The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, p.25Heather O'Neill
The World’s Tiniest Tremblay
WHEN RAPHAËL AND I WERE IN TOWN A COUPLE days later, I bought a book at the drugstore about having babies. There was a photo of a six-month-old baby on the cover. It looked like a goldfish in a plastic bag that a child was carrying home from the pet store.
Once we got home I read the baby book in one sitting, engrossed, as if it was a gruesome thriller. After reading about all the things that could go wrong with a baby, I wanted to go to the doctor’s to have an ultrasound or at least another checkup.
“The baby could have an umbilical cord wrapped around its neck.”
“I doubt that very much.”
“It might not have the right-sized heart necessary for it to go on living.”
“If it doesn’t, then there’s nothing that we can do for it.”
“But if I know that it has the proper-sized heart, then I can stop worrying about that.”
He had come out here to live on the fringe. Going to have an ultrasound at a hospital with some strangers looking at his unborn child was about as intrusive an activity as any a person could fathom. He would have to sit in a waiting room with all these people who seemed unconcerned by the fact that all of modern society was a hypocritical sham and an outrage.
“We might as well wear beige pants and eat with four forks.”
But I insisted that I wanted to go. I’d made a doctor’s appointment at the little hospital. Raphaël was in a bit of a temper because this was going to ruin his day. We sped down the highway. Someone out there had opened a pie and blackbirds had flown out and filled the air.
He stood next to me as I lay on the hospital bed and they rubbed gel all over my belly. It was so weird, that wee baby on the screen. It was right there with us, but it was like we were hundreds and thousands of miles away from it. It was like those photographs of aliens that were on the news. You needed more evidence. Sure, the photos looked sort of real. But, obviously, it was a hoax.
I looked to Raphaël for some sort of reaction. He had taken his sunglasses off, but he somehow gave the impression that he still had them on.
“Would you like to know whether or not it’s a boy or a girl?” the nurse asked.
“Yes,” I said. Raphaël shrugged as if to say he wasn’t going to stop her.
“It’s a boy.”
And the baby was real. It was a baby boy and it belonged to us. There it was, alone in the dark. I didn’t even know what to think. I felt like crying. I was too terrified to be sad or happy. For the very first time in my life I realized with absolute clarity that I was going to die one day. And then that feeling was gone. I was back among the living. If I couldn’t handle the sight of that little baby, I could only imagine what the shock must be like for Raphaël. There was no way he was going to be able to handle having a boy.
Our eyes met. His face was still wiped clean of expression. He didn’t think it was anyone’s business to know what he was thinking. I hated that about him suddenly.
I had the photograph of the ultrasound in my hand as we left the hospital. I didn’t know what to do with it. I put it in the glovebox of the car. Raphaël climbed into the driver’s seat, drinking a Diet Coke. He put the key in the ignition, then he turned to me and smiled.
“Well, the baby’s healthy! That’s fantastic news! We’ll have to go out and celebrate. Isn’t that what men and women do when they find out that they are going to have a baby?”
“But we knew that we were going to have a baby before now.”
“But now we have documented proof that the baby is normal and is going to be just as cute as all the babies that you see in the supermarket, so there is no reason for you to worry.”
I didn’t say anything.
“What’s the matter with you?” Raphaël asked. “Why are you sitting there looking so pipsqueaky and quiet?”
“I just thought that you would be unhappy about it being a boy.”
“You’re the one who’s nervous, sweetheart. I’m feeling fine.”
“I’ve never been happier about anything in my life. You don’t have to worry about anything. I’m your man.”
“Really? Honestly? You promise?”
“If you ask me like that one more time, I have a feeling that I might start to get pissed off. And stop trying to telegraph your own insecurities into my head so that you don’t have to take responsibility for them. Okay?”
“Okay! Now! We are going to have a fucking celebration.”
He leaned forward and kissed me on the forehead. I didn’t really trust him for a second.
On the way home, Raphaël stopped at a general store on the side of the road. He bought a huge bottle of whiskey. I was frightened by this idea of celebrating.
He also stopped off at a Bleeding Sparrow’s house. We’d been there before. A dealer who called himself Marie lived there. Raphaël said to hang on, that he wanted to go see about a roll of chicken wire for his enclosure. It seemed like this was something that he was making up off the top of his head. And he was acting in that stupid, overly energized way that boys get when they are on their way to score drugs. They practically started tap dancing. I figured that he was going to buy some cocaine from the guy. I decided not to ask. I just didn’t want trouble. I just wanted to not give a shit the way that the rest of the twenty-year-olds without babies in the world did.
From the way he was dressed when he stepped out of the bathroom after we got home, I knew that he was definitely high. Raphaël would try any sort of drug. He took them as if they were the answer. He would stand there waiting for the effects of the drugs to hit him as if they were magic potions. As if he were suddenly going to transform into a cat or a bird, because he did not want to be himself. He was always such a lunatic when he got high. But it’s always the people who act the most ridiculously on drugs who are the ones who seek them out.
He was all dressed up. He had on a white shirt and a black suit. His hair was clean and combed back. He kept throwing his head back as he fixed the cuffs of his shirt sleeves, sort of like a racing horse. He was strutting about in a way that his dad used to do when he was outside Raphaël’s building, checking out the passing girls. His asshole percentage had immediately cranked up.
He turned up the radio in the kitchen. It was starting to get impossible to think. I decided to just let the song do the thinking for me. It was sort of happy. I started feeling happy too. I gave in to the good mood. It was impossible not to.
“I think you’re allowed to get drunk once when you’re pregnant.”
I knew this wasn’t true. But he was the dad, so I decided to let Raphaël make that decision. Besides, I was still so young and I wanted to have a night out of drinking and dancing. I couldn’t resist a party. He poured the whiskey right up to the rim of the glass. It kept threatening to spill over. The whiskey stung me like a bee. I felt my mouth swelling up. We were going to have a blast and have lovely hangovers in the morning and wish that we were dead. It would be wonderful.
“Put on something foxy. Like something that a magician’s assistant would wear. When I was a kid and I would go to see magic shows, I always wanted to fuck the magician’s assistant.”
Anything fancy that I had looked quite funny with my belly. I pulled a red dress over my bump. We were laughing.
“Let’s go out, baby. A girl as pretty as you shouldn’t even be sitting on the side of a bed in the middle of the jungle on a Saturday night with no place to go. Let’s go out dancing and then I’ll bring you back home and treat you right, show you that you married the right man.”
“How are we supposed to go out? There’s no place to go. It’s the heart of darkness out there.”
“Where there’s a town, there’s dancing.”
Raphaël brought me to a giant barn-like edifice that housed a country club’s ballroom. There were a couple of ravens outside the club, dressed in tuxedo ja
The mirrors on the wall were in a lousy mood. They made everyone look sad and tired. Which was surprising them, because everyone felt like they were looking better than they had ever looked. It was impossible to tell how old anyone was. The dancers were thin but they had hairdos from fifties commercials. All the couples were wearing strange glittery costumes and dancing the tango. When the music stopped they would just freeze. The women had big pink carnations on their dresses.
Raphaël told the hostess that he would give her a hundred dollars if she could find me a fat carnation to pin on my dress, so that I wouldn’t feel left out. She just shrugged. No matter what he said, she just thought he was mocking her. She had encountered men before in this place who were in Raphaël’s mood.
There were hundreds of tables with gold chairs on the sides of the dance floor. We sat at one of the tables and a waitress came over.
“Line up our table with glasses of whiskey,” Raphaël told her. “We never want to be without whiskey, because we are in love and we are spending money and we are going to have a baby.”
“Is it a boy or a girl?” she asked.
“It’s a millionaire. In the ultrasound it didn’t have a penis; it had an attaché case.”
Raphaël watched the waitress as she walked away. “How do you like that? Why do people ask me these fucking nosy questions? Is that a normal question to ask? I never know.”
“I think it’s normal.”
“Some complete stranger asking the sex of my unborn child?”
The cocaine had put him into a totally crazy mood. I’d seen him like that before a couple times. I kind of liked it. He always called me baby and sweetie and opened doors for me, and started acting like Elvis Presley coming out on a Vegas stage. He would get all confident and macho. He would order for me at a restaurant and tell me not to worry my pretty little head about anything.
He was almost about to get worked up again, but the waitress brought the drinks over. He knocked back another shot and that seemed to calm him down. He was encouraging me to drink as if it would cure me of a cold, as if the booze was the voice of common sense.
“I like these places that have tabs. It’s classy. This is my kind of place,” he said. “Let’s dance.”
He was sliding around the floor. I followed after him. I didn’t think that we were allowed to fake tango. Especially since the other dancers had numbers on them. I couldn’t tell if the other couples were angry at us. I couldn’t really make sense of anything. We were so drunk that if we paid attention to anything other than one another, we would get nauseous and throw up.
Raphaël kept smiling. It was one of those ironic smiles. It was glued on his face. Whenever a smile is glued on someone’s face, it seems kind of sleazy. But I was in love with him and you can’t find someone that you love sleazy.
It was the smoothest floor that I had ever been on. I kept slipping because my shoe soles didn’t seem to be working properly. I put my arms up in the air and he held my waist and just shook me from one side to the other. I leaned all the way back onto his arm, which he was holding out for me. I stood on my toes and waved my arms in the air as if I was a tree in the wind. He blew into my hair and onto my neck as if he was the wind causing me to move that way.
It really felt like we were doing some sort of ballroom dance, although this was impossible. We clung together. It was impossible for two beings to get any closer.
We seemed to fall over hundreds and hundreds of chairs before we got to the table. They made a noise like approaching thunder. I was so drunk that I was clairvoyant. But I wasn’t a very powerful clairvoyant. I was only able to see into the future half an hour ahead of time. All I knew was that an argument was coming.
There were always these beautiful moments at the end of a relationship. Like the thick juice at the bottom of a pitcher of concentrated mix. Like the sky at sunset. They made parting so painful.
I walked out of the ballroom into the dark of the parking lot. The stars were winking on and off, like girls making signals with their pocket mirrors. I realized that Raphaël wasn’t with me. I turned around and Raphaël was having a fist fight with the bouncer. I don’t even know how this happened. They wrapped their arms around one another and were trying to wrestle each other to the ground. After disentangling himself from the bouncer, Raphaël got into an argument with a guy in the parking lot who honked at us because he was pulling out of the parking lot and we walked right into his way. Raphaël banged on the hood of the car and told the driver to get out immediately in order to suck his dick.
The guy just started honking his horn more. I would be curious to know whether, in circumstances like these, God chose a side, and which side he would be on. Raphaël reached into the back of his pants and pulled his gun out. I had come to think of it as a toy of sorts, but I knew that it scared the hell out of other people.
“Are you crazy?” I yelled.
The driver’s face went completely red and he put his hands up as if to say sorry. He put the car in drive and screeched off into the distance.
“I fucking hate that guy. How am I going to get to sleep at night knowing that there’s a piece of shit like that walking about?”
“You don’t even know him.”
“I hate him like it’s a malignant tumour inside of me.”
“Do you want him to call the police and they’ll come to our house and see that we have an illegal animal?”
If Raphaël were to let himself go, he would just go around getting into fights and intimidating people and smashing tin cans in their faces. When Raphaël got into bad moods, he tended to get into trouble. When he got into a really good mood, he also would get into trouble. If he got into any kind of a mood, he would get into trouble. The very best thing for him to do would be to stay out of moods altogether. I should have known not to go to the hospital and trust it was okay.
Raphaël swayed around drunkenly for a couple seconds and then stared at me, suddenly not caring about the guy. His eyes went all soft and stupid again.
“You make me forget about things. You know that. You’re the only little body that makes me forget about all my problems.”
I smiled. It would be a miracle if I didn’t puke any second.
“I’m going to have to take you home and give you a beating. Would you like that? Would you like Papa to teach you a lesson that you’ll never forget?”
“You love it. Come here, baby. I just want to bite into your knee as if it were an apple.”
“Are we happy? Are you glad that you met me?”
“I’m mad and hysterical and over the top in love with your ass. I don’t have any money left. I spent my whole paycheque keeping you in ribbons and sexy underwear.”
He drove the car with one of his hands around my neck. He just thought this road was going to lie down in front of him as he drove. Just like it was his bitch. Which is what it did. No matter which way he swerved the car, the road just lay down and took it.
Tell the Revolution to Wait for Me
THE NEXT MORNING I WOKE UP TO THE NOISE OF Raphaël moving about the bedroom quickly. The sun was coming through a little hole in the blind, like the police shining a flashlight into a car where lovers are kissing.
“What are you doing waking up so early?” I asked. “Did you ever even take off your clothes?”
“Yes, we had sex, remember?”
Raphaël said he was going to see about buying some more dogs to breed. He w
“Don’t leave me. Not right now,” I said.
He said that he was going to be back before sunset, but I knew that he wasn’t.
“Oh, what do I fucking care? Do me a favour. Leave me! Get out of here. I saw this shit coming. I saw this shit coming like the fucking five o’clock train.”
“Why are you being crude. It’s not attractive.”
“You know what? You can’t leave me. Because I’m leaving you. I’ve been on eggshells for months, wondering how you’re going to psychologically tell your fucking left hand from your right hand.”
I got out of bed. I started throwing my clothes on. I started pulling my clothes out of the dresser drawers and putting them on the bed.
“Come on. Come on,” he said. “What are you doing?”
“I didn’t get pregnant all by myself, you know. I’ve been fucking accommodating. I came out here to the middle of nowhere. I eat boiled hot dogs for dinner. I didn’t even get to say goodbye to my brother. I didn’t complain about anything. You want to go into business raising lions; I don’t say anything. I tolerate bikers hanging around for two weeks. I put on a red dress. I went dancing. We have a good time and then you lay this on me. Do you have any idea how insulting this is? It’s too much.”
I started packing my suitcase on the opposite side of the bed.
“Sit your ass down. You’re my wife. You can’t leave me. Or else I can legitimately murder your fucking ass. You do what you want, Nouschka. I don’t make you wash dishes. You’ve never even heated up a jar of spaghetti in the history of our marriage.”
The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O'Neill / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes