Un jour, nous vieillirons
Et lorsque ce jour viendra
Il se pourra que tu demandes l’éternité
Mais si l’un de nous deux part avant l’autre
‘The wanderer’, they called him.
She first laid eyes on him drifting the streets of Paris. It was merely a brush past, a contact of the fabric of their clothing, but she felt the tingle, the static spark of curiosity, nonetheless. He always looked so sad, the cobalt of his eyes darkening with his mood, the curve of his thin lips downturned. There was always a trace of something in the aura surrounding him – yearning, perhaps? A desire for something more? A sense that he had not yet fulfilled what he had set out to achieve, that there was a component missing? Whatever it was, she was determined to find out.
He always seemed to be close by after that first encounter, whether it be seated in one of the cafés she passed by on her way home or admiring the same painting in the art museum. She occasionally caught a flash of blonde hair in the corner of her eye, saw a speck of dark blue in the distance. Some sort of instinctual sensation told her that she wasn’t the only one who possessed such feelings of inquisitiveness; he felt the same towards her. However, neither of them were daring enough to approach the other, to find out why exactly they felt the way they did.
In the end, it took her five years to finally work up the courage to talk to him. In the end, it took them five years to finally learn each other’s names. In the end, it took them five years to find out that what they felt wasn’t merely interest.
In the end, it took her five years to find out his secret.
Encore un peu, juste un petit peu
Si tu retires de tout
Es-tu encore à mes côtés
She thought that if she was to write down all the things she loved about him, her words would fill up an entire book.
The way his eyes shone, for example, when he spoke of food, of the arts. The way he would smile ever so slightly when she made an attempt at a joke, or when she unintentionally amused him. The way he gestured ever so passionately when he talked, how his words flowed smooth as silk. The way he would listen attentively when she recited even as simple a thing as the events of her day; he was a wonderful listener, paying attention to even the smallest of details, able to recall them later with the utmost clarity. She loved how his blonde hair caught the sunlight in just the right way, how he smelled so sweet, like roses or chocolate.
But it wasn’t just the insignificant things, the trivial aspects, that mattered. It was also the way he exhibited the right amount of protectiveness, not too much as to seem clingy. It was the way he would clasp his hands in hers, how his blue eyes were filled with concern when they met her own (e/c) ones. It was the way he would embrace her, how he would whisper reassuring words into her ear, when she felt miserable. It was the way his lips were soft, gentle, tender against hers, how his breath would tickle her neck, how his hands ran through her hair in exhilaration and hers through his in return. It was how he was always so full of ardour, of zeal, that it was infectious.
It was with not the least bit of shame that she could admit that she loved Francis Bonnefoy.
Et je te regarderai
Mais telle que je suis me paraîtra être nue
Et je remercierai cette toupie de charme
Pleine de bonheur
Over the many years that they came to know each other, she learnt that he loved to talk – particularly about the past.
He would speak of the days of the Kingdom of France, of the multiple monarchs and of Jeanne d’Arc. He spoke of the period of time known as the Renaissance, how art and architecture were beginning to flourish. He told her about the French Colonial Empire, how it grew to the extent as to involve countries, continents, many islands. He often drifted into recounts about other countries and how they were faring at the time – his long rivalry with England, for example, and the rule of the now non-existent Holy Roman Empire.
Despite all this, the wars still remained the part of all his narrations that intrigued her the most. Past conflicts, such as the French Revolution, would catch her attention, but never as much so as ones that had occurred in the last century. Learning about it while she was in school was one thing, and hearing it from someone who had been there at the time, who still had a fresh perspective on all of it, was another. She learnt about the numerous – far too many, in her opinion – French casualties during World War I, heard about the Allies’ victory over the Axis Powers in the Second World War, but not without fatalities of their own. She learnt of France’s slow loss of control over the former empire, of the struggle within Algeria, of how the country progressed up until today.
All the devastation wrought upon the Earth, all the victims of war, all the suffering that not only the entire population but the select few hundred people had to withstand – she didn’t know how he managed to endure it all. It must have taken such strength, such resilience, to bear such a responsibility, to carry such a heavy weight on one’s shoulders; but when she expressed this to him, he sent her a small smile, tinged with a hint of sadness, and told her that none of them really had such spirit – they just learnt to become accustomed to it.
J’aimerais que nous vieillissions ensemble
Il ne s’agira pas d’une vie éternelle
Mais d’un air et d’une vie aussi vrais qu’un minuscule printemps
Once, she asked him what eternity felt like.
“To most,” he had answered, “it would probably seem like a dream come true, or a gift sent from a superior being somewhere. Never growing old, able to do everything and anything you wanted – tour the world, see all the sights, never forget the special moments captured in time.”
“What’s it like to you, then?” she had queried.
The corner of his lip had twitched upwards into a bittersweet smile. “The exact opposite of that, I’d assume. It isn’t really the blessing most people seem to think it is. Watching seasons change, watching the alteration of everything around you, watching people grow old, have kids, die – whether they’re complete strangers or people you’ve come to love, it’s exactly the same. Knowing that you can’t really have true companionship apart from others like you… It isn’t exactly the life I would wish to have.”
After a moment of silence, she had asked quietly, “But did you wish for it?”
“No,” he had said, eyes downcast.
“Would you change it if you could?”
“Perhaps, or perhaps not.” He had glanced up from underneath his fair lashes, a flash of cobalt greeting her. “If the circumstances had been different… I probably never would have met you, wouldn’t I?”
“But that doesn’t matter, does it?” she had asked. “I’m just one person, not even of much importance. Why pick me?”
“Because,” he had replied, smiling nostalgically, “you are the one who makes eternity worthwhile.”
Cependant marcher ensemble serait tellement de joie
Et accompagner tous ceux que nous aimons, tellement tout pour nous