The Hottest Summer In Recorded History
Lisa Snowe was staying in her dear friend Jonny’s rented apartment
in Montreal, an apartment belonging to Leonard Cohen. This was after
Cohen lived in California and became a Buddhist and carried on
with that young model (I forget her name) and after he’d lost
his millions to his corrupt manager and now, supposedly, owned
only shitty, yet charming, if run down, flats in the Plateau just off
St Denis. Miss Snowe was reading Jonathan Ames and eating
alone in the evenings since her husband was committed to working
summers and could not join her in what was supposed to be Canada’s
most romantic city, or at least Canada’s most licentious city,
and everywhere it seemed there were beautiful young women walking
with their men and it occurred to Miss Snowe that she, being plain,
was not one of them.
Jonny was off in Russia and had recently written to complain
that his girlfriend, a young law student, was visiting her mother in
Albania and that Russian women were impeccably dressed, forlorn,
and terribly attractive. What was he to do but return to his bug-
infested hotel room for an equally forlorn “tug” as he was
so fond of naming the act of self abuse. So Snowe was feeling
feverish and thinking about the handsome lesbian couple
with whom she had spent the previous evening in conversation
about poetry. The butch of the two, like a good gentleman,
walked Snowe home. They walked slow or, rather, she walked
slow as he walked slow and they spoke of adultery; had Miss Snowe
committed it, would she commit it, and Snowe had to say no.
No, she had not and would not,
not in nine years of cohabitation though, on occasion, she had
been tempted. There was the tall red-lipped girl at Yaddo
with whom she’d shared a picnic in the rock garden and also
the tow-headed boy with whom she had treasured the tea roses;
both of them met on a trip supposed to allow her the luxury
of sitting and thinking and writing, but most certainly not
fucking, and she thought how sad! How completely sad.
Jonathan Ames, you dig so deep. Only days before, she’d given
a performance at an outdoor festival in Toronto. That night, it had rained
but, by the time Miss Snowe stepped onstage, the stars had come
out and so had the fireflies. She heard her first cicadas
sizzling like a power station.
In Toronto, Miss Snowe stayed at a B&B on St. George Street,
not far from the University. The poet R. was there and also
a well-known journalist from New York. R. let Snowe
join him for breakfast on the balcon. A thunderstorm flashed around them
and he spoke of the holocaust museum in Berlin. He made gestural
movements over his croissant and she felt she must truly go
to Berlin. The journalist was not as she expected. Only a few years
older than she, he did his best to align their life experience, though
Miss Snowe still envied his Harvard education, his exotic
childhood in North Carolina, his lawyer father, and his mother
who only ever needed a high-school education. He had the kind
of body that looked as though he spent many hours at a gym
in Brooklyn. She did not
find the journalist handsome, but she did find him delightful,
especially when, once, late at night, drunk, he called her Ma’am.
Yes, Ma’am, he said. That night, they shared a cab and made
their way back to the B&B. It was very late and Miss Snowe wanted
to sleep. But, when she went to her room, the power went out.
She sat in the dark. It was humid. She was alone. Why did she knock
on the journalist’s door? Surely he would not answer, but he did.
And when he did he was nude to the waist, and so neatly made.
She thought she would like to kiss him. But, of course, she couldn’t.
What he must think of me, she thought. This awkward woman
waking him to tell him the power has gone. So she stomped away
to find a breaker and, as she passed him, said What does it matter?
All I need to see is the back of my eyes.
And, earlier that summer, she’d fallen for a novelist from Detroit
whose wife was three months pregnant and ran a sausage shop
in Boston. He was an ugly man, but Snowe had a love of ugly men.
All the ephemeral friends had left the party and they were alone.
He’d been a soldier in Iraq and now he was writing about the war.
Snowe ordered him to lace her boots, which he did, and he stayed,
and she wished him luck with his baby. Yes, he said, and held
his hands about a football’s length apart. They’re about this big, he said,
and then he left and she thought: ridiculous. What is this? Life is pitiful,
yet somehow still worthwhile. Miss Snowe wanted to thank him,
to thank him! But for what? She could think anything. And now, here
she was in Montreal, away from home, and before her stood little
Sophie, nineteen. Little Sophie
with her long legs and her longer brown hair and her amputee boyfriend
who’d lost all the fingers on his right hand though,
fortunately, not the thumb. What a sight to see, him rolling
cigarettes out front of the Copa with his stump and his thumb
and Miss Snowe standing there, married. Married like her dear
Jonny had been married. Jonny who couldn’t live with his wife
because he couldn’t stop fucking other people. I was married
nine-and-a-half years, he wrote from Russia. But I fucked this person
and then I fucked this other person just after my daughter was born.
It’s pretty common…and Snowe knew it to be true. She had no daughter.
At home, in Vancouver, it was thirty nine degrees. The hottest summer
in recorded history.
Published On: February 14, 2008
Permanent Location: http://www.forgetmagazine.com/080214b.htm