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April 21, 2023

A project that could actually work?

7:32 a.m. at the coffee shop
As you know, I almost always write my Sunday letters at the coffee shop in my village. After sitting there every morning for nearly a year, I have become a regular, like my friend Claudette, who walks in every morning with her pens and multiple spiral notebooks. She’s about my age I guess, and wears her hair in a thick, long white ponytail. We both arrive very early and get first pick of the best tables in the shop, which happen to be next to each other.

We both feel a sense of urgency to commit to paper everything that is percolating in our minds. Claudette likes to do her writing by hand while I hammer on my iPad. Just like copying nuns from years ago, we work in silence most of the time. We drink a few coffees each morning; we sit at adjacent tables, without ever engaging in a proper conversation.

And so after a while, I become curious to know what this strange, silent woman is writing about. Aside from her blissful smile and majestic sense of calmness, who is she really? All the mysterious notepads she is endlessly tweaking can only be a novel. Glimpsing at her papers from a distance, I rather get the impression that it’s a business plan – the draft of a grandiose project she is constantly fine-tuning.

Claudette always leaves her table at the same time and her departure makes me even more curious. Isn’t she retired? Where does she go? The days pass and Easter has taken over the coffee shop, which is suddenly crumbling under huge chocolate eggs, rabbits, ducks, multicoloured chicks and chocolate figurines of all kinds.

As we make our way together towards the chocolate display, Claudette and I start giggling like school girls on vacation. We go back to our tables and strike up a conversation. The thin spring ice has broken, and finally, we are having a proper conversation.

— “You know, Madame Cora, I make excellent chocolate myself. I sometimes stuff it with ganache and it’s even more delicious.”

— “Oh, really. Are you a cook?”
— “No, I’m a professional musician.”

— “And you know my name?”

— “Everyone knows who you are. You’re ‘the lady who writes.’ I’m Claudette.”

— “Delighted to meet you, dear Claudette. I must tell you, I am very intrigued by what your writing, it seems to be very important.”

— “You are quite correct. I’m working on a project that is very dear to me. I’m getting on in years and I absolutely want to make it come true.”

— “May I ask you what it’s about?”
— “I finally sold my last house, and now I want to buy an even bigger one that I will transform into a type of commune where I and five or six elderly people can live together.”

— “Oh, I see. And you’re writing your business plan. Is that what I see you working on every morning?”

— “Exactly. I’m an artist and a musician, but I have both feet firmly planted on the ground. When I was planning the sale of my house, I was preparing to move into a big building where I was going to be very happy.”

— “Well?”

— “I have been there for six long months and I miss the feeling of a real home. So I decided to use all my savings to create a better situation for myself and a few other people who would agree to live together.”
— “Wow! You have so much passion and drive! I have watched you write, cross out and start again for several months now. This project clearly means a lot to you, but is it feasible? Who would be in charge?”
— “Each one of us would contribute an equal amount of money required to buy a house big enough to lodge five or six people, 65 and older. We would each have our own room and would pitch in to do everyday chores and cover common costs. If needed, we could put together a committee and agree on a decision-making procedure.”

— “You impress me, dear Claudette. Do I have your permission to ask my readers what they think about this idea of yours? Just to get their impression on whether or not this project could work in their opinion.”