It was still early in the morning when I woke up to the sound of her alarm clock and rolled to her side of the bed so I could hit snooze. Lingering on her pillow was now of pleasurable imperative consequence, as it had always been, at least as far back as I could remember. In the scale of extended rest modalities, there was certainly nothing higher than to hold on to the warm phantom of her sleeping body. Outside, though, traffic was jammed and all the impatient drivers rushed to their horns; dogs barked incessantly; kids ran crazy loud; and their mothers called hysterically upon them, to no successful use. It was clear that this morning I wouldn’t linger on no phantom, being, as it was, patently impossible to drift back into sleep. Better hit stop than snooze, then. Thus I resigned and rose myself, albeit reluctantly. I called her name and I heard my own voice spreading throughout her empty flat, instantly imposing over the outside noise, and signaling my readiness to the ensuing morning ritual. I heard no answer from her. But the sound of my morning voice set nevertheless the ritual’s overture, awakening it’s first and main two participants. Along came Agnès and Chris’s midget horse-racing hollow steps echoing through the corridor, preceding the little participants physical appearance, and enacting in that manner the opening ritualistic gesture. They came running fast, like wild things are supposed to do, but slowed down just before crashing against me. Then they danced a petite circling piece between my legs, rubbing my ankles and knees with their furry small bodies, and they followed me as I dragged my sleepy persona – the third participant – along the corridor and on to the kitchen, where I laid the summed cat food to the sound of incessant purring bliss. Finally, I turned to the kitchen table and saw my alloy orange mug: she had left it there for me, filled with cold black coffee. On the outside she had stuck a last minute post-it response presumably written before leaving, which simply read: OK, I'll go with you. That was the drop of manna exuded from the fourth and absent participant.
Why the memory of that morning should be on my mind as we walked the stairs, I had no clue. Was it the fact that she was after all following me? I had already scrutinized that day countless times in the past months. I knew the note on the my mug had at the time flushed through me as a portentous feeling of relieve, a sudden burst of liberation from the tightness of the ever greater and more intricate arguments we had exchanged during the previous night. That note had meant that we were out of the woods, so to speak. It had meant that something could be opening ahead. I remembered that, after reading it, I had instantly called her on the cellphone, hoping to reach her before she got to her office. She hadn’t answered. But I told what I had to say anyway, only I told it to Agnès and Chris: I’m going to make the reservation. We’ll be there from the 20th to the 27th of June. We’ll fly to the nearest city and then we’ll walk there for three hours, give or take. We are to carry no cellphones, and bring along as least as possible. After checking-in, silence will be mandatory. Thank you for accepting this in such blind terms. It is very important for me to be able to surprise you.Little had I then known that we would be there again, in the woods I mean, and that it was to be her, and not me, to do the surprising bit: after months of separation and zero news, no calls, no mails, no sudden appearances, she had unexpectedly texted me asking where should she wait at the airport. I received her text message on the 19th of June, and I trembled. In fury? Or was it again in release? Because although I had a backpack prepared for days in my apartment, until that day I still hadn’t decided whether or not I was really going, given that the purpose of the retreat had long vanished, but her message clearly prompted the decision. I made some calls and texted her back informing that we’d meet at the second gate. From the moment I saw her at the airport to the moment we were reaching our room in the old infirmary ward, I didn’t breathe a word to her. It wasn’t payback, I just couldn’t get around to it. However, under the current interdiction of speech, something clicked inside me and I tilted her way and said:thank you for coming.