“Suspicious, but still benign…”



When they left the S-Bahn station a thin drizzle was falling on the deserted sidewalks of Wedding. It was about 1:30 in the morning, there was hardly any traffic, dawn was still some hours away. They were tired of carrying their luggage: it had been a long journey, all the way from the other side of the other capital… But home was now very close!

On the plane they had celebrated with a half-bottle of half-cooled champagne, just happy to have made it, through the grid-locked roads, the late and overflowing trains, the idiotic obstacle course through duty-free (!) at the airport.

As usual, they felt happy to be back, under a sky that meant, for them, peace and love.

And then there was that diagnosis: something not right, but not so wrong that they should worry, for now. They were not going to, as they had long learnt that being suspicious was an attribute of free people. And so it went for these cells inside him, and their mysterious behaviour.

As she opened the door, they kissed. This was not their last trip.

Picture: ancient bell, Invaliden Friedhof, Berlin Mitte, ©2017 Honoré Dupuis

The Page

L' école

At home a medical check determined he had to undertake surgery. He felt ill. A long wait was starting. Yet he had plenty to do, a business to run, projects to oversee, the occasional technical challenge, papers, spreadsheets… What he wanted was to be back in the valley, feeling the rocks under his boots, breathing the clear and cold air. He wanted to see the pine trees, look at the white clouds disappearing behind the summits. He longs for solitude, and closer intimacy, a contradiction he chose to cherish.

He soon made up his mind to stand his ground: he would follow the advice of his surgeon, bite the bullet, train regularly, cut down on drinking and all those things that were now bad for him, and probably always were. He also decided to view her page.

Every month he took tests and followed the usual routine for cancer patients. He ate raw vegetables, got his will in order, transfer those assets that were still in his name to Sarah. She was positive and was no less tender or tough with her partner – as he deserved – than she’d always been. She was supportive in the only way she knew to be: by acting and living as normal. She was genuinely confident he would recover, defying statistics. She changed nothing to her normal work week.

Neither did he unless it was to see his oncologist.

And, finally, one evening, after a successful workday, he logged on to Mel’s page.

At first he was a bit lost. His own page was minimalist. Her wall appeared to be densely packed, with an impressive list of “friends” and pictures. He looked at her profile. The red hair, the young face, the green eyes, the full lips, a simple flowered blouse… a beautiful young woman, a little old-fashion. Something stirred at the deep end of his memories…  That picture looked strangely familiar, but still he could not recall who she was. He decided to read her profile. Mel had listed as much as she could, her schools, where she’d lived, where she’d worked.

She was born two years before him, and in the town where he’d spent most of his childhood. She’d also attended the same high school. He paused. Something was wrong with Mel’s page. One of her pictures was that of an adolescent, fresh-faced, athletic, standing in what looked like a school yard in a group of other youngsters. Julian looked at the picture, heart beating, suddenly transported in time.

It was his school, and that young man was him, probably a year or two before he left for the army – all those years back. He realised at last that Sarah was standing behind him: “An old flame has caught up with you?” she asked tenderly, with a touch of concern in her voice.