Author : Thomas Desrochers
Jean steps out onto his sunlit balcony and sits down at the glass table. He sweeps the surface off with his hand and then lays down a piece of creamy stationery. Pen in hand, he begins to write:
He pauses, glances down into the street. There’s a flock of birds at the cafe across the street, leaning over the coffees couched in their delicate hands and gossiping. A breeze dances down the street and pulls at their feathers, flashing greens and blues and blacks in the early morning.
[There was something I wanted to tell you before you left, but I never had a chance to.]
Jean glances up at the sky. A massive cargo lifter is rising into the sky in the north, the dozens of hefty carbon balloons pumping out gas to create vacuum and achieve lift. Wine, most likely, headed across the sea to Canada.
[At my great-grandmother’s funeral I had to say farewell to the people who took care of her in her old age, including her nurse Maria. Maria was an elderly woman who suffered through my terrible Spanish with a smile and at times helped to raise me, and she was incredibly patient – a valuable trait to have when dealing with my great-grandmother.]
Two children run laughing down the street, a small terrier biting at their heels. Jean looks down at his reflection in the glass, then takes a pull from the bottle he’s brought out with him.
[After the funeral I said goodbye to Maria, and told her I would miss her. She grasped my hand, looked me in the eye, and said, “Jean, this isn’t a final goodbye. Sometimes in life we have to leave behind people and places that we love, but the truth is that life moves in great circles too large for us to see. As surely as our bodies will return to the dirt we’ll see each other again.” Her words brought me great comfort.]
Jean looks up from the letter, face drawn. He sets the pen down on the table, then reaches up with a finger to brush against the tender spikes of new feathers growing in on his cheeks. Pain shoots through his face, down to the bone. Even as he starts to feel the numbness from the first drink he takes a second, his breath bubbling into the bottle, mixing with the alcohol. He stares down at the letter for a moment, then picks up the pen again.
[It has been twenty years since I last saw Maria at that funeral, and I have attended a great many funerals since. I received a notification this morning that Maria is dead. She died alone, and it was weeks before her body was found. There was no funeral for her.]
The flock at the cafe leaves, each retreating back to their own lives. Jean takes another drink.
[I had always believed that I would see Maria again. It was always in the back of my head to visit her, and I naively believed that advances in medicine meant a future in which there would be infinite time to spend with those we love.]
A third drink. Below, the street swims.
[I see now that time is finite, death is always ours, and every moment of our lives is the future.]
The cargo lifter is distant now, high above the peaks of downtown Paris.
[I hope that this letter reaches Titan and finds you well.]
[I miss you.]
Jean lays the pen down, stands up, goes inside. The late morning sun creeps across the walls, unstoppable.