Image: © Lara Lambelet
Author: Lara Lambelet
I received your letter and your delicious biscuits which made me very happy. And yes, I won’t forget to put the cat’s collar back on. What a scoundrel that one is! In your letter, you asked me how to live a joyful and serene relationship. Here is what I can answer you.
I remember one day, during the summer of 1950, when my dear and sweet James and I were walking along the bank of the Seine. I was so grateful to have him by my side. Our rocky beginnings were far from predicting the success of our union and yet we had now been married for three years. I remember the question he asked me that night: “What have you learned about love?”. I replied that the most important thing I had understood over time was that it is not possible to make the other person happy. When you try, you fool yourself and you are going in the wrong direction.
You know sweetie, I found myself in the same situations as you. In insecurity, expecting too much from the other person and being afraid of losing them. But it was when I understood that nothing can hold the other person back that I felt real freedom. Be yourself, radiate and don’t be afraid to displease.
I thought I was going to lose your grandfather. He was a player who was scared to love. But don’t make the same mistake as I did, my little one, don’t give him everything. It won’t work. Learn to love yourself and to prioritise yourself. If this man you’re talking about really loves you, he’ll come back. Love is scary when it is not lived. Love makes you stronger when it is welcomed and nourished with the right seeds, with a lot of patience and understanding.
There, little one, I hope my words will be of comfort to you. Don’t lose hope. Love will come, be it with this man or another.
I observed her auburn hair, the lower part of her bare back and the arch of her hips, half hidden by the ivy surrounding the garden gate. It was quarter to six o’clock. A beautiful opening of a summer evening. She was gorgeous, seated and focused on her reading. Then my gaze was drawn to the gradation of reds and greens that adorned the gate next door. I approached and grabbed a burgundy leaf. “How can Mother Nature create such things? “I thought to myself. A ray of sunshine dazzled me, and my thought was lost. I wandered here and there, letting my senses guide me. A little further away from the house overlooking the lake, I leaned against a pillar of the canopy dominated by brown tones.
– Would you offer me a dance?
– Here, now?
– But to what music?
– That of Nature. Can’t you hear it?
– No, I can’t hear it.
– Close your eyes.
Then she took me by the waist, slipped her hand into mine and swung us slowly from left to right. One step back, then one forward. The singing of the birds came to mingle with the stirring of the fine breeze. With my eyes still closed, I savoured the moment. The scent of the lily bed at the bottom of the garden reached my nostrils. We continued our slow waltz under the fragmented marquee. We must certainly have looked silly, but surprisingly, I felt good.
– Can you hear it now?
– Yes, it’s wonderful.
We were now at the bottom of the garden. The view of the lake was breath-taking. You could even see the reflection of the sun on the surface of the water. At the bottom of the garden was a huge fruit tree.
– Plums? prunes? I asked.
– I’m not sure. Hold on a moment.
On tiptoe, she picked the offspring of the age-old tree.
– I’ve always dreamed of having my own garden in which I could escape,” she continued.
My eyes lingered on the drop of juice from the fruit, which her teeth had just bitten into, running down her lip.
– A plum. Here, taste it.
*content warning: injury and death
Tetanized, he observed the blood effusion on the right leg, lacerated all along, of the dying fox. The restraint of his spirit on the scarlet river made him dizzy. His hands grabbed the leather steering wheel. The hammering of his heart in his rib cage contrasted with the increasingly muffled groans of the red-haired creature. As he approached the clearing, the sinuous road and the thick October fog had played a nasty trick on him. The cracked windshield and the blood that gushed from it were witnesses to this.
Every Thursday night, after a hard day at the office, Charles would meet up with friends for a drink at Please Don’t Tell, a trendy New York bar with an evocative name and vintage atmosphere. One beer had turned into two, then into four. One propensity hiding another: the visceral need to please others. Under the pompous influence of Tom, an old friend from his university years who was now his brother-in-law, Charles rarely managed to impose his true desires on others as well as on himself. His feet were numb, and he had stumbled to the vehicle. His eyes were blinded by the city’s lights, and he had fallen over a manhole. “Damn it,” he mumbled. The torn trousers were perfectly suited to his putrid breath. The key inserted, the engine humming and the smell of dried tobacco.
A crowd had gathered around the drained remains. “Somebody, call an ambulance! “pressed a young woman dressed in a yellow raincoat. He hadn’t moved; his body was stuck in the car seat. He embodied both a feeling of fear and euphoria. A nightmare? Dream? The sweetened reality emanated from a filter that presumably did not match that of the people present at the accident scene. Suddenly, someone knocked against the window. “Sir, are you alright? You need to get out of the vehicle. The police are on their way” said a nerd in his fifties. Charles was livid. No reaction. It’s a fox. It’s a fox. Words were jostling in his head. His hand trembling, he turned up the volume of the radio in the hope of silencing the hubbub of his mind. He hesitantly pressed the gas pedal. The red bush was lit by the headlights. He closed his eyes. When they opened, the illusion disappeared. He accelerated and fled pusillanimously under the screams of the sirens. Help had just arrived and was working on the inert body of a young man with red hair. Matt was twenty-two years old. Charles, haunted by the vision of his actions, lost control. His feet were saddled with the pedal. 100km/h. The speedometer went crazy. 120km/h. 150km/h and the car rushed at high speed against the front of a shop. Charles was forty-five years old.
– Chemin de Verdonnet number…, I start to answer.
The memory fades away. Unattainable. It floats in an ocean of tentacular thoughts. We all have had addresses. A farandole of places imbued with happiness, moments of complicity, melancholy, the screams of kids or even authoritarian “dinner is ready” echoing in the four corners of the house. Isolated in a remote part of my memory, this element, which I am struggling to extract from my past, rushes exponentially towards the void. Yet it seems easy for me to depict the environment in which the six-year-old me was parading on an imaginary red carpet in flashy outfits. Disparate. Coming from idolized characters, my looks transported me to the depths of my childhood dreams. When I closed my eyes, the light shades tending to creamy white on the walls of the living room appeared to me like a flash. I feel the softness of my mother’s smile and the reassuring warmth of the blanket resting on my shoulder on rainy evenings. With concentration, the vermilion couch, combined with a few cushions Native American patterns, takes shape like an unfinished sketch. Although this flat was the cradle of my early youth, its rooms alienated me. Expelled. Or was it the decision of my progenitors to expatriate me from my world? I no longer know who is at fault.
– You know, on second thought, this is not where I really felt at home,” I continue.
– It makes sense to me. The walls only knew you as a child. On the other hand, the house before you left is certainly connected to some deep anecdotes, isn’t it? Come on, I’m sure you’ve got some gossip to tell me,” James enthuses.
A home away from the crowds where silence prevails. When you open the front door, the vastness of the room is disturbing. My eyes wander along the imposing mahogany table and stop at the pile of neglected administrative files. A thin layer of dust covers it. The dust is nesting. It penetrates. It disturbs. It upsets. It irritates. Nevertheless, I observe it and cherish its presence. The area is surrounded by lush vegetation. My mother has always been fond of decoration, although it was always too cluttered for my taste. Cat figurines, paintings, candleholders and junk. Suddenly, a spicy smell, certainly that of my brother’s curry chicken simmering, takes me out of my daydream and I find myself in the centre of the kitchen. Its furniture and instruments are worn out by time and by its careless users. I can still see my father with a large butcher’s knife in his hand, my maternal grandfather’s knife, cutting a piece of meat on the marbled worktop. This culinary cocoon has stories to tell. Monotonous and solitary meals. A table filled with tightly arranged cutlery for frenetic celebrations.
The hustle and bustle pushes me upstairs and to its bevy of rooms. I choose to stop on the landing of my room. The scaly white door has been covered with photographs, remnants of my adolescence and its anamnesis, which disorderly surround the four calligraphic letters of my first name. Made from a jet-black felted cloth, my baptismal name is like an introduction to the treasures inside.
– Shall we go inside?
– OK, but I have to warn you. My parents haven’t been there since I left. So, expect a museum of Lara, including cobwebs and dust.
When you open the door, it squeaks as usual. When I first step on the floor, I remember that the parquet floor also has an annoying tendency to creak. I explore the space. Not the slightest change. Although I’ve been living in Edinburgh for some time now, the period I’ve been living at the address, Route de Salles 20 in Berlens, is pretty much my entire life. Coming back to this timeless and so familiar bubble gives me goosebumps. The pleasant atmosphere in the bedroom pretends to be a somewhat distinguished mix of genres. Against one of the walls, an orange-coloured wood panelling, in front of which the bed is placed, enhances the tone and gives the room its singular spirit. When André Prévot evoked the bed, he referred to it as a piece of furniture where one rests when alone but tires when in pair. My bed, measuring about one metre forty and especially cluttered with stuffed animals, acts like a sponge. It absorbs and stores. It is the graveyard of my emotions, dreams, one-night stands and everlasting passions. In a niche of the bedroom, the music scores and colourful vinyl still brighten up the old electric piano. A key, that of a D, no longer sounds. A tear runs down my cheek. I had missed this place. This cruise into my past is only imaginary, yet the sensations are so stirring that I have to sit down.
One morning, my father proudly bought me a garland of LEDs that he had installed vertically against the edge of the wall. I will always remember my enthusiasm and the famous photoshoot for which the red shades were a great inspiration. Then comes the centrepiece. The crucial piece of furniture in this intimate space: my desk. It was a gift from my best friend. Orderly and methodical at all times, it is the pillar of my determination, the symbol of my success. With my elbows resting on the varnished wood, there I wrote, for many hours, poems, novels, essays, lists, wishes and often love letters. I cried and laughed. I also remember leaving there the wooden dice he gave me. A symbol of a bygone love. A shattered love. It is disturbing how a simple object can have enormous power over us. It is stored in a box now; the kryptonite is under control. Among the objects that were dear to me, a large flowered cup, where various teas used to brew, also rests there. But this is all part of a past era. The memory evaporates. I open my eyes. Basically, an address is just an address; what fascinates is the vivid and chipped mosaic of stories that emerges from it.