We had to be through security by 6 a.m. so my wife and I exited our Montreal hotel room around 4:45 to catch a shuttle bus to the airport. In the elevator with us that morning was a young woman with long shiny brown hair almost down to her waist. She kept her head down, her manicured left hand held a clutch purse and although we did not make eye contact, I could see from all the mirrors her obvious beauty. Probably not yet 20 and thus not much younger than my own daughter whom we had only moments before left sleeping in our hotel room, I wondered why she was awake so early. Rushing to some job maybe? A lifeguard shift?
We checked out and left. Our suitcases rolling along behind us on a wet Rue Drummond, we walked toward the Bell Centre and then a few blocks along Boulevard Rene Levesque, the sun not much more yet than suggesting morning. We saw her twice during that short trek to the bus stop.
The first time we encountered her again was almost immediately after we left the hotel. She stood smoking a cigarette along that first street. She seemed to be waiting for someone.
The second time we saw her was from a distance while we stood at the bus stop looking up the street hoping that indeed this promised bus would come. She was clearly weaving as she walked, some sad substance traveling through her veins. As she wandered closer and closer, I hoped she would join us and catch the same bus and it would take her safely somewhere. Home? And then suddenly I remembered myself, just a kid, waiting for my school-bus one morn, fascinated by the thick fog around me like a cloud closing in until a few moments later when I spotted a wolf out the bus window barely visible across the road in that same fog and then all the goose-bumps rushing up and down my skin like cold water.
She weaved around us and down the street and either helpless or foolish, I don’t know, we watched her until she disappeared and all I could think about was all the missing Indigenous Canadian women but also their parents and their kookums too and my own children and aren’t we all just each other’s children in this immense indifferent country?
Despite all the wonderful things I enjoyed in Montreal for almost a week, this is my strongest memory.