THE WORD “INSANE” is too much of a blanket characteristic – too clinical – and with it comes all sorts of negative connotations. It’s a useful word though because it’s tough to describe Alex, who lived in a tiny chambre de bonne above the rue de Rivoli, in any other way. He’d lived there ever since he was only a few years old and had been orphaned, and it was the only piece of the LePecque’s estate that hadn’t been swindled by the lawyers or fought over by his older siblings, Alize and Fréderic. Alex had dealt with the death as all children do – without great regard for its infinity – and he took what was given to him without argument. What he wished he could’ve better held on to now though were memories, and while he couldn’t much remember his parents, he had a small swatch of his father’s suit jacket and a particularly sturdy silver pendant of his mother’s that he’d found on the ground outside the house after the explosive fire.
As a 10-year-old, Alex’s remaining family had abandoned him, and he often sat at the only chair in his room by himself. It was here that he looked out through the small, ever foggy window above a sprawling garden. To any other visitor the view was pure magic, but to Alex it was void of charm, filling him only with sadness and longing. The beauty and wealth that surrounded him made him afraid, and he feared that one day he would substitute a pursuit of mere things for his pursuit of memories. He thus chose to never go out, promising never to leave his room and its intrinsic modesty.
Alex grew older in that room, but he did not leave. As a late-teenager he had an Arab man from the suburbs bring him his groceries, and it was only to him that Alex spoke. They discussed banalities – the weather, construction projects he could hear outside, or the whereabouts of Alex’s neighbors, to whom the man also delivered groceries. Yet they exchanged books each time as well. Alex drew from an immense crate of books that he had only recently found beneath a trap door just large enough for the crate. In exchange, the man brought Alex modern books and popular favorites.