I remember Rebecca at the moment she was telling me about her meeting with Andreas on the plane to Barcelona, where she was going to visit her fiancé who was on tour there. I remember I thought: Rebecca ‘s so young, she can't possibly know what an aura she possesses. She’s so nobly built. Full of grace. But now I’m writing this: Rebecca shines. Rebecca fills a room as very few people do. So I could well understand that Andreas had reacted strongly to the sight of her. And yes, Rebecca, she looks like Sonya as she looked when Andreas met her.
What is that guides human beings and makes them act the way they do? Why is Rebecca so intent on seeing Andreas again? And why do I let her encroach on my life by saying she is welcome to visit me? A woman I don't know at all.
'The young woman who sat between me and the man on the plane took his hand and held it calmly in hers,' Rebecca continues. 'The woman could have been his daughter, she was about my age. She didn't hold his hand as if he was her fiancé, and it wasn't a motherly sort of grasp, but there was a cautiousness about it which surprised me. I'm sure I have never held a man's hand like that... What was the relation between them? That was what I sat there speculating about, instead of reading about how an entire city makes light of an outbreak of plague as if it were just a few isolated fatalities.'
A smile spreads across Rebecca's lips. Then she says:
'I don’t know how I’d managed not to notice the woman when I was taking my seat or fastening my seatbelt. The woman was probably in her mid-twenties. There was something catlike about her. She was slim, almost as tall as the man who was now rubbing tears away with his sleeve. She was dressed in designer clothes. Her skin was well-cared-for, and there was a beauty spot on her left cheek. Her blond hair was cut so that it fell in an elegant wave when she moved her head towards me, or the man by the window. I usually find it hard to be interested in someone who uses all their energy in resembling a doll, but her I couldn't take my eyes off. Two deep dimples came to her cheeks with the slightest little smile, and she had a way of raising one eyebrow that gave her a charming expression when she was listening.'
It must be Irene Rebecca was describing to me. The beauty spot, the dimples, her general manner and bearing make me think of Irene, my colleague’s daughter, whom I often saw during the years she lived at home. We have run into one another several times since. In her young years she had a habit of throwing herself eagerly into large projects. Irene’s problem is that many people react with irritation to her external appearance, just as Rebecca did, but when you encounter her she imparts interesting bits of news like an explorer, and it is she who inquires what one does and how one is – something for which very few people of her age have the energy.
Rebecca gives me an intense glance. Perhaps because it’s the first time we have talked, she follows my reactions constantly.
‘I think that as I sat there on the plane my jaw dropped when I realized what a beautiful woman I’d been put beside. The woman couldn’t help laughing at the sight of me... As I still couldn’t utter a word, she volunteered the information that she wasn’t the man’s fiancée, just a girlfriend who was accompanying him. They were going to have a week’s vacation, as her friend needed some rest. She didn’t want him to travel alone. He could get so depressed sometimes, and she hadn’t been to Barcelona before, so now they were both going there... She sounded a lot older than me when she spoke, even though she didn’t look older at all, and that was something I couldn’t help noticing.’
Rebecca stops short and puts a finger to her lips. Then her hand falls back into her lap.
‘Do you feel able to listen to all this?’
I nod. I can see that it means a lot to her to share the episode with me, but I understand her uncertainty. It’s also something special that she accepted the invitation to come here, after we met by chance the other day.
‘It’s late, forgive me for having popped up at such a sensitive time.’
‘It’s all right. Just tell it...’
translated from Danish by David McDuff