By Paule Kelly-Rhéaume
I’ve just been dumped. Tears, shellac in the limo, all that. I’m not meant for a small-town Indiana quarterback, as it happens. So, I’m being sent home with my heart on my Juicy Couture knockoff sleeve. But then, the unimaginable happens.
Mr Ben Higgins calls me on his cellphone.
I breathe into the receiver.
He puts on Adele: “Hello?”
“Ben? Oh my god is it really you?”
“Wow. It’s so good to hear your voice!”
Split screen. You can see us both on the telly.
Former Future Mrs Higgins: “I just landed in Atlanta, choking back tears the whole way. Or was it the peanuts?”
Ben looks up at the camera crew, a smile inching on his beige face.
“Paule, Paul.” He hesitates, then hides the phone in his palm: “Wait how do you say her name again?” he asks the producers.
“Like the North? Okay.”
Back to his iPhone. White, no rhinestones (he needed the bling for the ring).
Location change. Wide angle. The camera follows me to the bathroom. Booty shot. I pause my sobs while the blow-dryer’s on – don’t want the sound guy to miss the juicy, mucous-heavy stuff.
All the while Ben’s on speaker phone. Oh, is that why everybody’s staring? I thought it was my post-flight gla-mour. Soooo. He’s heard me tinkle, unravel the TP roll, open the tampon collector, hop back into my white slacks; they don’t quite zip up. Might have to leave them off. Anyone want a pair of Bugattis? No wait that’s a car, Buitonis? I’m not good with brands. Damn that wedgie. Did I wash my hands? Oh right, the dryer.
Back out in arrivals – my cork heels tapping on the marble floor – I almost buy a mango smoothie. Not enough American dollars. Oh whoops, I’m supposed to be from here and not the (second) token Canadian. I almost broke the fourth wall, there.
After the commercial (and before too, cause you know the editors give it all away), you can see me clutching my heart right through the revolving doors. Wearing shades and a scarf over my head, I look like Amy Winehouse leaving the penitentiary: solemn, broken up, pink liver on a plate, centre soft.
“Ben. My mascara dripped off. I was like Ashley I. - from season 19 - in the Badlands, finger-flicking my tears off. But eventually your hands get soggy - I had to take my earphones out and get Kleenex from the bathroom. My lashes fell in and I pressed flush. I couldn’t eat my chicken, just the pineapple sauce. I got up and smoked an e-cigarette with the girl next to me, Loretta. She gave me her nail polish. Acetone. I said I would drink it if you didn’t propose.”
Ben: “I want you to be comfortable. How’s the weather?”
“Ben, I lost my purse! Oh no wait it’s here.”
“Do you wanna sit down?”
“No, I need to find the shuttle. Or the fucking taxi. Where’s the bus?”
I get my straw fedora out of my tote, which I’ve been carrying all this time. No, I don’t have a valet.
I’m shaking my bag, looking for another guy’s digits. There’s too much stuff in here: lipstick, baby powder and wipes, seven Monistat® capsules (two expired), a hatchback, my Justin Trudeau autograph, my Diva Cup, a leftover Trojan, and a copy of Ms Magazine. I was the most progressive contestant on the show, obviously (the others just said I was “French”). I didn’t even bring a razor or a comb - I mean, how avant-garde is that.
Anyway, on the day of the Fantasy Suite, Ben found out I apply SPF 30. Shoved me straight back into the SUV. Said the relationship had progressed more with the other, tan girls. What’s her name again, Vanessa? And the other one, Mat. Yeah, she’s a woman, but not a person. I would be propelled out of the stratosphere if ABC ever replaced the word woman with a synonym like human. We second-sexers are wonderful and beautiful and open-up-able and have “been hurt in the past.” Like, a lot. But it’s a little much to call us individual. Ben needs a wife.
Oh right, Ben.
His voice crackles, 2 173 miles away: “What happened to you? You still there?”
By now he’s sweating in the L.A. sun, laughing sheepishly, feet ice cold.
“Whaaaat? No I can’t hear you I’m at the car wash... yeah, the taxi guy said it was really urgent. Ooh, pink squirts. Ben, this is fun! Do they have this in the Valley?”
“Paule, I wanna talk to you about something.”
“Did your dog die? Oh my gosh did she say no?!”
“That’s the thing, um, Vanessa wants to keep riding the helicopter a little bit longer and we’re running out of daylight so… will you marry me?”
“Oh Ben. That’s so sweet. But I was only ever in it for the roses.
You should’ve asked me what I do.
I’m into potpourri.”