When my summer contract with the production company ends, I return to work on my master’s degree. I write a ninety-page research paper for my thesis and create a virtual salon with an online community link for my research project on the politics of black hair.
My website opens with Betsy as my receptionist and includes uploaded a video of my Auntie Ellie’s braiding session in Uganda, a resource page, and loaned information from a New York master’s graduate, the only other person that I know of who has done research on the politics of black people’s hair.
I also start freelance work for Radio Canada International when a friend of mine, Riguel, introduces me to the executive producer of its flagship show Spectrum.
More reasons not to turn back the hands of time come when my advisor, Matt, hires me to teach a communications course at Concordia. I am so busy online and freelancing for RCI that I bring in a bevy of guest speakers—including a Montréal CTV anchor, an Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker, a reporter and my former boss Elaine—to avoid the need for preparing lesson plans. A new guest arrives just about every week. My teaching evaluations are horrid. The students rip into me, claiming they learned nothing and that I did not teach.
I do not remember the last time I took my medication.
Just as I am about to defend my thesis, on my twenty-seventh birthday, my defence is bumped back. Now Lisa, who gave me the idea to do my research on black hair, will graduate before me. To lighten my sadness, I decide to see The Blair Witch Project.
I don’t make it to the movie theatre.
My thoughts race faster down the street than I do and I find myself at McGill. After sitting through an information session about their Ph.D. program, I check myself into a hotel, the most expensive one in Montréal. My room has a king size bed with cream coloured bedding and a cream coloured headboard. The sitting area has cream coloured antique furniture with dark oak trim. The carpet is fluffy. The closet is big enough for six bodies to fit inside. A large TV swivels so that you can view it from both the bedroom and the sitting area.
I get bored of crying and leave to ride the bus up avenue du Parc. On the bus, I speak to the sparkling Montréal night sky through a crack in the ceiling escape exit. I rage about the death of my brother Robert after I imagine that a group of witches, one of them someone I work with at Radio-Canada, has travelled to Toronto and killed him.
“God, I will avenge my brother’s death. Robert, you are in Heaven, but I will bring your murderers to Hell.”
I jump off the bus before the driver has a chance to kick me off and march down Sherbrooke Street, back to the hotel where I order their most expensive meal delivered to my room. Afterward, I go downstairs, feeling enormously wealthy in the white hotel bathrobe I snatched from the voluminous closet, to buy some cigarettes at the front desk.
“What are you doing down here dressed like that?” the man at the desk asks. I laugh and ask for the cigarettes.
When he pulls out a grand looking box filled with exotic brands of cigarettes, I laugh again and remember when my father gave me a carton of cigarettes for Christmas in 1998.
“Did my fah-ther send those?” I ask in a British accent.
The man just shakes his head at me. I do not sleep that night.
In the morning, I go down to the large hotel lobby, again in my hotel bathrobe, and expect to be treated like a queen. The manager gets fresh with me, then hostile. He orders me out of the hotel. The police and someone from the Centres Local de Services Communautaires arrive. I am taken, once again, to the Royal Victoria Hospital and stay, once again, in the Brief Therapy Unit.