The heatwave continued through Tuesday. Early that morning I walked under threatening skies to the bus stop on Papineau. From there I took the bus to the Papineau station to pick up the green line on the métro, for a long ride through the stifling tunnels under the city, to have breakfast with my friend V. in Verdun.
When I left the house I was in one of those rather cross moods that's the result of the effect of heat and humidity and uncomfortable, short nights on an unaccustomed northern body. I settled miserably into the bus seat. At the plant kiosk near the Papineau station I bought a bunch of gladiolas for my friend, and then entered the stuffy, claustrophobic underground, where I had to stand up for the first part of the journey in a métro car packed with similarly uncomfortable commuters, while the plastic bag around the flower stems dripped water all over the floor. I was so full of my own thoughts that I wasn't seeing the other people. But all of a sudden, I did. And they were so beautiful in their variety, their tired and eager and bored faces, their hair and their skin, their individual outfits and diverse ages, that I was almost sorry when we passed the last of the centre-ville stations, and the car cleared out. I had forgotten about myself, and left the train in a good mood.
I got out at the Verdun station but had a nagging suspicion that I really wanted the previous one, so I consulted a large street map hanging on a dimly-lit wall behind scratched plexiglass. Yes, I thought, finally managing to squint the local streets into focus, it was the one before, De l'Eglise. So I took the footbridge over the tracks, missing one train in the process, and waited to retrace my journey. Later I discovered there is a way to walked between the two, underground, and that this station's labyrinthine structure had its origin in a disaster during the construction in March 1974: dynamiting caused the weak rock to cave in, creating a huge sinkhole in rue Wellington (scroll down to see historic photos), delaying completion and requiring the subsequent, inconvenient redesign.
When I reached the top of the escalator at De l'Eglise (which really does exit at a large church on Av. de l'Église) there was a huge rush of wind, and a woman blew through the swinging door, struggling with an inside-out umbrella that seemed to be alive. I was hit by a blast of wind and rain, and looked out at sheets of water starting to cascade from the sky. I had a couple of blocks to walk, but set out anyway, under my small red umbrella. My sandals, legs, and lower skirt were immediately soaked, but somehow it felt perfectly all right, even a relief.
I spent several happy hours with my friend, who's recently moved to a new apartment, talking about home and cooking, gardens and quilt-making, the spiritual life and art and writing. While we were out in the backyard garden, considering its many possibilities, the sun came out, and everything in the world began to steam. An hour later I put on my damp sandals and set off down the street, which was - if anything - even hotter than before. Going down the escalator into the métro I noticed the overhead patterns in the concrete, and although I only had my cellphone, rode up and down a couple of times, taking photographs, some with people on the stairs and some without. But it wasn't until I got home and looked at the images that I realized I had taken the one at the top of this post, far better than all the others -- through the cellphone viewfinder, taking shots quickly on the moving stairs, I hadn't seen the man standing there at all.