—by Jean-Dany Joachim
My first Sunday of the year started as a perfect day until I received the sad phone call about my mother. I went for a long run early that morning, with Crazy Dave and a solid pack of other runners on the hills of Waltham, in the vicinity of Brandies University. For over an hour and more, we ran and chatted as runners do on a long run. At times we were quiet, as though to listen to the sound of our feet brushing the cold pavement. We ran under bare tree branches on the side of the road; we ran over each other’s shadow, and powdered snow blown by the winter breeze. The sun timidly made its way through the clouds, and dropped on our body the shadow of the branches. I had a perfect plan laid out for me for the day. With my friends Alan and Luke we were going to meet at two o’clock to start the reading out loud of “Don Quixote”. Alan cooked an exquisite dish of “paella” for the occasion; I brought my favorite Pinot Noir of the season, a bottle of Irony, from Russian River Valley, California. Luke brought wine too, and his expensive first edition English translation copy of Don Quixote de la Mancha that he bought from England via the Internet. Of course, his wife didn’t know of the purchase. After dinner, we drank Scotch; Grand Marnier, Absinthe, and we read with delight the preface, and the first three chapters of Cervantes’ masterpiece.
My perfect Sunday continued at my friend’s Kénelle to watch Peter Weir’s film, Dead Poet Society, with Robin Williams. I spent almost the whole day in the pleasure of words. That was a darn perfect Sunday. It was now time to go home. I was going to stop on the way to buy a calling card to call my mother. I noticed then a few missed calls from Haiti on my cell phone. My mother was trying to reach me, I thought. But when I got to my place, there were more missed calls on the home phone. I did not panic. Nothing difficult crossed my mind, although I noticed that the house felt somehow quieter. Even the continuous buzz of the heater was smoother.
My cellular phone rang. I did not answer right away. I have no explanation why I did that. A few more rings echoed in the quietness of the apartment. Finally, I pick up. It wasn’t Ika. Not my mother this time. It was a cousin instead, one of Ika’s nieces that I probably met once or twice. “Allo Toutou,” her voice said. That’s the way they called me back home, when I was a young boy. “Are you sitting down”? Go get a glass of water, the cousin said. Take three sips. It’s true that I left the country for a while now, but I am still in touch with the different rituals that go with specific circumstances. I knew right away that she was getting me ready for some bad news. What happened, I asked, still plunged in the coolness of my perfect Sunday. Did Ika die? That was the first thing that came to my mind. Yes, she said. Then I was silent until she finished recounting to me the whole version of my mother’s death. “Matant Ika was fine all day, I heard her voice say. She was even laughing and joking until she felt sick in the afternoon.” My cousin’s voice paused for a quick second, and then continued. “On the way to the hospital, she passed away in the car.” That last part was said very fast, but seemed to last a lifetime in my ears. There would be later two other versions of my mother’s death by other relatives. I will probably come across a few more when I get there on Thursday, but for sure my mother will not speak to me this time.