Montreal -- the woman in front of me is fingering her boyfriend's hair, but it has nothing to do with romance. "Bon," she says, scrunching it up so it looks casually, yet artfully, mussed. She looks at her work and then smiles and kisses him. As if to say, "There, now you're ready to show off."
Tonight, the 3,000-plus-seat Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier in Montreal's Place des Arts is a sea of black leather and expensive haircuts. We're waiting for the curtain to come up on Edouard Lock's latest La La La Human Steps creation, Exauce.
For me, there's a side attraction. I'm about to see my friend Kong Kie, La La La's pianist, perform onstage for the first time. Ever.
As the hall fills up, I'm suddenly nervous. Will he be good? He must be good. I hope he's good. What will I say if he's not?
The woman in front of me touches her own hair nervously. I look around.
A sizable and good-looking crowd has assembled for the hometown return of Quebec's cool choreographer. The buzzing crowd is young, edgy, unintimidated. An arts council's dream.
In the program, I read that my friend's got a degree in mathematics from the University of Waterloo. I didn't know that. How can you know someone and not have discovered that they have a degree in math?
Suddenly, the house lights dim and the stage goes dark. Lights fall on two disembodied heads, one, I'm shocked to see, belonging to Kong Kie. His dyed rusty-orange hair looks fiery under the bright light. Later, an electric guitarist's shaggy 'do will be illuminated. Then, one by one, the lithe dancers emerge from the dark to swirl and tumble.
It's always strange seeing your friends in their work environments. I recall meeting a doctor friend in the hospital cafe. He was wearing his scrubs. I almost didn't recognize him. Once, I dropped in on a woman friend I've known since university in her Bay Street office and remember being very impressed by her outfit, her office, the hairsprayed perfection of the setting.
And now here's Kong Kie, clad in black, his face in the spotlight, his fingers playing the difficult neo-Romantic music. He's good. I'm relieved.
Later on, after the show, I go backstage to greet him in the Salon Vert. The Montrealer he's sort of dating is there, too. Kong Kie looks happy and slightly shocked when he sees us, the way you're supposed to look when someone throws you a surprise birthday party.
Later still, we all head over to Unity, the three-storey dance club that more than lives up to its name. Kong Kie's wearing a T-shirt that reads "Boys Lie."
We dance, let loose and drink until the place closes, then talk about men and relationships at an all-night coffee shop.
Bon. That's the friend I know.October 21 at Place des Arts, MontrealFriendly fire