Her Birdsong

“Tell me about that dream, the one you mentioned earlier. Give me as much or little detail as you’d like.”

Julien sighed softly, slowly blinked and paused. “Well, it’s always the same, no matter how much I wish for it to change. I don’t know why… sometimes it’s like… your brain enjoys torturing you?” He caught his therapist’s eye, before continuing. “Anyway. I’m sitting in a restaurant with a friend, whoever I’m closest to in that period I suppose, it’s the one thing that seems to differ. I don’t think it’s somewhere I’ve actually been, but it feels like one of those traditional restaurants, rustic and snug but kind of run-down too. I’m just relaxing, chatting and laughing with the friend, having a drink, you know? Then I hear it.”

Julien took a moment to prepare himself. It’s one thing to replay a scene in your mind, over and over and over, but to verbalise it, to share that feeling, it’s vulnerable. His eyes flickered around the room, darting from the multiple coffee rings on the ancient oak desk near the window to the dusty collection of awards and certificates that found their home on the light green wall.

“It’s… it’s her laugh. A genuine one. Not forced, not half cut, but a hearty chuckle, the kind only my most stupid jokes would be rewarded with. As soon as I hear it, everything changes. The lights dim, my friend’s grin fades, and my heart tries to rip its way out of my chest. God even talking about it, I can feel that disgusting pit replacing my stomach. Is that normal?” He looked for some form of approval, and received a comforting nod in response. “Anyway… I can never ignore it. Sometimes I’ve tried, I’ll sit there for a few minutes in silence, running my fingers over polished wood tabletop, but eventually the result is always the same. I force myself to my feet, mumble some excuse and begin my search, looking for the source of the torment. Only a few steps around the corner… and there she is…” Julian gulped softly, his vision slowly becoming blurry. His hand shook a little as it reached for the half empty glass of water, desperate for the wave of pain to pass.

“She’s just… sitting there, smiling. Like a ray of sunshine piercing a hollow cavern. But around her, a man. A young girl. It always takes me a second, like my brain is trying to protect me, screaming and begging me to just turn around and return to the safety of the polished wooden tabletop. But I never do. I can’t, how could I? Then she notices me, and her smile just grows. Not unpleasantly so, but warmly, with love intently radiating from it.”

The therapist lowered her pen and looked up to the young man, whose stare would better be described as 1000-mile rather than 1000-yard. “You don’t have to continue, it’s ok…” She tapered off, looking at Julien intently.

A sharp, weak breath broke the silence. “And that smile brings me back. It’s not just an expression of joy, it’s the homemade pain au chocolat on a rainy weekend morning, or a hug and head scratch after a miserable few hours of work. It’s feeling safe, knowing that you have a purpose, a reason to keep fighting. I just stand there, rooted to the spot. Silent.”

Julien suddenly broke his vacant stare, and met the therapist’s eye, a joyless look awaiting the older woman. “And that’s it.” He sighed, running his hand through his drier-than-usual hair. It’s as if his very soul evaporated whilst recounting the dream.

The therapist quickly scanned her notes, before softly closing her leather-bound notebook and taking off her glasses solemnly. “Ok. I’d like you to think about this dream, and next time we meet tell me what it brought to you. A meaning, a feeling, whatever. Is that alright?”

Julien nodded without word, sustaining the eye contact. “Next week then?” He rose noticeably carefully. “Until then.” The reply came.

Julien closed his eyes for deliberately long moment as he stepped out of the Georgian era block, letting the sounds of the world around him feast on his subconscious. Somewhere, a baby wailed with no mother bothered. Elsewhere, a delivery driver took a much-needed respite in a lukewarm coffee and newspaper.

The young man foraged inside his ghost white windbreaker’s pocket and pulled a cigarette to his mouth, with his other hand bringing the lighter to meet it. He took a few steps to the bus stop and fiddled with his headphones, untangling them before inserting them. He didn’t even have to think when he unlocked his phone. Texts. He scrolled a little, and there he found it. His relief and exhaustion. His escape and weight. There was a weary motion to this ritual like it had been completed to infinity and back. Julien took a long drag from his cigarette and briefly glanced up to check for the bus, before darting his eyes back to an open text chat. With her. The suffocating, invasive smoke went to war with emotional turmoil for the right to choke his throat uncontested, and lost.

Once, the picture of her sitting on a rope swing in a busy yellow summer dress enchanted him. Now it tormented him. He clicked saved and found his reward. A twelve-second audio message. His heart preemptively shrivelled as his finger reluctantly pressed play. A gentle voice dripping with genuineness shattered the silence, “Hey sweetheart, I love you. Keep smiling for me, you’ll always be my petit chou-fleur.”

Again. Julien looked up, took another long pull of the cigarette and again pressed play. The world slowed to a sluggish crawl around him, his consciousness totally entranced by the twelve seconds of nothing but her love. This was not a type of agony that he was taught would exist, nor one he imagined would be felt for decades to come. It wasn’t just that the colour had faded from his world, but that it had never existed to begin with; it was a world where birds had never chirped over a soft summer breeze, a world where it was impossible to get sweet pastry and sharp espresso on a crisp spring morning, a world he didn’t want to co-habit with further. The sweet release of death was a desire the young man was well accustomed to, but one he was not willing to pursue. Yet.

By the time the bus finally bothered to show up, Julien had been constantly listening to her message. Before hopping on board, he switched over to his default playlist, a safe choice to distract him on the half hour journey to the depot. He needed something upbeat, especially with what Valentin had planned for their evening. As the bus jolted into action, the young man’s eyes took a customary look at the building he’d just left, his mind coldly summarising today’s session, working in a way to carefully the avoid the door in his mind where everything Marie related was imprisoned. As he often did, Julien succumbed to a moment of weakness and begrudgingly retrieved his phone. Again. “Hey sweetheart, I love you. Keep smiling for me, you’ll always be my petit chou-fleur.”

A begrudging grin painted itself across Julien’s previously solemn visage as the bus ground to a halt at its destination. He swiftly unplugged his headphones, shoved them into his trouser pocket and jumped up, a little lighter than when he sat. Barely a step off the bus before Julien was enwrapped in a tight embrace. This weekly ritual was a fond moment for the young man, who appreciated the lift in tone it brought to an otherwise difficult afternoon.

“Another session done, eh man?” Valentin grinned, carefully analysing Julien’s expression and overall body language. The pair began their walk home, a fairly pleasant affair as the mellow spring evening breeze blew calmly. “Indeed.” As was no surprise, Julien did not discuss the details of his session, a fact that did not bother his companion. Valentin was a slim and well-statured young man, with only a small flag on his right ankle intruding on his otherwise spotless olive-coloured skin. Julien, on the other hand, was paler, with unruly dark brown shoulder-length hair and the facial hair of a tortured bohemian.

The pair trudged away from the depressingly brutalist bus depot, heading for a tree line beyond the car park. Barely a cloud interrupted the multicoloured sky, the sunset’s charge proving overpowering for the day’s defences, with shades of pink, orange and purple taking centre stage from the previously consistent blue. Valentin rummaged into his denim jacket pocket and produced a carefully rolled joint, whisking it to his lips in an instant. Seconds later and it was under Julien’s command, his friend care-freely passing it over. “So, you ready for this party tonight then?” Valentin remarked, quickly glancing at the rotting wooden fence before deftly vaulting over. The party.

Julien had been building up to it for months now, previously preferring to stay isolated in the confines of his room as his world collapsed around him. But not tonight. He was ready, and with Valentin at his side he knew it would be a possible challenge. “Yeah, I’m looking forward to it, it’s been way too long now…” He trailed off, slowly taking another drag before passing it back to his companion and clambering through the space in the fence.

A grounding, earthly feeling surged through his foot as he stepped up. The pair walked along in silence together for a while, not feeling threatened by a lack of conversation; for them, a simple pleasure existed in knowing that two people can co-exist in tandem in a comfortable and understood quiet. It represented something important to both of them. Calm. In a world plagued by chronic stress, debilitating anxiety and urgent need, serenity was an oasis not often discovered, least of all by two relatively troubled individuals. And yet, here it was.

The sound of an overworked commuter train was the first to dare disturbing the stillness. Valentin took this opportunity to converse in his stride, and looked to his side to catch Julien’s eye. “How you doing today man?” He asked, a slight hint of apprehension present despite attempted concealment. Julien took a long drag from the half-finished joint, and let his eyes wander as the makeshift dirt path began to narrow toward a tattered railway bridge. There too, a stillness. Another train wasn’t expected for a little while, allowing the pair to take pause in the middle. “Well, I’m still not really convinced by the therapy, I can’t lie. I hoped she’d have some answers but all she comes out with is more questions.” Julien replied. “I told her about the dream, you know the one, but I’ll have to wait until next week to hear her analysis, I suppose.”

“What do you want that to be?” Valentin said, the irony of him continuing to ask questions not unacknowledged. Julien shrugged. “I’m not sure, but the goal for me is to understand the situation, what’s happened. Because right now, I’m all over the place. I also had a horrible realisation earlier, tried to put it out of my mind but it’s continuing to bother me.” Valentin quickly drew in breath. “What?”

Here it was again. The agonising verbalisation. It started in his stomach, utterly devouring any contents present before slithering up his digestive tract, aggravating the tissue as it thrashed and fought for its coveted prize. There it took respite for a moment, before springing into action, squeezing and tightening with an untold strength around Julien’s trachea. He pushed on, desperate to relieve this incredible weight. “I realised that I can’t remember how she felt. Not her hand in mine. Not the sensual sensation of her lips making contact with mine, nor the waltz her fingers would dance on my thigh as a film played.” Julien’s eyes threatened to well up. “At first, I was certain it was impossible. How could I forget? It’s literally been the only thing I daydream of, the only thrill truly wanted. But then, I was stupid. I didn’t appreciate those moments, not really, because there was an innate expectation that they’d always be within reach. A dairy farmer doesn’t obsess over a glass of milk. I wish I had now…”

Valentin sighed tenderly. “I mean, I’m no expert, but isn’t that part of it? Moving on…” He trailed off, the concept clearly not one appealing to the distraught young man. Julien gritted his teeth a little and cleared his throat, dropping the remains of the joint down to the depths below. “Well, I don’t think that’s very fair. I don’t want to forget, ever.” He retorted venomously.

His companion took a step back and energised his demeanour, aware that this particular conversation would only now exacerbate Julien’s condition. “Of course. Now, we should probably get back soon so we can change before heading out, yeah?” Julien swallowed his woe and stood up straight, only a short walk now between him and the evening ahead.

The heavy oak door slam shut and Valentin turned to Julien with a cheeky grin. “Ok, you’ve got 30 minutes and then we need to get going. See you soon.” He carelessly sauntered down the hall and disappeared behind his bedroom door, leaving Julien alone in the empty hall. The young man kicked off his shoes and jumped upstairs, keen to wash off the day’s troubles under the comforting and well-pressured shower.

He briefly darted inside his room, dropping off his bag by the blatantly IKEA wardrobe, before stripping down to his boxers. He quickly scanned the room, grabbed his toiletry bag and slipped out the door, heading to the bathroom. Julien’s room was of a good size, its soft, grey carpet covered in random piles of suspicious smelling clothes, well-worn books, crumpled and aged papers and heavily inked drawings. Plain white bedsheets topped a cheap mattress on a black metal frame. Posters varying from environmental campaigns to basketball players littered the dark green walls, painted with Julien’s own touch. In the corner, a moderate sized and ink-stained wooden desk. Once, this environment brought him inspiration, interest and passion. Once, it gave hope, safety and comfort. Now, nothing. Lifeless void.

Julien locked the bathroom door behind him, hung up his towel on it and flicked the shower on. He ruffled through his toiletries bag, produced his skincare products and toothbrush, setting it aside. Glancing up to the mirror, Julien disappeared into himself upon making eye contact with the somber, forlorn figure. Why? A word that had previously carried little weight for the young man throughout his existence, three letters worth less than the ink it would take to write them. And yet, now it was omnipresent, unforgiving. Why? Like a disease it poisoned his very essence, forcefully pushing into every refuge of his subconscious, uncaringly tarnishing all that it crossed. Julien wasn’t an absent host, and so fought with every fibre to drive this scourge away. But he always failed. Not a day could pass without it. Why did she do it?

Steam creeping from behind the shower curtain was the signal awaited by the young man. He willingly stepped behind the floral plastic sheet and enjoyed the loving embrace of the warm water. It rejuvenated him, running across his battered being and bandaging the wounds left behind by another day’s thoughts. Julien didn’t hurry himself. After what felt like an eternity, but was closer to around 10 minutes, he flicked off the shower, stepped out and hastily rubbed the towel around him. Now, the outfit.

Swiftly swinging the wardrobe open, Julien assessed his options, before reaching for a shirt in an area not often disturbed, the one where the fabric is deserving of a hanger, not left to be crumpled in a pile in the depths below. The rest of his outfit came naturally, plain black jeans and sleek white trainers. He quickly darted back into the bathroom, applied some face moisturiser and then, paused. Intently staring into the mirror, expectations and predictions for tonight flooded his mind. For a moment, it overwhelmed. Suddenly, peace. He blinked conscientiously. A quick hair flick and then, show time.

Valentin looked up from his half-tied shoelace as his friend descended the stairs. “All ready?” He chirped, returning to his leather brogues. “You know it.” A new, charged energy accompanied Julien as he reached ground level, manifesting as a free-spirited smile. He caught Valentin’s eye as he rose. “You ok carrying the drinks, or want me to?” His friend nodded disapprovingly, the clinking rucksack being no bother. And with that, they departed.

Surely an age had passed. Certainly felt like it. Julien blew a half-hearted raspberry and drummed his heels against the platform, his patience paper thin. Valentin was faring a little better, absorbing the moment in every conceivable way; he enjoyed looking back at the small moments in life, the ones with little significance, the ones that for all intents and purposes were inconsequential, but not for him.

After an aeon, or in laymen’s terms 26 minutes, the dingy headlights of the train illuminated the far-reaches of the platform. Valentin’s expression quickly drew into a playful smile and he leapt up, slinging the rucksack over his shoulder. “Where do you think you’ll be drawn to tonight? I believe Nadine is preparing a little bit of everything.” The grin infected Julien, and he clicked his tongue lightly before responding. “God, not sure.” The pair stepped onto the rickety train and slumped into some nearby, relatively stain free seats. “Definitely nothing psychedelic though, that’s for sure. I suppose I’ll have a look around and see what catches my fancy. You?” A shrug. Clearly a little meandering was in order for the duo. The train suddenly jolted into action, and within minutes the next station crept into view. After a little while, the uninspiring trees and hedges gave way to the endless sprawl of suburbia, before finally transforming into inner city streets.

Julien stared blankly as shops and cafes flew by, a tranquility present within him. The penetrating beams of multicoloured neon lights signalled the train’s entrance into one of the more lively and unpredictable districts of the city. Julien turned to look at Valentin, shades of purple and blue spilling across the carriage, plunging the two into a dreamlike glow. “What time is that football match you wanted to watch? This week.” He asked, gaining Valentin’s full attention the second he mentioned the sport. “Eight tomorrow evening. Your basketball is on Saturday afternoon, right?” His friend replied smoothly. An unspoken but well understood phenomena, it was common for the pair to make an effort to share their separate sporting passions together, a status quo fully appreciated by them both. Julien nodded, before an electric glint appeared in his eye. “Are you planning to profess to Aimée tonight then? If she’s there, that is.” He floated cautiously, his anticipation for the response rising with each passing second. Valentin scowled, holding the expression for as long as he could, before a reluctant grin took centre stage. “Of course, I can’t wait anymore man. It’s getting to the point now that I’m just tired of the anxiety of it. Plus, of course, she won’t be able to resist my devilish charm.” Julien guffawed at the remark. “Well don’t worry about my misery aura corrupting your moment. I know she’ll definitely be with the drinkers, which is almost certainly not where I’ll end up. I expect full details tomorrow, though.” Valentin chuckled as the train slowed into the dark station, where the pair would depart.

That’s when it hit Julien. And it hit hard. Every other time he’d pulled into this station, an angel would be waiting for him on the platform. Marie. Wearing her long grey coat and snuggly red scarf in the cold winter winds, or shabby jeans and a floral cardigan in the crisp spring air. A twinkle in her eye. An adorable smile. Valentin’s disarming tap abruptly grounded him, forcefully dragging his thoughts away from her and back into his crestfallen reality. “Our stop.” Julien blinked, not willing to let this moment tarnish a fun evening, and the two slipped off the train. They were the only sign of life. A few warm lights were dotted were the only source of guidance on the outdoor platform, and so they trudged along, eventually surfacing to a peaceful residential street. The duo silently strolled for a few minutes, before ultimately reaching a violet door with a large 23 painted on it. Valentin knocked. An approaching sound of giggling followed, before finally the door swung open. Nadine beamed at the pair, gesturing for them to enter. They shared a brief look as they stepped in. Here we go.

The flurry of new sensations overwhelmed Julien, wildly tossing him about the narrow hallway. The suffocating smell of smoke. Clinking bottles. Laughter. Nadine’s excitable snicker restored his autonomy. “Been a while, eh?” She smiled radiantly. “Let’s give you two a little tour then, before you pick your poisons!” After slipping off their shoes, the boys followed closely behind a skipping Nadine, her tanned calves quickly drawing Valentin’s attention. “Ok, so downstairs is the drinkers, in here…” She beckoned into a brightly lit lounge, its attendants letting out a hearty cheer. “And the ‘fruit salad’ room. All kinds of intoxication in here.” She wasn’t joking; Julien peered past the kitchen door and saw a very spaced-out man being subjected to a confusing tale by a rum wielding brunette by the dishwasher. The pair followed Nadine up the stairs. “Here, the smokers…” Through a thick fog Julien could make out an inviting smile and thumbs up, and so blindly returned the gesture. “And the psychedelic’s den.” No reaction inside, its inhabitants too enwrapped in the notes of a soft Spanish guitar. Nadine spun around and curtseyed playfully before taking a step down the steps. “If you need me, I’ll be drowning my sorrows with a horrendously cheap bottle of red wine.” She remarked wryly, before disappearing below. Valentin was quick to follow, slinging his jacket over his shoulder as he hopped down the stairs behind her. “Wish me luck!” He sung confidently, a glint shining in his eyes. Julien could do nothing but smile as his friend departed. “Good luck.” He stated back, unsure if his response contained any audible value or not. Sounds of coughing and laughter escaped from one of the two doors behind him and he took a moment to compose himself before taking the plunge, a quick hair swipe and weighted breath enough preparation. Before taking that first step, though, he switched off his phone, hoping to conserve as much battery as possible for the long night ahead. “Let’s have fun.” Julien thought.

The handle gave way with a worrying ease and quickly Julien was plunged into an asphyxiating toxic cloud, eyes watering upon impact. His stunned appearance quickly drew attention. “Jules…” A feminine voice giggled, the match that lit a hilarity fire. An intense start. Finally the snickering began to wane and this time a masculine voice took to the podium, although not before a rather disturbing throat clear. “How are you man? Come…sit…” He gestured, vaguely shooing the group apart. This was it. Every step toward the haphazard clearing saw Julien drop a weight, a pain, a memory. “Here.” The initial woman effused, holding out both a rather poorly rolled joint and a moderately room temperature can of a dangerously coloured soft drink. Julien smiled again. Finally.

The piercing lights of a passing ambulance through the window jolted Julien off astral plane 60. He lethargically stretched his neck, groaning softly as he summoned the energy of 300 spartans to stand. Unsure if divine intervention had played a role in his successful vertical movement, Julien stumbled toward the door, one goal in mind. Toilet. A few coughs, a few hairy moments. Then sanctuary. He flicked on the decaying yellow light and lumbered toward the toilet, quickly solving his issue before returning to find a noticeably disheveled figure looking back at him in the mirror. “Damn.” He pondered. “I really look like shit, huh?” Then he remembered. Valentin. “Ah well.” He thought, taking one last look before flicking off the light.

Finding Valentin was a goal with multiple rewards attached: a cheeky grin to lift his spirits, a cigarette and surely a story to tell. It didn’t take him long to uncover his now-cutely drunk friend, who was quietly sitting in a kitchen corner beaming at the girl he was supposedly in conversation with. Aimée. Julien noticed this moment and had no intention to intrude, but his roommate’s ever-watchful gaze had already spied him. He reluctantly strolled into the kitchen, dodging half-drunk beer bottles and concerning looking piles of greasy food as he went. Valentin’s attention instantly switched. “Cigarette?” He beamed, somehow conjuring two out of thin air. “Sorry Aimée…” Julien apologetically smiled. She simply chuckled, before leaning in to give Valentin a peck of the cheek. “I’ll be around.” The young woman whispered softly to her now fully infatuated counter-part. Aimée waltzed off upstairs, Valentin following each step with a fluttering heart. The pair slipped outside the front door, but not before Julien reached into the front room to nab his jacket off the leaning tower of coat racks.

It was a quiet smoke. Again this silent contentedness filling the void. Valentin finished his cigarette first, shifting his body weight to take a step before hesitating. “All good?” He asked Julien with a sudden seriousness, clasping his shoulder softly. “Yeah, thank you.” Valentin took a minuscule step. “Better find Aimée again then…” He floated considerately, receiving a reassuring nod in response. His companion skipped up the stairs, his relaxing aura departing with him.

Julien sighed as he flicked his cigarette clean of ash. “Back upstairs, grab something to eat and a cold drink, easy.” He thought, zoning out as a street lamp burned into his retinas slowly. He flicked the cigarette softly and delved into his pocket, feeling a need to check it ‘just in case’. Whatever that meant. Only this time, it meant something. Julien’s eyes initially glossed over the blinding glare of his phone, before a notification caught his attention. Unusual at the best of times, but this was different. He scanned the words over and over again, not quite believing what this social media platform was telling him. An emotional grenade had landed in his hand, its agonising shrapnel burrowing deeply and dangerous across his person. A mouth that had previously hosted smoke, lukewarm shop cola and the ever-present saliva was disturbingly barren. A slicing, raw pain replaced a swallow. Trying to blink through an impending flood, Julien scanned once again. “My petit chou-fleur, we don’t have long…” It read.

A young woman, pained by a slight blister in her left heel, hastily sped down the street. If she failed to reach the nearby station an expensive taxi awaited, late-night maintenance work finally preparing to start. She hardly noticed, then, the frozen man standing with a cigarette butt burning his fingertips. He presented a weak figure, tightly holding himself with a shaking hand held out, phone in hand. She searched to meet his eyes, now stopping despite the impending expense. Then, she gasped. The look she found was not one of simple pain or frustration, no. Instead, she was pierced by a haunting stare, not one of a man having an emotional cigarette but of one watching a companion slowly bleed out whilst artillery fire bellowed above. Not an eternity, but a moment. The woman broke her trance, remembered the maintenance work and set off without a word, struggling to comprehend the scene uncovered.

Julien’s eyes didn’t follow the woman as she trailed off, but remained fixed on where their eyes met. He too found himself stuck in a trace, but unlike the woman he wasn’t ready to jump back to action in pursuit of resolving it. Phone screen finally timing out, his gaze returned to his trembling hand. He dropped the cigarette butt and replaced it with a fresh victim in one swift movement, lighting it before looking down once again. He press the home button. In front of him, two agonising notifications, the first no stranger; “my petit chou-fleur, we don’t have long…” The second, however, was one that sliced the very being of his soul, forever scarring a small corner that would forever remain black.

He opened the message and began to read. “This can only began with an apology, my dear. Nothing else would suffice and frankly, I understand that one is so desperately needed given the circumstances. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that my decision, one I truly felt forced to make, forced this on you. I remember a time we met at a small cafe near your university building, I think you know the one I mean, early on. I was still so nervous around you, the sparks skittering across my core threatening to ignite, but you gave me a look after a short break in conversation. For you it was nothing, a passing moment as you started to plan dinner during a brief study break, but for me it was a thrown match, confirming that my heart’s course had been set. As the darkness approached I often thought of that moment, praying it’s light could ensure my safety a little longer as the endless night crept closer. Unfortunately, it couldn’t. I loved you from that moment in across coffee to my last. I died loving you, my petit chou-fleur.

“I’m sorry that this is all I can say. There’s no conceivable way I could explain how this is happening, but we both know that it’s beside the point regardless. The point is this, I don’t want you to die loving me. Please. Julien, you were the best thing that ever happened to me and you will be to someone else again, you’ll find a person loved enough to endure it all. You’ll think of me sometimes, wondering if this new passion somehow tarnishes the old, but I can assure you it truly won’t, because there is no old anymore. There’s only you. All of my affection, deep and pure, is now buried so deep within you that it can never be changed, altered or ruined. It’s part of you Julien. I will always be there. Fighting in your corner, providing the strongest support and cheering your successes. Everyone but Valentin expects you to return to how you were before eventually, finally slipping back into old ways after burying your grief deep enough. Shockingly, Valentin is right. You’re a new Julien, one who truly understands love and loss, liberation and limitation, and one who is so much stronger than before. So stand up straight my petit chou-fleur, drop that cigarette and release this burden. The sun may have set this day sweetheart, but within an instant it will rise again.”