In the University where I’ve studied, there is a student theatre called Mannequin. Several years ago, they played a performance based on the short story of Henri Barbusse named Tenderness. I like the original story; so I want to share it with you. It is tiny but emotionally intense, dark but romantic, not really realistic, but with a very concentrated meaning – all the features of a great story to me (you should be careful though not to attach to it too much, if you’re emotional kind of person).
Unfortunately, I haven’t found an official translation, so I’ve used Babelfish and edited it afterwards.
On September 25, 1893
My dear little Louis! Thus, everything is ended. We will never see us again. Remember that so firmly, as I do. You did not want separation, you would agree to everything, only to let us remain together. But we must part, so that you could begin the new life. It was not easy to resist to you, and to myself, and to us both together… But I do not feel sorry that I did that, although you so cried, buried in the pillows in our bed. Two times you raised your head and looked at me with your sorrowful, praying eyes… What a blazing and unhappy face you had! In the evening, in the darkness, when I no longer could see your tears, I felt them, they burnt my hands.
Now we both severely suffer. To me, it all seems to be a nightmare. The first days will be simply unbelievable; and several months will still be painful for us, and then, healing will come.
And only then I will write to you again, indeed, we’ve decided that I will write to you from time to time. But we have also firmly decided that you will never learn my new address and my letters will be the only connection, and it will not allow our separation to become the final break.
Kissing you for the last time, so tenderly, by entirely sinless, quiet kiss – indeed, such a great distance divides us now!
On September 25, 1894
My dear little Louis! I speak to you again, as promised. It is already a year, as we parted. I know, you did not forget me, we are still connected with each other, and every time that I think about you, I feel your pain.
And nevertheless the past twelve months have made their matter: they threw a mourning haze on the past. Look, already a haze is appeared. Some small things hide, other details completely disappear. Although, they float up in the memory now and then; if something incidentialy reminds about them.
I’ve tried to imagine the expression of your face, when I saw you for the first time, and I couldn’t.
You too, try to recall my eyes when you saw me for the first time, and you will understand that everything in the world goes away.
Recently I’ve smiled. To whom? To what? To nobody and nothing. In an alley, a sunny ray began to play, and I’ve involuntarily smiled.
I attempted to smile also earlier. It seemed to be impossible to learn how to do that again. And nevertheless, I’m telling you, I’ve smiled, perhaps against the will. I want that you too smile more often, just like that, simply liking good weather or to the view of the future in front of you. Yes, yes, raise your head and smile.
On December 17, 1899
And here I am again with you, my dear Louis. I’m like a dream, isn’t it? I appear when I want to, but always into the necessary minute, when all around is empty and dark. I come and go, I’m very near, but I cannot be touched.
I do not feel myself unhappy. The cheerfulness has returned to me, because each day begins with a morning and, as always, there are seasons of year. Sun shines so sweetly, so I want to trust it, and even usual daylight it is full of kindness.
Imagine, I’ve recently danced! I frequently laugh. First I counted every my laughter, but now I don’t even know, how often I laugh.
Yesterday, there was a fest. The crowd of the well dressed people crowded everywhere on the sunset. It was beautiful, and looked like a flower garden. And among such a number of contented people I felt myself happy.
I write to you in order to tell about all this; and also about the fact that from now on I turn myself into the new faith – I confess the selfless love to you. We’ve discussed about selflessness in love, not really understanding it… However, let us pray together to believe in it by entire heart.
On July 6, 1904
Years are passed! Eleven years! I’ve moved far away, then returned again and I am going to leave anew.
You have, of course, your own house, my dear Louis, indeed, you are an adult now, and, of course, you have now your own family, for which you mean so much.
But you yourself, how do you look like now? I imagine that your face is wider now, arms became stronger, but there is not many grey hair in your head. And of course, as before, your face all lights up, before a smile is ready to touch your lips.
Myself? I will not describe to you, how I’ve changed, becoming to an old woman. Yes, old woman! Women grow old earlier than men, and, if I were staying next to you, I would appear like your mother – both by appearance and according to that expression of eyes, with which I would look at you.
You see, we were right, parting at the right time. Now, after we’ve suffered, we’ve quieted, and my letter, which you, of course, recognized by my handwriting on the envelope, was for you almost an entertainment.
On September 25, 1893
My dear Louis!
Twenty years, as we parted… And twenty years as I am not alive, my dear. If you are alive and will read this letter, sent to you by accurate and respectful hands of my friends – those that for many years have been sending to you my previous letters – you will forgive me – if you don’t already forgot me – you will forgive that I’ve killed myself at very next day after our separation. I couldn’t, I didn’t know how to live without you.
We’ve parted yesterday. Look at the date at the beginning of the letter! Of course, you did not turn attention to it. Indeed, it was yesterday, when we were the last time together in our room and you, buried in pillows, sobbed as a child, helpless against your terrible sorrow. It was yesterday, when the night glanced into a half-open window, and your tears, which I already could not see, rolled along my hands. It was yesterday, when you shouted from pain and complained, and I, gathered all my forces, kept silent.
But today, sitting at our table, surrounded by our things, in our charming corner, I’m writting those four letters, which you must have obtained with big intervals. I will finish the last letter, and then the end will come.
This evening I will give the most precise orders, so that my letters will be delivered to you on those dates, which indicated on them, and also will take measures preventing finding me.
And then I will die. It is unnecessarily to tell you how: details of this disgusting action are inappropriate. They could cause pain to you, even after so many years.
Is important that I could detach you from me and do that carefully and sweetly, without wounding you. I want to care about you further, and for that I must live after my death. There will be no break, you couldn’t handle it, because disappointments cause such a huge pain to you. I will return to you – not too often, so that my image will go away from your memory, and not too rare in order to avoid unnecessary suffering. And when you know the truth, so many years will pass, that you will be barely able to understand, what would my death mean for you.
Louis, my dear, today’s our last conversation seems to be an ominous miracle.
Today, we speak very quietly, almost inaudibly – so far we are from each other, indeed I exist only in you, and you’ve already forgot me. Today, the meaning of word now for me, who is writing and whispering it, is entirely different than its meaning for whom, who is reading and quietly pronouncing it “now”.
Now, after overcoming this huge time distance, after overcoming the eternity – even if it seems to be absurd – now I’m kissing you as before.
I won’t add anything, because I fear to become sad, and therefore evil. And because I am not ready to confess to you all those mad dreams I still have, which are inevitable, when you love and when the love is enormous, and the tenderness is infinite.