libris.ro

Antineea and the Clouds

by Gheorghe Recheşan [Romania]

Finalist of the HBO-Tiff 2010 Competition

Translation from Romanian by Wendy Stein and Alina-Olimpia Miron, MTTLC student

editing by Michael Graeme [UK]

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Antineea had been weather-sensitive, for more than a year when I met her.  I believe that was why she had taken up painting only bleak landscapes under low, heavy skies, darkened by black, storm-ridden clouds. She and her boyfriend had just broken up and she had begun to sink uncontrollably into the depression that comes with the dissolution of a relationship. She hated men. Now that I recall our meeting, it’s a wonder she spoke to me, or even tolerated  a man’s  presence. Our meeting occurred in a very clichéd way.  We met on a bench in the park.

Usually, when I have writer’s block, I walk on the streets with a writing pad in my pocket. When an idea flashes through my mind, I tend to collapse into the nearest chair and quickly write lest the thought disappear or become one of the thousands of thoughts that suddenly become irrelevant. In the days when I used to publish pamphlets and satirical short-stories in weekly papers, I frequently worked in smoke-filled pubs or on café terraces. I can write almost anywhere: in the foyer of a theatre during an intermission, at the end of a bar, on the tram or the train, while eating, in bed, or before I fall asleep. With a little practise, I think I could write while walking. The only piece of writing I have worked on consistently for more than seven years is my diary.  I always write in my diary within the four walls of my room.

I don’t believe in predestination. At most, perhaps, I believe in the effect a history of unfortunate events may have. However, meeting Antineea in the alley of a park at the very moment when I was searching for an interesting topic for my future short-story seemed more than a fortunate coincidence. It was a lovely May afternoon, and I had sat on the only free bench in the square. I was jotting down some ideas on the urgent need for a universal artistic alphabet when a girl stopped in front of me and addressed me in a rather aggressive tone.

‘I am going to sit here only because the other benches are taken… I wouldn’t want you to misinterpret my action as a feeble attempt to meet someone!’

I raised my eyes from my pad, astonished by that low, husky voice. I saw a tall, thin young woman with long, auburn hair. Her clothing  was dishevelled.  She wore a pair of jeans and a man’s chequered shirt and she held a drawing pad in her hand. I mumbled a reply:

‘If I were here to socialize, I would be sitting next to someone on another bench!’

She sat at the opposite end of the bench, took out a box of crayons and started to draw. Though I restrained my curiosity as much as possible, eventually I had to look over her shoulder.  A landscape was coming to life: a  quay shaded by the light green leaves of sycamores, the elegant silhouette of a  bridge mirrored in the calm wavelets, the Gothic shadow of a  cathedral in the background,  everything under a clear sky. The stranger sketched all these details, quickly in sombre colours. The sky was covered by thick, dark, rain-filled clouds. When she felt my gaze, she turned and looked at me with greyish-green eyes full of a melancholy I could not define.

‘Rain will fall in a few hours and the landscape before us will turn into this!’ she said.

In order to avoid a boring conversation on the unpredictability of spring weather I asked her directly: ‘Why wouldn’t it remain the same? Man filters reality through his inner experiences…. still, why are you so depressed?’

She closed her pad and put the crayons back into the box. At that moment I feared she would leave without so much as a word, but she answered me.

‘Are you a psychologist by any chance? All right, then I can tell you. I am sensitive to the weather.  I can feel any weather change, two-three hours before it occurs!’

As if to support her statement, a chilly gust of wind suddenly descended out of nowhere and shook the crowns of the trees. ‘Do you find it strange?’she asked.  ‘If I painted the sky as it is right now, would I be optimistic?

Over the  years I have learned that when one has run out of arguments in a conversation, the best thing to do is digress  and turn one’s partner’s attention to common things. So I said: ‘Not at all, what would be strange, though, is, if you left without my knowing who I’d talked to!’

A sad shadow of a smile quivered for a moment and with a nervous gesture she straightened a silky strand of hair that kept touching her forehead. ‘You’re just like the others, trying to draw me into an innocent conversation, only so that you can ask for my phone number later.’

‘You’re mistaken. I just want to know your name. As I have said, it is quite unpleasant to talk to someone and not know who you are dealing with!’

She frowned, her eyebrows gloomily arched over her brow like a shadow cast by a cloud and she told me rather tersely: ‘Don’t laugh…my name is Antineea! When my mother was at the maternity ward, my father was re-reading Pierre Benoît’s Atlantida for the thousandth time.’

One too many years had passed since I had dreamed about that enchanting and fantastic story, so I replied with apparent indifference: ‘I like people with bizarre names. I, for example, have a very common name.’

Antineea suddenly got up, the azure-blue sky had been covered for a few minutes with ashen cloud. She ripped a corner of cardboard from her drawing pad and scribbled something on it.

‘It’s all right. You can call me on a day it won’t rain!’

She left without so much as a backward glance.  A gust blew hard and soon drops of cold rain began pattering loudly on the leaves.

That evening in the editorial office we had gathered to talk about lustration. Liviu wanted to send articles and letters to every important publication in Europe. The others had a different opinion, so I told them: ‘I met a girl today. She has a rare name and paints clouds!’

‘Very good’, Teodor said.  ‘Janine wasn’t right for you!’

I had to admit he was right. Janine was a dancer and she had gone to Italy to earn more money.

                                                                      *

The heavy rainfall lasted three days and three nights. Filled with hope, I would watch the sky, but from the low ceiling of clouds, the rain kept pouring relentlessly. I could have called her, but I was prevented from doing so by an unfathomable superstition. (I usually do not believe in signs, horoscopes or other superficial stupidities meant to fill the papers). I waited for the first morning of clear skies and darted to the phone.

A soft, sleepy voice answered. It was only half past eight. Her response made it brutally apparent that I had called her too early in the morning. 

‘If you don’t mind, I don’t feel like talking right now, I’ve slept only a few hours. I’ve been painting all night.  If you want, you can come to the workshop, even if it rains!’

I wrote down the address and began to rummage feverishly through my collections in search of a gift. I am an avid collector and overt the years, I have gathered all types of things that have caught my eye – rocks; wave-smoothed stones; conches; hunks of wood, which vaguely resembled animals; pipes; daggers bearing the patina of time, and ancestral ceramics. From the drawer containing conches, I took out a rare piece. It was a nautilus carapace in pearly auburn, with purple freckles sprinkled along the inside.

Although I usually don’t pay much attention to my appearance, I shaved carefully.  My bony, sunburnt face, wreathed in deep wrinkles looks more serene when it’s not overrun with the dark hairs of my beard.  Somewhere behind me, an invisible Janine giggled maliciously. ‘You look five years younger when your face is freshly shaved.  Who’s the lucky lady?’

I sent the thought of Janine far away, to a stage in a night club somewhere and put on an ochre-coloured suede suit jacket, a matching coloured shirt and a pair of light-coloured linen trousers. Although there were several hours before our date, I went out to hang about the streets neighbouring her place, like a predator becoming familiar with the hunting ground before the attack. Antineea’s workshop was located under a protruding fragment of the Vauban-style fortification that used to surround the town centre. There was a narrow one-floor building buried between a massive buttress and a large arcade that housed a second-hand bookshop. The moment the bells of the gothic cathedral struck five, I confidently knocked on the broad, sun and rain weathered oak door. From the grey clouds, bulging over the moss-greened, tile roofs, small, heavy, cold drops of rain began to fall.

I waited impatiently four or five minutes.  The little lily-of-the-valley bouquet I was holding was starting to wilt.  Nobody came to open the door. I knocked a few more times, more assertively, but, alas, in vain. Disappointed, just as I was getting ready to leave, the door opened and Antineea’s figure, dressed in dirty, grey overalls, appeared between the door panels. She was holding a bundle of wide paint brushes.  A bluish streak, delicate as the trace of a wing, dabbed her cheek.

I followed her through a dark corridor and climbed a few crooked steps, their stone edges rounded by the many people who had trod them, until we arrived in a high-ceiling hall, with unplastered brick walls.  The hall was almost completely devoid of furniture. A diffuse, greenish light filtered through the narrow windows which resembled crenels. My gaze was drawn to a large, four or five metre-long canvas mounted on the wall which depicted a sky furrowed by dark clouds above arid ground.  This had been sketched in a gloomy russet colour, using narrow strokes.

‘How did you know I like lily-of-the-valley?’ she asked, placing the bouquet in a black ceramics jar.

‘I didn’t know,’ I answered. ‘But  it is the only flower which suggests the sadness of the rain!’ Curious, I approached  the canvas . It smelled of oil and turpentine. Vigorous strokes of the brush had left vortices and liquid arabesques in a bluish soft paste.

‘It isn’t ready yet,’ she said….‘I still have to add the gloss and to finish the accents, the juxtapositions.’

I discerned the defensive tone of the artist who doesn’t like people viewing an unfinished work.

After an awkward silence I asked her:‘Do you paint only clouds?’

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘At the moment nothing else inspires me.’

I took out the little carton box with the nautilus carapace.

‘Maybe the sea, the waves, the enigmatic life of the depths,’ she said. 

She cleaned the cobalt blue colour from her fingers on a rag and carefully picked up the pearly case.  Closing her eyes she began to caress its delicate curves.

‘Clouds of submarine sand,’ she said, ‘liquid swirls, gushes of rain, ink storms.’

The rain rattled and sounded like pellets falling on tiles.  The resonance from the unceasing torrent crashing on the old eaves sounded like exotic instruments. She beckoned for me to sit on the only chair in the room, a massive, high-back, etched walnut chair.

‘Sit here,’she said. ‘Close your eyes… be patient…I want to show you something!’

When I was allowed to open my eyes, I found myself in front of a square canvas representing a cerulean snail, the volutes of its shell dotted with such intense and primordial tones, that I felt as if I was looking into the hidden heart of the sky.

‘You see, that’s what I used to paint before I became sensitive to the weather.’

‘It’s inexplicable,’ I mumbled confoundedly. ‘Only once in my life have I seen this colour!’

‘Really?!’Antineea exclaimed brimming with curiosity. ‘Could you tell me where?’

I cautiously retreated.  Despite appearances, I am shy and excessively guarded when it comes to defending my secrets. But she insisted, so I whispered to her.

‘How can I tell you? In a dream, a dream I haven’t had yet!’

Her face suddenly darkened like a strip of sky covered by storm and she quickly changed the subject. We went on talking insipidly about nonsense without getting so much as a hint as to what had triggered that abrupt mood change.

I left her workshop with an image of intense blue glimmering in my mind. The rain had ceased as suddenly as it had started. At home, in the dull setting of my world, there was nobody waiting for me, not even a cat. Slowly and purposefully, page by page, I tore up the entire manuscript of the short-story I had begun over a month before.  I gathered all the little scraps of paper in a verdigris-copper bowl and set them on fire. At that moment I decided I would write only about what surrounded me: living people, real events, concrete objects and, why not, even clouds. I opened the windows to clear the air of bitter smoke. The dark blue sky was shining brightly, only a few silvery fluffs were floating in the evening sky.

                                                                     *

The following day was Thursday. It is the day Teodor and I meet. We’ve known each other since first grade and, except for a time when he travelled abroad on a scholarship, we have met every Thursday for the past seven years. We have changed the place over the years because I, for one, like different settings. I had arrived at the café before him and while I waited, I wavered between the desire to tell him about Antineea and the impulse to keep it a secret.

The minute he sat down, I burst out cheerfully: ‘I visited Antineea!’

He looked at me over the thick rims of his glasses, which made him look much older, giving him the air of a bored school teacher – and asked: ‘Who’s Antineea? Oh, yes…I remember…the sensitive-to-the-weather nut case you met in the park!’

‘She’s not a nut case… anyway, no more than I am…she paints clouds!’

‘Perfect!’

‘I’m ten years older than she is…’

‘Voilà! You’re no naive teenager and neither is she a young girl!’

‘Is this all you have to say?’ I replied bitterly.

He took a long sip from his cup of Mocha and let out a sigh:

‘Don’t get upset with me, old chum! You know I care about you.  What the hell, I don’t want to see you suffer.’ 

‘I won’t suffer.’ I answered him angrily. ‘I have no reason to!’

I was dying to be asked more questions in order to reveal more and more, but he started to talk about his obsession with an online publishing house, publishing novels.

I listened to him absent-mindedly, trying to follow his story. Outside, the weather had turned cloudy, the black and blue rains had gathered in the sky and, without realizing it, Antineea came to mind.

I didn’t have an umbrella with me.  When I left home, it had been sunny.  When I arrived home, I was soaking wet.

While I changed clothes, a courier rang the door. He had a huge parcel for me. I eagerly ripped the wrapper and the magnificent blue colour of Antineea’s snail rose from underneath it.

                                                                    *

We started to see each other more often. The summer season began with rainy weather and Antineea was spending a lot of time in her workshop painting her cloud-filled dreams. Despite the weather, we’d walk on the streets full of puddles, and kept up a cheerful banter. I accompanied her on a half-day trip to the mountains.  She wanted to make a sketch of the enigmatic Undulus Asperatus, where violently-coloured chaotic vapours shaped as vortices abruptly formed between two atmospheric fields. Whenever I had time on my hands, I would go to her and see her chimerical landscapes and every time I had the surprise of discovering something new.

One afternoon, watching her for hours on end as she ardently spread an abysmal sky on the canvas, a sky fallen between the lilac-crimson backs of two rows of alto cumulus, I said like a worried parent:

‘Have you eaten today? Come on, it’ll soon be nightfall. Let’s go get a pizza!’

She threw her brushes in the turpentine jar and said, sighing:

‘You’re right, Andrei, I’m hungry, but here is the thing: I never eat in restaurants. I cannot stand being watched by strangers while eating! On top of everything, I have this excruciating headache, I can feel the rain clouds gathering above!’

‘Very well…’ I said. ‘Then I invite you to my place where I will make you a memorable dinner!’

‘I don’t see you as a kitchen guy, wearing an apron and stirring something in a pot!’ She smiled endearingly, and cleaned  her hands on a piece of rag.

‘That means you haven’t tasted my secret pasta primavera recipe!’

She took off her paint-stained overalls, put on her jeans and the chequered shirt and we went to buy the ingredients for that evening’s dinner.

I was as nervous as a teenage boy bringing his girlfriend home to show off his collection of vinyl records when his parents aren’t there.

Quickly I got to work.  She, with a glass of Pinot Noir in hand, leaned against a corner of the table and watched me.  Her eyes blazed with curiosity. I am not the best chef, but when I do want to cook something good, I have all the passion of an authentic food connoisseur. While I was setting the table, she confessed:

‘This is the first time a man cooks for me!’

I poured her some more wine and answered jokingly:

‘Taste first and then we’ll see…’

She slowly got closer, gazing at me with the same attention she gave to her canvases while splashing those violent strokes. 

‘No…I mean it, Andrei. Nobody has ever given me such attention.’

Whatever I could have said in those moments would have been stupid. She passed her hand over my unshaven face, gently tracing the imperfections of my skin, every deep wrinkle of my cheek and then she drew me towards her whispering:

‘I am dizzy, but it’s not because of the wine, and I wish to repay you because you are good, kind and annoyingly present in my life.’

Her lips bore the crude aroma of red currants. I took her in my arms, her thin body was as light as a blanket of clouds and I carried her to the darkness of my bedroom. The plates of spaghetti and green sauce remained untouched in the kitchen.

We made love with the fierceness of a summer storm and, long after midnight, when she had fallen asleep and was breathing like a child, I went out on the terrace and lit a cigarette. The sky had cleared and its dark velvet was embroidered with millions of golden stars.
The fact that we had become lovers didn’t change our relationship one bit. Antinea remained as unpredictable as a tropical cyclone. She’d come and go.  Sometimes I wouldn’t hear from her for an entire day and I knew I couldn’t phone her because when she began a new painting, she wouldn’t hear or see anyone.

One Sunday afternoon, after I had spent the whole weekend alone, I worriedly knocked at her door. Fifteen minutes later she opened the door, her face was flushed with fury and when I followed her into the hall where she painted, I saw the remains of a barely sketched painting on the floor. I picked up a ragged strip with fresh traces of paint on it and cynically remarked:

‘Pity! The canvas must have cost a fortune!’

She threw the knife she was clenching:

‘What do you care, you cannot understand, you’re not weather-sensitive!’

‘No, I am not.’ I admitted. ‘But have you ever thought I might catch it?’

From that moment on, we decided she’d show me every painting before scraping or destroying it. In return, I promised to learn everything I could about cloud formations, hailstone, lightning or tornadoes.

I had begun to meet my friends less frequently.  Only the Thursday evenings with Teodor persisted and, at Antineea’s suggestion, as I had nothing better to do, I began to write the myth of Atlantis.

                                                                       *

Before the exhibition, I saw every painting Antineea had created. I had the honour of  following her work;  in that peaceful workshop, I watched her draw her strokes or use the knife on the wet canvas, to depict cohorts of cumulonimbus, thronging in clusters of towers, crenels, colonnades, dragons, centaurs, griffons and vapour-winged chimaeras invading the sky. I witnessed lightning come to life from the impact between an anvil-cloud and a heavy cumulus shaped as a hammer; I will never forget the moment she descended the improvised scaffold and I gave her my arm in support.  I felt an inexplicable discharge of energy.

‘You’re as charged as a Leyden jar!’ I told her.
‘Leave me alone!’ she snapped at me furiously. ‘Don’t you see I cannot depict the essence? This is bullshit!’

 She was wrong; her paintings were unique, unparalleled.  You couldn’t admire them and then go have a beer with friends or watch a game on TV.

Late into the night, held in my arms and sobbing, she asked me:

‘Do you think I should exhibit them?’
The exhibition passed unnoticed.  Few people showed up to admire the twelve huge paintings of fantastic clouds hanging by the rails. I don’t believe she wanted it to be a huge success, she dreaded fame, but she couldn’t prevent Liviu from publishing an article full of praise in his gazette. She invited only her friends and a few people in the art world; but, in the evening, after everybody had left and we were alone in the middle of the unleashed storm on the canvases, she hugged me and said:

‘I’m so happy I listened to you. No more rains! I will seek only clear horizons!’

That would have been the moment to tell her how much I loved her, that I would set out to look for the third pole of the Earth only to name it after her, but the coward in me kept silent because of a stupid superstition. I was afraid that once her inner storms came to an end, she would no longer need me. In all my life I have told only one girl I loved her. We were high-school students.  She disappeared during a mountain climb, and after that tragic accident I wasn’t capable of expressing anything of my soul’s meteorology. I felt I had missed the chance of keeping her with me.  But that is how my life unfolds, between complicated things and amazingly simple events, because, sometimes, a few honest words can speak more than volumes.

                                                                        *

Autumn was coming to an end. Antineea hadn’t painted anything since the exhibition.  She would hack around among empty chassis, hardened brushes and dry paint tubes, leaf through old files of sketches or daub childish rough sketches. The imminence of rains didn’t stir her imagination any more.  She didn’t put her visions on canvas in a fury.  She wandered absently around the workshop, indifferent to the performance of the clouds and the succession of the seasons.

After New Year’s Eve, which we celebrated together with the depressing sleet beating against the windows in sharp smacks, she told me:

‘Please understand…I have to leave before we hurt each other!’

Utterly dumbfounded, I looked at her: ‘What happened? Where do you want to go?’

The bluish rings around her eyes and the pronounced pallor were ageing her.  The cold and humid climate didn’t suit her. Her answer came in a harsh voice:

‘You don’t pay attention at all.  Three months ago yes, exactly after the exhibition, I talked to you about an eternally clear sky!’

‘But you will never find it! One that is crystal clear!’

‘Perhaps’ she said with a cold smile, ‘but I have to try!’

And once again I missed the chance to reveal my feelings for her, not because of my lack of confidence, but simply because I couldn’t stop her. What could I offer Antineea? My name? The comfort of a warm home? A decrepit old age spent together? I let her go because I loved her too much.

The first Thursday after she left, I met Teodor as usual. He tore me to pieces with his vitriolic logic:  

‘You’re an imbecile! You finally meet the woman you’ve been searching your whole life for and you let her walk away just because you don’t have the guts to tell her you can’t live without her.  You undoubtedly deserve your fate! Or you’re just an incurable masochist!’

I had gotten horribly drunk the night before, I couldn’t even remember how I had managed to get home.  Actually I still wasn’t completely sober and I didn’t feel like listening to his advice, so I snapped at him:

‘She’s weather-sensitive! Don’t you get it? She went in search of a cloudless sky…Where? Beats me! Tibet, Shangri-La…how should I know?’  

He shrugged his shoulders in exasperation and got up from the table to hail a taxi.

Nothing is more depressing than the memory of the happy times… I can’t remember where I read this, but I began to walk around with my eyes cast downward, my gaze avoiding the sky and the clouds.  I would avoid not only the street where Antineea’s former workshop lay abandoned, but also the entire neighbourhood. Whenever I saw an oil painting, it triggered terrible pain behind my eyes and at my temples.

From the moment I had seen her eagerly packing, I slowly but surely began to dissolve into an ocean of sadness and alcohol, unable to resume my life   There were days when I’d stare into the mirror and see a stranger.  It would take me a few seconds to realize it was me. At night, while I lay in bed, I would hear a mysterious voice whispering into the air: ‘You aren’t yourself, you are a mere projection of the one bearing your body and name!’

Worried about my state of mind, Teodor tried several times to get me to see a psychotherapist! I let out a hypocritical laugh and reassured him: ‘I’m fine, old man…this is just a temporary weather-dependency crisis!’

                                                                     *

My salvation came about through a small, but fateful misfortune. One day, before leaving the house, I had accidentally left a window wide open. In the evening, when I returned home, beaten by the spitting, freezing rain, I discovered a puddle covering the entire parquet floor. I quickly grabbed a rag and started to remove the water that was advancing to the corners of the room. Between the wall and the pieces of furniture I had gathered into a wild pile all sort of useless things and carton boxes filled with the remains of my collections. Rummaging through them, I came across the painting Antineea had given me the previous year. I had hurled it there, turned against the wall as I couldn’t bear to look at the dark blue spiral without feeling a harsh pang in my chest.

I lifted it to put it in a dry spot but, clumsily dropped it and the thin frame let out a raspy crack when it hit the floor. When I bent down to pick the broken strips, I found a glistening gold metal key carefully hidden between the frame and the canvas. I turned it over between my fingers and, suddenly, I remembered I had seen Antineea unlock a wooden box in arabesques and brass studs with it. The next day I ran to the curator of the gallery, which had sold some of her paintings, and with whom she had left the key of the workshop before leaving. I found the mysterious box in the chest where she kept her sketch files. My fingers trembled with emotion, I opened it and inside I found several letters, a bunch of old photos and a dog-eared copy of Benoît’s Atlantida. I could see these items were family mementoes and I thought it would be a shame if they got lost, should the workshop be emptied. In spite of my disappointment in not finding something more telling, I gathered everything to take home with me. 

I tried to read the few letters, but either the years or the dampness had washed out the ink, and the tiny, chaotic writing was illegible. I didn’t recognize Antineea in any of the pictures in the coffer. She could have been the chubby baby sleeping in the arms of a woman with a melancholic gaze or the ethereal little girl, her hair in two thin plaits, who was smiling at the camera while sitting on a trunk, in a glade next to a tall, dark-haired man.

I leafed through the book which, in my youth, I had read in a heartbeat, though without too much hope of a clue. Utterly bored, I put it on the night-stand and remembered I hadn’t seen Teodor in a month.  I had given up all my friends and even our weekly meetings. But it was only Tuesday. I picked up the book and started to read again. When I reached chapter VIII, the dense fog in which I had been wandering for more than six months, cleared up.

I called my last friend. It was way past midnight. A sleepy, sulky woman’s voice answered the phone. It took a while to convince her to hand the phone to him, but she finally did it.

‘We have to meet at once!’ I cried excitedly into the speaker. ‘I have something important to tell you!’  

‘It’s only Tuesday…no…wait…it’s Wednesday!’ he mumbled.

‘I know, but I cannot wait! I have great news!’

‘All right…tomorrow morning…but it had better be something big: a new cure for cancer, a UFO has landed on the roof of your terrace, you have discovered Atlantis…otherwise I won’t talk to you!’

The following day I jumped out of bed, fresh and full of energy, although I hadn’t had a wink of sleep. I was already on my second cup of bitter Mocha when I saw his crooked silhouette heading towards the terrace of the café.

‘I’ve ve found her!’ I told him as happy as a clam.

He slowly sank into the birch armchair and anxiously looked at me from behind his ancient, thick-rimmed glasses:

‘Whom or what have you found?’

‘Antineea, old man!’

‘Really? Where?’

‘In Sahara… Look, read this page!’ I said handing him Benoît’s book.

‘Andrei, don’t get upset, but you should really see that psychotherapist…he’s a great guy…he works wonders, especially when it comes to depression!’ 

‘I don’t have to! I am happy! Get it? I’m leaving for the Ahaggar to meet her!’

No, he couldn’t get me . Not even him. My oldest childhood friend. I left in search of Antineea and I am positive I will find her, right on the terrace carved in the wall of the Atakora, above the Blad-el-Khouf oasis. There she will be…standing in front of the easel, painting orchards of dates, orange trees, almond trees and pomegranates, green meadows, the foamy fall flowing in the transparent lake, but especially the surreal clear, dark blue sky, arched above Atlantis. I will slowly come near her and ask:

‘May I stay here a few minutes? I won’t be a bother…’

Without lifting her eyes off the canvas, she will answer:

‘Of course…you’re not bother…there’s plenty of space…and I’m sure it won’t rain…not even today.’

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