Août 18

Short Story

“There’s something I have to tell you” she said with an aggravated tone. “I think crepes are undercover pancakes.” At first I was confused by her dramatic confession, but then I was so relieved it was just that. She could have told me she was married, that she murdered someone or, even worse, that she did not like me. We had only been dating for three days and it clearly did not feel as if we knew each other since forever. We had been dating for three days: Had sex on the first date, admitted to her I was in love on the next one, and on the third date she confessed to being skeptical about crepes. She confessed her fear as we were having coffee in a coffee shop on Sherbrooke Street.

“So what do you think about waffles?” I replied sarcastically.

“Oh don’t get me started on waffles.” She said menacingly, forcing her big blue eyes in a way that made it hard to take her seriousness at face value.

I was looking for patterns in order to habituate myself to this girl. Being able to say “this is so Elise” would make me feel comfortable in the realm of unknown she was about to unveil as our relationship evolved. I was ready since day one to kill the tempo of our mutual romantic discovery in order to vivify my confidence. She takes light things seriously and laughs when we’re into serious matters. She smiled when I told her my grandmother was sick on the first night we hung out. She cried when she watched Seinfeld on stage a few years ago. Moments later in the conversation her eyes lit up and she exclaimed:

“Maybe you should do that: a phenomenology of pancakes!”

On the first day we met I was quick to tell her what my passion was: Phenomenology. I told her I was doing some research on phenomenology of love. I was mostly interested in knowing whether or not love is a contingent experience in human life and I wanted to compare it to death, a necessary experience, in order to see the differences between the two. She, on the other hand, was an English major, and it took me some time to explain her why I believed the poetic descriptions of Leonard Cohen and William Blake were not enough to satisfy my curiosity about romantic love.

“Indeed maybe I should do that. Would you be part of the peer review process?” I answered jokingly.

Indeed, maybe I should do a phenomenology of the pancake. Maybe I should question why people choose one side of the pancake over another, whether or not the amount of maple syrup (or butter) they use correlates with their existential experience of being. After pages written on how Kantian a priori intuition of time is a conditional necessity of the experience of tasting the pancake, plugging the Husserlian phenomenological reduction here and the Heideggerian being-in-the-kitchen there, the world would see this corpus of work as an ultimate satire of academic philosophy and realize it is time for a change in this field – as well as in our plates.

It was Saturday evening – the fourth day of our relationship. I had finally convinced her to go see the Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition at the museum with me. It was my delight to see Elise contemplate the paintings. We held hands and shared a moment of grace in this museum. Then later in the evening we went back to my place in the Mile-End for the first time. The first thing she noticed was the row of pictures I had on a shelf in my hallway. There was one picture in particular that caught her eye: It was a big plan on me as a baby, dressed like an Oxford student with a tie and a sweater over a white shirt, and my hair brushed à la mid-fifties.

“How come you lost all that class!” She said to tease me.

I base most of my judgement about myself on the pictures I have of me. Sometimes I sit at my desk and go through all of my portraits to see how I look, and I attempt to objectively perceive what I exude. Some of them I like, others I don’t. I have never been satisfied with myself and I often wonder if I will ever be. I recently told Elise that I believe society cultivates human nourishment the same way we used to be fed from cartoon characters when we were younger. Nowadays the Internet has become a psychological torture insofar as it connects altogether people who will never have the chance to meet face to face. The Instagram profiles and Facebook pen pals we make along the way suggest us to think they exist for real, and we ultimately fall in love with an incomplete version of them. Society took the expression “a picture worth a thousand words” too literally, and now a Tinder profile with only three pictures is enough to make me say “Of course, that’s so Elise.” If it does not work out with her I will just go back to the thousand words captured by 35mm cameras, displayed on 3.5 centimeter screens. These people I see, they share my likenesses, my tastes, and my values. But they are “there” and I am “here” as Emily Dickinson would say. “Here” is where I am – anxiously apprehending the unknown hiding behind every Tinder profile.

Later that night we got to talking about our love history. Elise, true to herself, could not help but laugh at my chaotic misadventures.

“I can’t believe you said ‘fuck’ to so many people thinking you were saying ‘hi’ to them in Polish! I don’t know if this girl was either making fun of you or really embarrassed.” She exclaimed.

That was when I realized I have never been loved. I have been swept off my feet more than I have swept off other women. Later that night when we were in bed, Elise sleeping with her arm across my chest and me scrutinizing my ceiling for a glimpse of an existential angst, I finally found a guiding thread for my research on love. It is scarier to wonder whether or not we will be loved than to think about death. This is because death comes only once meanwhile a heartbreak is a repeated tragedy. The few women I was romantically involved with prior to meeting Elise were but an experience worse than death. All I ever met were ticking bombs of disappointment. They exploded onto me, ripping my mind and my heart, using “killing” in every sense of the term except literally. And now I wonder if Elise even saw something delightful in me at the museum. But I’d do it all over again if I could. Perhaps it will be different with her. Perhaps I should do this “phenomenology of pancakes.” “There is so much to life that we become dull as we philosophize on it” – this will be put in the acknowledgement section of my hypothetical book “Being and Pancakeness.” I don’t know whether or not love is necessary, but I’d love again just to make myself less afraid of death.

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