2024-04-24: threshold

via lost letters, i stumbled over to muse ariadne's site. and in her past prompts, i found this:

week of feb 12th: write about a worldly place that is a threshold for you. this can mean anything-- maybe it's some place between end and beginning, forward and backward, past and present, here and there, friends and lovers, or something else entirely!

this entry is my response.

at the end of the 90s, when i was in grade twelve, i took a trip to montreal. my orchestra was playing at a festival there. if you've ever taken a group trip as a teenager, you remember how rooms are strictly divided: boys and girls first and foremost, but then by cliques, by popularity. i was with the group best described as the artsy outcasts. there was me; j., the double bassist; and a., the percussionist.

in between our masterclasses and performances, the trip was the best kind of blur. we saw the forum. we saw the basilica. j. fell fast and hard for a trombonist in another orchestra. j., a., and i spent one night, wide awake at 3, trying to block any possible source of light into our room so we could sit in perfect darkness and silence and watch the teletubbies. it was mad. it was memorable.

and at some point on the trip, we found ourselves in vieux-montreal, the old city. a. and i split off, found a strange little subterranean cafe, mediterranean-style, done up in tiles and earth tones. i ordered an iced tea and he ordered a coffee and we sat and talked. one of those things where it all comes out. i told him about the girl i hadn't seen in two years, the girl who'd been the first person i talked to about the darkest period of my life. the way this tiny kindness sustained me. the friend i'd fallen so badly for. the girl i couldn't get out of my head.

and he told me about his own regret. her name was k. tall and thin, dark and beautiful; black hair, green eyes; he said he was trying so hard, but it wasn't working; he felt like he was falling apart inside, and didn't know what to do.

sometime in grade twelve, my closest friends had formed an experimental electronic music collective. i was on the fringes of this, playing flute in some of their live performances. and in my first year of university, a week before christmas, there was a party for the collective and its supporters. i decided to go. in among the drunk teenagers and twenty-somethings, there was a group of three girls. friends. improbably (because it's me), we got to talking — about where we were from — i said i was originally from the west coast; one of them said she was from a small town nearby — i said, oh, i have a friend from there, any chance you know a.?

the girl from the small town had black hair and green eyes. it was her, the k. described to me half a year earlier. she seemed surprised i knew a. she was an easy conversationalist. she told me about how they'd sit on his front porch in the afternoon, drinking tea, listening to glenn gould. how he'd write her these letters. how she kept them.

i'm sure she had no idea who i was. her friends probably watching as i flashed back to sitting at a small table in an old montreal cafe, to the conversations between a. and myself. k. told me things i never knew. she told me things i already knew. and as we talked, i understood: why he'd fall, why her, though nothing about what pulled them apart. i never asked. those reasons theirs alone.