What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Part 5

When I announced the dates of my visit to Cleopatrick, I suggested that we should go to Montréal together. I very much enjoy the company of his housemates, but I also really wanted some time just with him, in the city where he has lived most of his life, so that I could get an insider’s perspective on what I should be looking for in a move to Montréal. So I was very pleased to hear him declare shortly after my arrival on Monday that he’d set aside Wednesday as the day for our trip into the city, for it indicated he had been successful in appeasing his housemates about this plan. (Never mind the details.)

I was only able to leave El Poema a voice-mail message early Monday evening. I figured he was still sleeping off what was ailing him, but at least he would know that I would be back in Montréal shortly. (Turns out El Poema never checks his messages.) Despite being exhausted, I stayed up talking with Cleopatrick until 3:00 am, which is consistent behaviour for us.

The next day was surprisingly delightful: most of his family visited, and I’m particularly fond of his parents. The day ended with a huge bonfire in the front yard. By that point I noticed that I started to keep more to myself, although still enjoying the company. You can well imagine where my thoughts were drifting.

Cleopatrick and I left for Montréal shortly after noon on Wednesday without firm plans other than explore neighbourhoods and eventually getting El Poema to join us for dinner. We followed the Chemin du Roy into the city instead of the freeway, and stopped twice on our way in. It’s during our second stop that I noticed that I had almost no power left in my cell phone although I had recently charged it, because I had left it on in analog (rather than digital) areas. This caused me to panic a little: I didn’t have El Poema’s number written down on paper. Fortunately, Cleopatrick knew of a place not far from where we were where I could buy a cell-phone charger for the car. My reaction to the low-power cell phone still amuses me; I’m not usually given to teenager-like panic attacks over some guy.

Crisis resolved and cell phone charging, Cleopatrick got me to drive around the Hochelaga Maisonneuve neighbourhood which I’d mentioned I thought promising. He got me to park off Bennett and, the moment I stepped out of the car, I immediately felt at home. As we walked around the neighbourhood, I thought of how Stephanie would have a field day when visiting me: “She’ll never run out of urban landscapes for her camera in this area alone!” A bit later, we came across a street that prompted me to say, “Oh, I have to live on Bourbonnière because it’ll be too sweet to hear Stephanie trying to pronounce that name!” Eventually, Cleopatrick and I stopped for a coffee at the Presse-Café on the corner of Pie IX and Ontario and looked at ads for apartments in the area. And let me tell you: it is *SO* settled that I’ll be looking in this area; the prices are the same or even less than the bargain I have in Halifax! The differences are that heat is not included and, for most, I will have to get my own fridge and stove, but whatever! Once settled, I will be in about the same situation as in Halifax, with the difference that Ontario Street is like Halifax’s Agricola Street on steroids — unique little restaurants alongside pawn shops, an edgy yet safe feeling… In fact, I suspect even safer in spots than Agricola.

It was nearing 6:00 when we returned to the car, from where I immediately called El Poema. Since he doesn’t check his voice mail, he was extremely surprised to hear that I was back in Montréal, albeit only for a few hours. We arranged to pick him up in about a half hour.

He was waiting for us on the steps of his apartment. I was so excited I could bust, and Cleopatrick’s comment upon seeing him cross the street towards us was, “Ooooh yeah… The pictures really don’t do him justice.” Much to my pleasure and distraction, the two of them got along like a house on fire — the distraction causing me to miss the street on which I was supposed to turn. But soon enough we found ourselves in the Village seeking a quiet outside terrace where to have supper. As we were walking down Ste-Cat, El Poema and I hand in hand, he abruptly voiced what we were both feeling at the very moment: “I’m so happy and so nervous about seeing you again, but what a wonderful surprise.”

To be honest, my memories of the whole evening are disjointed. They’re at once a blur and razor sharp — from dinner, where I whispered to El Poema that he was at the bonfire at Cleopatrick’s the night before though he didn’t know it, to the hours in Parc Mont Royal overlooking the city, where El Poema DJed with his cell phone, to driving to the Olympic Stadium at midnight, where El Poema took me in his arms and said, “You really are crazy …and beautiful.” Intoxicating, fun, spontaneous, and bitter sweet all at the same time. Dropping him off home in the wee hours of the morning, not knowing what if anything would be next, was the hardest. Neither of us knew what to say.

The next day as I was driving back to Nova Scotia, my cell phone rang just after Rivière-du-Loup, so I pulled over. And I’d be lying if I said that what I heard surprised me.


What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Part 4

I had planned on going to Oka Beach on Saturday, but that was well before I found myself waking up around noon with El Poema in my arms.

So instead, we showered and went for brunch on Ste-Cat, and after a quick stop at his apartment so he could change, we found a shady spot on Mont Royal where we sat. Just now I was going to write that we talked, but I think it’s fair to say that I did more listening than talking. As a result, I learned a lot about El Poema — from what he said and didn’t say, and how he said what he felt like saying. I was moved by that as much as by his ability to recite verses of poetry to reference what he had just said. Perhaps it doesn’t take much to impress a guy like me who can’t remember a phone number 5 seconds after looking it up, let alone full verses of poetry.

He had prior plans to go out with friends that evening, so I drove him home shortly before 6:00. He said he would try to extract himself early from the gathering, and I encouraged him to call me whenever he was done. I ended up spending what was probably the hottest evening this summer in Montréal by myself, but that wasn’t so bad. I decided to beat the heat by taking advantage of Junior’s air conditioning and get lost around town to find a neighbourhood I could imagine myself living in. It was confirmed the following Wednesday when I returned with Cleopatrick that I’ll likely settle on the western half of Hochelaga Maisonneuve. (When I told that to CoCo upon my return to work this week, she replied, “Who knows where destiny will take you …but if there, we’ll practically be neighbours!”)

After my little drive, I had a coffee at the park where I met El Poema the night before, enjoying the zany characters of the Village and hoping he would call. By midnight, I did a bit of bar hopping for serial gin and tonics and found myself “home” by 2:00ish. I slept well but did wake briefly shortly after 5:00. That’s when the phone rang and I knew it could only be him. We spoke just long enough to agree on making plans sometime after noon.

I picked him up around 1:00 and introduced him to my notion of going on a nowhere: “I was thinking that since you’ve only been to Toronto and Montréal, you should see the nation’s capital, which is only 2 hours away.” He probably thought I was a little crazy — actually, I know he thinks I’m a little crazy — but he was game. So we stopped at a dep for refreshments before getting on the highway to Ottawa.

Turns out it was even more suffocatingly hot in Ottawa than in Montréal, and minutes after we were walking around Parliament Hill, he asked that we avoid the sun because he suddenly wasn’t feeling well. Of course I couldn’t resist a wise crack — “What kind of Mexican are you to mind the sun so much?” — but we immediately sat under trees next to Parliament, and in short order he felt a bit better. So much better, in fact, that we were feeling naughty enough to neck a little in plain sight of the tourists, including several women wearing burkas. While my “problem” was that I couldn’t keep my hands off El Poema, I have to admit I rather liked making the statement about what MY Canada can be, right there on Parliament Hill! Besides, weren’t we only doing what I’m sure thousands of straight couples have done under the same trees?

After a while we decided that a meal in a cool place would be good, and I thought we could find something around Somerset and Bank — Ottawa’s version of the Village. But once there, I remembered why I’m no big fan of Ottawa. Once you’re out of “official Ottawa” — away from Parliament, downtown, the national museums and the embassies — it’s actually a rather seedy little city whose inhabitants seem terribly frumpy. It’s hard to believe there are over a million people in this area — so much so that El Poema couldn’t suppress the comment as he looked around, “Small town, big hell.” We settled on an English pub on Bank, and as the afternoon turned to early evening, mean-looking storm clouds gathered outside. But safe a few lightening flashes and a few raindrops, the storm passed us by and we decided to drive back to Montréal.

I think I’ll remember this drive as long as I live. As soon as we exited the city, El Poema realized he simply had to have a nap, so he reclined his seat, untied his hair, placed his left hand on my lap, and promptly drifted off. As my Hypnotech 3 CD played, everything became surreal: the sun pierced through the clouds from behind, making everything glow oddly; in front were dark end-of-the-world clouds; to the right, lighter grey clouds spitting tremendous bolts of lightening; to the left, a partial rainbow; immediately next to me, a man with a beautiful mane of hair, head tilted slightly, sleeping peacefully, his hand still resting on my lap. I came close to waking him when the rainbow appeared, but opted against it because I realized that El Poema slumbering was but one of the components that made this moment utter perfection.

Alas, back in Montréal, it became apparent that El Poema was very unwell. By 10:00 he fell asleep in my bed and sweated out a fever; I slept lightly that night, waking often to check on him. In the middle of the night I gave him some Tylenol — the same Tylenol I bought the night I met him. By morning, he declared feeling nauseous and, sure enough, he soon had to run to the bathroom.

“What a terrible way to say goodbye,” he said as I was dropping him home about an hour later. Indeed it was sad, especially since it was entirely possible we would never see each other again because I was heading to Cleopatrick‘s later that day and then to Halifax later that week, and who knew if he’d still be in Montréal the next time I would be visiting (or moving).

“I’ll call you tonight from Cleopatrick’s to see how you’re doing,” I said, refusing to believe this would be the last time I would hold him in my arms.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Part 3

Back at the B&B after purchasing some Tylenol at the “dep” (i.e., dépanneur, Québec French referring to a corner store) near the Beaudry metro station, I called Mr. J and made tentative plans for Sunday (which, incidentally, never materialized). Then I called Cleopatrick to confirm I would arrive in his neck of the woods on Monday afternoon. After that I just sat on the balcony for a few smokes until I noticed that my headache was gone. So about an hour after I had left the little park on Ste-Cat, I returned there with a bottle of water I picked up at the dep.

Shortly after I arrived, the Andrews lookalike also returned. This time I nodded more assertively, and this time he came over and asked me, “May I sit with you?” I think he may have asked in French first but he quickly indicated that he was more comfortable in English …or Spanish, since he’s from Mexico. So English it would be, and he sat beside me.

At this point, I don’t mean to be coy but I shouldn’t give too many details about him, in part because a detailed “kiss and tell” on this blog wouldn’t be fair to him, and in part because it’s necessary for his sake not to publish too much personal info about him. So what handle should I give him in this blog?

Mi PoemaWell, quite spontaneously later on, I found myself calling him — now prepare yourself for a heavy-duty dose of corniness — mon beau prince aux cheveux longs (my beautiful long-haired prince), but that’s a bit of a mouthful, not to mention that I should not want to make my few but dear readers gag repeatedly. But before I left Cleopatrick last Thursday, I confided that the word that comes to my mind when I think of him — again brace yourself — is poetry. Slim, graceful, and taller than me, he is 29, erudite (Spanish literature), passionate yet soft-spoken, has the kindest brown eyes I have ever had the pleasure of drowning myself into, and a spectacular mane of dark hair which, when untied, is positively regal. His genetic heritage is truly mestizo as would be expected from “the greatest genetic laboratory in world,” as he put it. Thus, all this together leads to one stunningly handsome man who quite simply takes my breath away, leaving me nearly speechless. So as presumptuous as it may be, I am compelled to refer to him herein as El Poema.

We spent the whole night on Ste-Cat talking and walking, walking and talking, sitting and talking, until finally I just had to gently kiss this most incredible man I had had the great fortune of meeting — onlookers be damned! Eventually I brought him to my room, and while I don’t want to dip into the TMI file, I will say that it was the furthest thing from raunchy. At one point, accustomed as I am to people commenting on my eyes, I matter-of-factly explained they “came” from my father’s side, for as I wrote in his eulogy, my father had “beautifully soft grey blue eyes.” And to that El Poema said, almost whispering, “Your father is still living in your eyes.”

That’s when I nearly started to cry.

Moving stranger,
Does it really matter,
As long as you’re not afraid to feel?
Touch me, hold me.
How my open arms ache!
Try to fall for me.

How I’m moved.
How you move me
With your beauty’s potency.
You give me life.
Please don’t let me go.
You crush the lily in my soul.

Kate Bush — Moving (mp3, 2.9 MB, 3:03)

What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Part 2

I left Québec City the next morning for my lunch date in Montréal with CoCo, my day-job colleague whom I’d not yet met in person. Originally from Egypt but living in Montréal for 40 years now, CoCo is a quintessential Montrealer — a classy, multilingual woman in her early 60s who loves to laugh and has a deep but unassuming understanding of what savoir-vivre is about. The drive into the busy city earlier provided my first sign that I’m destined for Montréal: although I had only consulted a rudimentary map the day before, I was able to navigate my way without problem directly to our rendez-vous spot in the heart of downtown.

After lunch and meeting other colleagues in offices at Place Ville-Marie, I found my way to the B&B where I was staying and had a nice long chat with the friendly and hospitable owner. After a little nap and a shower, I had supper in The Village and eventually, taking advantage of the sultry night air, sat among the people gathered in the little park across from Saloon on Ste-Cat and sipped on orange-flavoured coffee from Starbucks. Summers were made for Montréal, or perhaps it’s the other way around, but it doesn’t matter. It is simply a delight just to be there on such an evening.

That’s when a slighter, younger and bespectacled Naveen Andrews lookalike sat on a marble block diagonally from me.

Given that I have repeatedly failed Cruising 101 and, as a result, live in constant fear of having my gay membership card revoked, the best I could muster after a while was a smile when our eyes locked but for a few seconds. I quickly convinced myself that the smile was reciprocated only out of politeness and refused to believe that I, and not some other younger character near me, was the object of his occasional nonchalant glances in my direction. So convinced was I that when I began to have a headache, which I assumed was due to the heat and eating too late, I merely got up, smiled as I walked by him, and left the park.

Later I learned that he followed me until he lost me in the crowd on Ste-Cat.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Part 1

I turned 42 at 1:25 this morning. And my vacation ends today, too. That first statement is banal, but the second refers to a rather extraordinary event. For although I was only gone for a week, I feel as though I packed in much more than a week’s worth of everything.

On Day 1, I drove out of Halifax shortly before 7:00 am and reached Québec City in what seemed like a flash. It was rather grey and miserable when I left, but by Moncton I could see a clear delineation of the cloud line to the west: I was driving into blue skies and, indeed, by Fredericton, I was privied to a marvelous summer day that persisted right through to Québec City.

I had no trouble finding the hostel where I was staying, although I must say that referring to it as a hostel is extending the meaning of that word. It was very clean and the outside of the building was promising, but it’s really more of a sauna where the hotel section was an afterthought. Not that I have anything against saunas, but the accommodations weren’t up to the standards of the B&Bs to which I’ve become accustomed in Montréal. But on the bright side, it’s located just within the walled city which makes QC — in my opinion — the most historically and culturally amazing city on this continent.

The same cannot be said of gay life in QC, though. Although the population of the metropolitan area is more than twice Halifax’s, it is quite possibly more provincial. There is precisely one club worth mentioning, and drag queens are the big thing there at the exclusion of other “gay things,” plus I found the people remarkably standoffish. I had heard that about QC, but it was very apparent to me this time. But there’s always a bright side: I found that a delightful restaurant, Le Hobbit, still existed at the corner of St-Jean and Ste-Geneviève. I had a memorable supper there 17 years ago with Poupoune and her partner at the time, so while I waited for my meal on the sidewalk terrace, I couldn’t resist calling Poupoune from my cell phone and leaving her a voice-mail message.

My last stop before turning in that night was at Porte St-Jean to listen to a small group of Latino buskers. I had no idea how prescient that moment would be.