If it hadn’t been for the two hour line at Giordano’s, I may have never found you off a beaten path from the Tri-State Tollway.
I think often about our introduction, your Midwestern twang and my Northern vim and vigor; we made an odd pair -- we were never a pair to begin with. I knew you for less than a moment, I’ve thought of you every moment since.
To say that you were a muse would be an understatement. I think of you often as a kindred spirit, but I don’t think that quite fits either. Perhaps you were a soulmate of some kind, but one whom I was only privileged to be privy to for a few fleeting glances.
I remind myself of the way that your tongue pressed through the gap between your two front teeth as you spoke. The nasal tone that you exuded as you breathed light into a dull and deserted bar was enchanting in a way that eluded me then, and still eludes me now.
This isn’t to say that you were beautiful. In fact, you looked no different from any other young single mother from Michigan, expatriated to a Chicagoan suburb might look. Dark hair, half-lidded and exhausted eyes, with bags beneath a deeper burgundy than the red wine you spilled on my mother’s designer purse. You carried your weight in your hips, which I wonder about often, considering the burden you bore on your arms -- and the heavier burden on your heart.
I remember the glazed and empty look in your over-lined eyes as my mother asked just how dangerous Chicago was. You explained how your husband died, how he was shot in warm blood, not cold; instead of letting tears befall you, the words you used were antithetic, your tone monotonous, and your face blank.
It was then that I learned that pain doesn’t necessarily equal beauty. Instead, pain looks like a broken down bar with the best pizza north of Chicago, pain looks like the heel on your shoe that broke halfway through your shift; it looks like wage labour and beer spilled on your t-shirt as you hold back tears.
In the same way, beauty might just be the snow cherry toned lipstick smudged against your teeth, beauty might be hair so frizzy that no elastic can contain it; it might be the faded nametag whose contents I don’t quite remember.
Part of me wishes that I’d stayed, built a home for us in the liquor store parking lot across the street. Instead, I hold onto the ghost of you and the first stage of grief as I disappear back home down the I-94E.
Moretti's by b.pick
b. pick is a poet and creative non-fiction author based in small town Ontario. They currently study remotely at Western University, where they are heavily involved in LGBTQ2S+ and feminist activism. Their work has most recently appeared in SAPPHIC and Grubstreet Journal.
I keep spilling my water lately. My psychic says I’m going on a trip soon, so Arlo must be coming back from San Francisco.
When I first met Arlo, he brought out my most aspirational self. Ever since I met him, I’ve been a more attentive person. I play my guitar again, even write a few lines once in a while.
Arlo’s got a condo and he cleans it,
I rent a hole, but I dream big.
Arlo, man from San Francisco. The kind of guy who deliberately chose a job that requires a three-piece suit. I met him at a bar on a rainy Friday night. I asked him if he was from the city and that’s when he told me he travels a lot of work. I didn’t ask what kind of work it was so I would seem aloof and unattainable. He stayed with me at the bar all night, admitting later he’d been waiting for a blind date. I was wearing a low-cut blue dress, totally unsuitable for the weather. He asked if I wanted to come back to his place. I agreed without hesitation.
I had no interest in falling in love with Arlo, but I was caught off guard by his condo. Once, months later, he took me on a business trip to Milan. The hotel was on a hill a bit out of town, full of sunlight, with terracotta walls and climbing roses everywhere. But it wasn’t as nice as his condo.
By the time we grabbed a cab to his place, I was getting tired, so I didn’t notice we were making our way through the old money part of town. His condo was in a refurbished warehouse and it took up a whole floor. The front door opened on the living room, and the back wall was all windows. The living room had a fireplace and two grey couches facing it. When you sat on them, it was like sitting on a cloud.
The kitchen was new, all stainless steel with dark wood accents, and opened towards the living room. The two bedrooms were enormous yet cozy, with a view of a nearby park. Both had walk-in closets and antique-looking dressers.
The bathroom really did me in. All done up in greys and ocean greens. There was an infinity pool in the second bedroom ensuite. You stared out at the city like a god floating above it. There was a small watercolour of St. Paul’s Cathedral above the toilet. Arlo had to tell me about that, because I’ve never been to London. He said he’d take me one day.
I stayed over, and then stayed the rest of the weekend. I could tell he was happy about it, but to keep him sweet I made pancakes in the morning, ran out to get coffee and fruit, wore his shirt while I lounged on the couch. I didn’t ask him to make a fire because he’d mentioned before it was a pain to get wood in the city.
When I left Sunday night, I vowed to do everything I could to get back into that condo. It was everything I’d ever wanted in a home. As I walked down to a busier street to grab a cab, back in my blue dress, I was already imagining the tasteful abstract art I would put on the walls, the fine bottles of wine I’d buy to sit pretty on the oak butcher’s block.
The following weeks were difficult. I spent too much time with my psychic, trying to figure out when Arlo would be coming back. He tended to be vague in texts, so I feigned detachment right back. I had dreams about his condo. I dreamed we were having sex on the clean white carpet in front of the couches. I dreamed I was cutting fruit and placing it perfectly in a blue pottery bowl that sat on the kitchen’s marble countertop. I dreamed the sun shone in through the floor to ceiling windows like it was welcoming me into a new day.
I am usually able to focus in my classes, but I became scattered and distant with my students. While writing out the Dorian mode on the chalkboard I thought of where my guitar would fit in the condo. It matches everything so well.
Arlo comes back every month or so, though he never makes promises. In the early days I practiced my seduction patiently, until he asked if I’d like keys to the condo, “just to keep an eye on it while I’m gone.” I said I’d think about it. I did a dance in front of my students the next day. No better way to practice your rhythm than dancing, I said.
Now it’s been four months since Arlo’s last visit. We’ve been seeing each other for about two years. He’s been really busy with work. “The big wigs want me here,” he says when I call to let him know his ficus is improving with more water. I’ve never heard a real person use the term big wigs. It makes me wonder if the condo actually reflects his own tastes, or those of someone else.
I don’t think about it too much. His absence means I get to spend more quality time with the condo. Right after I hang up, I knock a glass of water on the floor. Even the glass on the hardwood floor glitters like its meant to be there.
Tonight, when water spills out of the infinity pool, I know to expect another call. He’s got a surprise for me, he says. All I can think of is new light fixtures, flowy drapes for the windows, a silk robe that matches the bedsheets. I smile and say I can’t wait to see him. I dim the bathroom lights. I turn the infinity tub’s jets on. I think about the condo’s new locks and feel a wave of calm slip over me. I watch the city dreaming.
"Dream Big", by Emma Bider.
Emma Bider is a writer and PhD student living in Ottawa. Her poetry has been featured in Unpublishable Zine. She's currently trying to identify all the trees in her neighbourhood. Emma's collection of short stories We Animals is available at Octopus Books in Ottawa and on Amazon.
Hottawa :: [hot-uh-wuh]
a big town situated in the capital of Canada somewhere in a valley between the Ottawa river and St. Lawrence Lowlands and nested on the traditional, unceded territories of the Algonquin nation [noun]
a form of slang used to describe the nation’s capital overall freshness [adjective]
an underground group of taste makers reminding the participants of the Outaouais region that they are not forgotten [noun]
There is a group of individuals in this city whose part-time occupation is to keep us creatives thriving, partying and mingling together. The collective’s name is Hottawa and they are so underground, that strangers on the streets invite them to their own parties. The crew, which began with Max Halparin (Halpo), has grown into a mixture of common folk who make uncommon moves :: Hector, a VJ; Josh (Sportif) and Mikayla (Seiiizmikk), who decided to come on their own accord; Sara, a DJ by the name Mani Pedi; and Jordan David who is popularly known as JFUN, but to me he will always be Dr. David.
Photo by Nicolai Gregory
The name came from a discussion Halpo was having in 2015 with his friend Guy Halpern (DJ That Guy), about this city having so much to offer, but lacking the platters to serve it properly.
So, he got to work and began putting the right people into the right place, starting with DJ sets after concerts organized by Showbox at the fabled Mugshots, and then a community grew. Early collaborators Sarah (Sarita) and Olivia (ohjay) regularly drop hot ish under the moniker, FEELS.
Exclusive PACE-tailored Hottawa mix: curated, arranged and woven by Halpo
Today, they write Hottawa onto dusty garage doors, fingers all messy and ask one another, “where the dirt bags at?” They walk past diners on Bank street and contemplate why breakfast has gone from $9.00 to $14.00 before the $15.00 minimum wage kicks in. One of the members ambitions in community radio - another volunteers time at and donates parts to a local bike co-op. Some of them mix in their rental rooms where KRK speakers are propped up atop law textbooks and turntables be cornered in small nooks - to get there, you pass last week’s empties and offer to help clean. Someone mutters “nah” and down the hallway we go.
Photo by Nicolai Gregory
We met up for a shoot on a cloudy, muggy evening and of course,
it rained so we hid under other people’s balconies
until babies’ mommas shoo’ed us away,
most likely mistaking us for local
Photo by Nicolai Gregory
There’s always winners and losers, and Ottawa’s about to relapse off weighted movements or washed out attempts of entertainment sickery. Hottawans believe that if it doesn’t exist, create it. They are passionate about this city and care for its inhabitants. They are valuable activists, outspoken contributors to society and stand in line wherever you stand in line. So it goes.
For example, at their last event, they received feedback that some of their female attendees felt unsafe, so the next day, they reached out to Hollaback! Ottawa - a group of volunteers acting as a mobile safe space - to intervene if anyone is assaulted or made to feel uncomfortable at their next event.
Photo by Nicolai Gregory
That is action and democracy // we begin to see that dialogue and conversation is possible in all aspects of society - even nightlife - and in encouraging it, we remove the taboos associated with particular types of outings.
When we view ‘going out dancing’ as an estranged activity in which assault is a normal thing, something is wrong with our societal fabric. Act. Hottawa gets that.
Photo by Lukasz Lukaszek
Hottawa is doing something special on Friday, July 14th at Babylon, and we’ll be there helping out. While the crew is known for fusing parties with classics and fresh cuts, sometimes pouncing from soulful funk to techno and acid house, followed by a Trick Daddy track, they have some other ideas up their sleeves for this week.
PACE will be curating the visual screen behind the DJ decks, which will be mashed and presented by VJ Paradisse all night,
A special entrance combo: $15.00 for PACE’s third issue + ticket to the event,
$5.00 all night entrance for PACE contributors,
to make sure everyone enjoys a respectful dance floor experience, Hollaback! Ottawa will be acting as mobile safe spaces to intervene if any creeps make you feel uncomfortable.
Nicolai Gregory’s photo collection: