Translated by: Maureen Ranson
Artwork by Mariana Cornea Petran
At this hour, it can only be her. The car headlights sweep my flower beds before they go out. She’s going to get out with her little suitcase. Soon she’ll be wailing, letting Phil’s name drop from tear-drenched lips, not a pretty sight. She’ll curl up on the couch, refuse my angora blanket, then end up huddled under it. Tomorrow morning, she’ll fold it before she disappears. And they will be off again, she and Philippe, bound for glory.
She takes her time getting out of the car. She waits, I don’t know what for, with the car door open. She breathes in the scent of the peonies, again taking everything I have. That’s how it is. She finally decides to get out and walks to the back of the car, slowly, like an old woman. Philippe always preferred the young ones.
She opens the trunk and, with difficulty, lifts out her suitcase, larger, way larger than usual. My schedule for the next few days has just been totally erased from my memory. What can I say so she doesn’t completely monopolize me? This time, I’m afraid, calls for the spare room kept ready for friends. If I offer it to her, I’ll have her here for weeks … Is she a friend anyway?
“I didn’t know what he was talking about any more,” she breathes, setting her cumbersome bag down on the doorstep.
Is she talking to me or to herself? What he was talking about? Philippe? Did anyone ever know…?
“May I?” she asks before going into the bathroom.
“Of course,” I reply, adding to myself, “Go ahead, be my guest.”
I hear the water running. For a long time, the water keeps running. She must be splashing water on her reddened eyes, I say to myself, lighting a cigarette, checking the time, remembering I have a meeting tomorrow afternoon. I was counting on having the morning to review the file. How could I forget that, even for a fraction of a second? When madame lands on your doorstep …
She comes out. Her face is haggard, even more than usual. I offer her a cup of coffee. She hesitates, but not out of politeness. Never. She’s wondering whether she’ll be able to get to sleep. I make two cups. This time we won’t sleep. Neither one of us. Because, this time, it’s for real. Philippe and her … finished. That’s clear. The determined look in her eyes. And she’s right; it couldn’t go on any longer for her. For him. For me neither, so there.
“There,” I say, plunking her cup down on the glass table.
My movement is abrupt, there’s no doubt, enough to startle her, make her lift her head, turn to me.
“You’re furious, too …” she concludes. “What a hellish man, really.”
I nod yes, Philippe is hellish. She questions me silently. How do I know? Everyone knows that, you poor idiot! Your precious Philippe, you have no idea.
“All his talk …” she mumbles, burning her lips on the first sip of coffee. “Nothing but words!”
“Oh!” I say, shrugging my shoulders. Philippe and words. She has no clue.
She stares searchingly at me, blowing on her steaming cup. Her eyes never leave my face. She sees I have no pity for her. It’s as if she can read me for the first time. I take a sip and burn myself, too.
“He loved you,” she lets fly.
“I never let it go anywhere.”
“The words …”
The time has come. I knew the day would come when I would dare ask someone. Someone who would know. Only she would know.
“Eviguras,” I blurt out. “What did he mean by eviguras?”
“Eviguras,” she murmurs, taking a sip.
She makes noise when she drinks. When she eats, too, I recall. That must irritate Philippe terribly when he’s searching. She takes her time. Her eyes settle on the coffee maker, then the food processor, the utensils hung up and, finally, the postcards stuck on the fridge.
“Eviguras!” I shout, wanting to shake her.
“How should I know?”
“Yes, surely you know what he meant by eviguras …”
“I need the context.”
Bitch. It’s the context that interests you. The reason I get up, and walk to my room, and go to the old wardrobe and take out the cedar box, the reason I open it even though I’m not in the middle of moving house, it’s because the time has come.
I grab the letter. My name and address then, when I was young, are on the envelope. The context, the context … She only needs one sentence. I fold the sheet as if we’re playing Exquisite Corpse. I join her in the kitchen. Her eyes glint with curiosity.
I point, “Eviguras, there … understand the eviguras all around us before we can live giverously.”
“Where do you see that? Here? Eviguras? …”
The corners of her mouth, turned down since she arrived, seem to lift slightly. My God, she’s smiling.
“You find it funny?”
“No,” she assures me. “Only it’s not a v, it’s an n. And there, that’s not a u and an r, it’s an m. Enigmas!”
I yank the letter out of her hand and read it. She’s right. The cow, she’s right. Enigmas … understand the enigmas all around us before we can live giverously. In spite of myself, I clutch the letter to my chest. She sees me. She throws her head back and drains her coffee in one gulp.
“But … live giverously,” she inquires, her voice hoarse, “That wasn’t a problem for you?”
“Not at all.”
She slowly puts her empty cup down on the table. Gets up. Without looking at me, she goes to her enormous suitcase, picks it up and leaves. I walk behind her as she impatiently jerks and bumps the bag down the steps.
“Live giverously …” she repeats. “I didn’t know.”
She makes her way to the car, stops by the trunk, her silhouette still in the dark.
“I killed him,” she admits.
Sylvie Massicotte vit près de Montréal. Elle a publié cinq recueils de nouvelles, dont le plus récent s'intitule Partir de là (2009). Elle a écrit plusieurs textes de chansons pour de grandes interprètes francophones, dont Isabelle Boulay et Diane Dufresne. Depuis quinze ans, elle anime des ateliers d’écriture reconnus au Canada et en Europe. Ce texte est tiré de On ne regarde pas les gens comme ça publié par Les editions de L’instant même en 2004 et réimprimé avec l’autorisation de l’auteur de l’éditeur.
Maureen Ranson lives in Calgary. Her short-story translations have been published in seven volumes of the anthology TransLit. Her translation of Marguerite-A. Primeau’s novel, Maurice Dufault, Vice-principal, was published in 2006. She participated in the Banff International Literary Translation Centre residency program in 2004.