He wants to drive me to my dad’s, but I tell him to drop me off at the subway. I’ll take the bus alone. In the car, he makes jokes, talks about my dad, says Joël this and Joël that, and I half laugh. In our conversations, Joël is a character in a book, a puppet on a string. One of the first things I ever told him was that I have daddy issues. Talk, talk, talk as he parks. Then he puts his hand on my thigh, draws it up my side, brushes against my breasts, grips my windpipe, but gently. I feel reassured, as though he’s checking that all my organs are where they should be, as he sticks his tongue in my mouth, puts his hand on my throat. Anyway, you don’t need to breathe when you kiss. We’ve been together for almost three years and I haven’t introduced him to my dad. Nothing seems more offensive, strange, inappropriate than the image of those two sitting together at the family dinner table, their love for me juxtaposed.

As usual when I catch the 141 bus at Saint-Michel subway station and see the ugliness of Jean Talon Street all the way to Pie-IX Boulevard, I feel the anxiety building beneath my skin. Little grey insects flutter up my oesophagus, hover in my throat. Everything my boyfriend has just sealed inside me – my heart, my lungs, the veins carrying my blood – suddenly cracks open, comes undone, and my body is crawling with beetles and dragonflies. I feel them burrowing through my dermis, bumping against the top layer of my skin, growing angry, stinging me on the inside. Prick, prick, prick.

When I arrive at his house, my dad, as usual, thanks me ad nauseam for coming. Honey, he calls me. Sweetheart. His bloodshot eyes go teary. He glides his hand up my arm, rubs my shoulder a few seconds in the front hall while I still have my coat on.

It burns wherever he touches me.

Swimming Coach