29 January 2011

Likes Beer and History (Part I)

People are usually amused but seldom surprised when I tell them how I met my boyfriend. A generic script is as follows:

“We met in a bar.”

Of course. You would.”

It was the first Friday in March, I’d just gotten back from reading week, and I was at Gert’s. I’d had a paper due that day, so I arrived straight from the library, late enough for the bar to be packed already. There were people I knew scattered throughout the room and two people I didn’t know at my table. It was louder than usual—the engineers were throwing some sort of party, complete with a cardboard robot in the corner—and we could barely hear each other when we tried introducing ourselves. There was takeout detritus on the table, so I grabbed a slightly greasy paper bag and a pen and wrote my name. They followed my lead.

At the end of that night, or maybe it was the next Friday our group went out, I knew the Russian and I could be friends. Except in his unfortunate distaste for football, he seemed to be my dudely doppelgänger, down to the way he took his coffee (black, as is Right and Proper). We agreed that we should hang out sometime, so I typed his name—which I misspelled—and number into my phone.

By the end of the month, we were dating. It happened almost by accident. On our first date, we went to one of my favourite restaurants without considering the impact of the Saturday brunch rush on available seating and ended up side by side at the bar. He turned to me and asked what I was looking for, and I said I wasn't sure. Though I didn’t yet know that I’d be going on leave, I wasn’t looking for a relationship. If anything, I thought I'd graduate in December 2010, only a term behind schedule, which meant that I'd be leaving for good in the near future. Besides, I was still having an open-ended, blissfully noncommittal fling with a friend in the States, and I didn’t want to give that up.

But I liked the Russian enough to set a date for the following Thursday, which proved fortuitous for him, because on Wednesday, I had the Worst Date Ever with a guy I nicknamed—as I texted a friend from the restaurant bathroom, without thinking of the insult to dogs everywhere—the Golden Retriever. So even if the Russian were not a genuinely cool, interesting human being, he would have gotten a third date; since he is, it’s a moot point. He didn’t mind when I stopped in the street to pet dogs, he complimented my ability to give directions (and didn’t care when I laughed at him then pointed out that we were in my neighbourhood), and he found a ten dollar bill on the way back to my apartment. We used it to buy beer.

Despite one major hiccup and a smattering of smaller points of contention, I was pretty sure we were compatible. Because I was still nervous about committing in any way, shape, or form, Siren’s visit to Montréal early in April was timed perfectly.

Siren is one of my oldest and closest friends. She really deserves her own post, since she’s fabulous, but for now, our backstory in brief: We met as kids during a weeklong retreat at Camp Nausea (yes, that’s a nickname; no, I don’t remember the camp’s real name), lost touch for a year or two, then met again and really got to know each other at an art camp. Several years later, at that same camp, we were co-workers and co-conspirators, plotting to dump unwrapped condoms into the pool so we wouldn’t have to swim... but our adolescent adventures are off-topic. The point is, over the years we’ve built a rapport, and I tell her almost everything. I trust her judgement immensely.

Both the day of her arrival and the next afternoon, as we walked to Toi Moi to meet the Russian, I explained whats and wherefores of the situation.

When this story resumes: Siren meets the Russian! And Montréal has good weather in early April, but the apocalypse does not ensue!

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