Vignettes (Quebec)

Andrew, Aliya, and I are looking for a place to eat north of Quebec City.  It’s past four and I haven’t eaten all day.  We’re all on our way to Tadoussac because a very dear friend of mine is getting married there.  His name is Eric.  Once upon a time, Eric and I tried to hitchhike to Tadoussac in the early winter.  We made it about fifteen miles north of Quebec before we decided to turn around and hitchhike to somewhere else.

“That’s where me and Eric turned around,” I say as we pass the spot where me and Eric turned around.  The spot’s a little bend in the road, kissing the St. Lawrence river, the Laurentians pacing in the distance.  It means nothing to them, or to anybody whizzing past it at 100 kilometers an hour.  It means a whole flood of emotion and nostalgia for me.

I hide it well.


The youth hostel where I will spend two nights is like a summer camp for Quebecois hippies.  There’s live music every night.  It also hosts the biggest bar in Tadoussac.  Aliya and I are drinking a beer and playing Scrabble.

“I don’t think she likes me,” says Aliya, nudging at the fifty-something biker lady at the table next to us.  “Who cares?” I tell her.

The biker lady turns out to have spent her first fourteen years on planet Earth in Norton, Massachusetts.  She turns out to like us, too.  She must hear my Boston accent, because she suddenly turns to me and asks me where I’m from, and we get to talking, and so on and so forth, blah, blah, blah, inside baseball.  She’s a nice enough lady.  She probably makes her living as a Hell’s Angel, but I couldn’t care less.  I couldn’t care less because she buys us drinks, because she mediates Scrabble-related disputes, and because, as I said, she’s a nice enough lady.

She feeds us pickled herring, which is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever tasted.

I see her at the wedding the next day.  She’s staying at the hotel where the reception is.  She tells me I look good.  I tell her I clean up nice.

I will never see her again.


It’s the end of the night.  I’m drunk.  Everyone is.  Andrew and I have been charged with the duty of informing the people at the bar that the wedding party is on its way from the reception.  I guess it’s a two-part reception.  Part one:  getting shitty.  Part two:  getting incomprehensibly shitty.

Andrew goes inside ahead of me.  “[Frenchfrenchfrenchfrenchfrench],” he says.  “[Frenchfrench],” says the bartender.  Now it’s my turn.

“Je ne parle pas la francais, mais… everyone’s on the way and we’re going to get shitty.”

Point taken.

We drink and dance and dance and drink, and Eric and I reminisce in our drunken states–and it’s nice, ever-so-genuinely nice, because reminiscing with an old best friend can be like that–but eventually it’s obvious that I have to walk back to my hotel now, while I can still walk.  Or while I can still sorta-walk.  While I can still stand, let’s say.  Yeah.  Let’s say that.

Eric is doing his rounds, being the newly-married host, and I find him and say, “Well hey buddy I’m going to leave because I’m all sorts of out of sorts but hey listen and don’t you forget it and I’m proud of you and happy for you and sweet Jesus is this really you my friend–a married Eric?  And do you remember that time when we tried to hitchhike to Tadoussac and ended up going to Chicoutimi and getting into that car accident with that drunk guy behind the way and oh yeah I’m rambling, but listen–” and this is where I start to tear up, if I haven’t already started–“I am so fucking happy for you.  Fucking happy.  I can’t convey how much happiness I feel for you right now and thank you for inviting me and for having such a beautiful ceremony and a wonderful beautiful wife and a wonderful beautiful life ahead of you.  And don’t you ever forget that time we almost died on the roads of northern Quebec.  Don’t you ever forget it.”

I hug Eric something fierce, and stumble back to my hotel room.


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