Sunday, July 3, 2011

Chapter 20: In which Eoin's art project is revealed.

“I know. And I’m still a bit...” she shook her head. No! Don’t choose that path. “I had a bad night, but I’m doing well.”

“Oh, that’s a relief.” Eoin sounded as though he’d been genuinely concerned. “Because I was hoping you might want to get together tomorrow night?”

“Yeah?” Katie’s heart skipped. She hoped she sounded cool. She knew she probably didn’t, that the eagerness was evident in her voice. She grabbed her pen and scratched “Find Eoin” off her list.

“Yeah. I was thinking...." Eoin cleared his throat. "I was thinking you might like to come over for a traditional Irish supper at my place. I’d cook, of course.”

This was not what Katie had been expecting. And yet it was what she wanted. For a nice guy to ask her on a nice-sounding date. She closed her eyes. Her heart beat hard. She thought maybe she could be herself with this man. "Yes, sure. That sounds cool." 

"Great!" Eoin's eagerness filled her with light, with hope. This guy was not playing it cool or aloof or any of the things guys were supposed to do. "I'll text you the details." 

"Can I bring anything?" Katie asked, wondering if she, too, should let her true feelings show.  Katie hadn't really dated anyone since breaking up with Bobby so she could only go by what she'd learned from watching her friends and reality shows. She knew she should keep it to herself but she liked this guy. He was interesting and kind and cute in a strange, gangly sort of way. "I could bring wine or dessert or whatever." 

"How about you bring something traditionally Canadian?" Eoin's suggestion was amusing. Who has a potluck on a first date? Katie loved it. 

The next morning Katie kept glancing towards Melissa, hoping to catch her eye. She wanted to tell her about the date with Eoin but they hadn't spoken since the disastrous gallery tour. Katie knew enough about her friend to realize that the only thing that would win Melissa around would be space, and for Katie to somehow prove that she was not a loser. The first foray back into friendship should not be "I have a date with a stranger." It should be, "I have opened an RSP" or "I am seeing a counselor". Something to show she had taken back control over her life.

So Katie spent the day without telling anyone about her date. All the friends she'd had in Vancouver had been Bobby's and they'd all taken his side when she left him. Her sister was MIA, and since getting back to town she'd really only hung out with Melissa and her friends. She briefly considered telling her aunt, but somehow telling your 65-year-old aunt about your exciting date felt almost more pathetic than telling no one, no matter how cool that aunt was. 

So Katie kept the warm, delicious secret to herself. 

Eoin had asked her to come by around 7. She didn't have time to go home after work and change, so she changed in the washroom at work. She put on her cutest jeans, a pair of black flats and a black tshirt with a long string of vintage pearls she'd bought at a church fundraiser for $5.00. (They probably weren't real). She carried a red cashmere cardigan with only the teeniest of moth holes in the cuffs that she'd gotten at a thrift shop on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, and a black leather clutch. She wanted to look cool, but not too cool. She wanted to look like she cared, but not too much. And ultimately she just wanted to look sober, sane, and like she had her shit together. Considering how she'd been behaving the last time he'd seen her, she didn't think she had to try very hard. 

She stashed her work clothes in her desk, grabbed her potluck contribution (a large bag of Cheezies and a case of Sleeman Cream Ale, both products of a proud Southern Ontario) and hurried towards the elevator. 

"Hey!" Katie felt her body slam into someone else's, her bag of Cheezies flying out of her hands and landing on the floor. She just managed to hang on to her beer. She looked up, annoyed, and saw Melissa, scrambling around the carpet, gathering up papers that had fallen when they'd collided. 

"Hey, yourself," Melissa sounded tired. Katie set her beer down and began to help gather the papers. 

"Here, I can help," Katie grabbed a file folder and some scattered computer printouts. "What are you doing here so late?" Melissa may have been the world's best worker, but she was also pretty good at keeping regular hours. She knew how to manage a work-life balance, that one.

"I'm working on a project." Melissa shoved some of the loose papers angrily into pile. 

"Yeah? It's not going well?" Katie asked softly, tentatively. 

"What gave it away?" Melissa looked up at Katie and smiled a tired sort of smile. "It's that obvious?"

Katie handed her friend the last pile of papers. "Listen. I know we're not....right now. But if you want to talk about what's going on here, I don't mind listening." 

"Oh, Katie. That's a nice offer. But let's be serious, you wouldn't understand any of this." Melissa's smile was kind but the words stung. Katie hated not being friends. They should be laughing right now but instead it was tense, so tense.

 "Listen, Melissa...." Katie didn't know how to say it. "Do you want to hang out sometime? I mean, talk about whatever? I kind of...." need you. Don't know what to do. Am going on a date and am freaking out. 

"Yeah, maybe. But it's a pretty crazy time right now, Katie. And to be honest I just don't have time for anyone's drama right now. I have to focus." Melissa had been looking at the floor, but now she looked Katie right in the eyes, brave, honest. "I can't make mistakes, or get sidetracked. Things are getting pretty heavy for me. Okay?" She clutched the files to her chest. 

"So we're just taking a friend break?" Katie felt a lump in her throat.

"Yeah, just a break. While we figure things out. On our own." Melissa gave Katie a little wave and moved on down the hall. Katie felt a sadness rush over her. Melissa wouldn't even let her try.

She wasn't feeling really very datelike by the time she arrived at Eoin's building at St Clair and Bathurst. He lived on the top floor of an old apartment building, and by the time she'd lugged her beer and Cheezies all the way up the six flights of stairs she knew she was sweaty and her hair was likely limp and lifeless. Still, she was here, determined to make the most of things, even with the recent conversation replaying itself in her head. She popped a mint into her mouth just as the door swung open and there he was. 

Eoin was just as cute as she'd remembered. Tall, skinny, with blond curls growing past his ears, wearing a green v-neck pullover and a pair of dark jeans. His long, pale feet were bare, which Katie decided she liked, though she hoped he wouldn't encourage her to take off her socks. Her feet weren't ready for intimacy just yet. 

"Come in!" he smiled wide, his blue eyes lighting up when he saw her. "Cheezies! I had these at a party once. I didn't realize they were traditional." 

"Absolutely. A Canadian staple," Katie held up the beer. "And this, too." She followed Eoin inside his apartment and went towards the fridge so she could put in the beer. Once she'd opened the door she saw a large collection of various Irish beers. "Oops." She felt herself blushing. "How embarassing. I never should have brought beer to an Irish supper." 

"Of course you should have!" Eoin shoved some of his beer aside and made room for hers. He held up two bottles. "Shall we toast to an everlasting relationship between our great beer-loving nations?" 

Eoin had made a pot of Irish stew, a loaf of potato bread, and a salad. He dished it up into mismatched bowls and they ate at a tiny card table he had set up by the window. "It's not much of a view," he'd said, apologizing for the view of a brick building only ten feet from where they sat, "but it's all I've got." Katie thought it was terrific. 

He asked about her aunt, about her job, about growing up in Toronto. She asked him about his life in Ireland (he'd grown up in Galway) about his work (to make ends meet, he taught art at an after school program downtown) and where he'd learned to cook (she didn't mention the gumminess of the stew or the fact that the salad contained nothing but lettuce). 

"So what do you do besides work at that office?" Eoin winked at her. "I know there must be more to you than suits and business meetings." 

Katie was about to tell him about her art, but she stopped herself. What was there to say? I used to make art but now I just talk about how I don't anymore? He was the real deal. She would be far too embarrassed to tell him the truth. So she just shrugged and asked, "So what brought you to Canada?"

"A woman." Eoin swallowed his last bite of stew. "But she died." 

"What?" Katie nearly choked. 

"Yeah. Right before the wedding. She was hit by a bus." He shook his head, his face grim. 

"Oh my God." Katie couldn't believe his nonchalance. "That's terrible." She put a hand to her heart. 

"Katie?" Eoin shook his head. "I'm joking?" 

"So there wasn't a dead woman?"

"No! I came here on a student visa and I've just never left." 

"So you're here illegally?" 

"Shh!" Eoin reached across the table and pressed a finger over her lips. Katie didn't move, her heart suddenly leaping into her throat. So this was what it felt like....They stared at one another for what felt like hours. Neither one of them breathing.

But then Eoin pulled his hand away and began clearing dishes. "So, I was thinking, if you wanted to, we could drop by my studio. Check out the project that you're a part of." 

"Really?" Katie piled the stew bowls carefully together and followed him to the kitchen. She wondered if he could still feel her lips on his finger, because she could sure still feel his finger on her lips. 

"Yeah. It's just around the corner." He leaned into the counter, facing her.

"Sounds great." She stared at him, standing there with a grin on his face, his head cocked to one side. It was all she could do to stop herself from walking towards him and biting his full, smiling mouth. 

He wasn't kidding when he said the studio was right around the corner. It was in the apartment down the hall. "It's just a bachelor, and I get the rent really cheap because the landlord trusts me. God knows why," he whispered playfully, and guided Katie in front of him. "Now don't peek," he said, placing his hands over her eyes, nudging her forwards, into the room. "Keep them closed while I set everything up." 

She could hear Eoin moving around the room, but she kept her eyes tight. She didn't want to let him down. Ever. 

"Okay, open them!" Katie opened her eyes.

He'd dimmed the lights. She saw that the room was empty. One wall was covered with a map of Toronto, a giant map that filled the wall entirely, bleeding off all four edges and onto the ceiling, the floor, the walls beside it, until it faded into black. And there were tiny blinking lights inset into the map at various intervals all around the city.  "What are these?" Katie walked towards them. "Are these..."

"The people who answered my phone. It's a map of where everyone was when they answered." He walked towards her.  "Here, this is the best part." He handed her an iPad. "I got it with grant money," he said sheepishly. "I promise I only use it for art. Angle it towards one of the lights." As she did so, an image popped up on her iPad. The face of a young man appeared, in a full-on gangsta outfit, making a gangsta pose. Danny, Dundas Square, was the text under his photo. And then a boy's voice, "This is some sick shit, Irishman." She aimed it at another light. A little red-headed girl was on the screen. Rebecca, outside Gibson House Museum. Her little girl voice, "My father wants to talk to you." 

"Here, this one," he said, aiming it at a light near the centre of the map. Katie, taxi cab. Her own voice asking, "So what happens now?"

Katie turned to Eoin. She wanted to tell him how amazing this was, how exciting she found it. How inspiring. But instead she found herself asking, "So what does happen now?" and then she was up on her toes and she was kissing him, kissing him, kissing him. He, bending his long body over hers, walked her backwards towards the map, his hands in her hair, her hands still clutching the iPad, her back against the map, the little lights shining into her as they kissed kissed kissed.... 

And then a familiar voice, disembodied, "Don't you ever call me again, not unless you've got weed," filled the room. Eoin laughed, his mouth still against hers. "You must have activated it, let me take that from you," and he pulled the iPad from her hands, but not before she'd seen, on the screen, a blurry photo of her sister. And under that the words: Anne. Location unknown.

You Decide! 

Katie tells Eoin that her sister is part of his art project. 
Katie keeps the fact that Anne is part of the project a secret from Eoin.


  1. Don't tell! (see, I CAN make a decision!)

  2. not telling requires too much thought in her present circumstance. What? she's going to continue 'kissing kissing kissing him'? unless of course the kissing was calculated and Melissa has her sussed completely.

  3. Tell -- under the circumstances, with the mood totally smashed--there will likely not be much more high-impact kissing.

  4. SECRET! Secrets are always more fun.