Julian used to come by and visit, back in the years when we lived in our little house outside of town. He'd have been going to, or on his way back from visiting his mother. I suppose he was visiting with his father at the same time, too, although he never once, in all the times he visited, mentioned his father.
It wasn't as if he didn't see his father...the father lived in the same house as the mother did. But then again, his mother lived with both her husband and her lover, and had done for several decades, so perhaps Julian never mentioned his father because he wasn't sure which one of the two men his faher was....perhaps it was never very clear to him, or perhaps it was that the definition had blurred over the years, I never could really tell, and I never asked.
He'd simply stop by, in his shy and rather quiet manner, and we'd sit, watching the fireplace in the winter or outside at the table under the shade trees during the summer. Julian didn't say much, and when he did, he had a sweet, funny little way of repeating himself, especially if he felt strongly about a topic, or if he was recounting something that had happed to him. At those tmes, he became quite animated, and stuttered a bit, along with repeating after himself.
I'd offer him something to drink and whatever was available in the cookiejar, as nobody bakes their own cookies in France, and, in fact, the only kind actually called 'cookies' here are the chocolate chip kind. Every other kind of thing that I might've called a cookie is known here as a petite gateaux or a biscuit, or, less commonly, a gateaux sec.
So, we'd just sit. Julian never really had too much to say, and even when he did, it was difficult to get into too much of a deep conversation with him, and the talk, if there was any, centered mostly on the weather or his job with the Town Hall, where he was with the group of unemployed men that were hired by the town to do road clearing and tree-trimming and such. I learned some things about road clearing that I'd never known before. And tree trimming. And about the perils of drink.
Julian had been an alcoholic, but hardly ever fell off the wagon, anymore. He never said much about his drinking days...he was young, at the time we lived at the little house, about 35 or so...but he had quite a lot to say about the drinkers in his family. Especially about his sister's ex-husband, Joseph, and the lessons he had learned from watching Joseph about why not to drink.
It's true that Joseph was an extraordinary drinker. The bad of it was that Joseph was a real filthy drinker...drinking so much, that it got to the point of smelly clothes, vomit, and urine. And sometimes it got worse than that, and came to blows.
Often abusive and violent, Joseph had bullied his ex-mother and fathers-in-law to keep him and feed him and care for him, once the divorce with their daughter had been declared, and the daughter had moved away and eventually remarried to a more sober man. This situation lasted for over fifteen years, and one can only imagine the scenes around the big farmhouse dinner table at family reunions, such as Christmas, when all the family would be there.
The mother, father, mothers lover, grown children with spouses and grandchildren might've all gotten on well, but it couldn't have been easy with a drunken Joseph at the same table as his ex and her new husband. Maybe Joseph didn't come to the table, but chose to remain in his bedroom that was just off the big main room. Maybe he stayed in the big bed with its tangled sheets and his assorted tools and, once, with the chainsaw he'd promised to fix for me and didn't, which I then had to go and look for and found by asking the old woman where it was and being led into the room and finding it under the bedclothes, next to a sleeping, drunken, Joseph.
I'm sure that the situation had bothered Julian, who was a gentle and kind soul. It seemed that he was very close to his mother, and to family values. He'd been married once, and had a son whom he rarely saw. At one point during his visits to me, he told me that he'd found a girlfriend, but seemed so disappointed when I was happy for him, that I wondered if perhaps it wasn't true, and that he had invented one in order to provoke some kind of response from me that he didn't get.
When the topic would be about the evils of drinking, he'd start getting excited, and then the repeating would begin. He really was adamant against drinking. One time, the conversation went round to accidents while under the influence, and how fast they can happen. Julian kept saying to me, "You could have an accident, you could have an accident. You never know, you could hit a wall or something. Something like that". He was most purturbed, poor Julian was. I tried to calm him down and offered more cookies, but he went on and on.
"You might be drunk and hit a wall and a pedestrian and kill someone". Well, yes, you might, I suppose. "You might be so drunk that you never even saw the pedestrian". Or the wall. "I've never done that". No, neither have I. "I've never done that. Well...only the once." Oh.