Authors: Maylis de Kerangal
Tags: #Fiction, #Medicine, #Jessica Moore, #Maylis de Kerangal, #Life and death, #Family, #Transplant, #Grief
My heart is full.
The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds,
Paul Newman, 1972
TABLE OF CONTENTS
hat it is, Simon Limbeau’s heart, this human heart, from the moment of birth when its cadence accelerated while other hearts outside were accelerating too, hailing the event, no one really knows; what it is, this heart, what has made it leap, swell, sicken, waltz light as a feather or weigh heavy as a stone, what has stunned it, what has made it melt – love; what it is, Simon Limbeau’s heart, what it has filtered, recorded, archived, black box of a twenty-year-old body – only a moving image created by ultrasound could echo it, could show the joy that dilates and the sorrow that constricts, only the paper printout of an electrocardiogram, unrolled from the very beginning, could trace the form, could describe the exertion and the effort, the emotion that rushes through, the energy required to compress itself nearly a hundred thousand times each day and to circulate up to five litres of blood every minute, only this could sketch the life – life of ebbs and flows, life of valves and flap gates, life of pulsations; when Simon Limbeau’s heart, this human heart, slips from the grip of the machines, no one could claim to know it; and on this night – a night without stars – while it was bone-crackingly cold on the estuary and in the Caux region, while a reflectionless swell rolled along the base of the cliffs, while the continental plateau drew back, unveiling its geological stripes, this heart was sounding the regular rhythm of an organ at rest, a muscle slowly recharging – a pulse of probably less than fifty beats per minute – when a cellphone alarm went off at the foot of a narrow bed, the sonar echo inscribing the numbers 05:50 in luminescent bars on the touch screen, and everything suddenly shot ahead.
n this night, then, a van slows in a deserted parking lot, comes to a crooked stop, front doors slamming while a side door slides open and three figures emerge, three shadows cut out against the dark and seized by the cold – glacial February, liquid rhinitis, sleep with your clothes on – boys, it looks like, who zip their jackets up to their chins, unroll their hats down to their eyebrows, slip the bare tips of their ears under the polar fleece and, blowing into cupped hands, turn toward the sea, which is no more than sound at this hour, sound and darkness.
Boys, now it’s clear. They stand side by side behind the low wall that separates the parking lot from the beach, pacing and breathing hard, nostrils inflamed from piping iodine and cold. They probe this dark stretch where there is no tempo besides the roar of the wave exploding, this din that swells in the final collapse; they scan what thunders before them, this mad clamour with nowhere to rest your eyes, nowhere, except perhaps the whitish, foaming edge, billions of atoms catapulted one against the other in a phosphorescent halo, and, struck dumb by winter when they’d stepped out of the van, stunned by the marine night, the three boys get hold of themselves now, adjust their vision, their hearing, evaluate what awaits them, the swell, gauge it by ear, estimate its breaker index, its coefficient of depth, and remember that blue-water waves always move faster than the fastest speedboats.
Alright, one of the three boys whispers, this is gonna be awesome, the other two smile, then all three of them back up together, slowly, scraping the ground with the soles of their shoes and circling like tigers, they lift their eyes to bore into the night at the end of the village, the night still sealed shut behind the cliffs, and then the one who spoke first looks at his watch, another fifteen minutes, guys, and they get back into the van to await the nautical dawn.
Christophe Alba, Johan Rocher, and him, Simon Limbeau. Their alarms were ringing when they pushed back the sheets and got out of bed for a surf session planned by text a little before midnight, a session at half-tide, only two or three like this a year – rough sea, regular waves, low wind, and not a soul in sight. Jeans, shirt, they slipped outside without a bite, not even a glass of milk or handful of cereal, not even a crust of bread, stood outside their building (Simon), stepped out the doorway of their suburban house (Johan), and waited for the van (Christophe) that was just as punctual as they were, and the three of them who never got up before noon on Sunday, despite any and all maternal rallying, the three of them who, they say, don’t know how to do anything but pendulate, wet noodles, between living-room couch and bedroom armchair, these same three were chattering in the street at six in the morning, laces loose and breath rank – under the streetlight, Simon Limbeau watched the air he exhaled disintegrate, the metamorphosis of gas and smoke that lifted, compact, and dissolved into the atmosphere until it disappeared completely, remembered that when he was a kid he liked to pretend he was smoking, would hold his index and middle finger stiff in front of his lips, take a deep inhale, hollowing out his cheeks, and blow out like a man – the three of them, that is,
The Three Caballeros
, the Big Wave Riders, namely Chris, John, and Sky, aliases that act not as nicknames but rather as pseudonyms, created in order to reinvent themselves, planetary surfers, when really they’re high-schoolers from the estuary, so that saying their real first names pushes them back immediately into a hostile configuration, back to icy drizzle, feeble lapping, cliffs like walls and streets deserted as evening falls, parental reproach and school’s summonses, complaints from the girlfriend left behind, the one who, once again, came second place to the van, the one who is powerless when it comes to surfing.
They’re in the
now – they never say it in French,
, would rather die. Dank humidity, sand granulating surfaces and scraping butts like a scouring pad, brackish rubber, stench of paraffin and the beach, surfboards piled up, heap of wetsuits – shorties or thick steamers with built-in hoods – gloves, boots, bars of wax, leashes. Sitting down all together in the front, squeezed in shoulder to shoulder, rubbed their hands together between their thighs letting out monkey yelps, it’s fucking freezing, and then munched on energy bars – but they couldn’t peck it all down, it’s afterwards that you devour, after you’ve been devoured yourself – passed the bottle of Coke back and forth, the tube of Nestlé condensed milk, the Pepitos and the Chamonix, soft sugary cookies for soft sugary boys, finally pulled the latest issue of
out from under the seat and opened it on the dashboard, leaning their three heads together above the pages that gleam in the half-light like skin rubbed with suntan lotion and pleasure, glossy pages turned thousands of times before that they pore over again now, mouths dry, eyeballs tumbling out of their sockets: giants at Mavericks and point breaks in Lombok, Jaws in Hawaii, tubes at Vanuatu, swells at Margaret River – the best coastlines on the planet roll out the splendour of surfing before their eyes. They point at images with a fervent index, there, there, they’ll go there one day, maybe even next summer, the three of them together in the van for a legendary surf trip, they’ll go in search of the most beautiful wave that’s ever formed on earth, they’ll set off in pursuit of that wild and secret spot they’ll invent just as Christopher Columbus invented America and they’ll be alone on the lineup when it finally emerges, the one they’ve been waiting for, this wave risen from the bottom of the ocean, archaic and perfect, beauty personified, and the motion and the speed will stand them up on their boards in a rush of adrenaline while over their whole bodies right to the tips of their lashes will pearl a terrible joy, and they’ll mount the wave, joining the earth and the tribe of surfers, this nomadic humanity with hair discoloured by salt and eternal summer, with washed-out eyes, boys and girls with nothing else to wear but shorts printed with gardenias or hibiscus petals, turquoise or blood-orange T-shirts, with no shoes other than those plastic flip-flops, these youths polished by sun and freedom: they’ll surf the fold all the way to the shore.