Get comfy in your favourite seat with your favourite drink and indulge in this beautifully written book. Meet Lisa, a writer, musician and good friend to all she meets. The only problem in Lisa’s life is finding Mr Right or so she thinks!
I had been warned of the book publishing difficulties. I had this dream for a long time. I was writing anywhere and in any circumstances. Sometimes I even had writing orgasms. I was losing myself in my imagination. My pen on the page moved as fast as my train of thoughts. And, in my bed, at 2 or 3 A.M., I often reveled in my writings. I felt happy like after a night of love and like I was the queen of the world. I stopped my literature studies, but I never stopped writing.
My elder sister gave birth to her first son, Rayan. While visiting them at the hospital, I met a couple of friends of my sister who had a young daughter named Amy. I learned she was deaf. She had big eyes that could speak, cute little delicate hands, full of finesse. She was 4. Watching her doing exclamation signs in front of the baby, I was so impressed I discovered a new world.
After meeting her, I wanted to discover the world of the deaf. I began signing classes in a specialised institute. I went back to the university to study visual interpretation for a certificate, which allowed me to find work in a school board a few years later.
I learned, after the interview, that a deaf student was dying to meet me. The student was none other than Amy. At 8, she was ready to be put in a regular class among hearing students and needed an interpreter. It was thanks to her that I began my course. As if, when she saw me at the hospital, she had sent me a message.
When you write, you do it first and foremost for yourself. I understood that when I came back from traveling before school began. Or rather, when I experienced a troubling lack of inspiration. I had an idea, but it was impossible to start it up. I read Rainer Maria Rilke‘s Letters to a young poet again. I read that book in those situations so it brings me back to the source.
I write because I need to write. Any artist’s work comes from necessity. I finished my novel, The caress of the winds. It was the most significant project of my life. I worked 4 years to write it and rewrite it. I created a character that resembled me, as if it was my twin sister, and had her experience events that I wished I could experience. Some of them happened to me afterwards. Writing can be dangerous sometimes. You have such a power over your life when you write. Or rather, over your destiny. A sort of magic.
In my book, The caress of the winds, my character’s apartment got burned down. After I learned it was going to be published, my editor introduced me to a corrector. I remember it, on a Saturday morning, all 3 of us were at the restaurant. The corrector was telling me what was wrong with my novel.
“It seems like there’s too many events in the life of your character. She skydives, falls in love, goes horseback riding, survives a house fire… In my opinion, it’s too much; don’t you think you’re going overboard?”
“Everything that happens to my character, I’ve lived it in a 6 month period, the only thing that didn’t happen is the house fire.”
Well, that night, my house went up in flames.
Well after that, since I had nothing left, I moved in with Conrad who already had an apartment downtown. He was a acquantiance of my good friend Ozita. I had only met him a few short times. I knew to make a living, he was a transvestite in a bar. I was expecting life with him to be quite fun but, we managed to have a couple of good fights. Barely 2 weeks after I moved in, one evening, I took his dog out. I meant good intentions, but only 30 seconds later, I got a call on my cell phone.
“Lisa, d’you have my dog?”
“Come back right now, I want to have a word with you.”
And, as soon as I got back…
“He’s my dog, I take him out! I’ve been training him for 6 months now, he has a routine! I don’t want you to ever take him out again, understood?”
I wanted to ask if petting him was allowed. I was shocked. Instead of explaining calmly, he got angry at me, as if his dog was in a life-threatening situation. Conrad had a gift for saying his thoughts very directly.
My grandfather had just died. He was the one who gave me love for music. When I was 5 my mom asked me what instrument I wanted to play, because she thought it was important to develop our musical sense. Without hesitation, I told her I wanted to play the violin. I wanted to do the same as my grandfather. The week before he died, we played together, he was 93. He lived right next to my parents. He had built 2 duplex apartment buildings in the fifties. On a Saturday in July, my mother told me: “Go see your grandfather to check if he wants something to eat.”
He was getting weaker, especially since my grandmother had left us 6 months ago. So, when I passed his doorstep, I shouted: “Grandpa!”
He did not answer. When I got to his room, I saw him. He was huddled up in his bed, hands crossed, as if praying, I touched him. His body was cold already. He died in his sleep. His eternal sleep. I looked up by ref lex, in case he could see me from above. I rose without holding my tears and called my parents. My mother arrived. When she saw him, she cried: “I don’t have a father anymore!”
I felt the pain in her voice, repeating: “I don’t have a father anymore!”
My uncle and aunt arrived; we called for an ambulance to pick up the body. One of the paramedics approached me and said: “You know, he probably chose to die like that. Didn’t he look peaceful? He probably wanted you to find him, even. You must have been close to him and strong to live through that.”
He was right. It was meant to be.
I remember coming back to Conrad’s apartment and feeling depressed on the terrace. I was thinking of my grandfather and crying. Conrad arrived and said: “Crying for your grandfather?”
“I miss him. And I don’t feel him near me.”
“You shouldn’t get any ideas, I lost my grandfather too and, sadly, it is possible that there’s nothing after.”
Our disagreements, our understandings, our routine… All that was a very important time for me since that’s when I finished The caress of the winds and finished correcting it. Then came Carlos (the third roommate) who changed the ambiance, made it lighter. He was a Latino, who added an exotic touch to the apartment. When we cooked supper all together, we dressed up and sang Dalida’s songs. We could ramble whole nights on a piece of theatre show, but we never took notes and since we always drank too much, we had forgotten everything by the next morning.
One last time, I moved in with my parents. My mother offered to give me grandfather’s house. It was right before the launch of The caress of the winds.
Some men call to us, then we get to know them and they’re not as we imagined them. Sometimes we are disappointed… There are men we just can’t get close to because of the lack of compatibility, and you can tell within a few seconds, in a glance. Others, we’ll never know, we look at them from afar and that’s okay, we let them pass… And there are men like Antoine, whom we love above all else and who change us forever. The first time I saw him, it was at the Balthazar.
After my house fire, on a very hot summer, I was on the terrace with my friend Douglas. I noticed Antoine who was close to me and we exchanged a first glance. The only thing I remember telling him that night was that he had a pretty smile. And when I got up to leave, he told me: “Leaving so soon?”
I left. It seems so far away now… Only a year and a half ago.
More recently, I spotted him at the market while he carefully picked his oranges. With my over the top memory, I quickly remembered him. But apparently, he had forgotten our first contact. He looked so much like me, it was unsettling. When would I see him again?
Two weeks passed. I found myself at a launch. Actually, it was a cocktail party in an art gallery, to celebrate the second anniversary of a cultural magazine from here, in Saint-Hyacinthe. There were a lot of people I knew. Most were friends. I didn’t care much for my clothing so I went with something normal; a green, army-style shirt and jeans. I had tied my hair in a bun. Then I saw Antoine wearing the same shirt, same jeans and having the same hairstyle. He had my attitude, a little nonchalant and casual, as my double. It was astounding! He intrigued me. He chatted with my friend, must have lived in Saint-Hyacinthe, so how come I didn’t know him? He subjugated me in everything he gave off. It was simple, I saw myself in him. Without knowing him, I was sure we would get along perfectly. But I did not want to provoke our encounter. No tricks with him. It looked easy, I could have slowly merged in the conversation he was having with Guillaume, we would have been introduced… But it was more important than that. I wanted no mundane meeting. I wanted him to notice me. I wanted him to really want to talk to me.
After the cocktail, I went to the Balthazar. I asked Guillaume, who was there: “Who’s the guy with the green shirt you were talking to?”
“So his name is Antoine… Antoine who?”
“Why? You interested?”
“Just wondering. Don’t you think we look alike?”
“Yeah, like two peas in a pod.”
“What does he do?”
“He’s working on a documentary. Told me he worked 24/7 on it. That’s why he’s so pale. He doesn’t go out anymore, just keeps working on it.”
I didn’t ask more.
The weekend after that was the birthday of Marilou, one of my best friends. She lives in Québec city. She had a couple of friends over for dinner. It was two in the morning when we came back to Saint-Hyacinthe. Douglas, Guillaume, Joséphine and me decided to go have a whisky at the Balthazar. The first person I saw while coming in was Antoine, he was at the bar with Jules, my friend who’s a bookseller downtown. It was not that long since my book came out in bookstores. Jules told me at once: “I sold 5 copies of your book.”
A costumer at the bar added: “I started reading it, but I don’t want to talk about it. I’m kind of nervous.”
“I can’t tell what you want to tackle in there and it’s unsettling me. That’s why I stopped reading. What you explain, I’m living it right now so it’s touching feelings I don’t want touched.”
In a way, I liked that kind of comment, since it meant I could touch people with my writing.
And all this time, Antoine was listening to us. At some point, he talked to me.
“Hello, my name is Antoine Dagenais.”
He offered me his right hand.
“Mine is Lisa Roussel (shaking his hand); pleasure to meet you!”
I felt he wanted to know me…
“You’re writing a novel?”
Jules had a copy with him; he took it out and showed it to Antoine.
As he took it in his hands he said: “The caress of the winds…”
He didn’t even look at the back cover, didn’t look at my photo, nothing. He said: “I don’t like the book jacket.”
“I wouldn’t have made a book jacket like that.”
“I could’ve done better. Listen, I have a masters in arts. The person who did this…”
“… Is my sister, but hey … She only has a bachelor’s degree in arts.” I added, insulted.
“Come and see me for your next novel. I’ll do something to your liking.”
“But I like this jacket!”
And Jules added: “I told you, Lisa, the cover looks like a youth novel’s. It’s not a good sample of the book’s content. You should have gone with something more sensual; breast, a cleavage, something… Now, it looks like a novel for children even though there’s sex in it.”
I didn’t seem offended by that kind of remark. But it hurt. To criticise my book, it was the same as to criticise my child, if I had one. We didn’t talk about that the whole night. We talked of my upcoming trip during the summer, in Venice. Antoine never went there, but he heard about it: “I heard people who go to Venice are victims of a sudden disease, some sort of momentary depression. They say it’s so lovely that when you’re visiting, you’re wondering how come you aren’t born there. Some sort of languorous melancholy I’ve heard…”
He went to Spain for an art project. He confided: “I’d like my life to end over there.”
I went back to my friends, but before leaving, I went to pay my bar tab and saw him zoom past me towards the door. Two minutes later, I saw him coming back inside. He went straight for me, in a decisive way.
“I was looking for you.”
He added: “Leaving so soon?”
The same as last time…
He closed in on me and kissed my cheeks. That’s what I wanted. I was so happy. I left anyway. Even if he did not like the cover of my novel, I didn’t mind. I guessed he wasn’t that easily impressed. Actually, he probably didn’t care about me writing a book. Had he liked the jacket, he might’ve read it.
The day after I was busy. I was with Frédéric, my pianist friend. He might be a little more than a friend for me. But it was too soon to try anything with anyone. Too soon on Monday as well. Antoine was running through my head… On Tuesday, when my workday would be done, I needed to provoke destiny. I looked for Antoine’s address and I left a message on his doorstep, inviting him to call me back. I waited for his answer…
The next week, I was at my friend Henri’s house, listening to music by blues singer Keb’ Mo’, when my phone rang.
“Hi Lisa, it’s Antoine. I’m on the terrace at Balthazar, want to join me?”
“In half an hour?”
It was 10 P.M. already and I had work the following day, but I just couldn’t refuse. I was very nervous. Henri suddenly felt neglected. I left in a hurry and he looked at me, offended: “Right, an Antoine calls, and I’m out.”
“Please understand, Henri, it’s been so long since I had butterflies in my stomach.”
“He’d better watch over you.”
The Balthazar was crowded. It was hot, summer was upon us. As soon as I got there, I looked for Antoine; he was as he said, on the terrace, waiting for me. He smiled, I sat next to him. He was with his friends, people I knew were sitting next to us, but no one mattered, it was just me and him. We talked of everything. He offered me drinks all night long. We talked about our favorite superheroes, Peter Pan for me, Captain America for him. He even admitted to watching the Saturday morning cartoons. I didn’t want to leave, but I had to. Around 3 A.M., I couldn’t drive anymore, I asked him to bring me to the taxis.
As we walked, he talked of his family, his mother, his sister, he told me he was adopted. I was fascinated by the fact that we were born a month apart. He was also more drastic in his opinions, a stronger nature. He seduced me. He took my hand and I walked with him for kilometers. When we arrived at the parking lot, where a dozen cab drivers were looking at us while waiting for their costumers, we instinctively kissed. We felt so good. I had drunk a lot of alcohol, but I knew I was living something serious and important. We held each other, we wanted each other.
I took a cab and told him goodbye, we promised to call each other. Sitting on the right, behind the driver, I dreamt of the fact that I had found someone like me, someone who could be exactly like me.
The day after, my head was still spinning from the previous night, but I had a new energy. I was stupefied by what was happening to me. I called him the following Friday to find out if he liked picnics. He had a phone, but told me it didn’t work most of the time. I still managed to get him. He was thrilled by my offer.
We arranged to meet at the market where we got sandwiches. I brought red wine.
By the promenade des berges, we went all the way to Girouard Street where we followed the river near the porte des maires. On a bench, in a romantic way, we enjoyed the ref lection of the full moon on the river. Surrounded by stars that added splendor to our animated discussions, we could only hear the crickets amongst the leaves of the poplar next to us. The visuals increased our carnal desire. Soon, we started kissing. At that perfect moment, I felt ready to tell him all my personal projects, even my novel ideas. Being superstitious about my project, I needed to really trust someone to reveal anything to him. First, I wanted to know his greatest dream. He told me he wanted to adopt a child. No luck for me. I never felt the need to have children. Even if I am incredibly good with them, having one is terrifying to me. I did not intend to have one in the next 10 years, and even then. I’m a late-riser; I sometimes work for days without eating. While on vacation, I have no schedule, I’m completely free to do as I want. Since I had no boyfriend, I never imagined it.