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Fifty Degrees Celsius

Fifty Degrees Celsius

Writing from Quebec. Translated by Melissa Bull.

Friday night in July, 28 degrees Celsius. Thirty-five with the humidity factor—that’s what they said on the radio. Avenue Mont-Royal, arms full of bags. Useful things, indispensable things, quotidian things scrape the ground: coffee, shampoo, deodorant, toilet paper. People walk dogs, eat ice-cream cones, laugh loudly on terrasses.

I’m not on a terrasse. I’m just passing through; I’m between one place and another. Not so long ago, just one quick call and I’d meet up with my boyfriend. It’s so nice out, let’s take advantage of it, who cares about the pasta, let’s have a drink, laugh in a crowd, peacock around.

Sweat runs from my temples and down my neck. Drop after drop. The rings spread beneath my arms, soaking my camisole, leaving my breasts dry, untouched. 

Plastic handles slice into the hollows of hands. Are the bags melting in the heat? I’d hurry but I can’t. 

Home. Forty degrees Celsius. I turn on the fan, uncap a beer. I should take advantage of the good weather—autumn will be here so soon. I try to make myself do something. I venture a phone call or two. I don’t know what to say or what tone to adopt. The receiver slides in my moist hand. All of this is ridiculous, ridiculous, and for nothing. No one answers, or I was just headed out, call me tomorrow. Sure. 

Alone by myself, sitting between four white walls. The smells of barbecues, utensils clashing, the neighbour’s trumpet—everything jolts me. A dog barks, children shout in the landlord’s yard. The strange sensation of being both intruded on and dispossessed. A swig of beer. I eat raw vegetables with dépanneur dip, resign myself to calling my parents, a last resort. Answering machine. They’re out laughing loudly on a terrasse, too, drinking white wine, scarfing tapas. They might be old and the slightest bit tasteless, but they’re not stagnating in a tiny three-and-a-half apartment at 45 degrees like I am. A swig of beer.

I try to convince myself that we weren’t happy before, despite the easy phone calls. Our one victory was to mask solitude, ennui, shame. To exhibit tenderness and convert the unrighteous. But dead love lay beneath the charade. 

I put some aggressive music on—swig—I’m hot, so hot, as if the landlord’s cranked the radiators up in the middle of a heat wave—swig—it must be 50 degrees. I take everything off. My skin is scratchy despite the humidity. I stand two inches in front of the fan and I turn up the volume turn up the volume turn up the volume. 

From Dans le noir jamais noir, published by La Mèche, 2013. Reprinted with permission from the publisher.