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It was not so difficult to slip behind the postman into the hall of the grand old Parisian building. Could I get into the inner courtyard? It was child’s play, as the kid from the third floor always forgets to close the door when he puts his bike away... and that makes an excellent ladder up to the first floor window. As I had foreseen, the whirring of the vacuum cleaner in the communal areas covered the tinkling of broken glass, and the thick February morning fog hid the gaping window in the living-room.

I was back at last.

The drab light filling the apartment intensified the nostalgia gripping my heart to the point of nausea. I belonged to this place.

The living-room had not changed much: the sturdy farmhouse table where we used to have breakfast still draws your gaze because of its incredible messiness. Opened letters and half-eaten slices of bread and jam are all mixed up with pots of pencils, bills, cups half full of cold coffee. Near a pile of strangely immaculate sheets of paper sat her laptop, always switched on. Images of the woman of my life, absorbed in her work at the hypnotic screen, bored into my brain. A painful memory of happiness...
All those mornings when a loving glance was enough to say hello, those languid evenings when each small activity was a celebration: mad races to the corner bakery, contemplative laundry sessions in the Lavomatic, great housework marathons to the sound of our favourite music... And our impromptu strolls that lasted till dawn...

But the screen saver brought back to me the cruelty of the present: it was no longer me she cared about but that man, her handsome “doctor”, who she had so often told me about, with false naivety and a honeyed voice, before the terrible confrontation.

In a rage, I overturned the computer, which smashed into bits, while my eye was caught by two wine glasses at the foot of the sofa, with their intoxicating residue still drying within them.
Ping, the glasses were in fragments, even the one so prettily decorated with the deep crimson of her lipstick.
Be brave. The bedroom. The empty, unmade bed, and next to it, the height of tactlessness, the bag still containing my old things, ready to be thrown away. The awful pink coat she had given me, with a tinkling, emasculating laugh, as if that had not been enough...
Rip the coat, bury myself in the sheets, drink in the still-present smell of her, struggle with the smell of the other one, and rip the sheets even more. Smash the bed, under the indifferent gaze of the stupid goldfish that the usurper had forced upon her: Carrot, the light one, and Chocolate, the dark one, sheer bad taste. How can you love a man who likes goldfish?
Wham, the bowl was on the floor. How satisfying it was to watch the stupid fish dying, flapping desperately on the Persian carpet among the broken glass.
Then, break everything, the bookshelves with their ornaments, evidence of the new reign, destroy her furniture, rip apart her dresses, and piss on his clothes. Ha! Ha! Ha! It was odd, I couldn’t even really laugh properly...

No, it was worth it, really, a great release to come back here...

She had suggested a vacation, to sort ourselves out. The torture of that long silent journey in her old car, crossing towns drenched in rain, forests of bare trees, mountains gleaming with snow, to that strange house, where no discussion had been possible, where she had dared to leave me, like an annoying old friend, waving her hand with sad but dry eyes.

No, it was really good to come back to destroy everything, ignoring the shouting from the other side of the door, which was now being cautiously opened. And I know I just have to act slightly aggressive, a bit crazy, and it will all be over at last.

Le Parisien
15 February 20**

News in brief – The caretaker of a small block of flats in Paradise Street had a shock yesterday morning, when he heard violent noises and banging on the first floor. Thinking someone was being attacked or burgled, he called the police who entered the flat after the usual warnings went unheeded. Alone in the small two-roomed flat, the tenant’s dog, visibly out of control, had to be put down by the police to stop it attacking them. Its young mistress, in tears in her devastated apartment, told our reporter, “I can’t understand it. He wasn’t a dangerous dog, at least not before his operation.... I had left him with friends who live near Grenoble, because he couldn’t get used to my partner. He must have covered over six hundred kilometres and broken a window to get back in here... I can’t understand it...”

Translated by Wendy Cross

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