It’s been eleven days now. I’ve written this many times, only to backspace my words and move on to another project. But I need to say it now, need to get it out of my system and put it behind me for good.
It was a Wednesday afternoon and I’d just gotten out of the shower. I had my Bettie Page towel wrapped around my body and was walking through the hallway toward my bedroom. The doorbell rang, but we weren’t expecting anyone, so I went out to the balcony to see who it was. There was my ex, standing at the door below. I wonder if he heard me gasp “Oh my god!” from three floors above. I dashed back into the house, shocked and shaking, asking my roommates, “What do I do? What do I do?” I knew that I couldn’t answer the door wearing just my towel (only because it would be too fitting – the first time we met, I had answered the door to him and his band in the very same towel), so I paced back and forth, thinking aloud, “I don’t want to see him. I feel sick. I have nothing to say.” But I figured he must have shown up for a reason, so I went to my room to throw on some clothes and told my roommates to buzz him in. Well, by the time I’d made up my mind, he was already gone.
I stared below from the balcony again, and spotted a package leaning up against the door. One of my roommates went downstairs to pick it up for me. Just as I’d thought, it was full of film, all of the film that he’d stolen from me several months earlier. Remember? I wrote about it here. He’d actually emailed me two weeks prior about returning my film and said that it was “taking up space”. As if I had left it behind in order to inconvenience him. As if I hadn’t spent months begging him to return my belongings. I told him to either mail it to me, or pass it along to a mutual friend. The fact that he showed up at my door when I’d made it very clear that I didn’t want to see him was a total violation of my boundaries. I can’t imagine why he held onto my belongings for so long, aside from exerting what little power he had left over me, so this act was something similar. (What was he thinking?)
After he disappeared, I begun to wonder if I’d made a mistake by not having opened the door right away. What if he had something to say to me? Maybe even an apology? Scratch that, because shortly afterward, another one of his stickers was found down the street. He slapped his band’s sticker right up over mine, and I peeled it down just like I do with all the others. And I thought to myself, if he is still behaving this way, then I am awfully glad I didn’t speak to him in person. It couldn’t possibly have been productive.
I’ve told you about this, right? The way he follows me around the city and leaves a trail of stickers everywhere we go? It started on the day I moved into this apartment, when he put up stickers all along Ste-Catherine and through the streets of Hochelaga, making sure my building was surrounded. Then he put a sticker on every streetlight, telephone pole and postbox between metro Mont-Royal and my best friend’s house (actually, he did that twice). Everywhere I go, there he is, always reminding me of his presence. Like he cannot stand the fact that I might not be thinking about him for just a moment, he needs to tell me he’s been here too, make sure that I am reminded of him. He is a dog marking his territory, but he does it with stickers in lieu of piss. Nearly five months since we broke up, and he still can’t leave me alone.
I will do what I always do, which is to look for the positive in all of this. The stickers have become a joke among my friends, who also tear them down from around the city (sometimes I wish I’d saved them all so we could turn them into confetti). And now that I’ve got my film back, I’m free to take pictures and begin new projects. It wasn’t one hour after he’d left that I was outside with my camera in hand, taking pictures of graffiti and vintage signs – two of my favourite things. The photos belong to an unfinished series titled Les ruelles de Hochelaga. I spend so much time at friends’ places that I’ve barely explored my own neighbourhood, so it’s always an adventure to me. At one point, a man stopped me in the street to tell me about a secret garden that had been planted at an abandoned fast food restaurant; there I found eggplants and cherry tomatoes. I am telling you, this city is magical.
Let me tell you about magical. Memorizing the words to Karkwa’s songs and feeling so proud of myself to be learning how to sing in French. Going to see them play to a hundred thousand people on Thursday night, knowing that they’d played to a crowd of less than a hundred people in my twin’s home city of Guelph, Ontario only a few nights before. Reading Anaïs Nin’s journals on the metro ride home and being moved by her words in a way that I rarely feel. Spending the next day sat in various parks with nothing but my thoughts and a spiral notebook, and at one point finding myself in the middle of an outdoor lecture publique, where literature students read aloud pieces that they’d written about their favourite authors. Wandering through streets that I’ve yet to explore, admiring their unique gardens and painted balconies. Spending an evening with my best friends, then walking all the way home from the Plateau because autumn may be setting in, but the weather is still quite lovely at night. Yes, it is a magical city indeed.