart melted. He had me. It took only a couple of dates to know that we were a new couple. He was the first guy to consistently take me out on dates to the restaurant, to the park, to bike rides around the city. We were two kids, expats living in East London, happy about having each other. I moved to his place three and a half months after the beginning of our relationship and it cemented our affections.

We began to have deep conversations about our future: I had to come back to Canada eventually as my visa was running out. I waited for him for a couple of months so he could have his temporary passport. We travelled to France together and hung out with my dad at a film festival for which he was the official photographer. We went to the beach and it was his first time there: he was glad I took him. We went to Paris, where he applied for a visitor visa and it got refused. We didn’t know what to make of the future quite yet.

We parted ways in Marseille, on a train platform, a scene reminiscent of a dramatic romance movie. I remember thinking that I might never see him again, or at least not for a while. The train left and I cried.

I got back to Montreal on a damp and depressing day. I was weirded out by everything about my hometown: its accents, its architecture, its culture. I had to learn how to live again. Meanwhile, P. moved to Berlin and applied for a long-term passport, which he was granted after a month and a half. He moved to Montreal on November 25th, 2009. We did not know that we would get married at that point. It was after many meetings with government immigration experts that we came to the conclusion that it would be the best option if we wanted to stay together.

We hashed and re-hashed the decision. We were scared as shit because we were very young and we had already made huge commitments to each other. First the move, now the wedding. We got married because we felt like family at that point. I got married because I wanted to have somebody to rely on, and to have somebody rely on me. To have a real exchange and commitment towards each other, as opposed to silly young loves that lead to nothing.

We got married on January 14th, 2010, on a cold and grey day. It was a lovely and small wedding, with only my best friends and my parents in attendance. We ate and we drank and laughed.

The next day after waking up, I knew that I had made the biggest decision of my life. I was happy but scared, and I think my intuition was on to something.

That winter was by far my harshest yet. While we were together, P. couldn’t work because he wasn’t on any visa that enabled him to. I was working part-time in a café. It was still the economic crisis and jobs were hard to find. Needless to say, we were broke, but it’s not like we weren’t trying.

A couple of months into our marriage, I came to the realization that I was not in love anymore. I was on my way home when it hit me like a ton of bricks. I remember going back home, taking a shower and crying, gasping for air.

P. was sad and became lazy. He wouldn’t get groceries when I gave him money to but preferred to spend the day staring at his laptop screen. He was an introvert, so he was mainly only friends with my friends. It was hard for him to get out of his cocoon. That being said, our couple dynamic became very hard to bear and I didn’t feel in love, but rather responsible. I turned twenty-one and I felt as though I had a child to take care of.

We moved to a new place that summer, and he was unhappy with it. We kept fighting. We finally separated on July 26th, 2010. He told me that there was work for him in London and that he could go back. I didn’t stop him. I had had enough. We had fought so much and we were in such a difficult situation that I needed fresh air, but yet I didn’t know how to live without him.

I was supposed to say goodbye to him the day after my best friend had thrown a huge party. I came home sad and hungover. The house was empty. Some of his stuff was there, so I assumed that he had just gone to the corner store or something. I started cleaning and waiting for him. Half an hour later, I realized that something was wrong. I went back to the bedroom and looked at the stuff he had left. I realized that he was gone. I gasped out loud and started crying.

I went outside to the pharmacy and to the grocery store to buy some food and cleaning supplies. I felt so vulnerable, like a baby bird venturing out of her nest for the first time.

I felt like I was coming out of a coma, a feeling I’ve never felt at any other time. As I was walking down the street, my florist stopped me. ‘‘Hey, what’s wrong? You look sad.’’ ‘’I just broke up with my boyfriend…’’ I answered.

‘‘There, there!’’ She started picking up flowers from various containers and putting them together to create a beautiful bouquet. She was now telling me about her own ex-husband and separation. ‘‘It’s better to be alone than to be with somebody that’s wrong for you,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s a beautiful day!’’ she said, and I smiled when I turned the corner. I was starting to feel free.

Getting over him and our failed marriage was not easy. In some ways, I feel that I will never completely get over it. But I’m happy that I got married young because I tested my limits and someone else’s. I had to grow up and learn how to be responsible fast. I also learned that fighting endlessly leads to nothing.

Two years ago, I saw P. again in London and I understood why I loved him but also why we are not together anymore. I care about him so much, but it’s another kind of love now, it’s like an old friend that I need to keep in touch with. It’s now been a little over four whole years that me and P. have been separated. It’s horrific how time flies. We are both realizing that now. We talked on the phone a couple of weeks ago. We still need to talk in order to update each other on our respective lives.

The reason why we haven’t divorced yet is simply because I am still a student and I don’t have the means to do so before finishing my Master next year. But I’m looking forward to divorce. I’m not scared. I know that it will be a private celebration between both of us. It will be a departure from our past and our lives chained together by the links of marriage.

We will meet up again, dress up and go out for lunch. We’ll have food, hang out and have a drink. It will assuredly bring a sense of closure. We will find our full freedom again. It’s going to be a new departure. Another cycle will begin. Who knows, I might even get married again.

Photo: Olivier Gariépy http://ogariepy.tumblr.com/

Lili Monette is a multidisciplinary entertainer and writer, and the Associate Editor of Blonde. She is currently a student in the Master of Arts in Journalism program at the University of Western Ontario.

Four Girls, a Car and a Flood

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My best friend was turning 25 years old on April 10th this year, and to celebrate, we left to her mother’s cabin situated between Trois-Rivières and Quebec City.

The plan was to drive from Montreal early on Thursday morning with my three closest childhood friends, and then two other cars packed with other friends would come in, one at a time, one on Thursday night and the other on Friday night.

Gab had told me to meet her and Raph at the grocery store at 10, after me and Gab each got out of our distinctive yoga studios.

My class ended at 9h30, I changed and I went down St.Laurent to the grocery store.

I arrived there, I came, I saw, I shopped and I waited outside for a good half hour.

I ran into an acquaintance who told me that the girls had been out partying the previous night.

Oh dear, I thought.

Gab was supposed to come by car so we could carry the groceries and leave, but she arrived on her bicycle. She hadn’t been home.
I was quite frustrated to be stood up in the middle of the street by my best friend, who was in charge of the whole operation.

‘‘I’m so sorry Lili, I know it’s what pisses you off the most, when people keep you waiting’’.

As I sipped ginger kombucha and waited a little more, Gab stormed into the grocery store and came out with another box full of food.

We hailed a cab, putting the groceries in the trunk. Because Gab was cycling, I was alone in the cab, chatting with the cab driver as usual. We were in a sea of orange cones, with works happening on Rachel St., among others.

In the cab, I called Raph again.

‘‘Yes, I’m leaving soon!’’, she made clear, before her phone died.

I can never be pissed off at Gab for too long, and as soon as we went back to her place and had breakfast, I wasn’t angry anymore.
We sipped coffee and talked, and she told me all about the previous night.
She also told me that our friend Elyse was really drunk by the end of the night and was being over-the-top, so they left her at the bar.

I was really worried about her, so I called.

”Elyse? Are you okay?”

She replied with the most cavernous voice I’ve ever heard.

-No… I’m sick.

-Okay. Drink a lot of water, dress up, maybe take a shower. We will be there in about half an hour, I’m calling you back when we are on our way.

-Okay. Thank you Lili.”

Gab said:

”Lili, you’re gonna be such a good mom.

-I know.

-You know, right?

-Yes, I’ve had a lot of practice to say the least!”

In the meantime, we were still waiting for Raph. She arrived in an a sporty outfit and sneakers, her long mane tucked into a ponytail.
She rushed in and told us about her night: she had hung out with a good guy buddy of hers and they did drugs, MDMA included. ”It was way too much fun!”, she kept saying, to my disapproving eyes.

Me and Gab looked at each other in complicity.
‘‘Raphie!’’, we said as we told her not to banalize the situation, since she is prone to like more toxic, performance-enhancing drugs. This always worries us.
Raphie still had work and packing to do before leaving Montreal, which made us a little impatient due to the lack of consideration. Finally, we were ready to leave.
I called Elyse again, who agreed to wait for us outside.

She still had dark makeup on her face and was crying and holding a pillow.
”Oh boy,”, we all said when we realized that the girl had indeed a terrible hangover.
She embarked into the car in the back along with her miniature greyhound dog Sigur (as in Sigur Ros) on her lap.

Raphie had to send papers for her taxes and so we went to the pharmacy on Mont-Royal ave.
Me and Gab went out to grab coffee as Elyse stayed in the car. I gave Elyse and Gab their respective coffees, and sat in the passenger seat. But by the time that Raphie went back to the car, Elyse started feeling like throwing up again. We made it onto a side street, where Elyse found a narrow lane to throw up in. It was so bad that it was funny, and we all laughed about the situation. After she did her deed and fell better for it, we left for real.

Being four girls on the road, we felt that we were inside an episode of Girls, and we indeed talked about the TV show exhaustively. Raphie and Elyse processed to explain thoroughly who the four characters were to Gab, who never watched the show.
Of course, we were all awarded a character that fitted with our personalities. The girls decided that I was Hannah.
-I see you as the main character’’, said Raph.
‘‘Yeah, me too, I see you like a main character’’, said Gab.
‘‘Yes!’’, I replied.

We all erupted in laughter. But it made sense, given her knack for storytelling and writing, and her sometimes kooky personality, Hannah was the character that suited me the best.
Basically, we all wanted to be Jessa, the cool girl. The role was awarded to Raph. It was especially fitting because of her long hair, what she had done the previous night, and her tendency to not always know what she wants to do, but having fun while at it. She is also the most mysterious and travels a lot. Sometimes, she hurts her friends and looks down on people, but that is also because she is fiercely independent.

Shoshana was awarded to Gab because she’s funny, is a very good friend, can be silly but at the same time has a head on her shoulders. She is simple and down-to-earth.

Marnie was Elyse since she is the one most likely to doubt her feelings. She likes to experiment, but is not always happy. She has the most beautiful body of the group, and is a go-getter.

We were listening to amazing up-and-coming bands like the Allah-Lahs, Mac Demarco or Blouse in the car, courtesy of Raph’s iPhone. It was the perfect breezy soundtrack for our escape.

Gab gave plenty of coconut water to Elyse, but she could not drink any. ”It makes me want to throw up.”
But then hunger stroke her. ”I want poutine!”, she kept saying.

As we were driving through the countryside, we went to a little snack bar held by a tiny blonde lady.
It was typical countryside Quebec, a white and blue wooden shack.

We asked her to take a picture of us with an iPhone, and she didn’t know how to use it. It was not the best picture, but it was a funny moment in time.

We had poutine sitting on plastic benches while Sigur was chilling outside.

After poutine, we wanted beer, so we made a quick stop at the gaz station to buy a multipack of beer.

We made it to the countryside, and when we pulled onto the tiny road leading to the house, there was already a flood in the making. We passed with the car feeling as though it was a boat. We barely made it on the other side.

We went into the house, put the stuff into the fridge and cracked open a beer. Even Elyse had one, and we proceeded to play Scrabble.

We went outside and talked to the elderly neighbour, Jacques, who was a lovely man, and he told us that around that period every year, there was floods, especially on top of the farm fields.

A little later, Jacques came back, waving through the window.
‘‘Whose birthday is it? She’ll be surprised’’.
When Gab came back from her walk, he gave her a small treasure hand-made wooden chest in wood.
‘‘I have a lot of time on my hands in the winter,’’ he said.

We left the countryside to go to Gab’s mother place, in a small town near Trois-Rivières. It was luxurious compared to the damp cabin. Two of our friends (a couple) came to meet us and we had plenty of amazing food, wine and even a gluten-free cake.

The next morning, I was the first person to wake up in the house. I slept badly with Raph on a inflatable mattress.
I went upstairs and had coffee with Gab’s mother, who is like a second mother to me, and whom I haven’t seen in ages. I was taken care of with coffee and breakfast, and it was lovely to hang out with her and her boyfriend in the morning, catching up before we became a group again.

Around twelve, we went back to the countryside and this time, the water levels were dangerously high.
Jacques told us that when our other friends were to come by, he would pick them up on his pick-up truck, as it could wreck a car completely.

We started drinking early and played games of Scrabble and Monopoly. We also went for walks, watching the geese come back and the snow melting, creating rivers.

There was a huge snowbank in front of the house. Raphie was walking on top of it when she got stuck, up to her waist in the sticky snow. I tried to help her to get out, but I was stuck as well. Gab came to help, and had her head into the hole. She could barely breath when Raph got her out. I became frozen and panicky. Nature had too much control over us. I went inside for a bit, recovering for the nature but feeling that whatever happened, my girls and I had each other’s back.

Later that night, people came from Montreal, eager to party but we were exhausted.

We could now barely get out as there was snow and water everywhere.
We were stucked in the cabin, like we were on an island in the middle of a lake.
It was surreal, to be confined to a small house consisting of one large room.
We were eleven colourful, loud and unique individuals sharing the space.
We had dinner together (Mexican food!) and played games, until it was too late.
We had an argument since some people wanted to sleep and some wanted to party, and we were crowded in a small space. It was difficult to fall asleep that night, because there was nowhere to go.

I ended up cuddling with my gay best friend, breathing deep, finally able to fall asleep.

The next morning, a couple left early, but not before we were able to call the trailer to tow the car.
We were lucky that Jacques knew the guy working there, since otherwise they would not have done it.

They left, and then we had breakfast as a group of 9.

We then went outside to watch the river go by and talk, coffee in hand.

Most people left, and then we were, the four girls once again. We were happy to be together, because it was exhausting to be as many for hours on end. It felt like coming home. It underlined the fact that we were an amazing team.

We finished cleaning and packing up, and we had Jacques drive us to our car.

He kindly kissed our cheeks and said goodbye. He said that he was lucky to have been around young and pretty girls all weekend, that his friends would be jealous.
He got back to his dirty pick-up truck and went back to his normal retiree life.

We left in the sunshine and stopped for gas and M&Ms on the way back. Two kinds, peanuts and pretzels.
We were happy to be the four of us again, snacking away, and dreaming about an eventual road-trip. The conversations were flowing, and we were all on the same track. Whatever happens, nature catastrophes or arguments, we know that we always get each other.

We went back to Montreal completely out of touch with reality, to the point where we were surprised to see a black man. I went back to my tiny apartment, crawled into bed and slept away, in my own little boat.

Photo: Lili Monette

Lili Monette is a multidisciplinary entertainer and writer, and the Montreal editor of Blonde. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre & Development from Concordia University and is currently a student in the Master of Arts in Journalism program at the University of Western Ontario.

Saying Bye For Now

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I wanted to send a Facebook message to my best friend Patti who was moving earlier that day to Ontario, but was unable to as it seemed she had just taken her profile down. I was surprised for a second, but then it made so much sense. I had done the same on my own move out of the province, so I calmly took in my impressions of the meaning of her ‘erasement’ of social networks. Going off the radar for the people who knew her might just be a necessary compromise to enable something even greater to take place in her : change.

When reconnecting with people after I came back and reappeared on the net, a friend asked : «And how was that [living in Toronto for a while]?» It took me 24 hours to sum it up in a few words, only to realise that my time lapse was my in construction break. Yes, just like it could be seen on a website. I and every little cell I’m composed of were like : ‘‘we’ll come out of the closet soon, but for now, let us make your mouths water with expectations, as you are so impatient to take a bite of us. But don’t look while we’re changing from an old skin to a new one, we don’t know what you might glimpse at as we’re not hidden by the protective layer of our integument filtering what comes in and goes out in sight…’’

The certainty of people waiting at the door to see how I’d turn out was merely a fantasy, not something I accounted for a reality. How easy it is to think you have disappeared from every one’s memory, even the ones for who you’ll always keep a spot in your heart? ‘‘Will they even remember my name?’’, I’d ask myself. People do forget some stuff. They forget that they wanted to call me for a while, they forget that they had planned to visit me. But that’s what goes on anyways, far from them or not, as soon as I’m not part of their habit anymore. Don’t take it personally, that’s the modern way! To run out of time…

As I was in this period of discovering the hidden truths within myself, I remained very close and connected with my friend Ivy, who was walking in a parallel line to mine, making more or less similar changes happening in her life. We felt the need to keep connecting, not counting the minutes of our phone conversations when the craving to speak with someone who shared a common language arose. This enabled us to distantly witness how these changes were respectively happening in our lives.  She was doing so while still running into the same faces that had been familiar for long and while also making new connections according to her ever-evolving frame of mind.

I, on the other hand, was in a position of erasing everything and anything that I no longer wished to be in my surroundings and that, in every layer. I could make changes in my diet and the people that I met simply knew me with my new reality. No one could go like ‘‘but we’ve eaten this many times! It won’t kill you!’’
That’s right. It will not kill me (right this second). But that’s not what it’s about. It’s about what I want, now. 

Being somewhere where the old you is not known allows you to, instead of saying ‘‘no, I don’t want to do this anymore… don’t wish to wear those anymore… don’t want to go to these places anymore…’’, to simply have positive and informative statements.  Being like ‘‘Hey! That’s what turns me on! I just learned this new thing… Want to go to this place I heard of?’’ without having to justify your new point of view.

In both of our cases, a lot of alone time was necessary so that slowly, we could build our personal culture.

So when I noticed Patti’s page no longer existed, I wondered what kind of mindset she was in. Was it a peaceful relief, leaving a social chapter behind to focus on a new way of interacting, of relating? I questionned a lot what Patti had been going through for a while and her choices. Still, I was kind of thankful for not knowing the details motivating these decisions that she kept in her heart: this way I could not judge her. Only she knew what was best for her, it was none of my business. And wasn’t she in the best of all paths anyways?

Finding only you to support yourself makes you look deep into your eyes. Slowly you learn how to hold the stare.

When I see the ones I love after a moment of separation, it becomes obvious to them that they are not facing the same old friend entirely. For sure, they are ever-changing too, but getting out of a comfort zone accelerates transformations. They may or may not acknowledge it, but they will stare in an iris with new stains and lines narrating the stories of unknown faces and places. The body they will hug will be transformed by new thoughts and concerns. The hair texture may change too. What about the voice? Is it softer, deeper?

I know we are in constant change as cells divide without the need to consciously command them to, but being exposed to a new environment encodes many new things in our evolving DNA and lets us hear the voice of our free will to develop our capabilities further and in the process, to diversify.

If I see that person who was away from me for a while, I welcome into her new life chapters. Her experiences will also benefit me if I listen closely. I will intergrate some of her knowledge.

But if I am unsure and feel on edge with this person I once thought I knew and don’t recognize anymore, well too bad! Change and chaos are what life is. So flow with it!

*Names have been changed.

Nessa, back in Montreal, was shocked when someone made her realize that all she ever speaks with, writes with, shares ideas or shoots interrogations at the world with are the same 26 letters arranged, or not, in assembles. Alas, that realization didn’t help her scatterbrained intellect to find center.

Photo: Juliette Leblanc. You can see more of her work here: http://julietteleblanc.tumblr.com/

In the Wake of Loss

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I have never understood loss. Not really, anyway. Not until a month ago.

Last month, I lost a dear friend of mine. She was smart, beautiful, funny, caring, and good. She was good. She was simply good.

I’m still unsure of what caused her death, but I know what killed her. My friend, who I have known for most of my life, wasn’t able to nourish her body the way most of us can. She suffered from an illness that I will never truly understand. And it’s this illness that took her life.

The thing is, I hadn’t spoken to my friend in quite some time. I hadn’t seen her in even longer. I found it difficult to be around her because I wanted to shield her from her demons, force her into some form of treatment. But I couldn’t. There was nothing that I could do to help her and that fact was hard to swallow. I eventually put distance between us; an act I will always regret. I just thought, eventually, she’d ask for help. Eventually she’d get better. And then we could all move on.

Now that she’s gone, now that I know I’ll never see her again and she’ll never have the chance to get better, I miss her so much. I have never before been filled with so much sadness. And now, a month later, I’m convinced I will always feel this way. I will always miss her and I will always be sad about what happened to her. There is no moving on, there’s simply learning to live without that small piece of myself that she took with her.

I still have days when I’ll wake up, think of her, and suddenly not know what to do with myself. I live alone and I work from home, which, I have realized, is toxic to someone who is in the grieving process. So, on these days, instead of taking care of my responsibilities, I immerse myself in worlds of fiction. I turn to lighthearted ChickLit and romantic comedies, where the girl always gets the guy, the good guy always wins, and everyone is always okay in the end. These worlds help me forget. Help me forget that my friend isn’t here anymore, help me forget about her family who lost a wonderful daughter, sister and aunt, and help me forget that I failed her.

All I wanted to do, for so long, was protect her. I wanted her to get better. I wanted her to want to get better. And I wanted her to know that I’d help her along the way. But I’m not so sure she knew that. Because I simply could not accept her illness and I couldn’t just pretend that nothing was wrong. Now, I wish I had just been there for her anyway. I wish I had followed through on making plans with her, called her, and just been a friend to her. I should have spent more time with her. I should have tried harder. I wish I could have just accepted that I couldn’t save her. She had to do that for herself.

I used to feel angry with her, that she wasn’t getting the help I knew she needed. Now, I accept it. I accept that she was suffering and overcoming her illness was just too hard. I just wish I had found this acceptance at a time when I could have told her, “It’s okay. I understand. I’m here for you anyway.”

My friend was smart, had a great career, was so funny, and was so very beautiful — on the inside and out. She was a genuine person, which is hard to find these days. She was quirky, and owned it. She was encouraging and somehow always made me feel good. Because she was good.

To my dear, sweet friend: I hope you are looking down at us from up in the clouds, eating and drinking to your heart’s content. I know you’ve finally found your peace. I’ll see you on the other side.

The Gray-Haired Scholar

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My professor is wearing an eggplant-colored knitted sweater. He always wears a shirt underneath, with the stiff collar slightly poking out. His shoes are typical stuffy leather loafers, and he pairs them with beige slacks. On his nose stand gold-rimmed glasses, and he sports a full head of gray hair. He looks dusty, as if he had been in an academic mode for decades (and I know he has). His hands are clasping a large  plastic cup  of coffee of a white colour, save for a purple handle and lid, and an orange, pink and purple drawing featuring Disney characters Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Pluto. ”Orleans Resort” is emblazoned on it. He has admitted that it is a souvenir from vacations taken with his family  at Disneyworld. Although I might be jealous of  his university-worthy salary, I think that deep down, he really takes it for granted.

He is included in my personal list of the most boring professors I have ever had the misfortune to be stuck with, which makes me wonder why he is there in the first place. He creates a distance between us, calling us ”vous”, instead of ”tu”, a rigid politeness formula that makes me regret English-language academia sometimes. He is insanely nervous, and his vibrating voice and slow speech make lectures seem even more tedious. My colleague argued that he is like a train who doesn’t stop until he has arrived at the end of his point, and that he always brings the conversation back to what he wanted to talk about in the first place.

It is absolutely accurate: he doesn’t leave enough freedom of speech to his students. Further than that, he doesn’t realize the lack of energy that he instills in his pupils, and that his entitled and vain sense of self hinders his student’s well-being, learning experience, and mutual understanding. Silent students might be studious, but nobody will hear them raging about the class. Rather, they are more likely to complain about a terrible (and asking) professor. My professor makes class hellish, and distant memories of wonderful professors delightful.

He enjoys to hear himself talk and constantly flaunts his intelligence. Sure, he listens to his student’s ideas, but all the while, he still possesses a preference for his own. When one of my colleagues began his oral presentation, my professor interrupted him right then and there: ”well, don’t start so soon. I want to make sure that I’ve still got control of the class”.

My professor seeks to control his student’s point-of-views rather than to instill in them a sense of a greater curiosity. He has a passive-aggressive personnality the other students and me don’t understand. He always stops us short in our tracks. He asks us to bring notes, and either corrects us when we speak or doesn’t let us finish. He looks at me dead in the eyes but not really, as if an honest look was too much for him to grasp. He often looks a bit below and today, I thought he was looking at my cleavage, as I was wearing a black onesie with a low neckline.

He is wearing his gold band and  has previously told us that his wife is Italian. He learned a bit of the language, ”mainly not to explode at diner”, since Italians were constantly giving him more food. This was one of the most mundane and human declarations I’ve heard from him. I also learned that one of his children is autistic, and that gave him a mysterious and sensitive side. He regularly brings his dog Lennon (named after John Lennon) to class as well, which helps with his popularity factor (and boy does he knows it).

After class, my professor will go back to his office and leave his tacky coffee cup. He will grab his leather briefcase and will put on his heavy coat. He will go outside to the parking lot, and see the sun for a minute. His shiny gray side-swept hair will flicker in the cold winter air.  He might smile at the simple fact of being outside, if only for a while. He will sift through his pockets and pick one out of his two sets of keys. Arrived at his car, he will press the button to open its doors, and a sound will be heard.

He will drive to his assuredly comfortable bourgeois townhouse, presumably one with a garden. He will be happy to see his children but weary of his son’s sickness too. His wife will probably cook for him, something homey and warm in the midst of winter. He might have a glass of wine with his diner, maybe even two. He might even enjoy a glass of whisky after his meal.

I wonder how he’s like when he’s trully himself, or when he’s having any fun. I wonder if he does have any, sometimes, besides the solace found in political science books, news and analysis. Besides being an academician, he seems like a angsty person, more so than a well-rounded one. His boredom intrigues me, his lack of social skills puzzles me.

I wonder how he’s like when he’s drunk.

Lili Monette is a born-and-raised Montrealer and an artist by DNA and by choice. She holds a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Theatre and Development from Concordia University and can be found around the world entertaining people and gathering stories.

One More Dime

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I don’t know why it surprises me sometimes when we look so much alike in photos. Despite being born of the same X and Y-chromosomes, in many ways my sister and I couldn’t be more unalike. She, the younger one, is very much the country mouse to my city mouse. At 23, her idea of a good time is getting lost in the wilderness on horseback, following only your tracks back to the barn. She prefers the company of animals and has a way with them that echoes a Disney princess. She is truly a whisperer. At 23, my days were spent serving tables at a restaurant in the tourist part of downtown Toronto while dreaming of becoming a fulltime writer. My nights, lost to boys and bars.

Families are funny things. The dynamics and the roles can shift, but the direct relationships will remain the same. My sister and I have always been sisters. We haven’t always been friends. When we were young and small we did everything together. When we became our own people, we no longer understood each other in the same fashion. Things began to change. Our thoughts and ambitions no longer aligned. We didn’t share a secret language or a code anymore. We never called each other late at night after I moved away from home. I longed for our sisterhood to be as strong as our cousins, two sisters as close as one could ever dream. My heart broke every time I realized it wasn’t.

There were times when I would cry myself to sleep over this. The fractured dynamic of our relationship as sisters haunted me, forcing me to find in myself flaws where there shouldn’t be. I questioned my own character and my own dedication as a sister and a friend. I wondered if I as the older one am more responsible than she is, because I know what life’s like to not have a sister, while she does not. Sometimes she says she’ll call and when she doesn’t, I have allowed myself to remain sad instead of calling her myself. I have wondered, at times, if we are not closer because I am not trying hard enough. How different can we really be? Our eyes are the same and we both have dimples in our chins. Our stories are intertwined.

***

At our cousin’s wedding, we Googled the lyrics to Joan Jett’s cover of “I Love Rock’n’Roll” just to make sure we had all the words right. If you wanted the bride and groom to kiss, you had to interrupt the evening by addressing the gathering and singing a song with the word “love” in it. I was drunk because I am sick and drink too much sometimes to cope with it. My sister was not drunk because so is she.

We decided on Joan Jett because it’s one of the songs we have sang together before, driving down the highway as teenagers. We chose it because we wanted to do something together that we both enjoyed. The wedding had brought us closer together and reestablished a bond that had been long missing. As bridesmaids, we went from spending minimal time together to seeing each other every other weekend. We went dress shopping and planned showers. We danced the night away at the bachelorette party and laughed later as we carried the drunk bride-to-be back to the hotel. We danced in the middle of the dance floor and roared until we cried when the same guy hit on us both, separately. We were acting like sisters and it was beautiful and meaningful.

We also chose the song because we thought it would be a funny departure from the love ballads other drunks had been serenating us with all night long. We wanted something that represented our newfound sisterhood. We knew this but we did not say this. We practiced the lines and then sang it to the bride and groom. They kissed. Everyone cheered. We were, for a moment, invincible.

***

When I was in high school, I bought her Metric tickets for Christmas or her birthday and we drove to Kitchener to watch the band perform at a venue that had cages in it, usually reserved for dancers. There were no dancers the night of the concert. I was 17 and the proud owner of a new driver’s license. My mom let us borrow the car, a white Neon, as long as we called her when we got there. We did. Before we left, we bought Doritos at the grocery store and left them in the car for after. It was January. To this day we both agree they taste better cold.

***

My sister and I have an understanding and appreciation of each other that we didn’t have before the wedding. I don’t think we knew before how to manage our differences, focusing instead too much on the variables rather than finding beauty in them. Our DNA may be tangled, but we are different people and as we get older we are starting to recognize that this is what makes our relationship so special. At four years apart, our lives have not always aligned. When she was entering high school, I was moving away to university. In many ways I wasn’t there for her in the ways she likely needed, and it has taken a long time for her to feel confident in seeking advice from me, in recognizing my own experiences as potentially valuable to her own. In the same light, I must remember she is younger, that she is still learning things I have already learned. Yet in many ways, she continues to teach me new things about myself and the way relationships—and families—change; how they flex in and out, how they breathe and mature and evolve.

When we were little girls, we would sit by the window in the kitchen, sun beaming down upon us, and we would draw for hours. We would draw everything—from puppies to sceneries, from portraits of our family to cartoon characters. We shared this love of drawing passionately and it became integral to our understanding of each other. It was something we had together. It was a foundation.

Now that we’re older, now that we’re entering new phases of our lives and learning and growing as people, it is important to remind myself that these foundations still exist. We can look out into the world and see different versions of the same picture, we can experience different narratives of the same story, and of our own stories, but the significance of this parallel is something I finally am beginning to understand. I love her for who she is in her entirety and while I may not always understand her, and she definitely may not always understand me, I will cherish how it is both our differences and our similarities that comprise the fabric of our relationship, of our sisterhood. I will put another dime in the jukebox, baby.

Sheena Lyonnais is the founder of Blonde as well as the Toronto editor. Follow her on Twitter @SheenaLyonnais.

Image from Home of the Vein. View complete work here.