story #3: the forgotten neighbour
location: cafe pikolo, 3418b ave. du parc
Hennessey has his coffee with 2 sugars.
"One cream?" I hear. "No cream," he repeats.
The steps outside the full cafe holds our presence. Regulars filter between us as the door creaks open and slowly closes. I sit beside Adam, our 2 coffees and croissants conversing.
"How old are you?" — "22" — "I'm 1973," we exchange.
I think of 1973 Montreal with its low cars and its large signs. I think of where home was then, long before I could call it Montreal. I think of who had called this place home, long before we could call it ours too.
A regular, Michael, filters between us. He had been here before — well, 10 years ago on these same steps outside the cafe, then only new in its first week of opening.
"Do you like it here?" Adam ask Hennessey.
"Yes, it is cheap here. It is expensive up north." He is from Canada: born in Montreal, raised in Baffin Island. He shuffles his head down, up, and looks to us.
"Do you like it here?" Hennessey asks us.
"Yes, it's much safer and there's more we can do." We became Canadians: born in the Middle East, raised in Canada. I shuffle my feet thinking of how we are given seats while he stands out, us being much more foreign than him "up north."
A regular's dog, Bailey, filters between us. She has come here before, each morning with more energy than ever, enough so to be granted Michael's watchful care by her owner disappearing behind the creaking door.
"I used to have a dog, a dog this big." Hennessey indicates with his out-turned hand. "Some rottweilers, too, back home."
Adam thinks of his dog back home.
Michael explains his excited presence: "It's my birthday today! And watching Bailey might just be the perfect present."
The dog excitedly jumps at our crowd greeting birthday wishes.
"I am just here visiting the places I used to call home during this weekend I have for celebration. I don't live here anymore. I'm now in Winnipeg caring for my mother, as one must do."
I think of the $300 flight to Winnipeg and the $1000 flight to Baffin Island. I think of how going home is a choice but sometimes, not an option.
Hennessey stands still. I look at his boots. He motions to place his coffee on the ground.
"I was hit by a taxi, 2 years ago: Mont-Royal and Saint-Denis."
I think of 1920 Mont-Royal and Saint-Denis with its tram lines and its heeled women.
"I was in a coma for 1 week."
His coffee spills and Bailey runs towards it. He signals at his lungs, and we look at him empty. He signals at his ribs, and we look at him quietly. He looks at us, and sees that what is left is to thank us.
"Thank you" — "But, of course" — "God loves you" — "He loves you, too" — "God bless you" — "Have a good day."
We walk away.
This city has not just my story to speak of.