And then they do. To a gallery just round the corner. They take a route through the city library. They’ve not seen each other for six days. When they spoke last, she chastised him for not calling while he was away. He didn’t see it coming. He thought it was a nice break. He realises that’s his preference.
They stumble into an exhibition of the Diary of Anne Frank. He doesn’t know the story in detail—how long, for example, they managed to stay hidden in the secret annexe in the back of her father’s office. He follows the progress of the story through quotes from Anne’s diary. Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor. Kristellnacht. Hiding. Betrayal. Separation. Departure.
He is struck by the quote: ‘I want to go on living even after my death! And therefore I am grateful to G-d for this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing, of expressing all that is in me. I can shake off everything if I write; my sorrows disappear; my courage is reborn. But, and that is the great question, will I ever be able to write anything great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?’
He feels the responsibility of asking: what happened to that ‘o’? If only I could l-ve, he thinks, just for a m-nth, and w-rry about n-thing. Fear grabs him. It shakes him and asks: but will it be en-ugh?
He bends down and puts his hands on his knees as he pushes his nose against the pictures of the British soldiers liberating Bergen-Belsen. What they found there ‘shocked’ them, but he doesn’t think he knows what that word means if it can be written so easily. Sh-cked.
He reaches the final stand, a stall with information about the Anne Frank Foundation. He thinks he should do something with them. Volunteer. Write.
She comes back from where she had gone off to browse the library. She looks up at him and sees his watery eyes. She makes a cooing sound. ‘It’s okay,’ she says. And then as they walk away, ‘that’s why I don’t read to the end. I know what happens.’
Later, he understands. He always leaves a crust on his plate. He never reads the last paragraph of the news. It took him a month to watch the final episode of Battlestar Galactica. Always some remnant. He thought it was a lack of concentration. But he thinks now it might be something more terrible than that.
Artwork by Merlin Flower.