The Last Timidity


⁸ A photo from his later years. 

We first see him again on Saturday night. He is very thin, pale, and his eyes —  absent, as if veiled —  have sunk deep into their orbits.He moves slowly, needs assistance and only recognises us as we sit down to eat. With the clinking of knives and forks, and the sipping of juice, things change very rapidly: we eat and laugh, tease each other and remember good times. I ask him about his life, about his mother, about what he cooks, about his garden. He repeatedly brings up King Lear, he wants to work on King Lear. Perhaps he said he wishes to work with King Lear. 
Goodnight — 

He doesn’t remember any of this on Sunday. He is tired and melancholy during lunch. He repeats this beautiful memory: he was in Buchenwald with his bedmate Francis. They were hungry and every night, with Francis, thanks to Francis, they imagined a huge banquet. They had a feast. That's what they did before going to sleep, that's the way they survived. A feast of chestnuts. 
We arrive to the end of the meal. Siesta time. 

When we come back, he is sitting outside, in the beautiful patio. I don't think he recognises us until we are about to leave. He is an old man, sad and lonely, in the afternoon light. We walk him back to his room and are about to leave. (Despite not recognising us, he trusts us, feels that we are friends.)  An uneasiness overcomes me; I don’t want our departure to happen this way. It is perhaps selfish —  I don't want to  be accompanied by this sadness all the way home. I notice on his night table, his last text. Rimbaud, "Saison en enfer”.
Do you want me to read for you ? 
small wordless nod. 
I start to read. The text is beautiful and difficult. He stops me a few times, giving me advice and commenting on the text (he remembers everything.)

“La dernière innocence, la dernière timidité...”

I give the text over to him. He reads with difficulty (with love and with care). He eventually gives it back to me and I finish the section. He says : "You know, my friend, who would've thought that we would end up one day reading Rimbaud in a hotel room ? I think he would've liked that". We promise each other to do a public read of Rimbaud in the public toilets next time we meet. "We'll read Rimbaud on the phone in the meanwhile." 

It was warm, not a cloud in the countryside sky. The last time we met. 


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