Then and Now

Memoirs of a Downward Facing Dog

I remember the day that I moved to Montreal.

I had been dumped just a few months before. The original plan was to move to Montreal with my at-the-time boyfriend. We both were accepted to university and thought it would be just the fresh start we needed to give our floundering relationship a second chance. I was to move home with my parents for three months prior to Montreal to work in the States and save up some money, while he tidied up loose ends at our house. So with only my dog and a suitcase, I flew back to Massachusetts, still in love and hopeful.

Three days later he dumped me over the phone.

I spent a good many days into weeks sobbing uncontrollably. I worked 70-hour weeks to numb and distract. The proverbial carpet had been pulled out from under me and I had no idea what to do next. Until one day, I woke up and said, “Fuck it. I’m going to Montreal anyways.”

I knew no one, didn’t speak the language, and at this point, had never even been to the city. My first roommate and I found each other on an online roommate referral service, based on the sheer fact that we both “loved to dance.”  One phone conversation was all it took for us to seal the deal, and soon enough she was searching for our apartment.

The day of the move, my parents drove me up to the city with a borrowed horse trailer filled with my belongings attached to their SUV. A new horse trailer. It was a Friday night in June. By the time we rolled into the city, the streets were bustling as Friday night streets bustle. Cars double parked and whizzing up St. Denis, passing us with only centimeters to spare on the sides of the horse trailer. Squeegee kids didn’t even bother with the windshield of our unusual caravan. And the proximity of pedestrians, cars and bicyclists to the truck had Mom white knuckling the “oh-shit” handles. My new roommate was at a concert with her boyfriend, so I had to pick up the key in his mailbox. He lived off of Rue Prince Arthur, a pedestrian-only street lined with restaurants.

It was a sultry summer’s night, and the terrasses were packed. People clinked their wine glasses in a cacophony of laughter and life. The globes of the street lamps cast warm, inviting light across the colorful awnings that lined the cobblestone street. The water fountain giggled its gurgling little song while a street performer played music, and pedestrians walked past the historic, old buildings; architectural remnants of their French and British influences. A mini-Europe bustling with a vibrant joie de vivre. I practically skipped down the street with the key in my hand, thinking, “Oh my god. I live here.”

Fast forward ten years and a lifetime later, and I am visiting Montreal to teach. Walking down that same street, the awnings now flap placidly amongst the grey dust that covers the street after a particularly brutal winter. Nearly all the restaurants have “A Louer “signs in their windows, as if “A Louer” is French for forgotten, tired, neglected…help me. The fountain does not gurgle, but rather chokes on the cigarette butts that line its bottom. Prince Arthur is like a ghost-town, and although pedestrians still walk down its gum-crusted cobblestone, it does not shine at one fraction of its former glory.

It’s funny how things change. Ten years later, I am still friends with that roommate. We just spent a Friday afternoon together; four girls sitting at a kitchen table drinking wine and talking about boys and love; the hardships and joys of life and we laughed and it felt exactly the same. Teaching at the Montreal studio felt like home, and there is no place that compares to the warm welcome that I feel just walking up those Nag Champa-scented stairs. Moving to Montreal was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It changed me.

So when I got off my plane in Portland, I took in my first deep breath of air so fresh it almost tastes green, and it felt like coming home.  Our car passed the dogwoods, the flowers, all that open space, and I lifted my chin to the crisp drops of rain on my face.

And I suspect that this move, too, will change me, because with that same sense of joy in my belly, I thought to myself, “Oh my god. I live here.”




4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mary Lynn
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 21:45:56

    Sending much love! Xoxoxoxo


  2. Carrie Cormier
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 06:25:50

    I’ve always wanted to make the trip to Montreal or old Quebec. I hate how people always go on about how different les québécois are. Yes they are different, but they seem to have a happier life than the rest of us.


    • Jennifer Reed
      May 02, 2014 @ 13:14:32

      Thanks for reading, Carrie! Montrealers are AMAZING–not different, just a different language! You should definitely go visit! Summertime is the best time!


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