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Rideau Rouge

I arrived early this morning and made myself comfortable. Of course, it was an accident because I would run late most of the time. More of an anomaly, I would say, rather than an accident. And I never have breakfast. Oh boy, are those days over. Even the first meals on Saturdays don't materialize before two in the afternoon because I fall asleep on the couch on Friday evenings, which gives me the chance to fuse my once-in-a-week nine-hour sleep with a decent four-hour nap during the day. After that, a bottle of self-loathe on Saturday because every ounce of energy between my bones seems to evaporate. Or is energy more prone to melting? Anyway, I would then usually merge with the couch.


That morning was a Thursday morning, meaning the amount of work per shift reached an almost bearable number. Something I should probably give our firm credit for. But my bosses aren't the architects of this schedule. It is mandatory to fulfill a Gaussian curve by law. You know, like in schools. So, I guess the organization that needs to be given credit is the government. Wednesday was the day everybody clocked in with a fuming mouth spilling through the draining twelve-hour Wednesday shift. Every hour holds additional twelve hours within because the work is so goddamn stupid. Not to mention that Tuesday was the same as Thursday - a bit easier than Wednesday, so waking up on a Wednesday morning was truly a piece of shit feeling. But, the system worked. You'd get a looser Monday after the weekend, pretty nice, you know, to get the blood flowing, to crack the old knuckles, and you'd get a slide after Wednesday so that you wouldn't feel like a corpse on the weekend. On paper, that sounded like a well-thought-out-pro-working-class-people system, even though I hated it. I really did. However, I respected it. But I digress.


After clocking out at six, I went to Rideau Rouge, a nearby restaurant. Well, not exactly a restaurant. It was a restaurant of some sort, but not as classy. And much smaller than your typical restaurant. But it wasn't a diner either. It had six tables for four, but the owner, an Egyptian immigrant, wanted to pass off an aristocratic European image by naming it "Rideau Rouge," french for "Red Curtain." Quite transparent, but we still call it The Rouge, regardless. A french breeze to feel a bit European after work.


The menu was both in English and French, so some of us, from time to time, scuffled with the French side out loud, only to be mocked properly. But all of us, in our collective silence, appreciated the delicacy of those words. We envied the Europeans for having the opportunity to fall in love and declare wars through such words while we used them to order stew. The curtains remained red since the Rouge had opened its doors seventeen years ago. Something I should probably give the Rouge credit for.


I went there for my daily soupe au poulet. A nice bowel exercise for afterward, I would eat a whole Monday and Friday worth of food to compensate for those twelve hours. The job started at six, which meant I should wake up at five and finish at nine in the evening; it was pretty much a wrap. But this, you see, was a Wednesday evening, meaning I can afford another hour or two because the Thursday shift starts at eight. But this evening was unlike any other Wednesday evening because on my way from the Rouge I saw a girl and her father, I suppose, having problems starting their car. And they have seen me. And we all saw that we all saw each other. I wasn't a mechanic, but I did, however, fit the description visually because, unless you're a factory worker, you can't tell each factory branch apparel apart. So I offered to help with the car but made it clear that I had just finished a 12-hour shift down at the Rug, so my assistance spectrum was limited. We first looked at the hood, where I touched some things here and there but mostly pretended that I knew what I was doing. I knew the basic things, the ones obvious to the eye. If there is smoke coming out of a certain part, that should be the problematic part. I looked like a car guy but never really was one. We decided that the car was just in need of an extra push, maybe, so we tried it, the father and I. The girl was behind the wheel. The process didn't take long, so I managed to scoop some Wednesday evening after all, or so I thought. See, after you sell twelve hours of your precious life for a buck down at the Rug, you're not left with much to hold on to a day. And I made a choice to give a scrap of my Wednesday spirit to infomercials and late-night screenings of classic cartoons, so pushing that car did it for me. I went to bed an hour and a half earlier, and the thought of forcing my eyes to follow the caricaturistic actions of drawings exhausted me. I fell asleep immediately. I woke up forty minutes earlier than usual. A Thursday morning. Around seven in the morning, I managed to score some quick breakfast and walk to the bus. I arrived early and made myself comfortable. I brought a book with me because I felt I could read it this morning since this was one of the few slow-paced mornings.


I always sat on rear-facing seats to avoid giving my seat to elders. Driving backward gave them nausea, I think. A frowned-upon solution but a very legal one. It was always empty at first. The bus. It was long too. The more people it picked up, the shorter it became. Somehow the same elders always joined the ride last in both directions. Never understood that phenomenon. But that wasn't for the rear-facing seat occupants to understand. Three stations away, we found ourselves at a little bus station where the bus always stopped, even though there were obviously no people for it to stop, ever. At least for the last nine months, there weren't, but I doubt people from around here stopped taking this bus after I got the job at the Rug. That's just the driver driving his routine the same way since the dawn of the vehicle. I wouldn't be surprised if I walked up to the front only to find a picture of a man in a driver's hat taped to the steering wheel. So, it stopped at the usual fourth station. The bus symbol was painted on the ground in fluorescent yellow, on which stood a girl in a long brown dress and high black boots. I felt she got tired just by looking at the bus as if this was the third of sixteen buses she had to jump. She sat on the left side of the bus, the rear-facing window seat, picking up her lifeless thoughts. I mean, it was around seven o'clock in the morning, so every brain in the bus was still buzzing, and if it weren't for the loudness of the decaying engine and the tires and every broken part of the bus, you could probably hear it. I rested my head on the cold bus window, hoping to doze off, with the book in my lap. Unopened. It was a January morning, and the bus radiators worked at full capacity, so usually, it didn't take long for them to knock me down to sleep. The girl turned my way and glanced at the book. She turned away but then leaned over to take a better look, and this time she was a bit more captivated. I, however, haven't paid much attention to her. I was sharper today than I am during most mornings, but I still couldn't bring myself to care enough about her concern with my book. I could have moved my hands so the title could be read more easily, but I don't know. I was looking at the telephone line, as I always do, considering there isn't anything exciting going on beneath it, and my eyes propelled me far ahead to a point in perspective where I could see both the people walking on the sideway and the lines resting above their minds. I looked down on the sideway and saw a young boy, around ten or eleven years old, standing with his mother, waiting for someone to pick them up. The mother scanned every car coming their way. She wrapped her little boy in winter clothes up, and when the bus got closer, I could see the little Inuit was carrying a wooden crossbow toy. It was probably a homemade Christmas present since those were common in poor neighborhoods. And just as the morning thoughts of suicide started creeping up on me, the boy aimed the crossbow at me, pretending it was real. So, of course, I imagined how it would be to fall out of my seat, letting the book end up on the muddy bus floor, together with the girl, me, and an arrow pierced through our necks. Au revoir.

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