Before Dawn

He has been in so many places, but he is amazed when he discovers that she has too. Delighted, they start talking at once about their various experiences. As the days start getting longer, they walk, and talk, then go to his small room to continue their conversation. She’s in love with Italian cities, Verona, Florence, Venice, Rome… He’s into northern Europe, Rotterdam, Hamburg, Berlin, Edinburgh, Oslo, Copenhagen… They have one place in common, Paris. He sees the French capital in the eyes of Guy Debord, but then, he’s of that generation, the baby boomers of post-war. When he looks at her, she laughs, suddenly, returning his gaze so tenderly he has to resist taking her in his arms and kissing her, for he doesn’t want to spoil the dream. Her Paris is more recent, it’s the city of the nineties, maybe a little earlier, but not the metropolis that saw the nightmares he lived through as a younger man. He tells her about it, she asks him so many questions, about the streets, the war, the riots.

From their conversation he thinks that he will have, soon, the material of a story. This idea keeps him awake late that night. He gets up early, decides to do some work. As he enters his study he knows he’s not alone: her scent betrays her. She’s asleep on the couch under a stack of warm blankets, her clothes carefully folded on his chair. No victorian frills there, only a pair of well worn jeans, a white t-shirt, a blue jumper… He decides to wait a bit before making coffee, as he does not want to wake her up. After all this is Sunday, and still very early. Some red hair is visible, just peeping out on the pillow, and a round knee from the side of a blanket. He starts working at his desk. The moon is high and clear in the sky, as he looks out of the bay window. Her breathing is light and regular: his muse is asleep, lying behind him, a mystery.

He starts writing: the idea is simple, he will write about a journey, Agnes and him travelling to places they want to show each other, places they liked, or where something important to themselves happened. He will start in the little town where he grew up; this is also the inspiration for his first novel, a tale about a ghost who inhabits an imaginary world. The words come quickly and soon he has filled up several pages: he has so much to tell her, about the old churches, the slums, the canal where he nearly drowned and caught a hideous disease, about his girlfriends, his teachers, his parents… As he writes he has a vision of Agnes in a different place, she also seems a little different, maybe wilder, walking in an apartment he has not seen before, evidently her place, and that of the man she lives with – does he know that man? The vision does not interrupt his writing. Later, he does not know how long he’s been writing, he stands up and decides to make coffee. When he looks at the couch, it is empty, the blankets carefully folded, Agnes, if it was her, has gone.

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