Meeting him slowed me down.
Maybe it was the way he pointed to everything in his world—the Plateau, the Old Port, the ice skaters spinning on blades in the Bonsecours Basin.
I wanted to stay there.
Maybe it was Montreal in the winter; maybe it was the iced streets and how few walked them at night; maybe it was my heeled boots and his having to hold my hand any time we ventured outdoors; maybe it was the mountain we pushed down into, kissing; maybe it was our bodies stamped into snow; maybe it was our spontaneity so early on.
Maybe it was how little we knew.
We were simply two strangers who had planned to meet after Christmas and call in the New Year together. I remember boarding my flight from Miami, crossing the ocean and the border and feeling like I was leading an adventurous life, like the sheer hint of love was real enough to take me anywhere.
How we found our way into each other’s lives still mystifies me.
Somehow a litany of clicks led him to my blog. For a year or so, I remember receiving comments below my posts, every once in awhile words of encouragement written in French. I remember translating every single word yet never looking at his blog, never peering into his world. I remember how each month I’d receive a stat sheet outlining my blog’s various visitors and each month there being an IP address from Canada on the list. I often wondered who I possibly knew there, if perhaps a classmate was studying abroad. I never thought a stranger in another country, speaking another language, would take interest in me. Maybe this explains how before we even met I trusted that he was loyal to me.
How little I knew, how little I questioned, how little I expected out of us and my trip to meet him seems so naive and magical to me now.
I never did imagine I’d fly blindly into the world of one of my readers.
Maybe that’s what slowed me down: the way in which we were now learning each other, no longer over the Internet or in longhand but finally in a way that was tangible, free of narrative, poetics and illusion.
I can remember the early afternoon, the very first time he brought me from the airport to his apartment. He cooked me eggs and we sat on bar stools drinking gin. The sky was without light and gray rinsed through the windows. It was the combination that put me at ease, the randomness of it all.
How plain and odd and endearing the meal was. It seemed honest, boyish, shy. Like I was the first woman he’d ever invited into his life.
Maybe it was our not needing plans and the way that felt to me like freedom, like the first time I’d ever felt calm in my life. Maybe it was the way we went walking through his apartment, our feet soft enough to not have the floor creak, though it always did. Maybe it was all these details. My flight and blind faith in our meeting. The eggs and the gin. The way we laid in bed and had no concept of time.
Maybe it was the quiet simplicity of his life.
My world was nothing like his.
In my world, quietude did not come without shame or suspicion, panic as to whether I was leading an invisible life. In my world, a still home was an expression of listlessness; a nap was unacceptable, either an insulting display of lassitude or a symptom of unreasonable depression; to lay in bed in the afternoon was almost passive aggressive, a showy indication of ingratitude, a denial of my life, of my privilege.
I grew up fearing my own fatigue, believing that to sleep was to perish, was to slack and sabotage my own magnitude, my own dreaminess, my own potential.
I think I flew to Montreal to escape this, to escape the lifestyle I was both proud of and exhausted by. I also think I flew there to escape, if not overturn, my own stagnation which, at the time, was not suspected by friends or family nor a feeling I was anything but deeply secretive about. From the outside, I was a woman in motion. I was independent, purposeful and high-achieving. I had been moving around the country, collecting degrees, even taking off to cruise around the Society Islands of French Polynesia.
But in my heart, I was stagnant. Drained. Desperate to grab hold of whatever or whoever could center me as well as excite me back into life.
I wanted to feel both comforted and capable. I wanted to escape the expectations I was so accustomed to yet also exceed them. I suppose I was just longing for everything I was doing to be okay and enough. I suppose what I was looking for was a person who could show me how to accept who I was and where I was in my life.
Maybe I flew to Montreal in hopes that a devoted reader might turn out to be the teacher who could change my world.
Maybe I slowed down because I knew I needed to observe and participate and be present enough to explore a whole new way of life.
And maybe I slowed down because, for the first time, I could indulge in doing less and truly being more.
Author: Chelsea Leigh Trescott
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Courtney Emery/Flickr