2. Anglès [True Love]
When I opened the window, all the countryside was covered in white, the rooftops, the treetops, everything was as white as could be. My uncle Fonso came on his bicycle with his trouser legs good and wet and my mother said that if he didn't change his pants he'd catch cold. "In some parts it’s half a metre deep", my uncle said, and I knew he was talking about the snow, that there was half a metre of snow. We went up on to the roof terrace and made a little ball, which was hardly anything, but my uncle pushed it around over the snow and the ball grew and grew until it was so big that he had to push it with all his might. Then he made a round head for it, stuck in a carrot for its nose and two buttons off an old overcoat for its eyes. He gave it a pipe too, and a hat and a scarf, and it was a really funny snowman.
I went to school and, in the playground, father Camil was throwing snowballs at a gang of boys led by father Crescent. I wanted father Crescent to win, but father Camil, who had his cassock tucked up to show some grey pants with lots of patches, was as strong as a mule and every time he threw a snowball he hurt somebody quite badly. I thought they might end up doing some damage because they couldn't see what they were doing and throwing any-old-where, but suddenly the bell rang and it all stopped. They said it was a death knell, announcing the death of father Juan Tolrá who'd taken ill during the night. I listened carefully to the bells, ding-dong, ding-dong but, however hard I listened, I couldn't understand a word they were saying.
"I can't hear the bells saying anything."
Father Crescent said it was because I didn't put enough love into it. If I put enough love into it, music would speak to me too, the way bells talked, and that would help me a lot. Father Crescent went off with father Camil and I was left by myself in the yard trying to put love into the sound of the bells. Suddenly it came to me that Adelaida was the love of my life and if I imagined that Adelaida was tolling the bells, I'd understand their language. So I imagined that Adelaida, all dressed in white, was coming through the black schoolyard gate. And when she was standing at my side, I asked her, "Do you understand the language of the bells?"
She laughed. "Don't be silly, bells don't talk, they only ring."
"Father Crescent said that if you put love into it, they will speak."
Hearing the word love, Adelaida looked at me in the way only she used to look at me. She had light in her eyes, in the whites of her eyes, and the pupils spoke for her. We held hands and the other kids made fun of me because they said I was trying to hold hands with the air because they couldn’t see Adelaida. We kissed and then we must have done the miracle of love because the bells tolled again and now I could understand all the words. "Ding-dong, father Juan Tolrá is dead."
I thought that little old man was a saint and that was why the city was covered in a pure white mantel of snow. I also thought that now I'd always have to go and confess to father Servando, who'd ask me if I'd kissed my girlfriend and then I'd have to say yes. Then I saw him, saw father Juan Tolrá's white head floating in the bruised-looking clouds that were threatening snow again and he winked at me, and the smile that followed also had the power of speaking to me and it said, “Love and don’t be afraid of anything."
No more snow fell until the afternoon when all of us school-kids filed past the coffin of father Juan Tolrá. He was really stiff with his nose and chin pointier than ever and there was a crown of light over his head. They'd dressed him in a starched rochet and golden chasuble and he looked like a sleeping bishop, with his hands tightly folded and his fingers very long. We did an endless procession in the snow but I didn't feel at all sorry for the men who were carrying the coffin because father Juan Tolrá was so skinny that he couldn't have weighed anything and I reckon they had to hold on tight to him to stop him floating up with them to the sky. When they uncovered him to give him the last blessing, the snow was falling heavily. Father Camil prayed the response while father Crescent intoned something that sounded like Gregorian chant. Then father Juan Tolrá opened an eye and his pupil was still sky blue. I know because he looked at me and said, "Love and always love truly."
Translated from the Catalan by Julie Wark ©