Photo by halfandheart.
Inspired by the short story "Mont Royal," by Jaspreet Singh.
When I moved to this city, lady, I thought the cross on the top of the mountain was actually the letter 't,' you see, I came here from Broisbiand, in exodus of the ultra-orthodox Jewish family from which my skin is sewn, stitch by stitch, and I hiked up Mont Royal with eager steps to see what other letters were planted there, nearby, my beard beginning to turn white and moist, making me look older than my years, and this angered me, hotly, so that I clenched my fists and buried them in my heavy black animal fur coat—as black as my heart—giving me the warmth and confidence to keep climbing, but, when I reached the top there were no other letters strung up with lights, not even the letter 'e,' which, my language teacher tells me, is the most popular letter in the English language, used more than any other, and I am the best student in my class so I would know such things, but look, lady, it could have been a French 't', you see what I mean, and I still did not speak enough French to order a poutine, and back then I did not know what poutine was, of course, but it was getting cold again so I hiked back down the mountain and stumbled in to a cafe on Laurier, which is a street, my tsit-tsits caked in ice, and I must have looked frightened because two men around my age invited me to sit down at their table, and I accepted, and it turned out one of them needed a roommate for an extra room with a creaking queen bed—it really doesn't creak if you know where to lie, you will see, and better still, they studied religion at McGill and we all became very passionate, so they bought me my first non kosher meal, it did not kill me, and I told them what my wife had said, Yitzhak I think I am pregnant, but I did not love my wife, she smelled like onions and was always sad, and that is how I arrived that evening in Montreal, in the winter, with my life born again, my mother's words ringing in my head, You are a good boy, and I became one of the two men's roommate, his name was Ben, he lived very close to the cafe, we had a greasy cat who enjoyed to be scratched behind the ears, and I would go for walks at the harbour, the St. Lawrence river dancing by my feet, my imagination would go wild, all those boats, all those birds, you see, and more blue sky above my head than I had ever known in one place, until one day a woman stopped me in an alley, I love your 'look,' here's my card, call me, babe, and our fingers touched, it was the first time I had touched a woman not in my family since I was a boy, and I phoned her the next day at 2:01pm, I still remember the time, and she found me work as an extra in movies and television, but the deal was that I could not shave my beard or throw out my traditional clothing, and I must improve my English to understand directions and cues—Just make sure not to soften your cute accent in the process, those were her words, so I twirled my tsit-tsit and answered yes, and being an extra was easy work, I was good at it, I bought a cell phone so I could be reached and would call random numbers on Shabbat, Hello, it's nice that we can do this, don't you think? I have stopped doing that now because people were mostly angry when I called them, I was happier renting mafia movies with Ben and his friends, every Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and still I would visit the 't' on the mountain but now it reminded me of a rejected letter from the Hollywood sign, and Ben and I would order Chinese food until I came to recognize the Chinese delivery girl and she came to recognize me, our few sentences by the front door the highlights of my nights, How is the weather tonight, combing my beard before she arrived and brushing my teeth, then Ben said I needed a real girlfriend, so I began to walk Apolena home at night from our English lessons, she invited me inside and we sat on her orange couch with only a small pillow between us until I negotiated my fingers on to her cheek and pulled our faces together, she smelled like soap and, well, I am a gentleman but I think you know what happened next, lady, and the following day I felt painfully lonely, I missed my mother's hugs, I missed my father's temper, and I twirled my tsit-tsit, marched up my street, up the mountain, heading towards the giant 't' which Ben had long ago explained was a cross—but when it snows Mont Royal looks my hunched father with his white tallas around his shoulders—and I realized that I missed having a wife to complain, our secret understandings through body language, but you are prettier, hey we just glanced at our watches at the same time, a good sign, I realize I did not allow you time to talk, but I can plainly see that that you have good child rearing hips and I hope you will check off my name, Yitzhak, like I am doing to yours right now.
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