Paloma, the homesick


paloma22“Montreal is for soul mates,” Paloma used to say, as we’d walk the avenues of Mile End and the Plateau. I’d look her in the eyes and struggle to keep my half-smirk from stretching to a full- blown grin. My grandmother used to say you have to be in love to fall in love. Well if that’s true, we both fell in love with our adopted city and then fell in love with each other.

Paloma was a fine art photographer, daylighting as a bartender. We shared a cab from the airport to the Plateau during the dead of winter. I was coming back from a trip to London, too tired to pay attention to this cute, flighty girl ramble on about the vampire convention she was coming back from in New Orleans. She must have jabbered on for ten minutes before I straightened up and asked her, “Wait a second. Are you fucking with me?”

She laughed and said, “Maybe I was in North Carolina visiting my mom.”
I started going to her bar when she had shifts. I’d chat with her and the regulars, but didn’t really flirt. I cringed at the thought of being that guy. Eventually, we started taking walks through the park, slowly wading into intimacy, inches at a time.

She’d been in Montreal a year longer then I had and always wanted to show me weird cultural oddities far outside the city center. Our relationship was bound to urban exploration, so when I found out I was being transferred to a department in Los Angeles, I figured we could keep it together simply by carrying the same tactic over to a new locale. We’d been together two years at that point, and were as in love as ever.

Paloma was a good sport. She got a decent bar gig in Los Feliz, made enough friends to not be lonely and her career even started to take in the local gallery scene. We still took walks to explore our new city and it felt like the pieces were falling into place.
You know how you don’t realize how you’ve been depressed until winter fades and the sky starts to clear? Well, we went back to Montréal for the jazz festival, about six months after we’d left, and I saw what Paloma was like when she was actually in love and realized how far that was from my lover in LA. As our vacation wound down, I felt no sense of betrayal when she said she wasn’t coming back with me. I flew back to LA alone and pondered whether it was she I missed or the city itself.

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