by Jean-Philippe Baril Guérard
Éditions de ta mère, 2014
“I was thinking maybe Berlin.”
“Oh, right, maybe,” I say.
Estelle Lavery has one big shiny quality among all her faults and failings: she never says no. I texted her at 8 a.m. to see if she wanted to have brunch, after four hours tossing and turning in my bed, knowing that she always says yes, never complicates things.
She’s so caught up in her phone that she doesn’t notice the plate appearing in front of her.
I don’t even know if I could travel with Estelle. She’s crazy. Crazy’s fine for a wild night out night and again. But flying with her. Sleeping with her. Eating with her.
“One thousand two hundred,” she says.
“You got one thousand two hundred lying around?” I ask.
She’s too proud to ever admit it, but “I’ll manage” means “I’ll spend every last cent in my account, max out my Visa card, and call Mommy and Daddy at the start of next month.” She doesn’t have a fucking cent. I pity her.
“Iceland,” she suggests. “Nine hundred.”
“Nine hundred. Not bad.”
Ariane Robin-Lavigne is our waitress. Poor Ariane. Having to wait tables, like so many. She sets down my plate far too nicely. She’s less gushing here, which makes her easier to put up with.
Pierogies. Chorizo. Poached egg. This place is good. It hasn’t been open long. It hasn’t been in Nightlife or La Presse, so it’s not packed for brunch. It’s not the best food in town, but Ariane works here and getting her to serve me is a pleasure I’d never say no to.
Two posh old guys at the table next to us are working on a bottle of wine. Fuck it, I want one too. We hardly drank at all yesterday.
I get hold of Ariane, ask her for a bottle of Chenin. She comes over to serve me. With a tense smile.
“Poor her,” Estelle says when she leaves.
“What?” I ask.
“She has no work at all.”
“I thought she’s in a play,” I say.
“Yeah, but that’s like the first thing she’s had since school.”
“She’s just graduated. Been barely a year. She needs to give herself time. Nine hundred, you said?”
“That’s not bad at all.”
“But it’s more expensive there than Berlin.”
“Fuck off. Condo.”
“But we’re not going to Iceland to sit around and kick back in the city,” Estelle says. “We’ll want to travel a bit.”
“So it’s more complicated. Less worth it to rent a condo.”
“Fuck Iceland then.”
“Maybe Berlin,” I say. “Any other ideas?”
“I wanna go somewhere where people speak English. Or French.”
“Come on, that doesn’t leave us many options,” she protests.
“Well I don’t feel much like killing myself trying to figure out what’s going on.”
My cell rings.
“Give me a minute,” I say.
“You didn’t text me back about the maintenance guy,” I say.
“Right, yeah. I didn’t have time with sorting out all the repairs after the leak. I’ll get on it this week.”
“OK. It doesn’t really matter anyway.”
“I just wanted to tell you. I’m looking through your taxes and—”
“Come on, Mom! It’s Saturday morning. Don’t you have anything better to do?”
“I got up early. I started and—”
“So what’s the problem? I’m in a restaurant.”
“It’s been almost a month since the end of the last quarter and I have to bring your things over to the accountant for your taxes and you still haven’t given me a thing.”
“But it’s Saturday.”
“I dunno. It’s my day off.”
“You’re self-employed. You don’t really get days off.”
“OK. When do you need it for?”
“I’m going to see the accountant Monday morning.”
“Fuck. OK. But I’m busy this weekend.”
“That still gives you thirty-six hours.”
“Enjoy your weekend!”
My breakfast has gotten cold. I sigh.
“Taxes are so fucking complicated.”
“Yeah, but you’ve like nothing to do,” Estelle says. “You give it all to your mom.”
“It’s still complicated,” I say. “I have to find all my payslips. And my bills. Then give them to my mom.”
“Well, I do them myself. Just imagine how much worse that is.”
“Yeah, but it’s easy for you. You don’t have a mortgage and you make twenty grand a year.”
Oh that’s right. I shouldn’t have brought that up. I’ve annoyed her. I’ll never understand why poor people are so touchy about money. She takes out her phone and starts texting. Facebook. Instagram.
“You didn’t invite the guys to brunch?” she asks.
“David needs to sleep. Félix had something to take care of. His car, the garage, I don’t know.”
“It’s Saturday,” Estelle says.
“Garages don’t open on Saturdays?”
“I don’t know,” she says. “But how come he needs to go to a garage on a Saturday?”
“We hit a deer on the way back.”
“The car’s in bad shape?”
“I don’t know,” I say.
“Weren’t you going to spend the weekend at the cabin?”
“Yeah, but we changed our minds.”
I down my wine. The two old guys are unbearable. One’s from France, the other from Quebec. Bet you twenty bucks they both teach at a university or they’re doctors. They really are talking shit. About politics. Art. The economy. Quoting and misquoting all the shitty editorial writers.
“I’m gonna kill them,” I say. “If they keep going like that, I’m going to pick up my chair and beat them over the head with it.”
The guy from Quebec glances over at us. “Keep it down, would you?” Estelle hisses.
I sigh and give my temples a rub.
“Headache?” Estelle asks.
“You’re unhappy,” she says.
“You’re unhappy then.”
“No,” I sigh. “I feel a little empty, that’s all.”
“But you are empty. A Class A superficial bitch who destroys everything in her path.”
“Feel any better?”
“You really are down.”
I drift off. I watch the cars go by on the other side of the window.
“The deer was still alive,” I say.
“The deer. When we left. We left it to die on the 10.”
“What did you want to do? Carve it up and stick it in the trunk?”
“I dunno,” I say.
Estelle looks me in the eyes, puts my soul through the scanner.
“You really overdid the coke yesterday, you know?”
“I wasn’t getting at you.”
“Why say it then?”
“Just trying to put things in perspective.”
“Why start off by deciding that I did coke yesterday then?”
“You see? There’s no talking to you and everything’s pissing you off. Which makes me think someone overdid the coke yesterday. I’m just trying to help you put things into perspective. That’s why you feel like shit, that’s all.”
A long silence. I dive back into my phone. Down my glass of wine.
“Sorry. Just me being crazy.”
Eleven o’clock on a Saturday morning and I’m already a little tipsy.
“Could be because I haven’t been getting any, too,” I say.
“No. I’m telling you. Too much coke. You’re in a right state.”
“Nothing to do with not getting anyway. When’s the last time you fucked anyway? The day before yesterday.”
“The day before the day before yesterday,” I correct her.
“And just because I fucked doesn’t mean it was a good fuck.”
“Well, was it?”
“No. I don’t know. I don’t even remember.”
Ariane Robin-Lavigne comes back for our plates. I’m still hungry.
A grin to hide how uncomfortable she is being at our beck and call.
“The bread pudding,” I say. “To finish.”
“Jesus,” says Estelle.
“We’re sharing anyway, right?”
Ariane nods at me deferentially and leaves.
“I don’t want to hear it if you turn into one fat bitch,” Estelle says.
“I’m not going to turn into a fat bitch. Ever.”
“So, Berlin?” she says, waving her phone.
“OK,” I say.
“Give me a minute.”
Berlin with Estelle
Dunno if i can
U can we already
K buy and ill
pay u back
“He’s in,” I say. “Can you put the tickets on your card?”
“I guess,” she mumbles, uncomfortable.
“Here, take mine,” I say, handing her my credit card.
Berlin. Why not?
“It’s going to be awesome,” Estelle says, downing her wine.
Yeah, right, let’s all calm down. First off, we have no idea what it’s going to be like. So don’t assume. Second, even if it’s fucking terrible, you’re going to say it was awesome anyway because you don’t have a cent and you don’t travel enough to be able to regret a trip you dropped three or four grand on. Third, nobody does that. Nobody says they went on a trip without saying it was the best thing ever. Making as many people as possible jealous is the name of the game. It’s all in how you tell it.
Just as the bread pudding arrives, Estelle shows me the confirmation email. Berlin, leaving in six days, coming back two weeks later.
“Cool. That’s that then,” I say. “And the flight back is for the right date.”
When me, David, and Félix-Antoine flew to Barcelona last summer, we had to buy new tickets at the airport because I’d reserved our return flights for the right day, but the wrong month. It had cost us nine hundred each. Being blasé isn’t cheap. But who cares as long as you can afford it, right?
The bread pudding is perfect. It tastes of burned caramel, a dash of salt, and maple cream. Nicely done.
In the bathroom I realize Estelle was right: I’m fucking disgusting. I’m green. And my face is way too thin.
It’s a tall mirror. Tall enough for me to see my knees in.
I make sure the door’s locked. I take off my top, lower my pants, close my eyes.
When I open them I try to look at the woman in the mirror like I don’t know her. What would I think of her if I passed her in the street? Is she fat? Ugly? In shape?
I don’t have an answer.
I pinch my stomach and thighs to see if there’s any flab. There’s barely anything to pinch. According to my very subjective scale, that means acceptable levels of fat. But I’ve just spent all morning stuffing my face, so things aren’t going to get any better. I text Félix-Antoine.
On my way out of the bathroom I walk into the old French guy. I feel a sudden urge to kill him. I don’t say sorry. He stops, stares at me, opens his mouth, tries to find the right thing to say. I’m torn between smacking him in the face, spitting on him, or running off, and in the end I just stand there like the stupid bitch I am.
“Wasn’t that you in The Tempest last spring?” he says.
“Yes,” I say, looking away.
“You were Ariel, weren’t you?”
“It was a good performance,” he adds, smiling too much.
“A real presence, honestly. I very much enjoyed your performance. Truly.”
“Thanks,” I mumble.
“Have a nice day.”
That’s right. Now go jerk off in the toilets thinking about me dressed up as a nymphet, you old perv.
“So who were you fucking the day before the day before yesterday?” Estelle says, finishing off the bread pudding.
“Some guy. One of David’s friends. At the karaoke.”
“Does he have a name?”
She goes straight for her phone.
“I don’t see any mutual friends called Gabriel Lacasse.”
“That’s not his Facebook name.”
“That’s so fucking lame.”
“To stalk him. Let me see your phone.”
“You can look, but there’s nothing juicy.”
I hand her my phone.
“Lacasse Sauvage, in my friends,” I say.
“That’s so lame.”
“And I’m still not the one who chose his name.”
“Who uses a false name on Facebook anyways?”
“People who get stalked, I suppose.”
“People stalk you and you don’t change your name,” she says.
“I like getting stalked,” I say.
“No one stalks a DP anyways.”
“I know. It’s stupid, I know.”
Estelle pokes around at his profile while I pay the bill (because everyone knows Estelle can’t afford anything better than some dive for brunch).
“How long have you been friends with him?”
“Since, like, yesterday? Why?”
“Was he dead when he added you?”
On his wall someone has written “RIP Gabriel xxxxxxxxx.” Then a “Bye, Gabriel. We’ll miss you.”
Then my body is pitched forward thirty feet and out through a windshield, which shatters into tiny pieces. I end up resting against the lifeless body of a deer.