He looked at me from his cup of coffee and asked: so, you really don’t know Mount Royal, do you? Well, no, I answered, a bit ashamed. I have been living here for more than three months and I hadn’t had the time to visit all the landmarks of the city, not even at the time when was only a tourist. Shame on me, sometimes. It’s a mix between laziness and tranquility. I haven’t made a list of places to discover here. Well, not an actual list, but a virtual, mental list that I forget all the time and when someone makes me remember it I may say “oh yes!” and that’s it. I’ll fix my schedule, and I’ll go ahead, mostly alone. But that time he was there, with his steaming coffee cup and his plaid shirt that made him look younger than he was, staring at me. Well, really, I don’t know that place. Okay, let’s go tomorrow, he decided. It will rain tomorrow, I answered. So what? I hate summer storms, I said, so let’s go early there. What, why?, he complained, it’s gonna be Sunday, he said. You promised. Oh well.
So there I was, really motivated, at the right time. Sports outfit on, with sunblock and a cold water bottle. Okay, maybe a runner’s cellphone application in order to check calories and distance. What else? Just leaving Mont-Royal metro station (they share almost the same name), to the park. The aerial view that Mont-Royal will show makes you realize that this small mountain is in the middle of a big city full of parks and gardens, places where activities are centralized, sometimes under the crown of a tree or by the side of a fountain, every single summer. Same here.
Mount Royal is a big mount who faces the city, the river and even the rest of the province. It was created with great catholic pomp procession, by the time my native country struggled with war. It was easy for me to imagine this old lookalike European city, as old as mine, sanctified to all the catholic saints, with their citizens walking into this place, praying. Who could imagine that a couple of centuries later it would be invaded by tourists and sports junkies?
So everybody went up the hill. Even a bus went up, but we weren’t able to understand where and how. Our goal was to go to the top of the mount. My host didn’t stop talking, maybe because he did not have the opportunity to share his thoughts frequently or maybe just because he hated silence. As for me, it was just the opposite: a reflexive muteness, wherever it finds me. I was sincerely touched by this small forest conservated for more than a century, affected by my own need for big spaces of nature. This forest has a calming effect on this busy city in the same way that has the Pacific Ocean to my hometown, Lima. People can handle the abundance of the concrete and cement just because of this type of relaxing spaces.
When the guy who took me there got bored because of my contemplative silence, he though I was tired and he lost his (minimal) patience. I have a soccer match, he said. No problem, I’ll spend more time here, I said, smiling. He nodded and added: You see, I’ve been living in Montréal a couple of years and never took a selfie in here. And he left, while I was dreaming… and still in a trance.