692 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 77 PART 5 SEPTEMBER 2019
qualities. But when we got back to our place long after midnight, Aur was
almost crying. I stared at him in hazy surprise as he looked out over the
water, then at me. I was fairly drunk myself. At last, he slurred, “You’re not
here, Jen.” His accent was more pronounced with the drinking. A tear trickled
down his cheek. I was shocked, as much as I could be in my state. He
raked both hands through his hair and let out one exhausted sob. “You
haven’t been here since Montréal.”
A blurry, wee-hours moment—easy for us to pretend had never
“Here we are again, Jen, smoking on the balcony,” says Léonie. She leans
back and closes her eyes in the pale morning light.
“It’s our thing.” I smile.
The sounds of a normal business day in Paris rise from the streets below.
Storefronts clatter as they are wheeled open. Jovial banter between a vendor
and his customer rings through a lane. Car horns beep. An intrepid
morning busker’s saxophone blares. The city wakes up to its usual routine.
But for me, today is the day to confront my estranged husband and to visit
his dying mother.
After a while, I look at Léonie. “How is Georgine?”
“Mmm, maman,” Léonie murmurs, as though talking to herself. “It’s bad,
I think. She would never say that, of course.” Léonie runs one finger along
the rim of the ashtray. The shadow has returned to her face. “She’s at Gustave
Roussy; it’s a cancer centre in Villejuif. I have a job this morning but
I’ll be there again in the evening. Go anytime. Cinquième étage. Aur will be
there all day. You can talk. There’s a café close by. I can text him, yeah? Tell
him to meet you there?”
I look down at the cigarette burning between my fingers. I am already
anxious for the next one. “Will I be able to smoke?”
“Of course, you are in Paris!” Léonie brightens. She mimes a French caricature
taking an extravagant drag. I snort and roll my eyes.
The hospital elevator doors open onto the fifth floor of Gustave Roussy.
12:30 p.m.—I’m early. I decided to come straight to the hospital instead of
meeting Aur at a café. Léonie told him I would be here at 1:00. As I move
towards the nurses’ desk to ask for directions, I spot Aur coming out of the
washroom. He does not see me. My heart pounds. Aur walks down the hallway.
I follow him but avoid catching up. He is as handsome and fit as ever.
Wearing his soft grey sweater.