Lydia walked up to her mother, gripped her by the elbow and made her sit on the cold stone stairs. The old woman looked at me with dark eyes and did not seem to recognize me.
'Estelle,' I said, 'don't you remember me?'
It was as if the heavy curtains of ancient history were ripped down and the dark room behind her eyes was suddenly flooded with light.
'Pádraig,' she said, 'how nice of you to come and see me.'
'You two know each other?' Lydia asked surprised.
Even though it felt like a million years had gone by, I had recognized Estelle, an English teacher in Carcassonne, whom Josht and I had wooed in the summer of '82. Now she confused me with another lover of that era, Pádraig, who had left Co. Cork heartbroken after his Maud had turned him down for the third time. He ended up in Carcassonne and planned to open the first Irish pub in France. His endeavour was bound to fail, as all plans invariably will, when conceived in love's misery.
By quoting Yeats to the young impressionable English teacher, Pádraig had charmed Estelle into investing all her savings in his pub. From Ireland he had brought with him a stained glass window depicting a young woman floating over a green field and a black lough in the distance. On the bottom was a line from a Yeats' poem:
He shadowed in a glass
what thing her body was.
During the few weeks The Shamrock was open to the public and Estelle and Pádraig broke up under the stress of financial obligations, Josht and I were exploring this same monastery where Estelle, Lydia and I were now sitting on the cold stones. In 1982 we became Padraig's only regulars. We did what we could to keep The Shamrock alive by drinking large amounts of Guinness and paying the weeping Irish publican for it, but to no avail. After Pádraig had fled Carcassonne, leaving Estelle in debt and misery, Josht and I were there to comfort her.
'I'm Erik, Estelle, not Pádraig.' I took her hand and kissed it. 'The Dutch guy, you remember?'
'Josht?' she whimpered.
I looked at that face full of sorrow and saw how by an invisible hand the curtains behind Estelle's eyes were drawn back into place. I could tell that her world had gone dark again, but at the same time I realized I had found my message on the glass.