Author : Sheryl Normandeau

“See these skyscrapers here?” he says, jabbing a finger at the pile of photographs splayed out on the tabletop. “I made ‘em all.”

I stare up into the red-rimmed eyes of Phillipe L’Oiseau, and frown. The man is staggeringly drunk, and the worn, yellow-edged photos in front of me are of the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, the Burj Kalifa. And the Egyptian pyramids.

“Mr. L’Oiseau,” I say, “I didn’t come all this way to interview you and have you feed me bullshit. I told you, I work for The National Tribune. My publisher and I aren’t interested in printing fantasy stories. We’re about real news. I’m here to talk to you about your upcoming urban farming project in Singapore.”

Phillipe leans back in his chair and runs his hands through his thick dark hair. I had done my homework, of course, before I embarked on this difficult journey from Toronto to this hole-in-the-wall bar in Bratislava, but I had been unable to find many photographs of Monsieur L’Oiseau, the lead architect on the Aeroharvest contract. The ones I had managed to uncover online were from the late ‘Eighties. Forty years of living – and drinking, if tonight was any indication – had not burned a single line in the man’s face, nor painted slashes of white along his temples.

“No,” he says, and he suddenly looks very sober to me. “You’re not here about vertical greenhouses. You’re here because of your mother.”

I’ve been a journalist for nearly two decades and I’ve schooled myself not to react when someone springs a whammy on me. But his words make my heart skid against my breastbone, and it takes me too long to reply. “How did you know?” I finally whisper. Because the man is right – despite what I told Jackie, my publisher, I didn’t come to Slovakia to discuss concrete and glass and steel with Phillipe L’Oiseau. I came to tell him about my mother’s death, and her revelation about the father I never knew.

I stare at the photographs on the pocked, stained table. The steely reporter can no longer bring herself to face the man she is interviewing. “How many of us are there?”

Look up at the skyscrapers, then beyond them, at the stars. You’ll see.