Outtake—CROOKED STRAIGHT

Maryse Laflamme

 

Dazed and Confused

Montreal 1969

 

The four of us tiptoed down the stairs, our muffled laughter filling the staircase, filling the whole boarding house! Jean’s neighbor, the reason we were leaving, banged on his wall again, the reverberations reaching down from above.

The pot we’d smoked expanded all sounds for me. They echoed from everywhere at once, as if I were on the inside of a large drum with the drummer going at it in a slow, lazy way.

Once outside, we roared into the late night, releasing the energy pent up by our forced silence. Diane laughed so hard she fell to a sitting position on the stoop. Jean, her sexy bohemian boyfriend with the somber dark looks, ruffled her hair.

I liked Luc better, with his long blond curly mane in that perfect hippy-look cut. Or, rather, in that no-cut, Jesus-style hair, but with more curl to it and nothing Jesus about him either. Unless Jesus had been sexy. Had he?

Luc stood on the sidewalk, his huge sea-green eyes on me. I blushed. My fourteen-year-old insides imploded, hormones flying all over the place; I felt twitchy and wet down there. As if Johnny hadn’t happened. As if Grandpapa hadn’t happened.

We headed east, down a subdued Rue St-Denis toward Old Montreal, Diane and Jean wrapped around one another, imitating tangled tree branches. How did they manage to walk that way? Luc strolled next to me, hands in his jeans’ pockets, quiet, his presence shading me, seeping into me. I wondered if we’d entangle ourselves at some point. I feared, and wanted it, at the same time.

The air smelled of rain, except it hadn’t come down yet. We created the only noise to be heard, no one else out and about. Cars went by sporadically, due to the late-or early-hour, depending on how you looked at it, I suppose. To me, it was late. I imagined the drivers looking at us, shaking their heads, thinking crazy hippies running around in the middle of the night.

To get out of my skin and the uncomfortable moment, I started to sing “Frère Jacques” at the top of my voice, knowing the others would follow.

“Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques, dormer vous, dormer vous,” At which point, right on cue, Luc came in. “Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques, dormer vous, dormer vous,” Then Diane, then Jean.

After a failed attempt or two, we went at it in canon for several verses until we ran out of breath. Or, maybe we got bored.

Luc chased after me as I began to run ahead of him down the street, feeling the freedom of being nearly alone on a usually busy Montreal street, fueled by my not knowing what to do with my feelings for him. He caught up and grabbed me by the shoulders from behind. I stopped abruptly and he collided with my back. I felt drunk on the feel of him, the scent of him. He’d. Chased. Me.

I skipped away from him, but slowed down almost right away to go into a very loud rendition of Charleboix’s latest hit, “Lindberg.”

“…alors chu reparti sur Québecair, Transworld, Northern, Eastern, Western,” (clapping my hands quickly here, twice like in the song) and continuing… “pis Pan American!”

Luc picked up when I started to laugh too hard to continue, “…mais ché pu où chu rendu

“I’ve no idea where I’m at,” said the song; much like us, certainly like me. Even with just one or two tokes of grass, I got lost in my own head.

Jean and Diane caught up to us, as we waited for the traffic light to cross Rue Sainte-Catherine. We continued our descent into Old Montreal, walking in pairs, them ahead of Luc and me again. I couldn’t help noticing Jean’s brooding manner. I briefly pictured him on the deck of a pirate ship, ordering everyone around; I chuckled to myself.

I’d only just met Jean the night before, same as Luc. Diane, my friend from school and near-enough neighbor, had talked me into hitchhiking from Chambly to Montreal so she could see Jean, her secret boyfriend, older than her by seven years. As usual, I’d made the decision to leave my parents’ house lickety-split, almost before she got done asking me, always wide-open and eager for any excuse to run from it and its dark secrets. Luc had been a surprise, an unexpected bonus, a reason to not go back home at the end of the evening.

We’d meant to go sit on the benches at Place Jacques Cartier, but before we could even take a seat, the smell of rain turned into the real thing and began to fall in fat droplets. First slowly, then faster and thicker, literally raining out our party, its earthy smell filling my nostrils, the sound of it lending a static quality to the air. Without even discussing it, we all turned as one and, screeching, ran back towards Jean’s rooming house.

Dawn broke just as we got there, the uphill walk on the way back having worn us all out. We’d been silent for at least the last three blocks, each in our own separate world, Luc walking next to me, his hands in his pockets still—why didn’t he take my hand?—Jean and Diane just ahead of us, somehow still managing to walk while entwined.

Exhausted, I lay on my back on the double bed on the left side of Jean’s small room. Luc lay down beside me but didn’t touch me. My eyes closed and I began to drift off despite his closeness.

“Qui veut v’nir chercher du café avec moi?” Asked Diane, suddenly. Go get coffee? Now? I shook my head, barely opening my eyes to glance at her, surprised she had the energy. Jean also said no from where he lay, on the far side of the other double bed.

Diane campaigned Luc to go with her. I felt disappointed when he agreed, but drifted into sleep before they even left.

I’d just fallen over the edge into deep slumber when I heard heavy footsteps on the staircase, followed by pounding on the door which shook in its frame.

It propelled Jean and me to a sitting position on our respective beds, as if pulled up by a puppet master, confused, disoriented, staring at the door, shooting startled glances at one another, then eyes back on the door.

“GENDARMERIE ROYALE! OUVREZ!” thundered a voice from the other side.

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