At Service Canada even though there didn’t seem to be anyone ahead of me, I had to wait quite awhile. I sat alone in the waiting room scanning The Daily Gleaner, trotting my foot, weaving, wondering if I should buy ibuprofen on the way home to take care of stomach cramps that had stirred suddenly, reading posters about passports and old age pension and how I could get a grant for environmentally friendly home renovations.
I had been sitting there for about 10 minutes when a man joined me. He said hello and started talking about “up home” as if he knew me, but I didn’t immediately recognize him. And after he talked for a bit I realized he didn’t recognize me either, he thought I was a town girl, though I had already figured out who he was and where I remembered him from …
It was the late 1990’s, early to mid fall. I know this because I was having a problem with mice and I always had a rodent problem in the fall. The evenings were dark earlier and cool enough to have the windows closed but not cool enough to fork out the extra cash and run the big propane heaters.
I remember T came in and he was barefoot in sandals still and I shivered because I thought it was too cold for summer footwear and I wondered what he’d wear when it snowed. As it turned out I spent a lot of time with him that winter and while I do indeed recall early snow squalls in barefeet, eventually a pair of army boots materialized.
It was early in the week, with no customers, and I was sitting at the table by the bar having a beer and smoking. I hadn’t heard a car drive in, which wasn’t surprising because T’s car was compact and quiet, and he often seemed to sneak up on me when I least expected. I looked up as he sauntered in, his hands thrust deep into his front pockets. The door closed but was immediately opened and an older man followed in behind him.
T would turn up alone anytime after 2am, but quite often had an entourage earlier in the evening, mismatched groups of casual acquaintances whose only common ground was the white powder they snorted through rolled five dollar bills.
He’d show up alone in the wee hours when the drugs and money were gone. And we’d paint the walls, or play every song on the jukebox and dance, or go for long drives on dirt roads back in the woods, until the sun would be high in the sky the next afternoon and we could finally stay still long enough to pretend to sleep for a few hours, before starting all over again.
We weren’t dating. Though we tried, often and with great enthusiasm, we weren’t much as lovers go because the drugs took a physical toll. I don’t know if you could call us friends. We were companions. We kept company with each other. And for a few seasons that was good and all we needed or wanted.
So when T showed up early in the evening, I wasn’t surprised to see a buddy with him. I wasn’t surprised that it was a buddy I’d never met. And I wouldn’t have been surprised if I never saw that particular buddy again. That’s just the way T rolled.
T sat across from me at the table and his buddy stood behind him, leaning against the bar. His buddy talked a lot. He never shut up. He just went on and on. And his conversation was bizarre. All about where he had lived and who his family was and when he’d got back and how much money he made and how successful he was and what a good man he was …
T’s eyes locked onto mine at one point and they were laughing and puzzled at the same time, his dimples seeming to exclaim, “OH … MY … GAWD!” Every now and then T would manage to interject and ask a question that was so obviously designed to provoke this man to further talk about himself just so T could laugh behind his back and make fun. And his buddy seemed oblivious, was more than pleased to continue talking about his accomplishments and money.
A long and bizarre two hours passed, with me wondering how on earth T could have put up with this guy all day, even if he did have tons of money and was buying armloads of drugs. There wasn’t enough beer in the cooler for me to drink to be able to numb myself enough to hang out with this guy much longer.
Then all of a sudden he stood a little straighter, looked at me and asked if I was the girl who owned the place. I nodded and he proceeded to tell me that he had everything in his life except a woman. So he was looking for a woman and the boys (V&A) had told him I was sexy, single and successful and he should come right out and get me.
I thought T’s blue eyes were gonna pop out of his head. I knew immediately that V&A had been playing a horrible joke on me and also this poor schmuck whose head was so full of himself that he had no idea. I spluttered that I wasn’t available in the most diplomatic way that I could, and he shrugged and left as quickly as he had arrived confident that I was a silly girl who obviously couldn’t grasp what a great opportunity had just presented itself. My loss entirely!
T and I busted out laughing as soon as he was gone. “I thought he was your buddy!” I exclaimed. “No, I thought you must’ve known him!” We would talk about that evening for weeks afterward, collapsing into fits of giggles.
Yesterday, this guy sat beside me in the waiting room and started talking about himself. And within 20 seconds I figured out who he was and knew he didn’t recognize me. Luckily within 45 seconds my name was called for my turn.
As I fled the waiting room I heard him exclaim, “Oh! I didn’t know her until I heard her name!”