The Warm Compote
|LA REVUE SINCERE. This small monthly magazine, founded in 1922 in Brussels, published the chronicles of Georges Simenon, addressed from Paris and signed Georges Sim.
The Warm Compote was inspired by his departure from the family home in December 1922.
The stove is lit for the first time since last winter. Some intimate puffs have invaded all the corners.
He sits down at the end of the table, while his mother keeps walking, moving knives, jostling drawers, without deciding to sit. To clean knives just at the time of sitting down at the table! Mothers have these crazes. They trot, always in motion, always cleaning, and if, for a moment, they set themselves down, you know that their hands are not at rest.
To clean knives while the coffee is steaming in the cups! As if the table settings were not clean enough for the two of them! How important is the bronzed smudge of a blade on the fruit!
The cork rubs, squeaking ceaselessly on the steel. Again...
Finally, his mother sits down, after having removed, shaken, folded, and set down on a piece of furniture her striped apron.
He starts his meal. He eats, a little fire in his cheeks, while looking at the compote. A dull bluish pond, soft and warm, bottomless, alive, you might say... A pond that palpitates. Of the blood of plums, thick and heavy. A fragrant marmalade, soft like the first fire whose yellow flames sketch caresses.
The mother eats very quickly. Already she is thinking of some important task, to scour the copper candelabra, perhaps, or to cover the small pots of jam aligned on a table, warm and still alive.
He is going to tell her, while looking at the compote, to distance himself. No, he won't say it yet. The compote clings to him. This dull and sugary pond, it is the past in which he himself is mired. But he has to speak. Those months past, the months of waiting, without daring to bruise their life of two, their household. His small household of her, his melancholy household of a widowed mother.
He will speak. No, his resolution drowns itself in the fragrance of the ruddy compote. His small child's fingers dive into it instead; it is soft, warm, and sugary.
Is it his fault if he has to leave? Every man, one day, starts a household... and breaks with the past, all of a sudden.
Why is the compote looking at him like that, so softly, as if it promised quiet, infinite and sweet?
He wants to speak. He speaks, without giving free rein to his thoughts. One by one, he lets the pieces fall.
Tell me, Mother! You understand... You also loved, started a home. I have a need, you see, to make a life of my own... Not immediately...
The mother who was nibbling a slice of bread so quickly, stops eating. Why is it that mothers never understand? Why do they one day forget their old feelings? No, the mother doesn't understand. It is warm. Everything is clean, and soft, and quiet... Why build another life? Why construct a nest of chance, when a soft nest enfolds you?
And the mother is sad. On the dull blue compote, as on her eyelid, a reflection shimmers, resembling a tear.
How things have changed so quickly! Are some words, a resolution, enough to cut the cords that join us to familiar objects?
Everything has changed: the mother, the home. The mother cries, and he feels that he cannot comfort her as before. He looks at the things around him, and in the sweetness of the first fire, they speak very soft reproaches. The cords have been cut. He doesn't understand them anymore.
The warm compote, fragrant and bottomless, gets no further regard, no more thought. The past has fled.
(December 15, 1922.)
translation: Stephen Trussel
Honolulu, November 29, 2005