They say I’m too old to fly. They say I’m unfit. They say I support Nazi Germany. They say I’m a collabo.
I take a swig and hope the alcohol will dissolve the cloak of betrayal weighing on me. I wish I’d had someone right here with me. I wish I was a child again so Maman could make it all better.
They forget what I did. They don’t know who I really am. They just make up rumours. They forget. The night flights. The crash in the desert. The survival. The books. The prizes. The speed records. The dedication.
I take another swig. I’ve lost the will to defend myself. I’ve lost the desire to write. The desire to live.
I bring the bottle to my lips again. But it’s empty.
* * *
I must confess I am worried about Antoine. His last letter was tainted with discouragement, despair. My Antoine. My little Prince. So reluctant to grow up, yet so courageous in his adult life. But those accusations have taken their toll on his pride. I worry that’ he’s taken to drinking. My boy, pro-Nazi! My wonderful, courageous son, a traitor!
I feel his pain as if it was mine. I wish I could take it all away, just like when he was a little child.
* * *
In his last letter, Antoine told me he’d be out flying again. Over the Mediterranean, France and Italy.
I don’t know when exactly. The mail can take a while those days. His tone was better, that despair replaced with the excitement of a new adventure.
That brave, restless, wonderful boy of mine.
* * *
I’m out flying again. I have forgiven and forgotten. I’ve left the bottles alone. I’ve got inspiration and strength again.
I’m ready for my new mission.
* * *
They find the body washed out outside of Marseille.
It’s unrecognisable. The sea has done its rapid damage and plumped up the man’s face and sea creatures have pecked out his eyes.
There is nothing to identify him but the uniform of a French aviator.
The news report that they believe it is Antoine de St Exupery, who failed to return from his mission a couple of days earlier.
But they have no way to tell.
* * *
If only the sea could talk. And tell me what happened. Was it really my boy’s body they dragged out of the sea? Did it hurt? Did my baby die before hitting the surface of the water or did he drown?
And now that I am fading away, I will never know.
Image via Pixabay