In Translation

J’écris parce que je chante mal

by Daniel Rondeau

Hamac, 2013

1. Sesame Seed.

At the start, you’ll drool, make funny sounds, and be forgotten everywhere we go because, at the start, no one knows how to keep everything for themselves. We’ll be filled with wonder at your eyes, your foot that fits in my mouth, your clenched fists, ready to defend yourself.

Then you’ll be walking, you clumsy pup. First, towards me, then towards others. In the folds of your brain, you’ll jot down the words you’ll use in more or less the right places at first. Outside, you’ll stare for hours at spiders and puddles and you’ll tell me all about it, because I’ll have forgotten. Often, as you sleep, I’ll watch you, happy and worried. Later, without telling me, you’ll learn your times tables, your country’s history, stupid songs. I’ll pretend to be annoyed when you rebel against your teacher. You’ll talk about your friends like I know them. I’ll say, “Who’s Marie-what’s-her-name?” and you’ll tell me, disgusted, to forget about it. You’ll mutter under your breath that I can be a real jerk sometimes. You might have a point.

Then you’ll not want me to see your butt anymore and you’ll lock your bedroom door, putting up a “No Adults” poster. I’ll swear I find the whole thing idiotic, even though I’ll envy your own little kingdom where your worries seem very small indeed to me from the outside. Your arms, your nose, your ears will grow too quickly and you’ll look like a monkey for a while. Your mother will still think you’re gorgeous. I won’t be so sure.

Between two catchy songs, I’ll tell you the story of my life and you’ll yawn. You’ll turn my hair grey fooling around with your friends. You’ll grow a head taller than me and you’ll wonder what we were all eating in 1969 to end up so stunted. You’ll be as brazen as an alley cat, and you’ll stop coming home at night. You’ll get naked and fall in love and, eyes swollen, you’ll slam the doors when you storm back home.  I’ll tap you awkwardly on the back like I’m scared of burning myself and draw useless tiny circles with my hand. You’ll put a second-hand plaster on the wounds and cover the whole thing with odds and ends of hope spread a little too thin. Then you’ll drop out of school and leave a home that you’ve outgrown. I won’t cry until you’ve disappeared at the end of the street.

One day I’ll come round to your place. I won’t stay long, I swear. I’ll watch you on the quiet and I’ll see myself in the slightest little thing, in how you screw your face up when you’re concentrating, in the same expressions I use. That day when I leave, I’ll smile, hold you in my arms a little longer than usual, and you’ll be dying for me to let go. I’ll suppose you know just how much I love you.

So there you are. I’m sure I’m forgetting a bit or two. You can tell me all about it.

The books say today you’re the size of a sesame seed. Soon your heart’s going to start beating. That’s not bad already. The rest can wait.



3. Things We Can All Agree On. 

One day we realize they might have come up with six hundred flavours of chocolate bars but plain chocolate is the best; that our first car, rusted and unreliable as it might have been, will always be the one we felt freest in; that young people today couldn’t care less about 1985, just like we couldn’t have cared less about 1950; that talking like a teenager makes us sound emotionally challenged; that we have children to replace us; that running to the corner store leaves us out of breath long before we ever get there; that a stranger who calls us by our first name is being rude, that a tree we’ve planted is going to take thirty years before we can sit in its shade and, the day it does, we’ll be worried its roots might be damaging our foundations; that the ugly girl from high school we told we weren’t interested has become rich and good-looking and funny, and engaged and happy; that, in the ads for luxury cars aimed at old fogies, they play the music we grew up to; that being happy makes you better-looking, even though for years we thought being better-looking would make us happier; that coffee really does stop you sleeping; that the new guy at the office could be our son; that the women who used to look at us don’t see us anymore and the women who didn’t use to see us are now the ones looking at us; that there are buttons on the remote control we’re never going to use; that admitting our faults and failings makes them smaller; that we have the same weird habits as our parents, even though they used to drive us crazy; that we snore; that that thing we never plucked up the courage to do wasn’t all that difficult when we look back on it; that, if you want to talk to other people, you just have to say hello; that all the athletes our age have retired; that that movie we loved when we were twenty is terrible; that entrusting a ring upon which all of humanity depends to an unadventurous, hairy-footed dwarf is ridiculous; that we’ll die before we’ve seen, heard, and done it all; that the year 2000 was only just yesterday and that yesterday was a hundred years ago; that if life had meaning, we’d wish it didn’t.

One day we realize all that and we smile. That’s the day we deserve a nice, cold beer.

4. Numbers Game.

2/5/2006, 11:30 a.m., Wing A, Room No. 732:2.

2 cm dilated, 40% effaced, perfusions, 60 ml/hr., contractions every 4 minutes. Pain: 3/10. 1 hr. Then 2 hrs. 3 cm. 6/10. 3 hrs. 9/10. 4 hrs. 10/10. 3 cm. 4 p.m. Every two-and-a-half minutes. Still 3 cm. One’s taking deep breaths; the other’s in pain. We don’t want to count anymore. We don’t want to play this game anymore. But the hands on the clock keep turning. 10/10 again. 11/10, if that’s possible. 7 p.m. Epidural. T12, L1, insertion. 8 p.m. Back to 1/10. 9 p.m. Counting sheep.

7th heaven. 10 p.m. We still don’t care. Zzzzz. 11:30 p.m. Doctor walks by on his way to eat some chicken. Checkpoint. Head at 2 cm. Chicken’s gonna get cold. 11:50 p.m. Push! 72 ml/hr.

3/5/2006, 12:08 a.m., Wing A, Room No. 732:3.

7 lb. 14 oz. 20 inches, first breath, then a second, then a third…

That night we counted everything. Bar the magic.

PETINF14-QuebecReads-Favicon-32x32Translation by Peter McCambridge
PETINF14-QuebecReads-Favicon-32x32Read our review here.