Nobody ever brought me flowers except Vincent.
We were calling on the farmhouses, his folks and kin. He was on his bike, spurting forward and stopping every now and then to wait for us. Françoise was telling me, that Philippe had taken to heart the need of a career after she came out of hospital; that she longed to have a little house in which everything grew — daffodils, cabbages, strawberries, man, child and love. I saw in her eyes thin smoke rising from the red chimney of her little house and turned to look for mine. It was then that Vincent tapped me from behind and handed me the flowers he picked. The flowers withered that afternoon.
Vincent was shy the first time I met him. He came out of his room and embraced bonjour and backed away. I could not even make out how he looked and left him staying shy in Paris a week later. When I returned he was easier, and brought me those flowers; and tumbled on my lap to stay in the same snapshot with me; and tried to learn a little English. It would never cross his mind, nor could I understand why I had come all this way to find him and let him see me off in that lonely station far away from Paris. He tried to keep pace with the train and one merciful step almost tripped him. The train was moving fast, soon he left me behind.
He would go on and forget what I remembered, memory withered — like flowers picked — and he was just eight.
(published on 1/4/1980 – The Thumb Biweekly)