Love your neighbour as yourself

“Are you any good with computers?” asked the lady who’d knocked on my door. To take part in a photography competition, she had to compile her pictures into a PDF. She baked me cookies in return.

That’s how I met Susan the photographer, my opposite neighbour.

Supposedly, we have nothing in common. A bachelor Iranian mathematician, I’ve been living in Montreal for three years, while she, as a kid, would go to King George Park in Westmount for tobogganing and watching the young Leonard Cohen play his guitar.

But indeed, we have one thing in common: we have both studied at Concordia. After decades of amateur photography, she received a bachelor’s degree last year — with distinction, she would stress. This inspired me to go back to school to follow my passion too, hence I enrolled in a journalism program.

When the pandemic hit, ironically, the “social distancing” brought us closer. We both live alone and miss chatting in person; occasionally, she knocks on my door and summons me to solve her digital problems, and then tells me about her marriages, her photography projects and previous tenants in my apartment, while I simply listen.

Once, after I fixed her problem with Instagram — by simply reinstalling it — she gave me this pink flower to say thank you. She has her own rules, however. When, for an assignment in my photojournalism course, I asked to photograph her, she retorted, “I’m never on the other side of the camera!”

Oh, wait! Someone’s knocking…

A freelance journalist and a Google DeepMind AI researcher, an Iranian-Canadian living in Montreal with a journalism degree from Concordia University.