In Montreal I am staying in “The Village” and by now I have my favourite nearby spots to write and listen to lectures and to meet and observe the people around me. So that will be reflected in the stories I find here.
This story reminds me that a lot of people are one small step away from homelessness.
The fellow in my story knew how to use what he had to stay off the street. You know what, we can judge other’s actions, but I see no shame in it. I’m not living his life. If he’s not hurting anyone, he has nothing to be ashamed of. As far as I could see, he probably contributes to the lives of those he interacts with.
Humans used to live much more dependently. Our communities were stronger, communal in fact. We would take care of each other when one of us fell down. Our interdependence created a stronger sense of us, and we, and consideration for the other, and conscientiousness that so many people no longer show the stranger. Today we wander through the world more-or-less independent. If things go wrong, we might fall. And for some, there is no one there to catch them.
This isn’t a great story, it’s not a piece of writing I’m excited about or anything. But as I share it I am feeling very grateful. If you know where you’re sleeping tonight, I hope you might feel grateful too. It’s a good emotion to embrace.
Finding His Way
My regular view of the comings and goings of customers in this coffee shop of Montreal’s village is disrupted. My attention is pulled to a striking gentleman who bears resemblance to someone I knew in London many years ago. I Google the fellow I’m thinking of and discover that he has his own Wikipedia page. I knew his sister did. I look from his photo to the gentleman in front of me and think, yes, this is a younger version.
The fellow before me wears a vibrant red polo, perfectly ironed, and beige slacks. Not your average relaxed American staple, these ones look tailored, they fit perfectly. He stands out in a sea of muted urban colours. I figure he’s hovering around the age of thirty. He has a precisely trimmed chin strap – a perfect narrow line of beard accentuating his square jaw. On his sockless feet he wears loafers the colour of caramel.
He carries with him a large gym bag. Not surprising that he’d be enroute to or from the gym, his muscles bulge against his clothing. He doesn’t look like a body builder, his proportions are more natural. But we all know it takes some work to look that healthfully natural.
He needs to charge his phone. I don’t notice there’s an outlet beside me soon enough and he ends-up taking an awkward seat by some cheerfully friendly older men who jump on the opportunity of sharing his company and quickly they have the cord of this charger tethering him near.
We would have chatted easily, he has declared that his English is better than his French, that much I could understand. I would have been curious to know his story. But I also noticed something that has me thinking, perhaps it’s good we don’t meet.
When he opened his gym bag to get his charger, it wasn’t a gym bag. It carried all of his essentials, none of which were nearly the calibre of the outfit he was wearing. It instantly dawned on me that he was looking for a place to stay. He would use his appearance to get it.
I can see my apartment from where I am sitting. I have a spare room, I’d be happy for the company. He would need to do nothing for it. But what if he wanted more than a room. I don’t mean sex, we’re in a gay village and he is stunning, he can get sex whenever he wants. I’m thinking more along the lines of waking up to find my iPad and iPhone and wallet missing. Find myself having been drugged for him to have time to poke through my things, find my passport, cash, car keys . . .
I watch from afar. No, he’s not looking for sex, he’s looking for accommodation. He’s targeting older guys and plainer guys – guys who would be grateful to be with him. Finished with testing the waters with the gentlemen inside, he unplugs his phone and moves outside. He has grabbed a random book from the bookshelf and pretends to read. This is apparent because he approached the shelf from a distance took one without consideration, and returned to his seat with it. He didn’t ponder a few choices. Sure, he could be returning to a book started previously, but it doesn’t look like it. It seems like he opens it to a random page and then, like me, is just watching the people around him.
Before long he is sitting with an amicable looking fellow in his mid fifties. He’s wearing a boring checkered shirt that does not hide his mid-sized pot belly. An unkempt beard. A beige checkered fedora that suggests that he’s trying to look interesting but has no idea how. He looks middle-class suburban, probably has a few spare bedrooms in a dull quiet neighbourhood. I kind-of hope for my foreign friend that he will welcome some company without any strings attached. He does look hopeful, I can see that. They both do, but for different outcomes I am sure of it.
There may be disappointment, but something is better than nothing, isn’t it?
A few days later I see the young gentleman again. He’s dressed far more casually now and he’s holding hands with a new boyfriend. This other fellow is not not strikingly handsome but they’re around the same age. They make a nice couple. I feel happy for him. He looks content. Safe.
I didn’t feel compelled to offer him a temporary place to stay with me even though I thought about it, and in that hopefully he found the right situation for him. Sometimes if we feel obligated to help when it doesn’t feel right, we are robbing someone of finding the situation that would have been a good fit for both parties. I’m not suggesting that things always work out though, sometimes things fall completely apart.
Lets all be thankful for the good things we have in our lives. We all have something to be thankful for.
If you are reading this as an email, click on the title (in blue) to open the email in a browser to see any videos. Click on the image below to view the short clip.
Grateful to be cycling again! First day exploring Montreal by bicycle, in the Parc de la Fountaine:
Grateful for my good health! I did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge this week. It’s an awareness campaign where people post this kind of video on their Facebook, make a donation, and nominate three friends to do the same. Some have argued that too much money is going to this specific charity, but I argue that no one is taking that money away from other charities by people being moved to donate. They’re more likely skipping a few lattes and going with brewed coffee for a few days here in the first world. Other nervous system disorders could use the money too though, so if you’re feeling grateful and would like to make a difference, how about donating to MS? I’ll put a link below.
Share your gratefulness for living each day by making a donation. You just never know what support you’ll need yourself someday and it’s good for strengthening our world-community. It really needs strengthening.
There are lots more things I’m grateful for today, but I’ll save them for another time. Okay, maybe just two more – family and friends. Spending time getting to know friends better here in Montreal is for sure the highlight of being here.
Lastly, feeling grateful for the comfy bed I’ll be sleeping in again tonight:
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