(traduction Google en anglais du "Syndrome du Saumon")
What would you do if, your spouse had remained a stranger to you for many years?
An unknown person who comes and goes only in due time but who has secrets in reserve by obligation.
It's kind of what happened to Clara with her husband, John.
Clara is of Mexican origin and is what is called the wife of a single man.
If there have been attempts made by some men to reconcile them, they have all rejected them and never counted for her.
John, on the other hand, is the republican American, pure stock.
As for Carla, politically she was a democrat to the tip of her nails.
In a country as immense as the United States, being on the move for its business, is not abnormal. Mobility is not a question, it is almost an obligation.
Their 20-year-old son, Stephen, still single, was in training at a military base at the other end of the United States.
To complete the family, the dog, Cowboy, keeps company with Clara.
From Florida, the European imagines Miami, with the memory of soap operas "Miami vice", "Experts" designed to attract the tourist.
The Villa Vizcaya, Italian Renaissance style, brings to life the memories Al Capone and Gatsby.
There is no question of forgetting the word "dollar" in the infinitive plural, walking along the canals and islets of Fort Lauderdale, known as the "Venice of America", under the insistent indications of a guide. Of pensioners in which it is not uncommon to see "young-old" serving in drinking places, to round off the end of difficult months.
By taking a step back and summarizing, Florida is a large amusement park organized for "entertainment". She bears the palm of the Luna Parks.
The state also deserves to be featured in the Guiness Book by mixing dreams and reality, science and fiction.
At Disney World, one passes blithely from the castle of the Sleeping Beauty to the haunted house where "You are the host of the gost" is more than a maxim.
Right next door, Epcot combines the past and the future with the present.
Seaquarium and Marineland share their shows for dolphins and orcs by forgetting their captivity to the tourist.
Cap Kennedy, at Cape Canaveral, makes dream by the remains of the rockets and shuttles to the conquest of the space while keeping in center, a workshop for spaceships that exceeds in dimension, the pyramid of Cheops.
In bad sensations, then, it is the Seminole Indians who, in the Everglades, cure the tourist by playing with an alligator in whose jaws they place their heads to make them pale with emotions.
Gibsonton, the unusual city that brings rest to the circus people and characters of "freak shows", "beasts of fair". This since the 1940s, during which it was not surprising to see an elephant in a garden. Become "Show Town" or "Gibtown".
"Bush Gardens" has nothing to envy from amusement parks like Pairi Daiza, Walibi & Co.
Without a very distant past, the Americans do everything to make it revive Saint Augustine with all the old stuff of the conquest of the West in a museum of wax, sometimes in the open, trying to imitate the reality of the characters but who However, would look pale opposite the Musée Grévin in Paris.
Everything is commercially operated in Florida.
To get out of the crowd, tired perhaps, the tourist finds nature and its sweetness to live on the Silver Spring by sailing on boats with plexiglas flat bottom in search of the manatees. Water-skiing shows on the lakes of Cypress Garden ...
On the production side, oranges and grapefruit are the breasts of Florida, while Tampa cigars are trying to make pale those produced in Cuba.
In general, this tour if it does not push to return the tourist in childhood during his holidays, it is that it is not normal.
35 years ago, I discovered and toured Florida as a short culotted tourist, in this state show that produces series in series.
"Sex, sand, sun and sin".
Crossing point, cocaine yields more than tourism.
I do not think that has changed.
The American Naples, where this story begins, is a version on "Gulf of Mexico".
Nothing to do with the Italian city with its Vesuvius in the background.
No resemblance, except the warm climate, but here is only more humid, more tropical at 26 ° north latitude and 40 ° for Italian Naples.
The character of Naples summary would be in the words romantic, chic, elegant, privileged and good-natured. Words found in Old Naples in the heart of Third St South.
In Florida, if one has the age of its arteries, it was mainly based on its magot.
In February 2016, we are at the beginning of the electoral campaign for the inauguration of a new president in a country that pushed capitalism to its climax, until it bites its fingers in 2008.
Clara learns of the death of her husband John.
She knows a vacuum that she wants to fill by looking for answers to the questions she had never asked herself.
To know John, to meet him, if need be, posthumously and accelerated.
For you, readers, it will be a soap opera that I will publish at a rate of two chapters per fortnight.
As Musso said in his latest book "The Brooklyn Girl" podcast, a novel is like the Tour de France, we know the beginning, we know that there will be someone on the podium in Paris, Knows the different stages, but we do not know what will happen inside each of them.
Good reading and good imagination.
Chapter 1: A lonely life and an impromptu visit
We are on Tuesday, 9 February 2016 in Naples.
Here, no "See Naples and then die".
Naples, in American version, is a city on the west coast of Florida with a view of the Gulf of Mexico.
It is the Palm Beach on the west coast without its snobbery.
It is in this small town of 20,000 inhabitants that hardly twenty years ago, Clara and John established their penates.
The city began its American history.
Billionaire Walter Haldeman had gone there in 1887 with a few friends and said, "I like the corner here, I'm going to create a city."
The advertising of the city, "little jewel of the west coast", does not lack answering with its palm trees and its situation.
The beauty of the bay, its fenced-in no-frills houses, its old neighborhood and the famous Banyans trees attract naturally and not just tourists.
To say the opposite would be due to a desire to stay away from the crowd of visitors not to attract them.
His many positive points were therefore the major and decisive assets in the joint choice of Clara and John to settle there.
Originally, John had a deal in Tampa. The distance between the two cities is less than 300 kilometers and often, when the need arises and he can not settle his business from a distance, John left on Monday in Tampa and returned to Naples for the weekend.
Raised in a practicing Catholic environment, Clara wanted to follow the spirit of union that we find in the couple as always had her parents and that she could not have imagined finishing otherwise.
John had met Clara on vacation in Acapulco.
It was a thunderbolt. Clara's parents had seen a social promotion in marriage and those of John had done against bad fortune, good heart.
Very soon Stephen had completed the couple of lovers.
Their son Stephen had grown up and had gone to build his life as a soldier on the other side of the United States.
Clara was mostly alone. Becoming solitary by habit and somewhere out of necessity and will.
Nothing very special in the life of an American couple to live like this, she said to herself.
In recent years, this loneliness became more pronounced.
Every night, Clara had become accustomed to walking or jogging on the beach along the water to the end of the "Naples Pier", more to spend time than to exercise.
It was in the air of American time to take care of her body. So, to connect useful to pleasurable for her.
This Pier, 200 meters long, became for Clara the culmination of a journey of everyday habit.
Between his house in the Residents Beach and Pier neighborhood, it was a 15-kilometer walk back and forth.
At his side, Cowboy, the family dog, followed faithfully but went everywhere as if it were the first time.
"Cowboy, no, do not go into the neighbors' garden," she would say as she walked away.
At Pier, she went to see the merchant boats that she was spying, imagining that she had been part of an adventure on the oceans.
Yes, Clara often dreamed of these distant horizons in her own universe of beauties that she sometimes found too limited.
When a dolphin jumped out of the water on the horizon, she stopped and it offered him a stopover in her short walk.
In the sky, when pelicans accompanied her in her course, she stopped until they disappeared to marvel at their transhumance.
Often, she picked up shells that swarmed on the sand. She knew it was forbidden but did not care. She collected it.
Forbidden, perhaps because tourist shops sold all sizes of jewelry cut in red coral.
Many of the stores became factories where they were made of artificial or even "Made in China" to look for on the back.
She knew it because she had worked a few times in this kind of store to spend time outside the house.
No doubt, Clara was a dreamer in search of all the events that could transform her life.
Imaginative, she told herself stories whose episodes she saw as if it were a serial, wrote them down and thought she would publish it one day.
When she left, she said to herself: "Tomorrow, I will reflect on the rest" ...
One day, while swimming at sea, she had been disturbed by a shark.
Surprised and frightened, almost unconsciously, she had insisted that John should have a pool dug on one side of the house.
This was another stopping point in his desire for expansion.
Swimming at sea had lost its attractiveness as it loved much more the great spaces of the ocean.
Since then, during a part of the afternoon, she ended her evenings by the pool to read the enchanted adventures of American authors.
Reading and painting had become his two main passions.
Paintings of sunsets, she had on the walls of the drawing-room to the attic, where, without finding any more place, they sat stacked one against the other in the hope of being put back in their place of dignity, And replace them again.
Clara had learned to live alone and this did not really bother her, but only in appearance.
It had been a month since the family had not gathered in the house.
On her way home that night, in front of her computer screen, she busied herself with the last pictures taken at the last Christmas party with John and Stephen.
She sorted the photos, improved them and removed the duplicates that were not representative enough.
She commented with humor at the bottom of the virtual images.
In a breath, without realizing it, she launched:
"Well, that one was pulled by my son, when I asked him if John loved me. John had responded with his heart to his ear "Of course, my love".
There, another photo that followed a political discussion. John had lost his smile when Carla had told him that Obama had done well during his two term as president.
She did not remember what had led to talk about politics, but she remembered that John had changed the subject immediately afterwards.
Too alone, imperceptibly, she spoke to herself, in questions and answers, without realizing that there was no one to answer.
She knew that John would never have had the time or the desire to do this job of classification and stewardship. It was not his work and his return was to be enamelled with more interesting things in the revision of the finished work.
She often noted on her notebook what she would have to say to him.
This time she inscribed that he should cut the trees in front of the garage that she had not been able to reach, herself.
The maintenance and stewardship of the rest, she did.
It went so far as to repaint a room that had become tattered. It was an occupation she loved to undertake.
With her six feet, Clara was more agile in the maintenance of the garden.
No weed could stop the flowers that she had planted.
To summarize, she managed her life based on John's absences.
In the United States, mobility, given the size of the country, is a matter of survival in companies.
She knew it and accommodated herself as a "solitary volunteer" in serenity.
"Cool" as Americans say. "Viva Amercica" she chains.
But for some time now, John's presence had proved to be among the exceptions.
This gave rise to periods of nostalgia that the beauty of his universe could no longer reassure.
"When we do not talk any more, even the voice is atrophy and we start to stutter," she said to herself in a low voice.
The courtyard of friends whom she liked to attend to her measure, was nevertheless present.
His nearest neighbor gave him the opportunity to cut a chat in the garden, but no visits to either one to inquire about an unfathomable lightness of the soul.
She spent her time in the garden after consulting all the gardening books she had been able to find in the bookstore, until she became inexhaustible on the subject.
The garden made all its pride in the discussions on the art of planting vegetables and flowers.
To decorate her garden, she had planted exotic trees and bonsai were installed in a small inner canopy, sheltered from a sun too hot. Orchids, too, in a moisture aided by the dampness of Florida.
The journeys to distant lands she dreamed of would be for later, she said to herself when John retired.
The longest periods of meetings with foreigners took place in Mexico and the Caribbean islands during holidays.
On other continents she was interested in books, but never had been there.
Facebook was part of his virtual walks to stay in the wind but without excess.
Some furniture from a more distant place was John who had them transferred to the house.
Everything was harmonized with the taste of an artist like Clara.
When her main friend, Julia, pointed out to her that one of them was in a bad place, she reflected perplexed and changed the troublemaker without much worry when she found the wise remark.
John had told him that he was working in import-export or something approaching.
Want to know more?
What could it have been?
Could value-added have changed his life?
No, she had never dared to ask him too specific questions about her schedule.
She knew John's engineer training.
But was it more like an engineer, a journalist or an ethnologist depending on what he spoke to him? Hard to say.
John and she had known each other, 23 years ago in Acapulco, where Clara had lived since her birth with her parents.
His dreams of traveling the world were born from the encounter with tourists from all walks of life who came to Acapulco at the Quebrada where the divers threw themselves from the top of the cliff into the sea.
In 1993, between them, it was a thunderbolt.
A young Mexican was plunged to the last rung of the cliff.
He had been slow to go up and John seemed to move.
To interrupt her fears, Clara had said to her:
- Do not worry. It will reappear. I have seen this kind of leaps dozens of times, I have not seen any accident yet, "she said in an English mixed with Spanish.
John had thanked him and had invited him to the restaurant of the hotel where he was staying that evening.
They were married three months later.
Clara's parents had considered their marriage as a social promotion. Those of John had done against bad fortune, good-heartedly, without making the marriage notice.
A carnal love as well as a spiritual one had followed for years.
It must be said that John of athletic build with 1.80 meter and blond hair cut brush, was among the seduers with ten years more than Clara.
Clara had given him the change with her sixty feet, and her black hair, drawn backwards in a braid.
A son, Stephen, born of their union, appeared a few months after.
By the beginning of the year 2016, he was still single and underwent training at US Army offices in a barracks three miles from his home.
During the last Thanksgivings, the whole family gathered around the turkey as usual.
John, as a good enthusiastic storyteller, had made his son laugh by his stories which seemed to have been lived in echo with those of Clara who had really noted them at the moment when the events were really happening.
She listened with an absent-minded, dreamy ear as she went back and forth between the kitchen and the living room.
John had made an exception and had returned a fortnight before Christmas Eve at the end of December 2015.
These days had been a sort of reunion with the neighbors of the street, who were also invited.
Money was obviously not lacking in the family.
John's account of which she knew the secret was always fed without her having to worry about her provenance.
John had always been concerned that Clara needed nothing, rather than worry about herself.
It was probably a kind of cordial agreement of agreement at the beginning of their marriage.
Since then, she had understood that having a large family would never be John's concern.
She had organized her life according to these parameters.
Clara's parents had died in an accident some years ago. A commonplace accident that had dealt a fatal blow in a flood of sadness for Clara.
She loved her father of Mexican origin who came to see her very often before their accident.
She accommodated herself a little less with her mother, more austere and of American origin, but what was important was the family and she was sacred to Clara.
She had always found this family situation inverted, amusing.
John's parents, too, lived too far to enter his life other than by telephone or over the Internet, most of the time.
Very soon, Clara had understood the difference of culture and education that existed between John and her. She rather artist and him very Cartesian.
She had limited her education to high school and then, was interested in everything that revolved around art and decoration.
Of the difference between John and her, they were both perfectly accommodated.
John had not made him feel his higher degree of engineer.
What she did not know, he gave her everything she wanted to know and in the opposite case in the artistic field, he was the one who received a lesson.
What John expected of her, she knew, to keep the house, to be a docile, kind, smiling woman, and to have a foot in the ground, a place where he found the simplicity, peace and sweetness of a home.
That evening, on her return from a jogging, she had sat on the sand in front of her pretty house.
She had gazed at the sea and the sun that had glowed between the clouds until it ran aground behind the horizon, bringing twilight with it.
The romance of the situation had continued for a while with the darkness before she returned home.
It was a sort of "good evening to the whole universe" that she had addressed to him.
After glancing at the living room watch, she suddenly remembered that she had to get ready to go out and go see her friend forever in a meeting of single women.
But she was already late.
She knew it but as always did not care.
Nobody was paying attention to his delays in his entourage.
All the other friends had become accustomed to his way of life.
Julia, her best friend sometimes reproached her:
- You're always cool, too cool with your life well organized at a rate that your financial facilities allowed you to do without thinking about the next day, "she said passively.
Julia answered with a smirk.
- I live much better by organizing myself without stress. You know how stress is destructive of so many things.
She replied, finishing:
- Sorry. I sometimes think about it and then I forget. But fear nothing I have no old sickness.
- You live your life and you do not care about others, it also makes your charm and your personality, concludes Julia understanding that she would not be able to convince her.
- You know, he who does not agree with my way of life has only to tell me and I will correct if I can, if I find that it will bring me a plus. If you do. I'll look at myself and you'll see, I'll change. I have a Latin and not American origin, Julia and that makes perhaps an important difference.
In spite of her warm blood, the criticism could only slip into the hump of her indifference when she was turned towards her, but sometimes became acerbic for others.
Evidently, a change of character, if it had existed one day, he had not left too many traces. With Julia, who was her opposite, she remained cut with a knife without ever affecting their relationships.
Let us say that one needed the other as safeguards.
A dispute, if it occurred, was never followed by other side effects than laughter by relegating the dispute to the liabilities of the objectives of the lost causes.
No question of morality or reprimanding Clara.
The bell of the front door tinta.
A shit sounded from her lips with the sticky brush of paint she had begun to clean.
She began to think that she had forgotten an appointment with Julia.
But no, Julia had the key, she would never have knocked at the door.
She nevertheless prepared to reply by a counter-attack if Julia had dared to reproach her for her oblivion.
Carla opened with a vague smile in the middle of her face.
She fell face to face with a young military officer, but without recognizing her rank.
- Good morning, Ms. Thompson.
"Yes, sir, pardon sergeant, what is the matter?"
- Lieutenant Dundee. Sorry to have to bother you. I am here in a sad job bringing you bad news.
Carla began by trembling and replied all at once.
"My son had an accident?"
"I do not know your son, madam, but it's your husband, John, Lieutenant John Thompson."
Since her visit to Thanksgiving, Carla had received no news from John.
As usual, she did not worry too much since it was part of John's habits.
On leaving, he had warned that his business would take some time and that he was not sure he would return in the weeks that followed.
He had left her with a kiss shared with pleasure as usual.
- Goodbye dear. Do not be afraid. It may be for a few weeks. I'm on an interesting case that I have to deal with.
All this to say that his reaction of surprise to this soldier, had been more normal to have thought of his son.
Yes, John had been a lieutenant before their marriage, but no more today.
The army had to be far away in his memories.
Hence, for her, the strangeness of the situation.
- What happened to him? You're not part of a military division of my son, Stephen? John is no longer part of the service in the firm as he told me.
The soldier's smile does not reassure her.
"May I enter, madame?" It's a bit tricky to talk about this on the front porch.
- Of course, excuse me for my lack of hospitality. Come in, let us settle down in the drawing-room.
Carla yielded to him, pointing to the direction of the drawing-room.
The lieutenant settled himself in the chair opposite the one Carla had chosen and spoke.
- I am here to teach you may be more about your spouse than you had hoped. Your husband, John, was still in the army. An army that can be nicknamed "secret". He had a heart attack in the exercise of his last mission. This is not common but it can happen.
Carla reflected at the same time that the soldier spoke to him, his eyes fixed.
All this information jostled in his head at a pace of hell.
The exercise of his mission that had given him a heart attack.
But what mission?
The strange was added to the fear of learning the sequel.
Carla had a moment's hesitation before pronouncing in a trembling voice.
"A crisis which has been fatal to him?
"Yes, I am sorry to inform you." He did not come out alive. Resuscitation was unsuccessful. He did not return to him. I repeat, I am sorry. When you talked about the firm, I smiled because it must have escaped him. We call our unit, "the firm." I thought that your husband had partially informed you of his activity. It may be that he had more difficulty in describing it to you.
"My husband talked very little about his affairs. He told me that he was doing investigative journalism in the world without telling me where he was going. Other than that he had to leave quite often according to the actuality and affairs that presented themselves.
"Your husband had that blanket, indeed." He could not tell you about his main business. Do you know the NSA?
- Not really. It's a spy service or something of that sort, right? Why? Do not tell me he was part of it, I would not believe you.
"Dear madam, appearances are often deceptive. In his job as a soldier, it is a question of remaining discreet and shaving the walls rather than trying to get out in the open at the risk of being killed.
- My sailor, it is not the model of person that I used to see in the films. He is very quiet when he comes back from his missions, but we talk a lot and we laugh at everything. He has a large international clientele, he told me one day.
The sergeant began to smile more beautifully.
- Sorry to have to smile. This clientele is a bit special. What he told you was a long time ago. I imagine what he said to you without warning you of his transition. If he invented what he told you, it was because he could not talk about it to ensure your safety at the same time. He had to have a blanket. This cover was part of his contract with what we call the "firm". He was recently on a mission to Egypt when he had a heart attack.
"In Egypt?" Clara shoots in a start created by surprise.
Clara thought she was dreaming. She had never been there. She only knew about the pyramids she had seen on the Internet or a documentary on TV.
She almost had difficulty locating this country on the map even if it had to dream of seeing the topical images on TV.
This time, this awakened dream gradually turned into a nightmare.
John had had secrets about herself.
She, on the other hand, had always told him everything by following a pact of trust.
With this in mind, she could talk to him about all that he had missed or succeeded, everything that was happening in the house and neighborhood since he left the family home.
For a long time she had even begun to write her diary in order not to forget anything.
Journal that she went out proudly by telling the crisp details that could be inserted often coming from the confidences of Julia.
He listened to them religiously, with points of interest, which he did not seem to conceal, because he asked him for clarification to correct them with his own ideas.
But now John had a parallel, more secret life, and that changed everything.
A second life and therefore, a double face, probably.
Mentally, espionage and counter-espionage movies with images of a GI, an American James Bond, came to mind.
A dozen women conquered like James Bond, appeared at the same time. Horrified, all this flew at high speed in his memory.
She remembered another film titled "The Firm" that had the Mafia as a subject.
"Your husband has left you a letter of his lifetime, in which he perhaps explains his past, which is parallel to yours." A past you did not know with him.
The soldier stooped down and went into the briefcase he was holding beside him.
The soldier took out a closed letter which he handed to him.
- There she is. I am still sorry to bring it to you, I would have preferred it to remain in the files of the NSA. Do not worry about the financial side. A pension will be granted to you as if he were living. I did not know your husband, but my command may have known him better before he took command of the division in the division and his movements.
Carla asked herself the question, initially mentally if it lasted a long time?
"You told me he died in Egypt." He never took me there. Was it his first time or did he go there often?
"His last mission started there four months ago. I do not know if he went there often. I think it was only a short time ago, according to my information. His missions were all in the Far East, of which he had become a specialist. In Egypt, there must have been a few times according to what I understood.
Far East? Specialist?
Words that sounded wrong in Carla's mind.
A quick calculation could give him a number of days or weeks.
Was he involved in a dangerous mission? Asks Carla.
"I do not know, dear Madame." Few people are really aware. But imagine the situation there, everything can very quickly become dangerous. You know the problems of this country so you can imagine the risks it could run. The objectives of its missions are not shared by many people. Here is the map of our commander. I'm not sure he'll tell you much more about your husband's missions. He is also held incommunicado. In general, the less we know, the better we are in this kind of shadow profession.
Suddenly Carla thought that something else was needed to get more information.
- Do you want something to drink?
"No thank you, dear Madame?" Besides, I'm going to have to leave you. Do not bother, I know the exit.
"One more thing, is there any way to see his body?"
"I told you he died in the Far East." It means that it is sometimes very hot, less humid than here, I grant it to you. But, his cardiac accident, he arrived, three days ago and it was necessary to put the body very quickly in beer. The coffin is leaving and will arrive tomorrow or the day after tomorrow to be buried there. My commander can tell you more about where he will be, and where you will of course go and gather your husband and pay him a final homage. He will have military tributes since his rank permits.
"Well, I'll call her," Carla said, turning and turning over the unknown commander's map for her.
- Good evening madam. Sorry to bring you this sad news. Do not disturb me, I know the way, "the soldier repeated in a very classical position of attention.
On these words, as an obedient and well-trained soldier, he left the room while Carla sat pensively.
The entrance door slammed hard enough and awakened her from her dreams.
Everything became silent in the house as if nothing had happened.
Not a tear had flowed over Carla's cheeks.
And yet everything had changed.
The "Yo Te Quiero" no longer existed to make way for endless questions.
Chapter 2: Hours of Remembrance
Returning from her almost passive emotion as soon as the soldier was out, Carla thought of opening the letter that John had written to her.
Daring to open was perhaps to learn everything she did not know about John.
A fear paralyzes her for a moment before awakening an unknown death.
Probably, a letter written as a kind of prepared will in case.
Left on the coffee table, she unclasped it and began to read.
If you read this letter, it is because I will be dead and you will have been brought this news.
I managed to keep a veil on my military activity and I can tell you that it has been a very painful time for you and Stephen.
Stephen received his position in the army based on my recommendations.
Today, I can not even tell you the whole truth about my activities.
The less you know, the better you will be, and you will be safe.
I've run into dangers you do not have a clue.
When I started the activities you did not know, I did not know where I was going and how far it was going to transport me. Once you put a finger in this kind of gear, the whole body follows and you can not get out of it easily.
As I had engineering degrees, I was contacted to perform this kind of work in several destinations. I chose the Middle East that intrigued me.
The ideology that the NSA organization defends, I liked and I embarked on the adventure body and soul. I was going to be able to travel. The history of the Middle East fascinated me.
If I had spoken of what I was making good graces and often bad ones in his goals, would you love me anyway?
I also undertook, by contract, to ensure that you did not miss anything despite my absences which had to be repeated irrevocably.
The money was therefore of no importance in what I was going to undertake and you had to stay out of need. A condition I had demanded before signing anything. To be loyal to myself, given the risks, I should have been single and without children.
I noticed that you lived well with our son. That relations were excellent. Now that he has gone to live his life, I was happy that alone with a few friends you could fill my absences, that the maintenance of the house pleased you, rejoiced and consoled me for the time I would have liked to spend with you.
I say no more because, if I did, this letter could never have reached you. Our mail is checked before going to any destination.
What you will learn from me, perhaps, will not be nearer the truth.
I beg you to excuse me for the evil I have created in this forced solitude.
Today, marry with someone else who will build a better couple.
That is the only thing I should have said to you and that I am saying in this letter posthumously.
Be sure that I loved you, my dear, even at a distance.
You have always remained in my thoughts and in my heart.
Your John who always loved you from the first day. "
The letter stops short on these words.
No address, no link with the place from which the letter could have been written.
Carla felt even less advanced and perplexed than before reading.
Had John had a desire for patriotism by returning to the army?
All night, Carla remained awake in the bed, staring up at the ceiling.
She turned left and then right, then put back on her back to look at the ceiling.
Suddenly, she realized the role he had played with her, that of a haven of peace.
A strange feeling passed through his mind.
She, too, had played very badly her role as a tearful woman, whom one can hope for from a wife who learns of the death of her dear and tender husband in front of the soldier.
If not a tear had run down her cheeks, it was because the surprise had dried up her feelings, she said to reassure herself.
What could the soldier who had come to tell him the news of John's death told him?
A heartless woman?
A bad wife?
A wife who did not understand her misfortune or happiness?
What were the reasons why John could not trust him and tell him about his secrets?
Was it not a failure of our couple?
Did John know any other woman?
Lying in bed, she painfully digested the news she had just learned as a ruminant of indigestible food would do.
The questions came looping in his head pushed by his subconscious mind and torturing his mind.
I do not know anything about my husband. How could I have lived without knowing, without knowing it?
I married a stranger. I had too much confidence in John to have such ideas.
How did I ever feel a fear, a feeling that might have spurred me on something that was wrong with our couple?
The usury of time, the wear and tear of the subjects of conversations which complemented each other but were not confronted with blows of agreement or disagreement.
Do I have so little female intuition? He deceived me in one way or another, obviously.
Was John a real comedian or worse, an excellent liar ?, a loop between surprise and mood.
In vain did she seem to bring in such clues, and John's letter confirmed.
She could not understand that it was not John's absences that had changed everything for her, but that she no longer had Stephen at her side and that solitude had only taken over. A sort of escape that gave her the freedom to do what she wanted but left a void when this need for freedom was drying up.
Then, as the night moved on, she changed the direction of her thoughts to explain this major change of attitude in their couple.
She remembered the restrictions imposed by her service in the army and the remark that the secret was there to protect her.
Am I in danger without knowing it?
She went back one last time into the bed.
Tired, dejected, she collapsed into a deep sleep.
The sun was already present and hot in a new Florida winter day when she woke up.
As she got out of bed, she reread again the letter that had been unsealed on her bedside table.
She thought of finding a subliminal answer that she had not discovered at first reading.
She remembered a film she had seen and which contained a secret message in the body of the letters of a note.
She put the letter in front of the window.
She even took a magnifying glass to find a character that could have contained a hidden message.
"I'm connected, if there was a hidden message, any soldier would have found it, they are much better equipped for that at the NSA," she said to herself.
If something should be digging, it would be with the help of an expert in cryptography.
Meanwhile, look for clues in John's office, in the loft under the eaves, then.
His office was on the first floor. Although she regularly faced maintenance, she never thought to cast a more savvy look into her stuff and drawers. John's business was part of his public life at the office. Clara was complementary in her private life. She had excluded herself from the rest.
Her papers were placed in folders which she undertook to consult page after page.
A drawer locked with a key, resisted him only a short time, thanks to the paper cutter well highlighted.
Then it was the turn of the granary.
She found there some old furniture that had been preserved "in case" or that did not accord with the rest of the furniture.
In a shoe box that no longer contained shoes, she found old photos that had not been scanned.
Sometimes black and white, sometimes yellowed with faded colors.
Scratching at the bottom of the box, she found two passports in John's name, at least with John's photo but with different names.
There the anguish was reborn.
Since she knew neither the habits nor the practices of traveling abroad, she found no other point of suspicion.
Carla compiled everything and the memories came back together.
His lips sometimes seemed to let go of words.
"Ah, this one, it was at the marriage, that at the birth of Stephen.
Compulsing all this took him more than two hours.
Letters and invoices, all of which have been dated for at least three years.
Yes, John had done much more than sign up for his good offices at the NSA and move on to another page of life.
It's as if time had stopped at that time.
Since then, nothing. Not even a receipt for the payment of a plane ticket.
Would his desktop computer be more talkative?
She turned it on and consulted the computerized documents.
Nothing more transparent about its activities apart from a folder protected by a password.
Clara tried to enter a few letters that might have made her think of giving a bond with the family or the trade of secret agent.
No, nothing worked.
She gave up.
Chapter 3: An awakening bathed in questions.
At ten o'clock in the morning Carla went downstairs to the ground floor.
Courbaturée, she stretched out of all her limbs.
She prepared a first and then a second strong coffee while reflecting.
While waiting for the coffee to flow into the jar through the Nescafe capsule, she remembered the last conversations she had on the beach with John on the last New Year's Eve of 2015.
Among them, a question he had asked him, came back to him in memory:
"If I had done the worst, would you still love me?"
Without thinking, Carla had replied:
- But as I know you, you would never be able to commit the worst, darling.
Carla had taken this question as a joke while John had smiled.
With an ample gesture, he bent down, took sand in his hands and threw it into the air before saying,
- You see where the wind is going, but are you sure that this wind never changes direction? The wind has manufacturing secrets and carries what he wants where he wants, Carla.
- Of course, but you're not the wind, John.
John did not insist.
"Come on, come on, it's getting cold," John replied, to divert attention. The conversation changed completely.
Carla did not want to understand what John had wanted to reveal to her.
Again, even before that, John had asked for the air of nothing:
"Have you ever had any secrets?"
Carla had responded in a detached way.
- Secrets, I have plenty and I receive every day from my friend Julia that she gives me probably sharing with other friends. Just with her, my secret buffer is already in overflow. I am sure that sometimes she must smoke a joint to give them a little overweight.
What did John want to express? "Carla asked herself at that moment.
She had never had the slightest argument with John. Was that normal?
When we argue and come out in a compromise agreement, is this not the best way to meet the challenge and the level of a human relationship?
Again, John had asked him,
- What would make you happy?
- That you take me with you for a week when you leave.
John had smiled without answering, hoping for another desire.
Carla realized that this time her question had become totally obsolete and that she would never run again.
There was more opposition between John and Stephen when they were discussing politics together.
"I supported Obama's actions while you were still a Republican until death followed," Stephen had said.
- You are talking about Obama, the anti-war man who received the Nobel Peace Prize and who has been the most conflicting president in all of the history of the United States. I have not yet decided on one of the candidates of the Republican party. I heard of Donald Trump as most Americans. His patter with his straight index finger had amused me. Its sexism, racism and populism give me a reason to eliminate it as potential candidates. Despite the fact that he was no longer part of the traditional Republican party, a man like Trump who had made a fortune, had gone bankrupt and straightened up had America all the baggage to succeed, "John had retorted.
Entrepreneur himself, he had a natural reaction to think that having fortune could give him more credit to give him confidence.
Obama had never liked him. Sometimes too soft, sometimes at the limit of the acceptable.
It was not his skin color that was the cause, but his weakness and inexperience that he displayed at the world level.
His confusion, his indecision, sometimes his inconsistencies had confirmed his bias when Obama had begun his second term.
For John, his coup de grace was that Obama had not been able to straighten the country after the crisis of 2008.
Stephen took a cunning pleasure in taking his father's feet.
- Too bad that Bernie Sanders is not ten years younger. He could play the reforms in the country.
- He is a communist with socialist ideas.
"Would not you have the anti-communism of McCarthyism reborn?"
- Know that in the United States, in general, you do not like the state too much. We endure it, but we do not make it a religion.
- You and your religion, do you really find your reason for living? Not me.
Hillary also has more experience than Sanders. It's the gray eminence in the Clinton couple.
Clara had not intervened in the conversation which had become stormy.
Her own religion was part of what she had learned in her family.
God for her was part of her life as a convinced Catholic.
These words sounded in opposition at that time, with what she knew of John as a soldier today.
Had he returned to the army not patriotism and by instinct that America had a moral and divine obligation to be the gendarme of the world?
Between Stephen and John, the conversations turned sour and sweet and went back in their different way of thinking. Was Stephen a real disbeliever or did he do it to contradict his father?
That evening Carla, out of their discussion, went to a corner of the drawing-room where the tall Steinway stood.
She began to play a few notes of a Mozart sonata that she knew from memory.
She did not play often, but her fingers had taken habits inked in the elasticity of her fingers after a few bars.
Then, as it had not changed anything in the discussion between the two men, she intoned an air of jazzy jazz that, by exceeding the sound of the voices, had totally calmed the game.
Stephen had stood up and urged John to invite him to dance after introducing a jazz CD into the record player.
- Thanks Mom. You know the right techniques to calm the game. Dad with his strategic methods no longer bands.
Carla had realized that an antagonism of opinion had grown between Stephen and John.
She did not like it, but what could she change?
As for the girlfriend Julia, she, must have had tons of disputes to know more to do with his lovers in series and who knows in parallel.
It went into the secrets she told Carla, who was enjoying it by pretending to be a part of it.
Carla knew that John had secrets that he had to keep silent and not introduce into the confidence.
Carla realized now that she had shunned him and refused to hear them.
She was still having lunch when the doorbell rang.
A glance through the window to notice that it was Julia.
- Damn, when you think of the wolf, you always end up seeing his tail. I forgot it. This fucking schedule ... I had to spend this morning, "said Carla, biting her lips with a mouth from which the slightest sound could not get out.
She gave up her breakfast and opened the door.
"You do not have the key?" Asked Carla.
Without answering, Julia had not yet crossed the door completely before her,
- You're not dressed yet? Did you forget our appointment at the gym? And then, we were planning to go shopping on 5th Avenue South. It appears that there are new dresses that have arrived from Paris. As I know them, the girlfriends will have booked a musical evening with Phil, you know the Philharmonic Center. You really do not have a Carla head ...
Carla had no desire to exonerate herself, but for once she had a plausible reason that she could not blow up.
- I'm sorry, I forgot everything and you'll understand why. I learned something new. Imagine that she would have moreover, had to upset me but I showed myself the whole reverse. At least at the beginning when the news was still fresh.
"A news that upset you while you are generally unmoved." There, you amaze me and you really intrigue me. Tell me quickly what annoys you and brings you emotions to this point for having forgotten everything.
- Well, I learned yesterday that John was dead.
"Ah, well ... And how did it happen ... Where was he this time?" In which country of the world did he pass the weapon to the left?
Carla felt almost offended, humiliated by the assaults of her friend to whom she did not expect, but she did not let appear.
It was her friend and she knew her attacks generally muscular without even realizing it.
So, once again, especially on that day of mourning, she was not going to add oil to the fire.
- Sit down first. Because what I learned is not very common.
- You really intrigue me this time. I sit comfortably in your armchair and I'm all hearing.
Julia did not even think of bringing her condolences, much more intrigued in the way John had found the way to spend his life to die than to express a shared regret.
She saw it like a movie or a TV.
"Yesterday I had a visit from a soldier who told me of John's death. I do not let you look for the place, you would not find it. This happened in the Far East, where John had a heart attack.
Realizing the odd, Julia ends up saying:
- Dear Carla, accept my condolences. I did not know John well. Admittedly, he was not often present. And when he was there, I understood, you were trying to stay alone with him. I was not going to interrupt your reunion. He was abandoning you more than you probably wanted.
- You're right, Julia. When I tell you what he was doing, I, who believed that he had gone to meet businessmen for future projects, was not at all. You'll be more surprised.
- Continue, if you want I can take the voice of the priest in the confessional. "Speak my child," said Julia, smiling.
- Do not laugh. I did not know anything about him. The business for John was a blanket. I lived with a stranger for several years and I did not worry about it. I am as faulty as he is.
"I do not see why you should worry about it." What has he done so differently and who is so agitated? Was he a professional thief, a highwayman? A cover for what? Explain.
"He always told me that he worked for an import-export company and, in fact, he worked for the NSA.
- The NSA? But it was an American James Bond, your husband? "Exclaimed Julia, with bright eyes as if she were in a spying scene playing with a fictitious Parabellum in her hands with the index finger Canon of the weapon.
"I do not know what that's all about, but maybe you're right." John left a letter for me. He writes almost nothing to illuminate my lantern. He was held incommunicado. What he loved were his travels around the world. He could not tell me more, since his letter would never have arrived if he said more. Besides, he wrote that I might be in danger. You realize the shit that it could be.
"Why did he do it?" His job as an engineer was not profitable enough? Engineers do not stay long on the tile in the job market.
- I do not know. Was it for money, patriotism, nostalgia for the past? That's right, I did not think about all that. I have never lacked anything, it is also true. Our joint account was always fed and I could draw as I pleased. He even added that even death, I would not lack anything.
- I see. Me, it is rather the galley at the end of the month. I spend without counting. Bill must bear me as a spendthrift. I suppose the letter should contain a few more intimate points, all the same.
- Not much. Want to read the letter? You've always been my friend during all her absences I could count on ...
"I can imagine what he's writing." I will not be curious at this point. It's part of your couple. I've known you for a long time, have not I? I know John's repeated absences. You must never have had many quarrels in your household in the interstices of his presence. You had an advantage, you did not have to iron the shirts and wash your man's socks. It's quite different when, like me, I live 24 hours a day with Bill. Finally almost, way to speak, with someone in my Basques and that sometimes I can no longer bear. You did not have to complain about the dough. You never had to work, just wait and tap into your account. Loneliness must have good, right?
"Ironing his shirts and washing his clothes would not have disturbed me." I did it for Stephen when he was at home. You have exhausted your third man. You know what?
- No, but I feel I'll know.
Still insolent, "thought Carla without letting anything appear.
The manner of being, the frankness of Julia made her laugh on every occasion. She was not going to blame him this time.
"I was ashamed when I remembered how I reacted to this soldier too surprised by what I was learning about John. I did not shed a drop of tears. Not the least natural feeling in these cases. Do not you think it's moved?
"Do not you think I'm going to make you morals," he said?
Julia sensing that the conversation might still slip away, followed a moment's hesitation:
- Are you crazy or what? How could you be and react differently. That you did not cry, does not surprise me at all.
- Yes, you may be right. But I still had a feeling of guilt.
- Okay. You're a little potiche, maybe, but let's move on. Forget your feelings and your weaknesses, they were not of the course.
- Potiche, me. The couple is something very weird. One observes in others the differences with respect to one's own course, while one does not analyze one's own. We tell others that we are together without being sexualized. This should be a block against the others. A couple, this can not work with friends.
An element of the incomplete pair seeks in the other element a complement. And all this is capped by this word "couple".
A couple, with the same person, is a job you do not know. After twenty years, John and I were questioning each of our visits with our differences.
- And you found yourself alone ...
"You do not know solitude. My husband was often away so I always tried to avoid conflicts during the short time when he came back and that we were rebuilding our couple.
My parents have never been potiche of each other. In Mexico, they never left each other, but they lived quite sparingly. I regret not having them. At home, everyone had the force of law at home. But each one knew that he was incomplete and that he loved to get out of himself by the other and with the other.
Clara's emotion in this monologue was visible. She blushed as she spoke.
Then, without transition, feeling the storm appear, almost forgetting the conversation, Julia threw the question:
- Did you watch the TV and Donald Trump who was making a speech? Do you have an idea that it is a patent sexist?
- No, I did not see. I should have?
- Excuse me for changing the subject, but this guy has a macho in the pants with a reporter interviewing him and asking if she had her period. It is somewhat what America needs to straighten out. Do not you think?
- You think so. Free to you. But that does not suit me. Too much. I did not hear it yesterday, but another time. She is a sexist, a racist who gets fooled by her populism. I prefer far, Clinton. She's a woman and she's smart. Much more than her husband who stepped aside with his secretary whose name I can not even remember.
- Her husband, Bill. I used to like. A handsome man. He got caught by this bitch from Monika Lewinski whose name you do not remember. Bill, I would have done it right. Remember when I was in the Tea Party. Obama would have been pushed out mid-term.
Seeing the new slope on which Julia wanted to drag him, Clara raised the bar by inflicting an accelerated oral slap with her scarlet cheeks:
- I do not care about Bill, Monika of all the Donald's on earth. I do not like fascism and those who surf the wave of discontent. Today I have another problem, John.
- Yes, okay, you do not have dollar problems, but John's death ....
"Now, that's something else, money."
- Yes, money. You live well, are not you?
"Of course, I hope you will not blame me for it." I know I am lucky and that many families who do not have qualifications are unemployed. I read that there were 20% of Americans who are in the case. I can not change anything. I participate in charities. I know your problems, too.
Feeling once again, the trap that Carla held out to her, Julia diverted again, the attack and the risks of being pointed in her mania a little nymphomaniac:
"Did not you think there might be messages hidden somewhere in this letter?" Did you look for clues in the house? Perhaps John, like the Little Thumb, has left some small pebbles in his path somewhere. Even if he was hiding, it was not a ghost you had in the house when you saw him in flesh.
- Yes, I thought about it. Do not worry. I spent most of the night stirring up all this and then this morning looking for business. He worked in his office on the first floor and in the attic. White cabbage. Nothing. Apart from old stuff that dates from Methuselah. As for his letter, if he could be a secret agent, I do not have his skills to find the hidden messages. Before you came in, I thought I would use a cryptography service.
"They hide everything from us, they say nothing to us," sang a Frenchman. A certain ... Du .. Dutronc. I believe that for him, without saying that he sang it to women that this happens most often. If you are ashamed of something, erase the speed of your memory and your conscience. Men also have their own secret garden. They are like us. We with the men and they with the women.
"That's true with your conception, you're right to think so." My shame at not having shown more feelings to this soldier, at the announcement of John's death, was almost normal. I did not even offer her any hospitality, not even a whiskey to drink. He came out of the house without a goodbye from me.
"How could you have collapsed into tears?" You were shaken and besides having love by correspondence, it never created very effective relationships in the intimacy on the pillow. John was like a sailor shooting when he came back and then went away. Bastante, they say in your native tongue. No? You're gonna laugh, I might even think of him thinking about the documentary I saw last week on salmon. It was "Salmon Syndrome". A documentary that showed salmon when they go up the rivers where they were born after years of traveling through the oceans. They come back to procreate and die.
Now sex and salmon. I'll have all the prizes, "said Carla.
"I did not see, Julia, but I do not want to laugh.
- Not serious. Let the salmon go where they are. Did you warn Stephen of his father's death?
"No, I have not yet informed our son." At first, when I saw the soldier yesterday, I thought he was the one who had an accident.
- What do we do? We go to the gym to distract you a little with the girlfriends?
- You will excuse me to the girlfriends but I do not have the heart to that. Leave me. I'll call Stephen when you're gone. I received a phone number from a John superior to call for more news about him. I wish Stephen would be there with me. John has already been put in beer, down there in the Middle East. I will not be able to see him for the last time. But I have to know where and when to place the burial.
- Of course I apologize. I'll go right away. I'll apologize to the other girlfriends on Thursday. They will also be surprised, if you allow me to tell your story.
"You can, but I prefer you not to give them too many details." You know them, they will fantasize about my story when I know very few myself. Tell them a minimum. John died of a heart attack, that's enough.
- Okay. Do not mind, I know the way out. You'll have a busy day. See you...
Carla knew the totally opposite way of Julia. She knew that often it might have cracked between them, but she also knew that she was learning much more about the American way of thinking she lacked and in which she had to integrate and adapt.
She had made the leap by marrying John and she had to take it on.
Julia just left, she went to the lobby to phone her son.
How was he to receive the news?
Stephen had never had much contact with his father.
The fact that he was often absent, Stephen had not felt it necessary to keep him informed of his own concerns.
While Carla's thoughts were conveying through her head, the tone of the call began to ring once, twice, and a grave voice came to the other end of the line.
- Hello, Stephen Jeanson, what can I do for you?
- It's mom. I got a bad news: your father had a heart attack. He is dead.
A moment of silence followed. Carla, saying this, already realized that this way of announcing it was not correct. Too direct. She already regretted it.
Like Carla, Stephen had to digest the news in an even shorter time.
She recommenced her explanations, which became a litany in rehearsal.
- How did it happen? Where was it when it happened to him? I did not know that he had heart problems that could lead him to an early end.
- Me neither, Stephen. I hardly know anything about him. Your father was a loving but discreet man if not secret. Yesterday I received the news of his death by a soldier who came home. The secret of your father's life was even deeper than I could have imagined. Could you have thought he was working as a secret agent for the NSA?
- What about the NSA? Him? He who when he was at home was rather overbearing? There you stuff me a corner. I knew...
Carla, excited to have to explain everything, cut him off ...
"Yes, he was on a mission to the Far East when it happened to him.
More and more disturbing. No, I'm no less surprised that you can be. How could he hide all this?
- He had to. Perhaps, it was also to protect us and to assure us of a life without financial problems according to the letter that I received from him.
"A farewell letter, a testament he had prepared in case something happened to him?"
- Yes that's it. To tell us that they had never ceased to love us, but that he could speak to us only of very trivial things about his profession outside the cover which he had always used to us.
"It was a Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hide.
- In some ways. You had a phantom father and I, an unknown husband. I'm sorry to hear from you. I will call the number of one of his leaders who should give me information about the time and place of the funeral. I was not even given instructions to solve the administrative problems. Since this is the secret army, I suppose the rest must remain so. I'd like you to come for the funeral. Can you free yourself to come and join me?
- Okay. I'll take my leave right away and I'll be here. They must grant it to me in this case. I'll take a plane ticket. In this season, there will be no availability problems. We'll go together obviously. I kiss you. Do not grieve too much. Dad was a perpetual absentee. He took his destiny a little earlier in this way. It is his life and he led him to a term as he wanted by forgetting his family a little.
- You told me you knew, and I cut you off. What did you know?
- Listen, Mom, I'll tell you what I know when I get there. It might be too long for a phone call.
- Okay. See you soon.
Clara hung up the phone, reassured.
For her, it is also an opportunity to see her son that she only saw on the same occasions on holidays as John.
American life in an immense country demands sacrifices of mobility and a treasure of flexibility. She knew it, but this time she regretted it.
Chapter 4: Awareness
The afternoon had already begun.
Carla had no desire to prepare her lunch.
She decided to go to lunch at the local restaurant to change her mind. She wanted to see people.
His phone tinta.
It was his son.
- Mom, it's Stephen, I took a seat on the plane to Naples. I will arrive tomorrow morning at 10:00.
- Okay. I'll check the schedule and I'll pick you up. I'm glad to see you again.
But before leaving, she had to telephone the number she had received to know more about the unfolding of the hours that were to follow.
She dialed the number that was written on the business card.
An answer arrived in the second, a man's voice, a little dry.
- Major Phil Kennedy ...
- Hello, sir, Bonjour Major .... I am Mrs Jeanson.
"Ah, yes, I sent my adjutant to tell you the bad news about your husband, John." Accept, dear Madam, my sincere condolences. The service was good for your husband. He was very efficient.
"Very effective", these words resonated in Carla's head like a blow of a club that she would have liked to pass on to the head of his interlocutor. She did not let it appear.
- I have, indeed, learned as I have learned so much about him for less than 24 hours ..
- I understand. He had a duty of reserve and secrecy which extended to his own family. I can tell you that he was a good patriot who was ready to surpass the family needs of a couple.
"And he gets a new layer of butter on his bread," thought Carla.
- Know that I would have liked better that its cover is much more real, warmer and less virtual.
- It's obvious. But he has ensured you a life without worry financially speaking, knowing that he would often be absent on mission. Do not blame him too much and keep a beautiful picture of him, even fictitious. I am sure he knew how to protect his family well even if he has a double face of which one is unknown to you.
Here, after the jam, here is the dough.
Carla would have liked to throw the cornet in her face.
A double face?
I married a man and not a double face.
From her affective and emotional disorder, stoic, she left nothing to appear.
She had to remain firm in a military environment and retrieve the information that the army had planned for "those who remain": the family.
- Yeah. Good. I suppose the coffin is on its way to our ground and it will be brought to a close time.
- Yes. It is in flight now according to my latest information. I am sorry. Two days ago, and the temperature in the Far East is not adequate for keeping bodies in the light of day. I'm sorry, you can not see him anymore. I'm sure we should have told you.
- Indeed. Your warrant officer gave me the message. When and where will the funeral take place?
- Tomorrow Friday, Madam, at 12 o'clock. You do not see any inconvenience in the military cemetery in your town, I suppose. Given his rank and service status, there is a right to have a place.
"I do not know if there's a part of the cemetery reserved for the military, but I do not object.
"There is always one, dear Madame." You know the address of the cemetery, I suppose.
- Yes, I know. I'll come with my son. I warned him. He is also a soldier and he will be present with me. I still have to tell John's parents.
- It has been done. We had their references in our files, of course. For your son, we thought you would have preferred that you bring him the news. We will await you and John's parents. He will receive military honors. You can take other people with you if you wish. Again, I repeat, I remain with you wholeheartedly and we will see to it that you lack nothing and for all the administrative procedures. See you tomorrow, dear Madame.
Carla, hanging up and standing, had trembling legs that let her go.
So John's parents knew about it.
She had not had to warn them and somewhere she was glad. Relations with them were rather succinct.
She sat down on the chair and began to reflect in the void. She was disturbed by the lack of warmth that a soldier must have in her genes.
Were they aware of his occupation as an NSA agent in the Far East?
A question which came to him immediately in his questioning.
She remained an indeterminate time without doing anything before going to the restaurant.
Outside, the day was beautiful. A blue sky. Nothing seemed to suggest a storm.
She did not have much to add to what she was wearing at home and decided to leave the house.
At the restaurant she met some neighbors who spoke to her.
- Hi Clara, you're still alone ... How are you. You have not been here for a long time. What is John's news?
A kindness that Carla would have liked to avoid.
How to give answers that do not fail to bring other questions?
To make the innocent seemed to him the best solution. She chose to respond with ease by temporizing and hoping that Julia had not already spread the news of John's death with details throughout the neighborhood. She did not want to come to the cemetery with the knowledge of the family.
- I'm alright. I have not heard from John since the beginning of the year.
Carla wanted a funeral in private and without neighbors. Military personnel were enough. She expected the arrival of Julia and she would warn the common friends.
Later, she will say that she did not have time to warn others.
She ate fast, a hamburger hoping that other more savvy acquaintances did not add to her trouble.
Half an hour later she was back home.
What should I do to avoid turning around in the apartment before nightfall?
Think of John and remember memories as you go back and occupy your mind by putting your house in order.
It was no longer a question of jogging on the beach.
Arriving in the evening, she had done nothing. Nothing compared to his habits.
She was exhausted as if she had been working for 24 hours without stopping.
Carla suddenly realized that she had not been unhappy for twenty years. The solitude in which John left her, she had adapted to it.
John's presence as a rain passenger may have been fuller and less stormy than many couples who live together almost 24 hours a day.
Julia's current husband was retired and this was to explain his way of reacting.
What had counted for Carla had stuck in her memory of these moments of convergence like an indelible trace that appeared when it was called with a magic wand and then disappeared after another blow of the same wand.
This repeated "Salmon Syndrome" had not been useless and nobody could take it away from Carla's dreams.
Freedom, due to his loneliness that John had imposed on him, had created a life for him without financial or moral constraints.
The magic was broken for a time.
She was sure that the shock she had suffered the day before had brought only one wound as an earthquake did, and that there would be aftershocks.
That evening, she did not want to watch television as she did very often.
She went to bed and fell asleep, thinking only of the arrival of her son, Stephen.
Perhaps this is how Kundera in "The unbearable lightness of being" had transformed a drama into joy or at least a positive one day.
Chapter 5: A particular day fertile in "discoveries"
All night long, Clara slept at a stretch until she awoke with a start.
His alarm clock was set at 08:00 though.
The time displayed on the dial and on the ceiling indicated 06:12.
She tried to go back to sleep but did not succeed.
Tired of war, she left the bed and prepared to go to the airport where her son was to land.
A short visit to the computer still standing on the coffee table, to know at what time Stephen should arrive.
"Delayed": 10:15. A delay of 15 minutes.
So she had all the time, but caught up in her impetus and the desire to see her son, she accelerated the movement.
Finally, time to hurry slowly, for Clara. Hurrying was never his forte.
Half an hour would be enough to reach "Naples International Airport".
At 09:00, she pulled the car out of the garage and took the road to the airport.
The road was not very busy and it arrived at 09:35 when entering one of the airport car parks.
She parked the car without long looking for an empty space and headed for the first closest information sign.
The landing was still scheduled at 10:15 at Gate 77 towards which she made her way.
Along the way, she saw the sign "First Flight Wine Bar" and headed in that direction.
Just time to have a coffee while waiting for the quarter of an hour before arriving at the indicated exit door and the plane had landed.
Stephen did not take long to appear.
He had only one hand luggage and nothing to retrieve on the treadmills that bring the luggage back.
He waved with his passport as if it were a proof of his passage to the customs.
He rushed into Clara's arms.
- Hello Mom. I forgot to tell you that I shared your grief and your emotions. I am not going to tell you the usual formula "sincere condolences". This would seem to me very little in the note and would be of a flatness for the members of the same family. Seeing Papa, two or three times a year, in recent years also did not create long intimacies. Where is the time of the beginnings in my youth when papa made me jump in cadence on his knees while you played on the piano? At that time, papa was my god.
- Hi Stephen. I understand and fully agree with you. Dad was not often at home anymore. I also felt the changes I imagined due to his traveling businessmen. I had taken my part in a forced solitude in which he had put me. Perhaps fortunately, I had friends like Julia. She was the friend of always to keep me company and to fill the emptiness that daddy left me. I did not always agree with her, but that was not the essence of the problem. You remember her, always a bit foolish, but kind and ready to help when needed and even when it was not necessary to push her revolutionary ideas forward.
- Yes, I remember her very well. As you say, a little fofolle, olé olé ...
"She only told me of the death of Dad." Yesterday, when I went to the restaurant, I met some neighbors. They all asked me how your father was going.
I lied, I did not say anything. I have not had the courage to repeat all the adventures of these last hours. People always believe they are doing well and want to revisit the past to justify it. They do not realize that this only aggravates the problem. I am not strong enough to assume it several times.
- People's curiosity does not have many limitations. They would always want to know more than you know yourself. When is Dad's funeral?
- The plane that brought it home from Egypt, had to land in the night. From what I've been told. I do not know the exact time of his return to American soil but the burial will take place around noon. We have time to talk before we reach Naples Military Cemetery, where it is planned to bury it. It takes less than an hour to get there.
- Dad may have a first-class military funeral.
- If you knew just how interested, I'm interested in that. You would not tell me. A superior whom I phoned told me he would go to the military part of the cemetery. That's all. Without giving me the details. From there to that he has a first class funeral, I do not expect so much. Were you aware of his military activities and the NSA?
- Only partly. Military, yes. He asked me not to talk to you about it. Perhaps you do not get scared. How do you think that I obtained a position in the barracks at the command of a lieutenant so quickly? When one has a rank of lieutenant or captain, to the army, to place his son in a post, is always easier. I was boosted, Mom. I learned it later. We will have a family of soldiers from father to son. Being part of the NSA, no, I did not know. I had the opportunity to think about it on the plane. In the end, he did his job as a secret man.
"I never imagined that." How could he hide his military activities? He must have military clothes. I have not seen any.
"But, my dear mother, do you think that all the soldiers are all in military khaki with a cap or a beret on their heads?" No, there is the secret army that must pass and remain anonymous. Dad was playing a different role at home.
- Yeah. Will you read the letter your father sent me?
- Yes, give.
Still a little short-sighted, Stephen placed his glasses on his nose and began to read in silence before raising his eyes on Clara who asked him the question.
- What do you think?
- What do you want me to think? There is no date. I can not tell you if it was recent. Older than mine. That's for sure. The last letter I received from him was cheerful as if relieved. He told me about his departure in the Middle East. Dad, you have to know. He gave me a very different education than you could think. He taught me to defend myself in life without sentimentality. Papa was a libertarian, individualistic pure juice. The family cocoon was the happy part of his universe. His pink side. He did everything in private.
In public it was much less so. But I felt something different in his last letter. Like a softening of his words with an indefinable relief.
"Have you got the letter he sent you with you?" Clara interrupted.
- Yes, in my baggage. But we'll see that later. I did not have time to organize my barda. I will not unpack my clothes on the ground to find her. We'll see that at home, on our way back from the cemetery.
"Would not you have anecdotes to tell me about him?" As I do not know anything about the John whose double I knew, it might enlighten me. The known John was loving when we met.
- I hope for you.
- Papa was tender with you, but, graded, he had to be very strict and very respectful of military rules. He was not a bisounours. I might not have liked to be under his command in the army. When I was a kid, I did not obey him, he groaned and it was better to be at a distance.
- John, not a bisounours, a terror for you, maybe! I go from surprise to surprise in the last few hours. You remind me of something. A long time ago. He had enrolled in a shooting club. The reason he invoked was the need to secure me at home. He had bought a gun. It still has to be somewhere in a drawer. He then enrolled in a shooting club. At the time, I had said nothing feeling more secure. One day, I did not know why, he had unsubscribed from this club.
"He loved arms." That's for sure. Very libertarian. Individual freedom should remain as a natural right. When he left the club, it may be that his travels became more numerous and he was engaged in new military missions. He was a training engineer and the army likes that kind of personality.
"To think about it, you may be right. It is also true that I have always been afraid of noises in the garden. The gun had secured me. He was always convincing when he wanted something.
- To be convincing is to be able to mix truths and lies with the same facility. Yeah, I think from Dad's life, you still have a lot to learn, Mom. Dad was the typical American republican.
"What do you mean by that?"
- You remember him and me, we were sometimes in marked opposition. For him, the United States had to remain the gendarme of the world. In his eyes, Obama did the opposite of what America should do. Obama was very rough for him. A good speaker, but too dependent on the wind that turns. Obama liked the drones to save staff. For dad, using drones, it's a dirty war. He regarded Obama as a war-ridden man during his two terms.
- Republican type? For whom would he vote today in this party?
"I do not know if he would choose Donald Trump, but it would have been in his style." Although his last letter was serene without speaking political. I do not know why, he did not start the topic in full swing.
"Military, but why did he like to spend his military career in the East rather than in the West? The East and the Far East, is a dangerous area, right?
- Dad loved exoticism before everything else. The danger did not really scare him. When he was sent to a country which had a different culture and habits, he was attracted to it like a magnet. In my opinion, he could have made an excellent war correspondent. A baroudeur, but not an NSA agent ...
"That's why he liked to find the rest of the warrior when he returned from a mission. These countries say "exotic", he never showed them to me. I have always hoped to visit these countries in Europe or even in the Far East.
- I understand. But he did not want to put you in danger. Today, I will dare tell you more about Dad. He is dead. Now is the time to tell you, that he loved the company of an Egyptian scholar. Totally platonic, I hear. That's how he told me about it, and I think it did not go any further. She worked at Cairo University and taught Western and Eastern philosophy. He wrote me that he had often been listening on the benches with his students. I wonder if this did not generate his difference in attitude in his last letter.
- I'm coco, without knowing it? With philosophy as a joker. Tell me, at once, that she has spun him with her philosophy.
- That's not really it. You have not been cuckolded, in my opinion. You know Daddy, he knew how to charm his female entourage. He had funny stories that he knew to tell with many expressions like a theater actor.
It was often only to learn more about those who were charmed by him. To inquire about people was all the art in which he excelled. An advantage for a secret agent, if you do not know. Learning secrets through confidence, in exchange for funny stories that had nothing to do with his own story. Perhaps he was instructed by his superiors to seek information through him. I'm not even sure that Dad told him how you lived in Florida and that I existed as the fruit of your love with him.
- Oh, good ... Better and better. So I do not have to be moved when I met this soldier who had announced the news of his death. Platonic, my John! This means without physical love, but still passionate by philosophy.
- Yeah, maybe it's in that form, but these are just my personal calculations.
Carla could not hide her jealousy.
"I was confused when I told Julia the death of your father. She had put me back on the track I had left without realizing it. Secrets, she had tons. She had told me about it. It made me smile if not laughing when she went on and on in her confidences. Who knows, it could be so wrong. But when you become a philosopher, everything can be explained. Do you know what she told me about John?
- No tell me. To know Julia, it could be fun.
- That John was living with a syndrome she called "Salmon Syndrome". You know the salmon that comes back each time to its place of birth, either to give birth or to die. She had seen it in a documentary that appeared on TV.
- Beautiful caricature of papa. I am thirsty. You may be as well. Let's get on with it, drink something at the airport restaurant. Afterwards, it will be time to go and bury your salmon. I hope the hook will be removed from the mouth of the salmon.
They laughed together for the first time of the day.
Chapter 6: A burial that creates a decision
It did not take much time to reach the "Naples Memorial Cemetery".
"How's that going to happen?" Clara asked intently to Stephen.
Carla had never attended a military funeral and hoped not to sound silly to the military and especially to her in-laws.
- Do not worry, trust, everything is organized without your intervention. You will see that does not vary so much from another funeral. I attended as a soldier to one of them. It's ceremonial with a drill well oiled in a scenario known in advance. To commemorate those who served the country without being in time of war, demands a certain ceremonial.
Stephen had barely placed these last words in the conversation in the car that the cemetery appeared.
At the entrance, a small detachment of GI's was already on duty at the family's expectation.
Carla and Stephen parked in the parking lot.
John's parents were already there. They walked towards them and kissed them without a word, but with pinched smiles.
An officer came to meet them.
Clara told herself that it had to be the soldier she had on the phone.
She still felt very awkward when he held out her hand.
- Major Phil Kennedy, it was me that you had on the phone yesterday. I came honored the remains of your husband whom I knew a little when he returned to the base. It's a duty and an honor for me to be here, "he said with stars on the beret.
- Thank you, Major. Thank you for coming, "Clara replied as he was already directing his hand to Stephen before returning to take Clara's hand.
For her, the events that followed entered into a dream.
She marked the steps in her memory as if it were a virtual "checklist", and the steps were checked as if it were a new scenario with the title "How to make funeral honors to a soldier?" .
Stephen as a guide, blew the rest of the funeral into Carla's ear.
She thus complemented her statements in her script with a little advance.
- The American flag that you see there, has descended from its shaft and folded in a very precise order to make a well packed triangle. The soldiers will take down the coffin. Then, the flag folded will be presented to you by two military officers in uniform. A presidential commemorative certificate will conclude the ceremony.
Clara did not say anything with a smile of thanks for the news.
"A brief trumpet may play the military funeral song in a deadly silence, but it all depends on the rank of the soldier being buried," Stephen whispered in Clara's ear.
The whole process of this ceremonial did not take much time.
Clara had witnessed all these stages without flinching, almost as a curious tourist.
Then all the soldiers withdrew, leaving Clara and Stephen alone to decide what to do next to the ceremony.
The army had done its duty. To the family to make the sequel.
John's mother, followed by her husband, approached Clara to kiss him for the last time.
Clara's mother-in-law, with tears in her eyes, said in Clara's ear:
"My son is gone, and for you it was, I hope, a good husband."
- Yes, Mamy, it has always been good for me.
His stepfather, as Stephen had recalled, had a military career, and was a little proud on his face. The moment had to be more solemn for him. Who knows maybe he wanted his son, John, to be military like him.
Carla did not think she could say more. Why would she have done it?
Talking about her loneliness that she had endured for months, would have been really bad.
Together, they headed for the parked car outside the cemetery.
The beautiful family of Clara asked to go and have a drink somewhere.
Carla tried to refuse by saying that she had something important to do.
She did not succeed in convincing them and they went to the cafe facing the cemetery.
Clara and Stephen remained silent for a long time, not to honor the situation, but because there was not much to add between them.
Even on this day of mourning, however, there was a certain animosity and antagonism of opinion.
It was John's parents who held the spittoon interspersed with short sentences in response.
"It was a fine funeral," said the father-in-law.
"Very beautiful," replied Stephen, pretending that there was a real family dialogue.
Then, the conversation had faded into the news.
Speaking of topicality in the United States during a year of primaries and presidential election, it is normally the passional subject of the moment.
As a spark that is born by striking two stones together, Clara's parents-in-law who are from Wisconsin in the north of the country, put the record of politics on the turntable of the imagination.
The father-in-law defended the candidate Ted Cruz.
Stephen took the opposite step and said that he was the worst evangelist, supporting Bernie Sanders.
- In the evangelical churches, one prays to keep his story concentrated in so little. Ted Cruz is the biggest danger for the United States. He looks up to the sky to find the answers to the problems. No real vision for the future of young people. Sanders, at least has some futuristic ideas, "replied Stephen with a desire to do battle.
- He's a communist. He has no chance in the United States. He has ultra-simplistic ideas to solve the crisis, "his grandfather replied.
- Nuance. He is not a communist but a socialist. Even Hillary Clinton is more to the left than Obama, "he said boldly.
"The people of the south, you are suspicious of everything." Trump's vulgarity does not really displease me. Perhaps he is the one who will lead the dance, "his grandfather was annoyed.
Stephen remembered the ping pong discussions in oppositions with his father that ended in a cockfight.
Carla let them talk without saying anything, while her mother-in-law supported her husband with a nod, without however justifying it. Carla's mother-in-law was only a copy-paste of her husband.
Considering that she had heard enough, Clara cut the discussion by reframing the conversation about John.
- John's role in the NSA, you knew?
"We had heard about it, but we were afraid of this organization, of which we knew almost nothing. We often talk about CIA but not NSA, "said John's mother.
"So they knew, they knew about it, and I, his wife, I did not know, they are hypocrites," Carla thought.
Less than ten minutes later they parted, saying they should be in the future.
A promise that Clara interpreted by a will to not receive.
Everyone resumed their journey.
- Phew. It's finish. It was getting annoying, "Carla whispered into Stephen's ear as he turned the ignition key.
She had resumed a route parallel to that of her in-laws.
A parallel that everyone knows, is joined only at infinity of times as all the parallels.
Clara's small car break started off quarter-turn and began to wander calmly along the way, crunching the tires on the gravel.
The way to get out of the cemetery environment led very quickly between the streets and avenues that Clara knew only too well. The Old Naples to the south and the main street of Tamiami Trail to reach the house near Hurricane Harbor.
Between them two little words were exchanged in the passenger compartment.
A silence announcing something, but what?
All the smoky thoughts were moving around in a closed circuit to cogitate about decisions to be made in the hours that would follow now that the page was turned.
Suddenly, leaving Clara, she turned to Stephen and said,
"Would not you like to know your father better?"
"To know, papa?" What do you mean? Is not it a bit late to get to know him?
- Exactly. It would be enough to go where he spent the last few months or years at work. Finally work, it remains to prove. My engineer had secrets that I discovered only a few hours ago as a military officer, died of a heart attack. This kind of vision of your father is not enough for me.
- What do you want to do? He probably had a base back in a barracks. Is that where you want to go?
"No, what would they tell me again?" They are also bound by secrecy. You would have to find someone who knew him well, not necessarily who was part of his unit but who would be willing to tell me more. Unity must be spoken in this case, is not it? You probably know more about what the army is and how it works.
- You are right. The esprit de corps will prevent them from revealing more and you will return empty-handed. That is almost certain.
- That's why, Stephen, I want to investigate your father's past, but directly to the Middle East and meet those who knew him closely outside the army. I only knew one of your father's two faces. I want to know the other.
- Where or by whom would you start your investigation in the Middle East?
"You told me that you had received letters from your father and that he was talking to you about this professor of philosophy at Cairo University. If you have his name, it would be a good start for my investigation. A platonic meeting, you said. Was it, moreover, not more than platonic? Here, it would be a memory inquiry. Nothing platonic ...
- He gave the name of the Egyptian philosopher in his last letter in case. They did not want you to read her while she was alive. Today he is dead and it frees me of my promise. I do not want to awaken a jealousy in your mind when you do not have one. Post-mortem jealousy has less interest.
"It is not jealousy that animates me. You do not think that jealousy, I could have known her much earlier in her absences, even if he did not tell me anything? No, I can read your father's letter without falling into a crisis of jealousy. The details do not interest me but if Dad gave you the name of this philosopher, it would be a way to connect the thread cut between John and me. I do not care now about the type of relationship he had with her, platonic or not. I'd like to know more about the other John that I did not know. That's all.
- As I told you, Dad's letter is in my luggage that I put in the trunk of the car. When you get to your destination at home, I will show it to you and give you all the information I may have known outside of you.
- Okay, It's boiling. We are almost there. I have another question. Could you take a few days off to come with me? We would make tourism together by adding the useful to the pleasant. I have never been in any other continent than in America. The United States, and their immediate surroundings, I know. Mexico and the Caribbean Islands, John offered them to me as places on vacation. They left me no other memory than a John who came to rest there. They were not even visited culturally. We often stayed with the family at the hotel.
- You are right. The photos that Dad took, often showed our little family with a background of the hotel like selfies.
- Today, I want to play like a real tourist.
- I will inquire. I still have a few days off for dad's death and I have days of permission to recover. In my opinion, that should be possible. Then I will book two seats on the plane to Cairo. No, I think your idea is excellent and we may be better able to know each other also, at the same time. I will tell you what I am doing now in the army.
With these words, the car reached the driveway leading to the family home.
As soon as they entered the house, Stephen took the phone to inquire about the possibility of extending his leave.
Permission was granted.
Only a week, but that was enough and if her mother wanted to get to know this unknown Middle East, she could do it by a bit later.
A glance at the computer to find that the first flight between Tampa and Cairo via London, was scheduled for the next morning at 09:00. That's nearly eight hours more on arrival, counting jet lag.
There was no problem in booking two places on the plane.
They would arrive in the night from Saturday to Sunday after midnight in Cairo.
Just the time of the evening to prepare a suitcase more for ten days.
Stephen's package was already outlined.
"A room reserved for the Sheraton in the middle of the Nile, it boils, mamma?"
- Of course. In the middle of the Nile? As long as I do not have to dive into the water of the Nile, I agree. There must be crocodiles, no, "she replied with a smile.
- It is not allowed to bathe there and the crocodiles are arrested well before arriving in Cairo, do not fear.
Stephen unpacked his package.
"Here, here is the last letter that Papa had sent me."
Carla took the letter and began to read the sheet of thin paper.
How are you going to school?
Have you made new friends?
Life to military training, I knew it, long ago. This can be very pleasant or disappointing at the same time. It is according to what is sought after.
Your mother knows nothing about my occupation and the attribution I have been given. Let alone the NSA. As you can imagine, I can only reveal to you the tip of the iceberg of my activities.
My foot on the ground is, for some time, in Cairo.
An exceptional city, very lively, very different from the one we know about us. I like it very well in this vibrant atmosphere.
I attended a Philosophy Teacher Course at Cairo University.
It has opened up many new horizons to me on the philosophical appreciation of the East which is completely unknown in the United States.
Her name is Dalida Nefferi.
No, I have no more than cultural relations with her.
But it soothes my conscience and my unconsciousness.
She organizes meetings at home with students.
I went there once or twice. It was very interesting and we sympathized.
Life has become much more difficult here, since tourists have deserted Egypt and people are standing together to survive this situation.
The atmosphere between young academics is rich and exciting.
In Egypt, the situation became calm again after the events of the Arab Spring and Marshal Al-Sisi took over the presidency by force.
But a spark would suffice for the situation to change and for the revolt to resume its course of catastrophe.
My mission may take longer than expected. It contains several aspects, both in human and material relations.
I'm sorry I can not tell you the ups and downs. If you ever go through the house before I come back, kiss Mom for me.
I will try to write to you as quickly as I can.
Please write to me at the US Embassy in Cairo.
They will send me your letters as I have asked them.
I kiss you
John's letter brought the link with the journey they were about to undertake, the name of the philosopher.
The address to be sought was implicit: the university.
As the letter had been written recently, it also proved that John wanted to return to Clara if death had not prevented him.
This reassured Clara that her potential rival might not have been.
They were going to learn in serenity to know who this Dalida was and who John was.
On the Internet, Stephen rented a hotel room for the overnight stay at the Miami airport that everyone knew well and another by the same route, to the hotel on the Nile.
Carla and Stephen laughed and began preparing the trip with a lot of jokes talking about memories of the past in separate communities
"Everything must go on perfectly but only under control" ...
Chapter 7: The Unknown Land Journey
On the plane, Stephen slept almost throughout the journey.
Carla, on the other hand, was sleeping a few moments and then woke up.
She envied him to be able to sleep so easily.
As it was her baptism of air above the Atlantic as long as it was clear, to go to meet the sun, she would not have missed it for anything in the world.
The day was all the shorter.
After dinner she served on board, and she was asleep.
She was awakened by the head of Stephen who had slumped on her knees.
She smiled and let her rest by sliding a blanket over Stephen's shoulders.
Had he dreamed of what he could find on the spot as he always did?
Was there a Pharaoh who gave him orders in his dream?
Turbulence shook the plane.
Stephen woke up. The images of his dream must have disappeared on the spot.
The plastic glass, which contained a remnant of water, had spilled and had awakened him completely.
They laughed together as they dried the tablet.
Through the portholes, a dark night had settled in the sky with many stars.
Some tourists had lowered the shutter of their porthole to obscure this starry sky.
Clara was at the window and she would never have done it, the spectacle of the stars fascinated her.
The interior lights of the plane suddenly shut off to avoid interfering with the sleepers.
Some spots of light above the seats remained the only lights on.
She decided to watch the film by introducing itself into the ears, the ear-pads to listen to the sound of the film.
The pictures of the film passed silently on the screen.
She noticed that she had already seen him, but he granted her the privilege of gradually falling asleep.
After a quarter of an hour she finally slept deeper.
They woke up, their heads heavy when an announcement of the pilot warned that they were approaching Cairo, that it was necessary to regain its places and tie its belts.
The plane began a loop in the sky.
Clara glanced through the porthole.
The absolute black of the desert to the right and the sea to the left equally black.
Another half-turn and the lights of the city suddenly appeared, as far as the eye could see, while the interior lights of the plane went out, making the lights of the city of Cairo even more brilliant.
The descent to the airport was accentuated until the moment of touch of the tarmac by a small barely perceptible shock. Brakes and return to the car park.
The plane was surrounded by several buses to get to the airport.
On leaving the plane, a little wind chilled the atmosphere. The temperature in this season dropped very strong at night and seemed even cool, if not cold compared to the day.
Carla had to cover herself with a sweater by entering the airport.
A residual moisture in the airport obliged him to remove it.
Five minutes of corridors before reaching customs.
She was not too zealous at this hour of the night.
Recover luggage on treadmills, took the longest time
Then they quickly found themselves in front of the taxi station outside the airport.
Not many tourists at this time in the airport and even fewer problems finding a taxi.
A taximan was all smiles, stammering his best English while rushing to get the luggage.
Stephen showed him the address of the hotel and he received a new smile as an acknowledgment.
As soon as they left the airport, they passed through a town that was still busy all night.
The traffic was, however, smaller and they reached the round tower of the Sheraton Hotel in the middle of the Nile quite quickly.
Clara was tired, even broke.
She used to work the land, squatting, for a whole day without feeling tired, but this time it was too much.
The check-in and the gift of the passports at the hotel reception were almost without realizing it before going up to the rooms.
Not a lot of luggage to climb and barely want to undress before jumping on one of the twin beds.
She sank into a deep sleep without even wishing a good night to her son.
Stephen understood that jet lag had undermined his mother's last efforts.
He had slept enough on the plane.
He quietly opened the TV and consulted the tourist documentation that was on a table.
He hoped to spend a few hours of vacation before hoping to meet the professor of philosophy at the university.
Real tourism, in one day only, it seemed difficult.
He chose two essential visits: the museum and the pyramids.
For the rest, we will notify tomorrow morning, "Stephen said to himself.
Lying on his bed, he turned off the TV and fell asleep in less than five minutes.
No need to introduce an alarm in the morning alarm clock.
He felt able to wake up before his mother.
The rhythm of life had to adapt in more than a day to the change of meridian.
Going east is always more difficult to adapt than to go in the same direction of the sun.
In the barracks he had had to practice sleeping for short periods of sleep.
It was a way of putting this experience into practice.
Chapter 8: Tourism to the East
When Carla woke up, it was already 10 o'clock in the morning.
Stephen was already washed and dressed.
They opened the two windows to the small balcony.
On the eleventh floor, the view embraced a good part of Cairo.
The spectacle of agitated life around the Nile was present on all sides.
For Clara, everything was different from America. She felt like she was in another world and her enthusiasm exploded.
She pointed at places without knowing what she pointed to as a child discovering the world.
- There you saw the mosque with a minaret ... There, on the Nile, small sails ...
She could not get out of sight.
Stephen was smiling at his enthusiasm without being able to give an additional explanation.
Clara had always dreamed of this exoticism without receiving anything but virtual images.
The city seemed sublime to him at this altitude.
The background noise in a hubbub existed dissipated by the altitude and merged into the morning mists that limited the horizon.
A tourist weekend with the Nile as a common thread, it would never have had the idea of ??it only two days before.2.jpg
The heat immediately swelled inside the air-conditioning chamber.
The city was teeming with traffic in every direction and Carla was gaping, not knowing what to say.
Stephen wanted to start his role as an improvised guide.
"You see Maman, there, on the lower left is Tahrir Square." You must have heard about it on TV. It was here that the great revolutionary gatherings of the Arab Spring took place. There were dead, unfortunately. We can not see the pyramids of Giza on this side, but they are not far from the city. We'll go in the afternoon, if you want to.
Our university philosopher, it will be tomorrow morning.
Look, down there, the Ancient Egyptian Museum. There, one of the mosques whose name I do not remember.
- We're going to have an interesting day. I think it would not be too difficult to find a guide.
"Perhaps a taximan might do the trick." With the problems of terrorism, tourists have deserted Egypt for some time and business is not at the zenith. Tourism brings an important return in this country. A taximan will be happy to show us the most important places.
Carla followed Stephen's pointed finger in every direction and said amusedly:
"I am glad to have asked you to accompany me."
"What do you think of my hat?" Stephen asked, taking it in his hand, answering his smile.
- Are we going to the bush to do a safari?
"No, do not be afraid, it's for the sun." I advise you to buy a hat at the front desk of the hotel. At noon, it fits firmly on the brain. I know you're already tanned by the Florida sun, but it's not totally the same. Here, the nearby desert dries up the heat from the sun and it can hurt.
- Okay. I'll see if there's a stall near the reception.
"Let us go down as soon as you're ready." It is possible that we will still receive a breakfast at the restaurant, otherwise we will have a brunch, a little later. You will be amazed at what you receive as food in Egypt. That will change us from your American burgers.
- My hamburgers? Have you eaten so much at home? "Carla said dubiously.
- A bit all the same with Mexican tostadas.
Carla was also in a hurry to see the rest of the day and did not reply.
She was ready in less than ten minutes, donning light clothing at all speeds.
They came out of the room with a door slam that closed automatically. A maid asked them if she could take care of the room.
They replied in the same way, nodding their heads.
The universal mime passes through the words without leaving traces with an efficiency like no other.
They took one of the elevators.
At the restaurant, Stephen unfolded a menu card. He chose the dishes that he considered interesting and presented him to his mother who expected no less from him.
- We go first to the buffet. I'm hungry. No matter what I find on the buffet.
You will give me your impressions afterwards, "Carla suggested.
"Of course," Stephen said, taking her by the hand as if they were a couple of lovers.
A portion of the buffet was reserved for international food.
Another part for more local dishes.
They both visited and drew from both with an avidity of curiosity.
They swallowed what they had gathered on their plates in less time than to say it without knowing the name.
A waiter dressed in traditional jalabiya offered them the list of drinks.
He returned several times to fill the teapot and coffee pot before their cups were emptied. The bows were obviously part of his game.
- I really enjoyed it. Too much maybe. This deserves an American brunch. Are we going? "Carla said after more than half an hour.
They went towards the exit of the hotel.
In a corner, a television had looping views of the city and they stopped there to give themselves ideas of what they might want to visit.
It must have looked like this:
They left the hotel.
There the heat shock took them.
There must have been about 40 ° C.
It certainly was more than 20 degrees to the other side of the bay window.
- Come on, let's go, there. Hep taxi, said Stephen, raising his hand to a car parked along the sidewalk of the hotel.
He had to wait for a customer for some time in view of the heat and moist atmosphere that reigned inside the interior of the Mercedes.
The taximan had immediately switched on the air conditioning.
Stephen already explained in English what they wanted to do and visit: a city tour with a stop in the Museum, first.
The engaging smile of the taximan said he understood.
"It's getting hot," Clara said.
- Normal. These are the hottest hours. If you were to come in the summer, you would bear it much less. Our 40 ° C have nothing similar to these. It's drier here. The desert is not far away as you could see it by plane that night.
- Where do we go first?
"I asked to go to the Cairo Museum first." The taximan will wait for us at the exit and then he will take us to see the pyramids which are not very far. There is a lot to see in Cairo, but you can not afford to go everywhere in such a short time.
- Stephen, you'll be my guide. I had a good idea to train you in your father's past, "Carla laughed.
- You're going to have your eyes full, it's guaranteed on invoice. You will see that the East is as extreme as our "Far West".
"Have you ever been on a mission here?"
"No, but I had a boyfriend of Egyptian origin. He had taken courses in Egyptology. And he told me a lot about the millennial history of Egypt.
- Owl, I feel we will have an exceptional day.
Stephen did not answer and looked at everything that was happening in the streets.
He pointed his finger at a place where a small cart pulled by a donkey slipped into the traffic of the cars.
- Look at her. You have proof that in Cairo, modernism is in harmony with tradition. I'm sure that you would not see that anymore.
They came very quickly near the museum.
The taximan found a parking place that was destined for his profession to park.
He turned to them and asked for the time he had to wait, showing his watch.
Stephen pointed to his dial an hour later.
The taximan would not stay in the car park if he found a guest until then, but he did Ok.
In Egypt, the accuracy is entirely relative to the benefits that can be derived from it.
Carla and Stephen came out of the car and a new heat shock resumed them in their bones.
After buying tickets, they rushed inside the museum.
They were both attracted by mummies and sarcophagi.
They began by reading the placards that explained, what they would forget from the following. They had to go faster than they wanted.
Wondering, they stayed longer in front of Tutankhamun's funeral mask.
"What is unfortunate is that all this is stacked in a cramped state." It's a little melting pot, "Carla said.
"You're right, but there's a project to build a Grand Museum near the pyramids we'll see after our visit. We do not have time to hire a guide who would explain all the exhibits. We have an hour here. Then we'll have to get to the taxi, "Stephen replied.
What is also astonishing among these ancient Egyptians is that they hoped thus to find eternal repose, mummified in strips and placed under hidden tombs. Our cemeteries are in the sight of everyone and the living children can collect on the tomb of their parents.
"Yes, but at home there is no wealth to protect." The Gods had to protect them in their journey to an endless life, but they were not to be very effective.
- An endless life with the Gods. For them, there is not one Almighty God?
- No, there are several. Our monotheism, do you find it so perfect?
- Yes. Do not you?
"I know your Catholic education." It's the same you gave me. It is also this education that has been the source of many conflicts in history. "God bless America". Do not think it's the same message everywhere. In my barracks in the army, I have friends who do not have the same confession. One of them does not have any. The Egyptians of that time had a God for each activity and corresponding function.
- I understand. Thank you, Mr. Stephen. I've had enough of mummies and tombs. We are going to see these pyramids in real that I saw in photos on the walls of the museum.
- Okay. The time is almost up. I'll call back our taximan. He must be there already waiting for us.
- Yes I see it. Let's go.
"You will be astonished to see the greatness of these pyramids." I remind you that they date from three thousand years before Christ. It is still unclear how the Ancient Egyptians were able to raise them.
- They did not have our technologies.
- No, but they had more time for that. They began the construction of these tombs as soon as a new pharaoh was named. A Pharaoh was a God on earth. He had to protect the entire population.
- The time we no longer have and the protection we no longer enjoy either.
Stephen only answered with a "yes" of the head.
He was already captivated by crowd movements in Tahrir Square with references to the memories of the bloody clashes that had unfolded in the recent history of Egypt.
The taximan told them something by pointing to the square and turning towards them.
But neither Carla nor Stephen understood.
Their answer was limited to a smile and they entered the taxi.
The traffic was intense to reach the pyramids. The background noise through the windows prevented the attempts of information he was trying to give.
Access to the entrance to the pyramid site was revealed. The Sphinx stood as a welcome for tourists as hawkers harangued them.
The taxi ride ended as well.
They paid for the race after the taximan showed them colleagues ready to take them on their return trip from camels.
Normally at other times there would be no more.
But this time, apparently, no camels were missing in their improvised parking lot.
Neither Carla nor Stephen had climbed on this kind of animal.
The memory of a horseback riding did not help.
The adventure always begins where one does not expect it.
After mounting the saddle, the camels straightened up, unbalancing Carla.
"I'll have some things to tell the girlfriends," Clara said, laughing at Stephen, who gave him a mocking smile as he saw his scared head.
Dodging on camels, they passed in turn before each pyramid.
"It took some time and some tricks to build these pyramids," Carla said with a detached air without waiting for answers.
Carla asked more and more information which Stephen could not always answer.
Without an answer, Stephen diverted the questions into his own field of knowledge.
When the walk was over.
"Where are we going?" Carla asked.
- We go around the city by taxi and then walk around the hotel. Are you okay?
They took another taxi and Stephen explained what he wanted to do.
On the way, Carla marveled at everything like a little girl watching fireworks.
It is hardly, if she did not throw "Look here, the beautiful blue, and there, the beautiful red".
Stephen could not hold it anymore, shouted with humor:
- Mom, you're fun. You marvel at everything. I have a question, could you live in Egypt?
Carla was taken aback by the question and realized how over-excited she was.
- My answer is obviously "no". We do not get used to such a change of culture. It is as if I were discovering another world. But you can understand that for me it was time that I really see its realities that do not correspond at all to what the media describes us.
- Yes, Mom, the world is never as you imagine, whether through the media or by tourists who tell you about their holidays. This is probably what Dad has always tried to do: go see himself on the spot, what happens in the world.
The discussion stopped.
Carla continued to look through the taxi windows but did not emit any reflection of wonder.
What provoked them was the only surprise and the desire to share his emotions with his son.
She hoped she had succeeded, but she was mistaken.
The charm was broken.
They passed before two mosques, which the taximan named, pointing at them.
Neither Carla nor Stephen emitted admiring reflections.
The taxi crossed the Nile and reached the hotel.
They resumed the walk.
Half an hour later, tired Carla wanted to go home.
- Ok, we go back, go and dine at the hotel, "said Stephen.
At table, Carla wanted to go into more intimacy with him.
- You do not have a girlfriend yet?
- Yes, Mom, I had planned to talk to you about it. I have known a girl of my age for two months.
- How is she?
Stephen took a picture out of his wallet and handed it to Clara.
The photo showed her son next to a black-haired girl and a skin that was taking the way.
- She's American? She's black? "Carla replied, surprised.
- Actually, she's like a little bit like Obama. It's a mixed blood.
- I have no problem with that. She is very beautiful. I understand that you like it. I will be glad to see you soon.
- It's certain. I also planned it.
Almost the whole evening continued in a question-answer about the girl in the photo.
They almost forgot the purpose of their visit to Egypt.
Chapter 9: Meeting at the University
The next morning, Carla had risen at the same time as Stephen.
Ten minutes before, she had remembered the little polemic she had had with him when she was enthusiastic about everything she saw in the city. .
She could still see herself clogging her ears with the palms of her hands to escape the hubbub of the city, while marveling as a young girl might do.
Stephen had called the market of "souks" with some contempt.
It was the colors that had pleased Clara and the movement of the people who slipped in, crisscrossed or traffic.
Of course he was right, she could never have spent her life under such exciting conditions.
If her walks on the beach of Naples, weighed him by her solitude, here was the overflow of a colored hive in a ceaseless buzz that she could not bear.
His son had only asked a bad question.
Stephen and she had finished the evening with the dances of a folk group who performed cairo dances in the hotel.
Tired, they went back to their room to watch the latest US news on CNN.
The primaries campaign in the United States was the main topic.
Donald Trump was questioned by a journalist.
- TVs have nothing else to put in the teeth that elections, attacks and terrorism to prove their investigations, "said Carla blissfully.
Stephen did not answer. It was clear on seeing that although he was captivated, he did not have the same opinion about events.
A soldier does not react like a civilian.
For Clara, it was a climax to chase ideas !!!
She thought back to questions about John's life.
Why had John chosen to boost his life by being enrolled by the NSA?
The NSA, for her, was only a devilish sect that one of its members had named "the firm."
Was she like all the sects, eager for blood for her enemies under an umbrella of silk for herself?
Each one's biotope but fear of the system is often the enzyme that triggers the enthusiasms or constraints in life.
From the angle of vision of the summer, the summary of this week fertile in events and news had no sense of realities.
Tomorrow, it was a question of answering the main purpose of this trip: to meet the one who had been in contact with John named, Dalida hoping that she answers her questions
The university is on the same road as the pyramids of Giza visited the day before with Stephen in the great Cairo metropolis.
Information from the front desk of the hotel, it was better to leave early to get there to avoid a Monday traffic.
She had fallen asleep.
The next morning breakfast was taken almost in an emergency.
Stephen had already looked on the Internet to which section of the university he had to orient himself.
None had the title of giving a course of philosophy apart from the section that was strangely called "Faculty of Mass Communication".
They had given this destination to the driver.
The taxi that was stationed in front of the hotel, directly headed south from the city towards Giza.
He fell, indeed, very quickly in an intense traffic, but accustomed, he managed to divert it.
When they reached their destination in front of the Faculty, they got out of the taxi and asked the driver not to leave.
They went to the reception desk.
"Does Professor Dalida teach philosophy in this faculty?"
The receptionist consulted her list.
"No, we do not have that name in the list of our professors."
The investigation was beginning badly.
The employee tried to help these strangers.
- I have an idea. Go ask this at the Faculty of Archeology. Often, philosophy is part of Egyptology. Many foreigners come to train in this discipline.
- Good idea. Where is this Faculty of Archeology?
"Not very far from here, if you are in a carriage."
- We're in a taxi.
- Ask him to take the path on the right for three hundred meters and then at the traffic light, turn left, then you arrive at the Faculty of Archeology. There is a good kilometer there.
Acknowledgments, before returning to the taxi.
Five minutes later, the sign representing the god of wisdom, Thot, appeared on the facade of one of the buildings.
Same request to the taximan and same question to the front desk clerk, but a different response.
- Yes, we have Professor Dalida Nefferi. It will give lessons in an hour. I think she's already arrived. If you follow this corridor, you will find on your right the room of the teachers used by them to prepare their courses. So do not make them lose too much time to the professors.
- For sure. We have a few minutes. Ms. Nefferi and we know somebody in common.
Clara and Stephen rushed in the direction.
Anxiety increased as it went on.
What were they going to ask him?
They were not there to talk to him about philosophy.
However, neither Clara nor Stephen had imagined a good scenario for this meeting of a third type.
In front of a door appeared a metal plate in Arabic with the English translation "Professors room".
No way to see inside.
They knocked at the door and had no answer.
They decided to go in. The door did not resist their thrust.
Two men and a woman were each installed behind a desk.
They went without hesitation to the office of the woman.
It was a lady with gray hair.
She wore a long dress and had no veil on her head as one often sees other women in the street. She was in a dictionary and took notes.
It did not correspond at all to what Clara had imagined as a potential rival.
If she had a great philosophical knowledge, she should not have had the physical assets for attracting John
- Hello. Ms. Dalida Nefferi, I suppose.
A small phrase that had a little air of already used by Stanley 150 years earlier, under other heavens "Docter Levingstone, I presume".
- Yes it's me. What can I do for you?
- Excuse the intrusion of my son and myself and disturb you during the preparation of your course. You are the last person to have known my husband John, "launched an impulse that came from the depths of Carla's dry throat, and she had a hard time getting the words out.
The professor's immediate answer was not in words, but in a lighthouse on the cheeks.
- I know your husband. Indeed. I do not know if I'm the last one to meet him. You come from the United States, I hope to be able to inform you.
- The last time I saw John and that I had a contact with him, date of the New Year. He went away warning that he could stay longer than usual outside all our contacts .... I, we ....
"And you would like me to tell you the rest of the story." I have known John since he came to follow my philosophy classes in the room that is not far from this room. I teach history and oriental philosophy which is very different from what is said to be Western.
- We know your skills. And we learned that John died of a heart attack in Egypt. We were at his funeral in Florida before deciding to come to Egypt to understand what he had come to do there. He was a soldier, as you ought to know.
- He told me. We sympathized and he was very interested in this difference between our two cultures. But you say he died of a heart attack in Egypt and there I am surprised. Cairo is its base of entrenchment, but if he died of a heart attack, it is not in Cairo. He left. He was to join Libya to follow the actions of the various Islamic groups. If you do not know it, it is, it was ..., a specialist in the handling of drones.
- Drones? Military drones to wage war or monitor opponents?
- That's it. You can imagine that this had nothing to do with toys for wise children.
"His superior told us that he had returned, died from Cairo. Death of a natural death ... I ...
Carla was losing her foot, with good questions.
She began to wonder if they had not made a mistake by going here.
This philosopher seemed to know nothing more or else, she pretended to ignore everything.
Carla's jealousy was somewhat overpowered. So it was not physical but intellectual jealousy that was going on.
"You knew my husband before his death." You sympathized with him. Have I not a rival in you? Am I not co-occupied by John? I would like to know. In John, I discovered another man since I was told his death.
"Do not worry, dear madam, our relationship was very philosophical. Nothing more. I think that was also the case for him. He often talked about you and your way of living in Florida. I can not tell you much more about its activities in Egypt. I'll have to leave you, I have my philosophy course in a quarter of an hour. If you wish, we can meet this afternoon. I go home after class. Here is my address. It's not far from here.
- We understand. Excuse us again. We're going to take leave. There is something to drink in the surrounding area. We are very thirsty.
"You can go and drink something at the university mess. The entrance is free. It's not far. You go out of the building, to the right of the Faculty.
- Thank you ... we're going. We have my son and me with a dry throat.
The conversation stopped there and they left the classroom.
They paid the taximan's run and headed for the university mess with a taste of too little.
Would they have come to Cairo to learn little about John and his past?
Chapter 10: Conclusion and possible return to sources
Both were seated in front of fresh drinks, Clara and Stephen, lacking in inspiration, did not dare to speak to give their intimate impressions.
An impression of failure, of failure, prevented them from confirming each other.
Carla suddenly had an idea, a question that was not clear.
Why did the professor know that he had not died in Cairo?
In Egypt, in the world of pharaonic ancestors, would people have infused science?
The army was not to be acquainted with the philosophical relations which John maintained with this philosopher. She did not say she was not aware of her death.
So she knew more than she wanted to say.
She broke the silence and wanted to share her suspicion she had just had with Stephen, who had remained silent.
It was then that a man in Djellaba entered the mess without seeing them on their way to the bar.
He had black hair. He was tall. A nascent beard that was very discreet in the environment.
He could have gone unnoticed in Carla's eyes, yet for her, he had John's head.
She blinked as if she saw a ghost.
Carla turned to Stephen.
"Did you see who came in?"
- Yes, it looks like papa with a beard and black hair. It is disturbingly similar.
- It's too disturbing. It's him. He is not dead. He only changed his physical appearance. Let's go. Look alike look-alike, I have not yet met, "Carla said excitedly.
- Let's go. If you're wrong, we'll apologize, "Stephen said.
They went together to the bar.
- Good morning, John. Good day, Sir, "Carla said in a firm and sarcastic way.
The ghost failed to fall from the stool on which he had settled before turning it back to the voice.
- Hello Carla. If I expected to meet you here, I ... and with Stephen more ...
"You could have warned me, that we would raise the dead in Egypt." We saw mummies yesterday, but none came back to life from their sarcophagi. These mummies of famous people have always remained dead in their tombs. You must have relations with the god Osiris, "Carla replied with ferocious humor.
"You came to the university to meet Dalida, I suppose. I did not see her this morning, "John replied, not adopting Carla's ironical tone.
- We just saw her just before she started her class. She did not contradict our news that you were dead. She just said you did not die in Cairo. She did not even contradict your death following a heart attack. Could you tell us more? She plays in your game, right?
- It's not a game. She allowed me to hide. Previously she had taught me another way of life in the oriental and that had opened my eyes wide.
Noting that the place was not the best place to talk, he added:
"I see two pieces of luggage at your table." I hope you still have to drink. Let's join the table at the back of the room. I'll tell you the story. My story will surprise you.
John gestured to the barman, pointing to renewed consumption.
They went back to the table where Carla and Stephen picked up two bags and went to the back of the room where John wanted to drag them.
The base table was far from all the other occupants of the mess.
The fear of being recognized and the fear had disappeared from John's face.
He began to speak in a low, calm voice.
"You have not been followed from Florida to Cairo so far, I hope?" He worried.
- No, we do not think so. You think we could? The decision to come here came very quickly without telling anyone. I guess a spinning mill is getting ready, right?
"You're right, but you never know." We could have assigned someone to follow you.
Stephen then remained as an observer without speaking.
A dialogue ensued between his mother and his father without intervening.
"Where do I start?" Maybe my commitment to the army, "John began.
"From whence thou wilt but erases our surprises and our questions.
- I understand your surprise and your questions. Carla, you must have received the note I had written as a sort of personal will. I could not tell you more. You must apologize.
- Well received, but continues ...
- Afterwards, I noticed that I had made a blunder when entering the NSA with good intentions. I wanted to protect the country from terrorism and wanted to do it in the best way.
- Rule of art and secrecy.
- That must be after loyalty and naivety on my part." By patriotism of the extreme. I did not expect that I had become: a spy, a secret agent ready for anything, even if necessary to kill.
- Ready for everything. Is not the NSA like the CIA with agents of the James Bond style as my friend Julia had made me the parody?
- (Smiling) Yes and no. There is an essential difference between the CIA, the Central Intelligence Agency and the NSA, the National Security Agency, which is part of the US Department of Defense.
- An essential difference? For me, it is the same tobacco.
- The NSA budget is more important than that of the CIA, which is better known by the population. There are different offices in the NSA.
- And you were part of?
- You know that everything becomes very virtual today. One controls everything remotely from a base.
- Who is located where?
- The parent company of the NSA is in Maryland at Fort George Meade. Holloman is another in New Mexico for surveillance with drones. This is where I started my intellectual work at the NSA with my experience in private. I was teaching them how to handle them. I gave advice to the operators who handled them. In the world of the NSA, it has become forbidden to establish relationships with colleagues other than professional. A colleague may one day be ordered to come down.
"But you did not stay there because you went to the Middle East.
- No. I was sometimes sent on missions. Do you know that the NSA is the biggest employer of maths in the world. I've never had a lot of problems with math. I am an engineer. In private, I have proved myself in the sale of peaceful drones. With my qualifications and experience, I could pretend to exercise that kind of skill in the military. I was contacted by the army. I had to interest some senior military. They offered me a job that I accepted with a sufficient rank that exceeded the one I had as a reserve officer when I was younger.
- You got screwed. Did not you feel better in private? You preferred to work in the secret of the army?
- No, it was not the secret that made me hover. The obligation of secrecy came afterwards. It was like an access key, a sesame needed to be recruited. They forced me to observe this secret by contract even with my family. You could not know anything about my double life in Mister Hide. You only knew the side of Mister Jeckill. I had to sign and accept the travel and the secrets in due form after my acceptance. Why did I become GI'S by being young? Why did I enroll in the NSA? Questions that I asked myself of course. Maybe it was because of my father who had a high opinion of the nation and that it was necessary to defend it at all costs even if it did not go in the right direction. The starry flag was worth every sacrifice since God was with her.
- And you abandoned me to go into the world and the exoticism of the Middle East, when you have always refused me this fantasy. You made me meet Mexico and the United States, okay, but nothing else. I wanted to see the world with you, John. Know that I often dreamed of leaving when I was doing my daily jogging on the beach in Naples.
- You are right. I was selfish. We were very different you and me, Carla. I liked that difference between us. I have often abandoned you. I am fully aware of that. I thought the house would suffice.
"There, you suspect a little quickly. But let us pass. Then what happened?
- I began by having missions of rapprochement with the Castro regime. I liked it and if you have heard that Cuba has again a connection with the United States for some time, I am proud that I am one of the secret craftsmen. But what did you look for and find in me to stay with me so long?
- You, quite simply. And then there was the education of Stephen who furnished my time and my patience. Today, Stephen no longer needs me. I asked him to come with me so far.
"Okay, thank you for that, you just did." But you seemed to me to be full of activity as you told me, and you did not worry me on that side, I thought the stranger did not interest you. As far as I'm concerned, you've seen my library full of books about exotic places. I've always wanted to discover the world as seen by an American with his symbols, looking for a complement to my own personality.
- I, books and you travel to complete your books. Are you kidding me?
- Do not get mad. I have not seen many countries in the world. After Cuba, I was sent to Egypt. The aim was to follow the events in Egypt. To see what people felt to have fallen under the military regime under the presidency of President Sissi. I had to introduce myself into the movements of thought that were opposed to it. Dalida was part of my first mission in the espionage project of these.
- And you spied her so much that you fell in love with her.
- (smile) Undeceive yourself. You saw it and you could see the difference in age. She must have been more than twenty years older than me. My mission was to infiltrate it and not fall in love with it. She teaches philosophy at an eastern university.
- What was the purpose of this mission and the infiltration?
- The question of my superiors was: Was it not part of Islamic movements like the Muslim Brotherhood? Information about Islam is still relevant to a US defense department. But those who sent me did not think she could almost turn around.
- Returning to you? In which way? You had become a renegade?
- I will not go that far. His philosophy opened my eyes to our own Western philosophy and diplomacy. She made me understand that our occidentalism was far from the refinement of Oriental art thought. In a part of Egypt, we live in a minimum of space, less than 30 square meters for a couple in which we cook, we sleep, we take his shower in the kitchen when there is water , But we watch the TV state and "Who wants to win millions" in a local version. Here we survive thanks to mutual help with a solidarity that has nothing to do with the word chanted in political rallies.
"We have seen these refinements yesterday. Finally by a very quick overview.
"I have known Egypt and the environs for months. But let's talk about you two. So you hoped to leave on my way and you could see the gap between the two worlds.
"The differences between life in Naples and here in Cairo should be blind and deaf not to have discovered them. But it's tourists, not as a special envoy of the NSA.
- NSA plays virtual warfare by mixing terrorism and technology. You use the Internet for many things in civilian. The Internet is a military-level battleground. This is called cyberwar. The gap between your use of this tool on the world and that of the military has widened.
- Ditch that you filled in the secret and perhaps the spiritual and intellectual love, whereas for me, you left me the comfort of the "home sweet home".
- Yes. I thought of your comfort first. A comfort that you did not know in Mexico in your family when we met. You would have wanted to know the world and its dangers? The world is closer to danger than comfort. Until a certain time, the danger excited me. I did my classes among the GI's.
- You have misjudged me. I was not made of sugar. I also hoped to know the adventure but I took patience. I thought we were going to discover the world and meet one day by dropping the masks when you retire. Then I had to be told that you were dead and that this moment of opening to the world was closing, becoming for me a dead end. I have taken the lead in your search so far in Egypt since in principle it was the end of your way.
- I'm sorry to have passed through my death to make you discover the world. If you had spoken to me earlier about your shortcomings, about your needs, I might have found a compromise with my occupation as a secret agent. Oriental art is very rich.
- I found this art for all, while the money is only for some as reminded me fairly, my friend Julia. Art, I knew, before she told me is an agent of social change.
"Consider now that I am retired from the army." I'm here in Cairo temporarily. I will not stay here. I wanted to leave the NSA when I understood what I was intended for. An unexpected event allowed me to fulfill my wishes.
- What, you could not sign your reputable letter to the NSA? Did you need an unexpected change?
- The NSA is not like any other company. You do not leave her the way you want. When you enter the "firm", you learn the secrets of its manufacture and we prefer that you disappear rather than accept a letter of renown from you.
- And you disappeared from the radars to disappear ... To become a ghost, it's not so easy. A djellaba is not enough. Did not you think of the chador?
- (smile) I'm not a woman. But I had to create another identity with another name to break the link with the NSA. I would soon have suspected of becoming another Snowden that one would find in the press to divulge secrets. Snowden is never more secure in the world. He is obliged to look for new hideouts. I might have died really then, descended by another agent more qualified than me in the eliminations of renegade annoyers like me.
"A remorse that came to you suddenly or afterwards?"
- I wanted to change my life. I was tired of playing the spy, the engineer who teaches the art of killing remotely with drones like in a video game. I saw all this and when we kill children in what we call "collateral damage", we change visions. In the field of unmanned aircraft, we are at the stage where we were with biplanes after the First World War. With the Predator, we are just beginning to realize the potential of these devices without pilots who must not be maneuverable, but enduring and invisible to the enemy. They have to consume almost nothing to stay 24 hours in service. Soon with the strength of the sun, it will be unlimited. Artificial intelligence will bring the complement.
"I do not know anything about it, but you think it's already going too far.
- To do economic and military espionage with the drones to observe like we did at the time with pigeons, I wanted, but not as video-guided weapons. The pigeons gave information but sent only droppings.
"Has this really changed since you were hired?"
- Since the events after Mubarak which was a pro-USA, there was the arable spring, the revolution on Tahir Square and the seizure of power by the army and the presidency of Sissi. I love technology for what it brings peace to the world. Yes, I felt stuck by not wanting to go further in the extremes of this one and eliminate people who had nothing to do. I did not commit myself to the CIA but to the NSA to ensure the security of the United States. What do you see on a screen connected with a drone?
"I guess we can see the terrain and the vehicles.
- No, or you see an overview or you zoom and you aim a target that becomes a target and you no longer look at the whole. I know you can have multiple sight windows. But what no technological instrument will ever permit to do, even a Predator drone or a more sophisticated Argus, is to know what was in the head of the one he killed to know if it was worth it The penalty. Errors in interpretation will mean that there will always be collateral damage. In addition, a potential enemy could take control of a sophisticated device that remains under the vagaries of telecommunications. Do you see the problems and the differences between a man and a machine? So we're thinking about making them self-sufficient. That is, they would decide their action automatically. You see where this can lead and will lead?
Clara felt overwhelmed by what John was telling him without understanding his lack of freedom to leave what he no longer liked.
- No, I do not understand everything. But for you who knows all this, you felt so stuck in your function?
John was on the verge of rebellious to the innocence of Carla, very American, that one.
- It is not just a feeling of being stuck. I was stuck in this ever more effective search because I know all this and that I know of the flaws that lead to disasters due to errors of judgment and appreciation of a situation.
- Are we using so many drones?
- I can tell you that there have been more and more since Obama is president. It is a fan of drones and the engineers who develop them, do not fall short of budget. Obama has preferred modern warfare with drones, which are machines without faith or laws, to spare lives. A noble cause, in theory, but less so in practice.
"Has not this modern war saved American lives?"
- American, that's obvious. This is not what I think as a solution for the army of men. It's the same principle as the nuclear bombs sent to Japan in '45. If you want, I have a video of which here is an excerpt on my mobile.
John pulled out his cell phone and looked for the video he presented.
She clicked on the cell image (below)
After watching the video, Carla returned the notebook to her:
- That's why you tried to disappear from the view of the NSA without leaving address. But how did you do it?
"Yes, but I was only responding to the journalists very well." But, in the Middle East, it is quite another thing. One dies there at the same speed as one is born but often before term. To find death, it would be enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was somewhere to be gnawed by remorse.
"And you've been in that kind of place?" You're a real daredevil.
John did not want to come back looping at the beginning of the conversation, but continue explaining his adventure.
- I went through the GI's in my youth. A month ago, I was walking alone in a small town to the east of Libya. There was an attack on the street. Probably a timing error that preceded another casting. A bomb had jumped when there was no reason for it had been placed in a car while waiting for the passage of someone.
- That someone was not you? It's a coincidence?
- Yes. I came out miraculously unharmed by an Egyptian who had exploded before me. There was almost nothing left of the car. Of this Egyptian, only the DNA could have divided him from me. But in Libya, DNA analyzes are not too much part of the country's preoccupations and mores. Attacks occur almost every day. I saw a passport on the ground. He had probably fallen out of his pocket.
- And you took it?
"In a flash I saw it as a miracle. I thought it was time to disappear. The moment I had been waiting for some time. I took his passport and put mine in place. I left all my belongings in the room I occupied. I contacted Dalida. I knew she would help me and she would not tell anyone what had happened and I took buses, so far in Cairo where she wanted to give me hospitality. Nobody knew my turnaround.
- She made a gaff without realizing it. She said you were not dead in Cairo, but in Libya. The army would not have warned him of the place of your death. Your heart attack, she could even have ignored it. Now she knew that she was not surprised at your death and did not correct my mistakes.
- Good deduction. Amusing they said I had a heart attack. They could not have shown you my body. They preferred to take this natural death option. This avoided many statements that touched on the secrets of the mission.
- So I lived with a stranger and had to attend another's funeral. I swam in science fiction with a double agent story.
- It's a bit like that. For the story, when I ran away and returned to Egypt, I had to face a sandstorm. Here it is the Ramsin who is terrible. It is a wind that comes from the desert and carries the sand with it in this season. The Nile which you saw above all coming from the sky, brings a tear in the form of oases in the desert. Everywhere else, everything is dry here. Cairo is a perfect city to hide. I never said anything about my final relationship with Dalida at the NSA. Life is not easy here and I am content with a room in the small three-room apartment with a view of the Nile that Dalida offered me to share. Hospitality is proverbial in the East. She knows all or almost everything that has happened to me.
"It was a little love nest, no doubt," Carla insinuated once more.
- Not at all. Since you know her today, if she made a mistake, she did not reveal my survival as I had asked her to do it for anyone. She kept my orders until the case collapsed. But you fell earlier on me, by chance with the Dalida bond that I had given to Stephen ..
- Your disguise can go unnoticed despite your black hair that hide the blond. But not for me.
- It is a change of personality, paper, life, physical appearance hoping to grow my beard. To make the dead demands all this. They were not enough for you or Stephen. Going into hiding, is not as simple as I could hope for.
"And all this, if I understand correctly, as a result of the teaching of this philo teacher." And you've become roommate and maybe more, "Clara replied as she handed the microsillon to the record of intellectual jealousy.
- No, do not be jealous, it always stopped at what Dalida taught me by his philosophical teaching that one could live with very little financial power but not only.
The Nahda, I'm sure you do not know what it is.
- No. But you will explain it to me ...
- In fact, you may know better the 18th century Enlightenment.
- Yes. In a book relating the common history between France and our country, it was mentioned.
- The Nahda is the eastern version of the Enlightenment. Napoleon, when he entered Egypt, created a spiritual shock by his modernity. Mehmet Ali was the one who wanted to introduce this modernity into Egypt which was under the tutelage of the declining Ottoman Empire. The colonialism of the Westerners in fact retreated the Egyptian reformers as a certain ... Tahtawi, if I remember the name that Dalida had given. Mohamed Abdou, a freemason mufti, persevered in this direction with the oriental critical thinking. It was, therefore, far from the religious conservatism, dogmatism, moral and intellectual corruption of the religious authorities who are now reviving in the State which is given the title of Daech.
- Daech and Sharia, I know. The news tells us almost every day.
The Sharia may be adapted to the present circumstances with greater flexibility by removing the woman from the silence in which the men have placed them. Cairo is the intellectual center of the Arab world from pan-Islamism to Pan-Arabism. The Arab Renaissance is only to be rediscovered. Dalida is a feminist if you do not know it yet. Here, one is not for pure and hard Sharia. But unfortunately, this radicalism is infiltrating through the net of poverty. In Nasser's time, the belly dances were perfectly part of the customs and the veil was unusual. Today, the veil is everywhere and these dancers have to hide for fear of being booed.
- In the last few days I learn every hour, so I add the feminism of Dalida, the belly dancers and the story of Nahda. I will have to veil myself if I want to settle here.
"Yes, but it's a little in the other direction that you seem to be going." You remember in December that I asked you if you would still love me if I had done crap. At that time, I did not know yet if I would leave my engagement with the NSA.
- Yes, I remember that and your question about secrets.
"If I ever reappear, one day, in Mexico, for example, could you still accept me?" It would be a new life in a less rich but equally interesting environment.
- Change life and forget my loneliness. How could I say no? I am willing to make a lot of sacrifices to have the opportunity to speak with you in the intimacy of a couple.
- In this case tries to sell our house in Naples. I can not go back to the United States to look after it. Certainly not in the immediate future. When I have made a sign to you, realize this and come and join me. I have a desire to become a writer and write under a pseudonym what I have lived for a few years at the NSA. It would be in the form of fictions with a background of realities. No question of playing the system's justice or alert launcher like Snowden.
- Review Mexico from my childhood? I never dared ask you. Yes, I would like. For me, that would be returning to my roots. Do not forget that it was there that we met, almost 25 years ago. Be forgotten by the NSA. She keeps reminding me of you by paying a widow's pension. Does not a widow have the right to remarry one day even with an oriental of shoddy? The adventure with an American was not bad. The adventure with an Egyptian novel, will be none the less. As for the Mexican version, I'm intrigued.
"I do not know what to do with the widow's pension?" Leave account open. We will not need it anymore. You know an engineer always remains an engineer even if he changes his nationality. I'm sure we need it in Mexico as well.
- Okay, but this time there will be new clauses that you will have to accept in the marriage contract. They are not amendments to the Constitution, but they may be similar.
- (laughs) What are they?
"First, I forbid my wife to fall into solitude. Second, I will be filterless myself. Thirdly, I will go out to the world with my wife. "I will think, if there are not others.
"And what does Stephen say?" We have heard little in the discussion.
Stephen had said nothing and was caught off guard to answer:
- But it is your couple that is question and not mine. Do not pay attention to me. This is the first time I see you have a bit of a fight and I enjoy.
The eyes of Clara and John alternately turned from one to the other before turning to their son, a little surprised.
- You're right Stephen. It must be said that it does not happen every day to speak with someone who comes from beyond the grave.
- Okay. And now what are you doing? You're going back to Florida, "John said after a few seconds of hesitation.
- Dalida offered to see her again after her class. Tomorrow we will go back to Naples. We will end the day in Cairo until we are tired. Stephen must return to the barracks soon. He received a permission of only a few days and I still hope to see him a little time in Naples before his return. I do not know if you know. I learned it last night, Stephen met a pretty black with brown eyes.
- I know. Bravo Stephen. I would like to see her very soon. But for now, I can not. I must continue here to make death.
"Death suits you so well," Stephen said disillusioned.
They laughed together and kissed each other.
Clara and Stephen rose from the table without delay.
They hoist a taxi.
John looked at them and no one else did the same.
His hideout had not been found.
The day of return was a strange day for Carla.
Starting from Florida, she was thinking about learning more about her deceased husband's second life.
She left after having learned everything from her husband living in ghost in djellaba to not be recognized.
The good thing was that she was leaving with a multitude of new perspectives and a life that allowed her to return to her teens.
Carla and Stephen found themselves on the plane back to Florida.
The last James Bond was presented as a film of the trip.
Stephen slept on the way.
She looked with more interest. No, John was not the spy of the movie. He did not have the stature of the job that attracts a pack of female conquests to prominent breasts.
Dalida also had the sex appeal of the actresses of the film.
She began to daydream when she was young, at a time when her parents were singing her with so few things that were of great value to the eyes of the time.
As for John, she remembered her story. He had told it with a calmness that corresponded to his way of making decisions.
Whether it was to join the army or leave it, he always did what he said to do.
This time, it was to go back to the sources.
She would have bet all she possessed that he would.
She was only surprised that the army had been a step in her life when he had always had a very independent mind.
What John had was the charisma of the leader who knew where the limit was not to exceed what had to be accepted or refused.
John had bypassed the copyright and came back disappointed. Disappointed to have lost months or years cradled with illusions.
The living is only one step in a broader process that has its roots in evolution. Other things remained hidden at very high levels. He knew how to recognize his mistakes and correct them to adapt to situations with the necessary opportunism.
This time, John had reached the limit of what he could bear.
Respect for discipline was not particularly his way of being.
John had not really changed. This aspect of his personality had pleased him when they had met.
True champions are those who do not exceed the threshold of what they consider to be errors.
He had been taught to be a hunted personality, without rest, and that in isolation he had to love risks.
All these reflections had made his own decisions independently.
If John had asked her if, so far, she had been happy in her married life. His answer would have been mixed. She had been pampered. No quarrel between John and her could not stop her happiness.
Yet, at the bottom of her throat, she would have tasted too little.
That's why if John called her to go to Mexico, she would go without hesitation.
Originally from Acapulco, she would have no problem with the Mexican authorities to be accepted. She would see a new opportunity to prove that even different, poorer life was just as well in Mexico as in the United States.
If on the American side, a return would no longer be accepted, it saw no inconvenience.
Chapter 11: Epilogue
Naples, Friday July 1, 2016, the postman deposits a letter in the mailbox of Clara.
A letter with a Mexican stamp.
Feverish, Clara opens the box, tears the envelope and reads.
So, I've been in Mexico for over two months. I left Dalida's apartment. I will remain a friend to her. That's for sure. She taught me so much about life in Cairo and the Middle East that I can never forget.
She made me understand where this latent anti-Americanism came from in Cairo. There, money is not like us, a reason to exist but to live on until the next day. In Egypt, one does not live beyond his means. People are very hospitable. It is not like the United States, order, beauty, luxury, calm and pleasure. There are no middle classes who take refuge behind the walls of "gated communities" to meet friends in front of barbecues. The Dinkies, that does not exist. The children are numerous. The TV, I have not watched it for months. As for the Internet, I will consult it a few times in a cafe of the district.
I suppose you did not hear from my parents anymore. Do not forget that they were originally "gentlemen farmers" living in the center of the country. They are very conservative. Now that the candidates for the presidential nomination are known, I dare to say without a mistake that they will vote for Trump. I do not have the possibility and I do not regret having participated in the election.
I have never experienced the "home sweet home" in previous years. I'm sorry about that.
The dad who works, and the mom who makes cookies, for me is for my memories. I learned to cook.
Since I've been here in Mexico, I do not have a car anymore. I no longer work to exist and make money. I almost think I'm still on vacation. I do what I love.
I stayed in the shadow as the NSA had taught me but this time to protect me.
I reread Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath" to get me back to the American time to put myself back to reading novels.
I do not trust the e-mail from where this letter is mailed.
I looked for a small house in Acapulco where we could live together. It is not far from where we met.
I found a small job in a repair shop to pay for it.
No need for new marriage contract between us.
We will only make an amendment for what you asked me to be me without filters and my new job is in Acapulco.
Ultimately, I find this life without double play, without secrets much easier.
You'll see that sometimes loneliness is not what's worse in a couple without the entertainment and attractions for old Florida retirees.
You'll soon be a grandmother. I do not know if Stephen has warned you, they will get married soon. Lets swell your bank account on which is paid your widow's pension. It will serve our son and his wife. So I was considered by the NSA as one of their war heroes died on the battlefield. They should not be disappointed.
I hope that we will have their visit to Mexico, because it is impossible for me to come to her marriage.
I forgot, I started my book that tells my fictionalized life of the "American way of life".
It is Stephen who gave me his title, you must already know it, it will be "The Salmon Syndrome".
I, who loved arms. I hate them today especially since I learned of the Orlando bombing in June.
I embrace you and I wait for you if you agree to live a new life.
My hair has pushed back with the blonde color. I speak Spanish but with a terrible American accent. No question of silencing my origins to the Mexicans.
Request "El Gringo Juan",
Everyone knows me in the neighborhood under that name.
Carla rested the letter. No, she did not know yet that Stephen was going to have a baby.
Really, this family has always liked to swim in the secrets that we share only when we do not know how to do otherwise, "Carla said to herself.
Everything could definitely go for the best in the best of the Yankee worlds at Chilango.