We took the roadtrip slow through the ugly Eastern townships. A few weeks prior, I’d been busted for scooting along a little fast, 70km rather than 50km, which in dog years is slow.
“You’d never know from this stupid road how nice the towns are,” I told rider X, next to me. He smelled like patchouli, which I hoped would not set off the border guards. They seemed to consider that, in the 2000s, the Beatles’ hair was too long.
“How long is it to the border?” the singer in the back asked. Suspiciously chirpy for 7am.
“Well, I’ve got to stop at my sister in law’s place, just on the border, to drop something off,” I said.
I waited for a complaint that never came, every time I had to pick something up or drop off on my roadtrips back and forth to Montreal.
“She’s a famous artist,” I said. I did not like to talk about time on the trips because then I would jinx myself and catch the eye of a cop.
They perked up.
The singer said, “Cool. What’s her medium?”
“Paint. Painter,” I said. “Samuel L Jackson bought a painting from her. Halle Barry’s boyfriend too.”
Patchouli Man said, “She has a gallery in her house?”
We passed the church for sale, round the bend from a lackluster body of water. Was it a lake? A stream? Angelique once called it, “A puddle of piss from the Jolly Green Giant.”
I revved Gretchen the Pug into 5th gear and tootled along at 100km just past the Catholic school. The whole trip was rife with speed traps.
“She’s in galleries in Montreal, Toronto, Palm Beach. But we’re going to her house,” I said.
We passed the a few farms, their farmstands still closed. The scent of manure and exhaust wafting.
“Here’s what we’ll do.” I added conspiracy to my voice, and dabbed it behind my earlobes. “I’ll get out. Tell them we all have to go to the bathroom. That way you’ll get to see her stuff.”
Which is what I always told them, no matter who them were, when I stopped at the house.
The artist was waiting for us. I told her, “Angelique said to give you this with this other thing.” I handed her a very important bag of half-broken objects held together with rubber bands, and an old card about a woman who lost her teeth. The Quebecois Hallmark card.
The artist goofed a lopsided grin. “Does anyone have to go to the bathroom?”
When the grad student came downstairs to join the 5 of us, the artist and her lover escorted us out of the house, saying, “Bon. You go and have a good ride. And see you next time.”
5 minutes from the flashing yellow light, we saw the border stations for both Canada and the US.
“It’s true. Once you leave the main road it looks so nice,” the student said.
Patchouli Man said, “What was the name of that painting in the hallway? The angel.”
“Pipi. Pipi Longstocking,” I guessed and laughed. I pronounced it Pee Pee Longstocking.
Her paintings usually had pitch-perfect, beautiful names. I felt like an American.
The singer said, “Wings of Pipi.”
I couldn’t help myself. “Pipi Angel. Guardian saint of all who travel and need to go badly but have to wait.”
The border guard waved us through after yawning at our passports. Total wait at the border: 7 minutes.
The student asked, “Is it always this easy?”
The singer, who had travelled with me before, said, “We were aided by the Guardian Saint of all who need to get past the border and don’t want to wait.”