Karissa Larocque

Karissa Larocque is currently an MA candidate in English at Concordia University, where you can find her looking out the window or subtweeting herself at @_karissy.

1. I sleep with Bluets under my pillow for 8 days straight. I divide the 240 sections by 8 and read 30 sections each night. When my eyes wander to the next number when it’s not time yet I scold myself & shut my eyes closed and slip the book back under my pillow under my head and that’s when I am allowed to sleep.

2. When I visit her in the hospital she is propped up in a sitting position with 8 pillows. I count and when the nurse comes to rearrange them she takes one away. I say, sorry, but she wants 8, it’s her favorite number. 8 becomes my favorite number. I admit to myself that I lied about 8 being her favorite number but no one is around to hear.

How we act when unwitnessed.

I tap out 8s with my fingers. I do paradiddles in multiples of 8 looking out the window looking at the IV looking at the numbers roll up and down on the machines like waves. You can’t tell it is Christmas morning because being in a hospice is like dropping into deep sea with a diving bell; context becomes everything and you don’t surface. Today is a wave day; she waves her sentences around us. I watch the drugs circle through the tubes in parabolas and into her arm and into her. I wonder if they keep circling.

She looks out the window—wide and double-paned. Clean. The wide open sky is blue. A cold blue which is the clearest kind. She looks out with me parallel at the sky—when her eyes focus she asks what’s out there, out the window? Out there on the other side of the river? I lean over and look down at the parking lot, the iced over courtyard begetting no water, no river; highways beyond the intersections and nothing but salt and pavement.

3. Definition of palliative:




Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.

4. Concept of palliative:

We argue over whether she WON’T stand up or CAN’T stand up. I argue against the fucked up narrative of BATTLING and FIGHTING. I read Anne Boyer. I fold back pages, rewrite her words in my notebook. I text myself the strangeness of this language.

9:45 AM 13/01/2017: “we want a place that will give her enough care”

9:56 AM 13/01/2017: “there is not enough care for her”

3:44 PM 30/01/2017: “she is complaining of continuous pain”

We go back and forth on narratives: we are making her comfortable/there will be no more treatment/if she doesn’t move and be strong she will die from a blood clot/but if it makes her uncomfortable to stand shouldn’t we not make her/she is not helping herself.

5. She is not helping herself.

6. She is happiest to see me because I never disagree with her. Her sister is upset I am suddenly the favorite. Everyone is called fat except for me and I feel pride and disgust.

7. Palliative. I hold her body. I feel each angle. Gowns look like Comme des Garçons on her, the sides all folded up. Continuous pain. I hold her body. When she coughs I intuit rather than see the pain. I fold. I chip my tooth clenching my jaw. I try to translate the word empathy in a way that accounts for how much it can turn inwards. I hold her body. I hate myself for thinking about myself. I fold. I hate the T.V. that shows women running in a field with their damn tampons. SHE NEVER EVEN GOT TO USE TAMPONS WHEN SHE COULD RUN AND WAS YOUNG I yell into my own self, turning inwards. I fold.

Where is the line? I turn into myself.

I hold her body. I fold. I either understand completely the notion of PALLIATIVE or I know nothing. I can’t decide. I fold. I ask her about being a Capricorn. Characteristically she seems uninterested. I fold. I open. Gemini.

She looks at me in the eyes, says

I, I am going to die.

I won’t lie to her. She says the pain is unbearable,

uses words to describe it which I—

which I in turn find unbearable.

I fold. I say I know, I…

I know. I am the only one

who says I know

I feel vindicated for telling the truth. I feel like the truth-teller I feel like standing up on the hospice bed I feel like jumping up and down yelling I AM THE SEER OF THIS FAMILY! I AM THE ONLY ONE! I AM THE INTUITIVE ONE! I AM AN EMPATH!

I fold. Being conscious is unbearable for her and therefore the room is unbearable. I bear it until I can’t anymore. This is my freedom and no longer her freedom.

8. I see the blue sky the salt freeway the no / water the othersideoftheriver out the window I fold I stand and walk out down the hall I open a bathroom door and I fold. I double over and am doubled over. I fold again down closer to the earth. I am on my hands and knees. I fold. I heave. I vomit. Staccato. Just bile and spit. I turn over and slam my back down. I lay down with my palms held open. I heave. I vomit nothing but air. I fold into myself like a child in sleep.

9. LaRocque, Karissa (@_karissy). “what is the word for anticipating grief / for mourning someone who is still here but leaving / what is the word for empathy that hurts you” 20 Jan 2017, 4:37 p.m. Tweet.

10. Sitting on their blue pull-out couch I aggressively make eye contact. When we start kissing I feel like I am dropping down with my diving bell. I realize that when I see them I drown and when I do not see them I do not drown. This binary at least seems uncomplicated. I have no narrative to understand this feeling so I decide that they were/are my baby blue and I love them.

11. I agree to get coffee with a man I hurt, unbearably. It occurs to me how little it matters what someone else is thinking if you just spend time in your own head. I am shocked by the difference with which time has passed. I feel passing curiosity about his life and pain. I am undecided if it was my fault. I feel bad for being what I call a BIG HOMO and then I feel vindicated. I feel confused for a while and then, later, I forget. It seems so easy to cause pain and so unbearable to receive it. We both wear blue jeans and the winter sky is grey-blue but neither fact moves me.

12. Her birthday. Eighty. 8 x 10. All six children there with her. Somehow it doesn’t feel like enough. I wish I had more to give but I don’t know what it could be or where it could come from. I phone the hospice from the laundromat and am put through to her room and talk until her voice trails and washes out and I know she has fallen asleep. Asleep. I watch my blue sheet spin in the dryer, pressed flat against the glass door.

13. On New Year’s Eve with baby blue we take too much Ritalin and I feel flooded with chemicals. The chemicals are like how falling in love feels and it felt familiar to go through this with them. Later I realize I just felt confident and trusting and wonder if that is what love is made of. I take it too far and start to expect anything from anyone. Baby blue walks me home and I am a textbook mess. They put me in the shower and watch me scream and yell and I am adamant that they join me. I scream that what men do to women is wrong, and that her life was taken away from her. Drowning in chemicals I lose my reverence and scream that


They take care of me that night but when we wake up folded together the story is unchanged and I realize pain does not cancel out pain and one loss will not halt another.

14. My mom takes me to the mall and buys me a blue button down shirt from Banana Republic. On sale it costs $48.18. I think it’s what I would want baby blue to wear but maybe it’s what I want to wear too. I feel myself fold. My sister takes me for a manicure and I choose blue. I hold the blue fabric in my hands and fold and unfold. I realize in the back seat on the drive home I am still my mother’s baby and my sister’s baby. I fall back into the feeling.

15. I want her to stay with us a while longer.

16. “Mostly I have felt myself becoming a servant of sadness. I am still looking for the beauty in that” (Bluets 29).

17. I dive into my friendships like a teenager. I make my best friends cupcakes and mixtapes and send them thoughtful texts. I feel like a good person but then wonder if I am doing nice things to feel good about myself and feel narcissistic. When I fold I want to talk to my tall friend with blue eyes. I email her to say can you pray if you don’t believe in god because i was doubled over in the hospice bathroom & sometimes i feel like the way my thoughts work is unbearable and you

18. I want them to stay. Baby blue. Baby baby please—

19. I am overwhelmed by BLUE and blue and waves and Blue. I freak out about all the blue I see and it pulls me through waves. I feel frustrated that pain is so textbook: death / heartbreak / illness. The dead of winter. I see omens everywhere. Every unbearable coincidence possible occurs. I make jokes to myself and then I shut up. I tell myself a story about blue and then I shut up. When the story shifts I get mad and demand that someone GIVE ME A NARRATIVE ALREADY SO I KNOW HOW TO FEEL. I refuse to make one because it feels like acceptance and I am resisting.

20. Let go or be dragged.

21. I develop an intense interest in aphorisms, mantras, and sayings.

22. Life is a rich tapestry.

23. Worse things have happened to better people.

24. My friend texts me “hey love, can I come over?” sent by accident instead of to her hey love. It makes me sad—this act of asking to love, asking to come over. I joke that the text is like a nude, a verbal nude, to see an intimacy like that.

25. My mother’s eye surgery seems botched and her blue eye is ringed with blood. My father is blind in one eye, his green one. He has been blinded that way since he was a teenager so it doesn’t really seem to matter anymore. He used to have two blue eyes but when he hurt one with a smashed beer bottle the trauma caused it to turn green. I joke that if things go wrong I’ll have two parents with two working blue eyes between them. They laugh in a not uneasy way and I realize I am the uneasy one with my two green eyes and ellipsed lineage.

26. We throw a “house colding” party to celebrate moving out. I joke that I want to ice the fuck out of this apartment so that it is easier to leave. I wear all white to convey this coldness but it feels blue to me. Make me want to let go of one thing this winter haha!, I joke.

27. verbal nude #7:

10:02 PM 26/01/2017: ?   ?   ?   ?   ?   ?   ?   ?   ?   ?   ?   ?   ?   ?   ?   

28. I want to give her my time. I take the battery out of my watch. I rip it off. I lose the battery and can’t find it. I put the watch on again and never know what time it is.

29. When people ask about her I tear up I feel my eyes swell and I feel swept by a wave of a feeling that is less like sinking and more like watching her sink while rubbing her back, feeling her arm, holding her hand, touching each fingertip, letting go—

30. I open the notes on my phone and see a new one: “karissa, what are your verbal nudes?” I surface. I study her face when I see her.

31. Verbal nude #4:

9:45 AM 21/01/2017: ????

32. She demands that we remove her married name from the nameplate on the door. The francophone addition of marriage dissipates and she becomes a Madame with an anglo last name again, the paradox still there but changed. Je suis ici pour—I always say—merci, bonne journée à vous—with an inelegance I feel I owe her, to resist the natural lilt of French that she never bothered to learn. My lifelong resistance to bilingualism that will hurt me later but it feels like faithfulness.

33. Verbal nude #18:

7:42 PM 18/01/2017: “I feel like slow dancing to that jamila woods song about the lake lol”

34. You gotta love me like I love the lake / You wanna love me, better love the lake / You gotta love me like I love the lake / You wanna love me, better love the la-ake / You didn’t think I really had it like that / You ain’t think we really had it like that / You didn’t think I really had it like that / Matter fact, we can swim in it / I know you wanna get in it / love me like a la-akeeeeee

35. Verbal nude #22:

1:02 AM 29/01/2017: “do you like my cold party?”

36. I want someone to tell me a story I can understand but no one does. Baby blue tells me that I feel in control when I have critical distance and can analyze something, that I feel insecure when I don’t know how to understand something or when I get it wrong. I tell them I wish they would allow me the capacity to change, citing my Wide Open Heart! and my Insistence On Empathy! I know they are right and I try to understand that.

37. I miss every metro and night bus with my tall friend so she takes me to her apartment to sleep. She gives me a baby blue pajama shirt and a glass of water and I fold into myself on the far side of the bed. In the dark I intuit rather than see where her eyes fall. I surface.

38. You are not helping yourself.

39. You wear your sadness on your body, she says. I can see it hanging off of you.

40. I decide I don’t want to pray but that I feel like a teenager again in the sense that I want to believe in blue or at least believe that thinking about blue is making me feel better. Because I don’t need to talk to anyone about this and it exists in my head I feel it is spiritual.

41. I feel everything and everyone sail away from me. I should sail away but I stay. I fold. I drown/I surface, I—I fold.

42. I love your blue bedsheet. It makes me feel like I’m lying in a lake.

43. verbal nude #25:

10:58 AM 27/01/2017: “what is your favorite poetry reading (recorded)?”

5:08 PM 27/01/2017: “the reminder by feist”

44. I still lie on one side of the bed, leaving space in the lake. I force myself to sleep in the middle and feel like I am sinking. I surface, I go under. I surface, I—

45. In this political climate, there is no more transparency, I overhear on the metro. People in this world, I hear, will protect only themselves. Why? I surface, waiting—because—because of the exploitation of all that is vulnerable.

46. My beautiful friend stands at the head of the dinner table on New Year’s Eve and commands us, as she does—we need, she says, somehow looking at all of us in the eyes at once,

we need to start treating our FRIENDS like LOVERS! and our LOVERS like FRIENDS!

47. I surface/I drown. I fold/I open. I write down anything that seems blue when I hear it. I grow tired of the story and try to change it. I stop saying      or writing      though the color is still everywhere.

48. I ask if      is her favorite color, and she does not answer—

Pour citer cette page

Karissa Larocque, « BLUE », MuseMedusa, no 5, 2017, <> (Page consultée le ).


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