Writer’s Block is an occasional column that will feature pieces or excerpts of creative writing from students at St. Thomas. To submit pieces to be published, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Jesse LaPointe.
I have a beautiful singing voice. I just thought I’d start whatever this thing I’m writing with that statement. My mom would remind me every day that I had a sound like no one else and, well, I think she’d want me to tell you. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that this is about me, because that couldn’t be farther from the truth. This writing has always been and will always be about my mother, Elsa Murdock.
You’d think ten years is a long time to know someone. I mean, fuck, my boyfriend and I have known each other for five years and I’m already clearing space on my left ring finger. From the time you’re born to your tenth birthday, so much is crammed into your little head that it feels like an entire lifetime has passed. But it just isn’t enough. That’s how long I knew my mother. Ten years. By the time I was five, she had a hole cut into her throat. By seven, she was on a steady supply of oxygen. And by ten all conversation about her had changed into the past tense. Yeah, that’s my mother and I, a relationship that lasted three sentences.
She was tougher than bootstraps and she always smoked right down to the filter. Oddly enough, my most vivid memory of her is when she found out her throat was being menaced by a laryngeal cancer that had left her sounding like a diesel engine. At the time I didn’t know what any of the big words meant, only that my mother was speaking very softly into the phone at that Tim Hortons. She didn’t look up from her coffee for a very long time. She’d worked there until I was born and I remember the girls behind the counter offering a hug and prayer after my mom handed them back the phone. The conversation, I assume, was with my father. I couldn’t hear the voice on the other end. She and I had just gotten back from what would be the first of many visits to the hospital. I must have been too focused on the promise of future timbits to take in the greyness that wrapped around her. We walked briskly to our Jeep with the leather seats through the crowded hospital parking lot. The cold leather stung my fingers. It was February, a pack of cigarettes danced in her hand. Through the frozen wind that rushed past me as each new customer came in, this is what I heard.
“Ya, we just got out.”
“Well, no. Had tuh break that twenty to get out of the damn parking lot.”
“I know, but you’ll just have to use the twenty I gave you yesterday.”
“It went… well it went. We got there and really didn’t have to wait too long.”
“What’s that?” “No, no, he was nice. Very clear, y’know? Feel like I could tell ya a thing or two by the end of it. Anyway, he pretty much said what Dr. Harris said.”
“That I have tuh cut it out completely.”
“I know, I know. He said that it’s going to get a hell of a lot worse before it even has a chance of getting any better. He said that there’s just no way I can keep this up if I want to live tuh see her make it tuh high school.”
“I know, David.”
“I know, David. Please. You try. Yeah. I don’t see you giving it up any time soon. You smoke, I smoke. That’s the deal. So what are ya gonna do, David?”
“I got ‘em right here in my hand. Fresh pack. I’ll leave you three for the morning.”
“You want me to pick anything up for dinner? I’ll use the rest of that twenty.”
“Love you too”
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