Almost, but not quite, the end
Mid-September 1999, a few months after everything happened.
It was a quiet evening at Tequila Bookworm. Aside from Chris and I, there weren’t any of the usual suspects at the cafe that was also a bouquiniste and magazine store. I’d been there for a couple of hours with my laptop, working on a database of every mall in America, ordering a Diet Coke every so often. For almost two years, the cafe had been like an office for me: with a laptop and cellphone, I could get work done and also get a break from the solitude that normally comes with the double whammy of self-employment and computer programming.
Chris had joined me a half hour earlier. He was walking on Queen Street when saw my bike parked outside the cafe and came in to say hello. I’d been showing him photos from Burning Man on my laptop.
I don’t know how we got onto the subject of The Girl, but I remember it started with him looking around for her at one point.
“Is she here?” Chris asked.
“[The Girl]?” No, she’s not working tonight.
There was a brief lull in the conversation.
“I warned you, but you went ahead and did it anyway.”
“Did what?” I asked.
“Broke the rule. The don’t-date-where-you-drink rule.”
“Everyone breaks it. I got warned when I did it, didn’t listen, regretted it. Every time I tell someone the rule, they break it anyway.”
“Maybe it’s one of those things. A game you’re not meant to win, but have to play anyway.”
“You mean like life?”
“Geez, Chris, you’re morbid sometimes.”
“Just a realist, my friend, just a realist. And speaking of reality, guess who’s coming our way. I’ll leave you two to get re-acquainted.”
Chris rose from his stool, threw his satchel over his shoulder and nodded a quick greeting to The Girl, whom I didn’t notice walking in.
The Girl said “Hello” in return with that charming British accent, took a seat beside me, smiled and ran her fingers through my hair.
“So,” I said, “what’s a girl like you doing in a nice place like this?” (Yes, I stole the line from M*A*S*H. So sue me.)
“I saw your bike outside.”
My bike is a dead giveaway that I’m nearby. It’s an olive green 1950’s style cruiser. I’ve always wanted something like it since seeing Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.
“Your natural colour,” she said, messing up my newly-dyed jet black spikes.
“It was only that colour when I was a kid,” I said. “Mom wouldn’t let me go to Eileen’s wedding as a blond.” My sister’s wedding, a spectacular event that started at St. Michael’s Cathedral and concluded at the ballroom of the King Edward Hotel with about 200 or so guests, had taken place the week before. If my wedding is a tenth as good, I will be a happy man.
I decided to return the favour and twirl her dark brown locks. Like me, she’d been blonde earlier in the year.
“Once again, we cross the line of the waitress-customer relationship,” she quipped.
“You’re fixated on that, aren’t you: ‘waitress and customer, andnever the twain shall meet’. It’s not like a doctor-patient relationship. Doctors hold the power of life and death. You hold coffee and sandwiches.”
“Well, as long as we’re breaking rules, do you still have that Canadian Club at your place?”
“There’s still half a bottle left.”
If life were a cartoon — and it often is — there would be two miniature versions of me sitting on my shoulders. One would be dressed in white with wings and a halo saying “Do you think this is such a good idea, Mr. deVilla?” while the other would be dressed in red with horns and a pitchfork, doing pelvic thrusts and saying “British Invasion!” FWOOOOOAAAAARRRR!”
The smart thing would be to go home alone, curl up with Tequila (my teddy bear) and the copy of Accordion Crimes that the cute girl I met at Burning Man gave me as a keepsake.
Mind you, would I have as much fun if I always did the smart thing?
Next: My ex-girlfriend lusts after The Girl, or how I met her.