I start to hang out with the girl who is my regular hair stylist. Jewel Denae is forty-five pounds heavier when I first meet her. I have gone to her to have my hair straightened before a date one evening, and I think how beautiful she is. Several months after that initial meeting, a hip, happy, young beauty emerges in Jewel, and she and I slowly begin to socialize. She starts to come to the bar I tend on weekends, and repeatedly invites me to party with her and her friends. “Anytime you feel ready to stop being a loser, I want you to switch off your VCR and come out with us!” she shouts over the house music. Jewel likes to drink, shop and screw to excess. I am interested in finding my soul mate but Jewel just wants to bed any male over sixteen and under twenty-one.
“I could never do your job, Ange,” she tells me one night. She and I are in a local nightclub and I decline the offer of a striking, former male student to dance. “I’d be fucking them boys in the janitor’s closet.”
“I want to get married again, Jules. I don’t want to sleep around.”
“Not me. I’ve been a big, fat loser all my life,” she says. “I have been with two guys and in both relationships I got fat and let myself be treated like crap. I’m done. I just want to have fun and be on my own.”
When we go out together we jokingly play a game called He’s Your Boyfriend. If I see an adolescent male on a skateboard with his pants hanging off his backside I say, “Hey, Jules. He’s your boyfriend.” If she sees an old man in his sixties with plaid pants pulled up to his arm pits she says, “Ange. He’s your boyfriend.” If I see a guy I think is cute I say, “Jules. He’s my boyfriend.” And she goes to get him for me. We are in another local nightclub one night and I point out a man standing beneath me. We can see him through the glass floor of the nightspot.
“That guy?!!! Really?!!!” Jewel says.
“Yeah. That’s my type. Crooked good looks. I don’t like guys who blow-dry their hair. Too much primping, not good!”
She goes and gets him for me. “My sister over there wants to meet you,” she says pointing me out to him across the bar.
He tells me that he is a goalie in the NHL and is home for the summer. I don’t believe that he plays in the NHL, as he says. I follow the NHL and I’ve never heard of him. We date over the summer but nothing more. I don’t see him again until I watch him play goal for the Oilers in the Stanley Cup final sometime in the new millennium. He was a NHL goalie after all.
I go and reel in men for Jewel too. She always takes hers to bed and kicks her victims to the curb in the morning without an ounce of self-loathing or remorse. Jewel shags the boyfriends of half of our small town populace. We come home to death threats on her answering machine left by betrayed girlfriends. She just hits the delete button and booty calls one of the men of these women and takes him to her bed, which is the biggest bed I have ever seen. It takes up her entire bedroom. I try to nap in it once but can’t stop thinking of the size of it long enough to shut my eyes.
I can’t afford the reputation of being a party girl in the town where I am employed by the local Catholic school board. I am already branded a shameless divorcee after I leave my marriage. Thus, Jewel and I party in Toronto or Turkey Point in the summer. I bartend at the Bar Harbour Hard Rock Café in Turkey Point that July after the owner sees me in action behind the bar at Blondie’s during the winter and tells me if I want to earn serious cash in Turkey Point over the summer to give him a call. I am always looking for a way to earn more cash so I accept his job offer. The first night I work there, the owner throws a Budweiser bikini at me and tells me that he wants me to be the Budweiser girl and serve drinks on the floor wearing nothing but that bathing suit.
“I can’t work in a bikini,” I tell him. “I refuse.”
He makes me the Tiki bartender on the pier instead. Every time I make a blended drink, which is often, a fuse blows. I must crawl down a hatch to replace it. After a few weekends of that I quit on a night Jewel is there with some other friends. I strip off my Bar Harbour Hard Rock t-shirt, hop over the bar and tell the owner to stick his voltage shortcomings. I have never seen Jewel laugh so hard as when she watches me strip, hop and bolt, taking her drink from her hand and downing it in one smooth motion. “We’re out of here!” I announce and Jules and the others follow me to the parking lot, shrieking with laughter.
We party in a Toronto bar one night and when Jewel emerges from the washroom she comes over to where I am surrounded by a group of doctors.
“I knew you were here. I saw a group of forty-year-olds and knew Ange would be right smack in the middle of them.”
They aren’t forty. They are in their late twenties or early thirties like we are. They just aren’t minors. When I tell her they are doctors she flips off her sandal and sticks her foot high in the air in front of them and asks if they can fix her corns. I laugh but the doctors don’t find it at all charming. When we emerge from the bar at three o’clock in the morning we see that Jewel’s car has been towed. We walk toward the towing company, arm-in-arm, stopping in every variety store along the way looking for black licorice for me. I have a craving for the petite black Nibs licorice.
“I’m not leaving Toronto without black Nibs,” I proclaim.
“And I need a pumpkin tart from Tim Horton’s,” she says. When we find a Timmies with pumpkin tarts Jewel repeatedly insists on extra whip cream. Each time the girl puts down the whip cream can Jewel says, “More.” The girl just rolls her eyes, lifts the can again and adds more cream to the tart.
“You know she spat on that tart when you weren’t looking,” I tell her as we leave the coffee shop. Jewel just chortles.
We find some black Nibs for me and when we locate her impounded car, I pretend to be a lawyer and threaten the three sumo wrestlers behind the counter with legal action until they release our vehicle without charge.
“I love you, Ange. Of all my friends you’re the only one who can use words over two syllables, and know what they mean,” she tells me.
As I (the lesser intoxicated) drive us home, we roll down the roof of Jewel’s VW Rabbit. It is a balmy, summer night. The traffic is heavy and with the top down, we are able to chat up the talent crawling beside us on either side of the Gardiner Expressway. Cars are often at a standstill for long periods of time allowing people to get out of their vehicles and fraternize with one another. I stick partially chewed pieces of black Nibs on my teeth and smile a seemingly toothless grin at potential suitors. The guys don’t laugh but Jewel is highly entertained, letting her huge laugh roll across the soft night.
A red convertible with Michigan plates pulls up next to us. Three guys in baseball uniforms are in the car. The one in the back seat is tall and gorgeous but the two in the front are short, bearded and unattractive. The tall looker in the backseat is stretched out and sipping a can of Budweiser. He and I chat across the stalled traffic and eventually he and one of his friends gets out of their car and approaches us. He asks me for my number, which I happily give him. His friend tries to persuade us to follow them off the highway and go to their hotel with them, but I refuse. The one chatting with me hangs inside my driver’s window, his long, tanned arms brushing against mine. He smells clean, like Irish Spring soap. When the traffic starts to move again, I bid him farewell before I notice Jewel missing from the car.
“Where’s my friend?” I shriek.
“She macking on my man over there,” he says in a slow, American accent jutting the top of his head in the direction of the back end of the vehicle.
I look behind and spy Jewel’s bare buttocks, separated by a hot pink thong, moving in circular motions by the tail lights. The Yank paws at her arse, pushing her mini-skirt to her narrow waist. I reach across the car, pop open the passenger door and yell at Jewel to get back inside.
“Get in here! The traffic’s moving!”
She returns to the passenger seat, giggling, and as I drive away I look at her sitting in the dark. A broad smile spreads across her beautiful face, her button nose covered in whip cream.
“By the way, Tart,” I say, “Your nose is covered in whip cream.”
She throws back her head and lets another deep laugh roll across the car. “That was a great night, Ange!” she smiles at me before she crams the rest of her pumpkin tart into her mouth and repeats with her mouth bulging, “A gweat fwrickin’ night!”
Jewel is saving her money to move to British Columbia at the same time as I am gearing up to resign my teaching position in the small-town Catholic board.
“Come with me to British Columbia, Ange.” Jewel says to me.
She and I are at her step-father’s house in the swimming pool. I am wearing a nude crochet bikini. When Jewel goes in to make us more drinks, her mother calls her daughter to her. “Why is Angela in the pool in her bra-er and underwears?” her mother asks Jewel as the old woman puffs on a cigarette wearing curlers in her hair. When Jewel comes back out, she tells me what her mom said and we howl.
“Just come with me when I go out west,” Jewel says again.
I want to go with her but I have no money. She has equity in her house. When it sells, she’ll have cash with which to move. I left Jack the house. I felt too guilty to take anything but half our debt load, which I still need to pay off. Jules also makes more as a stylist than I do as a teacher. My employment situation continues to be erratic and I am beginning to feel that I have no choice but to move home to London.
“Moving home to London is boring. Coming with me to British Columbia is not boring,” Jewel says.
As much as I want to go with her I also want to see my sister’s four children grow up. I want my own family to help me to heal. I feel if I move back to London my sisters will eventually come around and we will become friends in our adult years. I know that I don’t want to live the party lifestyle to which I’ve been introduced after my divorce, and Jewel is moving to Whistler, British Columbia – the STD capital of Canada. During that time, I tell myself that everyone behaves in a casual way and try to convince myself I should too, but I know within my heart that it isn’t right for me to behave in the same way as everyone else. I simply have not been raised to behave that way. Such loose behaviour goes against the tenants of my Catholic faith, and I sense a voice deep within telling me I am worth more.