Tuesday, May 20, 2008
MATTHEW & MICHAEL
I told my sister that I'd help her make some friends in Charlottetown.
She just moved there in May and was worried about feeling lonely.
She was also worried about me making friends for her. Understandably so. At first I was taking the job pretty seriously, and was considering making application forms, and creating a formalized screening process. She didn't like the sound of that, so instead I just wandered around Charlottetown.
I did end up making some friends for myself, and maybe even for Katie, too. Most of my time in Charlottetown it was cold and wet. I only rode Katie's bike once, and decided afterwards that I'd stick to walking and buses and cars as long as it was raining so insistently.
On one of those wet, rainy days, I walked by a little cafe. There was a sandwich board outside that was washed clean, and no sign above the window. I passed right by, but for some reason decided to back track and go inside.
It turns out that it was not only a cafe, but a store (sooo many interesting screen-printed t-shirts), a gallery, and a music venue. And it had just opened. Inside, the Ghost Bees were playing. I had seen them at a house concert shortly before leaving Guelph, and they were enchanting. It was comforting to be greeted by something I recognized when I entered the store.
Matthew, who was standing behind the counter, asked me what brought me to the cafe, and we started talking about all sorts of things, including the Ghost Bees, and making friends, and interesting things to do in Charlottetown, and music, and artwork, and shoes.
I think that I visited Matthew and the cafe just about every day that I was in Charlottetown. It was a kind of home base for me. I helped him paint a sign, almost poisoned us with toxic fumes, met some of his friends, and talked bunches. That first day in the cafe both Matthew and his friend Jordan said they'd lend me a pair of shoes (Jenn said I could wear hers, too, but it seemed like I might not have time).
I took them up on it.
Matthew told me that he'd lend me the shoes that he was wearing. We made arrangements for me to come back in a day or two, so that he'd have something else to put on his feet. When I picked up his shoes, he explained that they aren't technically his own. They belong to his boyfriend. Matthew and Michael share just about everything. They can do this because they're the same size. Matthew said that it's Michael who always ends up choosing and buying the shoes. Matthew expressed some concern that maybe things don't always work out evenly, but they seem to have the kind of relationship where they could talk about striking that balance if it isn't already there.
I have never worn communal shoes before. The idea intrigues me. I don't think that I'm necessarily so good at sharing that I could share a pair of shoes with someone on a long-term basis, let alone an entire wardrobe. But for Matthew and Michael it's their way of doing things.
Matthew and Michael's shoes are a white pair of Dexters. Or they used to be white. Right now they are a bit ripped up, and kind of dirty. I was surprised to hear that they are only 4 weeks old. They look like they could have been around for a year or more, judging from how worn in they seem. Matthew explained that Micheal had wanted to keep the shoes extra super clean and white until 3 weeks ago, when they went to a Ghost Bees concert. There they had seen a fellow who had the same shoes, and his were all grungy. Michael liked the look of them, and decided to let his get dirty, too. So he did.
The day that I wore Matthew's shoes was rainy. I borrowed my sister's car and drove into town. The cafe was closed--Matthew was running an errand--but a sweet fellow let me in so that I didn't have to wait in the rain. Matthew had told me that he was going to be making spelt blueberry waffles with real maple syrup, and there was no way I wanted to miss out on that. (They were delicious. Not the usual shape that waffles are--I got to eat one of the test runs--but delicious none the less.)
Matthew and Michael's shoes were big and floppy on my feet. They fell off only once, when I was getting out of the car, but as long as I was walking they stayed on without any effort. That thing where the heels of the shoes spring up and catch my own kept happening, and it was kind of fun. After a long hang-out in the cafe, the sun came out and I went for a walk. It was the first and only time I got to decently explore the city. I went down by the water, and enjoyed the super-red mud. I noticed that Matthew and Michael's shoes had red earth stains on them, and since they were interested in having not-so-white-anymore shoes, I wasn't too worried about keeping them extra clean. (Which was good, because I simply cannot resist red mud puddles.)
Matthew invited me over to his and Michael's apartment for dinner. I was thrilled! Defying all expectations I seemed to be actually making friends--if not for my sister, than at least for myself. The day before I had gone to a music session at a pub downtown and did some set dancing. The folks there invited me to a house party that evening. I told Michael about it, how I wanted to go even though it involved a bit of a drive, because I figure that stuff like that doesn't happen so often.
"It doesn't? Aren't people that friendly everywhere?"
I don't think that Katie will have too much of a problem here.
(By the way, I did end up going to the house party. My sister is now welcome to drop in at the Benevolent Irish Society any Monday evening if she would like to play the penny whistle or flute. On some Fridays there is dancing.)
I went to Matthew and Michael's for dinner. I had met Michael briefly a couple days before, and that day I got to know him better as he proved to Matthew and I that it was possible to make a properly formed waffle in the waffle maker (apparently the secret is patience). Their apartment was gorgeous--big windows with lots of light, little nooks in the wall, and (my favourite) a curved wall at the entrance. Michael had had the day off and made a veritable feast involving fancy roasted vegetables and tofurkey (!). Jenn came over as well and brought delicious rice and beans and her lovely self. It was such a terrific evening spent chatting and hanging out. We went to the corner store for ice cream (even though it was actually quite cold out). When it was time to go Jenn walked towards me with her arms out--there were hugs all around.
"I feel like we just met this great friend and now she's going to disappear!"
I felt the same way about them! It was surprising to me how easy it felt to be around each other. I consider myself to be quite introverted, and it can take effort to be around other people. But it's not such a hard thing when others are just so much themselves.
Before leaving I asked Michael about the shoes, about whether he was happy with the decision to let them get messy-looking. He told me that he likes that they are dirty, but isn't so happy about the tear in the one shoe. I asked if he'd like me to repair it for him, and he liked the idea.
That was my day in Matthew and Michael's shoes. I walked over to where Katie works and we drove back to her place. The next day I wore Jordan's shoes, and in the car ride to the Potato Museum I stitched up Matthew and Micheal's shoes. First just with white thread. I showed them to Matthew and asked if he'd prefer some colour. I ended up filling in the gaps made by the tears with embroidery floss.
Matthew and Michael's shoes are floppy and flexible and easy to wear. They were conducive to moderate puddle jumping and city walking. That they are shared equally between Matthew and Michael seems somehow natural after getting to know them. And that they were willing to share them with me seems equally natural and surprising at once.
It makes me think that maybe the world is filled with friends I have yet to meet.