I’m not expecting you

All three of us come home powdered, me, the little bull and the Flemish shepherdess …

It has snowed in the folds of our dresses, I have white epaulets, an impalpable sugar melts in the hollow of Thumbelina’s snout, and the Flemish shepherdess sparkles all over, from her pointed muzzle to her club tail.

We had gone out to contemplate the snow, the real snow and the real cold, Parisian rarities, occasions, almost unobtainable, at the end of the year … In my deserted district, we ran like crazy, and the hospitable fortifications, the Fortifs decried and little known, the reassuring fortifs have seen, from avenue des Ternes to boulevard Malesherbes, our panting joy of released dogs. From the top of the slope, we leaned over the ditch filled by a purple twilight whipped with white swirls; we gazed at black Levallois dotted with pink lights, behind a veil tracked with a thousand and a thousand white flies, alive, cold as leafless flowers, melting on the lips, on the eyes, held back for a moment by the eyelashes, the downy of the cheeks. We scratched untouched snow with our ten paws, crumbly, which fled under our weight with a caressing screech of taffeta. Far from all eyes, we galloped, barked, caught the snow in flight, tasted its sweetness of dusty vanilla sorbet …

Sitting now in front of the fiery gate, we are all three silent. The memory of the night, of the snow, of the raging wind behind the door, slowly melts in our veins and we will slip into that sudden sleep that rewards long walks …

The Flemish shepherdess, who smokes like a foot bath, has regained her dignity as a tame wolf, her serious false and courteous. With one ear, she listens to the whispering of snow along the closed shutters, with the other she listens for the clinking of spoons in the pantry. Her slender nose flutters, and her copper-colored eyes, open straight on the fire, move incessantly, from right to left, from left to right, as if she were reading … I study, a little suspicious, this newcomer, this feminine and complicated dog who keeps well, rarely laughs, behaves in a meaningful person and receives orders, reprimands without saying a word, with an impenetrable gaze and full of ulterior motives … She knows how to lie, to steal, – but she cries out, surprised, like a frightened young girl and is almost in a state of emotion. Where did she get, this little wolf with a low kidney, this girl from the Walloon fields, her hatred of ill-dressed people and her aristocratic reserve? I offer her her place in my fire and in my life, and perhaps she will love me, she who already knows how to defend me …

My little bull with a childish heart sleeps, struck with sleep, fever in the muzzle and paws. The gray cat knows it’s snowing, and since lunch I haven’t seen the tip of her nose, buried in the hair of her belly. Once again here I am, as at the beginning of the other year, sitting in front of my fire, of my loneliness, in front of myself …

One more year … What is the point of counting them? This Parisian New Year’s Day reminds me of nothing of the first January of my youth; and who could give me back the childish solemnity of the New Years of yore? The shape of the years has changed for me — while I was changing. The year is no longer this wavy road, this unrolled ribbon which, since January, has been rising towards spring, rising, rising towards summer to flourish there in a calm plain, in a burning meadow cut with blue shadows, stained dazzling geraniums, —then descended towards a fragrant, misty autumn, blooming the swamp, ripe fruit and game, —then sank into a dry, sonorous winter, shimmering with frozen ponds, pink snow under the sun. .. Then the wavy ribbon rolled down, vertiginously, until it broke clean in front of a wonderful date,

A much loved child, between parents not rich, and who lived in the country among trees and books, and who neither knew nor wanted expensive toys: this is what I see again, leaning over my past … A child superstitiously attached to the feasts of the seasons, to dates marked by a gift, a flower, a traditional cake … A child who instinctively ennobled Christian feasts with paganism, in love only with the boxwood branch, with the red Easter egg, leaves with leaves on Corpus Christi and the altarpieces, —syringas, aconites, chamomiles, —a hazel sucker topped with a small cross, blessed at Ascension Mass and planted on the edge of the field which it shelters from hail … A girl in love with the six-horned cake, baked and eaten on Palm Sunday; pancake, in carnival; of the suffocating smell of the church, during the month of Mary …

Old priest without malice who gave me Communion, you thought that this silent child, her eyes open on the altar, awaited the miracle, the elusive movement of the blue scarf which encircled the Virgin? Is not it? I was so wise! … It is quite true that I dreamed of a miracle, but … not the same as you. Numb by the incense of hot flowers, enchanted with the mortuary perfume, the musky rot of roses, I lived, dear man without malice, a paradise that you never imagined, populated by my gods, my talking animals, my nymphs and my goat-feet … And I listened to you talk about your hell, thinking of the pride of the man who, for his short-lived crimes, invented eternal hell … Ah! how long ago! …

My solitude, this December snow, this threshold of another year, will not give me back the thrill of the past, while in the long night I watched for the distant thrill, mingled with the beating of my heart, of the municipal drum, giving in the early morning of 1 st January serenade to the sleepy village … This drum in the cold night, about four o’clock, I feared, I called the bottom of my crib, with nervous anxiety close to tears, jaws clenched, stomach contracted … This drum alone, and not the twelve strokes of midnight, sounded for me the dazzling opening of the new year, the mysterious advent after which the whole world gasped, suspended at the first rrran of the old hustler in my village …

He passed, invisible in the closed morning, throwing his alert and funereal little dawn to the walls, and behind him a life began again, new and leaping towards twelve new months … Delivered, I jumped from my bed by candlelight, I ran towards the wishes, the kisses, the candies, the gold-sliced ​​books … I opened the door to the bakers carrying the hundred pounds of bread and until noon, serious, penetrated with commercial importance, I tended to all the poor, true and false, the piece of bread and the decime they received without humility and without gratitude …

Winter mornings, a red lamp in the night, the still and harsh air of before dawn, a garden divined in the dark dawn, shrunken, choked with snow, overwhelmed pines which let, hour by hour, slide in avalanches the burden of your black arms, – fan-strokes of frightened sparrows, and their restless games in a crystal powder more tenuous, more spangled than the iridescent mist of a jet of water … O all winters of my childhood, a winter day has just surrendered to me! It is my face from the past that I am looking for, in this oval mirror seized with a distracted hand, and not my face of a woman, of a young woman that her youth will soon leave …

Still enchanted with my dream, I am astonished to have changed, to have aged while I was dreaming … With a touched brush I could repaint, on this face, that of a fresh child scorched by the sun , dew of cold, elastic cheeks finished in a thin chin, mobile eyebrows quick to wrinkle, a mouth whose cunning corners belied the short ingenuous lip … Alas, it is only a moment. The adorable velvet of the resuscitated pastel crumbles and flies away … The dark water of the little mirror only retains my image which is very similar, very similar to me, marked with light strokes of the fingernail, finely engraved on the eyelids, at the corners of the lips, between the stubborn eyebrows … An image which neither smiles nor is sad, and which murmurs, for me alone: ​​”You have to get old.” Do not Cry, do not join pleading fingers, do not revolt: you have to grow old. Repeat this word to yourself, not as a cry of despair, but as a dear refrain that you sing in yourself, as the reminder of a necessary departure … Look at yourself, look at your eyelids, your lips, lift on your temples the curls of your hair: already you begin to move away from your youth; you are going to move away from your life, don’t forget it, you have to get old!

Walk away slowly, slowly, without tears; don’t forget anything! Take away your health, your gaiety, your coquetry, the little kindness and justice which made your life less bitter; do not forget! Go put it on, go quietly, and don’t stop along the irresistible road, you would try it in vain — since you have to get old! Follow the path, and lie there only to die. And, when you stretch across the vertiginous wavy ribbon, if you haven’t left behind you, one by one, your hair; in curls, neither your teeth one by one, nor your limbs one by one worn out, if the eternal powder has not, before your last hour, weaned your eyes from the marvelous light — if you have, to the end, kept in your hand the friendly hand which guides you, lie down smiling, sleep happy, sleep privileged … ”