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I am alive, Collenot, and you are not. You are in the ocean and I am on the sidewalk in front of your apartment building. I go up the narrow stairs and put my hand on the doorknob—shouldn’t this be you?
I open the door. Noelle is on the couch. I sit next to her. I know it should be you and she knows it too. She turns her dark wet eyes into my shirt and we sit alone in your apartment. The afternoon is bright and warm, but Noelle is cold; I can feel her shivering. I give her my coat. I’m cold, too. Noelle has my coat but I’m cold, Collenot!
“He won’t come back, will he, Antoine?”
I tell Noelle you will not come back. She shivers through my coat and I drape a blanket over her, and another one. They’re both blue like the evening sky in summer. There’s an evening sky outside the window but it can’t be summer, Collenot.
It was summer when you and Noelle came to see me at Cape Juby—the kind of summer with cicadas and watermelon. But Cape Juby is the desert. Things were different and we sat on my porch and watched each plane drone down from the sky into the sand. They were like cicadas. Noelle had brought watermelon. That was summer, then…if that was summer…
“Come with me, Noelle, I’ll take you somewhere else.”
I tell your wife that I’ll take her somewhere else because this place is where you should be. I’ll take her somewhere you should not be. We’ll go for a drive because you did not like to go for drives.
It’s night and we’re somewhere in the middle of France and there’s rain falling from the dark clouds like the rain falling from Noelle’s dark eyes. There’s rain and it’s dark and I stop the car because Noelle is asleep. I think I’m tired too but if I’m alive and you are not, you have to stay not alive and if I sleep I will see you and you will be alive. This is not how it’s supposed to be anyway because you should be here asleep in my seat next to Noelle. I would be at home and tomorrow I would decide to come see you at your apartment and I would sit on the couch where I sat this evening with Noelle except you would be between us and I would have my friend and she would have her husband. That’s how it’s supposed to be.
Is it morning, Collenot? I’m going to drive to the ocean.
The ocean can look like the sand dunes outside my porch at Cape Juby. The curves of the waves can form a picture like the desert we see from the sky—rolling dunes unbroken until the horizon. The planes that I flew at Cape Juby droned down like cicadas into a desert of sand. Your plane droned down into a desert of water. I’m alive, Collenot, and you are not, even though we have both landed a plane in the desert.
Maybe in a few years I will write a book and dedicate it Henri Collenot mon camarade je te dédie ce livre. Maybe.
It is night Henri I will bring Noelle back to your apartment I don’t know if she saw the ocean like I did or enjoyed it but I will bring her back because maybe if she sits where she was sitting yesterday you will walk up the stairs and open the door and see her on the couch she will be shivering just from the wind you will give her your coat and two blankets like the evening sky in the summer It would be summer then because I would be alive and maybe you would be alive Would it be summer then Henri Collenot?