by William Lessard Morin
Éditions La Mèche, 2015
William Lessard Morin moves from the crude to the poetic in this collection of seventeen short stories.
The clock’s hands are moving too fast. A metre of rope is lying in front of me on the garage floor. What knots can I even remember how to tie? Have I forgotten everything I learned with the Scouts 15 years ago? The hands keep spinning and I feel lost.
I mix just a few drops into the solution. If one clear dot appears after 30 seconds, everything’s fine. Two and it’s positive.
I never thought I’d find myself here, thirty seconds away from knowing my whole life could be over. The nurse works skillfully, distracting me while we wait by asking me about school. She clearly has no idea who Kundera is, so I try to explain his importance in layman’s terms. Her vacant nodding shows that she’s at least listening. Then she turns around. She stays silent for the time it takes to determine that there are two dots, and then to find the words to defuse the bomb she’s about to drop. I pretend to listen but I’m already gone. Nothing behind an empty smile.
Philippe excels at these kinds of dinners, always preparing amazing dishes all while entertaining his guests. I turn down the wine when he offers. I can’t drink anymore, even though I used to knock back drink after drink. Everyone is congratulating him on his humanitarian trip. He’s an admirable person—my complete opposite. After dinner, he’ll want to sleep with me, and he’ll remind me that we haven’t seen each other in five months. I’ll push him away, saying I don’t feel well. And tomorrow, I’ll tell him no again and find the strength to say we can’t be together anymore. I’ve ruined everything. I fucked up. All I deserve now is to be thrown out with the trash.
Philippe left for Mali on Monday to build houses or schools or something, I don’t remember. Six months abroad to ease his conscience. I’m left waiting as if that were the normal thing for me to do. I kissed him and cried at the airport, telling him over and over that I loved him more than anything, that I’d wait for him. I said what you’re supposed to say in those situations, letting myself get carried away by the cliché of lovers forced apart.
I went out Tuesday night. I drank one pint after another, attaching myself to the mouth of the first guy I saw and taking him home. I could barely stand up by that point. I woke up the next afternoon, naked on the bedspread and covered in traces of sex from the night before. Dizzy and numb, I got up and walked to the bathroom. I looked at my trembling reflection in the mirror.
He has already been gone four months, giving me four months to pay for a dumb mistake of unprecedented proportions. I take care of things for Philippe. I walk his dog every night, visit his grandmother every Sunday, and water his orchids. I’ve created these rituals to earn forgiveness without having to confess. At night, I feel his presence sharing the space under the blankets.
I drove to Magog to hide out at my mother’s place. I wasn’t going to make any big confessions. Doing 120 on the highway with Philippe’s dog in the back seat, all I could think about was the comfort of my childhood bedroom. I’m keeping the nurse’s words all to myself.
Contrary to all expectations, my mother doesn’t even ask. She talks about her brother’s cancer, my grandmother’s treatments, her husband’s knee that’s still acting up. Mom talks about everyone’s health problems without even knowing that her son is sick.
In the restaurant, Philippe sits next to me in the booth. He drapes his arm over my shoulder and kisses my neck. I’ve already refused to sleep with him three times since he’s been back, but he keeps trying. He thinks his efforts will pay off. I push him away, sliding off the seat to sit across from him. I’ve decided to tell him that I fucked up, that I got wasted and had sex with someone else without a condom like a total idiot, and that I’ll be spending the rest of my life popping pills morning and night. But I can’t do it. My throat tightens and I dread what’s coming. How will he react? Will he be angry that I cheated on him? Or will he just feel sorry for me? I don’t want to find out. I can’t tell him and risk being a burden. I don’t want to live in a body that’s a battleground. I just want to be alone.
Philippe, I’ve met someone else.
Translation by Emily Wilson