In Translation

Nous étions le sel de la mer

by Roxanne Bouchard

VLB éditeur, 2014

Cyrille said the sea was like a patchwork quilt. Fragments of waves joined together by strands of sunlight. He said the sea would swallow the stories of the world and digest them at its leisure in its cobalt belly before regurgitating only distorted reflections. He said the events of the last few weeks would sink into the darkness of memory.

***

I had told myself that when my parents died, I would leave. I had been sailing around lakes for years, and I had set my sails to the wind everywhere along the west side of Montreal proper, yet it was the sea I saw in my dreams. I wanted to see how Gaspésie opened the way to the river, to take refuge in the Baie-des-Chaleurs, and scream into the Atlantic. I had every reason to leave. Recently I had even received a letter, mailed from Key West, summoning me to a small fishing village on the Gaspé Peninsula. I knew that to get to the bottom of my story, I would have to start there.

But I lacked the courage, and racked up the seasons in layers of grey on the bookshelves of my oh-so-Zen condo. What good would come of wanting? Dreaming? Loving? I didn’t know anymore. In spite of myself, I felt an uncertain freedom as I stood watching the sidewalks, cracks threading their way beneath the feet of the passers-by. I was a landlocked sailor, stranded in dry dock without a sail. With lead for ballast.

***

Cyrille backed the truck up as the fishermen gathered around. Decked out in plaid hunting shirts and old salt-washed jeans, these burly men of the sea, their faces furrowed by the stubborn blustering of the wind, eyes narrowed to nothing but slits from squinting into the sun and scanning the surface for buoys in the dawn light, their beards black and their caps pulled down tight, fell over themselves to get to Vital’s boat and lift the body out.

As they drew closer to the dead woman they stopped their jostling and an opaque silence set in. Cyrille leaned against the box, sulking somewhat. The men grabbed the edge of the net and started pulling clumsily, haphazardly.

“Don’t pull too hard on the net! We don’t want to mess up the body!”

Coroner Robichaud seemed all tangled up himself. Nobody really knew how to go about this. Someone must have made a sudden movement, because the head moved. The coroner flinched.

“Go easy! Go easy with Marie Garant!”

“WHAT? Heee… that’s Marie Garant??? Heee…”

Everyone stopped in their tracks. Cyrille barrelled right into the boat, shoving the fishermen aside, and fell to his knees before the dead woman, clearly devastated. I don’t really know how, but I found myself perched on one of the blocks of cement littering the quayside.

“Marie… Heee… Marie Garant…”

He raised the cold body to his, rocking it slowly and gently like an ocean swell.

***

Cyrille said that all truth is ever-flowing and elusive. Those who go to sea know that anything atop the waves is forever breaking up and reforming. Differently. He said that the wind, the current, and the ocean swell are insatiable; that you could never be too careful, even on a glassy sea. What is true in the here and now will make a liar of you not ten minutes later. He said the only reason we exist was the ever-shifting lie that is life.

PETINF14-QuebecReads-Favicon-32x32Translation by David Warriner
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