On the last day of our visit to Toronto in December, I had some time to kill and an energetic child to entertain, so I took Rowan to the billiards room in my father’s new condominium building, and we shot some stick.
I haven’t played pool regularly since my undergrad days in Montréal, when my roommate, Lori, and I lived across the street from a bar unfortunately named the Copacabana. We and the rest of the theatre crowd became regulars, ordering happy-hour specials of two half-pints of St. Ambroise and other Québec microbrews before such things were fashionable, and playing dollar-a-game pool for hours at a time.
Eventually, I got good enough that I could occasionally run the table for a few games at a time, sometimes even winning against long-time regulars like the musclebound guy with the mullet we nicknamed Fabio. It got so that I would drop in for a couple of games most days after class. We got quite chummy with the owners, Alberto and Albino, who would occasionally unlock the table and let us play for free. Alberto even deigned to lend me his custom cue, stored in the supply cupboard. One spring day, shortly after graduation, Lori and I dropped in for a beer during lunchtime, and two middle-aged Portuguese gentleman, friends of Alberto’s, challenged us to a game. Much to everyone’s surprise, we won handily — I’d like to think by banking the eight ball at some difficult angle — and they bought us a couple of rounds.
Oh yeah, I was a hustler. (Now stop laughing.)
Much has changed since my Copa days.
Not just the setting — trade seedy bar on the Main for genteel condominium residence at Lawrence and Bathurst, for one. Or the company. Or the fact that I’m no longer that constantly heartsick young thing, personal soundtrack set to one of ani difranco’s angry albums — the one who lost too many games because she was too worried about people watching her to keep her eye entirely on the ball.
Or the rules. I used a cue to try to sink balls; Rowan used just his hands to whiz them across the felt and into the pockets. He did not take turns. He did not wait for me to line up shots. He took balls out of pockets and put them in others, knocking them into each other and out of my sightlines. I took shots more or less randomly, lining things up as best I could and hitting the cue ball before I was sure, before everything inevitably shifted in front of my eyes. Every time Rowan sunk a ball, he crowed, “I won!” And every time I managed to get one in despite the chaos of the table, he was equally supportive: “You won! Good job, Susan!”
In short, a microcosm of life with children. We had a blast. I can’t wait to do it again, and I can’t wait to visit him and his brother when they are cocky, twenty-something pool hustlers, and play a few games over a couple of pints of local microbrew, wherever that may be.