103. The Life of Eleanor Dearborn

Part 1 of a series of the same name.

AS FAR AS ANYBODY knows, Eleanor Dearborn was born in 1972 in Canada, possibly in Winnipeg, Manitoba, but also equally possibly in Calgary in the neighbouring province of Alberta. I say 'as far as anybody knows' because Eleanor didn't speak of her Canadian childhood very often, and when she did she described it as if from a vast distance, a glacial or galactic distance, as a geologist might speak of the last ice age or an astronomer of a dying star. Of course, she wasn't rude about it - as a rule, Eleanor wasn't often rude, and when she was rude it was a genteel, dare one say Canadian kind of rudeness, where the speaker of the rudeness appears almost more discomfited by it than its intended target. If someone asked her a question about her childhood, Eleanor would answer it, but she would do so in the briefest possible way, almost offhandedly, with a facial gesture that suggested boredom, profound boredom even, if it is at all possible for boredom to be profound. What is known about the life of Eleanor Dearborn is that she left home at the age of seventeen to study languages in Montreal, that she studied French, Spanish and some German, and that while she was in Montreal she fell in love with a man called Raoul, who was more than ten years older than Eleanor and who had a daughter from a previous relationship. Together they found an apartment in the Plateau neighborhood of the city, which in those days was still unfashionably working-class. Eleanor found a job working morning shifts in a bakery while Raoul had a job working night shifts as a security guard. What Eleanor wanted above all was to leave Canada, to travel the world, but Raoul kept stalling. Finally she and Raoul decided that Eleanor should go traveling on her own. Raoul told her she should travel for as long as she wanted, and come back when she was done. She said she would go to Europe, and only for the summer. Still, in the last few days of their time together in the apartment in the Plateau, it was hard for them both to ignore the sense of finality hanging heavily in the air. In those final weeks, when they made love, Eleanor noticed a brusqueness in Raoul's lovemaking that she'd never felt before, which she interpreted as a secret hatred disguised as anger disguised as passion. On their final night together, she noticed it again and, much as she didn't want to, she began to cry silently. It was late June and they were making love with the windows open. There was a full moon, which, combined with the city's nocturnal glow and the few candles Raoul had lit throughout the room, made the room glow with shades of orange, silver and blue. For his part, Raoul noticed the glistening of tears in the corners of Eleanor's eyes and on the skin of her cheeks, but he too preferred not to say anything. They continued to make love in this way for hours more, coming to orgasm time and again, neither of them gaining the slightest satisfaction from their exertions. Years later, Eleanor would remember that night with a kind of heightened clarity. She'd remember the passage of the moon across the night sky through the window overhead, the sound of two drunk pedestrians arguing on the street below, and above all she'd remember the smell of candles burning themselves out.