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Fire in my heart

  Another memory from when I was five or six.

  A young widow, more or less thirty years old, I suppose, had rented a room in the guest-quarters of the house next door and she earned her living working in the laundry of the nearby monastery, a consecrated widow in the Catholic church.

  Born late and growing up alone under the care of elderly parents, I was very much attached to that young woman, and she was very fond of me, too, so that I not only frequented that house regularly but even sometimes spent the night there with her, without any objection from my parents.

  One autumn, it was a bright moonlit night like tonight, I had fallen asleep after playing beside the woman as she beat out the washed clothes on a fulling-block; in the middle of the night I opened my eyes and found her still beating away Tock-tack Tock-tack and half teasingly asked her, drunk with sleep,
-- Aren't you going to sleep?
then turning over lay down again, only to hear from behind me,
-- Sure, when the fire in my heart is out!

  Of course, at that age I had no idea what the fire in her heart could be, or how it could be put out, but those words lodged somewhere in a corner of my mind, ready to emerge vividly as I lay here, unable to get to sleep on this bright moonlit night.