"You have come to me because you have a question," she repeated, grave and tranquil. "What question do you have for me this time?"
That was how it always was; her patience seemed to be inexhaustible, and she would always admit him willingly. Sometimes he lacked the courage even to knock on the door, and it was only when she saw him from the window, loitering uncertainly in the street like some lost animal, that she would come down and gently take him by the hand, as if to lend a little power to a man who seemed already to have exhausted all his resources simply in walking across the city to present himself to her.
At first he had asked with embarrassment, unsure how she would receive him. Then he had asked with passion, seeing that she had accepted him and his questions. Later still, he asked with indifference, fulfilling a duty which had begun to bore him, but to which he felt tied by bonds he could not comprehend. And now, finally, he asked inexorably and with regret, - realising that to ask her questions had become his only destiny.
"What colour is that dress you are wearing?" he whispered, almost inaudibly.
"It is red. Can you not see?"
"Yes, it seems red to me. And you have also told me that it is so. When we first began to speak, I should have placed my faith in seeing its colour for myself, and raised my voice. But now I distrust all things which you have not told me."
And so he would sit for hours on end on the torn leather chair beside the easel under the grey skylight, listening; and if he took her hands in his sometimes, it was only to look for shards of wool between her fingernails; the way those palms seemed to pivot on their wrists was a source of endless fascination for him.
"For the moment, we have meanwhile, at least," she said smiling sadly and looking out towards the balcony and, beyond it, the southernmost reaches of the city and the sea. Wondering if she had spoken out of place - "Don't mind me, " she added with her old, worn kindness, so that he could almost see once again the threadbare carpet within which, rolled up tight, she would sleep each night.
"Don't mind me," she repeated, the most consoling thing she could find it in her to say when he grew too tired to ask more questions, or she grew too tired herself to answer them: "Don't mind me; we're only human. There'll always be tomorrow. Maybe, some day, things will change ..."