My very dear Claire,
I already know so much about you, and yet I have never actually seen you. For six months now, I have been passing you, sensing you, hearing you, closing my eyes when I smell your scent, as rich and powerful as a childhood memory, leaving its warm fragrance of caramel gingerbread to perfume the staircase.
Nowadays thousands of people live right next to each other without ever seeing each other. The fact that chance has so happily cast us on the same road, in the same building, on the same landing, I take that as a gift of life. I just wanted to tell you in this letter how glad I am to have you as a neighbor. It is the little everyday sounds that create links and fill the emptiness. The sound of a bunch of keys being scrabbled for in a bag in the dark by its owner in a hurry to open her door; that of high heels being flung off and the sighs after a long day at work; the television going on in the evening to hear news of far-flung places, and to dream of other horizons; the alarm clock, early in the morning, when the city is still slumbering and even the cats don't dare to mew yet… That particular noise, piercing and nagging, in my bed, half asleep, it reassures me and tells me that I am also part of the earthly beehive, and that just a few meters away, life is awakening.
Thanks to you, I have discovered that one can love life, just from the sounds and scents of a neighbor.
To have in your drawer a letter from a total stranger is part of the small pleasures of our earthly existence… at least, so I believe. I wanted to send you this gift, without expecting anything in return, except for the joy of knowing you are near.
I would have preferred a thousand times over to have written this letter with my own hand, with downstrokes and upstrokes, finely traced capital letters, rather than having to type it, but the Braille keyboard connected to my computer now gives me the immense satisfaction of being able to at last communicate my emotions, and that is, in itself, a great thing.
Adrien, your neighbor
Translated by Wendy Cross