Two pale boys in black hoodies, twins, their flaxen hair shockingly white; they are both grave, austere. Their eight years seem to have brought them to bitterness. They read the newspaper. They are waiting for their parents to finish their meal, but they seem to expect no happiness when it's done. I don't know what can bring eight year old boys to such preternatural stillness, such absence of hope, but it doesn't augur well. They're not dull boys: they look in fact uncommonly intelligent. But entirely inward.
“Are you all right?” asks the waitress, with a little edge to her voice. And I'm doing it too, I realize: willing them to be happy, to be carefree, to save us all from the adult world. They're letting us down. One of the parents gives an infinitesimal nod, and the waitress leaves. The boys read the paper, carefully, and eat the remains of their toast. One has his hood up, framing his face with black; the other's hood lies like an Elizabethan ruff, a black backdrop to his white jaw, to the long curve of his skull. His white hair strays over it. I think of Richard III, of the young princes in the tower. They must have been about this age.
His mother strokes the ruffed one's jaw. He lifts his cheek, like a cat, but he's not paying attention to her: he's examining the photos on the wall. When he lowers his eyes, I see that his eyelids are a delicate bluish purple, like the inside of shell. I wonder if he's ill. But some very fair children just have that coloring: I did myself.
As they rise to go, both boys are suddenly radiant with smiles, and the ruffed one confides something to his mother, speaking carefully. He has one hand in his pocket, and one on her elbow. He is earnest and confident: he knows he'll be listened to respectfully. The family files quietly out of the restaurant.
We're in the dark world, now. Day will come briefly, the sky may even clear for hours at a time, but it will be bordered with black on both sides. Day is a momentary illumination, the glimpse of a solemn, white-blond face. The rain has beaten leaves, twigs, and branches out of the trees and into the streets: the tawny leaf-sludge glows in the oblique light that dodges the rain clouds, and then everything is extinguished again. I think of wet, dreary dawns in London and in Paris, of lights that come up from illuminated streets.
For now, I breathe with difficulty, and struggle to remember how to do complex things like walking and eating. I am less at home than ever, more outcast and alien. I watch my hands to learn how to turn doorknobs, how to open cupboards. The hands are the last to forget, I'm told.