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Imagine the Possibilities

There was first the news of the virus arriving from abroad. Back then the idea of a lockdown in Montreal was not easy to conceive. It was an abstraction, an overreaction – Are we going to need permission to leave home? How are they going to make people stay indoors? It would never work! A year later I stand by the window of my apartment looking outside. My first winter in Montreal comes in a flashback. It was November 2006. The plane that I was on started to descend. From my window, I saw the city completely covered in white, except for the black marks of the buildings’ rooftops and the soft golden lights of the houses. I felt excited and hopeful for the possibilities of that distant world. Today I see sidewalks and parks asleep. On Papineau Avenue empty public buses continue to circulate as if inertia prevents them from stopping. Since most of my waking hours I am in the house, I’ve been reading more books, perhaps looking to escape or feeling hungry for excitement. A novel I have recently read again is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby”.

After reading the first two paragraphs, I stopped. The words of Nick Carraway, the narrator, resonated in my mind with a new meaning: ‘“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had’.” I was reminded that I inhabit two worlds like Gatsby did. The one of possibility and the one of disillusion. The pandemic, I think, has exacerbated the juxtaposition of these worlds.

In January of 2020, I had a ticket for a concert that was going to be held in Brooklyn. I was excited to go for two reasons. I was looking forward to see the very tall buildings and be part of the feverish activities of New Yorkers. And two, I was going to meet some of my hometown friends who were also visiting the city. We spent a lot of time planning the trip – we had a long list of restaurants and bars, and museums we wanted to tour. But we had to cancel the trip. Or postponed, as we agreed to plan another trip together –the deal was to stay well.

I have no doubt that traveling will be possible at some point in the future. I know that my friends and I will have been changed by then. Our experiences through the pandemic will make us different people, with new aspirations and fears. The innocence with which we planned and imagined ourselves in New York will have been lost. But one cannot repeat the past.

“Why of course you can!” Gatsby would have replied.

“I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before,” he would have insisted.

No, we cannot Gatsby. And that’s fine.

On January 1st 2021, the novel’s copyright expired. Now anyone can now publish the book, adapt it to a movie or a play without the need of obtaining permission from the publisher.

Imagine the exciting things that may come by to Gatsby if someone decides to write a sequel.

By Lily Olivas


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