story #9: 4 corners of an intersection
location: cafe replika, 252 rachel est
What 2 weeks and a few days have done to me, I sit with the same demeanour and look at the same people passing around me. Unlike my previous storytellings, I shall be as simple as I may permit myself to be (lest I fall into a complicated tangent that trips over itself mid-thought.)
2 weeks ago, we had the story ready to go (it is of the scene I only need tilt my head softly to the right to see.) 1 week ago, I had my words mixed in my memories of the summers here (of when this corner was of bicycles and green leaves, birkenstocks and cross-legged friends). Now, I have the words to speak of this scene (as I look at the grey sludge of snowfall and absence of bold winter bikers avoiding the inevitable construction further up their lane).
This is the intersection of Rachel x Laval. At each corner persists a patron story to the vernacular corner stores' themselves. (Before I proceed, I must lay out the fundamentals of location orientation: for that, you must believe me when I say that Montreal's sun rises in the South. Our cardinals crown Mont Royal as king North, and St. Lawrence as abiding South. So if I dare claim a street corner to being West, please refer to the map of the city with the tilt of your head softly to the right. Proceed.)
2 weeks ago, amidst the peril of -25'C weather, we sat on the Southeast side of the abandoned white storefront that generously collects the morning sun's warmth. It is always a good place to have our coffee as, at our level, we are always greeted by 2 kind eyes and a hanging tongue (the dogs of this neighbourhood know us well). We sit with watch over the 2-way bike lane (when we bike, this is a preferred route to go.) In this weather, however, the strange ones emerge (these are often the quiet ones like Luke who peacefully listens to jazz, or Matthew who contemplates the author's hidden critique. Nevertheless, their quiet temperaments find voice in the silent streets of a Montreal winter.) Winter bikers, crosscountry runners, European skiers, mama's strollers, and of the sort continue on their routines. No matter the season, no matter the week, the story remains the same on this corner of the street.
1 week ago, I was lost in the words of my memories and unable to write of any story that hadn't already expired in the sweltering heat of the summer. I had enough of the cold, of the confinement, of the lethargy of almost suffocating comfort in the confines of my prisoned-home. To escape, I thought of the days on this intersection itself (I move my gaze to fall straight ahead at the scene:) the Northwest side props another white facade with a mural on its side. A clean mural, one would say, except for the cyclical drama of mural-graffiti-barewall-mural-graffiti-etc. While a mural-graffiti-wall may hide in any alley of an urban intersection, you recognize this to be one of Montreal's own for if you inspect the scene a bit closer, you will recognize a French-English sign asking with sincerity to avoid drawing on the walls (if possible of course.) Still, the white wall is decorated like sprinkles on a vanilla cone. At least somewhat fitting, for this corner is an ice-cream shop, open in the few months of absolute sweltering bliss and closed for the remainder of the refrigerator days. One only wonders how they are able to survive, but then again, the thought of even one summer's day can keep any resident on the verge of insanity from releasing a little manic chuckle, and continue on their snow-filled pavement stumbling back home.
Now, I sit with words that pour in a manner only warmth could allow. I have my coffee indoors with my toes still attached to my feet. On the Southwest side of the street, I sit at the communal table of the cafe that, interestingly, has no heat. Comically, the croissants in their ovens and the people in the seats generate enough warmth to override Montreal's winter. Unfortunately, only so much warmth can be contained within a 2m distance of 50% capacity. I think, in the very least, my toes can still feel themselves quiver at the thought of being felt, not frozen, on the pavement outside. In the very least, my hot coffee remains as warm coffee, and not an unexpected order of iced coffee at its encounter with windchill. I think, in the very least, that this scene remains a true retelling of the events of this intersection and its characters, for no matter the year nor season, Montreal stalls change and remains the honest and simple village that it has always been.
It is going to be very hard to leave this place.