Louise Phillips

Dan met Heidi on a dating website called Insta-Cupid. They are twenty-eight year old non-smoking social drinkers looking for a serious relationship, and they both mentioned Pulp Fiction in the “Movies” section of their profiles. Dan had only seen it once, but his roommate in college had a Pulp Fiction poster on the wall in the common area, so he put it down. Heidi’s other favorite movies are Natural Born Killers, Kolya, and Amélie.

They arrange to meet for drinks on a patio in Little Italy, where Heidi lives. Her Insta-Cupid profile picture is dated. Her auburn hair is short now, with jagged bangs, and there’s a gold stud in her chin. She has a tattoo on her bicep of a black-haired woman wearing a leopard-skin bathing suit. She tells Dan the tattoo is of Bettie Page. Dan otherwise approves of Heidi’s outfit; platform shoes and a tight strapless 1950s dress with red polka-dots, like a sexy Minnie Mouse.

Dan orders a beer and Heidi asks for a Rob Roy. She clarifies the ingredients with their server: whiskey, vermouth, and bitters, shaken in cracked ice then strained into a cocktail glass. Heidi tells Dan she works for a temp agency and does ink drip projections. Dan tells Heidi about his job as district manager at Future Shop.

“I went to business school, then got hired as a division sales manager at Best Buy before I ended up at Future Shop. It’s a little bit of everything: administrative operations, marketing, inventory and purchasing.”

“That’s cool,” Heidi says. “My family is always telling me to date a guy with a good job instead of the losers I usually go for.”

She keeps waving at people on the sidewalk; a man in velour pajamas and a boater hat; a girl wearing red plastic sunglasses with blinds. Heidi says Toronto is a village.

Dan walks Heidi home. She lives about five blocks away in a house she shares with friends. The bars are all showing the same soccer game, and their television sets emit a constant roar.

Heidi’s house is three stories high, with an overgrown lawn and white paint peeling off the front porch like the bark on a sick birch tree. A damp-looking sofa with tufts of exposed stuffing is pushed against the house. Inside, a group of people sings Lady Marmalade, a cappella and slightly off-key.

“Is that a choir?” Dan asks.

“Yeah, it’s my roommate’s. They practice here on Wednesdays.”

Dan can hear himself saying, “I dated a girl whose roommate had a choir.”

“Are you inked?” Heidi asks.
 
 

* * *

 
 
Dan was surprised when Heidi accepted his invitation to spend the weekend in Niagara Falls. At the conclusion of their date she had given him no indication that she wanted to be kissed; if anything, her manner had indicated it would be unwelcome.

Nevertheless, after their date Heidi was constantly on Dan’s mind: her tattoo, the polka dot dress encircling her like a tensor bandage; her deliberately visible black lace-bra. He searched Google Images under, “bettie page tattoo.” There were hundreds of them: Bettie in a devil costume, topless, as a French maid brandishing a feather duster, tattooed herself–none as nice as Heidi’s.
 
 

* * *

 
 
They arrive in Niagara Falls just before the sunset and check into the Sheraton. They can hear the American Falls from their room but can’t see them unless they pop open the window and lean out.

“Do you want to go look at the Horseshoe Falls?” Dan asks, “They light up at night.”

Heidi shrugs yes. She looks like a telegraph operator in a film about World War II, with enormous shoulder pads and a pencil skirt which restricts her gait. In the car she’d worn a little veiled hat, which she unpins and leaves in their room.

It takes them half an hour to reach the top of the Horseshoe Falls. On the way people stop Dan and hand him their cameras. The pictures he takes aren’t very clear because the light is changing so quickly. Heidi leans against the railing and studies the transparent strip of emerald water at the very edge of the falls. She is drenched with mist. Dan reaches into the pocket of his shorts for his own camera and taps her on the back. He puts his arm around her waist, holds the camera in front of them and instructs her to smile.
 
 

* * *

 
 
At dinner, they discover they both attended Maple Drive Elementary and Mackenzie King Senior Public School. They were never in the same class, but must have passed each other thousands of times as they matriculated from kindergarten to Grade 8.

Dan keeps saying, “What are the odds?”

They remember all of the same people: deranged Aaron Farley; popular Jamie Scudder, his girlfriend Lyndsey Nazwiski and her lady-in-waiting Ashley–but not each other.

“Remember the French teacher who used to eat Coffee Crisps in class?” Dan asks.

“She was mean?”

“Really mean,” Dan agrees. “It used to make me so hungry when she did that.”  

“Yeah,” Heidi says. She’s put her hat back on, “Remember there was the same photographer every year and his hands smelled like Orange Crush soda? Remember Orange Crush?”

“I think it’s just Crush now.” 

“Yeah,” Heidi nods. “Did you have Mr. Barghouti for homeroom in Grade 6?” 

“No Miss Dickson.”

“Oh!”

“Were you one of those girls who played jump rope? Double-dutch skipping?”

Heidi shakes her head. Their waitress arrives with baskets of fried calamari and chicken wings, which they have decided to share. Heidi rolls back the veil on her chapeau. She dips a wing into the ranch sauce, takes a bite, then plunges it back in to coat it in creamy white dressing. Dan has noticed some questionable habits. She brought her phone with her into the bathroom, twice.

“So tell me about Kolya,” he says.
 
 

* * *

 
 
Outside of the restaurant, Heidi cadges a cigarette off a group of teenage boys. She chases after them for a light. The arcades, mazes, haunted houses, and the Movieland Waxwork Museum are lit up with neon lights. Heidi follows Dan down the Clifton Hill Street of Fun, smoking. Dan gestures towards the Ferris-wheel but Heidi shakes her head. They split two pitchers of beer at dinner and they’re both a little woozy. Heidi grinds out the cigarette with the pointy toe of her boot. Dan asks someone to take their picture. He stands behind Heidi and drapes his arms over her shoulders. They are standing in front of a miniature golf course with life-size statues of dinosaurs.

There are two queen-size beds in their room at the Sheraton. Heidi spends twenty minutes in the bathroom and comes out wearing a lilac peignoir. She has left her chin stud in. Dan brushes his teeth and strips down to his boxer shorts in the bathroom. He notices that his stomach is swollen from their meal and puts his polo-neck T-shirt back on. The counter is covered in mascara-smeared cotton balls.

Heidi claims the bed closest to the window and tucks herself in between the rigidly secured sheets. Dan turns off the lights and lies down on the other bed. He points the remote control at the television.

“It’s 11:00 o’clock,” Dan says. “Do you have anything special you want to watch on TV?”

“Nope,” Heidi says. “I’m good.”

Dan goes through all the channels twice. He keeps waiting for Heidi to tell him to stop. Extra channels promote the theme restaurants adjacent to the hotel. The Planet Hollywood channel is devoted to footage of the chain’s Canadian openings, set to progressive house music. The Toronto restaurant closed a few years ago but Planet Hollywood Niagara Falls is still open.

Dan and Heidi get hooked on a mesmeric montage of Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sylvester Stallone. Their lips part and their blinking slows. Eventually Heidi nods off on her side, snoring lightly.

Sylvester Stallone walks along a security barrier clasping outstretched hands. He’s wearing a Planet Hollywood bomber jacket with a leather collar. The Toronto Planet Hollywood opened in the winter, and vapors escape from his between his lips when he smiles.

The Sheraton is decorated with sepia-toned photographs of Niagara Falls frozen over. The print in their room is of tiny figures in old style hats and coats standing on the edge of the Horseshoe Falls. People used to skate on the ice bridge in the winter. Vendors built wooden shanties and sold food, liquor, and souvenirs.  

Dan watches Heidi sleeping. Her mouth is slack. If he listens closely he can hear the roar of the water. When he went to Fort Lauderdale with Megan it was the same thing, they could hear the ocean from their room but they couldn’t see it.
 
 
 
 


Louise Phillips’ work has recently been published in Litro, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and Drunken Boat, and is upcoming in Pear Noir! and The Los Angeles Review.