As I walked home from the Café, I stopped in front of James’ apartment, which is just down the street from my own. The garbage bags I had filled were still neatly arranged in front of the staircase, although one of them had been pierced by the neighbourhood cats. James’ bike, which was at least half a foot too small for him, was locked up beside them.
On certain nights, as I walked home from the Café, tipsy and full of stories, I would look up to see if his bedroom light was on. If it was, I would climb the scuffed wooden stairs and knock softly on his door, and he would always come to let me in.
It sometimes amazed me how much we talked, and that we never ran out of things to talk about. He said to me once that he wanted to tell me everything, and even before he had finished saying it I knew what he meant. I eventually lost count of the times we stayed up until dawn, burning through stories and cigarettes in almost equal measure. It’s how I came to love him, and why I’m a little afraid of how much I will miss him.
Over the last few months, his stories became steadily darker, and more fearful. He was having trouble writing; his grant money had run out; he was being evicted from his apartment; he couldn’t find enough work. By the time he decided to move back to B.C. he was consumed by panic, and when he told me that he was leaving at the end of the month, I didn’t argue with him.
Looking up at his window, I ached to tell him what had just happened at the Café, to describe every detail of it so that he could imagine he had been there. All the lights were off except for the one outside, which he had left on out of habit, as though he would need it to find his keys when he came home. I took a picture of it as I counted backwards through the day; he was almost certainly in Vancouver by now, en route to his parents’ house.
He says that he’ll be back in the fall, when he has pulled himself together and finished his thesis. I hope that he will be, but I’m just smart enough to know that plans change. Sometimes, I have trouble envisioning where any of us will be five years from now, and what, if anything, will feel to us like home. I am certain, however, that if he does return to Montreal, the city will be immeasurably different than it was when he left. It already is.
When I got home, I emailed him a picture that Atomic had taken of me just before midnight. I told him that of course there was a story behind it, but that it would keep until we talked again. Or, at least, until I was compelled to write it down.