Mom and I were laughing. We hadn’t spent any time together lately, and to be sitting beside her, exchanging offensive jokes was a welcome distraction. Mom was living by herself in a quaint apartment north of Montreal. I was living with my girlfriend in the heart of downtown. We were both working, both caught up in our lives, and rarely had time to meet. We had so much to say to one another—yet, we chose penis jokes instead. When we ran out of jokes, we poked fun at the people around us.
There was no waiting room. We were sitting on plastic chairs in a hall. It was a busy morning, and a busy hallway. So many unknown passing faces with a coffee in one hand while the other hand was mimicking what was being said. Some laughed, some looked hurried, some were just waking up, some gazed our way, some just walked away. We sat, and waited, under bright and buzzing neon glass tubes. Everything around us was banal. If it wasn’t for the filth that was coming out of my mom’s mouth, I would have been dozing. I was happy to be laughing, and it pleased my mom: I love you, son. I do.
A security guard, it might have been a police officer, walked out of a door and towards us. Would you please follow me? I stopped laughing, my mom lost her words and fidgeted with her purse until we both got up from our uncomfortable chairs and followed the man. We walked through the same door he had come out of—inside was a small room with subdued lighting, a second door, more plastic chairs, and a curtained window. Please take a seat, said the man. We will call your names through the intercom, at which time we will ask you to stand in front of the window. The man walked out of the second door. My mom and I waited in silence.
It could have been a few minutes, or it could have been an hour. I don’t remember. What I remember is the smell of nicotine from my mom’s clothes, the holes in the drop ceiling panels, and the cold temperature of our room. And the voice from the intercom asking us to stand up, and face the window. The curtains opened. Behind the window, a bright and large cleanroom, with a metal table in the center. On the table, a motionless shape covered under a white bed sheet. The officer removed the sheet, and my mom fainted. I picked her up, helped her walk back to a chair, and returned to the window on my own. Is it him? asked the man. Yes, I confirmed, it is my father.
Cover art: Figure 83, by Harry Ally.