01 May Catherine Averback
WHEN IT’S COLD OUT
She pulls me in in subzero. Caught each other. She’s quiet, methodical, not letting me whisper exit plans. As if she knew she’d find me, curled up as usual, to resume what she’s long grown out. I didn’t protest. My eyelashes had already frozen, her arms seemed longer than usual. Working off obligation desire, trained reflex. Feeling like I’m always paying attention to the worst thing; the tearing angles, documented needs. Under the fire escapes she’s a pace ahead, making clean, bubbly circles with her feet in salted snow. I’m drawn and mimetic, a popped shoulder pushed back, a busted lip, kissed and sewn over again.
Sehmia’s bathroom is tiled in white, gloss and wet ice. Medicines I remember. In living room, she’s wearing nothing on her face but peach lipstick, hair tied back and the tips of her ears flushed. Eyes dewy from the cold like frost-slicked moss.
Sehmia’s name is pronounced differently than she pretends on social media. She perfected her dive, sharp knees, in a lake out of the country, in a northern state across the border her family moved to when she was two. I met her mother, an actress, once when she wandered into colder climate, lugging three super-sized jars of home-stirred lemon and mint water. Somewhere rural on the TransCanada, Sehmia learned to balance, a calculated circus mobility, toothy nonchalance. She was born somewhere else, a big, desert city her parents had left their hometown to, where she is a stranger. She used to mention it sometimes, but in passing. She’s always leaving, coming again. Home just before I can forget, gone after a few coffees and up to one jittery playback of the guttural, pillowed laughter that shoots like anesthetic.
The walls of the apartment are dark beiges and one faded orange, each populated by dried plants hanging upside down and posters of women with their heads thrown back, dancers, intelligent films I don’t know. She brings me a woven blanket. She has washed off the lipstick and changed into thick socks already. She stations me on the couch. She leaves her key in an unused ashtray – a vestige – for me to hide in the mailbox when I go. In the morning I’ll wake up to her shoes missing, a neat gap between calcified boots. In the bathroom I’ll steal her toothbrush as the peach lipstick syrups around my mouth, my gums sticky bleeding into the sink.
Cathou is a writer and editor born and based in Montreal. She has a BA in Creative Writing from Concordia University. She is the former editor in chief of The Void Magazine and currently works as assistant to a contemporary artist. Recently, her writing has appeared in Headlight, Matrix Magazine and Bad Nudes. Work with the artist has been shown in Montreal, Toronto and New York, with forthcoming exhibitions in Frankfurt, Middleburg (Netherlands) and London. IG: @cathou.ca2