I had a fabulous day. I was woken up at 8:30 am (yes, I realize an early wake-up does not a fabulous day make – wait for it) by my friend Blondie to let me know West Jet was having a seat sale. She’s been trying to get me to come to PEI with her for ever. We booked our flights round trip for $380! To understand the ridiculousness of this you have to know that it’s across the country (obviously) and that when I went to Newfoundland in 2002 it cost me $1100 – and that was considered “cheap”.
My work sponsored a Heavy-Horse Pull team this year (I sound like such a cowboy lately – I swear it’s just because the Stampede is here this week) so I brought two of my very good friends – PA and his wife Frenchie (one girl whom I can tell anything to without ever being judged – love her). We watched the event and drank free beer and generally had a really good time. The cute singer of the band at the event even came and introduced himself to me, which was sweet.
One of the Committee Chairmen and I were chatting and he asked where my boyfriend was. I said I didn’t have one since O/N and I haven’t really talked about it or anything. So he goes into the whole “Well, why not? Pretty young girl like yourself?” To which I always feel like answering:
“Because I don’t actually need a boyfriend to feel good and secure and like I’m worth something. I’m perfectly happy being myself, independent and knowing that I have all my fantastic friends and a great guy who I like spending time with. I don’t necessarily need the labels and the crap that may come with it and maybe in a few years time I’ll be all over that like white on rice but for now I’m actually quite content just living and taking things as they come.”
But of course I didn’t say that. I laughed, shrugged and said something awkward. You know with the whole batting of the eyelashes. “Tee hee, I dunno”.
So that’s fine. Cab drivers ask me if I’m married all the time and when I say no they ask why. When I was a receptionist, the clients in the reception area would ask me if I was married and why not. Strangers always ask me if I’m married and although I feel like telling them that I’m not sure I ever even want to be married and it’s none of their business anyway, I don’t. I laugh and blow it off, but it does get kind of annoying.
It wouldn’t have bothered me so much except that walking to the bar with PA and Frenchie we ran into my friend Bubbly and her new boyfriend. Then my friend PartyGirl and her new boyfriend. We proceeded to the bar with Bubbly and bf, where we met her friends. Another couple. I’m normally very good at not being awkward or even feeling like a 5th (7th?) wheel but this was like coupledom embodied. So between the texts with O/N (who was out with his guy friends for a birthday) I had to enjoy 3 new couples and a married set. Granted the marrieds are the best and I never feel awkward with them. New couples however? Totally different story.
So I left.
And here I am, drunk and rambling. Maybe I’m being a big baby and should have just sucked it up and enjoyed spending some QT with my friends, but really? Not feeling it. Plus I met three really awesome people while waiting for a cab outside, which we ended up all sharing. To thank me for sharing (cabs are impossible to find this week) they paid for my fare so I guess all in all the day was actually pretty great. I think I’ll just have to stay out of those awkward 5th wheel situations for a while.
The girls next to me emit a high shriek worthy of having stumbled upon a graveyard of spiders, or perhaps finding a pair of Louboutins on sale. Certainly not a shriek worthy of the mere mention of her friend Dave. She tosses her hair and smiles broadly. Her friend speaks to her in a low voice. The gales of laughter that follow are a testament to the easygoing triviality of the conversation.
I catch the waitress’ eye and she gives me a knowing half smile. These girls are here all the time, the high heels and skirt suits at odds with their girlish demeanors. The hairstyles may change; the shoes, the facial expressions, the outfits will change but the girls will remain the same in essence. I am these girls. We all are.
The men across the bar sip their wine, swirling it pompously in their goblets, watching as the legs trail down the interior of the glass to the burgundy pool below. They discuss the merits of “liquid lunches”, which are especially rampant during Stampede week. They argue about the possibility of rain. The one with the glasses being of the point of view that rain is inevitable; the grey-haired, slightly heavy man believing the sky will remain cloudless; the sun continuing to emanate rays all afternoon. The one with the glasses is the one who will end up being right.
A family sits behind me, the son wearing an expression of resentment and boredom. His mother scolds him, telling him to take his earphones out while they are eating dinner together, as a family. I smile, remembering our family dinners all too well. I once cried because we went to the same restaurant and they sat us at the same table and I was sure we were going to order the same thing we had last time. There were six of us, my parents and their four daughters, so table choices were limited. Even back then, at five years old, I needed change – thrived on it.
After dropping off my bill, the waitress sighs heavily and begins rolling cutlery in large white cloths. She has had tourists all day; Europeans who are used to having the tip included in the cost of the meal. Children who can’t stop exclaiming over the horses! Outside! Look mommy, look!
She has been wearing her boots for five hours, without stopping to stretch her toes, massage her feet or even pull up the sock that has fallen indolently below her ankle. She pauses now to turn up the country music that can scarcely be heard over the din of chatter in the bistro. By weeks end everyone will be sick of country music but for now it is a welcome distraction.
I place my money in the bill fold, leaving an extra large tip as I know too well what she is going through. I walk out of the bistro as the first raindrop falls to the earth. The door swings shut behind me, and still the chefs garnish, toss and grill. And still the tomatoes hold hands.