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MTL Moments: The Day I Met Roxanne

May 7, 2019

 

I met Roxanne Nadeau almost the exact same way Kay meets her in the first Sherbrooke Station book:

 

Inside, the cafe is long and narrow, with dusky red walls and a musty, old bachelor kind of vibe. A few pairs of grey-haired men are sitting at tables with chess boards painted on them, eyes fixed to their games. Other than that, we’re the only ones here.

 

“Hey, Roxanne,” Matt calls to the woman behind the counter.

 

Somehow she seems both strikingly out of place and like she fits in here perfectly all the same. She’s tall and graceful, her narrow waist hugged by a wrap top, dark strands of straight brown hair falling into her eyes. She looks like she could have stepped out of an old European film.

 

“Hey, Matt,” she replies. Her voice is tinged with a Quebecois accent. “Ca va?”

 

 

Admittedly, I wasn't on a date with a hot rock star at the time, but holding my copy of Your Chorus in my hands still gives me an eerie feeling, like discovering you and your best friend were on the same flight somewhere years before you actually met. One muggy summer day in Montreal, ages before I'd ever dreamed up Sherbrooke Station or even read a romance novel—never mind considered writing one—I really did walk into a cafe with dusky red walls and chess boards on the tables. I ordered a drink from a woman who looked just like Roxanne.

 

I sat in one of the sagging armchairs by the windows. I was the only customer in the place, and the woman took the opportunity to go outside and light up a cigarette. She was wearing these gauzy palazzo pants and a wrap top that were almost too stylish for working at a cafe, and she crouched down right there on the sidewalk to smoke, the fabric of her pants fanning out around her. She stared at the people passing by on Boulevard Saint-Laurent like there was something that kept her separate from them, like she was there but not really there.  I finished my drink and thanked her when I walked out. She looked up at me and waved as she pulled the cigarette from her mouth.

 

I don't know what it was about her, but the image of her crouched on the sidewalk like that stuck with me for a long, long time. I think maybe I always knew I would need to write about her, that she had a story to be told.

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