Le plafond

There are pink index cards taped to everything in the apartment. Pink cards, grubby beige strips of masking tape, my handwriting in black sharpie. Miroir, porte, ordinateur. We are learning French, in the lazy, haphazard way that we do most things. We are learning French in case we really do need to flee to Canada, because it increases your score on the immigration test. We are learning French because it’s a three-hour drive across the border to Lac-Wallace entirely on back roads.

I bought a six-pack of beer tonight and didn’t realize until I got home that there were only five beers in the pack. I’ve started smoking again. Though I can’t find my lighter — have you seen it? A black Bic, with a pink index card taped to it? It’s kind of hard to miss, except that everything in this place has a pink index card taped to it. Briquet. Je cherche mon briquet.

I’ve been alone for a week and I think maybe I like it. I think maybe the shadows make better company than the blue glare of your screen, always on. Mine too. Last night I sat on the fire escape and watched the snow fall, big soft flakes drifting down slowly in their own blue light. Silence. It accumulates faster than you think; the roads all disappear. A good night to delay a long drive home.

But today the snow has stopped and the roads are clear, and you are on your way. I have nothing else to do so I write out cards for the obvious things that we have missed. Mur. Fenêtre. Plafond. The ceiling is so low that even I can reach it, if I climb up on a chair. Chaise. And I am crying, as I tape a pink index card to the cracked plaster ceiling. It won’t stick, it flutters down. I remember that my lighter is on the fire escape. I have to look that one up: escalier de secours. Stairway of help. Translation is a funny thing.

I hoist up the heavy sill and manoeuvre myself out the window and onto the landing. The sky is leaden, laden. More snow will fall soon. Perhaps you should have stayed, or I should have gone. Perhaps there is so much silence because there is nothing left to say. Or perhaps we just don’t know how to say it.

Originally published in Meniscus, vol. 6, no. 2.