Friday, November 22, 2013

Yes Cecil, A Long Story Short, Part Fifty-Nine

Duncan stared at the vacant lot across the street. The concrete blocks were jetsam, the graffiti scrawls really old-fashioned luggage labels of exotic destinations visited, Shanghai, Rangoon, Malabar, Montevideo, Valparaiso, Yokohama; the lone empty wine bottle held a mysterious manuscript within, tossed from some sinking ship like in that tale by Edgar Allan Poe. Sometimes he felt his daydreams were vital to his mental health.

Ship bound. Becalmed. He could hear the ticking of the clock in counterpoint to his wristwatch as he brought the cup of tea to his lips. No customers, no telephone calls. The odd book request from his online database aroused the occasional sense of being vital, but selling books online with so little human interaction had always felt, to him at least, soulless. Book values and prices had dropped due to increased availability, postage was sometimes more expensive than the requested book, and the only part he found enjoyable now was the process of packaging books to secure their safety from bumps and moisture.

He returned to his desk, the old wood floors creaking like a merchant vessel of the nineteenth century. The note on his desk reminded him to search his shelves for copies of P. K. Loveridge's novels for him to sign. In the aisle of “L's, he pulled out a copy of Pavor's Rex in Arcadia and his Olivaster Moon, and brought them back to his desk. Sitting down with a sigh, he remembered he had awoken last night from some forgotten nightmare, not quite knowing where he was, and had wondered what it would be like to lose one's memory. Perhaps it was like that feeling when he went from one room to another to gather an item, and then completely forget what it was he had wanted, but multiplied a hundred fold. Confusion, mystification, frustration, reality issuing a strange shadow feeling of familiarity. Unable to sleep, he had lain awake listening to Amelia's breathing, and it had reminded him of waves breaking upon a shore, her inhalation like the quiet regress, and he had felt she was the ocean holding him aloft, memory itself keeping him afloat, looking up at the full moon, its wavering reflection reaching out to him, luring him back to sleep.


The cream in Arthur's coffee spiralled and swirled like a distant nebula, the formations resembling his confused search for answers in the dark brew of shadows. Dipping the spoon into his cup, he circled the liquids into conformity while an island of bubbles in the middle turned and slowly collapsed like dying truths. He sipped his coffee and gazed at Jerome across the uneasy silence. Mrs. Laflamme had left them in the living room with coffee and fresh-baked ginger cookies—uniform circles glittering with rough sugar and darkly fissured like crevices on an alien landscape. They sat in flowery upholstered comfort and listened to the muffled voices and footsteps above them as Thérèse and her mother attempted to establish the past, overcome the present, and discuss the future.

Jerome looked at Mr. Roquebrune and thought he suited the decor of the house, the brightly coloured paintings of Québec countryside, images of horses pulling logs through winter landscapes, an autumnal view of low rolling hills reflected in a lake, a portrait of a rugged Habitant with his clay pipe and soft wool hat, Spring flowers in a vase.

Arthur was admiring the paintings at the same time, and yet had noticed one that seemed unusual, like a dissonant chord in a romantic adagio. It looked more suitable for an arched niche in a Neoclassical vestibule due to its shape and its quasi-religious arrangement of the figures. He wondered if it was one of Jerome's.

“Is the painting in the hallway one of yours by any chance?”

Jerome, aroused from his concentration on deciphering the noises from the second floor, looked back to Arthur and then slowly shifted his gaze to the hallway where the painting hung. “Yes, it is. Stands out from the others, doesn't it.” Leaning towards Arthur, he said with a lowered voice, “I wonder if Mrs. Laflamme brought it out of a closet and hung it there just for our visit.”

Arthur nodded his head. “It's very good, but yes, the style is . . . baroque in comparison. Is it based on an original?”


A thump from above like a shoe hitting the floor startled them.

"A friend of mine who makes many of my picture frames, had a simple arched frame made of rosewood in his studio, and when I saw it,  I thought it would  be good for a small scale copy of a painting Thérèse and I had found interesting on a  visit to Venice in . . . 2003.” He sipped his coffee and finished his soft gingery snap. “The original's in the Rialto area. A church called San Giovanni Elemosinario. Most people walk right by it because the entrance and iron gate are flush with the facades of the market buildings where shops sell tourist fare, t-shirts, shoes, jewelry, but the church's towering campanile is there if you look up." Placing his coffee on a side table and resting his head against the highback chair, he looked up at the ceiling as if he were sitting in a pew observing the painting in question. “Besides Titian's St. John the Almsgiver, there's a painting by Il Pordenone depicting St. Catherine, St. Sebastian and St. Roch. The figures are densely interwoven and positioned. Very little background to be seen. Thérèse thought they looked like prisoners squeezed under a transparent cloche. I've modernized it for my version of course. If you look closely you'll see the features of St. Catherine are those of Thérèse, Sebastian those of mine, and St. Roch of my friend Pavor Loveridge. I'm clothed and holding a camera in my outstretched arms above me and looking towards her as if twisted in a vortex. Thérèse, in a Tilly vest and chinos, is holding a travel guide open to pages with an image of the church tower and, in very small writing, the name of the church. She's looking up as if in awe.  Pavor meanwhile is kneeling down to pet a young Labrador Retriever who has one leg pointing off canvas, as if giving directions to the straight and narrow way. In the original the dog is a cherubic winged angel. St. Roch is, among others, the patron saint of bachelors and those falsely accused which I thought Pavor would appreciate being a bachelor and a writer of crime novels.”

“I'll have to take a closer look before we leave.”

Laughter filtered down the staircase, Mother and daughter's. Arthur and Jerome smiled.

“I think it was Vasari who fabricated a story that Titian was jealous of Il Pordenone, and then poisoned him. Il Pordenone died in his mid-fifties while Titian reached his mid-eighties. Such a competitive world back then. The truth . . . ?” Jerome shrugged his shoulders. He closed his eyes feeling the truth of anything seemed elusive at best. He imagined the painting, saw himself turning towards Thérèse as if he was her shadow guide, ready to add commentary, background, context, subtitles, colouration, light, meaning, truth, and then the thought image began to fade, Thérèse's so called transparent cloche was filling with an opaque mist. Upstairs she was revisiting the fragments of her life, rediscovering her past. Would she rediscover their love? Would she still accept him, accept his wedding proposal? He hadn't thought of that. Doubt tickled the back of his neck and he began to feel very insignificant and out of place, much like the painting.

The sound of footsteps upon the carpeted stairs alerted them to the descent of either mother or daughter, and they anticipated her like nervous patients in a dental office waiting room.

Get on with your life, her mother had said. Leave this globe-trotting behind for awhile. Settle yourself and find a job here in Québec. No more danger. She lay on the guest room bed beside an assortment of older photographs and mementos of her travels. Murano glass pendant and earrings from Venice; the small Mate gourd with Uruguay written in black letters on the side; the letter opener from Haiti; the finely carved pencil/pen holder from Venezuela; the mundane miniature Eiffel tower; a bookmark from Tallinn; a diversity of coins and paper money tactile with memories. She picked up a photograph of herself and the Australian friends she'd met on her travels in South America. They'd made their way down from Ecuador to the westernmost point of the continent in Peru past Talara. Climbing the rocks and sand to the lighthouse above the beach, she'd slipped and scraped the heel of her right hand, and her right knee, the scar a landscape feature on her skin, a smooth outcrop like a small phantom island. She remembered standing at the top, wind-blown, bleeding lightly, the oil tankers motionless in the distance, the round refinery storage tanks behind her like enormous suburban swimming pools, the birds clinging to the cliffs white-washed with their excrement below. Did she really visit such a place? Another photograph of the Hotel de Sel in Bolivia out on the salt flats, she and her friends reflected in the shallow water, a mirror image of blue sky and white clouds. She shook her head. It seemed the life of another. The binder in which her mother had placed all of her cuttings from newspapers, magazines and online sites—travel pieces, political and social stories, disaster relief reports, human interest profiles—was of little interest to her. Something had changed. Nausea overcame her when she contemplated such work. She imagined it would wear off. She just needed time to recuperate, adjust, redefine.

She noticed a colourful square of glazed clay on the night table, a gift from her friend Melisande, a finger labyrinth she had made using special paints to form a miniature medieval Chartres  labyrinth. She reached for it and started her index finger along the smooth yellow path between the raised indigo blue lines, rising up towards the centre and then swinging away and around. As she continued the circuitous route, she thought it exemplified the challenge before her of regaining the past, a visiting, a revisiting, all the points of her life, a much more demanding task than a direct avenue to a single memory like a spoke on the wheel from tire to hub. Regaining her memory was to be a slow, incremental endeavour. And she wasn't sure of what the outcome would be.

She rolled off the bed and went to the ensuite bathroom and splashed water on her face. Leaning over the sink, drops of moisture suspended on her skin, she looked deeply into the radiating greys and greens of her irises where the dark reflection of her form stared back at her, the pupil, like a black hole, absorbing everything, even light. It was all there, inside, behind the eyes, stored away like archival files. Patience Dr. Seymour had said, patience.


Amelia wiped the bathroom mirror with glass cleaner wondering how many times Thérèse had stood there looking at her reflection. How many mornings, afternoons, nights, preparing for the day, for the night, brushing her teeth, plucking an eyebrow—or annoying facial hairs—applying make-up, combing her hair, opening the medicine cabinet? All mundane rituals performed with little conscious thought. Would she use the bathroom and see herself as she once was? The lighting, the colour of the tiles, the feel of the glazed porcelain sink, the cold metal of the taps, the sound of the flush, all reviving old memories.

She would have to tell Duncan not to mention the odd manuscript found in the kitchen. Now that it was lost, so may it remain.

Why did she offer to have them over? What had she been thinking? Was it more to do with Jerome than Thérèse? It might very well be disastrous. She scrubbed the toilet bowl vigorously as if her doubts were the germs and mineral scale. As she flushed the soapy water away, she thought of Thérèse's loss with mild envy. Would it not be a completely fresh beginning? An opportunity to forget painful childhood memories? Experience the world without psychological baggage? Recollection transformed into imagination? An innocence regained?

The cold, clear water filled the bowl while receding whispers issued from the tank. She closed the seat lid and wiped the surface where the fixture's manufacturing name was printed, CRANE. Duncan was usually the one who cleaned the house and he'd been too rough, having somehow removed a portion of the 'R' so every time she looked, she would read CHANEL, even though the last letter was a phantom. Eau de toilette Duncan had joked. Would Thérèse notice? Would it be a stimulus?


The storage unit would have to go. He could donate the clothing and household items to a woman's shelter, and then choose the photographs of special moments and bring them to a shop to be digitized, reduced to a slim disc, easily filed away in a drawer of his writing desk. He needed to forget the dead and get on with the living, but create a balance of remembering, honour their lives with continued visits to the cemetery, silent toasts on birthdays, wedding anniversaries. Pavor felt he had to grapple with the past very carefully. He knew from experience his dreams and waking thoughts were affected after handling the remnants of that life, he was often haunted by images of his wife and child, the apartment they had once shared, the imagined scenarios of trying to stop them from going out that day, or driving them himself instead of poring over law books, what he could have done, the what ifs and the if onlys.

An equipose, a balance was required, with unwritten rules for his new relationship with Melisande. He didn't want to be pitied. It would be a closed book on the topmost shelf, out of reach, out of sight, a private journal not to be mentioned.

Pavor dipped his coffee cup into the soapy water and slowly, methodically scrubbed, enjoying the heat on his hands, the bubbles tickling his wrist.


The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove by Dead Can Dance shuffled its way from her iPod to her earbuds as Melisande finished a statistical report. She began to tap her thumb beside her mouse, her mind drifting away from numerical facts to numinous energies. She closed her eyes tapping her right foot under the desk. She wondered what Pavor was doing. Pavor Loveridge. Lovegrove vs. Loveridge. Grove vs. Ridge. Mrs. Loveridge. Would she keep her own name? It was the law, otherwise she would have to pay for the privilege of Mrs. Loveridge. She liked it. Melisande Loveridge. Melisande Aurelia Loveridge vs. Melisande Aurelia Bramente. Initials MAL vs MAB. Queen Mab, Queen Mal. Would they live separately until the wedding? Would they leave their separate apartments and buy a small house? The amalgamation, the division, the balance of belongings. Would her cat Clio get along with Pavor as a housemate? Would she sleep on his side of the bed, on him, around him to demonstrate her dominance over him in the pecking order of things? Would he rise and make her breakfast and her lunch, clean the house, do the shopping, take out the garbage and recycling? Would she have an influence on his writing? Negative, positive? Would he be like a medieval walled city when he was writing? Would she be waiting at the tower gate for entry. Waiting like a merchant or a pilgrim for admittance. Waiting like a refugee from a ruined city. And once within, would she have to circle round to find his heart? 

© ralph patrick mackay

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Yes Cecil, A Long Story Short, Part Fifty-Eight

Edward Seymour gently unscrewed his black fountain pen, the metal threads issuing a sound so familiar to him, it was like a Pavlovian stimulus to write. He smoothed the pages of his journal with the heel of his hand, and slowly swept the fine nib along the blank paper, indigo ink etchings connecting the past scribblings with the blank pages of tomorrow.

Monday October 29, 2012.

Isabelle Cloutier met me today. My letter from Friday was successful. After meeting in the park, she accompanied me back to the house for a quick cup of lemon ginger tea and we sat in my office and talked for a few minutes before she had to return to work. (Mary was on her way to a hair appointment and dropped Isabelle off.) It has been a few years since we last met. She looks well. Still strong-willed, ambitious, determined.

A photograph my old friend at Clark University sent me many years ago caught Isabelle's eye. Having lived with it for so long, it had become but another piece of furniture to me; I hadn't truly looked at it for years. She was fascinated by the gathering of the distinguished academics and psychologists standing on the Clark University steps for the photograph. It was taken during Freud's first and only visit to America, 1909. She of course recognized the Viennese cigar smoker in the centre front row, the eminence grise, but I pointed out Franz Boas, Edward Tichener, William James, G. Stanley Hall, Ernest Jones and a tall, stalwart looking fellow in a sharp modern-cut suit with modern tie and collar standing to Freud's left. She didn't recognize him. Carl Gustav Jung I said. She was taken aback not realizing he had been so big, so robust. She'd only seen images of him as an old man sitting in a chair with his pipe and reading glasses, one size down in his two-piece suit. It is a remarkable photograph. Jung is very relaxed in his pose: a wide stance, arms to his sides, his right shoulder ever so slightly leaning down towards Freud as if in deference. Jung stares at the photographer/viewer with seemingly bemused patience. (Body of a football player like Penfield or Ernest Rutherford). And William James in his old style clothes, with one foot projected in front of him seemingly in a demand for attention. Perhaps he thought the gathering could be traced back to his being the teacher of G. Stanley Hall, who became the first PhD in psychology and then president of Clark University and organizer of the event.. James's eyes look quite faded and almost blurry in the photograph. He only had a year to live. I wonder if he knew. And Franz Boas on the end of the first row, a twinkle in his eye, like a trickster. Perhaps he'd just been having a casual conversation concerning psychical research with James. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall. (A multi-lingual fly).

To think of Freud initiating a disturbance of the sexual forces underneath the staid uptight New England society of the day with its scientific bias, seems strangely akin to Nabokov's in the late 1950s—and yet Nabokov, I seem to remember, dismissed Freud as a . . . fraud. A twisted paradox for a literary scholar no doubt.

Isabelle's revelations concerning Ashemore plus this reanimated photograph stirred up a great deal in me. She informed me that Ashemore had been monitoring the abuses of scientific discoveries, methods of manipulation, and mind control, the abuse of biochemical and acoustic antagonists. All very reminiscent of the cold war efforts I lived through. I recalled my early work under William Sargeant at St. Thomas's in London, and later here at McGill, learning of Donald Ewen Cameron's work at the Allan, the electroconvulsive therapies and paralytic drugs . . . No wonder I decided to break away and start my own practice. It's disheartening to learn such experiments are still being pursued, but not unexpected. The other side of the moon. La face cachée. (I see from my journal calendar it is a full moon this very night).

Isabelle is very sharp and capable, and is rising in the organization—Marcel would be proud—but she senses there are glass ceilings ahead. Progress, regress. Subject, object. Those moments when the narrative of one's life reveals the seam lines, plot structures and weaknesses, the figure in the carpet fading, the disillusion in the dénouement.

She asked after Amelia. As I write in this diary I wonder what Amelia will make of so many years of these private journals with their private meanings and allusive references. My acquaintances, friends, and patients often listed with initials. Would she even risk reading them? I don't think I could destroy the volumes after so much spirit expended. Perhaps she will simply leave them on the shelves as decorative dust collectors. Or would she box and store them away? I may have to broach the subject or make a request attached to my will. Their ultimate fate . . . ? I could imagine Amelia reading these words many years from now. It might very well read like a Gothic novel. The professional cases, the personal life, the musings, the mundane. Perhaps she'll use them as sources for fictional endeavours.

Arthur Roquebrune will be bringing Thérèse to see her Mother this afternoon. I instructed him and her partner Jerome to be patient. I also mentioned that odours would be excellent triggers to stimulate episodic memories, suggesting to Arthur that a stop at a gas station might prove useful, the smell of gasoline being such a powerful odour. Fried onions, bacon, brewed coffee, pine scent, spices, vanilla , furniture polish . . . Perhaps they will arrive to the odours of Thérèse's favourite recipe baked or cooked by her Mother. The unique smell of her parent's home will be significant in itself.

I forgot to note that Thérèse's partner, the painter Jerome van Starke—an interesting young man who seems familiar— provided an estimate for the cleaning of the old portrait of my forbear hanging on the stairwell landing. He mentioned how my distant relative resembled a friend of his, a writer named Loveridge. We must all have our multiple doppelgangers roaming the world at one time or another. Our quantum doubles in different dimensions.

As Edward closed his diary and leaned back in his chair, relinquishing reason for the immaterial mysteries of his imagination, Mélisande Bramente stood on a library stool helping a student locate a copy of Eleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter by Kerényi, while trying not to cover herself in residual dust from the shelves. A humdrum Monday had been transformed by the half carat clarity of a diamond engagement ring into a day of restless thoughts and inattention. She couldn't concentrate. She couldn't settle down. When she had slipped that small platinum circle onto to her finger she'd felt like the still point of a labyrinth with the world spinning around her. Her co-worker, Manon, having found her staring off into the near distance oblivious to the questions of students, had suggested she go for a short walk to clear her thoughts, but she had resisted, Eleusis, she had said, required locating. As she approached the circulation desk with the mysteriously misshelved volume, Pavor Loveridge, safely in his own apartment, was positioning the stylus over the second song of a dark reflective record—his copy of Ultravox's Lament—ready to touch the slow release and watch it descend upon the subtle undulations of the vinyl like an enchanted snake. Adjusting his headphones, he leaned against the window frame and stared through the leafless branches and rested his eyes on the late autumn colour of the climbing ivy wrapped around one of the old towers of the Grand Séminaire de Montreal across the street. A camouflage embrace. Cars, trucks and bicyclists made their ways east and west in a seemingly endless stream of desire and necessity, and he wondered if he'd find the strength to return to Italy. Mélisande had accepted his proposal and now he wanted nothing more than to stay. The fact of having met Jerome and Thérèse at the airport only reinforced this desire, as if the two planes that had circled the airport with the three of them as passengers, had set in motion an indeterminate fate. The fact that Pascal Tessier (the art gallery owner) no longer required Pavor's apartment, having mended his wayward ways and returned to his wife, had also seemed fortuitous,  (An African violet—a gift—had been the only casualty.) He was relaxed, reluctant to travel.

What would he tell Fig at their meeting at Schwartz's on Wednesday? He could almost see him turn the colour of the smoked meat with the news. Perhaps he could arrange to return to Italy in January. Have Mélisande visit for three or four weeks in April or May.

As the music swept Pavor's thoughts off their feet, Arthur Roquebrune was in the process of driving Thérèse and Jerome towards Varennes to visit with her Mother. He'd been anticipating the meeting with apprehension. Like witnesses to an accident, they would have differing perspectives. Mrs. Laflamme would likely experience anger towards him, a milder reproach towards Jerome, and likely mixed feelings of guilt and frustration towards herself in her relationship with her daughter. Jerome would likely feel a sense of guilt and regret with a revived anger towards him. Roquebrune felt only too deserving of his daily self-reproach, so much so that it had beleaguered his dreams, a recurring nightmare of rowing a small boat from one shore to another, but frustrated by the weight of too many passengers aboard, Thérèse and Jerome among them. He was barely able to move the oars. Passengers in he way, walking from stern to bow, rocking the boat. He generally awoke with the sense of taking on water. Restless nights leading to unsettled days.

He wondered what Thérèse was thinking or feeling as she sat beside him looking out the window. He looked in the rear view mirror and noticed Jerome was transfixed by Thérèse's reflection in the side mirror. A triangulation of loss.

Edward Seymour had suggested a leisurely drive past areas she was familiar with, in silence, without questions or prodding. Let her do the work naturally he had said. Let her memory mend itself. So, Arthur had chosen to drive along Boulevard Saint-Joseph past the duplexes and triplexes with their exterior staircases reaching out like welcoming arms, then south on rue St. Denis past the older buildings with their retail establishments.

Thérèse raised her finger to the glass. “Ah, Le Rideau Vert,” she said, remembering images from a one woman play, Madame Louis 14, Jerome by her side. When they drove past the bookshops of Guerin, Renaud-Bray, and Ulysses, memories arose of browsing for travel guides, biographies and presents for her Mother. Passing the Theatre d'Aujourd'hui, the title of a play, La Liste, was roused, a play she had attended with her girlfriends (white wine at the intermission, long line to the bathroom). A blur of boutiques, restaurants, and dépanneurs lacked familiarity yet stirred a semblance of ones she must have visited. She nodded her head slowly towards Carré St. Louis, its park bench denizens diminished by the cooler temperatures. Down they drove and turned east onto Sherbrooke Street, coming to rest, due to a red light, in front of the Maison Arthur-Dubuc with its vibrant late Victorian eclectic architecture. She stared at the three story bay window topped by a Dutch gable, the Neo-Romanesque entrance porch with its polished columns the colour of burnt orange, and the corner turret with its pointed tower roof like a French Château and said “Dandurand, Monsieur Dandurand once lived there. The wealthy businessman, real estate developer. He named the area of Rosemont after his Mother, Rose Phillips.”

Roquebrune felt a warmth flow through him as he recognized the name as the wealthy businessman who owned the house for many years. “Yes, the first owner of an automobile in Montreal, 18 . . . ?”

Thérèse turned to him smiling, “1899,” she said. He smiled back. There was hope.

Jerome was smiling too. “Yes, I remember you wrote that article about the history of the Rosemont District for the local newspaper. Your Mother must have all your articles in a clipping file. They should help you remember.”

Thérèse turned to face him, smiling. “Yes she does. Her bragging file.”

Passing the original main branch of the Montreal Public Library across from Lafontaine Park brought up memories, thought images like old-fashioned slides upon a dining room wall: walking in the park, feeding the ducks, the squirrels and pigeons, listening to summer concerts, Saturday afternoon picnics, children with toy sailing ships, an adult manipulating a replica of the Bluenose by remote control; and the library, the silence, the calm, the shadowed light—a Neoclassical building that now housed a city arts administration centre named after the poet Gaston Miron, whose book L'homme rapaillé she remembered reading but not identifying with or completely understanding.

Duplexes, triplexes, restaurants, small apartment blocks, stores, gas stations passed without a thought until they came to rest at a red light beside the Chateau Dufresne.

“Do you remember our visits?” she asked Jerome.

He leaned forward as much as the seat belt would allow and touched her shoulder with his hand. “Yes, yes, the opulent interiors, yes, of course. We wanted to live there, sit in the chairs, at the desks, look out the windows, breath the air. Those stain-glass windows and frieze's by Guido Nincheri, the fine woodwork panels and floors, the furniture, the bronzes, that oriental style smoking room and its double in Gothic. What an extraordinary place. Two brothers living in a perfectly symmetrical double Beaux Arts home divided by a common wall. We have to visit again. We can relive it together.”

The light turned green and as they advanced, they each glimpsed the leaning concrete tower of the Olympic stadium in the near distance and Thérèse thought the observation windows above the large rectangle retractable roof storage space made it resemble a three eyed howling ghost, such a contrast with the turn of the century mirrored mansion they had just passed.

Low rise commercial buildings dominated as the neared the expansive Place Versailles shopping mall where Thérèse had worked as a sales clerk in a clothing store for many summers while a student. While she was remembering details of her time there, Arthur realized he would have to make a series of manoeuvres to gain access to the expressway that would take him south on the Trans-Canada Highway leading to the Louis-Hyppolite Fontaine tunnel under the St. Lawrence river to the south shore, manoeuvres that would make it appear to Thérèse and Jerome he was lost and making absurd choices, for he had to continue on Sherbrooke Street, cross over the highway, take the first right south and circle back north and make another circle and go back in the direction they came, only to make but another circle and finally come round to the access ramp to the highway, and at each turn, he would see the Loblaws on the far corner and the retirement home complex behind where an old friend of his had indeed retired, a pleasant apartment and well-placed near shopping venues, but an end-of-life dwelling he hoped he would never find himself having to surrender to, and here he was circling and facing it like a sign from the future, retirement home, retirement home, retirement home.

It was his desire to emulate Edward Seymour in his hold upon independence. He'd rather die at his desk in the home he'd lived in for thirty years than succumb to resignation. It was also his hope he would die first. His dear wife would be provided for and an upscale retirement home with excellent social activities and quality meals would suit her well. Freedom from a large house and its concerns.

As he took the final circle, Arthur noticed the anxious looks from his passengers. “Don't worry, I know where I'm going,” he said.

Jerome looked up towards the new buildings of the retirement home and realised they were located behind the old asylum where the poet Émile Nelligan had lived out the last years of his life, now the modern Institut Universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal. What had caused the poet's breakdown? Was it a family dynamic? A Dublin born father, David Nelligan and a French-Canadian Mother creating emotional stresses? Or was it the unromantic chemical imbalance? The expressways and highways hadn't scarred the landscape when he lived there. There must have been fields, trees, church steeples, views of the river and Ile Charron. The name of the small island always brought to mind the mythological character of Charon, the ferryman of the underworld. The thought that his childhood friend was drawn by the frigid currents of the river past this island towards Varennes seemed miraculous. Almost twenty years have passed since he leaped to his death. Pierre. Pierre Sable. Had he been in love with Thérèse as well?

As they entered the tunnel, Jerome eased himself back into the seat and closed his eyes, imagining Pierre's body floating above them, watching their progress, following their path.

© ralph patrick mackay