Chambre à part

My sunshine, Stephen at age seventeen, 2008 ©Anthony Gayton

Ce matin, je me suis glissé à pas feutrés dans la chambre de Giovanni…

We were silent for a moment.
‘Do you come in here often?’ asked Giovanni suddenly.
'No,’ I said, 'not very often.’
'But you will come,’ he teased, with a wonderful, mocking light on his face, 'more often now?’
I stammered: 'Why?’
'Ah!’ cried Giovanni. 'Don’t you know when you have made a friend?’
I knew I must look foolish and that my question was foolish too: 'So soon?’
'Why no,’ he said, reasonably, and looked at his watch, 'we can wait another hour if you like. We can become friends then. Or we can wait until closing time. We can become friends then. Or we can wait until tomorrow, only that means that you must come in here tomorrow and perhaps you have something else to do.’ He put his watch away and leaned both elbows on the bar. 'Tell me,’ he said, 'what is this thing about time? Why is it better to be late than early? People are always saying, we must wait, we must wait. What are they waiting for?’
'Well,’ I said, feeling myself being led by Giovanni into deep and dangerous water, 'I guess people wait in order to make sure of what they feel.’
'In order to make sure!’ He turned again to that invisible ally and laughed again. I was beginning, perhaps, to find his phantom a little unnerving but the sound of his laughter in that airless tunnel was the most incredible sound. 'It’s clear that you are a true philosopher.’ He pointed a finger at my heart. 'And when you have waited—has it made you sure?’
Giovanni came back for an instant and winked.
'Are you sure?’
'You win. You’re the philosopher.’
'Oh, you must wait some more. You do not yet know me well enough to say such a thing.’
And he filled his tray and disappeared again.

James Baldwin - Giovanni’s Room (Signet Books-1956)