Katie bumped into her boss as she was leaving the Radio Canada International building in Montreal.
“I’m just going to get my I.D.,” she told him pointing to the large Radio-Canada tower on Rene-Levesque.
“Katie,” he said looking at the cigarette in her hand. “You have a wonderful voice. Always protect it. You must stop smoking.”
“I used to smoke and my wife kept telling me to quit. One day I just stopped and my wife would even clean around the area by the bed where I kept my cigarettes. Finally, after five years, I threw them out. I knew I was done with them.”
Katie had a drag of her cigarette feeling high again. “I will Oliver. One day I will.”
She sent a quick smile to Oliver before she ran down the street wearing a designer suit.
She was living in Montreal and a co-announcer on a radio program that aired to sub-Saharan Africa. The morning show had her working afternoons one week when she would report, then nights when she would announce.
She lived off the letters that poured in from Africa and the friendship of her co-announcer Tiffany.
She finally reached the Radio-Canada building and spotted the I.D. desk by the door. She saw a short, dark-haired man come up to her.
“Do you work here?” he asked.
“I work at RCI,” Katie said. She was not expecting people in the Radio-Canada building to be so friendly.
“I’m doing an internship with ‘Dimanche Magazine,’” he held out his hand.
“My name is Marc.”
“Marc,” Katie repeated the name slowly. “I’m Katie. I came here to get my I.D.”
“Me too,” he said flashing a smile that made his green eyes twinkle.
They both moved into the line to get their I.D. Marc let Katie go first even though he came out of the line to speak to her.
“What do you do at RCI?” he asked.
“I’m an announcer/producer,” Katie went into an explanation about the program she worked for and by the time she was done, she was getting her photograph taken and waiting for Marc.
“Would you like to go out for lunch?” Marc asked Katie.
“I have to go back to work.”
“Then for dinner.”
Katie looked into this young Quebecois’s green eyes. Hers were dark brown, almost back – they matched the politicized significance of her skin.
It was March 23, 2000, and her acceptance of dinner with Marc on St.Catherine in the gay village would change life.
Katie and Marc went out to dinner later that day to a restaurant walking distance from the Radio-Canada building. Katie had just broken up with a colleague working on the French version of the African show. Marc had just broken up with a long-time girlfriend (who was Haitian) that he had known since high school. Neither of them discussed their past relationships. Katie was in an assertive mood and she did outline in detail what she was looking for in a man.
“I want him to be faithful and devoted to me,” she started in quickly, forgetting about her coffee which was rare for her. “I want him to be spontaneous and strong and honest. Honesty is very important. It’s the backbone of a relationship.”
Marc nodded his head.
She continued. “I want to make love at least three times a week and go on trips during vacation time and feel as though I can tell him anything. Most importantly I need a sensitive man.”
Marc’s eyes gleaned. “I can do that. I can be those things to you.”
Katie was not so sure. She was 27 turning 28 in August and Marc had turned 23 in November. What was someone so young going to offer her? He had already told her that he was a student at McGill and was living in the ghetto with a friend. He was studying political science. Katie had just finished her master’s degree at Concordia in media studies and was considering going back to do a PhD depending on how things went with the African show. She was making $70,000 a year and living in Montreal where her rent was $250.00. She had more than enough money and Marc was on an internship with “Dimanche Magazine” so he was not even getting paid. He seemed ambitious though, even too ambitious and she wondered if he was looking for a free ride.
“Why are you interested in me?” Katie asked bluntly.
Marc did not miss a beat.
“You’re beautiful. I like black women. I’ve liked them since I was 10.”
“I’m not into being anyone’s fetish.”
“I don’t see you as a fetish. I just prefer black women. I like you. You are beautiful. If you were white you would not be asking me that question. You would accept that I’m attracted to you. I prefer dark skin. I even prefer dark meat.”
Katie had to smile. “I prefer white meat.”
They had settled that.
“I have to wake up for work tomorrow,” Katie said looking at 10:00 p.m. on her watch. “I also don’t want to get home too late.”
Marc shifted in his seat.
“I can walk you home. Where do you live?”
Katie lived in Notre-Dame-de-Grace (NDG), far from the Radio-Canada building. She had moved there while she was doing her graduate degree and did not move because the rent was cheap and it was a clean, small building. She had a 2 ½ which meant a one bedroom with a bathroom and a kitchen. Her tuxedo cat Enid was waiting to be fed.
“OK,” she said. “I’m taking the Metro and you can meet my cat.”
They took the Metro to NDG. Katie knew Marc was probably hoping to get lucky by bypassing the McGill ghetto where he lived and following her all the way to NDG. She decided she would sleep with him. She had even planned to make the first move.
Once they got into her apartment, she discovered how much Enid really liked Marc. She was pleased by that. Enid was a good judge of character.
After she fed Enid, Marc and Katie sat on the couch. She planted a kiss on Marc’s thin lips, but discovered his tongue was where the action was. They kissed for about 40 minutes and then Marc abruptly stood up.
Katie looked up at him baffled.
“I know you have to go work tomorrow, so we will continue this.” He gave her a kiss on the mouth with tongue, the bulge in his pants obvious and left as quickly as he had entered her life.
Katie slowly rose from the couch and locked the door. She went back over to the couch and Enid came over to sit in her lap.
“Enid, what just happened?”
Katie was looking for an apartment the following weekend when she had time off. She had recently come from the hospital. Marc had been admitted to the psychiatric ward because he was not taking his medication. He was getting out that day and when he found out Katie was looking for an apartment, he wanted to come with her.
He came with Katie to see a four and a half, or two bedrooms in an area called Villeray. Katie liked the apartment right away because it was minutes from the Metro. It was on the top floor of a triplex with two balconies and a fire escape in the back. The rooms were painted differently. The hallway was a golden yellow, the small bedroom she wanted to use as an office was brick red. The bedroom was a true blue and the living room was a peachy orange. The kitchen was in a leafy green.
Katie would have to buy a fridge and a stove. She wasn’t worried because she was working and could afford that. The rent was $450 per month not including the utilities. Marc liked it too. He lived in the McGill Ghetto with a roommate where he ended up spending a lot of time before he chose this apartment.
Once Katie moved in, Marc was there all the time at first. After about two weeks they were having sex about three times a day. This was also around the time Katie lost her job. She received two weeks severance and went on unemployment insurance. Eventually she received work as an English as a Second Language Instructor.
Marc’s internship ended and he planned to do a graduate certificate in international journalism through the University of Quebec in the city of Quebec. Marc is from a small town called Levis close to Quebec City. When the fall came, he would spend the week in Quebec City and come visit Katie every weekend.
Katie had been keeping a journal since she was seven-years-old. Marc gave her one in yellow that had pictures of bees on it and said “Bee Happy.” She anointed her new prize, her new stable into her writing. She will never grieve the loss of something old, because it means something new is happening. Something different and dramatic is approaching on the horizon.
Katie would write: I would love to get the right to be a billionaire with a few trillion extra so I can go off on lavish vacations and the sort. I am getting a lot of good advice from those books. A lot of good summaries and quotations of the kind of things I’ll be doing with my life. It will all fall into place – and I’m not lazy. I’m not worried about a thing. Marc knows I’m not the homemaker type. There is just nothing I regret – and I do not even have to turn back time. Sweet justice to see me coming in there – high and bothered. I don’t know what possessed me, but it was certainly something that I needed to know before I proceeded to the next level. I love myself, I love my choices in life – it has all come down to milk. Purchased at a cheap price, available every morning.
She would have received good recommendations and a salary raise if she had stayed freelancing at RCI. She felt like she was becoming more of an adult. She was happy when she was younger on her own in the world. She created. She liked school, sometimes, as long as they made it fun. Now she didn’t have to deal with peer pressure.
She was going to pick up that Girl magazine so could effectively ward it off. She was going to write a book, completed, published and marketable in a matter of a few days or weeks even. Live a life of adventure. Eyewitness News had gotten to her long enough.
She wrote from her heat. She will take a spirit soul with her every time when she would say a prayer.
She was lying in bed with Marc while he was in town from his studies in Quebec City.
“It’s interesting how much we take into our system when tired,” she said. “I am thankful to all the women and gay men who have struggled in the writing field making sure all of us brown folk will be able to write.”
Marc nodded his head thinking of one of his favourite writers Gay Talese. “Who gets published and who doesn’t get published is a question. It is a question of who has a voice, who doesn’t. Who counts, who doesn’t. At certain times I keep pinching myself that I’m not still sleeping. Will I be a proponent of welfare? The answer is trying to make a living from your guts and glory – from the thing that really makes me shake and sizzle.”
“That’s radio?” Katie asked him to make sure.
He nodded and kissed her.
Katie had a draft of the manuscript she was writing in bed with her:
“This profile reminds me of nothing in fact. I think I’m trying to make too many breaks and pauses. I must find the peace of mind and serenity to do whatever I want, basing the consequences on a good outcome. Power to me pleases God!”
“I’m thinking of depression,” Marc said. “How I will be experiencing it in a new way it seems to be something that could happen again, as my doctor says. You tell me not to worry.”
Then came the winter.
January 2001 to August 2001 – pre 911
Katie and Marc were hanging out in the apartment when Marc told her he would be going overseas for eight months. It was part of his graduate program. He suggested they break up during that time. Eight months is a long time to wait for anyone. Katie’s suggestion was that if they were still meant for each other, they would come together once he was back. Neither of them really wanted that. They stayed together.
He left in January and Katie started a French immersion at McGill University. At the same time, she started her Ph.D. at Concordia. Her loneliness drew her to eat. She would have non-alcoholic Beck’s beer and egg bread from Jean Talon Market. She would buy her éclairs from a bakery walking distance from her house. The loneliness also encouraged her to shop. She bought tons of second-hand CDs at a store called Cheap Thrills and bought some first-hand CDs at Archambault. All these things helped to fill the void.
When she felt just like being in the neighbourhood she would hang out at Dottie’s place. It was a small coffee shop about five minutes walking distance from her apartment.
Dottie was a Jamaican woman who married a white doctor who had died. They had a daughter who was dating a handsome white boy at the time. Dottie didn’t make good coffee, but Katie went to the coffee shop because she always had stories to tell. She would often talk behind the backs of the last customer that would leave. Katie would usually sit with two older guys, Joe, and a retired doctor. Sometimes she would sit by herself and just talk with Dottie while she would be constantly sweeping.
Marc came back after three months to visit Katie. They had a wonderful time. By then she was still feeling as though they should not break up and she was willing to wait for him. He had been to Paris and to Spain and would be leaving to go to South Africa to do an internship at the South African Broadcasting Corporation. He often spoke of his dream of the two of them living in South Africa.
After Marc left again, soon after Katie stopped doing the immersion program. She wasn’t happy with her teacher and her fellow students. She was running out of money when her insurance benefits ended. The school was also proving expensive.
A claimed psychic at Dottie’s coffee shop told her that her father was going to commit suicide and that Marc only wanted her for sex. This scared Katie so much that she made plans to return to Toronto – her hometown.
When Marc emailed his psychiatrist that Katie would be returning to Toronto he wrote him a note to give to any new psychiatrist that he would have in Toronto to read. He said it would be difficult for him to move to Toronto. He did not realize that Katie was not planning on him coming at first. He would probably have a hard time adjusting and he didn’t think things would go well.
Katie left for Toronto on April 8th, 2001. Her Ph.D. research was done in Toronto.