My mother died in the early minutes of March 21, 2012, just as spring was coming to its fullest expression in Birmingham, Alabama, the city where she was born, married, and had her children, and where she had lived her entire life. The foliage was a promising shade of bright green. The suburban lawns were visions lined with banks of azaleas in full bloom. The year was still young; as yet, the sun’s heat had no weight to it.
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Her pleasant face fixed in a rictus of vindictive triumph. She yelled, “We got one!” and high-fived her male associate. Machito had all but confessed to working on a tourist visa. I seized with panic as the customs agent reviewing my documents waved me through. I watched, horrified, as Machito was shuttled off to an interrogation room. Machito glared back at me with a wounded look. He looked so small next to their wide bodies, like they could crush him with one coordinated turn. “Sir! You can’t linger here. Move it along,” the customs agent barked. I made my way through the area, then doubled back to find an immigration official.
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We walk back towards the concert along a dirt road lined with hemlocks. The bass is distant, persistent, and although the lower frequencies are all that reach us, I still recognize the song. You don’t want to be alone. You don’t want to be alone. Well, precisely. Read more →
I suppose one feels emotional, reaching the end of a life. But also I feel an unfortunate bitterness—not for coming to the end of the books, but for potentially coming to the end of an even greater alchemy: Elena Ferrante. Her entity perhaps extinguished prematurely by some aggressive practitioner of bits and bobs and bylines—an Italian journalist. I won’t sift through his trash (or his real estate or financial records) here.
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The night manager eats like a 12-year-old and doesn’t gain a pound. He’s 6’2” with a skeletal frame. Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night he drives me home to Verdun after we stop at one of a handful of 24/7 restaurants on Montreal’s downtown west side: Angela’s on Maisonneuve for fettucine carbonara, the Subway on Guy where the guy on graveyard shift always gives us the firefighters’ discount in exchange for a steep tip, or else Joe’s Panini on Drummond.
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Madeleine Thien and Heather O’Neill are two of Canada’s most beloved authors of their generation. In a piece commissioned by carte blanche, the two award-winning writers discuss a wide range of topics, from being private people in a world that worships personality to backgrounds and the influences on their work. This email exchange spanned a number of weeks this fall.
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I. My first drink is an accident, one-note purple, too sweet to be dangerous. Cloying enough to make adults wince and draw children like hummingbirds to nectar. A tiny bitterness, [More…]
The wild strawberry flush across my chest, her cheeks. An illicit kiss in her basement suite.
Five years in, we start counting: two eggs bled away casually every month.
Then, six months of flirting, negotiations. Two hopeful women. A captivated man.
Cosmopolitans. Our red leather couch under mistletoe and holly berries. Jazzberry cartoon hearts radiate around all of us.
“Please don’t break our hearts,” I say.
“I won’t.” His scarlet cape promise. The last time we see him. Read more →
The first thing I saw when I woke up was the row of ancient bibles in a corner bookshelf. The flat light of an overcast dawn confused my sense of time, though. Hadn’t my friends and I just gone to bed? Then I saw a short, round-faced man standing over me, wearing a porkpie hat exactly like Gene Hackman would wear in The French Connection a few years later. The man pointed a short-barrelled revolver at the centre of my forehead. I remember noting how perfectly circular the muzzle was and that its bluing was very deep. I saw the soft grey domes of the bullets in the cylinder and noted the thickness of the front site. Then I looked away from the revolver to glance at the film can holding a jumble of foil-wrapped drugs on the floor beside my bed.
“Move,” the little man said, smiling. “I dare you.” Read more →
Oh Margaret, lost in the parking garage. She couldn’t remember where she’d left the car, though I bet she was putting on. With her, I couldn’t ever tell.
“I swear it was the second floor,” she said, walking through the aisle of cars. She held her hand high above her head, waved it back and forth, pressing the remote lock for her new Lexus. It looked like she was trying to hail an invisible cab. I was following her.
She’d driven down to Cincinnati from Columbus, arrived an hour late. She cursed and blamed the traffic as she landed on a barstool beside me at Arnold’s Downtown. She still looked great in a floral summer dress hanging right down her tall frame and that same platinum blonde hair, cut shorter than ever but refusing to show a single root. She had new knee-high vintage leather boots that she bragged about finding at some hole-in-the-wall secondhand store in Northside. But she looked older now too, as if moving to the Rust Belt had slowed her down, allowed her age to finally catch up. Read more →