“He’s written to me! He loves me!”
How can you keep a secret like that when you’re fifteen? How do you stop bursting with that happiness that is just too big and too new? Izzy cannot stand still. In her hands is a card, a real one, on which Theo has written the words that are making her swoon. A card that has arrived in her vacation letter-box. A card that says, “I love you!”
She has to give rein to her joy. She feels like jumping, climbing trees, touching the clouds! She has to find a way to release the rapid beating of her heart. The emotion is almost too strong for her. She would like to dance with happiness. Her body has to make itself felt!
She rushes into the shed where her grandfather always keeps his grandchildren’s bicycles in good working order. She pulls hers out, a sunny yellow one with slim wheels and a light frame. She dashes off…
“Your hat! And take some water…”
But Izzy can’t hear anything, she is already far away. Besides, there is nothing she needs. Perched on her bicycle, hoisted aboard her dream, she glides through the length of the village as it sleeps in the torpor of the day. She breathes in the air inflated with hot gusts. Behind the silent façades, the sleepers breath deeply as she rushes on, a vibrant, speeding silhouette, finding in her legs the familiar and wide movements of the pedals. Occasional noises, as if suspended in space, come to percolate through the internal song pulsing through her. Impatience makes her tremble. She feels the urge to pedal the machine with the full force of her body.
She has left the village and is picking up speed. She pedals with a regular rhythm; she could play on the gears to make the hill easier but chooses not do so, her chain remains on the wheel, increasing the effort required. She likes the development of power which forces her to reach deep inside herself to find the most secret resources she possesses. She attacks the pass with youthful fervour. She strains with delight around the last bends of the hill. She needs to feel each tendon, every muscle of her body. It is like a delicious battle between the emotion making her heart beat faster and the stiff slope catching her breath.
She has assumed a dancer’s position. Her two fists are gripping the handlebars, her head down, she is resisting. You might say she is measuring herself against life itself. She is pedalling and dancing, framed in grace. The ardour of her love will be measured by her physical resistance. Above all, she must not put her foot on the ground. She stares at the gray lines flashing past like crazy streamers before her eyes. She is entirely invested in the effort that exhausts and yet exalts her. She must reach the summit. “I want to win! I am going to win!” Her breathing is short and rushed. She is verging on asphyxia.
At last, the summit is right ahead. Right there in front of her eyes. She sees the beautiful line of fir trees, their trunks squeezed close together, their branches welcoming. She has swerved without braking. In her rush, her bicycle tips over. Izzy rolls over the carpet of soft pine needles. On the bank, the front wheel turns for a moment and then stops. In three weeks school will start again. Taking in the vast sky, the young girl laughs… She has done it! In three weeks, Theo will say to her the words he has written! She feels as if she has grown, and hugely! Her heart is pounding in her ears like the sound of the ocean, her blood and her joy are at their zenith. An incandescent feeling swells within her and lights up her whole being.
Izzy looks up at the branches holding up the sky and slowly adjusts her breathing; she savors her happiness. Then she stands up, gets back on her bike and glides down the corridors of wind. With her head held high, standing on the pedals, she plunges down the vertiginous slope and finally releases her song of love. She lets the words bounce on the summer road: “Izzy and Theo… Theo and Izzy…”
And the wind catches her song as it leaves her mouth; it pulls it like a caress down her cheeks and neck, and spins it into her flying hair. Izzy speeds along in a state of semi-vertigo and weightlessness, pulled along by the slope and all the now intoxicating scents of the evening. The wind whipped up by the speed tangles her long hair with tumultuous elation, the wind captures their two names, entwines and weaves them into great flowers, like ribbons of pearls. Finally, radiant and exhausted, Izzy performs a wide semi-circle in the yard in front of the house, brakes sharply and sets her foot on the ground. When she puts her bicycle away in the shed, she feels as if she is returning from a long and regal journey; she puts both hands up to her hair, certain of finding there the crowns of love that the wind has woven.
Translated by Wendy Cross