A LOVE STORY July 20th
It was Julien’s last night out west. The locals were dancing, and it was loud in the bar, and Julien was kind of bellowing, holding two bottles of beer in one hand, telling people how much he would miss them.
He first saw Jessica around two months ago coming out of a van with all her stuff. She was late to arrive for the spring contract - shapely, with healthy skin and blond-streaked hair. At first, he did not take too much notice, though Kathi, who he had come planting with, quickly got close to Jessica in a high-school mean-girls kind of way, and talked about how ‘nice’ she (Jessica) was. It should be mentioned that Jessica, also called Jess, is the half-sister of our boss, Cam.
One day, Julien and Jess talked in the van on the way to the block. Julien recalls being arrogant and talking about Quebec and separatism. He is possessed of an unusual degree of pride in what he calls the ‘culture’ of ‘his people,’ and takes great pains to make it known that despite speaking English fairly well, he is very, very French.
That day, Cam cut them into a piece together, probably thinking that Julien, his most promising rookie thus far, would motivate Jess, his sister, to plant more trees, and vice versa. Jess likes to chat while she plants - I am sure a lot of ground was covered that day. She probably showed him a few tricks, being a second-year planter, and he probably busted his ass to keep up with her. They rode home beside each other in the van as new friends. They are both tall and have similar proportions. They both dropped about 20 pounds over the season.
A week or so into the season they were sitting around a fire on the night off. People were throwing wax boxes into the fire and they smoldered and burned incredibly hot for a minute, pushing people away with hands over their eyes away from the fire, then subsided, whereupon the people were drawn in again. Some of my crew were shouting CAM STEWART`S CREW 2008, which I could hear from my tent.
Julien asked Jess if she would like to watch Chappelle’s Show in the lounge tent. It was 3 a.m. and nobody was around, and they were hammered, on a couch, together.
The next day Jess was crying and Julien was feeling bad. She was ashamed of herself for letting go the previous night, and she didn’t want him to think that she was ‘that kind of girl’ (Julien’s words). Julien tried to console her and, feeling something between guilt and pity, told Jess that he respected her.
After that things cooled off for a while.
Cam got word of the lounge tent, and started to tease Julien a little. Julien knew there were eyes on him now, and grew more sensitive to Jess. At this point, Julien says, he started to really take to her personality. Soon, they were watching films together in the lounge tent and kissing. Soon after that, they were staying in the same tent every night. And soon after that they were kissing beside the van at the end of the day.
On the way from Fort St. James to Alberta, Julien and Jess stayed behind to pick up the van, which was in the shop having its engine replaced after being driven 90 km. an hour for two full hours in second gear on the way up from Williams Lake. They drove together through Jasper, where the great Rocky Mountains loom over the highway in the midnight sun, and the grandeur of it overtook Julien, who had never seen real mountains before, and whose future seemed to be cracking open before him, into innumerable possibilities previously unexamined.
Jess was driving and Julien was sitting shotgun when he told her he loved her. She said that she was glad.
He is leaving a little early because he has run out of energy and has been shitting the bed for the past two shifts. He needs to go home and to get some rest.
He promised everyone he would be back next year. We left the bar and drove back to camp and he was sentimental and drunk. He took my phone number and asked me for directions from the Vancouver airport to the Tsawassen ferry terminal.
Before going back to Montreal he is going to meet Jess’ parents on Vancouver Island. She will go to school on the east coast in the fall, three hours from Montreal. He plans to visit her often.