Tuesday, April 19, 2005


I went by Ada’s place today. Ada’s old place. The movers came for her on Saturday morning, and by noon she didn’t live in Mile End anymore.

I went to her apartment to take pictures. I have a strange habit of taking pictures of people’s apartments after they move out. I’m not sure when I started doing this, or why, but it has become a ritual I feel obliged to perform.

I took a few pictures as Ada was packing on Friday, but I knew it wasn’t right. Today was right. I let myself in with the set of keys she gave me, years ago, when we became godmothers to each others’ cats. I walked up the stairs and almost called out to Bella, but didn’t; the upstairs key stuck like it always does. Inside, there was nothing but dust and afternoon light.

The apartment is what Montrealers sometimes call “charming.” Charming apartments have exposed electrical wires that may or may not work; cupboard doors that refuse to stay closed; gaps between the floorboards that are impossible to clean. They have furnaces that labour to warm the drafts, and toilets that debate the merits of flushing as you wait and hope for the best. Their ceilings sometimes fall down, but only very occasionally.

Charming Mile End apartments are, above all, cheap, or they were before the real estate market heated up and the evictions began. After a while, they started to feel like they were ours, and we accepted the illusion that they were home.

I took pictures of all of the rooms, each in their turn. I noted the lines of doorframes, the angles of pipes and ductwork, the stray objects that were left behind. I went out onto the front balcony and took pictures of the church across the street, then came back inside.

The kitchen was the hardest room. I knew it would be. It’s where we all ate dinner when we played at being married couples, Ada and James and Phil and me. It’s where I sat and smoked when I came to look after Bella, reading over Ada’s instructions for how much food to give her and where her treats were kept. It’s where the bookshelf remained after James moved out, empty and impossibly sad. It’s where I realized that I had stopped being in love with Phil long before he left.

I don’t understand why I need to do these things. Sometimes I wish that I didn’t, that I could live without always fucking memorializing everything. I wish I knew how not to look back. I suspect things would matter less if I did.

In point of fact, Ada has done quite well for herself. Her new apartment is as large as the old, and cheaper as well, which almost never happens anymore. You can see the restaurants and sari shops of Little India from her living room window. The place feels good. I think she can be happy there.

When I finished taking pictures of the kitchen, I smoked one last cigarette, flicking the ashes into the antique sink. And then I said goodbye to Ada’s apartment and all of its ghosts and went to buy bagels.

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