January 12, 2016

Summer's End

These days I'm everywhere at once. My bag is on my shoulders again and the weight is familiar and reassuring, even if I'm not going very far.

I stay with my sister for a few days. This year she moved into a house of her own for the first time, with her two little girls. In the morning I pick blackberries in the garden, then we get in the car and we drive along our mountain roads. We walk until we reach the river, using old paths that were used by sheperds and messengers for centuries. We spend the whole day roasting in the sun that bounces off the water and the white stones. I collect flat, silvery pebbles that glitter in the light. At the end of the day the sun has burnt our skin and stunned our heads but we walk home smiling.

I travel to my family house, deeper in the mountains, to celebrate my brother's birthday. The house is old and inhabited most of the year, but when I arrive my brother and his friends have been working hard and it feels lived in again. Soon guests arrive and children start running under the chesnut trees. The place is loud with voices and laughter and it's how it should be. When she sees me, my niece runs into my arms. We haven't seen each other for more than a year and she has grown so much, in many ways she is a different person, but her joy is the same. She's almost six years old, there's nothing of the toddler left in her – she's long skinny legs and arms and wavy golden hair, and she runs and dances like no one is watching. She's the most luminous girl around. When I manage to take a picture of her without her noticing, I feel like I captured a flame in an airtight jar – a nebula about to burst. Sometimes it frightens me how fast she grows, more bright every day – but it's a movie I wouldn't pause for a second.

I only stay one night, camping in the garden. The next day I wake up early, pack the tent, and I'm off again. At the train station I sit on the ground, leaning against my bag, cradling my violin in my arms. I look like a wanderer again and it reminds me of all those times I spent dozing off against my bag, be it Indonesia, Vietnam or India. I never felt lost then and I don't now either. I hitchike all the way to a red city in the south. I haven't been here in four years. I walk through the red streets, sit in front of the river and meet with family and old friends. Everything is familiar and as pretty as it ever was, and although it used to be home, it doesn't feel like it anymore. I stand in front of my house, the house that was my lover's, and in my head I think « this is done, this is gone now ». Maybe I'm too different. Maybe when we leave places, we also outgrow them and it means we can't come back. It is bittersweet, but I'm used to it now.

All those places have only been stops on the way back to Paris. My forehead against the window, the train has just left the station, and I am trying my fucking hardest not to cry. I don't even know why. I don't seem to know a lot of things lately. I don't know where I'm gonna live, or what I'm gonna do, or how long I'm gonna be able to stay put. This uncertainty fills my head with endless whispers.

Next to me a boy sits down – my age, maybe a bit older, with veiled blue eyes. I turn my head after a while, do a second take – right, he's crying. First thing that crosses my mind is : Oh my god, he's crying so I don't have to. So I just reach over and take his hand in mine. And I tell him : « whatever it is, it's just a story. It's what I tell myself when the world crumbles ». And he smiles through the tears and squeezes my fingers.
We don't let go. I lend him one of my earphones and we listen to a slow, mellow song. I fall asleep and wake up to him still holding my hand. We don't speak another word, we don't ask for names. In the station I lose myself in the crowd and don't look back.

Life goes on. I run as fast as I can to keep up. I'd like to say I'm not afraid, but I am. Aren't we all ?

Mornings in my sister garden

A birthday party

Details from our family home

Making grass braids to celebrate summer

Giulia and her Mama

Little dancer

My big sister, skin burned from our days by the river.

My red haired friend (and new mama), in our red city

Last look at my valley

A self portrait in the room my father slept in as a child.

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