Bouissou, Madame Michael – The Second World War- The man was there, frozen blue, but his gaping mouth seemed to be twisted in an ironical leer
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
The Life of a Sensitive – Madame Michael Bouissou
On another occasion, while listening to a low, anxious woman's voice telling me her grief at having no news of her husband who had been gone two months, I suddenly saw a chain of livid, snowy mountains and the picture of a track in the dirty snow between two walls of ice about three feet high, Desolate, lifeless and motionless, this landscape froze me. I told my client that her husband had tried to leave France over the Pyrenees and that I could only see this sinister setting. Had she nothing belonging to her husband, a photograph? Yes, she had one, and fumbling in her bag she handed it to me. Without looking at it I put it on my desk and covered it with my left hand.
Nothing stirred. Then, with that rush I had often experienced without being able to explain it, the picture disappeared from the screen and I saw, lying on his back, his legs covered with thick snow, a man with rumpled clothes who had obviously been searched, hands clutching the snow, a motionless face, eyes and mouth open . . . There was a black wound on one side of the head.
Beneath my hand the photograph was ice cold, and without daring to raise my head I asked his wife if he had left with money hidden in his clothes . . . in a belt or next his skin, for example. I gave the description of her husband's garments and told her that I was surprised to see him alone. In general the guides waited for two or three emigrants, to take them through the mountains by little-known tracks.
Things must have turned out like this, and she was very surprised that I saw her husband on his own for it had been agreed that the crossing, this time, should be undertaken by four men. Although the time of year made the trip more perilous, on the other hand there was infinitely less risk of being arrested by the Customs men or the Germans.
What could I say to this woman? I could distinctly see the corpse of her husband, who had been murdered and robbed. The little photo turned my hand to ice up to the elbow. I returned it to her and after satisfying myself by a few skilfully posed questions that she was not alone, but lived with her family and two children, I told her that she would have to wait a long time for news because the crossing at this season was very dangerous.
She looked at me, automatically replacing the photo in her bag while I rubbed my stiff arm. "He was ready to sacrifice his life, he told me. But what about the children and our life? Didn't that count?" she murmured. Then, looking at me, she added. "He's dead, I know. You saw it, didn't you? But why didn't you tell me?" Yes, why had I not told her? Did the rule Dr. Osty had once taught me still hold good in these days when life and death no longer seemed to count?
I replied that she knew all I had seen: a single man with money and in danger, but death was a forbidden domain I never approached since I was always too afraid .of being mistaken . . .
She had taken back the photograph, and the horrible picture of the corpse with its mouth and the hollow, blackened eyes had disappeared.
She sat there, overcome, in the chair. I saw that she had abandoned hope; that she had not been taken in by my clumsy and unconvincing denial. Once more she murmured: "His children, our life together, they didn’t count any more." She said it with the surprise of certain women who suddenly discover that the tranquil, monotonous life they loved no longer suffices a man who for days had been preparing in secret to escape. That is how it appeared to me: surprise dominated her feelings, surprise at realising that it was all finished and that the man had preferred danger and the risk of death to her love and to his children. She rose to her feet, pulled up her coat collar with a shiver and said: "Fortunately Maman is there," and I saw her in the near future resuming the life of a young girl, directed once more through life like an adolescent, hiding, perhaps, beneath her widow's weeds a relief at no longer living with a man whom she had obviously married and loved from convention, because it is customary to marry. All that night I kept waking up with a start from a nightmare: the man was there, frozen blue, but his gaping mouth seemed to be twisted in an ironical leer. The ones I pitied were his children, who would possibly seek their father behind the conventional picture -the commonplace picture of a hero who had died for his country. Yes, it was the children who would pay for this marriage without love, this widowhood without tears.