by Catherine Mwitta

You arrive during the first snow of the year. Montreal looks so much smaller than Toronto, smaller than even Vancouver. 

In the bathroom of a hostel you're on the phone begging your sister for more money. She gives it to you, and you hope the cleaners outside can't hear you two fighting. 

You and your friends head over to the local liquor store to buy some drinks. After much quarreling, you and the girls settle for the raspberry vodka.

"I'm getting the Rosé for myself," Christie says, and in that moment you become aware that the glass pendulum of wealth will always favor her.

As you and your friends round the hostel stairs, the woman at reception informs Leon that tonight's their weekly pub crawl. 

When you all reach your bedrooms, Leon says, "Let’s go on the pub crawl. I want to dress up and take some pictures first though." 

You take some of her and she takes some of you. You both leave the bedroom for better lighting in the hallway, hoping that the raspberry liquor does its magic and transforms you into some mystical woman of the night. 

You bump into a man and he apologizes for walking into your photo, his long hair covering his face like a shield. You're unsure as to why he's sorry, but you don't pay further attention to him and continue taking photos. 

You and Leon go downstairs to meet up with the rest of your friends. Sifting through the people gathered for the pub crawl, you recognize the man from the hallway amongst the crowd.

The group makes their way towards the first bar like mismatched socks all in one bin. You ask Christie if she wants a cigarette. 

"Not really," she says.

You ignore her answer and turn to the long-haired man. "Do you have any cigarettes?" 

“Sure,” he says and offers you some.

You hand them off to Christie and ask him for his name this time.

"Benny," he says.  

You and Benny talk all the way to the bar.

"Do you like him?" Christie asks.

"Maybe," you say. 

The first bar is so full you don't even bother ordering a beer. Instead, you act like the company of your friends is enough to satiate your need for one. 

"Good job Leon, I could barely tell," Benny says.

Leon shrinks into a whisper, his assumption she's trying to deceive others about her gender identity infantilizing her existence. Before you can tell him to fuck off, Christie holds you silent and tells you:

"You can't always worry about other people's feelings. Do what you want."

The group heads to the next bar. Benny finally pulls you into his embrace and holds you all night. Tells you he likes your nails and hands you your first cigarette outside the A&W.

"Do you have drugs?" Your friend asks him.

"What are you doing in Montreal?" Christie chimes in. 

"How old are you?" Leon says.

"Twenty-four," he says. 

That night in the hostel bedroom, four drunk girls converse on dirty wood floors with only bathroom fluorescents illuminating each of their faces. One cries and you don't know why, so you ask her. She says it's about an ex-boyfriend.

She says she prayed to God every night for a man with qualities and values she wanted. God gave her that man, and he still wasn’t who she desired. How can such self-hate prevent you from gaining all the things you've ever wanted? Prayed for. Mourned after even though you’ve never really felt the intensity of love before. 

So you cry for her, and she cries for herself.

You and Benny hang out in the common room of the hostel the next day. He tells you he's native Australian, used to be in a metal band and mentions his fondness of Britain. That he's looking to expand his identity because he no longer wants to be a bartender, and thinks traveling the world will give him the inspiration he needs to finally begin writing a fantasy novel.

He says he's thirty-two today, and you lie and tell him you're nineteen.

He tells you to stop straightening your hair. To stop saying "I don't know" when you clearly know what you mean, and tells you you hate yourself. He pulls you into his lap, kisses you and tells you that he likes the way you taste. You fold yourself into origami, small, small, small enough to fit into his hand.

Catherine Mwitta is a current Journalism major at Langara College. In her spare time, she volunteers for local literary magazines and runs a blog called

photo: James Rattigan