A Place Where Two Roads Meet

Thirty minutes before we’re supposed to go out for Halloween, Julia, Sebastien, and I are digging through Julia’s basement to find some semblance of a costume. We’ve exhausted our best trio costume ideas in both French and English, including but not limited to quatre-vingt-dix, third wheeling, and the three levels of government (municipal, provincial, and federal).

I suddenly remember the wetsuit I keep in my car just in case I ever need to go swimming in glacial water, and Julia recalls the dehydrated garlic, dryer sheets, and socks drying upstairs. Sebastien abandons us to become the mayor from Powerpuff Girls, a noble decision that we do not hold against him. 

An hour later, wet and dry walk into a bar. It’s the type of place where they’re playing Drake all night long at a volume nearly impossible to hold a conversation. Not that many are going on; everyone’s eyes are kept on swivel, cycling from their friends to Instagram to a fresh sweep of the room with a hunger for someone to make a temporary home out of.

Adorned in a clothesline of dried goods and swimming goggles, we have an armour of social invisibility around us, allowing us to delve deep into whatever creative projects we like without being questioned by men. I’m especially thankful for that tonight, because I really didn’t foresee having to explain je suis mouillée to anyone.

We’ve come armed with pen and paper with the objective of recording observations about people we see. It’s fascinating what people reveal about themselves in social situations surrounded by strangers, and even more fascinating what we unconsciously decide to notice about them.

Julia and I never had the pleasure of meeting each other as strangers. Our mothers met in prenatal birthing classes at the Fort Erie YMCA, their due dates only a few weeks apart. We floated in our respective wombs while our mothers stretched together and talked about futures that they couldn’t have possibly imagined; ones that certainly didn’t involve their daughters doing performance art wearing garlic and goggles during a pandemic. 

Yet we grew together, our lives following radically different yet similar paths. As kids we met weekly in the same dance studio, and as teenagers in concert band and on the rowing team. While I gravitated towards the arts in university, Julia moved towards science and philosophy. We’ve both travelled around a lot since leaving home, seeking out old friends and the comfort of strangers, and have each spent the past three years in Francophone environments. We manage to see each other at least twice a year, quite an admirable feat for childhood friends not living in the same province or country.  

I read once that most people misunderstand how the butterfly effect works. It’s often misconstrued as a term that explores the idea of leverage in a complex system, one in which a number of small actions leads to one big action. A butterfly flaps its wings in Mexico and causes a typhoon in Thailand.

In actuality, the butterfly effect is the inability to pinpoint an exact moment that did or did not cause an effect in a complex system. It dwells in the impossibility of knowing something precise in a system where anything can be influenced by outside factors. Did the butterfly flapping its wings cause the typhoon directly, or was the ocean already upset because of climate change? 

It’s this casual causality that brings me to drive thirteen hours east to visit my childhood friend Julia in Le Bic, her adopted small town in Maritime Quebec. I’ve never driven more than an hour by myself, let alone had my own car.

Perhaps I go because after moving back to Anglophone Canada from France, I missed being able to lose your bearings in language, wanting the privilege of tuning out anything you don’t feel like listening to. It could be that I had developed the inability to stay in one place longer than a month, too accustomed to life on the road. Or maybe it was because being close to someone at a weekly cadence before you are even brought into this world dictates you will follow a similar but modified rhythm for the rest of your life, substituting weeks for months or years.

Julia’s brother happens to be visiting Le Bic at the same time as me. He calls me dramatic. He’s maybe not wrong. Julia was living somewhere cool, and not having seen each other in over a year, I wanted to visit her. It could be as simple as that.

But it could also be much more complex, because that makes for better writing material and stories in which you can intellectualize yourself to strangers who don’t yet know your character flaw as an egomaniacal exaggerator.

It’s not easy to pinpoint a single reason you feel compelled to do something. Doesn’t everyone try to make sense of their lives by painting broad strokes until something fits right with the narrative you want to tell about yourself? 

Overall, October is a gentle month. It rains most days, alternating between a casual drizzle and violent downpour that sometimes blows the front door right open, given we leave it unlocked. We still go outside everyday, hiking through tree cover along the mountainous coastline or running down empty country roads. Inside, we work on editing short horror films that we shoot on our second day together, eventually culminating in the establishment of a micro independent film festival (stay tuned for TRiFF 2022).

My planned one-week trip turns into four. I carve out a little life for myself in Julia’s corner of the world, complete with new friends, a poetry manuscript, regular workout routine, and fleeting romance with one of the strangers I took notes on during our art observation project. It’s a brief glimpse into a world that could be mine, but as the first snow of the year falls in early November, I make my way back towards Ontario.  

In The Autobiography of Red, Anne Carson writes that “sometimes, a journey makes itself necessary.” The cold begins to foreshadow winter; my early fall wardrobe can only sustain me so much longer. Perhaps I have overstayed my welcome in a place I can lay no claim to. Maybe I feel guilty for resting in a single spot for too long. Or more simply, it could just be that my biannual visit with Julia has run its course.

On Rain


When the first rains of monsoon season fall, I walk into school looking like I have spent all morning wading in the lake. The principal asks if I used an umbrella, but I don’t have the words to tell her that I can only shrink myself so much under its cover. Water squishes out of my socks with every step as I trudge up three staircases to my office.

Inside the school, it is always raining. Clouds line the ceiling of my classroom and pour down until a child asks in broken English to open the windows. The class, up to their necks in water, the small ones already submerged, let out a collective sigh. We drain out slowly enough that the humidity creeps in, settling over the class with an unconscientious greed.

During lunch, I ask my co-teacher how long the rain will last for.

“I don’t know,” she says, looking out the window. “Maybe a month. Last year the season was very short, so maybe this year will be the same.”


I read once that running in the rain only absorbs more water. One could stay drier by walking calmly between buildings instead of dashing across courtyards. During monsoon season, it rains an average 11 inches per day in Daejeon, which is better measured by pizza deliveries per week and hours spent in bed. There are some cities that might be worth braving the rain for, but Daejeon is not one of them. Even in rainy season, the KTX still operates across the country with speeds of 305 kilometers per hour.

After lunch, I walk up to my office where I’ll stay hidden until it’s time to go home. My umbrella is propped open beside my desk, a wet omen that refuses to dry. Walking to and from work used to be a battle with the heat, annexing me in layers of sweat by the time I reached school. Summer brings a new struggle, taking the form of a relentless rain that does not care about white shoes or weekend plans.


A common trope in dramatic literature is for a woman to slowly walk out into the ocean, dripping in grief and weighed down by a flowing dress, until she is never seen again. Take Shakespeare’s Ophelia, who gathered flowers around the mountain of white that hung off her body until there was no need for her to float anymore.

A student, no older than seven, knocks on the office door and cracks it open. Water rushes out into the hallway, and he wades into the room. His hair is matted to his forehead, whether from rain or sweat I cannot tell. His legs make strong strides to my desk, where he lets out a long string of words without taking a breath. I decide that he must be doused in layers of sweat. He repeats the same string of words as rain begins to assault the roof above our heads. Words tumble out of his mouth in the silence between droplets of rain, but I only understand the words “English teacher.” My co-teacher floats over to answer him in Korean, give him a candy, and send him wading back to the door.

“Does he not know who you are?” She asks.

“I’ve never seen him before.”

I spend the rest of the day folding old crosswords into flowers and placing them around my classroom. I run out of paper quickly, so I print out several hundred more and watch as raindrops run the fresh ink off the paper, dripping letters into the half-submerged room. When the room is finally a soggy mess of paper balls, I stuff the rest into my pockets and close the windows, watching the water rise.


On the second day of the monsoon, I wear shower shoes to work. The sidewalk is a gridlock of pastel umbrellas, ensuring everybody will be late behind the first graders who lead the pack. As the road curves up the hill, the colours bob together in unison like a caterpillar inching along in the rain. Koreans usually opt for monochrome tones ranging from charcoal black to pearl white, yet appear to express themselves through the twirling clouds they hold above their heads from late June through July.

My first three classes proceed as usual, but after lunch everyone is weighed down by the humidity that has taken over the school. The rice we eat everyday balloons in our stomachs as the rain continues to fall. The air is a wet blanket that no sixth grader can sit still under, so we opt for a lesson outdoors.

My students complain even more outside, now exposed to the earthy smell that arises from the ground. From the west entrance, we can look out at the courtyard below, where younger grades are practicing flood evacuation drills. In the distance, the Gyejok mountains look as if someone has coloured over them with a gray crayon.

“Teacher, what are we doing?” Asks the class leader.

“Naming the raindrops.”

“In English raindrops have name?”

“No. We will give them names.”

Half of the class doesn’t understand. The higher level students shout over each other to give each droplet the best name. The first raindrops that fall outside the school are named after K-Pop idols, fruits, Spongebob characters, and farm animals. It doesn’t take long to exhaust those possibilities. It is monsoon season after all.

The next round of raindrops is random English verbs. Run, jump, eat, drink, play, study. The whole class understands by this point. Low level students opt for the conjunctions. And, but, so, for, or.

“I’m fine!” The class leader yells. “I’m happy! I’m tired! I’m bored!”

We shout names at the sky until our throats are hoarse. Something must be listening, because the rain lightens up for a minute and then stops altogether. The bell rings, signalling the end of the school day.

“Good work today,” I say with a smile on my face. “We will work on this again tomorrow.”

While my students run off to their after-school activities, I linger in the humidity, looking up at the grey sky. My clothes are dripping with sweat and water. I’m half expecting the sun to come out, but instead a black fly buzzes across my nose. On the first day of the rain, a downpour followed every five minutes of clear air. Defenseless without an umbrella, I head back to my office, where I will wait until the next rainfall.