André is a 73-year old man employed in a souvenir shop in the city centre of Arles, France. He always wears a hat and a shirt with Provencal patterns. He comes across as cheerful and friendly, and continues smiling even when tourists turn a blind eye to him. He has held the job in the shop full of knick-knacks featuring Provence and Camargue for 6 months during the high season for the past 4 years. It helps him make a little over 1,000 euro a month, just enough to cover all necessary expenses. André lives alone in a tidy one-room apartment with a tiny covered balcony where the summer heat quickly becomes unbearable. The clothes dry quickly there, especially my Provencal shirts, all made in France, he proudly announces. He has decorated his apartment with objects abandoned by people in the streets. He owns a few vases with fake plastic flowers. Fresh flowers make a mess when they die. A couple of years ago he had a hip operation and had to use crutches for several weeks. Going up the stairs to reach the 2nd floor apartment wasn't easy, especially when carrying groceries. No one helps, no one cares. When his five children were young he loved making up stories for them, sad stories only, and they enjoyed them a lot. Now he never hears from them, nor from his ex-wife, and doesn't know his grandchildren. Such is life, such is my life. It hasn't always been like that. André was born and raised in the Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea. He grew up free and happy in the beautiful Camargue nature. Already at the age of 10, he was a consummate horse rider and hunter. As a young man he served as a marine in the French army and took part in the war between France and Algeria in the late 50s. They told us to kill them all, so I did. It was either them or me, and I was a good shot. When he returned to France, he worked for decades as a forest ranger. The many photographs he carries in his wallet reminds him of happy times with friends, riding for hours on remote beaches and swimming naked in the sea, free. When horse riding became difficult, André worked in the arenas, tending to corridas. He also sold food and drinks to the audience, a tedious job, that he quit when the owner of the souvenir shop took him in. There, André is constantly surrounded by people, strangers, but continuously lonely. There are two pillows on the bed, even though there is only need for one. TV keeps him company in the evening, and comedy movies are not the only things he watches. André opened up completely to me over a few hours, holding a generous and fast monologue, probably grateful to have someone to listen to him. I am thankful to him for opening my eyes to the fate many elders share.

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