"You do not love me," and the slamming door. His footsteps on the stairs, fainter, fainter, until he is gone.
Somewhere beneath the pain the fear the loneliness, there is a measure of relief. Jeannot will not see this. He will not know any of it: the medicines Alexandre has refused in order to see him fed; the dearest possessions he has sold to pay their rent. His anger is a good thing. Anger will keep him from despair -- keep him alive.
Alexandre scrapes one last painful breath and thinks of his blue-eyed boy. This is the way to die.
Late summer 1790
Their mornings stretch on, hour after empty hour, and this is when Jeannot is most in danger of remembering. He drinks, therefore, spending the coins Eugène gives him on vinasse and stout, while Eugène writes poetry to him, or tries to. At noon perhaps they eat a little, or perhaps not--Jeannot has little appetite for anything solid--and then it is to the warm smoke-filled club for the poppy, for the relief of forgetting again that which he cannot, now, clearly remember. They leave at dusk, walking slowly like old men to their attic room, and undress without speaking.
That space on the wall is darker than the rest, as if the clock’s shadow hangs there still. Chrétien’s eyes fix on it, tracing the spot slowly, precisely. Before Rémy took the clock down, he used to stare at the hands like this, unblinking, because as long as he kept his eyes fixed on the minute hand it stood still, and that was a victory: stopping time, cheating Fate, if just for one moment.
Outside this room it is April. The ground is nearly thawed; ready. Everything waits -- and Chrétien is waiting, too. Soon, he knows, it will be soon.