January 8, 2019

People and Possiblities (Part 1)

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I am tucked in the corner of a cafe that sits on intersection of St. Francois Xavier and Notre-Dame. I’m waiting to hear her voice.

We always need a few missed calls before we get the timing right.

Finally, the phone rings. I pick it up, and greet her.

“Where are you?” she asks.


“How did you end up in Montreal?”

“I’d tell you if I could. Wanted to begin the year by going to a place where I haven’t been.”

“I need to do that. You know, this will be my resolution. Get out of the city more.”

“Not a terrible idea.”


I have the answer ready: “Drink more alcohol.”

“Excuse me?” she chuckles.

“I thought I’d try to set realistic goals for the year.”

“That’s the only change you want to make?”

I don’t have an answer for her. My mind is on auto-pilot the two weeks straddling each side of New Years Day.

“Maybe pick up smoking?”

“Damn it, Joseph.”

“Fine. Give me a moment.”

I know she wants a real answer. As I think, I’m doodling in a notebook. I wonder if she’s doing the same across the country.

Beside the notebook lies a thin paperback.

“You know, I’ve been reading this screenplay, and — ”

“Wait. A screenplay? Why don’t you just watch the movie? Or are you above watching movies?”

I choose to ignore her.

“Have you seen Before Sunrise?” I ask.

“Oh, the romantic one where they meet on a train, walk through Vienna, and nothing happens?”

“Yes. I’m impressed with your succinct plot summary.”

“Who broke up with you?” she laughs.

“No one! Can’t I read for pleasure?”

“Sorry, go on.”

“Just before you called me, I came across this passage … and it made me think.”

“Can you read it to me?”

I hesitate.

“I haven’t read out loud since middle school. And that was stress inducing.”

“At least you could read in middle school. Let me hear it.” she says.

I smile, clear my throat, and begin.

“I really believe that if there’s any kind of god, he wouldn’t be in any one of us — not you, not me — but just this space in between. If there’s some magic in this world, it must be in the attempt of understanding someone else, sharing something, even if it’s almost impossible to succeed.”

I could hear her suppress a chuckle before I finished.

“Did this girl break up with you before or after you started reading screenplays?”

“I’m going to drop this call.”

“I can’t help myself. I’m usually the serious one.”

“’I’m glad you’re in a good mood.”

“So, what does the passage mean to your resolutions?” she asks.

“Well, now that you’ve made me reflect, I think I can understand the cause of my periods of dreariness in the past year. That’s when I was missing lucid, immersive conversations. But I wasn’t seeking them out. Even though connections like the passage describes can be so thrilling.”

“Right. Those that make you you lose track of time. While trying to understand one another by absorbing the words in between.”

“Yes. And trying to understand because you want to.”

“Do you think this is easier for some people?” she asks.

“Maybe. I think this has to do with asking each other purposeful questions. Like when you asked if I wanted to change anything this year.”

“You still haven’t answered.”

“Well, I want to have more of these… time-accelerating conversations in the new year. Whether they’re with people closest to me, or people I haven’t met yet.”

“I like that.” she says.

“I get that with you a lot,” I say.

A pause.

“Sorry, Joseph, I’m getting another call. I’ll call you back.”

The line disconnected.

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