Solidification of a story

Gradlife Instagram photo by @steezsister

McGill Gradlife Instagram photo by @steezsister


Literally, the word “solidification” means making or becoming hard or solid, making stronger. I like to think of this word as a phase change, like from water to ice, or from magma to crystals or marble. The story that I have told so far in “The beginning of a story” and “Successes: the story continues…” has a liquid status that this text aims to solidify. A character without name will get one, a spatial location will be drawn around his body, a past will carve out his shape throughout the page.

Yet, his name, his provenience, his past will be solid only apparently, because they will get liquid again in your minds, while you read them. Alessandro may be Luke, Patrick, Jeff, Khaled, Brad, Adisa, Pedro, Alexei, Hi or any other Graduate Student’s name. Italy may mean Spain, Nepal, Iran, China, South Africa, Poland, Syria, Mexico, France, Sudan, Russia, India, Germany, Congo, Romania and any other country that would mean “the-place-where-I-am-from” to the reader. The only reason why I have chosen to tell a story so similar to mine, it is because I can talk about what surrounds me only from my own perspective. My limits will be the character’s limits; his thoughts mine. The aim of this story is not to appropriate the cultural dimension of standpoints that I do not know, but only giving a fictional space in which the reader can reflect upon his or her Graduate experience. Therefore, nothing of this text is real, let alone true, except for what you imagine while you read it. The point of solidifying is not the still and static status at the end of the process, but the process in-between, the sharing of things between the text and its reader.


Glass, everywhere. Walls, tables, tiles made of glass. And what was made of a different material pretended to be that cold non-crystalline amorphous solid, like the plastic chair on which he was sitting and crazily sweating because of the 28 °C of the room. It was so hot that he thought of having seen a sharp angle of the table melting down, begging for a glass of water.

– So you’re…..
– My name is Alessandro Rossi.
– And you are from…
– Italy, yes.
– Very nice, isn’t?
– Yes, in its ways.
– Lovely…ehm…and what are you doing in Montréal?
– I am a PhD student, I study Italian Literature and Cinema. Actually, I’m writing my dissertation right now.
Tight smile, the usual close-minded face that wonders why this fool moved from Italy to study Italian literature abroad. Shall I shut it up?
– Great, isn’t?
– Yes, in its ways.
– Right. So, you’re here because you would like to work for us. That’s great, I appreciate your interest. Today we’re going to talk a little bit about you and at the end of this conversation I will let you ask me whatever you want. Is that ok?
– Sure.
– Great. How have you been doing in Montréal so far?
– Well, thank you.
– Do you like the city and the life here?
– Yes, I do.
– May I ask why?
Of course you may, you are the tiny, little master here, with a job in your pocket, behind that I-don’t-care-about-you face (just because I’m watching my thoughts here guys).
– Well, I like what I do every day…
Yes, but you constantly wonder why you’re doing that.
– …and that’s make things much easier. Then, in this city I can do things that I couldn’t do in the little Italian town where I am from. I mean, the point is the whole experience and not just my PhD.
Flashes: parcs, many people from all over the world around me, wild parties, potlucks, live music, a wooden table and her sitting there. A wooden table, she wearing a hoodie, her smile and us, there.
– You’re completely right, aren’t you? Oki-doki…what about your plans?
Flashback: a much younger and shaved version of me signing up his first-year university registration. Seven years of plans, goals, aspirations; a long and difficult path, yet consciously and thoroughly thought. Nothing left. Come one, don’t be so dramatic man!
– What do you mean by plans? Short term, long term plans?
– I would say long term plans. What are you going to do after your PhD?
Silence. I don’t have to say the truth to this man. I don’t want to stop now, I don’t want to think about anything still or moving yet. I have my PhD, I have my semester to finish, papers that I would like to publish this summer, two conferences to attend, about twenty books to read by the end of May – it’s ok, I can do it – this world does not ask me to make long term plans. I don’t want to have long term plans, not yet.
– Sincerely, I don’t know.

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