The 1,763-Day Weekend
Part 12 — The Snowdon Wars of 2009
When I had moved to Montréal in April ’08, my dear friend Cleopatrick was in a bad way: he was between relationships, between jobs, between residences, between everything imaginable, quite frankly. However, he was so incredibly generous with me, coming all the way to Halifax to help me pack and move, and then settle into my new home in Montréal as I had to return to work as quickly as possible.
Because I wanted NowEx to finish his honours thesis, I figured it would be at least a year before he’d be coming to Montréal for a prolonged stay. One evening, Cleopatrick and I were chatting about how he really should move back to Montréal and about roommates. Long story short, I made him an offer: since I was having to pay for the apartment and the utilities anyway, why not have him move into the living room and he can pay for the food, do the cooking, and mop the place up once in a while?
Since that amounted to a lot less than getting a studio apartment, he accepted, and since NowEx and him got along so well, NowEx thought it was a good idea, too.
Despite there being no honours thesis in sight, NowEx and I had agreed he should come for an extended stay in Montréal starting late-June ’09. Since it wasn’t for his permanent stay, I figured we could manage the three of us in the apartment. Granted, with someone using the living room as his bedroom, we eventually would have had to change some things, like getting a TV in our bedroom and stuff like that. Of course, Cleopatrick had understood for the get-go that if it had been for NowEx’s permanent stay, that would have been the trigger event for his next move.
Except that we didn’t have time to start working on those changes before NowEx declared war on Cleopatrick. He resented his presence; he didn’t like his cooking; he felt Cleopatrick had no right to the groceries we had bought; he even didn’t like the thought that Cleopatrick was using the same bar of soap as us in the shower.
Did I see that one coming? Of course not. However, I want you to go back to the “Signs and Symptoms” section of that article in Wikipedia, for as much as Wikipedia can be trusted. With hindsight, it all makes sense to me now.
Yup! Now I’m remembering that time NowEx and I were seated at the kitchen table having dinner he’d prepared. He had made us a pitcher of agua de fresa to drink along with dinner. He poured us both a glass, but then, as he tried to place the quasi-full pitcher back on the table without looking at what he was doing, he missed and it splashed all over the kitchen floor.
“¡Puta tu madre!”
Okay, now it’s my mom’s fault and she ought to be fucked! (Kidding. I know that it’s a common expletive in Spanish. But it has to be one of the ugliest ones.)
It wasn’t just the “¡Puta tu madre!” part that was upsetting me, though. It’s that he turned verbally violent as he trashed things about and kept repeating the expletive over and over and over! I was just trying to stay calm and mop up the mess, but there was so much agua on the floor that, at first, it was just sloshing around. “That mop is no good!” he screamed at me. “You never have the right stuff in this house!”
Like the towels he deemed warned and shabby. Like the common laundry room in the basement he deemed unfit. Like the food that, well, wasn’t like in Mexico. Like the lack of a blender in the kitchen, which I eventually got at Value Village to shut him up.
I dropped the mop and went to sit in the living room. I was shaking. His violence was breathtaking and he kept screaming “¡Puta tu madre! ¡Puta tu MADRE!”, so I decided to just let him mop up the mess on his own.
If he could be like that for such a trivial accident of his own doing, what on earth would be in store for me the next time I did something he viewed practically as a mortal sin?
Was it any wonder, then, that a few days before, I had only one line that kept going through my head when he’d sent me on a fool’s errand? He had it in his head, based on some article he’d read somewhere on the Internet and believed without questioning, that Canadians were complacent in trusting their municipal water sources. In Mexico, of course, when using tap water that’s not boiled first, like when cleaning fruit and vegetables, it’s necessary to put a few drops of some kind of chemical to disinfect the water. We’d been eating a lot of fresh fruit, but he claimed it had to be the water that was causing him some intestinal discomfort. So, he sent me to fetch a little bottle of that chemical which nobody has ever heard of around here because …well, duh! …the water’s safe!
Oh, what was the line that kept going through my head as I was driving around on that fool’s errand, you ask?
You better find that shit, Maurice, or there’ll be hell to pay!
Finally, I found a Vietnamese pharmacist who understood what I was looking for, but of course didn’t have any. Maybe she saw the desperation that was registered in my face, for she calmly explained that if NowEx had concerns about the water here, which he shouldn’t, he could always put a bit of salt or vinegar in the water he used to wash fruit or veggies.
I got back home after being out hours longer than NowEx expected. I put away whatever else I had purchased and reported back what the pharmacist had said. Then, because I was so upset, I took refuge on the balcony.
He joined me after a few minutes. He mumbled some words of apology. I couldn’t stand to look at him but I finally did.
“When in Rome, do as the Romans,” I said. “You better learn that quick.” I couldn’t believe I actually had to say that, considering how he practically REQUIRED me not to stand out while in Mexico and to do as the Mexicans. But even afterwards, it seemed every other sentence started, either implicitly or explicitly, with “In Mexico, …” Of course, I would have been put in the dog house if I’d kept saying “In Canada…” whenever I was in — dare I be naughty? — Mexicolandia.
What’s more, perhaps what I failed to understand is that, in Mexicolandia — or, more specificially, with this Mexicolandian — a husband is expected to be his spouse’s constant organizer. Despite having enough trouble remembering to screw my head back on right in the morning, I was expected by NowEx to remember everything for him: bringing the sunscreen, his sunglasses, even when to take his medicine. My failure to remember the things on his to-do or to-bring lists would invariably earn me the reproach of “not remembering about him,” which was his poorly veiled way not only of accusing me of thinking only about myself but also to project his failings onto me.
So, when the Snowdon Wars of 2009 weren’t explosive outbursts, they were, for me, like a low-grade but recurring toothache — the kind where you curse yourself when you forget about it and then bite into something hard on the affected tooth. Except that my toothache was forgetting to remember his junk, which would bring the pain in the form of his accusation of my selfishness. But clearly I had become numb and I took it all (although wincing each time) because I had long abandoned common sense or the realization that his accusations were groundless and were playing right into my own insecurities.
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