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.