Outremont (a stigmatext) 

by Alex Borkowski

I want stigmata. I do not want the stigmata to disappear. I am attached to my engraving, to the stings in my flesh and my mental parchment. I do not fear that trauma and stigma will form an alliance: the literature in me wants to maintain and reanimate traces. [1]

The elevator hummed as we descended, passed through floors of sleeping bodies, carried the cold spring on our skin. I surveyed the new topography of my palms, which had begun to sting as we sank into the grid that glowed so majestically from above.

On the roof of your apartment that night, I tried to calibrate myself by silently incanting the names of streets that extended across the Plateau in even rows: Bernard, St-Viateur, Fairmont, St-Joseph, Villeneuve. It was three days before I was to move away and although we hadn’t spoken for months, you said this was “the perfect way to end it.” We fucked against an airshaft. I had worn my heartbreak from our courtship with an adolescent candour, but there was something new and shocking about being so plainly marked. The slashes were deep and rhythmic, slicing across the stable creases and their assured prophecies. You pulled my hand to your mouth and kissed away the blood.

Palms are deceptive sitesoffered so readily to new acquaintances or outstretched in alarm, but always a few millimetres back from their promised position. The concave centre hides in plain sight, camouflaged by dexterity. I’ve heard it said that in the moments immediately following death, our thumbs swivel inward as if to keep this clandestine surface ever untouched. When I was little and learning to play the piano, I was instructed to pretend that a bird was nesting in the bowl of my palm as a tactic to ensure correct hand position. I conjured two delicate balls of animal warmth, hollow bones housed in sinewy meat and down against my skin. I played slowly and tentatively, barely succeeding in making each key sound so as not to disturb the birdsa halting melody that stuttered with excess empathy.

I felt the tip of your tongue gently graze the fresh rifts. I shivered and expelled a half- laugh, half-sigh that cracked my sternum like lightningsuch stifling tenderness from an unrequited love. It was all I could do after a few seconds to pull my fingertips and the heel of my hand towards each other, gripping your wide cheekbones to retract the bleeding surface away from your lips until the elevator door pinged open behind me. A few hours in your bedroom on the ground floor and the dizziness subsided; all became solid and ordinary again. You called a cab and wished me good luck with the move.  

 Any traces of this event have since joined the existing seams and crevices that have marked my palms since birth and I have no sense that the course of my life has been in any way altered. I return to this scene, however, not as a scar that I bear but as the inception of a persistent state of being simultaneously spilt open and whole. I remain aflame and in full possession of love that I had merely stuck to you like a shadow affixed with soap. This is the scene of unearthing the exquisite elixir of affection and bile that courses under my skin like the secret rivers buried beneath Montrealmy singular molten mettle. In moments of stillness—moments of writing—I let it pool.

 And it’s in this shallow font of my flexed hand that I still live this, my rawest self; and the way the trees behind us on the mountain withheld their buds that spring as if holding their breath; and how our bodies wavered between the orange glow of the veins and arteries of the city and the white light of the moon and the LEDs of the Mount Royal Cross; and how the frigid air met my eyes which burned with frenzied and resigned love for which my palms still itch and overflow with warm gratitude.

[1] Cixous, Hélène. ‘Preface: On Stigmatexts’ in Stigmata. Translated by Eric Prenowitz. New York: Routledge, 1998.  Xiv.