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“A chocolate restaurant?” I’m incredulous. This sounds like some kind of unicorn.
“Trust me. It’s fantastic.” Tia smiles over her shoulder, leading me through the pedestrian traffic. It’s late; we haven’t had anything to eat since the smoked meat sandwiches at Schwartz’s when we arrived in the city. After eating, we’d gone to the contemporary art museum, where Tia meandered from exhibit to exhibit, held rapt by the various weird installations. I followed her around, thinking about how I should take a trip to the ROM when I get home; I hope they have some kind of Scandinavian exhibit. My mental image of the Vikings is probably overly influenced by Hollywood. Besides, I haven’t been since seventh grade, and the dinosaur bones are always worth a look. At least with artifacts it’s difficult to miss the point. Tia’s contemplating some paper plates with crayon scribbles. I just don’t get it.
After, we went walking up and down the streets. We popped into a secondhand bookshop, volumes seeming to overflow from the packed shelves into tall stacks on the floor. We had to carefully manoeuvre around the French volumes to find the English hidden at the back of the store. I bought a tattered copy of The Odyssey for $2. Someone had spent a lot of time, penciling in an alternate reading for every line. He went padding, sage and old became The old wise guy went for a walk. Someone’s a wit.
Now we sit in the crowded restaurant, Juliette et Chocolat, looking at the menu. The space is long and narrow, packed with tables and chairs. There’s a line outside of people waiting to get in. A rich, sweet smell echoes in my stomach. The waitress is obviously tired, she keeps on slipping into her native French tongue, then apologizing to us Anglophones. Tia orders hot chocolate whiskey and a brownie with ice cream. The waitress gives her two choices for the ice cream: chocolate or vanilla. She can’t remember the English word for the third flavour, and we don’t understand French. Tia says she’ll have the mysterious third type, and the waitress laughs. A man sitting at the next table helpfully pipes up: it’s hazelnut. I decide on a Crêpe Suzette.
The chocolate repast arrives and I attack my dish. The wonderfully tangy orange marmalade sweetens the gooey melted chocolate inside the thin pancake. It’s chewy and satisfying, and I wish I’d thought to ask for a glass of milk. I’ve never had a crêpe before. I devour it quickly, and debate getting a second while Tia savours her giant brownie. I take a sip of her chocolate whiskey, and immediately wish I hadn’t. It’s like drinking hot engine sludge, with a hint of chocolate flavour. The waitress is busy running from table to table, and I ineffectually try to catch her eye by sitting up as straight and tall as I can. Tia’s laughing; I must be making a face. She flags down the waitress and I manage to ask for the glass of milk.
When it arrives, I gratefully gulp down the milk. My hand is wet from the perspiration on the glass. My napkin is filthy with chocolate, so I surreptitiously wipe my hand on my jeans. We get up to pay at the counter, where we’re reminded to tip. Walking down St. Denis, I sigh to Tia “why isn’t there anything like that in Toronto?”
“I don’t know. But I told you it was good.”
We get back to the building where we’re staying. Tia only reserved one room; I hadn’t even thought about sleeping arrangements, but there’s only one bed.
“Don’t be silly, we can both sleep in it,” Tia shrugs. “I didn’t think it would be a big deal.” But I won’t share a bed. I haven’t since I was a kid. Feeling intensely self-conscious, I curl into the lumpy armchair, certain I’ll wake up with a crick.