She does it. With great difficulty, she gets up and moves away from the Jew.
She stands facing him.
She turns from him toward David, but her eyes stay fixed on the Jew.
Then she turns toward David, pauses there, turned toward him. Finally, her eyes unlatch from the gaze of the Jew.
All falls still.
Sabana’s body seems to tremble between turning to David and turning back to the Jew.
Then, suddenly, she chooses. She moves slowly toward David. Pauses. Moves. Comes close to David, studying him.
His breath is long and even. He sleeps a deep sleep. She watches him.
She does it.
Slowly, she cradles David’s head in her hands and lifts it.
“Wake up, David. The Jews are talking.”
“No,” David mutters in his sleep.
She leans closer and forces a light tone into her voice. “David, the Jews are talking.”
“What?” David asks.
His eyes are still closed.
“What?” he asks.
He opens his eyes. He looks over at the Jews sitting on the floor. He seems to recognize them. And remember them. They do not return his gaze.
For a moment it seems David is resting.
“They are not trying to escape?” he asks.
She fixes her attention on him. “You slept well.”
David doesn’t answer.
“What time is it?” he asks.
“Night,” Sabana says.
David glances repeatedly toward the darkened park where the dogs are.
“He passed by,” she says. “He’ll come back later.”
“Their meeting is still going on?”
David is stunned.
“Why so long?”
“I don’t know,” Sabana says.
“He told me at the beginning of the night,” says David.
He looks over at the Jews.
“This whole time there’s only been one Jew,” he says.
“Gringo sent the second while you were asleep.”
David gets up. He stretches his arms, grimaces, looks at his hands, flexes them. He doesn’t feel well. Suddenly he freezes. He has thought of something.
“The second Jew. Are they going to kill him too?”
“I don’t know.”
“Whether they kill him,” David smiles, “or only the first one, it’s all the same to them.”
“Yes,” says Sabana.
The Jews have raised their eyes. They do not look at David, they look toward the darkened park. They are silent.
“Do they know each other?” asks David.
“I don’t think so.”
Abahn smiles at Sabana. David sees the smile.
“Look, they’re smiling,” says David.
She does not respond.
“Why are they smiling?” he asks.
She does not answer.
“At the moment of death,” he adds.
David seems uncertain. He is about to smile as well, but does not. It is as if he is intimidated. He ought to see that she has not responded. He says:
“You woke me up, you told me, ‘the Jew is talking.’”
He points at the Jew and says:
The Jew’s eyes are closed. His face is expressionless.
“He was talking,” says Sabana. “He was talking about killing himself. That’s why he was laughing.”
David is still frozen in place. He points at the Jew and says again:
“A person might laugh if he’s some hours from death,” says Sabana.
They look at the Jew. His eyes are fixed on the darkened park and it seems he might be laughing.
“He was laughing,” David says. “I see him laughing.”
David, still frozen, is completely fixated on the Jew.
“Maybe he’s really asleep,” David mumbles.
“No,” says Sabana.
“Maybe he’s afraid,” says David.
“He didn’t try to run away,” Abahn points out.
David starts in surprise. His eyes shift to the new person, Abahn, and then back to the Jew.
Sabana says, “He said, ‘I want to live, I want to die.’”
“Maybe he doesn’t care which,” David says.
Sabana leaves David. She walks toward the back of the room and sits down against a wall. David finds himself alone in the light.
No one speaks.
David waits. There is an obvious awkwardness.
“I don’t understand,” David says. “You told me the Jew was speaking to me.”
“You can’t force him to say more,” says Sabana.
David addresses Abahn. “What did he say?”
“He said, ‘Nothing. Something else. Otherwise. Somewhere else.’”
David looks from one Jew the other, and then at Sabana. He wants to laugh. He says:
“You woke me up for this?”
No one answers him. He sees the Jew looking at him. He starts. The Jew is not looking at him anymore. The Jew closes his eyes. For the first time it seems a great effort for David to speak.
“Who is he?” David asks.
“I don’t know him,” says Abahn.
“I don’t know,” says Sabana.
“His life is invisible,” says Abahn.
“Who are you?” Sabana asks the Jew.
The Jew shakes his head.
“He has no more courage,” says David.
“Yes,” says Abahn. “His strength is still there. Still present.”
David studies the Jew who is smiling, his eyes closed, and realizes the strength within him.
“It’s true,” says David.
“It’s just momentary. It will pass,” says Sabana.
“The dead of the night,” says Abahn.
The Jew rises, takes a few steps, slowly, distracted it seems, his shadow falling over David, he turns toward the door to the darkened park. Pauses there.
“He wants to live,” says Sabana. “And he won’t make the effort to do so.”
David leans forward out of the light.
“He wants to live in the banlieues of Staadt without working,” Abahn says slowly. “To live without work at all, without any occupation, to live like that in the banlieues of Staadt.”
“Without any work at all,” murmurs David.
David looks again at the Jew. He wants to say something. He says nothing. He stares with a tangible intensity at the back of the Jew.
“One night,” says Sabana, “I wasn’t here, where was I? Just hanging about? You were going to the café, you and the Jew, he was telling you a little bit about his situation.”
David’s face grows pale.
“I didn’t listen,” says David. “I didn’t understand.”
“None of it?” Sabana asks.
“He must have heard some of it,” comments Abahn.
David thinks for a while.
“Something about freedom,” says David at last. “Something about liberty.”
He thinks again.
“About despair,” says David. He seems confused, intimidated. He smiles. “Then I slept.”
They are silent. Abahn gestures toward the Jew.
“He’s unsure now. That’s what I think.”
“It’s completely normal for Gringo to kill him.”
“Normal,” says Abahn.
David lowers his voice a little:
“He’s Gringo’s enemy.”
“He’s a different kind of man,” says Abahn. “He’s a communist who believes that communism is impossible. And Gringo thinks it is.”
David smiles as if at a joke. He hesitates.
“Yes, definitely,” he says.
“Which?” Abahn asks.
David stops smiling. He looks toward Sabana. He wants her help. She is silent.
“You don’t know,” says Abahn. “We don’t know.”
They are silent. Again Abahn gestures toward the Jew:
“He doesn’t think it’s worth the trouble to kill Gringo.”
“He thinks Gringo is dead,” says Sabana.
“What? How?” cries David.
No one answers him.
“It’s completely normal that Gringo would kill him,” says David again, his voice trembling.
“Yes. Gringo,” says Sabana.
David stares at Sabana in terror, seized by brutal shock.
He waits. Sabana says no more. His terror grows.
“The life of the Jew is unseeable, invisible.” says Abahn. “Like the life of David.”
His terror grows still. Silence falls.
“Before, the Jew was so sure. Like Gringo is now,” says Sabana.
“Of what we would find after the wait. And of where only the wait could lead.”
“And when the Jew was very young,” asks Sabana, “did he believe as Gringo does now?”
“Yes,” says Abahn. “He came to this conclusion after a number of years.”
“I don’t understand,” says David.
“For a long time. Gringo. A long time, you understand.”
David does not answer.
“We believed in the wait, logical and unending. Now we believe it’s useless,” says Abahn.
David thinks on this. He searches the faces around him. “What happened?” he wants to know.
“Patience became our goal.”
David shakes his head brusquely, grabs his gun, releases it as if were aflame: it’s the Jew who has spoken. His voice is soft.
“I found this patience,” says Sabana.
David’s glare shifts abruptly to Sabana.
“Patience burned your hand,” she adds.
“It’s possible we were wrong,” says Abahn.
“Yes,” agrees the Jew. “Possible. Always possible.”
Marguerite Duras, Abahn Sabana David, transl. Kazim Ali, 2016.