story #1: the narrator
location: cafe humble lion, 904 sherbrooke ouest
Only slivers of flesh show through the bundled apparition of mine (for who knows what is in this moving pile of fabric). My fingers escape beyond my sleeves to type what runs from the head:
The story starts with snow. It is of no surprise, to be quite honest, for the spirit of the city is fuelled, in my personal belief, by the frenzied release and catapulting motion of our lives towards or against snow. Let me be more clear: the summers are incredible. Our skin is sacrificed against the parks and pavements of this city that dance in the illusion of joy and beauty: an annual cultural exposition of the city residents to the almighty Sun. This is the Montréal the world speaks of.
Well, as I sit in the warmth of my memories, I must also do justice to this city, my neighbours, and fellow regulars, and dispel the imagination that Montréal is only a paradise of carefree youth and unbridled creativity – I am currently shivering.
Our first snow fall took place 2 nights ago. What were subtle preparations for the cold's approach (unpacking winter sweaters and ordering hot coffees) were vulgarly destroyed. It is currently -11'C outside and ice is everywhere. And while I no longer dance out my door to lively parks or observe on meticulously-placed public benches, the fact that I did so a mere few weeks ago is enough for me to believe that there is only a certain type of person who can call such a city home: a stubborn, manic, spontaneous, and pure soul in love with the intensity of life. In my case, I find my morning prayer to be blessing the almighty Sun for having the courtesy of melting our side of the street overnight.
The seasons in Montréal dictate more than we let reveal to visitors. Our daily routines change, and we might as well be considered different versions of ourselves depending if you met Rasha in the summer, or Rasha in the winter. Yes, I will inevitably return in the following warm months wearing the same clothes I had packed earlier during the ritual of the transiting season. However, they never feel the same again as if off within a few centimetres in invisible seams.
Living in Montréal is being certain of the complete change you endure every year, and knowing that once the period returns once more, you will be slightly off towards another orbit. Since first arriving in Montréal in the summer of 2017, I was set on a strict course of what my imagination dreamt: a new and young beginning into the world of university, adulthood, independence, and revelation. And yet upon each changing season, I noticed slight alterations in my apparition, be it my physical disguise of clothes or my audible indentations within thoughts. Each cycle brought not my initial state but an altered version of myself. Each season rewrote its previous expression with a new addition of preferences and opinions. And at some point, I had to begin deciphering the naïve ideas of my own old journals.
This language that I write in is of complete influence of my entering of my 5th year in Montréal. My script is of colloquial expressions and unusual concepts foreign to the previous apparitions of myself that had once (apparently) lived in cities prior to Montréal. And I wonder how much longer I have until this way of writing expires, and my fingers run off towards another form of expression. What I believe in, however, is that I have found a version of myself in this city that is pure and true. I am at a place of my life where I recognize the reflection of my apparition in the mirror. And this is what I am attempting to record, to document, to have proof of its existence long after I move away from this city and from my youth.
Montréal has given me more than a place to live, people to meet, and stories to live. Montréal has forced me to reveal endless versions of myself through the certainty of changing seasons of the past 5 years. I see it as my duty to thank this city of life that has made me my own. And so, I begin to write the story of how I found myself through the people and the places of this city, Montréal.
(written at Humble Lion while shivering over a rapidly cooling black filtre coffee)