4. The young woman
-Hey, old man, you have fallen into the brook !
The young man still laughed while holding his ribs, leaning of the shoulders to the post of the porch roof of the first inn in the main street of the village.
The old man curved the neck and his head came to knock against the chest like sign of shame and he passed in front of the man who continued to laugh. Two others left the tavern and joined him, the hands on the hips. The second searched in the pocket of his trousers and brought out of it a hand full of coins. He chose calmly the one which would be the smallest while muttering in his beard that he had heavy with beer stench. The others laughed to see him seeking thus what he had of smaller to send it to the old man who passed, the feet in the brook of rubbish in the middle of the street. The first, the one who had seen the old man arriving and called the others searched by the front of his trousers and left his flabby rod with a night of drinks and loose women. He urinated on the street, facing the old man who was fixed, the look fixed on the hand which held the coins. He approached when the other made him a sign. Then the man threw the smallest coin of the handful in his hand and threw it in the pool of urine. The old man did not mark one hesitation. He leant and took the coin with his bleeding fingers, then he closed the palm and bowed in front of the man with thanks. The one who had urinated belched and released a gob of spite in the mud while looking away. He says something to the others and they went into the hot tavern from which laughs and cries of women came.
A young woman had seen from her door. She swept in front of her home with branches joined together by a bond. She was curved on her small tool. When the old man passed in front of her, she says to him : « come and see here. There is a bowl on the table and soup in the cauldron of the chimney. Come and see that the men are not all like that ! »
While saying that, she threw a dark look at the tavern opposite her house. A muttering went out of her thick lips. The old man did not listen. He progressed towards her, appearing concerned like those who know the spite of the world because they live with it.
-Do not fear anything, old man. Ok !, all men are not like these swine !, she spat in the mud of the street, pushing the droppings of animals that she had collected towards the gutter.
The old man tried a smile but his split lip seemed to hurt him. It was a grin.
-By the Gods of the Mountain !, what have you done to be in this state ?
She examined him quickly and shrugged her shoulders.
-Well, I understand. It is a good thing that you are not freezing to death this night. By the demons of the mountain, it is not times to put the pilgrims outside.
He shook the head, as if he understood what she said, but she knew that these old men have stopped to think since a longtime. He moved the head by habit because he was still alive and that the living animals move the neck when they cannot do anything else. She pushed him in the black of the door. He raised slowly the leg to span the stone step. She left him time, understanding. Her hard hand of country-woman supported the old man under the armpit and she felt the bones without flesh between her fingers. She showed him gently to the table.
-Come here. Sit there on the stool close to the fire. You will quickly get warm.
She let him be installed painfully.
He stretched his legs towards the thin fire of the poor people which glowed on the flat stone. On the tripod, there was the soup cauldron that here one drinks or eats at any hour.
The woman caught a cloth hanging at a nail of wood and rolling it up around her hand, she seizes the handle of the lid. An odorous vapor spouted out and was spread around them. All of a sudden, between her and him, the world came to cease and he would have liked to make her the pleasure of the life. But he could not. Here, and now, it is not anymore the Master, he is the wandering one manhandled by the turmoil of the men, like this tired spirit rolled still and still by the waves of the thoughts ; he knew that. He had seen them whirling around her while she collected the droppings in front of the door. He knew the means of putting an end to this infernal round of the men. But now, he could not. He could only enable her to give him the pleasure of serving him, because to serve is a pleasure, and she knows it, even if she guessed it only with her heart. Then, it is with his heart that he will eat her soup and will transmit his certainty of the life to her own heart, because when she will offer her smoking bowl to him, she will be in the state of mind which makes it possible to receive and to keep the fruit in her marrow. She does not know this, but there is no importance that she knows…the fruit will be there, and will work without her because kindness does not need the men. It is without spot and cannot be soiled because the false cannot exist where the true is. She does not know it and that does not matter. Her heart and her marrow know it. Sufficient. It is there that he will deposit the seed which will hold her upright at the time of the difficult moments. Useless that she knows the arrival of it. No need of knowing everything, always and always.
Then he opened the wrinkled hands, bleeding of the nails and soiled with mud, with earth and with urine. She brought the smoking bowl between the hands which were opened and were stretched out towards her. She had filled to the brim and she had to pay attention not to spill some while she deposited the bowl between the hands of the old man. She had the feeling that this attention made ascend the heart to the lips and she wanted to cry. She did not know what happened to her.
It was as a burden which fell from her shoulders. The hands of the old man have perfectly taken the round shape of the bowl and brought it under his face. The vapor bathed the wrinkles. She looked at him making, upright in front of him and she wanted to kneel in front of the hearth of embers and to say to him that straightaway, it was like sometimes in her childhood, when she believed in life, and that she was happy.
She had not perceived the gilded light which was between the hands of the old man when he stretched them towards her which brought the smoking bowl filled to the top. She has not seen that he put between her hands this gilded ball when the bowl left her hands to be placed in the open palms of the old man. She had just felt a tingle, then warmth which we took for the one of the soup which had almost burned her. Also she did not perceive either that the old man did not blow on the soup, to drive out the vapor of his face. He blew on the gilded ball which she had between the hands, and by closing the eyelids on his eyes which he wanted bulging today, he made the gilded matter go through the skin. He obliged it to pass the flesh and it entered the bones of the hand.
Then, lengthily and slowly on the vapor of soup following the hands of the woman by his half-closed look, and he pushed the gilded fluid in the bones towards the wrists, made it go up to the elbow and there , he made it whirl around the bones. When he felt them being dilated, he compressed the gilded matter on them, and in a last movement of breath, he made come the Energy into the marrow of the bone. There, it will be now kept and will make its way along the arms to reach the head. He trusts this woman to find herself the way in order to bring back this force to her belly.
This woman is girl of the earth ; she will find the way of her navel. Her broad feet will say it to her strong legs. He trusts her. She will not lose what he has given her. She has the look that sees.
-« How far do you come from ?! She asks, the knees against the hot stone of the hearth.
She had not found another thing to say. The edge of the stone marked the skin under the heavy skirt of stuffed coarse canvas. She leaned the body even more because she wanted to feel it. She felt stupid suddenly, with the words which left her head.
-« How far do you come from ?!
Of course that he is not from here ! she was born there. She knows all the people like the animals and also the trees, those which give fruits acid in the mouth, the blue tongue of the children and those of the summer festivals, juicy and radiating the grace of living.
Warmth was in her arms and came into the head, and established like a soft mattress behind the nape of the neck. The shoulders did not carry the weight of concern anymore. She could only say « how far do you come from ? » to this old man that now she seemed to know him for a very long time.
Then she looked at him better, by under her lashes, just while meanly turning the head towards her shoulders. She poked the embers to give herself an air of assurance.
The old man drank his soup in great gulps, the bowl pressed on his lip, the half opened teeth.
The lip had bled and presented an ugly bruise dirty with earth. The young woman rose and went to search in the wood sideboard which formed the angle of the room, between the chimney and the door of the room, opposite to the street.
Behind the cups of reception there were drugs which came from the town. She had already used the phial whose liquid like water made foam on the wounds. It was in a bluish glass. It had to be applied with clean linen and she sought a rather soft handkerchief in the piles at the bottom of the sideboard, behind the round loaf.
The noise of the dark room was the one of the embers and of the soup in the cauldron. It was also the one of the old man who sucked his soup. He kept it one moment in the mouth, then made it turn between his teeth, and swallowed it in three noisy mouthfuls. She had already seen one day somebody eating like that. She did not remember anymore the place. It was when she was little.
Outside, the noise was not done yet. Too early. The party animals of the tavern are not yet well awaked, and for the peasants, it is not the time of the morning works. The soil is still frozen for weeks and there is only the wood to make in the forest.
She feels this space of silence in the four steps which separate her from the old man on his chair. She observes it and wonders what occurs in her. She does not recognize herself anymore. The anguish of the day is not there anymore ; she had learned how to live with, as a partner since the soldiers took his brother and killed him in town. They felt however good together, to get warm in the evening in front of the hearth. She always put a piece of bacon in the soup because he liked the taste of it when he returned in the fallen night. The earth of the fields and the spines of the forest were on his mucky chausses. He always removed them near the door, leaning with the shoulders at the stone of angle, and slipped them behind the wardrobe. There are women in the village who say that their man never take off their boots when they are back home. « He dirties everywhere ! » She asked why they made so. They said « you will see later ! ».
He, her older brother, it was her brother and her father at the same time. May be even her mother ! He, he said that it was her who was the mother, the small woman of the hearth and that the one who will have her later will be quite happy. Then she said that there would not be later. It was like that which she wanted to continue to live and she felt good.
Then the soldiers came. The officer said that he was engaged in the « Resistance ». They left with him. He did not defend himself. He looked at them without saying anything, the straight look. It is the same look that he has turned towards her before passing the door. To her, he has said « do not worry, all is good ». He has hesitated one moment. He wanted to say something else. The officer has hustled him in the street. The next day she left in the night to bring him a big piece of bacon, with a beautiful pork rind, as he liked them. She had chosen it in the reserve of the mass grave, and then had begun the soup with many vegetables. She had cooked part of the night, a good ember under the cauldron. In the morning, the pork hotpot was ready. In the iron mess tin, the one which is with a lid that the father bought to a foreign soldier a long time ago, she succeeds in putting five full ladles. At the prison, they have surely something to reheat the provisions that the families bring. She placed the bacon between two large slices of fresh bread which she had cooked this night.
When the day rose on the town, she was still far and she tightened the teeth on the pain of her feet. He had said to her that he would make her other boots in spring, because she is still growing ! Her, she looked at him proudly from her fifteen years. He smiled gently, by stretching the lips towards the cheeks, like this old man there, is doing it while fixing the hearth and the glowing embers.
Why all that came to her mind thus in these four paces ?
-Let me see that !
She knelt in front of the old man and she had tears. She did not retain them. He did not do anything, the hands flat on his thighs. He had posed the empty bowl on the corner of the hot stone of the hearth. She beleives that he said « thank you ». This was when she made these four paces !
-Sorry, she whispered.
He said nothing. He raised his right hand to the top of her head. He saw the movement of the death against the hair drawn in a bun. In a breath he cut it with the edge of the hand and ordered it to leave this quiet woman. It was as if she could no longer stay upright all alone and she felt brutally on the thigh of the old man. She cried without restraint, with large sobs. He does not say anything. He placed his hand on her neck and washed her memory. She felt warmth on her nape of the neck which went then in the top of her head. This warmth went down between the two eyes and she felt it in the mouth, with her tongue which moved against the palate. She did not know anything of that, however. Her heart dilated and she did not know it. It was well thus. She must not know yet that there is another world behind that one. Later, may be. Here, and now, it was her memory which would go up and her pain because the memory is nothing else that the storing of the past ; but that she must know it yet. Later, may be. May be.
The chest of the young woman jumped against his knee. The movement became slower. It was well. She forgot this morning where she hurried herself towards the town, the feet bleeding in her too small boots while worrying because he was to be hungry. They should surely not give them food in the prisons, at least not enough. He, he is a good eater. It is worth seeing him in the evening how he swallows his soup and the bacon with an enormous slice of bread !
However, he has said to her while leaving « do not worry ». Then why this ball in the throat which makes her stumble sometimes against the stones ? He has never lied to her. She knows it. Her mother, her, yes, when the father died at war. She said to her that he was on a trip for business. He, never ! He has always said everything to her.
The bleeding nails of the old man follow the zones of the neck towards the nape of the neck, and then slip under the heavy hair. He sets in motion the fine circuits of the divine survival, then he charges them with light which he makes flow by the middle of his palm. It is good that she does not know anything. Later, may be, she will know the World behind this one, this one which is only the movement of the other according to the possibilities of perception of the men. It is good that her memory is emptied. It will be the gift of the soup. There is also the one who sleeps under the flat stone. This one knows the World behind the world of the Men. This one knows this mystery. But he does not know the one of the Men and dies of that. How Things are complicated !
The memory is washed such as a dirty linen. It remains the linen. The filth and the pain have left. The past has thus lost its action of being alive again. This girl must leave the memory of her brother. It is a snag to her life.
The sun of the winter was almost at the vertical when she arrived at the town. She was suffocated in the world. Once, she had come. Her brother tightened her strongly by the hand. This day she only saw the stalls with lots of colored things. Especially things to be eaten.
Now ; she was ready to move back in front of people who swelled the streets. She did not recognize anything. To a soldier, she has asked where the prison was. He looked at her one moment without saying anything, observing this little child, the fichu on the head, the iron mess tin hanging at the end of the right arm, the left hand tightened on the fabric of a jute bag. Without a word he raised the arm and indicated the direction to her. It was easy. Almost straight ahead. She had to ask only twice again.
The prison was only enormous walls for her. She had never seen such walls and her belly was tightened. She felt the presence of a nasty animal in these stones. She chattered the teeth thirty six times, as her brother had learned to her. That drove out the bad spirits. She progressed towards the door, but did not dare to cross the street from the front.
She took by the angle, near to the grocery shops then went along the foot of the cliff. She did not want to look at the top. She felt giddiness of it and her brother has not taught anything to her for that and she knew it by instinct. Then she walked while lowering the head and she had the feeling that her feet were noisy on the paving stones. Here, they had paving stones in the streets.
Here, they were not like the others, like the ones in the mountains. It was another odor and another sound. This sound held her at the throat as soon as she saw the town from the last hill. It is in her belly that now the ball has slipped insidiously and it seems to her that it bites what she has inside. This sound is not her friend and she is afraid. It is a fear which she does not know. Her brother did not teach her that one.
-Do you want some more soup ? she asks the old man who seems asleep.
He is upright on his chair, the head on the neck and the chin a little hunched. He is like a statue which sleeps. He does not answer and does not dare to touch the coarse cloth at this place. It seems to her that it is the life of the stones of the prison which are there. It is this certainty which is in her, because she sees the marks of the stones on the sheet, with its large black joints, as if one had put coal in the ground. She is certain of that because the walls of the prison slip in front of her eyes and under the eyelids, she dares again to advance towards this heavy wooden door, with iron nails everywhere. She did not know anymore that her packages tore the tendons of her arms. She did not know anymore that the cord of the bag cut her shoulder. There was this door open on a courtyard and iron noises. There were many noises, and also odors, acid odors which she did not recognize. She had to speak very loudly at the first one that was in front of her so that he hears. She had to shout. It is what she believes because her throat hurt her. Why does he not have wanted to listen ? She does not know anything anymore, even now. However, she has re-examined this scene, thousands of times in her bed at night, especially in the middle of the night when she awakes while shouting. She saw it in the forest, when she curved herself to make faggots. The breath remained cut. At the beginning, she had thought that she was going to die. Then she knew that one did not die like that. So, there remained the pain and the breath which left sometimes. Now again.
Her hand touched the fabric. It was rough and she flattens her palms above. Gently, she stroke it. She was over there and here, she did not know very well anymore. There was heat which left the body and she stretched her fingers on the fabrics and she stroked the heat with her palm. She did no longer know what to say. The heat now pricked her palm and she believed that her nape of the neck swelled. It must be an imagination ! But why was she unable to live again what had occurred over there, five years ago now ? It is as if on her forehead tears run which do not come and that her heart is swept along in the river by these tears. She has not gone to play in the river since a long time. Five years. She came back from there with the same languor of the body like the one which stretched on her now.
She made an effort of memory but nothing came. She wrinkled the forehead, replacing all the actors of the scene which she knew even better than her own house. But it did nothing ! She lost the sounds and the odors. She lost everything and her weight was closed on the rough fabric and she knocked against the heart below.
Then, the old man raised the eyelids and looked at her in the middle of the forehead :
-It is good that it was thus, he said.
She tightened the fist and her nails entered the palm.
-It is right that he has been killed !
She carried her eyes against his eyes. She wanted to tear off what was behind, suddenly. She did not want this man to be in her house anymore !
She remembered. She remembered. It was the officer who had wanted to question her in the dark room of the barrack, in the middle of all these men, these men who smelt bad, with weapons and leather everywhere on the ground, against the walls. The men dozed leaning against the walls, beside their weapons, their head against their shoulders. They snored and their shoes beside them released odors which frightened her, because all here was violence in the air and the fear was in her belly.
He drew her by the hand, brutally, towards the bottom, where it seemed to her that it was the darkest part, with a shaky wood table and with papers above. A chair was there and he sat down while keeping her with a firm hand beside him. They had taken her two bags near the entry, while laughing. They had opened them and they had burst out laughing in front of the large piece of bacon between the slices of bread. She had shouted while struggling. The mess tin had rolled on the paving stones and she had been afraid that it opens and empties of the soup.
Suddenly, this tinplate noise against the stone jumped to her heart and she ceased struggling between the hands of the men who touched her chest and her belly. She did not hear anymore the loud laughs. It seemed to her that there was silence between these noises and it is in this silence that she said that one did not have to touch to that because it was for her brother and strong with the force of her brother, she named him, because to say the name is to require the respect. It is then that the officer came.
He looked at from the big room beside the entry, mocking in front of the scene. He frowned and she saw it. She thought that he knew his brother and that he was going to lead her to him. She wanted to escape the hands which passed under her blouse, at these breaths on her cheeks. Then she said the name of her village and in the laughs she shouted at the officer what had occurred at their home, yesterday afternoon. She said to him that she came for her brother.
It is then that he is advanced. He had the hard look and she did not know why but she was afraid. He said short words which she did not understand because he spoke another language that the one of the mountain. The soldiers have moved back. The officer said « come ! ». He has stretched the hand. He has stretched the arm and he took her harshly. Then she knew that she was wrong.
And this old man who said to her that it was good thus ! By all the Kamis, why has she let him come into the house ? She does not know. She wants him to leave !
She lifts herself and her head is banged against the mantelpiece. The shout passes her lips and she feels that this shout is other thing that the pain of the bones. She wants him to go away !
She does not remember anymore suddenly of what this officer said to her. She does not remember anymore ! She wants this old man to go away ! It is him which takes her memory, she knows that ! He made her speaking to steal her memory !
Why has she spoken ? It is a demon, this old man, one of those who are hidden the night in the forest. She is sure of that now. How has she been so stupid ? She moves back in the room. She remembers that she closed the door on the street, with the iron door. She did no longer want to see and hear those of the street, those ones of opposite which laughed like the soldiers while looking at her every day. He had said that he had been shot down while trying to flee of the fortress. She had not understood. This man hurt her at the shoulder. She had not understood the words. She found unjust that the bacon be to the men of outside, and the soup too. She wanted to say it to this officer who tightened her harshly. No, it is to his old man that she was going to say it, that it is not fair. It is for her brother that she had prepared this meal and the soup. It is for him that she cooked the bread this night. No,it is not to the old man, it is to the officer that she wanted to say it. She does not know anymore. She did not sweat anything anymore. Her memory goes away and she becomes mad.
The door in her back makes penetrating the irons of the wood in her flesh and she is hurt by this contact and she thinks that she will slip against it, kneeling and blood in the mouth, as she beleives that it was at the prison. She does not know very well anymore. This old man steals her memory.
-Go away, she said….Go away, she managed to blow between her teeth half-opened on the lips which cried. These were her lips which gave the tears since the eyes were dry. She knew it well that they were dry ! She knows well that they have not cried anymore since five years ! She knows that. He cannot remove everything of her, this old man. This memory is not at him because she has never spoken with nobody of that. Why has she spoken to him, to this old man ? He steals her brother to her ! He steals her brother to her. She does not remember anymore. This is the demon of the wood. Her brother said to her : « be wary of those who leave the forest in the small hour. They are not people like you and me ; be wary ».
She has not been wary. She said to him to come and eat the soup that she had prepared for her brother. No, these are the soldiers who ate the soup. She does not know anymore that this old man steals her memory. She has let come the demon into the house !
She does not know what occured. The veil in front of the eyes is torn gently and it seems to her that heat enters her forehead, behind the hard bones of the cranium, between the eyes, a little higher than the eyebrows. She feels a tingling, like the one of a large needle. It is also as when she presses her forehead on the edge of the large stone of the river, near the cascade. It is the same incision which goes through her bones and which makes insensitive the skin. To the water, she asks for permission to learn how to cry again. She feels that it is normal, that ; she has to put out of the heart this ball which hardens from the morning to the evening. Sometimes she does not know anymore that it is there. It is when she cannot breathe anymore that she knows that death sleeps in her heart. Thus she runs to the river and lengthily puts her head under the frozen cascade. It is her nape of the neck which she gives to the cold which penetrates her gradually and it is as if she made a pact with the death. This one lets her still quiet, a little, because it accepts her submission. She has known since now years that this cold is the one of the soft death of the glaciers of the mountain. Her brother had spoken to her about it. He had said : « be wary of the cold of the mountain which alleviates your pain ; it is the death which penetrates you. That one is the soft death, that one which makes the tensed and smiling lips. Be wary of this softness, it is worse than violent death because you do not know that it is death ». Then, she, idiot, asked him why this death is worse than the one which does harm to the body. He did never lie to her ; not like her mother. She knew it and it is this knowledge which enabled her to raise all these questions. She knew it and she had fun to prepare them during the day, while he was in the wood. It was already the pleasure of hearing him speaking in the evening. He had the feet against the stone of chimney because he liked to have the hot feet. Also he placed his chair the back at the door. She, it is the buttocks and the back which she liked hot. She sat down on the edge of the hot stone, in front of him, a little on the left so that he can see the flames because he liked to follow the embers until their sleep. When a little red did not live anymore only in the hearth, he said then that it was time to go to sleep.
He answered her : « because to this death, one cannot be prepared ». He did not look at her, as he did it usually. He fixed the embers, the concerned forehead. She knew that it was important.
But why that in her head, with this pain between the eyebrows, this pressure in her cranium ? Why this memory ? It is heat which enters this time, not some cold and not the hard edge of the stone against which she leans her frozen head when she cannot stand to let it thus any longer with her nape of the neck offered to the forces of water.
It is this heat which does not make her raise the eyelids which heavily press on the globes of her painful eyes by dint of not knowing how to cry anymore. This heat is a softness which enters behind the bones of the forehead and which seems to her to open a kind of veil between her two eyes. She had never perceived a gray veil at this place ; not until now.
She heard a deep and slow voice against her ears. It was hot on the rim of the pavilion as if one had just put lips above and that one blew. Her brother did that to her, often on Sunday morning, to wake her up. She had heard the cock shout since a long time and her eyes had opened instantaneously, as the habit of all the mornings because the habit is the power of the man and she has known that for a long time. It is her brother who had said it to her. One day he had muttered that the habit is the greatness and the forfeiture of the man. She had understood. He had laughed while taking her in his arms and had made her turn around him because one was in summer and the harvest fête made redden the skins which felt strongly the sweat. He has thrown her in a haystack and the great laughter accompanied her fall. She did not feel the punctures of the ears of barley on her skin uncovered up to the shoulders, rich of this laughter that she liked so much and that has no longer been there so often since the death of the father and the mother. She went out of the haystack, head first, on four legs. One has laughed not very far because the others looked at the scene from the hedge where they were resting of the work, a large slice of bread in the hand and the meat above, the pointed blade of the knife slicing broad cuts between their fingers reddened by the bundles of the short cereal. She heard and her smile has widened her lips on her cheeks when she rushed towards her brother like a cannonball, the head going to run into his belly.
She knew that he was going to remain there, waiting for her head which was going to come to run into him. He will retain her by the shoulders and he will put air in his belly. She knows that and she dashed forwards while shouting loudly. He has received her thus but she felt that it was not usual. She had guessed it from the moment when she was sinking into the prickly haystack. She knew it and a ball was born in her belly and she did not know why. But she was there and the laughter which she has had while being thrown on him as a false laughter, one of those which is born instantaneously from her belly and which passes her throat while grating when she knows that the truth of the moment is elsewhere. She has known that since the death of the mother. No, before. It was when her mother has murmured one evening, while stirring the soup in the burning pot that her father will not come back, that she must not anymore remain sitting for hours on the flat stone in front of the door, the one which was used like stair. Her mother did not look at her. The vapor of the soup hid her face as in a veil. She repeated to her that she must not catch a cold while remaining almost until the night in the coldness of the street, sitting on this stone. She knew then, with the envelopes of vapor which drowned her mother’s face, a face that she did not see very well anymore, without knowing too much if it was because of the mist around the head or of the veil which seemed to her to come in her eyes and to prick her eyelids, what the other was going to tell her and she did not want to hear it. Thus she tightened strongly the eyelids on her cheeks and she put her hands against her ears. Her mother did not touch her, did not open her eyes, and did not push back the hands closing the ears. Thus, why she heard that her father would not come back anymore because he had left for another world and the war had kept him.
She knows that she had kept her hands against her a very long time and that her eyes did not see the flame of fire. She heard that her brother was back home and that he asked a short question to her mother. Then he rumbled in a low voice. She heard that he grumbled the mother to have delayed so much. She has guessed it by the sound of his voice. She was content that he did not come to touch her and that he left her there, like a duster which did no longer know how to breathe. It is him which slipped her into her bed in the evening and she does not remember anymore if she had still the open eyes. She did not know anymore how many days she had remained in bed with fever.
When her head ran into her brother’s supple belly she knew already and had closed the eyes because she did not want him to see in them the tears running on her cheeks. Then she charged towards him with all her forces because she had only them to say to him that she knew. She knew that he had understood because he has seized her by the shoulders in another manner than usually, with an arm which passed against her chest and which turned her over. He did not pass her over his shoulder to make her rolling on his back, like the play was usually. He wedged her between his shoulder and his cheek and he placed his mouth on her ear and he started to blow lengthily. The hot air entered the conduit and it is as if her ear did not belong to her anymore and that she shared it with him, with his lips and his breath. He emitted a deep sound, as when one makes rolling the words in the throat and this sound penetrated into her head and she forgot that tears piled up behind her united eyelids. It was as if her heart widened and ceased being this small hard ball which hurt her so often in the chest. He does not say anything to her on the habit because she already knew and later it would be really early enough to say it with words, this habit of the man to cut the flesh already bleeding as if these wounds were not enough for him. Then he blew lengthily in her ear and the deaf sound rolled in her heart.
It was the same heat against her and the same sound which opened her chest. No, not the same one. This one had a depth which went into her belly and she felt it growing in her sex of woman who refuses to be a woman for the man. The sound warmed in her belly and bloomed between her thighs. She did not want to open the eyes because she had the flesh which was spread out on the cover of her bed. She knew that she was there, on top, lying on her back and the arms stretched out. She felt her legs slightly open. She tried to know how she had laid down and did not remember. The sound rolled in her belly and the warmth progressed in her legs. She now felt it in the knees, by behind, where she often felt the pain and she did not know why because the doctor of the village had said to her that she did not have anything there and she dreamed.
She dreamed, it is sure ! Her brother cannot be there since she has withdrawn one by one the pieces of steel which were in his body and that the men call bullets. She dreams. By all the kamis ! why these memories are coming again. She however goes to a lot of trouble to forget them, not leaving an ounce of freedom in the day and the night so that her spirit does not run anymore in the past and let her finally quiet, that her heart is not at the edge of the lips with the flood of the tears which ascends in the throat when she sweeps in the morning in the house. It is not fair ! Why such an amount of pain which does not leave her. Why the past in her belly, again and again with the heavy legs which do not manage anymore to run the mountain. It is not fair !
-Do not fall asleep in your dreams, small woman of the Men, says the voice in her ear with the warm breath which slips now on the cheek.
Then, it is a small shrilly laughter which criss-crosses her skin which quivers. She frowns, she is aware of it with the eyes blocked on her cheeks. What this voice comes to do in her dream ! Be careful !...her brother has said to her to be wary of the voices which speak all alone in the mountain without anybody to speak them out in the wind. He said that it was the wind which spoke to the trees and to the rocks and that if the man hears them, he must close the ears because it is not for him. He should not enter in the discussions of the Kamis and he must disappear without seeking to see them and to understand because the madness of the men who cannot stay anymore in place can come from this comprehension. He said that those ones do not know anymore where to place their feet on earth because the Earth does not carry them anymore. She had asked why the Earth did not want anymore to carry them. He had then said that it is not the earth which does not want them anymore, but that it was the reverse. She had frown as she does it now and he laughed, then he pushed her in the back to descend the hill towards the village. It is in her back that he said « Do not go too close to Heaven, It could retain you ». Why the deep voice and the hot breath against her ear laugh as the one that she heard in the mountain, a little shrilly with a wind in the throat which gives an undulation of the skin, as when the fresh wind of the morning touches the skin still hot from the night.
- Do not take the dream of the habit, slips the voice on the rim of the ear and she has the sensation that this sound rotates then penetrates in her into the head and will prick her skin between the two eyebrows.
She shrugs her shoulders. At least she believes it, like her brother told her : not to worry about the voices that one does not know. They will go away by themselves if one does not pay attention to them. However she feels that she has not moved. How could she with the tingling between the eyes which gains her nose. It seems to her that the taste of her saliva has just changed while her tongue flat on the palate, like her brother taught her because he said to her that it was the manner that he had learned in a monastery.
The voice becomes insistent against her skin with the warmth of the words which burns her between the breasts. It seems to her that she already knows but she cannot remember. The voice says to her to open the eyes and to look at the day around her, that she should not remain in the darkness of the habit of the death because this habit is the preparation at the death and one does not realize it.
The voice also tells her another thing but she does not seem to hear the words. Only the vibration resonates in her head and it seems to her that she swallows it in the throat and that it pushes her lungs against the heart and she is astonished by that because she did not believe them so near, one against the other, like that, to tighten themselves.
She must open the eyes, she knows it because the voice says it to her. She knows it beyond this voice. She knows it by the vibration that she recognize in her body and who pushes against her skin, filling her of all the black mass which ascends from very far from her. She recognizes this pain. It is the one which was in the barracks and which has brought her down on the pavement, while screaming while her body was twisted like the one of a snake.
It is what frightened the officer who maintained her just before that she falls. His hard hand around her arm, tightening into the flesh, has not been able to resist to this screaming twisting of the body which has fallen on the pavement.
The voice against her ears says to her to come back among the living beings, that one must not follow the habit of the death because then one becomes the death. Why did he say that ? She had really known it since this day that it was the horror of the man that she had seen. She had screamed on the tiled floor. The men had come around her and her skin bumped into the rough leather of their boots. She saw that they looked at her being twisted under the pain. She also saw this black mass which had gone out of the officer who yelled his orders. One grabbed her by the arms and the hair. She saw them, she felt them, but what was against her skin and filled her completely, it was this dark mass which was against her and she screamed because this mass went out of her now.
How did this old man know ! She had never said what she had seen going out of the man and covering her entirely. She had believed that she was dying there, from this horror. Afterwards, it was her pain to live because she did no longer know whether that was worth it.
How did the old man know ! It was him against her ear. She knew it from the very first beginning, long before that her eyes open again behind her lowered eyelids.
- Do not let the black hatred of the man surround your spirit…Breathe out on it, slowly…very slowly….Life is the slowness to breathe step by step, my daughter. Do never forget it and expel this black pain. You are not made for it. You are not made to uproot it. Let this work to those who are born for that….Let the hatred of the men where it sleeps and do not wake it in your own heart, because you also have been thus, also, and it is that which has made you recognize it.
The voice which spoke twisted the node which remained in her belly all the nights, keeping her awaked. She said the truth and she knew it since the very first beginning, long before this old man enters at her home. She knew it while she was rolling on the floor, bumping into the boots of the soldiers. She has recognized this black force of the man and she did no longer want to live. She was rolling on the floor because her body did not obey to her anymore. It was twisted thus and it screamed because it remembered. She knew it and she vomits against the leather of the boots and she heard that one yelled to drag her out. She recognized the sour voice of the officer who had trailed her at the bottom of the room and who tightened her by the top of the arm while he turned the pages of a file with his other hand. She had heard him asking : « thus you are the sister of this whore of… ». She had not understood the remainder. It was the black wave which entered her throat and it seemed to her that she swallowed it.
It was the fall on the flagstones because her legs did not carry her anymore. She did not have legs anymore. One had cut them to her with a saw, long before she is born now. She remembered. She did not know when anymore, but she knew that the man had tortured her a day while asking her to answer and she did not want. Thus he has hurt her and she knows that it was days and days and that her legs were sawn with a blade of joiner. Then she howled and her body ordered. It remembered. It went up its memory far beyond her own memory. It had its own memory, really its memory, beyond her memory.
How did the old man know ? His hand was on her belly, where this hard ball was all the nights. She did not want to remember anymore. She did not want that the night of the times goes up and that her throat would still be filled with her yells. She wanted the body to continue to obey to her, like it does it each day, while curving herself to sweep the room, raising the arm and the hands tightened on the sleeve of the hatchet to make the kindling in the forest, with the icy wind which hardened her kidneys and which made her go back home curved like a small old woman.
With what he deals, this old man !... Why did he not leave her quiet ! She had found another force to continue to live. Why did he say to her to release everything, with his words which slipped into her ear and that she did not manage to prevent from running between her eyes, even by tightening the forehead ?
- You have another thing to do, my daughter…There is a man who is dying in the mountain and which needs you.
These words were told slowly, one by one, and they took time to reach her brain. She followed them with her thought but her thought was unable to guess them and their sense left like the fog of the small days. She guessed these words being important. She made an effort to follow them and she has stiffened. She could not. They escaped her !...like those of her brother whom she unearthed with her hands from the common grave, behind the ramparts of the citadel. She had the same sensation of her uselessness like now. She did not know how to make anymore…She was incapable of everything and the tears came in her eyes and she knew that it was tears thousand times repeated and that she knew well. They were always with her feeling of powerlessness, this certainty to not understand and to be good at nothing, only to cry on her powerlessness and the desire for doing herself harm. She was not good at another thing !
- A man needs you in the forest..He can die without you.
The voice of the old man gently ascended from her belly towards the brain. His hand pressed on her neck and it seemed to her that some warmth radiated in her throat, but it must be still one of these illusions, like all the times where she hears voices which speak to her in the forest.
However it is her bed under her ; she recognizes its mass and the hollow of the matress. However, it is her house around her ; she recognizes its odors and its vibration. It is the fire which she has prepared from the daybreak which crackles in the chimney, she recognizes the noise of it. …Thus, she is at home and she does not dream. So, she must open the eyes and continues what she was telling to do from the morning. What does she do in bed ?
The voice of the old man was withdrawn from her ear and she heard him further, as if he went in front of the chimney, to put his hands in front of the flames. Then the words came clear and struck the space :
- Get up and prepare you.
She knew that there was no means to make differently than these orders because they filled all the space of her spirit.