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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 21 page 18


And so, with resignation, he picked up the television remote control and began to bounce around channels. He stayed home. He wasn’t going to be the kind of guy who went out on his own on a Friday night.

By the following Friday, he was more than ready to be that kind of guy. He had spent the week hunting the apartment for loose change. Two euros between couch cushions. Eight cents in the bottom of his work bag. Within the week, and without leaving the confines of his own home, he had managed to amass nine euros and forty-six cents. Not a lot.

“But enough,” he decided, pulling his pleather jacket over his red T-shirt.

On his way to the bar, he passed Second Chance, his favourite vintage clothes shop. He enjoyed dressing up. Going for three weeks without trolling vintage stores for new old clothing had been the hardest aspect of his unemployment to date. He stopped for just a moment, drooling at the American-style aviator jacket he could see perfectly clearly through the window. Fifty euros. He could perhaps afford a sleeve with what he currently had in his pocket.

“No. Get a beer,” he advised himself.

As he entered the bar, he felt a pang of depression. It was the German bar where he had taken Maja on their first date. She had wanted a romantic French bistro, but he had insisted on the German pub. To make her feel more at home. He had come to regret that decision now.

He approached the bar and sat himself down on a stool. The only person to be seated at the bar itself. The barman stopped opposite him, wiping a glass as Jean-Marc spoke.

“Whatever’s your cheapest beer,” he ordered, placing his money on the counter. “Keep it coming until this runs out.” The barman walked away, and began to pour glasses of beer.

But Jean-Marc’s never came.

He sat for an hour, and then two, waiting for his drink to arrive. But nothing. Angrily, he swept up his change and dumped it back into his pocket, swearing profusely under his breath. He stormed out of the bar and back to the apartment.

It was the following Friday that he next decided to venture out. That was tonight, in fact. He went back to that same bar, ready to have words with the barman. He had spent the whole week steeling himself, talking to himself over and over until he was sufficiently angry to take his aggression out on an innocent party. Or not-so-innocent. All depended on how guilty you found the barman to be.

He strutted back into the bar, shoulders squared and chest puffed out. He was ready. As he walked through the door, he did a quick scan of the bar. The bartender was nowhere to be seen. He cleared his throat and made his way towards the bathroom, wanting to wash away the nervous sweat from his palms. There was no way in hell that he was going to let the barman see him nervous and stressed.

He wrinkled his nose slightly as he walked into the gents’. It was never a pleasant aroma, but it was to be endured if he wasn’t going to come across as nervous. He strode towards the basin. Fake it until you make it. He ran the hot tap, letting the water pour into the bowl for a few seconds before running his hands under the stream. The water felt good as it hit him. When exactly had he last showered? Not that it really mattered, with no job to go to. While he thought about it, he splashed the warm water at his face. He smiled as the droplets fell down his cheeks, splashing back down into the ceramic bowl. He jolted as he looked back into the mirror.

And saw nothing.

He was expecting his brown eyes and his dirty hair. His goatee, unkempt for not having groomed in three weeks. His flushed cheeks and slightly nicotine-stained teeth.

But there was nothing. Just the reflection of the bathroom around him.

A single thought flashed across his mind: