The stillest I’ve been since quitting my parents’ house at nineteen was my first apartment in Montreal. I spent the three years of undergrad in this 4th floor 2 ½. (I never figured out the numeracy of Montreal dwelling, but believe this half refers to the bathroom. I could look this up, but maybe I’ll leave that to you—whoever you are.) The summer leading up to my moving in, the building had been chock-a-block with drug labs and caught fire on a weekly basis. These street scientists were ousted by the time I moved in and replaced by moody couples who were not thrilled with where they lived.
The parquet floor stands out in my memory, as well as the blister of water damage above my shower. I was nineteen when I moved in, so still found movie posters to be an acceptable decoration choice. There were these potheads next door who would always knock to borrow my guitar tuner and never return it. They were black and muscular, and having just come from a town whose racial quilt was made up of two patches, Caucasian and Asian, I was also so ashamed by my kneejerk fear of these guys that I never bothered to get my tuner back.
But nothing stands out as strongly as my feeling embarrassed about living there, in that highrise--which, by the way, had a thirteenth floor. I was in Montreal just as it was becoming the goddamn hippest place to be, living in a grey downtown apartment building while my just-as-new-to-the-city peers were finding cheap niches on the Plateau, where their bedrooms were as big as my apartment. These apartments had French doors, the glass hazy and old paint flaking; tangled layers of 60’s era bikes on the porch; rickety chairs culled from the curb and crudely painted whatever gaudy colour; overgrown backyards; languid cats that seemed to have come with the flats; deadly, drunken trudges up the icy helixes already rickety spiral stairs. Most of my friends lived with more roommates than I’d ever had visitors to my expensive, small, white bread apartment.
I wanted to be one of these freewheelin’ people living in one of these freewheelin’ places. And my life since, as I’ve lillypadded from place to place, has been a constant reminder that I’m not so freewheelin’, that I’m a fairly melvin and often prefer to be alone. Fun houses are places I’d rather visit than live.