On October 2nd 1535 Jacques Cartier anchored La Grande Hermine by an island on the St Lawrence river Known now as Montreal island. Once on land they found a fortified village with 3000 Iroquians living in 50 long houses. Great fields of maize, beans, squash surrounded the village situated somewhere at the foot of the mount Royal. He spent the day among the people and returned to his ship to continue his exploration of the river.
Upon his return in 1541, there was no trace of the village or the people.. We do know that they were neither mohawks nor Hurons. They spoke a different language.
To this day, archeologists have not found the site of the village.
September 1983, Lafontaine park, Montreal, 10 pm. Etienne is walking on the side walk, he knows every square up and down the road that borders the park. he knows, cause he seldom looks up at the world, not because he fears, but because heís given up on them, the grown ups. he lights a cigarette and draws in a puff, he plays with the smoke blowing donuts in the cold night air. the rain has stopped and he stares at the rainbows of colours that form on the puddles of water.
-Ēall taintedí he thinks.
-Ē nice colours that come from exhaust from the fuckin carsĒ
He throws his cigarette in the puddle and keeps on walking. He feels the trees on his left, big 200 year old maples , standing in the middle of the city. Leaves changing colours from green to crimson red, yellow and all other shades in between.
-Ē there im safe now, i got to my spot. The safest spot in this park.Ē
Etienne leans against the mammoth tree. When he does, the noise, the lights of the city all quiet down. He feels the life of that ancient maple through the bark, into his own body. There is a heart beat, a faint beating but not like his heart. a hollow drumming from far away. He stares at the roots pushing through the grass, and pushing against the sidewalk. He follows the root to the road , and reality hits him. A car drives slowly by and stops in front of him. He looks in and is relieved, just a regular customer. Not crazy and pays well. Talks too much though.
He gets in the car and lights a cigarette. Doesnt look at the John. He turns and stares at the tree as they drive away. The john has is hands all over him already. A hand pushes firmly the back of his head down to the crotch. Etienne closes his eyes and stops thinking.
Itís 1 am and the diner is full of the night people. A long chromed counter with red vinyl stools and here and there people sitting alone or in pairs. Tired faces, angry ones, tense postures in the smoke filled room. A coffee, a fry, a slice of pizza. In contrast the middle aged greek couple weary of their costumer, weary of the night, waiting to break the fights that take place night after night. Another group of university students, drunk, enter and gawk at the hookers, the trannies, the junkies, laughing and pointing, insulting the customers. They think they have it all figured out and just come like visitors at a zoo not realizing that even in a zoo you only see a picture, a moment. It doesnt explain nature.
Etienne is sitting at the counter, smoking a cigarette. Heís waiting for MAMA, a 60 year old women, at least she looks 60, time is not gentle on the night people, this is a 3rd world slice of society. She sells weed and other dope, but he only cares about weed right now, to numb his brain. Cant get to messed up, school in the morning, thats the deal, stick to going to school anyways. Two lives in parallel, no overlap. One life keeping the other from falling in the abyss.
September 1541, Racoon clan Long House, Hochelaga village. The elderly man listens to the rain hitting the bark roof, in the dim light of the fire he hears his people breathing in their sleep. 4 generations share the space on the south east corner of the long house. He is troubled by the dreams again, visions which he cannot understand. People he doesnt recognize, unfamiliar objects and places. Only the few plants and trees he sees are familiar to him, but there is no doubt they are people. Again that tree is calling to him, unremarkable but for its great size and age. The same kind that gives his people that sweet sugar in the spring.
ďAlways there is change in our world, the children live for today, the young men and women live in the certainty of the same tomorrow and the old like me have felt the bite of time on our bodies and our world. We are caught between the clans of the west and the ones from the east always fighting for more hunting grounds. They have no claim on this island and itís people. But they will.Ē
The old man slowly gets up from his sleeping platform and climbs down towards the fire. His Daughter follows him and without a single word uttered prepares herbal tea and hands him a wooden bowl of the hot liquid. No words are exchanged, just a knowing glance at each other. She has been observing the old man for sometime, his sleep is agitated, he is more in his thoughts than with us. they sit quietly staring at the ambers of the large fire, each with their own thoughts, each with their own concerns about tomorrow. The old man reaches for her hand to calm her concerns and they wait for dawn.
Etienne sees Mama enter the diner, he smiles to himself, she is all show. Leather pants, leather jacket and under her biker helmet a toothless grin. She is the queen of the diner. She stops and talks to the patrons as they reach out to her, She is taking orders, cid, weed, coke, upper, downers whatever they need. She ignores the drunken students as she makes her way to her usual stool, they dont exist, they are not part of her world. The greek owner behind the counter, pours a cup of coffee and sets it before her. She nods without looking at him, he doesnt really exist either but he provides a service so theres a truce.She pulls a pack of export A green from her pocket and taps it on the counter before opening it and taking a cigarette out.
One of the hookers, an middle aged woman, wearing purple leg warmers a black mini skirt and a white rabbit coat causes a great deal of commotion in the already tense diner when she drops her coffee and a chain reaction of yelling begins. Etienne has seen it before, all the pain , the pent up anger in the night people expresses itself in the form of tantrums. It is so contagious, even Etienne comes out of his numbness to feel the anger of the triggering loud noises human beings make when they loose it. The rush of adrenaline is too much for him, he walks towards MAMA and without a word puts 20$ in her hand and simultaneously she puts a bag in his hand and he walks out of the diner onto St-Lawrence Boulevard. He stops and takes a deep breath of the cold and humid night air. He feels the people walking by him but ignores them.
ďI wanna do something normal right now , just to clean the night off my mind. Thereís a phone booth at the corner, maybe i could call home and let them know iím ok, studying hard for an exam. She wonít believe me. I could tell her Iím stoned downtown and i just made a few hundred bucks worth of blow jobs , oh and guess what else happened, A prick burned me with his cigarette for his pleasure, but that cost him extra. He is married with 2 kids and has a great job. He was telling me how much i reminded him of his son. Small world eh mom.
Fuck. Ok enough of that, maybe i can find a nice one that will let me crash until morning, or at least drive me near school. ď
Etienne starts walking up the hill towards Sherbrooke street and heads east towards the park.
ďi used to fear the night, curled up in bed, tense, hidding under the covers, waiting for the monsters. A bed sheet as my only protection. Now I walk alone in the middle of the night, seeking my fears, provoking what i always avoided. Why?
i canít answer my own questions, what motivates my being here. I donít really exist, Im just a ghost. If I disappear tonight, no one will know. No help, no salvation, just me. Like those nightmares where iím trying to run away and I can only move in slow motion, He comes after me at a normal pace and my screams , my movements canít get me away. He hasnít caught me yet, I always wake up before he grabs me. Sometimes he grabs me , but Iím awake. Iím safer here anyways, I decide what goes on. Not one of those fuckers help me, they only want my body. My soul doesnít interest them. Only after they cum do some of them see me with their eyes filled with guilt. They want to get rid of me as fast as they can, because for a moment they realize that theyíve been doing their own kid. But I have never been a kid as far as I remember. I look at my brother, and i donít understand him, but I like that heís carefree, I make sure he stays that way. No matter what , heíll be safe from this shit.
Why donít I die? itís always in the back of my mind. How can I? you can only die if you live. Ghosts donít die, they are stuck between two worlds, thats where I am. Railway tracks, always parallel never touching each other and going on and on.Ē
Etienne is lost in his thoughts, his legs making every step with him following behind. He walks in front of old victorian row houses with the long staircases. The trees providing a shelter from the street lights leave no shadow as he passes underneath. He crosses Sherbrooke Street into the park. He lights up a cigarette and finds his way back to the tree. a couple of kids are scattered among the urban forest waiting like him. He knows a few of them not by name, it doesnít matter cause nobody uses their real names here. They know what they are and there is no friendship in this solitude. Itís not a team sport, unless the john wants that. But even then they mostly ignore each other unless there is booze or dope to boost the illusion of a party. Black eyes, bruises, cigarette burns, are like tattoos to be shown off. Etienne doesnít get any pride from his scars. He just lies about them, to his folks and to himself.
He leans against the old tree and feels safe again. All goes quiet, except for the thumping of the tree. He doesnít question it, it just is.
Itís 6 am and Etienne is sitting at the table sipping coffee and having a smoke, he looks out the window as the morning rush hour begins. The rain soft and cold hits the moving umbrellas down on the sidewalk. Steam from the shower comes out of the bathroom in the small apartment on St-Denis Street. The john wanted him to join but he is a student now, and the idea of being last night repulses him. As soon as the john was asleep , he got up and laid down on the couch for some shut eye.
He stares at the money on the table and looks for his pants around the room to pocket it. He is numb again, no emotions, no fear, no sadness. His little voice inside is quiet, satisfied that he survived the night. he took no particular risks last night, just floated around wearing his invincible shield. That little voice keeps him out of trouble most of the time. It tells him when he is about to cross the line, the point of no return. He hates it, that moral/spiritual babbling especially because it comes from within. Again and again the internal conflict of living and surviving. It is not about death. Death is for all of us but living, that is a concept that escapes him.
he thinks about the ghost heís become, no tangible past , present or future .
The john comes out of the bathroom, a towel rapped around his waist and his coffee in hand. He smiles at Etienne and goes on about his morning routine.
Etienneís anger rises with that smile.
ď Fuck you, weíre not a couple, you used me , i used you, end of storyĒ. This he repeats over and over in his head. On the outside, you see nothing unless yuo get close enough and look at the tension in his eyes. Few people can read eyes or body language, at least few are capable of interpreting them accurately. Etienne stretches his body to relieve the tension, he slowly gets up and gets dressed before the john gets any ideas. He puts on his black converse as he curses the john in his head. He canít find his socks and the john is not helping, but he knows they are just a trophy so he can jerk off to them later. Fucking perv.
ďItís not the first time it happens.Socks, shorts, bunch of weirdos. Itís like they have to own part of you to make it last. Sometimes they want to own you so bad, that the lust is not enough to satisfy them, they have to scar you, beat you, demean you. In the end they want you to submit to their power. They want you as a slave. Itís a weird twisted role reversal, because in those moments they are like children without context in their behaviour and emotions and I am the adult observing them from my child body. It makes me crazy but i think they are more fucked in the head than I amĒ.
As he walks towards the school, he can hear his own heart beat, he is sweating, something is wrong. He feels lost and panic creeps in. Itís in those moments that he cannot control is appearance, he cannot keep it together. Whatever is inside him has to come out , it has to be expelled. he dashes towards a back alley and almost falls down at the foot of a tree. He is in an altered state of consciousness. And so it begins again. He stares straight in front of him without focus, like day dreaming on acid.
ď Oh no not again.Ē His own voice echoes in his head and repeats it over and over. Every gesture, every thought is an echo, all in slow motion. His mouth is dry, he canít move.
ď Fuck youuuuuuuuuuuuuuu. nooooooooo, not this againĒ.
He tries to force it down, to push it but itís just wave after wave of echoes. He is beyond scared, but no sound comes out of him. His heart is racing and echoing in his head, like the sound of hundreds of horses running, and the hooves sound like a roar, a blur of unrecognizable sounds. He feels his head swelling up ready to burst. And then the images in rapid succession begin to invade his mind. A white bathroom, white tiles, the smell of bleach, the skylight, the sunlight dancing on the water in the tub, the slow regular drip of the faucet, the lion foot of the old tub, the red blood on the white tile, the hands, the smell of beer. He wants to physically back away from the images, he wants to disappear, his feet pushing away, but not moving.
ď please stop itĒ he yells in his mind, tears streaming down his face from the terror he is experiencing.
And as suddenly as they began, the waves subside, the echoless sounds of the city slowly seep into his head. He stares at some pigeons on his left and slowly counts them, lets them ground him back to reality. He reaches for his smokes in the inside pocket of the jean jacket and lights one up. He is exhausted. Each event begins and ends in the same way. Etienne closes his eyes and smokes the cigarette. No thoughts, just inhaling and exhaling.