She’s catholic. He’s a Jew. She has nothing. He seems to have everything. His father’s death is the first event. Reality falls on his young shoulders, making so little noise. Only a hit, like bread on some bird’s wings. The first word time unfurls for him is Duty. Like a ribbon. What a present.
No ribbon for her. She chooses her word, it is Freedom. She begins to work, to live on her own. She takes lovers, has affairs, some offer jewels. It doesn’t seem to matter. The only thing she wants to know is the feeling of buying one. She will not stay where she is. She’s a fighter, already, she has this incurable pride.
The first stone is a little sapphire. My mother gave it to me lately. It looks like the lost splendor of freedom. Removed from its original ring. A lonely blue thing, drifting.
They meet young, before the war. Fall in love, madly. Immediately, there’s this impossibility. The words given are different, worlds too. But love has nothing to do with the world. He’s the first to lose control. Plans an escape, wants to marry her abroad, leave his family who will never accept her. It breaks him in two. What can he do ?
What breaks her, is to live hidden. Never to be recognized, accepted. She wants to live in full light.
She will never tolerate to be that one. The one not worthy of.
Her favorite word begins to drift, slightly. It is just the beginning.
It lasts a little less than five years, then hits the wall. He will marry a Jew. A young woman who has everything. Who plays piano divinely. Well born. That one doesn’t have to fight, she thinks. But what she doesn’t know is that few years later, she will have to die.
For the moment all the dying is for her. Another word appears, Suicide. She will confess this, frankly. Music only seems to ease the pain. This is a time made of music, mostly. There is one affair, or two. It matters less and less. And then, the war comes. As a reason to live.
She joins the resistance in the first hours of occupied France. She has very little fear of the Nazis. She’s ready to die, so they all really can go to hell. Like the other members who joined this movement ” Ceux de la Libération/Those of the Liberation”, she owns a cyanide pill in case something goes wrong.
And of course, something goes very wrong. A woman is captured and talks. Gives all the names. The camps open their doors. The sapphire begins to drift, alone, in its box. The cyanide awaits.
He will hear about her arrestation later. For the moment he is left alone in an orchard in the south of France, literally knocked out by a friend. His wife and two children, mother and sister, deported too. Some said he hid in a tree, like a bird. Have they ever seen orchard trees ? He’s in a barn at the end of everything and the black cars are gone when he awakes.
The word time unfurls is Confinement. For him, three years talking to rats in a basement in Paris. For her, four different camps, eating wood and shield bugs. It is only the menu.
When Hitler falls, the chimneys stop. But no one returns. Not for him. He’s a Jew. He’s alone. Alone in himself. The children were two and five years old. Faces, voices. In himself.
Pride. Freedom. Her favorite words are almost gone in smoke. Almost. When she comes back from Mauthausen, in a Red Cross truck, she barely weighs more than a pile of ashes. And he’s there. Waiting for her. They are in Paris, it’s twelve years later. Or twelve years too late. Now the words correspond. It is the same world.
How does she live with the ghost of the woman who took her place ? How does she live with the echo of his children’s laughter ? When she can’t have children anymore. When what happened to her in the camps happened in such a shadow. To make sure she will never have any, and that she will never say a word about it. How do they live, now, with their first love ?
How do they smile, make tea, collect berries, for me ? From where comes all this strength ? These kisses on my ckeeks ?
It seems that love is made of glass.
I could hear it every day I spent with them. The glass breaking endlessly.
And love remains.
It is sapphire blue.
Like this lonely blue thing, drifting in a box, beside my bed.
To Marcel & Maine Berr, my grandparents.