Story Preview: A Lot on the Mind

            I think what a lot of Americans don’t understand about us, being Canadians I mean, is that we’re not so different from them, but we are just different enough. It’s especially true here in Montreal, the city being in Quebec and so many of us preferring to speak Québécois (which is also what we call ourselves) since being French Canadian is different than being English speaking Canadian. Our fellow countrymen tend to think of us as more rude than your average Canadian; it simply isn’t true, though some of us do have a chip on the shoulder about some of these superficial differences.

The simple truth is, we’re a big city here in Montreal, we deal with big city life, but unlike our neighbors to the south our culture came about a bit differently, so French influences or not, we’re generally more patient, and even out larger cities are still what most Americans would think of as “small” or smaller. Even with our French roots here, we’re still not as blunt, or impatient, and I don’t say that to be cruel mind you, as Americans can be. But being Canadian doesn’t make you a saint either. We’re still just people.

It was late in the afternoon on this last Saturday when I found myself stumbling into being a bit short with one of my neighbors. You see, I’d had a very long week in the office, longer days and shorter nights, and it being a hard dark winter those long days weren’t very bright or cheery. It should come as no surprise that I was short on everything from patience, to time, to sleep.

I should tell you now that most people would accuse me of being too polite and too nice. People would say that most of the time I am on the verge of being walked all over, that as my neighbor frequently says, I am nice even by Canadian standards.

You see my neighbor Kendra, she is an American who has moved here for work, hardly speaks a touch of French, and is here seemingly right out of college. She is perhaps half my age, but being polite and modest, I’ve never asked her exact age you see.

She is also very American, both in her attitudes and in her appearance. It is hard not to notice her, as she walks with a certain confidence and grace that accentuates her outsized character, and it is hard not to find that charming most of the time.

She is a blonde, but not a natural one, you can tell by her golden brown eyebrows more than her roots, as she in vain but in a modest sort of way and must treat them regularly. She has very soft brown eyes that make her sweetness seem almost like a warm kind of dullness, and she has an almost cliché American body and image of physical attractiveness, all full of curving hips, a narrow waist, and a very pronounced chest, which she does not flaunt, but like her personality you cannot miss it.

We both live in the suburbs and not the city proper, at least not the urban centers of the city if not proper suburbs, and I was coming home from spending the first half of my day off running errands, and having to go into the office for a brief and unplanned follow up meeting, when she called out to me from her driveway.

She called out to me in French, practicing saying hello, and for whatever reason, no that isn’t true, for all the reasons I’ve already explained, her sweet, and energetic vibe struck me as impatient and imposing, She was going to ask me for help with something, or beg me to assist her with some nuance of living in a foreign place that did not cater specifically to the entitlement that Americans so frequently see to have, at least that was what was in my mind, when I too curtly told her I was far too busy today to chat.

When she tried to force her question out on me, one last time to explain it, or to beg more attention of me and tell me how quick it would be, I told her I was sorry, though I was not, and really had to be going.

She scowled at me, and I wondered if perhaps she was not used to people saying no to her, especially men saying no to her at all. Before I could try again to make it inside without conversation, she did manage to say it was very important, but I told her whatever it was surely she and the internet could handle it.

Having known first hand what she defined as ‘important’, and it never being so, I assumed it was simply her trying to serve even more of her charms to me when I had no patience for even a taste of them.

I muttered the French equivalent of “my god is she pushy” to myself as I went inside and then proceeded to go about my day. Which was nothing more than eating lunch, taking a nap, and perhaps watching a movie on Netflix that evening.

As I lay on my couch, having just finished napping in my living room, there was a wrap at my door. I was feeling a bit more myself after having a modest lunch, and I was not surprised to see Kendra when I opened the door.

I was surprised however, to see how she was dressed. A cynical part of me thought she must really not have responded well to my saying “no” to her and had now come over to lay on even more of that charm of hers. She was wearing black leggings and a thin grey sweater with a surprisingly deep V-neck, and even though she was only coming from across the driveway it hardly seemed warm enough for that short visit.

That was why, regardless of anything else, I said, “Won’t you please come in” as soon as I saw who it was.

Her hair was down over her shoulders and when she stepped in, she did rub her arms a little, “I just came by to see how you were doing, and to say I’m sorry about earlier.”

Kendra did, on occasion, have a habit of speaking too quickly, but she also tended to speak almost too slowly as well.

“You know,” she pulled her hair back off her shoulder and looked into my eyes, “I really appreciate how great you are to me, and you’re so nice that I could tell you’re probably just super stressed out and have too much on your mind don’t you?”

I told her that was true and gave a little chuckle too. One of the nice things about having her as a neighbor was the practice I got speaking English. Some of my work requires it, but it is never casual or truly conversational, so it is nice to have that practice with her.

“I know what you mean. We’re doing a lot of big stuff ay my job this week too, and it’s so hard to focus sometimes when you’re that stressed out right? I mean, focused on yourself, especially when you’re so nice aren’t you, and you always seem like you’re so ready to focus on other people’s needs don’t you?”

Again, it was true, but I didn’t want to admit it. I also didn’t want to admit that my eyes were being drawn down into her cleavage, which had somehow become fully in display with a few shifts of her shoulders and a little tug to her sweater.

“It’s good to think of other people though, even when you do focus on yourself, you can do both you know, isn’t that right?”

The slowness of her words, the smooth, almost deliberate pace of her speech, and the fact it didn’t seem like everything she was saying made perfect sense to me or to her, or if she knew exactly what she was trying to say, combined with those soft deep eyes of hers made it seem like it was better to let Kendra talk herself out and then just move on.

So, I just nodded along, and she smiled and laughed a little. But, I was thinking about my week while I listened to her so maybe she was on to something.

“You’re doing it right now aren’t you? You’ve had a long week, and you’ve been relaxing and I’m sure you can remember how warm and inviting,” her eyes shifted down slightly then her hand moved to her collar and I found myself looking into her deep milky white cleavage again “your couch is and how nice and quiet everything was, but you’re still standing up when you want to sit down, and you’re still listening to me when maybe you’d like to just rest and relax and let go of everything now don’t you?”

She sounded sympathetic, and the way her words rolled on so slowly with that easy rounded out American accent reminded me of how genuinely nice she was, “You’d rather sit down, isn’t that right?”

She smiled and when she said down it seemed like her hand was moving in a downward motion in front of her cleavage, her fingers almost moving in a circle with her thoughts. People do that when they talk though, their body language and their words all connect, and it seemed especially obvious with her, as she truly was one of the most direct people I’ve ever met.

Not stupid, or slow, but innocent and matter of fact, very much what you think of when you think of an American girl, someone without an overabundance of guile, or in her case, even a need for it.

But when she said down I was not thinking of sinking into my couch as much as sinking into her cleavage, which my eyes seemed to automatically do. Then, as I regained my composure I realized I did want to sit back down, but I didn’t think that was polite. But then again, staring at my neighbor’s breasts wasn’t polite either, and I found myself at a loss for words and for actions.

“Sit down, it’s okay.” She rolled her words with that same slowness, and it almost seemed like she was being patient with me, and maybe she was. I could feel my mind slowing, or more accurately not picking up speed, and everything about her, from her voice to her body language seemed to tell me that was okay.

“That’s so much better isn’t it? And since I know you really do need to relax, I can leave if you’d rather not see me right now, I just want to make sure you’re okay.” She seemed to fidget with her sweater, as though to leave, but it only drew my focus to something I’d been doing my best not to focus on.

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