By Catherine Day
Their brown hair is cropped short, their woolen jumper a faded purple, a white collar sprouting forth. They sip their tea with their pinky finger out, as they were taught by their high society upbringing, and as was later, I imagine, made fun of at the salons à bohème they hosted with Claude back at 22 rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs.
Their documents list their name as Suzanne Malherbe, but to their closer associates they are Marcel Moore.
I ask them about their artwork—not the pieces they’ve been working on with their partner (in all senses of the word), Claude, but their illustrations, their fashion designs. They respond with interest, and even allow me to examine their sketchbook, where the beginnings and ends of a few of their photomontages are in evidence. I see a letter from Claude peeking through the pages, and ask to read it. They oblige.
It is nothing bawdy; instead, a simple dictée of the events of a day, and an admonition to come home soon. I ask how they are finding their trip here, to the mainland—they reply that the British make their tea too strong.
I am a collage artist myself, and inquire as to where they find the inspiration for some of their more… risqué pieces, that they and Claude are becoming so well known for, among certain circles. Their way of fighting back against the soldiers occupying their island.
They raise an eyebrow—You mean the letters, from the Soldier With No Name?
The very same, I reply, sipping my own tea.
The Nazis, as much as we love to villainize them, are people just the same as everyone else. So we appeal to the comforts of home, they say. The thoughts we know they’re all hiding somewhere, deep inside. The thoughts that not even the staunchest of soldiers can smother. Everyone misses their home eventually.
And do you miss your home, and your life, on Jersey? I ask. The tea is growing cold.
Their eyes flicker, and in them I can see the existence they lead: breakfasts in the garden with their stepsister, thoughts exchanged over an interesting book, a polite hello to their neighbor, walks along the coastline. I see magazine pages rumpled with hidden messages, the silence of a well oiled hinge, paper bullets fired from an artist’s brain. Kisses in a shared bed that, pulled apart, becomes two when there is an unexpected guest. Their face is etched with it, the price they pay for their sincere self, the truth nestled within a lie.
It is my life, Marcel says. Of course I miss it.