(Ce texte a été écrit en juillet. La version française sera publiée dans un recueil, je ne sais pas encore quand.)
We were in Kyoto, at the entrance of the Fox Shrine, the first time your heart showed signs of weakness. Three steps to climb and it took you half an hour to catch your breath – very unusual, really. You climbed, dived, swam, ran, you planned on reaching somedays the highest peaks of the Caucasus.
We sat near the portal, waiting for you to feel better. You were worried. I wasn't.
You had less than two years to live.
We had met on a cliff, in Indonesia. I moved to Copenhagen for you. It was complicated but I loved our apartment, your habit of turning the lights on during the day, your cooking obsession.
I used to call you Jon Snow, because of the resemblance, also because you know nothing, Jon Snow. I didn't know better: two dreamers taking pictures and watching around, and none of us to understand that this problem was serious.
I remember you later in the day, running and hiding between the red arcades. As if nothing had happened.
You didn't want to leave an offering to the sacred fox - you thought it was ridiculous. I did it for both of us. On the piece of wood I wrote a prayer, for us to be happy together. We've been happy. Not all the time, but most of those four years - when you meet a Dane on a cliff, you should expect ups and downs.
You gave me a present when we came back from Kyoto: two earrings in the shape of foxes. There's a saying, in Japan, that foxes tell stories to those who listen. You know I've been listening. I still do.
Your heart had ups and downs, just like our relationship. The hospital couldn't find the problem, the doctors said: it's stress. You shared your concern with your family, your friends, your colleagues, but we couldn't believe anything would happen. Just a few missed heartbeats. Just a few moments of unexplained exhaustion.
During our last holiday together, two months ago, five minutes ago, I lost one of your earrings. We were climbing a mountain in the Caucasus. One of the highest peaks.
The loss of the small fox was a huge shock for me - I felt guilty, I felt irrational. Bad memories came back. You couldn't understand why I was so sad, so after the dinner, I finally explained. We had, on that evening, a serious conversation – one that I usually avoid. We talked about my secrets, and they remain in your ashes. We talked about your fear of death, your fear of turning thirty this year - well, my love, you won't have to.
You gave me your last wishes. I kept wearing the second fox earring, hoping it would continue to talk to me, hoping it wouldn't miss its twin too much.
Of course they miss each other.
You collapsed one month and four days ago, during a climbing trip in France, in the arms of your best friend. Between two cliffs, of course. It's been a nightmare to get you out of there.
You felt weird, then you crashed down. Three seconds. You didn't have the time to understand, and those are your last words: I don't understand.
It's better this way, Morten. I understood immediately, during the resuscitation attempts: your head thrown back, the electroshocks, the adrenaline, not a twitch, not a tension in your fingers, you looked as if you were sleeping. I knew they wouldn't save you, that you wouldn't eat cherries anymore.
I remember thinking, at the moment, that everything would be complicated. I remember my cheeks covered with salt crystals.
The heart was revived three times: you died four times. Things were never simple, with you.
The hospital report states that a young man died at 15:15 in the rescue helicopter. For me you're dead when losing consciousness, at noon. You died curled in your beloved climbing ropes. At least that's what I want to believe.
I explained to you, in the Caucasus, that death didn't worry me. I haven't changed my mind. Even when touching your skin in the hospital, your cold fingertips, the first changes of color - I've never been afraid to kiss you, I never wanted to look away. Nine hours of wake in the crypt, just the two of us, cutting your nails, trimming your beard, playing your favorite music and having a drink to celebrate your life: nine hours to bring you through the night. Then three hours at the crematorium, to bring you through the fire. I'll be there, too, for the scattering of ashes, and I'll bring you through the sea. It's ok. I'm happy to be at your side.
I won't forget your chest, the black bones cut on the white flames of the furnace. 1003° precisely. Yes, Morten. I watched you burn, and again: I was happy to be at your side.
When the staff opened the incinerator I could still see large fragments of bones, pelvis, shoulders, I don't know. They didn't manage to reduce you to ashes, Morten. Even though they doubled the time of cremation. I'm a bit proud of you.
A few days earlier I had turned my little fox earring into a ring.
The fox and I are both survivors of a couple: we understand each other. I prefer to have it under my eyes, and even more on my finger. Then it participates when I write. I watch over the fox as I watch over your death and as you watch over me.
Actually, since we tell each other everything: was it intentional that you watch over me? You left a list exposed in our apartment, before joining me in France: Morten's dream list. Maybe you knew subconsciously that you were going to die - you left a lot of evidence making me believe that you did, but if so, why couldn't we properly say goodbye?
On your dream list: living in autonomy in a cabin in the mountains, with a deer skin on the floor, living in New York, riding horses in Mongolia, partying, dancing, spending time in France, seeing your friends, discovering Greenland, and lots, lots of others.
Your funeral was beautiful, Morten. Don't expect to come back from the dead, like you do in my dreams, and taste those great bottles that you bought and never drank, always waiting for the "perfect occasion". I invited your friends and we destroyed your wine cellar – and yes, it was a perfect occasion. We cried a lot but I swear, we laughed a lot.
After we recovered your ashes I returned to France: the cliffs where you died, h -0, this bakery where you took croissants, h-3, the garden of my parents, h -4, our bed, h -6, the small track where you gorged yourself with cherries, h-16. I returned to Avignon, h-30. It took me a few days to understand that I was putting my steps into yours, as if I could go back in time, and cross your path again.
I looked for you in the hollow of the trees, at the edge of streams, in the smell of rosemary, in the oak leaves shattered with sun. I looked for you as if you could only be lost, as if your family and I didn't screw the lid of your coffin. I looked for you as if I hadn't kissed your lips, snow white lips, no tales and no fairies: this kiss didn't wake you up.
A month after your death, exactly one month, I returned to this remote, remote inn – that one where, in the evening, a fox comes prowling. We saw his shape together in the meadow, the two yellow eyes, the tail like a question mark, and around us the goats panicked - we were drunk and happy, so happy. You said: I don't want to get married, but I'll marry you right in this place.
I stayed for dinner, the fox didn't come.
I was disappointed when I came back to the car. Angry, too, as I had searched so much to find nothing, no sign, no indication of your presence, no thrill in my neck. Death as a breakless wall, and smoked ham tastes like nothing without you. I hated myself, and you should have been there.
I drove slowly, I pay attention a lot: not to inflict a second mourning to our loved ones.
And then at midnight, in the glare of the headlights, I found a fox - a baby, so small I first thought about a cat. A little fluffy ball, reckless and adventurous, playing in full light. It stayed for a while, looking at me. We understood each other.
I know this road inside out, Morten. I've met, there, deers and wild boars, snakes and squirrels, but never a fox. And on that night, two foxes: ten minutes later another one waited for me, looking just like its distant brother, large pointed ears, daring, unimpressed by the car.
I returned home, anger dissolved. I don't know if those two ones will ever get the chance to meet each other, but I'm glad they were two: you can disappear, Morten, you can die like this, 29 years old, you can fall in three seconds, but it's still the two of us. I'm not done with you.
I know that I will live, Morten, at least a hundred years – that's what I was saying, laughing, when we talked about death. I know that I will be happy, that I will fall in love again - maybe another Northern man, arrogant as you were, with your broken upper tooth. Maybe the opposite. There will be space for you. But I will make room for the living.
I am writing this text in the plane between Paris and Copenhagen, Morten, knowing that your dream list watches over me – when our plans vanished I felt dizzy: and now what? But you gave me the answer, and foxes can be found almost everywhere in the world. I'm off to New York, to spend a few weeks there, following your wish. I organize my trip to Mongolia. Greenland will wait until next spring.
I will continue to look for you, Morten. I tried yesterday in the mirrors of the science museum, and today, at the counter of your favorite cocktail bar. I look for you in my second wind when I run, in Islamic calligraphy, in bizarre white wines, in lavender fields, in your coffee machine, in the sorrow of your family, between the lines of this book you wanted me to read - Too Much Happiness, Alice Munro. Too much, really?
I'll send you my wishes from the steppes and the rooftops, from the glaciers and the dancefloors. And since your death takes me back to scratch, since I leave for a long time and you bring me back to the world: thank you for entrusting me with this second life, thank you for the luxury of new beginnings, thank you for making me understand that pain is a privilege.
I will continue to look for you, without any hope of crossing your ghosts. It doesn't matter. I won't find you but I'll find something else: foxes on my road.