The last timidity

 
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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. (How can eyes sink so much. Where do they go ? ) He moves slowly, needs assistance and only recognises us as we sit down to eat. We eat and laugh, finally, tease each other and remember good times. I ask him about his life, about his mother, about what he cooks and his garden. That night, he is obsessed with King Lear, he wants to work on King Lear. 

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 the way they went to bed, the way they survived. They ate chestnuts. 
We arrive to the end of the meal. Siesta time. We go off for a walk. 

When we came back, he is sitting outside, in the beautiful patio. I don't think he recognises us until we are about to leave. He is so lonely and sad — a very crumpled old man. 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 to leave him like that, so sad and be accompanied by this sadness all the way home. I notice on his night table, his last text, Rimbaud's "Saison en enfer”.
Do you want me to read for you ? 
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 performance reading Rimbaud in some public toilet next time we meet. We arranged to 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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