Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Years ago I would occasionally accompany a fellow high school student home. Not that it was, strictly speaking, essential to do so. Valkenswaard in that day and age was not at all crime-ridden, and we both knew the neighborhood in which we lived very well.

Suzanne, whom I’ve mentioned once or twice before, was a vivacious dark-haired girl, very intelligent, and charming in the way that women with justifiable self-assurance can often be.
No, there was nothing going on between us, though I have at times since then wished there had been.
She was just an exceptionally nice person, and the sister of a good friend.

Gentlemen make sure that young ladies get home safely.
It is the right thing to do.

And it also ensures that one can chat with her a little while longer. Surely you weren’t planning to walk in silence?
Being gallant means enjoyable company – what splendid icing on the cake!

I always waited before firing up my pipe till afterwards, because many nice young ladies have sensitive noses vis à vis the reek of tobacco.
I assumed it might have been disagreeable to her if I smoked, and it was better not to push the issue.


Every two or three weeks I would escort her on her way home. Not so often in late spring, or summer, as daylight lasts till late in the evening, and there would be lots of people around. But by the end of October it gets dark early, and inclement weather more often than not will empty the streets.
Walk close together, and hold the umbrella over her.
Sometimes both of us held the umbrella.
Small warm hands.

Once during early December in the last year that I was at the Hertog Jan College, we strolled along the Dommelsche Weg, past where it curves at Kerk Straat. Four blocks. We chatted happily till we got to her doorway.
She turned to me and asked "you smoke, don't you?"
"I don't."
"I know that"
"But I don't mind it, really. You could have smoked."
"Well, I can always light up later."
"Yes, but it would have been nice to smell burning leaves in autumn."

I always have the urge to set fire to things in Autumn.
Recently I have been smoking nice flakes, all flue-cured tobacco.
And remembering the chill in the air in Valkenswaard at this time of year.
There is a hint of tannins from the fallen leaves. Wet pine nearby, and thinner vegetal odours from further away.
Plus the enchanting fragrance of a woman's hair.

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