After the cinema, we decided to eat at St-Hubert, this Quebecois chicken joint. We didn’t say much at first; we just finished ordering drinks and food before Ernan finally began expressing his disappointment with the cinema. He particularly disliked the smell of disinfectant, which was pretty nasty. I half listened, my mind drifting as I focused on the fact that it was our last night in Montreal. He continued on but I stared right through him, wondering what would become of him after I left Toronto. We were having such a good time together — I didn’t want it to end, but I had to leave.
We discussed our next stop for the evening as we waited for our food and decided on Campus, a gay strip club down the street. I couldn’t think of a better place to go after that seedy cinema.
I kept looking over at him from across the table, knowing that he was the sort of person I should be with: caring and loyal, and with an open mind, allowing me to do whatever it was I needed to do — as long as I came back to him. That’s what he kept saying when we began seeing each other again. In a lot of ways it’s exactly what I wanted too, which is perhaps what made the whole idea of leaving Toronto so difficult.
Campus was packed, which was surprising considering it was New Year’s Day. We grabbed a seat at the very back and Ernan ordered us double-vodka tonics from the waiter. Like most annoying couples at a strip club, we began expressing our opinions of each of the dancers to spark jealousy while getting clearer insights into the characteristics that turn each other on. I pointed out the bulkier, tattooed guys. Ernan was drawn to the shorter, younger latino men. That’s probably the sort of guy he’ll end up with once I’m gone, I thought.
Ernan had a great sense of humour, was curious and had found success in something that he was passionate about. Sure, he doesn’t read books — which honestly is a deal breaker under normal circumstances — but he paid attention to world affairs and had opinions about things. He was a catch in his own quirky way.
I couldn’t say that I was as family-oriented as Ernan. When I invited him to have lunch with my parents, brother and nephews, he certainly enjoyed himself far more than I did. He got on well with my dad and kept asking my nephews silly question about the video games they were playing. He always said that he wanted kids, but I told him that he’d have to take care of them himself because I didn’t have time for such things. “I’d be the parent that they love the most because I’ll neglect them so much,” I had joked.. I think we both knew I wasn’t the one to give him kids — it just isn’t in the cards for me.
While I’m gone, I imagined,he’d be sure to find a more compatible partner who could give him all the things that he needed in life. They’d have a quirky story of how they met. This guy would move into Ernan’s condo at the Verve after a few months. A year later they’d buy a home uptown, have famous dinner gatherings, annual Christmas parties, and build a collection of well-to-do friends, all newly upper-middle class. They’d get married atop some hotel with a brilliant view of the city skyline and endless black and white photos of it all that would inundate my Facebook feed for months. They’d eventually have kids — two beautiful boys with Ernan’s same blue eyes.
As I downed my fourth drink, I started explaining this to him. “Why are you laughing at me?” I asked. “It’s true. We’ll lose touch, and years down the road I’ll run into you on the street with your teenage boys. I’ll look at you and wonder what happened to you — you used to be so fun, I’ll tell myself. You’ll look back at me with pity, amazed that I haven’t grown up. I have to leave, I mean, but we’re going to pity each other, I know we will. I don’t want to pity each other.”
He just continued to laugh and gave me a kiss. “I love you,” he said. “I don’t want anybody else. I want you.”
“You’ll lie to your teenage boys about who I am. Say I’m homeless—”
“—Stop it. I want you.”
“I want you too,” I said.