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Bay Boy


​The 747’s landing wheels deployed and I held my breath for a second as the plane touched down onto the asphalt of the landing strip. The flight attendant cleared her throat over the intercom and announced that we’d just landed in Montreal and it was seventy-two degrees outside. Not exactly the sweltering summer temperatures I was used to having lived in Washington D.C my whole life. My dad reached across the airplane seat’s armrest and squeezed my hand. “Everything okay?” I couldn’t answer truthfully, so I just nodded.

​We walked out of the airport, toting a ridiculous amount of luggage, and hailed a taxi. My dad told the driver the address of our newly acquired brownstone, his American accent apparent as he spoke in broken French. The last time he’d taken French was in high school and now we’d moved to a city where it was the main language. I hadn’t known a word of French until April of last year, when over spring break he’d sprung the news that we’d be moving to Montreal on me. After that I’d learned French through Rosetta Stone, not exactly a desirable way to spend my weekends. And here I sat in a cab in a big strange city just five and a half months later. I couldn’t believe this was my life. I thought back to three weeks ago, when while packing up my room I came across an old photo album. In it were pictures of me in kindergarten, first grade, second grade. The precious years of gap toothed smiles and pigtails and overalls and finger-painting. And then I realized I missed my childhood. In admitting that I missed it, it dawned on me that it had slipped away from me as quietly as the stars fade away from the sky. It was gone and I could not get it back. I was twenty one, no longer a child. But my childhood hadn’t left me in one moment. It had begun to creep away when I was ten, eleven, twelve. Now it was gone forever. In a way, when the plane taxied down the runaway, putting its wheels down, it had been the same. Although I had known since April that Dad and I were leaving D.C it only occurred to me as the plane came to a halt that it was August twenty third and I was in Montreal. And this was my life now.

​The cab driver deposited Dad and I in front of a two-level red brick brownstone right in the center of Montreal. Dad had chosen it for its proximity to his new job. It was nice enough but I missed our little stone house in downtown D.C, the one that was just a five-minute walk away from our neighborhood Starbucks. I was pretty sure they didn’t have Starbucks here and I would miss it, just as I would miss a thousand other things about home. I would miss the friendly baristas, and the familiar Starbucks logos that were emblazoned on the employees’ aprons and graced the cups. I would miss the smell of a hundred different drinks being made all at once and the comfortable leather armchairs. I wondered if Dad and I would keep getting books and coffee together every Sunday morning, the way we did in D.C., or if he would be too involved in his new job to keep up our tradition. I hoped not, because I knew I would desperately need Dad. I would need his silly jokes that didn’t even make sense sometimes, his patience when I couldn’t figure something out and the way in which after a bad day he knew to leave me alone in my room. I would need Dad to keep being the way he was back home because I couldn’t imagine losing the only thing that I knew, the only familiar, comforting thing, in a city where I was simply existing, not living. At home, I had lived. It had been a small, quiet life. But I had not wanted more. I hadn't needed to be loud and wild. I had been content. I had smiled at strangers as I walked by, I had friends to laugh with and a home I loved. I didn’t have to question if I belonged, I had fit the same way one piece of a puzzle fits to another. But now that life was dead. I had to start anew in Montreal. And I was trying my best to be okay with that.

​Dad fished around in his dark brown leather cross-body messenger bag and pulled out the key to our brownstone. He put the key in the lock and twisted the doorknob. The door opened up into a small hall with hardwood floors. I walked in and lowered Elliot's cat carrier to the floor. I opened the door and Elliot, my grey Siamese cat, wandered out. Dad grabbed the cat carrier and put it in a closet in the hall, presumably a coat closet. I looked around nervously, not knowing what to do. Finally Dad saved me. “Do you want a tour of the house?” Dad had already been out here last month to see the brownstone. He showed me through the main hall to a room that he had claimed as his office, his big black desk from home already set up. Then he led me to the kitchen, which was gorgeous. A granite island sat in the center and there were granite countertops all around. I eyed the stainless steel appliances and double ovens and smiled. This was definitely a chef’s kitchen. Next, Dad showed me to the dining room, which was right next to the kitchen. The walls were cranberry red and it felt cozy. We went up the small, twisty, spiral staircase, something I loved, and my eyes instantly wandered from the perfect hardwoods, to the large wooden bookshelves, to the pale blue leather couch, to the giant flat screen TV. It was a lot like our living room at home, and that made me happy. He quickly showed me his bedroom, plain beige walls, a bed, and a simple nightstand. It was such a typical Dad room. Then he smiled and grabbed my hand. “Time for your room!” I followed Dad dutifully as he opened a white door and showed me my room. It had plain white walls; just like at home, except the wall behind my bed was exposed brick. The floor was glossy wood. Dad had already gotten me a twin, complete with plain white sheets. It was perfect. “Thanks Dad.” I hugged Dad and decided I could learn to like Montreal. Later that night, I snuggled up in my bed in sweat pants and an oversized T-shirt and crawled under the covers. The light was off and I was left alone with my thoughts. I thought about how much I missed D.C and all my friends and how I started my second year of medical school in two days. I thought about how I wanted to unpack my boxes and then I drifted off to sleep.

​I woke at seven thirty; I’d always been an early riser, and made my way down to the kitchen. The fridge was completely empty. I wandered around a bit until I found Dad in his office, filling out some paperwork. He was so passionate about history, Russian history especially, and he’d worked so hard to secure his new job at McGill University. I loved watching him work because even when he was dealing with what was probably insignificant paperwork, he seemed to glow. He loved what he did and it showed. I couldn’t bring myself to interrupt him, but my stomach growled loudly, and Dad turned around. “Milena, do you want to go get some breakfast?"
​”Yeah, my stomach says it’s time to eat.” Dads nodded, “Just give me a minute,” he said. I went back up to my room and changed into black jeans, grey flip-flops and my white Beatles Abbey Road tank top. I liked neutrals because I had never been one to make a statement with my clothes, but rather look casual and feel comfortable. I reappeared in his office and he grabbed his messenger bag and we headed out. Our brownstone was in downtown Montreal so we walked to a small cafe. I got an egg and cheese sandwich and Dad got scrambled eggs with bacon, eager to see if Canadian bacon really was better. After I scarfed down my sandwich we went back home and as dad worked I began to unpack. I began with boxes of my clothes and was pleasantly surprised to discover I had a large closet. I hung some of my clothes up and started to neatly fold the rest, then put them in the wardrobe. Over the summer I'd ordered furniture for my new room, mostly IKEA, and last month when Dad had been in Montreal he'd put it all in my room. Because of that I had very little to unpack, mostly just clothes and other personal belongings, and I felt uneasy that transferring my life from D.C to Montreal was as easy as unpacking eleven boxes. It didn't feel right. My life in D.C had been so rich, so full, and here it lay before me in a few meager cardboard boxes. The way a whole life could be packed up so simply was unsettling. I hadn't left a hole, a cutout, back in D.C so that I could return and fill it in. I had taken everything and left nothing. I was all in Montreal, every last bit of me, and no part of me remained in D.C, except for my memories. I went to bed that night with an organized closet, a neat room free of boxes,completely unpacked. But most importantly I went to bed that night with a heavy heart that longed for home.

The next morning Dad woke me up at six thirty and I remembered I started school that day. August twenty fifth. I stumbled downstairs where pancakes and milk sat at a place on the island. I ate hurriedly and ran upstairs, almost tripping, brushed my teeth and did a half decent job brushing my hair. Frustrated with the blond mess that was my hair, I quickly threw it up into a bun. I slipped into light denim shorts,(it was a bit warmer today)a short sleeve maroon V-neck and black flip-flops. I looked like a typical college student. Hopefully I'd blend in. Dad insisted on driving me and I hopped into the front passenger seat of our new Prius. "Hey Dad it won't be too long before I'm the one driving you know, I just need to save up for a car"I said cheerily. "You sure are growing up," Dad said and his face turned serious. Dad pulled into the McGill staff parking lot and I unbuckled and got out. I stepped out of the Prius tentatively and Dad gave me a hug. "Do you have your backpack?" I grabbed my black Jan-sport backpack and nodded. "Then let's go mon ami." Dad had been trying to incorporate French into our conversations lately, hoping it would help me adjust to life in a French city. It didn't help, but rather made me want to yell at him that no matter what he did Montreal was not home and the transition from living in D.C, the greatest city on earth, to stupid Montreal, would not be easy. Dad located a map of the McGill campus and pulled out a paper map and handed it to me. He took a black pen out and mapped the route to one of McGill's science building, the one where I had molecular biology. "Have a good day Mila! Take the bus home, okay?"
"Yeah okay." I was already dreading taking Canadian public transit home. I'd been spoiled at home, having the Metro. I looked down at my schedule and hurried off in what I hoped was the general direction towards the large stone building. I walked down one path after another, in search of the elusive lecture hall and began to feel like I was trapped in a maze. I didn't want to ask for help from the swarms of students passing by me though. I felt like a goldfish in the ocean passing schools of huge tuna. I was desperately lost. Someone bumped into me, sending me flying. As if my day couldn't get any worse. I dusted myself off and got up. A guy about my age with blond hair and baby blue eyes looked down at me. He muttered something then said something in French which I was pretty sure was directed at me. I tilted my neck up to see him, he was impossibly tall, six three or six four, and at five foot eight I felt tiny. I had no idea what he'd said, he'd spoken quickly and what he'd said sounded nothing like the phrases I'd learned from Rosetta Stone. "I'm sorry. What did you say? My French is pretty bad, sorry." I ducked my head in embarrassment. "Are you alright?" Surprisingly, he didn't have a French Canadian accent. "Um yes, oui."
"You're American?" I nodded. I guess my accent had given me away. "From California?" I laughed and shook my head. I couldn't believe that I, with my incredibly pale complexion, had been mistaken for a California girl. I noticed Canadian Boy dragged a Bauer hockey bag behind him. I could see a hockey stick poking out. "From New York then?" Why was it that foreigners thought the U.S only consisted of Cali and NYC? "From Washington D.C." I smirked, he probably didn't even know where D.C was. "Oh, where the Capitals play!
"Yup. That's D.C."
"Then why are you in Montreal? Are you a foreign exchange student?"
If only I was a foreign exchange student. Then I could go home at the end of the year. But I was stuck in Montreal until I left for medical school. "No. I just moved here. My dad got a job at McGill." He nodded slowly, as if he was only half awake. "But weren't you going to the college in the States?" I hated telling people I'd moved because of Dad. It reminded me that my Dad, the one I trusted the most, the one who supposedly loved me the most and had my best interest at heart, had ripped me away from my home for a job. "Yeah, I was at Georgetown. And I'm in medical school, not college." I spotted the building where my class was and hurried towards the door, but tripped and fell flat on my face. I wasn't having a bad day, or a bad week, or even a bad month, but a bad year. The last six months had been a mix of trouble learning French, tearful goodbyes, crying myself to sleep and then waking up to the same nightmare. But maybe it wasn't just a bad year. After all, this was my life for the next three years. Maybe this was the start to a bad life. "You alright?" Canada boy asked softly, his deep voice evoking every last bit of sadness in me. It seemed to me that my sadness didn't have a limit. I could cry my eyes out, cry a whole river, and then the next day feel even worse. It was a bottomless pit. "I'm alright, kind of." Canada boy offered me his hand but I refused it, getting up by myself. He looked slightly offended, I guess Canadian boys were raised to be polite and chivalrous. "You are bleeding, your nose," Canada boy pointed out to me. I cursed under my breath and he heard me and chuckled. "You swear like a sailor, Jesus Christ. That's quite a mouth for an American." Technically, I wasn't even American, I was Russian. I'd been born in Moscow and at the time of my birth my mom hadn't even been an American citizen. "Hey, I'm injured, you're not allowed to make fun of my country!" Canada boy smirked. "I'm not making fun of it, I'm just saying Canadians are clearly superior. We don't get nose bleeds." My nose was still bleeding like a faucet. "Well technically I'm Russian so you're not even offending me, so ha," I said. Sticking my tongue out. Canada Boy laughed, a mighty roar. "I can't believe you just stuck your tongue out at me, I don't think anyone's don't that to me since seventh grade." I pretended to look shocked. "What? Then you're clearly hanging out with the wrong people, Canada Boy." Shit. Had I really just called Canada Boy, well, Canada Boy? "You'll have to help me meet some new people then I guess. I'm Jordan." I stuck my hand out and he shook it, his grip firm. Mine was equally firm, I had a strong handshake. "Milena."
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