“He hated tomatoes back then.”
How trivial a sentence. How little does it say about you, a man of the Arts, someone with an actual body of work. Why does my memory reduce you to that? It has been hammering those words like a chant for the past week. It drowns out my many attempts to whisper something else since hearing of you having taken your last breath.
I know so much about you, you shared easily, and I know so little. But then… is it a futility to know you could not stand the texture of tomatoes or am I being pushed to focus on the unobvious? The fact I have shared your family’s table so often that, to this day, almost 20 years later, I can’t have a toasted bread without thinking of you three and of creamy goat cheese and honey? Is it sufficient an homage or should I prove I am a wordsmith? Putting pen to paper to mark the day for someone whose passion, talent and soul lied in the written word enhances my feeling of inadequacy. I cannot compare…
The world I entered when I stepped into your office on the so appropriately named street was one, I discovered, of enchantment but also of misplaced competition. Now that you have left it, it still is, maybe even more so. I will not compete…
Not in French.
I do not only remember you hated tomatoes when we met. I also remember hours of conversation, laughter, indefinitely intertwined stories, some sprinkled with gossip and horoscope (“Us Aries are impatient”), most inspiring and wise. I remember our last discussion on what it is to be a writer. I remember your decision not to write poetry anymore and your argument of our language being too restricted for it. I remember your hands, their long pencil-thin fingers, waving it all off to make room for your conclusion: “English is the language for poetry.”
It only seemed fitting I would bid my farewell in Shakespeare’ tongue, albeit without verse or rhyme.
I will cherish your memory. I will continue to touch your name on book covers with sadness and respect. I will always be grateful for your trust and for the kind and heart-breaking sentiments your beloved sons conveyed since your passing.
My heart goes out to Thomas, Lucas and Noé. My deepest condolences to them.
And to you, Francis: