The Convert.

by Robert Smith

I first met this guy Smitty in the fall of 1969. He was living at his friend Alfred’s place on Sherbrooke Street in NDG, Montreal. I was working as a secretary, and after work I would drop in at their apartment, and usually, he would ask me to play a game of chess with him. I found him cute with his long dark hair that flowed on his shoulders, and after a few chess moves, he would look at me, point at  the bedroom next door, and we would go into the next room, where we would undress and make love for what seeemed like hours. I would smile at him as we made love, with the moon shining on one side of his face, the other side remaining dark and hidden. He would wink at me.

After a whole evening without conversation and lots and lots of seawaves of romance, he would walk me home in Westhaven Village, where I lived alone, kissing several times on the way there, until he would leave me at the doorstep under the moon. It was almost exclusively a physical relationship, except we both had unavowed feelings for each other, and although he had trust issues, we got along well on those terms.

There was a lot of drug use and abuse at Alfred’s apartment all through that fall, and his brother was a pusher who kept us all supplied with whatever we pleased. There was a coffee shop called Zarby’s downstairs, which was a hangout for a lot of younger people. I knew Smitty had been involved in some kind of political scene that fall in Saint Henri, but since we never talked, it was never mentioned.

Suddenly, however, our relationship was interrupted. I went to Alfred’s place one afternoon after work, and heard Smitty had ended up in the Douglas, in Verdun. What had happened? Most people didn’t know. I asked around. I stopped asking questions. I went on with my life, working, dropping by Alfred’s and seeing my friends.

I wasn’t very much involved in their drug scene. I smoked the odd joint and never got into trouble. Smitty was twenty-one, I believe, and had been doing a lot of LSD25 with the wrong people.

I didn’t hear from Smitty until three months later, in March 1970. I was still working and he came over to my place one afternoon. It was a Saturday. He showed up at my front door, and I asked him, like Mae West, ‘Is that a pistol in your pocket or do you really like me?’ I thought that would make him loosen up, because he looked very uptight. They obviously had cut off his hair in the funny farm. He couldn’t smile anymore. His knees were twitching, his feet were dancing, his fingers were playing an invisible piano. His whole demeanour was a circus. He seemed constrained.

I thought I would make him relax. We lay down on my sofa and I tried to kiss him. It was like kissing a corpse. He was totally rigid. They had destroyed his personality.

I told him I didn’t love him anymore and to please leave. I didn’ t want any trouble.

I went on with my life. I got laid off my job as a secretary, so I went back to university and became a nurse. This took a few years. In 1973 or 74, I don’t remember the exact date – I remember bumping into Smitty in the elevator at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where I worked. I was wearing a uniform and there were several people in the elevator with us. He looked even goofier than before. I didn’t want him in my life again. I kind of smiled at him and told him I was working as a nurse. He was on heavy medication by now. He drooled, trying to smile. This was embarrassing. I didn’t want to be seen with this guy. I got off at the third floor, and told him I would talk to him some other time. There was no way I was going to have a relationship with some loser on neuroleptic medication. Those guys are likely to do anything.

Eventually, I got married and settled down. I had two kids. My new husband was great. We stayed together for several years, and then – I bumped into Smitty again. This time, it was on Sainte Catherine Street, near the corner of Bishop. At first, I didn’t recognize him. He now had a beard, a big black beard, and short hair with John Lennon glasses. He accosted me as I was walking down the street.

He was no longer all doped up on medication, but he looked stranger than ever. By now he was all doped up on Jesus. He motormouthed at me, telling or rather screaming at me that he had just returned from Berkeley, California, where he had supposedly seen the light. Wow, bananas! He was working as a street preacher in Montreal. By now, he was no longer trying to  get into my pants; he was trying to convert me! What the hell!!? He told me he had been born again and I had to repent and get on my knees and let Jesus into my heart. OK, buddy, like get lost! I listened to his rap for about twenty minutes, waiting for the perfect time to make my getaway. I dismissed his preaching with something like, ‘Well, if it works for you, that’s great. To each his own…’ And I walked away.

The only difference in this last encounter was that he was no longer meek – he had found power. He was practically overwhelming, albeit psychotic. His eyes said it all. The lights were on but there was nobody home.

I went on with my life. I went through a divorce. Got remarried. It’s funny what happened to Smitty. Once they got hold of him, he became a guinea pig. They had him on medication, then into cults. I feel sorry for the guy in a way. He seemed at first like just a regular guy. Never saw him again. I wish him well.

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