We played a gig last night at the DARE-DARE Gala. It was pretty sweet… not a lot of our usual audience of old friends there, but instead a bunch of drunk dancing kids. Almost like playing in another town in a way. Also, the venue (Studio Juste pour rire) was of a calibre we’re not used to. Big stage, good sound, proper dressing room, a loading bay and trollies to haul the gear… nice.
Before our set I had a cameo with Donzelle, performing our song. It’s always fun to play with Roxanne and her crew, but this time was a little bittersweet for me… the first time I’d played with the crew since the loss of one of its members, Fabbie Barthélémy.
In addition to performing with Donzelle, Fabbie was a journalist known for cultural reviews and criticism here in Montreal. She also hosted a feminist radio show on CISM with the hilarious name of “Les gynocrates attaquent.”
I was coming home from a family wedding this summer when I got a message about Fabbie’s death. I quickly called a friend who informed me that Fabbie had committed suicide.
Needless to say it was pretty shocking. She and I were never really close, but our paths intersected at different points: in my other life as a film critic, we’d see each other at press screenings, and then there was our connection through the Donzelle crew. We lived in the same neighbourhood, so we’d often share cabs back from Donzelle shows, chatting about films and life in general. In person as in her writings, she always just struck me as funny, smart and charming.
We certainly weren’t close enough for me to know what she was going through, but it’s upsetting to think that whatever it was, that this was her solution—that her life was so bad that she figured being dead would be better.
I remember Fabbie telling me about an impulsive decision to quit her job, even though she had no other work lined up. I’m a big fan of quitting jobs that you’re not happy with, so I enthusiastically supported her decision. Now of course, I can’t help but wonder if that was a warning sign, in the way that all past events get coloured by something like this.
I remember the last time I saw her, in the neighbourhood café. She came in as I was in the middle of doing a radio interview. She gave me a big smile and we made vague plans to call each other soon. Of course we never did, and now we never will.
At the video store where I do a few shifts a week (yes, I have a lot of day jobs), I felt a bizarre impulse to look up her file. There was a note saying she couldn’t rent any more movies until she paid up her late fees. An absurd thought popped into my head: Fabbie, if you come back I’ll give you free rentals for life.
One time after a WP show, years ago, a woman told me that my show had inspired her in her work—she was involved in some kind of suicide prevention initiative for teenagers. I often think of that after I get a shitty review or something—that if I could contribute, even indirectly, to some kid not killing themselves, that’s worth a million bad reviews. But in this case I couldn’t help.
As I’ve discussed with other friends, when something like this happens it’s important not to blame yourself or to get too caught up in what you could have or should have done. All I can really do is say, to anyone who’s having any kind of trouble big or small, is that I’m there if you want to talk.
RIP Fabbie, I miss you.
A Facebook group with links to a bunch of Fabbie’s writings and radio appearances can be found here (en français seulement).