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.

In Hotel Rooms, We Can Be Anyone

Sipping vodka through a straw at the bar in the hotel, I awaited my man’s arrival. We were celebrating our anniversary and although we lived in Toronto, felt like getting a room in the city would serve as a sexy, temporary escape from our everyday lives. It was raining lightly outside. I felt nostalgic as I reflected upon our relationship while sitting in the bar, staring out the hotel windows, but I also felt exceptionally present as I fantasized about the night that awaited us. I wanted to play the part of the sexy, mysterious girl tonight so I went to the hotel just a little bit early, early enough for him to find me slightly tipsy off top shelf vodka. I had packed a corset and a half of cocaine, just in case the night got wild.

He met me at the hotel bar, threw the bartender some money and a generous tip, then escorted me up to our room, roses in tow. I felt a bit like a call girl, high class of course, except for the flowers, which reminded me I am indeed a well-loved woman. The room was gorgeous; its contemporary design reminded me of our living room—the way the reds, browns and blacks wove together. But it was not enough of a reminder to make it feel like home. I was very coherent of the fact that we were somewhere else, and that was exactly what I wanted. I wanted to be displaced, seduced, and fucked. I wanted him to devour me, and I him. Anniversaries are a time for lovemaking, for romance, but I wanted a little bit of lust thrown in. I wanted him to want me. I wanted him to take me.

I feel like this sometimes and I let it come out in hotel rooms. Hotel rooms are where I can play the part of the whore and the devout girlfriend all in the same act; with an audience of one I can be anyone.

It did not take long for the desire for hotel sex to set in. There’s something about being in a hotel room that makes everything feel a little bit elevated, as though nothing is real. I excuse myself to slip into something else. There’s something, too, about the act of changing in a room full of mirrors that makes you aware of your body in ways you’re not always coherent of. The curves of your hips, the way your breasts sit. You pause for a moment to wonder if they’ve always looked like that, but the thought passes quickly. You take things off quickly, too, but put them on slowly. You want everything to sit just right, to hit your body at the right parts. You adjust the knee-high stockings so they’re at the same level. You know he’s in the other room, waiting. You wonder, is he clothed? Naked? Does he have something special planned? Has he topped up the wine like you want him to? You lace the corset tight into place; adjust your breasts. You remember the cocaine. You remember the romance. You make yourself forget the cocaine, for now. You fix your makeup. Make your eyes a little blacker, your lips a little redder. You turn your head upside down to give your hair some volume. You step into your black pumps, your Steve Maddens. You do one last look. You open the door.

No, you slide the door. When you’re a woman of mystery and desire you slide the door so that the noise piques his interest but he doesn’t see you right away. When you step out you want it to be so hot that you feel him get hard. This is the woman you are being right now, and she is confident and seductive. She is an alternative version of you, but she is still you. You take note of that. That this is you.

On a Tuesday night in a hotel room in downtown Toronto you transform. It is your favourite part about hotels. The music playing is the playlist you made together with this night in mind because without saying it you both know how hotel nights go, and so at first when you’re settling in it’s kind of sweet and sentimental, but by the time the first bottle of Bordeaux is gone, it’s dirtier, grittier, hotter.

The song that comes on as you slide open the door is perfect and sludgy with the kind of back beat that makes it easy to sway your hips. It makes the charade almost effortless, when the soundtrack is so good anything is possible. You walk slowly to the bed, as you move your body and mouth the words, as you prepare for what’s to come. You push him down before you kiss him, because even though he already wants it, you want him to want it more. That is the woman you are being tonight. She’s a little meaner, a little feistier than usual. She gets what she wants. He lets you have him, lets you work your mouth to where he wants it, and then he turns you over and takes your clothes off one by one. He does it slowly. He makes you want it, too.

You fuck. I fuck. I let the woman I wish I always was rise from somewhere inside of me and I take on this character for the night. By now I’m also a little drunk. If I smoked cigarettes I’d have had five by now, but I don’t smoke cigarettes so I drink and do occasional lines when I’ve got the money instead. I remember the cocaine and we’re both exhausted and drunk enough that he can’t even get mad at me for bringing it, the offer is too tempting. I pour a pile on the bedside table, its mahogany finish in stark contrast to the white of the drug. I take a 50 dollar bill, one of the new ones, and place it on top, sliding the hotel room keycard over it until it turns into a fine powder. Doesn’t it look pretty? Almost like snow, like the seasons are changing. I use the key to cut four lines. He lets me go first. They’re pretty even, but still I take the one that looks the biggest. It’s an illusion, but everything is right now.

When the coke is gone and the wine is gone we get dressed and head upstairs to the rooftop lounge overlooking the entire city. You can see the water and the CN Tower and the skyscrapers, those already built and in development. You can see the city changing. There’s a slight chill in the air and he pulls me in close as we point to the area where we live. You can almost see our house from here, if you pretend hard enough. The night slows down. I melt into the moment and lose a layer of my mystery in the process. But I know it’s okay. The act may be ending, but it’s not over yet. After a few drinks, we go downstairs to go to bed, kissing as we fall asleep. Tomorrow we’ll wake up as us again, but for now we’ll enjoy the fantasy.


Photo by Elle Hanley, part of the hotel series. To view more of her work, click here

Off-Limits

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I am from the second biggest city in Canada, and yet it often feels like a village.
Many people I know (including my best friends) become friends after a while, even if they used to evolve in different circles, and many people also date or sleep with each other.
It becomes normal to know so-and-so’s ex-boyfriend and some of the people they slept with.
It’s not only like that for others though, it’s also like that for me and my good friends, and sometimes the burden becomes heavy and the past remains too present.

Last weekend, I went to a house party at some guy friend’s place. There is one that I used to date, but we are just friends now.
The night of the party, I was getting back from my best friend’s place in the countryside. We had just spent two days without electricity under bad weather conditions.
I came back to Montreal on a rainy evening, but that wasn’t going to stop me from going out.
I wore my best weather-appropriate outfit (no easy feat, considering that I had only brought one pair of pants). I was in the mood to meet new boys that I could have some good conversations and some fun with. Hey, that’s also what vacation is for when you’re single. (Summer Lovin’, anyone?)

I arrived at the apartment early to catch up with my friends, discussing my life in Ontario and theirs in Montreal, talking blogs, art and life. The boys all commented favourably on my shoes and one of them looked at me from head to toe. ”Nice outfit,” he said. I was beaming from the compliments: it is quite rare and always lovely when men comment clothes. I was happy to come early so I could chill with the boys before people came in droves. And boy they did. A couple of people at first, and then the apartment got packed. The little yard was filled with various kinds of hipsters, some with beards, some with caps, some with side ponytails. There were some people I knew, some I barely did, and some I didn’t. But as my friend said the next day, I am a social warrior. So once again, I tried to talk to everyone, remember their names, and make an effort to hold a conversation. But that being said, sometimes socializing completely exhausts me.

I was feeling a little bit under the weather because of the evening’s dampness and the effort require to socialize with strangers. That night, I was constantly looking around for a beautiful boy to meet, and it was starting to make me dizzy. It was around then that I started talking to a very tall and handsome boy, coincidentally a good friend of my friends. We talked for a long time and the more we did, the more he was becoming someone I could actually picture myself with beyond one night. He was talking to me, and I was saying: ”you’re right” after he spoke, agreeing on his vision of things. He is a screenwriter. Like me, writing is his daily bread. He is also lanky and an introvert, traits that I have found endearing in boys since high school. Because I am outgoing and outrageous, I need a man to calm me down and hold me tight.

I wanted to offer him a beer, but somebody stole the two left, and so we shared a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
We went outside to smoke a joint, one that I had kept safe inside of my wallet, waiting for a good moment.
I got my bag from my friend’s room and went outside. We smoked, and then I tried harder to seduce him. I approached his face and kissed him close to the lips. Nothing happened. I backed off, puzzled.
”What’s up?”
”Nothing.”
”I’m sorry.”
”It’s OK.”
”Why don’t you respond?”

He told me that he was too close with the other guys and so he could not do anything with me.
”What are you talking about? I’m done dating this guy, we are only friends and the other guy, nothing ever happened, we are just friends!” He didn’t wince, but rather tried to explain.
Just to confirm the fact, I asked: ”so you’re kind of off-limits?”
”Yeah.”
He kept talking to me, but I was mad, sad and heartbroken. I left right then and there. I was walking fast and probably not in a straight line.

A few blocks down the road, I heard my name. Two of my favourite theatre buddies were on the other side of the street. We were very excited to be seeing each other again. We hugged, we laughed. It’d been a while. They told me that another friend was having another party, and it happened to be on my way home. I stopped for a few minutes, seeing one my best gay friends and making a new one. I left with a renewed sense of happiness and wholeness.

I was walking home when I saw newspapers already delivered on stoops. I took one, thinking that it would make my dad happy. He always goes out on Sunday mornings and buys it. It was 4: 30 a.m. when I made it home. I left the paper on the table and I went to bed. My dad was very surprised when he first woke up at 6 and saw the paper delivered to his table.

The next day, I went to yoga to feel alive again and then back to my friend’s place to grab my forgotten umbrella. We chilled outside, we listened to music, we shared poutine. I realized how happy I was to have him in my life. We decided to go out to the park with his other roommate to meet other people. My best friend came to meet us there with a dog she is looking after. We all went for coffee on an outdoor terrace. The light was beautiful and their presence was calming. When we were ready to go, the boys went home and me and my BFF walked in the opposite direction. Finally, I could tell her the story, and it felt incredibly liberating.

Upon hearing it, she said:”it must have been terribly awkward.”
”It was fucking awkward,” I answered.
”What can I do?”
”Nothing,” she said.
”I know,” I sighed.

She has also destroyed relationships because of sex and touch and many other of my friends have. Last year, two of my best girl friends slept with somebody I had previously slept with (one an ex-boyfriend). It did hurt a lot, and I felt like I was replaceable. Upon talking with my friend, I realized that maybe it was the best thing that nothing happened. I usually go with the line ”bros before hoes” anyway, and it sums up the ”best” way to react to the situation, although it’s more complicated than that. This story generated good conversations with my best friends. Many of us are fed up of being limited by our past or our social circles. Many of us are also fed up with dating people that are bad for us, and want to find that special person by expanding horizons. But it also underlined once again that friends are the most important, really.

Another of my best friends met her long-time boyfriend on the Internet in order to break the vicious circle of people-that-know-people.
Yesterday, I was coming back from their place with friends.
I told them what happened.
My guy friend said: ”I am especially wondering what he said to his friend so that he would reject you like that.”

I’m still wondering what my friend said to my late-night crush in the course of their friendship. I’m still wondering if I’ll ever make the guy that rejected me change his mind.
I doubt it. I know that I have to move on. Still, rejection is though.
I was hurt in many ways (it was especially hard on my ego), but hey, it won’t be the first time.
I’d rather keep my friends than my pride.

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.

Photo: from i-D Magazine’s archives. Model: Lily Cole.

Beyond the Grain

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The art affected me almost instantly. We went to the gallery to support Adrienne, a Toronto-based artist who was exhibiting the work she completed after spending a few months in Syracuse, New York. She left to take part in the artist residency program and came back with a large body of work, most were pieces painted on wood bearing feminist and lesbian messaging, the lines in some designed to look like vaginas. Some of the pieces were colourful and abstract, while others were subdued and sad, exuding a feeling of loneliness and loss.

It was the latter that inspired us to buy a piece, our first real art. As we stood in the gallery two summers ago tipsy off complimentary wine, another friend offered to give us a tour. She was familiar with the work and had a way of describing the paintings in a manner that made you fall in love with each one. Not that the work wasn’t great in and of itself, but the stories played a quintessential role in our decision to buy the art. There were these intricate details behind each of the works that resonated deep within me. Story after story, I felt myself admiring each piece in a new way.

But when we came to the one we would buy something stopped both of us. The piece contains five pieces of wood, each one found somewhere in Syracuse, assembled in such a fashion to create one larger work. At first glance, all you see if the five pieces of wood, but upon further inspection it is clear the grain is actually painted on and stained. It is a work of five paintings of wood, painted on wood, against the grain. It is an illusion and a lie. It is control and chaos. It is beautiful and dark. It is haunting.

I loved it before I knew the story, but I loved it after I knew the story more. Adrienne felt a deep isolation in Syracuse. A college town, she was there on off months when almost everything was closed and no one was around. The town, my friend described, was broken and lonely, a series of abandoned homes with nobody to love them. Adrienne was staying in a room in a house that was shoddy at best. One night, she noticed a perplexing repair. It was painted wood, maybe along a floorboard, but whoever painted it had done so against the grain. Adrienne couldn’t understand why someone would do that; make such an obvious mistake. She felt like it summed up her trip perfectly.

TJ and I had just returned from a trip our selves. We had left Toronto for Saint John, New Brunswick in a hurry upon news that a dear friend of mine had been in a horrible accident. The ATV she was a passenger on had flipped and landed on top of her, crushing her beneath it. She was alive, but the accident left her paralyzed from the waist down. When I heard the news I was devastated. I could not stop crying and I called everyone in tears, TJ, my mother. It was hard for me to breathe. Shyla and I had been friends since middle school and she was like a sister to me. I felt like I was mourning her. I felt like she was dead. The news hit me so hard I had to keep reminding myself that she was alive.

Seeing her meant going to Saint John, a town that sounds to be much like Syracuse. On the way to New Brunswick we got delayed at the airport in Montreal. I cried into TJ’s lap for what felt like hours, devastated that we would arrive in Saint John too late to visit Shyla in the hospital. I hated the airline. I hated the feeling I felt in my stomach, this horrible knot of despair that turned and coiled until I felt so sick inside I thought I could die.

By the time we made it to Saint John it was pouring rain and midnight. The cab driver asked what we were doing in town and when we told him, he already knew of the accident. It had been all over the news. The scenario of seeing her in the hospital played out in my head over and over like a broken film reel with missing frames. The emotions were so strong they overrode the images. I couldn’t see her smiling in my visions. I couldn’t see me smiling in my visions. I saw only unparalleled sadness. I felt this sense of complete and utter loss even though she was alive.

Visiting hours were over and so TJ and I had little else to do but waste time in Saint John until we could see her in the morning. We grabbed an umbrella and decided to check out area. It was so late and we were exhausted, but we thought we’d better grab a drink somewhere down by the water and experience a taste of the town while we were there. We were also hungry, but nothing was open. Saint John is a port town, a place for cruise ships to stop through. But it felt like a ghost town, the rain sinking inside our bones and forcing us to confront the shiver we felt inside.

We weren’t able to see Shyla in the morning. She had a rough night and barely slept, finally resting her eyes some time after the sun had come up. So TJ and I decided to explore Saint John in the daytime. Even in the sunlight, the town felt desperate. The buildings and houses were so old and evidence of a fire that wiped out half the town many years before still remained. Nobody was around. In a coin and collectibles shop, old men talked about wars of the past. We walked down streets that were so empty we could hear our footsteps on concrete. It was a place without many sounds. As a city girl used to the noise of the streets, the silence disturbed me. I don’t remember hearing any birds.

When we finally saw Shyla, the experience was hardly the depressing scene I had been imagining and instead she possessed this unworldly acceptance of the accident, of her fate. I never saw her cry and she never once looked like she might. Everyone else, including me, was a total mess, but Shyla was calm. She knew something we didn’t yet. She knew that everything, including her, would be okay.

Back at the gallery, our experience in Saint John still haunted us. While our visits with Shyla turned out to be beautiful, the town itself had left scars on our souls. It felt like the painting knew this, that it recognized this inherent confusion, this suffering and intensity that we had experienced in the days leading up to our visit to Saint John, and the kaleidoscope of emotions that came with it. Some people don’t understand why we purchased art that reminds us of something so depressing, but the work continues to speak to us each day, forever its meaning just slightly evolving. These days when I look at it, it reminds me not to take things for granted, that everything can be taken away from you. Whether it’s in a minute or gradually over the span of a few months, you can lose things you never knew you could lose.

But more importantly, it tells of the power of turning something painful into something meaningful, and of seeing the beauty beyond the grain. It inspires me. It reminds me that everything is going to be okay.

Friends With Benefits

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It was a feisty summer evening in 2011. It was around ten and I was with my best friends sipping cheap beer and chilling endlessly at an infamous park in my hometown, where I have spent an inordinate amount of time. As it is often the case in big gatherings, our crowd kept getting larger. A small group of people that I did not know arrived. Of course, as I always spot the cutest person first, he instantly caught my eye. He was black, beautiful, dressed pretty well and he seemed funny for some reason. He was instantly nicknamed the ‘‘blipster’’ (black+ hipster) by my best friend.

I was twenty-two at the time and I was sporting huge glasses that people either loved or hated. He said ‘‘I love your glasses’’, and I responded: ‘’I love you!… well, your outfit’’. We both laughed, but I felt a little awkward. We talked for a bit, and he asked what I would be doing later. He took my digits as we were off to different bars. Like many these days, this is a relationship that started by text messages. He came over to meet me and subsequently, we made out on the dance floor. We left the bar as it was closing, quite drunk and full of juvenile energy.

We were heading back to my apartment on bicycle, and on the way, we tagged a warehouse building in the Mile End. I wrote ”Lili loves you”, my classic and silly tag, with hearts replacing the ”i” dots. A couple of days later, he tried to find the tags we did to no avail. It seems like those tags were the product of a single encounter and that they disappeared into the city landscape pretty quickly, just like the possibility of being a couple.

I was living in Mile End at the time and there was a couch on my front porch. He used to smoke cigarettes in the morning, a trashy hangover gesture. He used to call me from outside ”come on baby, come over here!”. He made me laugh and it was comfortable and fun sitting next to him despite the foul smell.

After a couple dates though, I came to realize that he wasn’t boyfriend material. I felt that we had good conversations, sure, but not the most enlightening ones. Also, the sex wasn’t working, and it was tedious to get his member up and running. He became heavy or annoying at times, and I realized that I did not liked him like that. I especially recollect one afternoon when he tagged along with me and my friend to the Mount Royal and I felt that I had to take care of him. I thus ”broke up” with him shortly after this, and enhanced that we would never be more than just friends.

A couple of weeks later that same summer, I ran into him outside of a bar in the Plateau. He was going elsewhere. ”Do you want to come with me? I was going to this other bar. I’ll buy you a drink if you come!”. I agreed, but in a friendly manner only. I did not realize then but my PMS was taking over so I was moody and highly sensitive that night. I did hold his arm at some point while walking, while simultaneously clearing the fact that we were just friends now. How to send mixed signals, basically. I was also wearing my chic black cape dress and being a little princess-y. When we got to the bar, his friends were gone so we had a beer and talked. We were both feeling quite knackered and he was living around the corner at the time. He told me to come over, but I did not want to for obvious reasons. I ended up staying the night, but I slept in my fabulous cape dress. I woke up drenched in sweat in the summer heatwave. I left his house before collapsing from sweat or being obliged to take my dress off. I stopped by my godfather’s to give food to my cat that he babysat at the time. Evidently, I had my period.

Fast-forward one and a half year, he invited me out for coffee. We might have looked like a couple as I ran into one of my college friends, but I was actually on a break with my then-boyfriend at the time. He invited me to his place to drink wine. I still found him insistent and I did not want to go, especially since I was at a weird place relationship-wise. We left it at that, and we barely talked for a while. He texted me sometimes, but I made it clear that I was in a relationship with somebody else. I heard about him sometimes. For instance, the following summer when I was in Germany, he took a German class with my best friend.

A year and some months later, I was working the cloakroom at the venue I work in. I turned back to the counter and I saw him standing there, a black panther shining in the night with a neon yellow beanie like a signpost. He was with one of his friends, a small nervous girl who I initially mistook for his girlfriend. I asked her if she was, and he came back at the same moment. I guess my question kind of showcased a jealousy and a puzzlement at his romantic situation. He came back to talk to me twice and after last call, he tried to convince me to go to an after-party. Being exhausted and having something the next day, I declined. He took my number again. He asked ”if I text you, will you be answering?”. I nodded in agreement.

The next morning he texted me that he was really happy that he had seen me again, and that he had forgotten how honest and good-natured my smile was. We texted a couple times. He subsequently invited me out for diner on Valentine’s Day. Being single but not desperate, I thought it could be fun to spend time with him to rediscover our relationship under a different perspective. We went to this insanely decorated restaurant, with an incredible array of weird objects. We came back to my place to smoke a joint and he tried to come closer. I felt noxious and I kept pushing him away. ”You know, your’e like an old friend, it’s just weird, I don’t want sexual contact. You can hold me, sure, but that about it for tonight”. He tossed and turned and was sweating so much that he decided to leave. He was not mad, just annoyed I guess,as he wanted to have brunch the following day. That was a good sign, I thought. He did not necessarily want to sleep with me.

We have realized that we are a little more than just friends, but at the same time never to be lovers. He loves touching me, although he respects my boundaries. I can massage his shoulders and give him long hugs. We are very different but there is a kind of fun tranquility when I am in his presence. He expresses himself best through music and images, while I can and write, read and talk endlessly.

‘‘That’s why I love hanging out with you Lili, you’re so fun and alive and you talk constantly, you always tell stories… I’m not that great with words’’.

He told me over beer on Bernard Street one Monday evening: ‘‘your name fits really well with you. When you think about Lili, you think about a sweet, gentle girl, no?’’. That night, we kissed a little bit but could not go beyond that without feeling awkward or uncomfortable. He said: ‘‘we’re really platonic’’. I don’t know if it’s because I aimed to try to prove him wrong, but I aimed to unbuckle his belt, something I have never been skilled at doing (I think it’s the equivalent of boys trying to open girl’s bras). I put my hands in his pants, trying to go further, maybe. It had been so long and I needed some but he stopped me right there and then. I was happy that he stopped it afterwards, because he was right. We are too platonic. I just cozied myself with my head on his shoulder and my hand on his chest. Ifelt asleep in seconds.

I woke up slowly the next morning, and I could already hear him tap slightly on his keyboard.

I opened my eyes, stretched, and looked at him: ‘‘coffee?’’

‘‘Yes! It should be ready by now’’.

He came back with two cups and gave me a vintage one with ‘‘The Toronto Skyline’’ written on it in a dark orange. It was a fitting match since I was about to move to Ontario. He told me that he thought of me when he saw it and that he had chosen it on purpose. We gave each other a big hug that morning. I put my boots on, and we hugged again. I left his place to find a misty and foggy Mile-End under a slight rain.

A week or so later, there was a party for his birthday on a Friday night. It was a hype event with three other roommates and a slew of familiar faces involved. There were many people that I did not know, of which many seemed self-important. I was about to leave but he kept trying to convince me to stay. I agreed after much frustration and argumentation. We went to his bedroom, he closed the door, he poured me a glass of wine and showed me a book he made for school. I critiqued it and we talked about it, and he told me that I was the most important person to come that night. He kissed me, and was being a bit heavy on me. I left while feeling that I had to fight with him to quit his place. It made me sad as I made my way home. That night, I was battling with demons in my dreams. I woke up thrice drenched in sweat.

The next day, he texted me. ‘‘I’m sorry, I was a bit heavy last night’’. He rang me up later that night and it was probably the first time in a relationship that has always evolved around text messages.

I have come to realize that being friends with benefits is not that simple. There is always a push and pull happening and an aura of mystery and deception. But most importantly, this is a friendship I can count on. It’s another kind of love that doesn’t need to be labelled. As I moved, I found his set of keys that he had lost at mine’s a month ago. He wrote to say that he will miss me, and I responded that I will too.

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 at the University of Western Ontario.

Photo: Lili Monette

The Love of a Good Man

sheenatkmic

He came to me when I least expected it. Love is so funny like that. It comes up in the most unusual places, hidden out in the open at crowded bars, appearing seemingly out of nowhere like a magic trick, a magician on the run. Just like that love can appear and disappear, which is why I tell my friends when you have the love of a good man to hold on to it so tight and to keep it close to your heart, to fight for it and cherish it and to never let it go. The love of a good man is hard to find, I know this. I never for a minute forget how lucky I am that I have it.

I had love once before, but it was a different kind of love, a youthful love, one that doesn’t know the bounds love asks of its believers. It was a love reserved for the young, a sweet, short romance that gave me everything I needed it to give me. It taught me how to care endlessly for another person. It taught me how to open up, how to be honest with myself and accountable to another human being. It taught me how to share secrets and feelings and emotions so strong it’s easier to leave them in the pages of old diaries, but more rewarding to talk them out. Most importantly, it taught me love comes in and out like the seasons and that it doesn’t always stay. You can have this whirlwind romance and it can end just like that. Those feelings can change and there are reasons known and reasons unknown for these things, but it won’t stop anything from happening. It taught me that some love does have an expiry date, a rest in peace sign, a cross marked at the intersection of youth and womanhood.

My new love is different. At the beginning, it seemed, it was destined not for greatness but instead a summer romance, a taste of excitement breathing between university semesters that would end when September came and the leaves changed colours. But I quickly learned that nothing is ever as it seems, things either are or they aren’t something. This love was meant for something more.

We met at a bar on Bloor Street in 2007, a defining year if there ever was one. This was the year I moved from Etobicoke back home again and eventually, finally, to the city. This was the year my first love ended and my new love began and between them a few bad stories for good measure. This was the year I became me.

It was also the year we became us. I noticed him right away and it caught me off guard when he approached me shortly after and asked to buy me a drink. I was drinking Tom Collins in those days because I was 20. He was 26. He was older and had sexy hair and a good job and a Guns N Roses belt buckle that pressed into me as we danced into the night. He was messy and the night was messy and that’s what I wanted. I wanted to make mistakes. I wanted to be wild and reckless and so did he. We saw each other at the time as a taste of the good life, but our definitions of the good life were flawed. Both relatively fresh out of long-term relationships, we saw each other as attractive distractions to our everyday lives, which were sadder on the inside than we showed on the outside. We were sadder, but we were never sad when we were together.

We met early in April and by May I knew I loved him, a love that made my heart beat so hard I thought it just might tear from my chest and escape someplace far away. I didn’t know it was possible to love somebody so hard so quickly, but I did and I loved him with every part of my being in a way I had never experienced before. It was passionate and raw. It was terrifying. I didn’t want to be in love like this, it was foreign and I didn’t know how to navigate those waters. I thought I had sailed before but this was different. I was scared of what was happening to me. All my thoughts returned to him, all my nights went to him, my heart went to him, my body went to him, I just let this love wash over me and even if I had tried I knew there was nothing I could do to stop it. By the end of May we ended all our phone calls with “I love you.”

This was almost seven years ago now and many people ask me how I have spent the entirety of my 20s with one man and I have told them that when you find the love of a good man it is as though time vaporizes. There is never quite enough. He is such a part of me that I feel his presence in my bones. When he aches, I ache. When he bleeds, I bleed. When he’s happy, I’m happy. He is the kind of man who will make me homemade chicken noodle soup at my earliest inclination of feeling sick. He is the kind of man who treats my nieces and nephews with such love I can’t help but imagine him as the father of my future babies. He is the kind of man who knows everything about me and loves me anyway, loves me even though I can be hard to deal with, hard to live with. He is the kind of man who showers me in this love, whose hugs and kisses embrace my entire body, whose jokes make me laugh, whose touch drives me wild, whose voice makes the world feel alright, who makes me feel alive.

There have been hard times, oh yes, bruises on our hearts from times we were not our best selves, our best us. There were times we would look at each other and feel only despair. But we worked through those times because we recognize that sometimes you have to work for love, you have to fight for love, you have to try and try and try again to make things right because there is nothing more magical, nothing more beautiful, than a love worth fighting for. A good love takes work, it takes dedication, it takes determination and it takes time. It takes effort. When people ask me how we’ve survived for so long, how we still show such affection and compassion for each other, it’s because we make the effort to be the best versions of ourselves we can be, for ourselves and for each other. We put in the effort to do things that couples do when they’re first starting to fall in love. We go on dates, we go on trips, we cook new recipes for each other and we try new wines. We laugh. We touch. We kiss. We care. Our secret is that we try.

When you find the love a good man, appreciate it. Love it. Take a minute each day to soak in its rays. Tell him you love him. Show him you love him. Hold him close like he holds you. Protect it and work for it and don’t be afraid of it. It wouldn’t be worth it if it didn’t make your heart race. Nothing is.

Sheena Lyonnais is the founder of Blonde. You can follow her on Twitter @SheenaLyonnais.

Girl’s Best Friend

Mags Trell Sleep
Maggie is my shih tzu. My girl. My geriatric mostly blind, deaf and legitimately demented girl. I love her to bits, which makes my sentiment terribly difficult to admit and even harder to deal with: I’m prepared to say goodbye because I’m running on empty.

I don’t like taking care of her anymore, watching her walk around in circles and listening to her whimpers of confusion. The difficult part is when she doesn’t act sick at all, it’s when she goes and finds one of her toys and barks happily at it. Or she runs around outside and I swear I can see a smile on her face. Her steps are even peppy. But then it’s back to being fussy at meal time. Peeing in the kitchen. Wandering around in the middle of the night until she’s lost in the living room and whining until I retrieve her and bring her back to her bed. She has to feel tired of this charade that is our daily life too, right? Who’s to say? Not me. Not now. She’s physically still “okay” (despite renal dysplasia, failing kidneys, being mostly blind and deaf and full-on in the throws of doggy dementia). So what do we do? We keep on going. I keep taking care of her because she’s my dog. She’s my girl. I love her. I miss her. She’s in there somewhere, but she doesn’t come out to play very often. And I’m sad during parts of every day.

Mags Back in the Day
Maggie, the month after I brought her home

I’m not sure what I was thinking when I adopted her. No, I do know. I was feeling excited, nervous, scared – so what are all of those emotions rolled into one? Anxious? Yes. Anxious. I was going to adopt a dog! I really wanted a dog. I had always wanted a dog. As a little girl, an only child growing up in suburbia, I asked my parents for a dog for every birthday, Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and at the beginning of summer holidays.

“No, you can go and visit your friends’ dogs,” my mother would say, “NO!” And my father would always defer to her stern rule.

I remember we babysat my friend Kelly’s dog, Sandy, for a week when I was around seven-years-old. It was great. I felt blissful. Sandy and I ran and played in the backyard until the sun set. She slept at my feet in the evenings. I brushed her. I didn’t watch TV for the whole time she was there! Even reading a book was better with a dog by my side. Ever since I was a baby, I would spend part of my summers in Newfoundland with my Aunt Dolly, Uncle Ray, cousin Chris, Nanny Marge, and my favourite one: their dog Mandy. Mandy was a mutt. A real mutt. She was black and white, had scruffy fur and a tea-stained hairy snout. My Nan used to leave her half drunk cups of milky tea on the floor and let the dog lap up her dregs. I remember I was crying one day; I don’t remember what I was crying about, but I remember Mandy the mutt sniffing out my hiding place with a box of tissues clenched in her jaw. I loved that dog. When my aunt called to tell me that Mandy had passed away, I broke down. Heavy tears. Cried so hard my whole body hurt. Newfoundland wouldn’t be the same without her. She’d been my bestest pal since I was a toddler and teenaged me, naively, thought she might live forever if I hoped hard enough. (Years prior, she’d been hit by a car and broken her legs, her insides all sloshed around, and she recovered from that. She was a tough girl. I thought she was invincible.) This was the first time I had to say goodbye to a furry part of the family. Yet, I had no idea what heartbreak was truly like.

Maggie Sideways
Maggie liked to sleep in my bed and would spread out after I got up in the morning. She doesn’t do this anymore.

Mandy and I only spent one season per year together; the other three were filled with distance and dogs aren’t really the telephone or Skype types. I didn’t miss her so much everyday because she was never part of my everyday. Not like Maggie. My Maggie.

It was March 2003. I was in my early twenties. I was anxious. I wanted a dog. I was going to get a dog. I’d studied for all of the questions I was told I’d be asked in the “are you suitable to adopt a pet” interview. I’d visited the Toronto Humane Society heaps of times before and I was determined to come home with a furry companion. I wanted. a. dog. Specifically, I wanted this little shih tzu who had just been rescued from an abusive home, had surgery to remove mammary tumours and be spayed, and was afraid of everyone. I hadn’t even seen her. She sounded like a handful. But she felt like mine. I walked into the room of pets available for adoption. It smelled of urine and fear and hope. There, in a giant cage, crouched a frail and precious creature. The name plate said “Portia.” Okay. She didn’t look like a Portia, but we could change that. I walked back to the waiting area and paced until it was my turn for an interview.

I was ushered into a small room called the “meeting” room, where I was told to wait for a THS worker to go and get “Portia” and we’d meet in this room to see if she liked me. So now the dog interviews me? That’s a crazy, yet awesome, thing. They brought her in. She looked like a puppy in the arms of the attendant. She was shaking mildly. He put her down on the cold linoleum floor and she so very timidly stood there, gazing up at me. (I guessed that she was looking at me. Even when she had full sight, it was hard to tell where Maggie was directing her gaze because her eyeballs are angled in opposite directions. She literally looks like a Muppet.)

I knelt down and put my right arm out. She inched toward me, this charcoal and white smoosh of a shih tzu, a real live fluffy toy with giant (Muppet) eyes. Slowly making her way closer to me, almost there, she stuck out her neck to sniff. I crouched down and stuck my face closer to her. She crept closer, stretching herself out further, extending her snout, and then she licked my nose and backed up with the ferver of a cartoon and stared at me. What a little fart! I teared up and smiled so widely I’m sure the corners of my mouth graced my earlobes. I scooped her up and she was at ease. No shaking. Okay, where do I sign?

As we went for our first walk, Maggie thought it made sense to sit down in the middle of the crosswalk. This is when I first experienced that stubbornness of hers. She wouldn’t move. She became 900 pounds of muscle and brut strength. Luckily, in reality, she was only eight pounds, so I could easily win the stand-off… er, sit off.

Pumpkin
The first of many Halloweens I made my pumpkin wear this costume. She’s a good sport.

Name-changing time. I almost called Maggie “Petunia.” But she was a Maggie. She IS a Maggie. And still stubborn as a mule. We’ve been together 11 years. She’s been my constant companion: through three boyfriends, our beloved kitty BuffyCat, a move to Vancouver and a move back again, a house (home ownership in suburbia wasn’t for me), and now another apartment. She has put up with countless costume changes, above and beyond the necessary layers to keep her warm in winter, all in stride. She has greeted me with barks and jumps and licks after long days at work. She has been my hot water bottle and made my muscles feel better by lying on my abdomen during my time of the month. She’s been my partner in play at the beach and in the park. She’s watched movies in bed with me on sick days. She has the purest heart of any creature I’ve ever had the honour of knowing.

Right now: Maggie whines a lot. I mean heart-wrenching whimpers and whines. Maggie’s not whining due to her physical ailments–at least, the vet doesn’t think those things are at the root of her whimpers. The dementia is eating her brain. When she feels restless, she whines. When she wants a cookie in lieu of her food, she whines. She mostly wanders around the apartment randomly whining, trapping herself in corners, as if she is lost. The only times she isn’t whining is when she’s sleeping in one of her three dog beds (she snores) or when she’s peeing… which is a lot lately. I go outside with her no less than four times per day no matter the weather – ice storm, freezing cold, rain, and in the ridiculous wind tunnel that exists around my apartment building. I take her out when I’m sick and often (usually) when I’m tired. I’ve recently purchased doggie diapers for those times I just can’t keep up with her demanding and impromptu bladder release ‘schedule.’ She won’t use a potty-patch. She won’t go on the balcony. And I’ve lost patience with mopping the floor constantly. Maggie takes medication and it must be administered by way of her hand-fed meals (special prescription food complete with homemade beef stew broth) twice per day; and, although I can play with meal timing a bit, there isn’t much leeway (so that means every day is an alarm clock day). Do I sound like a neurotic pet owner yet? Probably. But I don’t know how else to be (and if someone has advice, I invite constructive words).

Maggie will be 16 years old in March – well, approximately. Nobody really knows for sure since her abusive former owner wouldn’t disclose her age, so based on her condition 11 years ago, the vets guess she was about five. The age guess was due to very bad teeth and mammary tumours that had developed because she hadn’t been spayed by the douchebag who had owned her. When she wasn’t getting yelled at by this scum-of-the-earth guy – or kicked, or left outside in winter – she was being neglected. She’d been matted down to the skin. The reason her teeth were so bad was because she ate only table scraps and had never eaten kibble or hard foods. (She still won’t eat kibble, but she does chomp on the hard milkbones. Win. And our vet says her teeth and gums are amazing now.) Maggie also has colitis. Her little body has a hard time eating and digesting. And the hand-feeding is because she’s usually too freaked out to eat on her own. She’ll stare at the food or hover over it and whine. If I hand-feed her pieces of her own food, something in her psyche tells her that it’s okay to eat that. It gets a little messy, but there are worse things.

Watching her fade away is one of the worst things. It’s mentally and emotionally draining day in and day out. When we go for walks, they’re more like meanders and just stand there time. Sometimes, she walks in small circles. Every day, Maggie is less and less like the charismatic, loving companion she once was. She does have her good days, when she actually runs around outside and I can feel how happy she is and it’s like a fix of emotional pain medication. But it’s those same days that make the bad days even harder. I feel like an asshole because sometimes I wonder how she’s hung on this long and how she continues to hang on and wouldn’t it be more convenient if I didn’t have to take care of her anymore. (Even the vet told me the other day that she was surprised Maggie is still alive and that she’s kind of a medical anomaly.) But she’s not physically at a point where it’s “time.”

Mags Van
When she could see, Maggie was a ham for the camera.

Which leaves us at an impasse. Our situation is not ideal. It’s laborious for me. It’s inconvenient. But I can’t put an end to her because she’s inconvenient. I love her. I don’t want her to suffer. I don’t want to kill her. But I also don’t know how to keep going as we are because each day I feel my patience fading away. And, each day, I feel guilty about that. Part of me wishes I could give her to a loving home to live out her days so I don’t have to watch her deteriorate, but that would be giving up wouldn’t it? Am I actually an asshole for feeling like this? Maybe. I can’t stand the whining. I get no peace. I’m always on edge. Judges, go ahead and rule. I love my dog. I also feel like I lost my dog a long time ago and in her place is this helpless, moody, distant creature who acts like my Maggie just often enough to pull at my heart strings and give me strength to keep on keeping on.

I can understand why my mother never allowed me to have pets growing up; however it would have been beneficial to know such love and loss before I was an adult. Children process hardships better. They don’t overthink things. They see a situation for what it is at its core. When it was time to say goodbye to my dear, sweet BuffyCat in August 2012, I remember my mother was so distraught.  She said, “See, this is too hard. This is why you couldn’t have a pet.” I think my mother didn’t want to be responsible for the decisions that need to be made toward the end of a pet’s life, specifically: THAT decision. A kid doesn’t get to make THAT decision. Making that decision for my BuffyCat wrenched my heart and soul and mind in more ways than I had ever imagined or experienced before. I never want to make that decision again… of course, I have Maggie, so unless she spares me and peacefully passes during her sleep, I’m going to have to make it. And I’m going to be judged for it. I was judged for even asking if it was time due to her mental struggles. Apparently constant whining due to mental illness is totally fine. She’s miserable. I’m miserable. So what’s the solution?

Perhaps that’s what you sign up for when you adopt a pet. “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window” is a terrible song because the sentiment in it is completely and wholly shallow and does not even hint at what being a pet owner is about. I commited myself to my pets. I have to make the best decisions for them, which are not always the the best decisions for me. I would not forgive myself if I gave up on Maggie before her time; and, simultaneously, if I prolonged any suffering. This literal flogging of my feelings is beyond circular at this point. I think I know. I don’t know. I’m wrong… I  believe (finally) that I made the right decision for my BuffyCat. It’s funny – I always thought Buffy was invincible. She was a street kitty who found us. She took care of Mags and me. I thought she’d be there to help me through losing Maggie. I thought Maggie’s body would give way before her mind. Fucking dog. She is in diapers only because I can’t keep up with how often she needs to go pee. I’ve stayed home from social engagements to be with Maggie because I’ve felt like guilty for even thinking about leaving her again after leaving her alone while I’ve worked the whole day.

Yesterday’s vet visit cost me $150. Food for her averages out at about $80 per month. And time spent taking care of her (not playing with her or having a rare cuddle) if tallied in billable hours would easily equal three hundred and fifty minimum wage dollars per week. I haven’t purchased a new pair of boots in three years. I’m also in a long-distance relationship and plane tickets are expensive. It takes me a long time and much financial creativity to save for a plane ticket. And when I do manage some vacation time, I have to arrange for temporary care for Maggie. I love her with all my heart; but I can’t say that anything about having my dog is easy or great anymore.

I believe that Maggie has been a gift in my life. Gifts come in all shapes and sizes and forms of tangibility. Loving Maggie has forced responsibility, compassion, generosity and gratitude into my being. Maggie has challenged me every day we’ve been together. Somtimes moment by moment.  I was very much a kid when I adopted Maggie. I never thought I would be taking care her of her alone (read: in my early twenties I couldn’t fathom not being married with a family of my before age 30, so naturally adopting a dog was part of this fairytale thought process). My life wasn’t supposed to be like this. But apparently the rule of the universe is you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. (Maybe my cosmic GPS is broken?) Based on where I am now, I think Maggie’s made me a better person, in spite of the days I feel and act like a sad and bitter bitch… and in spite of the days Maggie acts like a sad and bitter bitch.

Trell Mags Christmas
I used to make her pose for a Christmas photo every year. Bless her heart.

Trellawny works in advertising, loves cooking, and her boyfriend too. Her latest goal is to try and find the happy in her remaining days with Maggie.