It’s thanks to a stuffed horse that I overheard the following conversation. At the Roy d’Espagne pub in Brussels, there’s a horse by the bar (photo yet to be posted, but yes, it’s coming), an impressive example of large animal taxidermy (although how fine, I wouldn’t want to comment. When I saw the horse there were tufts of hair missing). I had to see the horse. It would be criminal to be in the same city as a bar with a famous stuffed horse and not pay my respects. So that’s how we found ourselves at the Roy d’Espagne sipping on Kriek and Hoegaarten in the afternoon sun.
At a neighbouring table there was an American woman and her parents. From the great detail of her conversation with them, I was able to deduce that she lives in Paris, her parents live on the East Coast of the States, they were visiting for a few weeks and this was a weekend excursion. I couldn’t talk to Monsieur at all while she was there. The things that American Woman said fascinated and horrified me beyond being able to speak myself.
“You know how I’ve changed my psychiatrist. Didn’t I tell you? Yeah, well, I have. So, anyway, I have my appointment with the new psychiatrist on Tuesday at 4.15, then on Wednesday I have my swimming at 3.30. On Thursday there’s nothing. It’s a holiday.”
Did I mention she displayed no physical signs of needing oxygen to survive? Superhuman, this one.
“On Friday I’m going to a new dermatologist and then to see my new doctor,”
Verging on the hypochondriac, apparently…
“but then I’ve made reservations for Marie Antoinette at 11.30 so you just go straight there and I’ll meet you as soon as I can after my doctor’s appointment. Okay? And then we can have lunch. If the weather’s nice we can lunch at the museum. They have a really cute brasserie with a terrace, but if it’s not nice then I know a place just around the corner so that’ll be fine. It just all depends on the weather really.”
I was getting tired listening to her schedule and started to wonder what kind of work she did that allowed her so much flexibility for appointments.
“On the last Tuesday we’ll all have lunch at the Bastille. It’ll be really nice. But remember that guy I told you about, the one that just moved here from the New York office? Yeah, well I have a lunch with him next week, too, and I just think it’s better if you don’t come to that one cos you know what it’s like? One day he’s in Tokyo and then I’m in Thailand and we’ve been trying to have lunch for sooo long and he says he’d like to meet you but I’m just not sure it’d work. You know?”
Even the parents were starting to glaze over by now. They hardly spoke. There was no point. Their daughter was doing enough speaking for all three of them. Finally, the mother dared to ask a question.
“How about we go shopping on Thursday, then?”
“No, no, no, Mom. I told you. Thursday’s a holiday. Everything will be closed.”
“Well, what about a manicure?”
“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that. Yeah, okay. Most of the Chinese girls will probably be working that day.”
(I guess in Paris a lot of manicurists must be Chinese. Fascinating what you learn when you hear conversations like this.)
Mother pipes up again.
“So tell me, what’s your dress like.”
“Well, it’s white. They had two colours, actually: grey or white. The grey’s more practical cos it won’t show up stains so much but I got the white cos it suits me better, even though I just know I’ll spill something on it like the second or third time I wear it and then it’ll be ruined, but at least it looks good.”
I couldn’t resist. I had to sneak a peek at this point. There she was: American Woman. She was wearing a short skirt, showing off her long, tan legs that would be better suited to life on a tennis court than sitting around outside a pub with a dead horse inside it. Her long, thick hair had weekly appointments at worst. She was a little bit freckly in a nice way and no, she didn’t wear anything on her ring finger. From what I was hearing, American Woman would need to settle down with a deaf millionaire with excellent health cover.
Mom speaks again.
“So how ’bout we go shopping on a Saturday.”
“No, Mom.” This was said with a very impatient drawl. “I’m allergic to shopping on a Saturday. I just can’t stand the crowds.”
I looked across at Mom, who’d just travelled half-way around the world to see her daughter, only to be told that everything she suggests is impossible or won’t fit in with existing plans. My heart sank. How on earth does such a pain-in-the-ass develop? Perhaps we can blame her old shrink? I’m so relieved she has a new one.