There were a lot of young men around in those years: Nicki’s men. Men who ebbed and flowed, dropped in and dropped off. Under-graduate and graduate and law students. Intellectuals and dilettantes, Catholics and Protestants, anglophones and francophones. All with New Testament names and all keen on Nicki.
There were those men and then there was Thomas, Nicki’s boyfriend. One of the first things Nicki told me was that she and Thomas weren’t exclusive. I don’t remember asking for much of an explanation; I didn’t need one. I was a philosophy student and captivated. at the time, by the French existentialists with their ideas about good faith and authenticity. And it struck me as very sophisticated that two people would ignore society’s norms—“reject bourgeois expectations” was how I would have put it then—and made their own rules.
Nicki and I met when we were in second-year university and both taking an intro to epistemology. Lacroix, who taught the course, was a Jesuit. Not a Jesuit in the way some teachers are Socratic, but a real Jesuit who wore a black turtleneck as though it were a clerical collar. Ottawa U had been a Catholic university and some thought it still was, Lacroix among them. When he lectured about the difference between belief and knowledge, he always made a case for the existence of God.
“All the proofs, from Aquinas to Aquinas,” I quipped at the end of one session to no one in particular and certainly not for the professor to hear. Nicki was nearby, stuffing her books into a bag. She heard me and chuckled, said that Lacroix reminded her of one of the priests who used to visit her high school on occasion to lead an assembly or teach a class. Sacred Heart was its name, or Our Lady of Mercy, I can’t recall, but a name like that. It was an all-girls’ school with those uniforms you still see, the tartan kilt, matching pull-over sweater and navy jacket, the school’s crest proudly displayed. Nicki told me about bare legs and knee socks long into North Bay’s frigid winters.
Check out the full story in our summer issue, out in July 2023!