Believe it or not

Friday the 12th. December 2014. We were driving around Montreal. It was snowing. A lot. Though it didn’t seem cold. But then I took out my phone from the right pocket of my dark blue jeans and entered the passcode and then reentered the passcode again – I missed one number – and then clicked on the weather app and it showed: -13C. It’s not that bad, I thought. It doesn’t feel that bad. Do you like snow? I asked. Mm…yes, mostly yes, but when I’m driving, then no. He laughed. And, you know, snow and traffic… it can get nasty, he said, Believe it or not. And then it’s a total… like…mm…what’s the word. Like chaos, I said. Yeah, yeah, chaos, he said. He laughed. He didn’t laugh, but rather chuckled. Almost like a child’s chuckle, I thought. But, he continued, When you’re at home, and you watch the snow fall behind the windows, then yes…it’s pretty amazing…believe it or not. Yes, I thought. I also thought: Doesn’t he notice what he says? or: Should I tell him that he adds that useless phrase at the end of each sentence? But then he said: We’re in Old Montreal now. I moved closer to the window, so as not to miss anything and then I lost myself. How European, I thought. I miss Europe. I miss the architecture – the gothic architecture. I miss those stone pavements; those footbridges; those serene rivers. And then we drove past Notre-Dame Basilica, and then I thought: How majestic and noble and melancholic. Here’s your gothic architecture, or even better: here’s your neo-gothic architecture. Here are your stone pavements. It’s a charming city, I said. Yes, he said, But it gets very cold… believe it or not. Cold, I thought. I’ve seen and felt coldness elsewhere. I had experienced those notorious Russian winters throughout my childhood. But here in Montreal this coldness might seem different. The ease of people; their readiness to assist; their nonjudgmental attitude; their civility – might warm those who can appreciate and notice. But there are winters that are severe; there are winters that are callous, and it’s not only because of the coldness itself, but also because of the insensitivity of those who surround you. Grim and dissatisfied and dispassionate, life-weary and distant. You can almost touch this apathy in the air. Indeed, Moscow does not believe in tears, especially in winters.

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