by Guillaume Morissette
Véhicule Press, 2014
I laughed a little, began to feel a premature sense of kinship with Romy. She seemed uncomplicated and not stressed with things, the kind of person that could spell “elephant” with a W and know it’s wrong and not care. Cristian rejoined our conversation and informed us that Brent and Laura were going to a launch party for a magazine run by McGill students. I asked him what he was doing and he said, “Nothing,” and then explained that he felt inspired by The Holy Mountain and wanted to stay in and note down ideas before forgetting them. I said, “Okay.” I wasn’t sure if he was being serious or not.
Ten minutes later, Romy, Brent, Laura and I left the house. I walked beside Romy and felt myself wanting to impress her a little. I started worrying about my hair or face or what I was wearing or posture or the position of my hands. I didn’t do terrible at talking to her, but didn’t do excellent either. I thought, “I suck, my personality sucks, I wish I could photoshop my personality.”
We entered a building, ascended the stairs to the third floor, saw that the space where the launch was taking place was an art gallery. At the door, names of DJs appeared on a large poster that was duct- taped to a wall. “It could have just said, ‘Loud techno music,’ ” said Brent. Romy didn’t have money on her, so I paid for the both of us. To stamp us in, a tall girl with a black marker wrote “Babe” on the back of my right hand and then on the back of Romy’s hand. Inside, people were either dancing in the front or standing in the back, socializing in little teams of five or six.
“Sorry you had to pay for me,” said Romy.
“That’s okay,” I said. “I am used to it. Everyone’s broke.”
“Montreal,” said Romy. “Everyone’s broke, everyone’s partying anyway. I only moved here for school, so this is still funny to me.”
“Where are you from originally?” I said.
“Just, Ontario,” said Romy. “My dad was born in Texas, but he’s been living here for a while. He still has a strong Southern accent and gets looks in public when he orders at restaurants. I am going back there soon, for the summer. I’ll be here again in the fall, to finish my last two classes and graduate. I honestly don’t know how I’ll survive being home, but I don’t speak French, so it’s hard to get a job here.”
“It’s kind of insane how you can function entirely in English here and not have to worry about French all that much,” I said. “I mean, outside of getting a job. I have barely been using my French since moving into the Cinedrome house.”
“Are you from Montreal?” said Romy.
“No,” I said. “I lived in Quebec City before moving here. It’s much harder to get by if you don’t know French there. There was this guy I worked with, he had moved there from Halifax, and all he knew were basic greetings and the French word for chicken. He would go in restaurants and say ‘Poulet?’ until someone brought him warm food.”
“That guy could be my French tutor,” said Romy. “Do you think they sell beer here? Wait, I still don’t have money.”
“I still have the two from Cinedrome,” I said. “Hold on.”
I reached for my backpack and unzipped it and then looked for the aluminum cans. I handed her one.
“Thank you,” said Romy.
“You should see Cristian sneaking in beer everywhere,” I said. “He’s really good at it. He has all these strategies, like, if it doesn’t work the first time, he’ll go in an alley and drink beers there alone and try again later. He has kind of a drinking habit, but it’s not an expensive one. It’s more like a time-consuming one.”
“Why didn’t he come out with us?” said Romy.
“I have no idea. Cristian goes out a lot,” I said. “Nightlife is pretty much just life for him. He works, like, twenty hours per week, so if he’s not partying, he’s either working or sleeping all day to recuperate. I don’t know why he stayed home tonight.”
“Maybe he’s putting up a Craigslist ad about solving people’s murders for them,” said Romy. “I could murder you and ask him to solve it.”
“That would make him happy,” I said.
“I find it impossible to get anything done in Montreal sometimes,” said Romy. “I want to concentrate and be productive, but then there’s a distraction and all of a sudden I am at a party and it’s three days later and I still haven’t accomplished anything.”
“I think some people secretly don’t want you to be productive, because if you are, it puts more pressure on them to accomplish something,” I said. “They want you to go out with them all the time so that everyone’s mediocre and no one has to try.”
“You really think that’s what they’re trying to do?” said Romy.
“Maybe more subconsciously than consciously,” I said. “A lot of people go into art programs and then realize that it won’t go anywhere for them and quit, so they feel bitter about it a little.”
“I see what you mean,” said Romy.
“The only way to survive is to feel awkward at parties and leave,” I said. “Otherwise, if you like people and feel comfortable around people and don’t get bored of people, I could see partying being a full-time job.”
“I’ve done that, though,” said Romy. “Just, like, leave.”
“That’s good,” I said. “Feeling defeated by the party. We’re pioneering a new form of partying.”
“Lonely partying,” said Romy.
“Exactly,” I said. “We should get a patent for that.”
Romy finished her beer. I was still halfway through mine and tried catching up, but then the music stopped abruptly and lights were turned back on. “What’s going on?” a person near us said. Two police officers appeared at the door. Someone yelled that police cars were outside and that they were shutting down the venue. One of the DJs shouted a few times that they should keep going and pay whatever fine they get, but he was mostly ignored. More officers appeared. Most people stood there awkwardly. I stood there awkwardly. An officer interrogated the tall girl at the door. The rest were being surprisingly hands-off, not pressuring anyone to do anything, just waiting, arms crossed, as if assuming people would get bored, clean up after themselves, leave. All they seemed to be wanting was for the crowd to exit the building. Finally, the tall girl at the door got up on a chair and yelled, “Everyone, get the fuck out,” which got people to move.