Vest-tops and Tattoos

Vest-tops and Tattoos

Ceri Morgan
Trigger Warning: Drug use/addiction

Borrow. Copy. Steal. The woman undressed a thousand times. On stage and on the page. On screen. She’d seen the photos of carnie girls who stripped in small-town fairs. Josée Yvon had her dancers work in Montreal’s Red Light, make-up tight against neon signs. Sharing a token backstage, one dreamed of buying a smallholding. Another was fighting for custody of her son, c-section scar defiant in a sequined bikini.

Void. Vape. Vamp.

Blood on the washroom walls: my best friend warned me that the previous day, she had heard two young women shoot up in one of the stalls.

Being young and gorgeous in downtown Montreal – the French one, naturally. Brunch at la Brioche lyonnaise served reluctantly by aloof, slender waitresses, a treat supper at l’Express, with its famous checkered floor. I’d heard the project to create a second, French-speaking, city centre had failed, most students only popping out of the metro station at Berri-UQÀM to attend classes before disappearing once more underground. But that was before the grande bibliothèque was built on the site of the enormous second-hand bookstore. I used to go to le Fou du livre to buy Quebec classics for a dollar, loading them into my basket as the wheels from the indoor skatepark rumbled overhead.

Relive certain memories. Forget others. Take the metro to Old Montreal. Hum the trains’ 3-note refrain. Buy a coffee and brioche at the pâtisserie Saint-Louis de France. Long for its Easter pastries with their white iced crosses. Wonder if it really was Dany Laferrière I used to see at Sherbrooke metro all those summers ago. I was working on How to Make Love… and didn’t dare speak to the tall man standing in the cool gloom of the station.

Bold and beautiful in vest-tops and tattoos. Crossing rue Ontario, Yvon’s eyes closed for a second in time with the camera shutter. Sigh, swoon, sleep. Seep. Screw up your face and pose for the photographer. Put on a clingy top and fake eyelashes. Stay home or go out and dance until dawn. Dress again the next morning in your everyday uniform: jeans, t-shirt, boots. A rose on your left shoulder underneath your black sweater.

Absence, presence and substitution. Compulsion. Addiction. I placed a part of myself elsewhere, but there was still too much of me around. I put a pebble in my heart to stop from falling.

A man came up to me in UQÀM. ‘You have…’. Thinking he was going to ask the time, I looked at my wrist. ‘You have class.’ I was polite, but he persisted, sliding precipitously from ‘vous’ to ‘tu’. ‘You’re very beautiful. Do you want to give me your phone number?’ I preferred the offer made by a homeless man a few days previously: ‘you don’t want to be my girlfriend? Just for an hour. I need tenderness.’ That, at least, had some poetry.


Ceri Morgan