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Love Lasts Three Years

Frdric Beigbeder
Translated by Jesse Stuart

I speak with the authority of failure. SCOTT FITZGERALD

What?! Its true! Its plain and clear! You have to tell it like it is. Youre in love, and then youre not. FRANOISE SAGAN (During a dinner with Brigitte Bardot and Bernard Frank at her home in 1966).

Prface

Frdric Beigbeder est crivain, critique littraire, et ralisateur franais. Il a obtenu en 2003 le prix Interailli pour Windows on the World et en 2009, le prix Renaudot pour son livre Un roman franais. Lamour dure trois ans est avant tout lhistoire dun homme qui, tel un Sisyphe romantique, sefforce de donner du sens lune des motions les plus profondes de notre existence, quand les donnes biochimiques et statistiques indiquent que lamour nest quun combat perdu davance . Ce qui est le plus tonnant dans ce livre, cest sa sincrit. Les relations amoureuses ont tendance faire ressortir le meilleur ainsi que le pire, et Beigbeder excelle tout dcrire dans un style aussi sardonique que lyrique. Rien nest interdit dans luvre de Beigbedersexe, drogues, tentatives de suicide, misre, extase ; et le gnie de Beigbeder consiste en sa capacit capturer ces moments quen gnral on ne partage jamais: moments de honte insupportable, de joie viscrale, de confusion totale. Marc Marronnier, lalter ego de Beigbeder, est peut-tre une caricature de soi-mme, mais il reprsente aussi une caricature de lhomme htro ais au 21e sicle. Bien lev, instruit, connu ; il se marie, puis vite se dcide quil ne veut rien avoir avec

le mariagejuste avant de se rendre compte que sennuyer avec quelquun, cest peut-tre mieux que de se trouver tout seul. Notre gnration est si habitue la vitesse, la nouveaut, quon oublie parfois comment rester amoureux. Lamour dure trois ans est dans le fond lhistoire dun homme qui apprend, petit petit, que lamourmalgr les statistiques, la biochimie, la phenethylaminedurera.

J. Stuart

I ZERO-SUM GAME

I Love fades with time

Love is a battle lost from the start. At first, everything is beautiful, even you. Youre amazed by how in love you are. Each day brings its own gentle delivery of miracles. Nobody on earth has ever known the passion you share. Happiness exists, and its simpleits a face. The entire universe is smiling. For a year, life consists of one sun-bathed morning after anothereven in the afternoon when it snows. You write whole books about it. You get married, as soon as possiblewhy think twice if youre happy? Thinking will only bring you down; life will prevail in the end. The second year, things begin to change. Youve grown complacently affectionate. Youre proud of the bond youve established. You know what your wife will say before she opens her mouthhow kind of you to save her the trouble. In the street, people mistake your wife for your sister; you find this flattering, but it starts to wear on you. You make love less and less often but think its no big deal. You believe each day solidifies your love when in fact the end is nigh. You defend marriage to your single friends, who dont recognize you anymore. Are you sure you even recognize yourself when you recite the lesson

you know by heart, as you try not to look at the beautiful young women that light up the street? The third year, youve stopped trying not to look at the beautiful young women that light up the street. Youve stopped talking to your wife. You spend hours with her at a restaurant listening to what the people at the table over are discussing. You go out more and more often: this gives you an excuse not to fuck. Before long you cant tolerate your spouse another second, because youve fallen in love with someone else. There was one thing about which you werent mistaken: life does indeed prevail in the end. The third year, theres good news and bad news. The good news: disgusted, your wife leaves you. The bad news: youve started to write a new book.

II A Festive Divorce

The secret to driving wasted is to aim between the buildings. Marc Marronnier clutches the throttle which has the effect of increasing the speed of his moped. He totters between the cars. They flash their lights and honk when he skims past them, like at a country bumpkin wedding. Its sort of ironic: Marronnier happens to be celebrating his divorce. Tonight, hes doing the Double-5 tour and he mustnt waste time: five clubs in one night (Castel-Buddha-Bus-Cabaret-Queen) is arduous as is, so imagine the Double 5 which, as its name suggests, is carried out twice in one night. He often goes out alone. Socialites are solitary people lost in a sea of vague acquaintances. They comfort themselves with handshakes. Each new kiss on the cheek is a trophy. They make themselves feel important by greeting famous people, while in fact they themselves are utterly useless. They make sure only to visit noisy places so as not to have to talk. God gave mankind parties so they could hide their feelings. Few know as many people as Marc, and few are as lonely. This party isnt like the others. Its his divorce party. Hooray! He starts by buying a bottle at each club. It seems hes made quite a dent in each, too.

Marc Marronnier, youre the King of the Night, everybody adores you, wherever you go the club managers kiss you on the lips, you get to cut to the front of the line, you get the best tables, you know everybodys last name, you laugh at all their jokes (especially the least funny ones), people give you drugs for free, you show up in photos everywhere for no apparent reason, its incredible how popular youve become after a few years in the gossip columns! Youre a social mogul! A socialite extraordinaire! Wait, why is it your wife ran off, anyway? We split up due to a mutual disagreement, mutters Marc as he enters The Bus. Then he adds: I married Anne because she was an angeland thats precisely why were getting divorced. I thought I was looking for love up until the moment I realized that all I wanted was to flee it. Awkward silence. He changes the subject. Fuck, the girls here look decent! I should have brushed my teeth before coming. Hello! Mademoiselle, youre as cute as button. May I please take off your clothes? Thats the way he is, Marc Marronnier: he pretends to be despicable beneath his slick velvet suit simply because hes too ashamed to be sweet. Hes just turned 30: the bastard age when youre too old to be young, and too young to be old. He does everything to live up to this reputation, so as not to disappoint anyone. Hes spent so long just trying to expand his pressbook that little by little hes become a caricature of himself. He finds it

exhausting to prove hes nice or profound, so he takes to behaving like this superficial idiot, erratic and disgraceful. So he has no one to blame but himself if, when he yells out on the dance floor Hooray! Im divorceddd!no one comes to comfort him. The laser beams pierce his heart like swords. Before long, just putting one foot in front of the other becomes a difficult task. He staggers back onto his scooter. Its freezing out. Jolting forward, Marc feels tears streaming down his face. Surely its just the wind. His eyes are impassive. Hes not wearing a helmet. La Dolce Vita? What Dolce Vita? What happened to it? There are too many memories, too much to forget, its not easy erasing all that, youd have to relive so many perfect moments to replace the beauty of before. He meets up with some friends at the Baron, on Avenue Marceau. The champagne isnt cheap and neither are the girls. For example, to have sex with two is $1000, and one will set you back $500. You dont even get a bulk discount. The girls only take cash; Marc gets money out of an ATM with his credit card; they lead him to a hotel, strip in the taxi, suck him off together, he presses on their heads; in the hotel room they cover themselves in scented lotion, he fucks one of them while she licks the other; after a while, unable to come, he fakes an orgasm then rushes into the bathroom to discreetly throw away the empty condom. He takes the cab back as the sun starts to come up, and hears a song on the radio:

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Lalcool a un got amer Le jour ctait hier Et lorchestre dans un habit Un peu pass Joue le vide de ma vie Dsintgre. 1 (Christophe, Le Beau Bizarre) He decides that, from now on, hell always masturbate before going out so as not to be tempted to do something stupid.

Alcohol has a bitter taste The day was yesterday And a band wearing sharp suits Just out of style Plays the silence of my life Deserted a while.

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III Abandoned on the beach

Hey everyone, the author here. Welcome to my brain please excuse me for intruding. No more cheating: Ive decided to be my own protagonist. Usually, what happens to me is never particularly serious. My loved ones arent dying. Ive never set foot in Sarajevo. The drama in my life unfolds in restaurants, clubs, and elegant apartments. The most upsetting thing to have happened to me recently was not being invited to John Gallianos fashion show. And then, all of a sudden, I find myself dying of a broken heart. There was a phase when all my friends drank, then when they all took drugs, then when they all got married, and now were all getting divorced before we perish. This all happens, ironically, in rather cheerful places, like here at the Voile Rouge, a super-hip beach in Saint-Tropez where the weathers warm and people dance on the bar; to cool off the trashy sluts you douse them in champagne at $1500 a bottle before you suck it out of their belly buttons. Im surrounded by forced laughter. I want to drown myself in the sea but there are too many jet skis. How have I let such superficiality so dictate my life? People always say that you have to keep up appearances. Personally I say you should assassinate them because its the only way to keep up yourself. 12

IV The saddest person Ive ever met

During the winter in Paris, there are some places that get colder than others. We fill ourselves up with liquor, but its as if a blizzard was blowing through every bar. The ice age has come early. Even crowds make me shiver. I did everything I was supposed to: born into a well-off family, I went to the lyce Montaigne then to the lyce Louis-leGrand, I went to college and met all kinds of intelligent people, I invited them to dinner and some even gave me a job, I married the most beautiful girl I knew. Why is it so cold here? Where did I go wrong? I never wanted anything more than to make you happy. Dont I have the right to be happy too? Why is it that, instead of the simple happiness thats been dangled before me, Ive found nothing but excruciating despair? Im a dead man. I wake up every morning with an intolerable longing to go back to sleep. I dress in black because Im in mourning for myself. Im in mourning for the man I could have been. I traipse around mechanically, rue des Beaux-Artsthe street where Oscar Wilde died, like me. I go to restaurants and eat nothing. The managers are offended that I never order anything. But do you know many corpses that lick their plate clean 13

as they smack their chops? So whenever I drink, its on an empty stomach. Upside: rapid inebriation. Downside: stomach ulcers. Ive ceased to smile. Its more than I can manage. Im dead and buried. I wont have children. The dead do not procreate. Im a corpse that shakes hands in cafs. Im a rather friendly corpse, and very timid. I think I may be the saddest person Ive ever met. In the depths of the Paris winter, when the thermometer drops below freezing, human beings seek out bright, cozy bars to take shelter in at night. There, hidden among the crowd, you can finally allow yourself to shiver.

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V Expiration date

You can be an adult, dark-haired man and cry. All it takes is for you to realize suddenly that love lasts three years. Its the kind of discovery that I wouldnt wish on my worst enemywhich is a figure of speech, because I dont have any. Snobs dont have enemies, which is why they talk shit about everyone: to try to make some. A mosquito lasts a day; a rose, three days. A cat lasts thirteen years; love lasts three. Thats the way it is. First theres a year of passion, then a year of comfortable intimacy, and finally a year of boredom. The first year, you say: If you leave me, Ill KILL myself. The second year, you say: If you leave me, Ill suffer, but Ill eventually get over it. The third year, you say: If you leave me, Im breaking out the champagne. Nobody warns you that love lasts three years. The conspiracy of love is a well-guarded secret. Youre led to believe that its for life when in fact love disappears, chemically, at the 15

end of three years. I read it in a womens magazine: love consists of a rush of dopamine, norepinephrine, prolactin, luliberin, and oxytocin. A tiny molecule, phenethylamine (PEA), triggers feelings of happiness, exaltation, and euphoria. When you fall head over heels for someone, its just your neurons saturated with PEA. As for intimacy, its endorphins (the opium of lovers). Society has deceived you: youve been sold true love, and yet its been scientifically proven that these hormones cease to function after three years. Whats more, the statistics speak for themselves: a relationship lasts on average 317.5 days (I wonder what happens during the last half-day...), and in Paris, two out of three married couples get divorced within three years of getting married. According to the demographic records of the United Nations, census experts have been studying divorce rates in sixty-two countries since 1947. The majority of divorces occur during the fourth year of marriage (meaning that the process was set in motion at the end of the third year). In Finland, in Russia, in Egypt, in South Africa, for hundreds of millions of men and women studied by the UN, who speak different languages, have different jobs, dress differently, handle different money, whisper different prayers, fear different demons, nurture an infinite variety of hopes and dreams... yet theres always a peak in divorces after three years of living together. The banality of divorce is just one more humiliation.

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Three years! Statistics, biochemistry, my own personal experience: loves shelf-life is always the same. Disturbing coincidence. Why three years and not two, or four, or six hundred? Personally, this all confirms the existence of the three stages defined by Stendhal, Barthes, and Barbara Cartland: passionintimacy-boredom, a cycle in which each stage lasts one year a triad as sacred as the Holy Trinity. The first year, you buy the furniture. The second year, you rearrange the furniture. The third year, you argue over who gets to keep the furniture. The song by Lo Ferr sums it up nicely: Avec le temps on naime plus.2 Who are you, to dare to stand up to glands and neurotransmitters that will let you down as soon as your time is up? You can try to make a case for the lyricism of poetrybut faced with the twin forces of science and statistics, love is doomed from the start.

Love fades with time, a well-known French song published in 1970.


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VI Tweaked out

I got home shit-faced. Its fucking miserable to find yourself in this state at my age. Getting wasted gets old when youre 18; at 30 its just pathetic. I popped half a tab of molly so Id have the nerve to hook up with strangers. Otherwise Id be too shy. The number of girls that I havent kissed for fear of getting turned down is incalculable. I think thats what makes me charming: I always think Im not. At The Queen, two cute drunk blonds asked me as they stuffed their tongues into my ears, creating a stereophonic gurgling sound: Your place or ours? After Id made out with them both for a while (and bitten their four breasts), I responded proudly: You go back to yours, and Ill go back to mine. I dont have any condoms and besides, tonight Im celebrating my divorce, Id be too nervous to get it up. Getting off my scooter, I entered my deserted apartment. I felt my stomach clench with despair; comedown from E. What was I thinking? What good is it to spend the night hiding from yourself if its only to end the night alone again in your room? In my jacket pocket I found a bit of coke in an envelope. 18

Snorted it right down to the kraft paper. Thatll soften my misery. A bit of white powder sticks to my nostril. Now Im not tired. The suns come up and France heads off to work. And all the while a man whos outgrown his adolescence doesnt move. Too fucked up to sleep, read, or write, Ill stare at the ceiling and grind my teeth. With my red face and white nose, I look like clown in reverse. I wont be going to work today. Too ashamed of having turned down a threesome the day after my divorce. Fed up with these girls you sleep with but hate to wake up next to. Beside a saucepan of milk boiling over, there are few things on earth as foul as I.

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VII Recipe for surviving heartbreak

Repeat the following three phrases regularly: 1) HAPPINESS DOES NOT EXIST. 2) LOVE IS IMPOSSIBLE. 3) NOTHING MATTERS. Seriouslythis may sound stupid, but this method might have saved my life when I hit bottom. Try it the next time you have a breakdown. I highly recommend it. Im also including a list of songs to listen to, to help you get back on your feet: April come she will by Simon & Garfunkel (20 times), Trouble by Cat Stevens (10 times), Something in the way she moves by James Taylor (10 times), Et si tu nexistais pas by Joe Dassin (5 times), Sixty years on and Border Song by Elton John (40 times), Everybody hurts by REM (5 times), Quelques mots damour by Michel Berger (40 times but dont brag about it), Memory Motel by The Rolling Stones (8.5 times), Living without you by Randy Newman (100 times), Caroline No by The Beach Boys (600 times), the Kreutzer Sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven (6,000 times). Its a great idea for a compilation albumIve already figured out a great slogan: Mixtape for the depressed: 20

Heartbreak and tape decks.

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VIII For those who missed the start

At 30, I still cant look a cute girl in the eyes without blushing. Its rather disconcerting to be this sensitive. Im too jaded to truly fall in love, yet too sensitive to remain indifferent. In short, too weak to stay married. Whats the matter with me? Of course, Id love to just refer you to my last two books, but that wouldnt be very nice of me, given how these contemporary masterpieces were remaindered shortly after their critical success. So lets sum up the previous episodes, shall we? I was an unrepentant viveur, a product of our useless, exorbitant society. I was born September 21st, 1965, twenty years after Auschwitz, on the first day of autumn. I was born into the world on the day the leaves began to fall from the trees, when the days began to shorten. Which explains, perhaps, my disillusioned temperament. I earned a living stringing words together, for newspapers or advertising agencies: the latter having the advantage of paying more for fewer words. I made myself known throwing parties when no one threw parties in Paris anymore. That has nothing to do with words, but its how I made a name for myself, probably because these days people who string words together are seen as less important than people with their photo in the pages of some magazine. 22

I surprised those who knew me when I got married out of love. One day, as I gazed into her big blue eyes, I thought Id glimpsed eternity. Me, always running from party to party, from job to job, all just to avoid the inexorable depression, all of a sudden I could picture myself happy. Anne, my wife, was unreal, a luminous kind of beautiful, it seemed impossible. Way too pretty to be happybut that I didnt realize until later. I would look at her for hours. Sometimes shed realized what I was doing and would yell at me: Stop looking at me, shed say, youre being annoying. But just watching her live became my favorite pastime. Guys like me, who thought themselves ugly growing up, are generally so surprised when they manage to court a pretty girl that they ask for them in marriage a tad quick. What happened next isnt particularly original: lets just say, to keep it brief, that we moved into an apartment too small for so great a love. All of a sudden, we were going out too often, and were swept away by a rather treacherous whirlwind. People would say: Those two go out often, dont they. They do, poor things. Things must be going so badly for them! And they werent entirely wrong, even if they were quite pleased to finally have a pretty girl at their sleazy parties for once.

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And thats the way it goesas soon as youre the least bit happy, life sees to it that youre brought back down to earth. We were unfaithful, one right after the other. We broke up like we got married: without knowing why. Marriage is a huge scheme, an infernal fraud, an organized deception in which weve perished like two children. Why? How? Its quite simple. A young man asks the woman he loves to marry him. Hes scared shitless, its cute, he blushes, he sweats, he stutters, and she, her eyes light up, she laughs nervously, makes him repeat the question. As soon as shes said yes, suddenly an unending list of obligations falls on top of them, family dinners and lunches, seating arrangements, dress fitting, reprimanding, its forbidden to burp or fart around the in-laws, stand up straight, smile, smile, its an unending nightmare and its only the beginning: next, youll see, everything is arranged to ensure they detest one another.

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IX Storm clouds over Copacabana

Fairy tales exist only in fairy tales. The truth is far more disappointing. The truth is always more disappointing, thats why everybody lies. The truth is the photo of another woman accidentally discovered in my travel bag in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), on New Years Eve. The truth is that love begins a soppy romance and ends up sopping down the drain. Anne was looking for her hairbrush and wound up disheveled by a Polaroid of a woman accompanied by several love letters that werent from her. At the Rio airport, Anne dumped me. She wanted to go back to Paris without me. I wasnt in a position to argue. She was sobbing in disbelief. The shock of someone who in twenty seconds has lost everything. She was an adorable little girl who in a single moment has discovered that life is dreadful and that her marriage was falling apart. She was unaware of everything around her, the airport, the line, the notice board, everything had disappeared, except me, her tormentor. Its unbelievable how much I regret now not having taken her in my arms. But Id have been so ashamed should my tears not cease to flow, and

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everyone was looking at me. Its always rather embarrassing to be a dick in public. Instead of asking for her forgiveness, I said: Hurry up, youre going to miss your plane. Just thinking about it now, my upper lip starts to tremble once again. Her face was imploring, sad, glazed over, hateful, defeated, anxious, disappointed, innocent, proud, scornful, and all the while her eyes looked so blue. Ill never forget the look on her face as she discovered how it feels to hurt. Ill have to learn how to live with all this guilt on my conscience. People pity those who suffer but not those who do wrong. Just deal with it like a man, bro. Youre the one who didnt keep your promises. Remember the end of Adolphe: The great question in life is the suffering we cause, and the most ingenious metaphysics doesnt justify the man who has broken the heart that loved him. Later, I dragged myself around Copacabana, alone, my heart broken; I drank, twenty caipirinhas, I felt like shit, unfair and monstrous. I was like some kind of cold fish. For the first time in decades, it rained in Rio de Janeiro on New Years Eve. Divine punishment. Knelt down on the sand, the deafening drumming of the samba in my ears, I too began to rain. There are days when falling asleep would be a luxury. To fall asleep, just to wake up from this nightmare. To imagine that none of this had ever happened. To press Command-Z on your life. Because its yourself you really ruin, when you make someone else suffer.

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Yes, its true, I remember quite well the day I stopped sleeping. Millions of Brazilians dressed in white, in the rain, on the beach. Huge fireworks before the Mridien. We were throwing white flowers into the waves as we prayed for our wishes to come true. I tossed a bouquet into a wave, wishing with all my heart that everything would just work out. I dont know what happened: my flowers must have been ugly, or the gods absent. In any case, my wish was never granted.

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X Palais de Justice, Paris

Divorce is not something to be taken lightly. What kind of filth have we become to think that its not a serious act? Anne believed in me. She promised me her love, with God (and, more importantly, the French Republic) as her witness. I signed a pact promising to always take care of her and to raise our children. And I screwed her over. Shes the one who filed for divorce: a kind of poetic justice, given that Im the one who asked for her hand in marriage. Well not bear children and thank God for their sake. Im a traitor and a coward, which wouldnt make for a very good family man. I plead guiltyif only to stop feeling riddled with guilt. Why does no one come to a divorce? At my marriage, I was surrounded by all my friends. But the day of my divorce, I am unbelievably alone. No witnesses, no bridesmaids, no family, no wasted friends to pat me on the back. Id have preferred that someone throw something at me, at least rice, I dont know, rotten tomatoes for example. This sort of projectile is commonplace as you leave the Palais de Justice, after all. Where are all the friends that, happy to stuff themselves with hors d'oeuvres at my reception, now avoid me, when it should be the other way

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around: shouldnt you get married alone, and divorce with the support of all your friends? Ive heard that certain Anglican ministers see to it that divorce ceremonies are amicable occasions, with a blessing of the divorced couple and a solemn renouncement of the marriage vows. Father, I give you this ring as a sign that my marriage is over. I think they may be on to something. The Pope should look into this idea: it would bring people to church, and plus, reselling the wedding bands would bring in more money than the quest for the holy grail, wouldnt it? Its definitely worth looking into, I think to myself as the judge attempts to reconcile us. He asks me and Anne if were sure we wanted to get divorced. He talks to us like were four-year olds. I want to tell him that no, actually, we came here to play tennis. Then I think about it and realize he saw right through us: we are four-year olds. Divorce is a mental abortion. In place of the good war that we deserved, this kind of disaster (a lot like losing your mother or father, finding yourself paralyzed after a car crash, or losing your house after getting fired because your boss is a dick) is the only thing teaching us how to be men. ...What if adultery has made me an adult? We pretend not to care about divorce, but the time will come when you realize youve gone from Sleeping Beauty to We will never grow old together. Farewell fond memories, we

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must abandon the adorable nicknames weve given one another, burn the photos from our honeymoon, turn off the radio when you hear that song we used to hum together. Certain phrases leave you beside yourself: What should I wear?, What should we do tonight?, because they bring back bad memories. Youll find yourself crying inexplicably every time you witness a couple reunited at the airport. And even the Song of Songs becomes unbearable: Your cheeks are beautiful like a morning dove, your neck like a string of jewels... You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. The last time we see each other, itll be in the presence of a smiling lawyer who will be, just to top it all off, 8 months pregnant. Well kiss one another on the cheek like old friends. Well go out for coffee together as if the world hadnt just fallen apart on us. Around us, people will go on living. Well chat playfully then, when we leave, as if its no big deal, thatll be it. See you later will be the final lie.

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XI The 30-year old man

Around here, you never ask yourself any questions before the age of thirty, at which point, of course, its too late to answer them. Heres how it goes: youre 20, youre fucking around, and when you wake up youre 30. Its over: never again will your age begin with a two. You should come to terms now with the fact that youre ten years older than you were ten years ago, and ten pounds heavier than you were last year. How many years do you have left? 10? 20? 30? The average life expectancy grants you 42 more if youre a man, 50 if youre a woman. But that doesnt take into account the illnesses, your hair falling out, turning senile, the spots on your hands. No one asks themselves these questions: Have we gotten enough out of life? Should we have lived differently? Are we with the right person, in the right place? Whats the world offering us? From life until death, we live our lives on autopilot, and it takes a kind of superhuman courage to deviate from that course. At 20, I thought I knew everything. At 30, I realized I knew nothing. I had just spent ten years learning everything I needed to know, only to have to unlearn it.

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It was all too good to be true. You should always be suspicious of perfect couples: they get too much pleasure out of being beautiful, they force themselves to smile, as if modeling in an ad for a new film in the Cannes Film Festival. The problem with getting married out of love is that it sets the bar too high. The only surprising thing that could happen to a married couple in love would be a catastrophe. What else? Lifes over. Youre already in paradise before youve even lived. Youll live until the end of your days in the same perfect film, with the same perfect cast. Its unbearable. When you have everything too soon, you end up hoping for a disaster, just to be liberated. A catastrophe to find relief. Ive spent a long time confessing that I only got married for the sake of others, that marriage isnt something you do for yourself. You get married to piss off your friends or to please your parents, often both, sometimes the other way around. These days, nine out of ten preppy-ass marriages are little more than an obligatory rite of passage, a social event allowing your parents to send out invitations. Sometimes, your prospective inlaws may check to see that their future son-in-law is listed in the Whos Who, have the engagement ring weighed to calculate the carats and insist on selling the photos to the Sunday paper. But thats a worst-case scenario. You get married for the same reasons you graduate from college or get your drivers license: to fit into the same mold, to

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be normal, normal, NORMAL, at any cost. If you cant be better than everyone else, its best to be like everyone else, for fear of ending up inferior. And its the perfect way to sabotage true love. And yet middle-class moralists are not the only ones endorsing marriage: its the focus of a massive act of collective brainwashing: advertisers, film-makers, journalists, and even novelists, all endeavoring to convince every little girl that what she really wants is a big white dress and a ring on her finger, when she otherwise would never have thought twice about it. True Love, yeswith its ups and its down, of course they would have dreamed of love, otherwise whats the point of living? But Marriage, the institution-that-turns-love-to-shit, the ball and chain of endless love and lifelong commitment (Maupassant): never. In an ideal world, twenty year-old girls would never be attracted to such an artificial concept. They would long for sincerity, for passion, for unconditional lovenot some guy in a rented tuxedo. They would wait for the Man who could offer her a lifetime of surprises, not the Man who could buy her Ikea furniture. They would let naturewhich is to say desiretake its course. Unfortunately, their frustrated mothers wish them to know the unhappiness they have known, and sadly the daughters themselves have spent their days watching endless soap operas. And so they wait for their Prince Charming, a pathetic marketing concept destined to turn lively girls into bitter, disil-

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lusioned old women, when all it would take is a single imperfect man to make them happy. Of course, the aristocracy will tell you that things are different nowadays, the times have changed, but take the word of a frustrated victim: never has the intimidation been more aggressive than in our era of illusory freedom. Every day, conjugal totalitarianism continues to perpetuate the same misery, generation after generation. This bullshit is propagated in the name of spurious and outdated principles, in order to pass on time after time a heritage of pain and hypocrisy. Ruining lives remains the favorite pastime of venerable old French families, and its a game about which they know a thing or two. Theyve had practice. Yes, even today you can write: Families, I hate you. I hate you all the more because I didnt rebel until it was much too late. Deep down, I was fine with it in a sense. I was a common redneck, descended from country bums from the Barn, proud as a peacock to be marrying Anne, my alabaster aristocrat. I was irresponsible, smug, naive, stupid. And Im paying for it now. I deserve this mess. I was like everyone else, like you reading this now, convinced I was the exception to the rule. Of course I was immune to the inevitable unhappiness, we would pass between the cracks unscathed. Failure was something that happened to others. Then one day, the love was gone and I woke up with a start. Until that day, Id been forcing my-

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self to play the happily married man. But I had been lying to myself for too long to not begin one day to lie to someone else.

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XII Lost Illusions

Our generation is too superficial for marriage. People get married like they go to MacDonalds. Then they change the channel. How are you supposed to live your entire life with the same person in the age of widespread channel surfing? In a time when celebrities, politicians, fashions, gender, and religions have never been so interchangeable? Why would love be any exception to our cultural schizophrenia? And where does this bizarre obsession come from, anywaydevoting oneself to being happy at all costs with a single person? Among 558 types of human society studied by anthropologists, only 24% are monogamous. The majority of animal species are polygamous. As for extraterrestrials, dont even get me started: the Galactic Charter has long forbidden monogamy on all planets of type B#871. Marriage is caviar at every meal: a stomachache from what you adore, until youre nauseous. Go on, youll have a bit more, wont you? Whats that? Youve had enough? Why, you found it delicious not long ago, whats the matter with you? Come on, you naughty boy!

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The sheer force of love, its unbelievable power, should honestly terrify western society, in that it has succeeded in creating this system designed to make you disgusted by what you love. An American researcher recently demonstrated that infidelity has an evolutionary basis. Infidelity, according to this renowned researcher, is a genetically programmedmmed strategy to promote the survival of the species. I can imagine the scene playing out: My love, I didnt cheat on you for pleasure: it was for the survival of the species, would you believe it! You might not give a damn about it, but somebody has to worry about the survival of the species! If you think Im amused!... Im never satisfied: when Im attracted to a girl, I want to fall in love with her; once Im in love with her, I want to kiss her; once Ive kissed her, I want to sleep with her; once Ive slept with her, I want to move in with her; once I move in with her, I want to marry her; once Ive married her, I meet another girl Im attracted to. Man is a perpetually unsatisfied animal, hesitating between a variety of frustrations. If women really wanted to fuck with men, they would continually turn them down, leaving the men to spend their lives chasing after them. When youre in love, the only question left is: at what point do you begin to lie? Are you still just as happy to come home, only to find the same person waiting for you? When you tell her I love you, do you really mean it? There will surelyits inevi-

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tablebe a moment when you realize that youre faking it. Or else your I love you wont feel the same. Personally, what did me in was shaving. I used to shave every day so as not to scratch Anne when Id kiss her good night. And then, one nightshe was already asleep (Id been out late with some friends, in the pathetic way men are wont to do when theyre married)and then, I didnt shave. I thought it was no big deal, she was asleep, she wouldnt even notice. Yet in fact it represented the end of our love. Anyone whos gotten divorced has read Dan Francks La Sparation. Ill never forget how moved I felt from the first scene: the man realizes that his wife no longer loves him when he takes her hand and she pulls away. He tries to take her hand again, but again she pulls away. I said to myself, what a bitch! How could she be so cruel? Its not so hard, after all, to hold your husbands hand, fuck! Until, one day, the same thing happened to me. I found myself pushing back Annes hand again and again. She would tenderly reach for my hand or my arm, or else shed place her hand on my thigh, and you know what I saw? A flabby, white hand, with the consistency of a latex glove. I shuddered with disgust. It was as if she had stuck an octopus onto my leg. I felt riddled with guilt, my God, how did things turn out like this? I had become the bitch in Dan Francks novel! She wouldnt stop twisting her fingers around my hand. I tried to contain myself, but I couldnt hold back a tiny grimace at the feeling of her pale flesh. Id get up suddenly, saying I had

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to pee, but in reality I just had to get away from that hand. But then Id have second thoughts, overcome with guilt, and Id gaze at that hand that I had once loved. That hand that I had asked for in marriage before God. The hand that, three years ago, Id have given anything to hold. Suddenly I felt nothing but hatred for myself, pity for her, indifference, then an insufferable longing to just burst out and cry. And I pulled that limp octopus to my heart and kissed it with bitter sadness. You know youve fallen out of love when you realize you cant turn back. And thats how it happens: its water under the bridge; youve already broken up, without even knowing it.

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XIII Flirting with disaster

I ran into a friend tonight, while I was outI dont remember who, or when, and much less where. What are you sulking about?, he asked me. I just remember having responded: Because love lasts three years. Apparently, that did the trick: the guy wandered off. Now I say it all the time, it works great. If ever Im looking down and someone asks me why, I automatically respond: Because love lasts three years. I think it sounds dope. In factI think it would even make a good title for a book. Love lasts three years. Even if youve been married 40 years, deep down you know that its true. You know well the sacrifice youve made; the moment you decided to give up everything. The fateful day you stopped being afraid. Its not easy to hear that love lasts three years. Its like a magic trick you fuck up, or being awoken by your alarm in the middle of an erotic dream. But we have to shatter the illusion of eternal lovethe cornerstone of modern civilization, the fount of human misery.

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After three years together, a couple should break up, kill themselves, or have kidsthree ways to guarantee its end. People always say that after a while, passion becomes something else, more enduring and beautiful. That this something else is Love with a capital L, a less exciting feeling, of course, but also more mature. Just to be clear: I dont give a fuck about this something else, and if thats what Love is, Im fine leaving it to the boring, the discouraged, the mature, holed up in their sentimental comfort. My love has a lowercase l but at least it soars; it may not last long but it least you can feel when it fades. Their something else that theyd like to off as love seems invented just to appease them, as they reassure themselves that theres no better option. They remind me of people who scratch the paint off expensive cars because they cant afford one themselves. An apocalyptic end to the evening. Feel like ending it with a bullet in my chest. Around 5 in the morning I call Adeline H, to give you an idea what a shit show I was. It was her home phone. She answers: Hello? Hello? Who is this? Her voice sounds rough. I woke her up. Why didnt she just let the answering machine get it? I dont know what to say to her. Um, sorry to wake you up... I just wanted to say hey... WHO IS THIS? ARE YOU FUCKING NUTS? I hang up. Seated, motionless, my head in my hands, I hesitate between a bottle of Valium and just hanging myself. And why not both? I dont have any rope, but a few

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Paul Smith ties strung together should do the trick. English designers always use durable materials. I stick a Post-It on the TV: ANY MAN ALIVE PAST 30 IS A DUMBASS. Good thing I picked out an apartment with exposed piping. Now just to stand up on the chair, like this, then to toss back the glass of Coke mixed with ground-up muscle relaxants. Then you slide your head into the noose, and when at last you fall asleeplogically, its to never again wake up.

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XIV Provisional Resurrection

But you do wake up. You open one eye, then the other, you have a double headacheone because of the hangover, but another from the lump on your forehead thats swelling rapidly. Its past noon, and you feel like an idiot with this tangle of ties wrapped around your neck, sprawled out at the foot of an overturned chair and the cleaning lady standing above you. Hey, Carmelita... Was I... Was I asleep long? You move please sir, need to vaccum, please sir? And then you find the Post-It you left on the TV: ANY MAN ALIVE PAST 30 IS A DUMBASS. Im astounded by my own psychic capabilities. Poor thing. You want all the girls to look at you, and now youre all depressed because of a silly divorce. Should have thought about that earlier. Now I have nothing but my misery to keep me company. What a waste of timetrying to kill yourself, when youre already dead. Suicidal people are truly unbearable. Anne gave me my freedom, and now look at meresenting her for it. I resent her for leaving me to face myself alone. I resent her for letting me start all over again. I resent her for making me face up to my responsibilities. I resent her for making me write this paragraph. I used to suffer because I felt trapped, and now I hate my 43

life because Im free. So this is what its like to be an adult, then: to build sand castles only to knock them down, and repeat the operation, again and again, when in fact you know quite well the ocean would wash them away anyways? My eyelids are heavy as nightfall. Ive grown old this year. At what point do you admit that youre old? When it takes three days for you to get over a hangover. When you cant manage even to kill yourself. When you get wayyy too excited upon meeting younger people. Their enthusiasm pisses you off; their youthful illusions wear you out. Youre old when the night before, you said to a girl born in 1976: Oh, 76? I remember, that was the year of the heat wave. With no nails left to bite, I decide to go out for a bite to eat.

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XV The Wailing Wall (Continued)

I know all too well that love is impossible, and yet Im sure in a few years Ill be proud to have once believed in it. Nobody could ever hold that against Anne and me: we believed in love, to the bottom of our hearts. We hurtled ourselves, heads lowered, into the reinforced concrete muleta dangled before us. Dont you laughnobody makes fun of Don Quijote, and he tilted at windmills like a crazy old man. For a long time, my only goal in life was to self-destruct. Then, one day, I wanted to be happy. Its awful, Im ashamed to admit it, please forgive me: I once had this plebeian desire to be happy. What Ive since learned is that this is the surest path to self-destruction. Evidently Im a consistent person at heart, without even intending to be. I dont know why I agreed to this dinner at Jean-Georges place. Im still not hungry. Ive always been proud to say that I wait until Im hungry to eat. It has a certain elegance: to eat when youre hungry, to drink when youre thirsty, to fuck when youre horny. But fine, Im not going to wait until I starve to death to see my friends. Surely Jean-Georges had invited the same group of sublime malades that I consider my best friends.

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Nobody talks about their problems because they know the others have just as many. You change the subject to outwit misery. I was wrong. Jean-Georges is alone. He wants to talk. He grabs me by the scruff of the neck and shakes me like a parking meter that swallows your money then refuses to print your receipt. Last night, I asked why you were sulking around everywhere and you told me love lasts three years. Seriously! You think Im fucking around or what? You think youre a character in one of your books? I can tell you your divorce has got nothing to do with that! So are you going to cut the bullshit and fucking talk to me or not? Otherwise what good am I? I lower my gaze to hide the fact that my eyes are welling up with tears. I pretend to have a cold so I can sniffle. I mutter timidly: Uh... no, seriously, I dont know what youre talking about... Stop it. Who is it? Do I know her? And then, my voice low, my heart heavy, my foot in my mouth, I confess at last: Her names Alice.

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XVI Would you like to be my harem?

So there you have it: Marc and Alice got married three years ago. The problem isthey didnt get married to each other. Marc married Anne, and Alice married Antoine. Thats just the way it is: life sees to it that everything is complicatedor maybe we seek out complications ourselves? It was the photo of Alice that Anne discovered in Rio. A ravishing Polaroid of Alice in a bikini on a beach in Italy, near Rome. In Fregene, to be precise. Alice and I had an extramarital affair. Thats how the most beautiful romantic passions are referred to these days. People die of love every day for extramarital affairs. Theyre often women you see in the street. They have a way of blending in, because theyre hiding something; but from time to time youll see them crying senselessly while watching some dreadful soap opera, or smiling in a magnificent kind of way in the metro and thenthen youll know what I mean. Oftentimes the situation is lopsided: a single woman loves a married man, he doesnt want to leave his wife, its awful, contemptible, uninspired. In our case, Alice and I were both married when we met. The 47

equilibrium was practically perfect. But I was the first to crack: I got divorced, while Alice had no intention of doing so. Why would she leave her husband for a lunatic who cries from the rooftops that love lasts three years? I should have said to her that I didnt really believe itbut Id be lying. Now, Im sick of lying. Im sick of leading this double life. Polygamy is perfectly legal in France, provided youre an adept liar. Having multiple lovers isnt exactly rocket science. All it takes is a little imagination, and a lot of organization. I know plenty of guys in France who have had a harem of women, in the middle of 1995. Each night they choose which one theyll call, and whats worst is that this chosen one just comes running. This requires that you be both diplomat and hypocritewhich amounts more or less to the same thing. But Im fed up of this. I cant bear it anymore. Im already schizophrenic in my professional life, and I refuse to be so in my personal life. I think it would be wonderful to only have to do one thing at a time, for once. The outcome: alone once again. Love is a magnificent catastrophe: to know that youre charging towards a brick wall, and accelerate nonetheless; to run to your downfall with a smile on your face; to wait inquisitively for the moment when everything goes to shit. Love is the only disappointment prescribed in advance, the only tragedy you can see coming and yet each time come back for more. I

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said all that to Alice before I got on my knees and begged her to run off with me. In vain.

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XVII Dilemmas

One day, misfortune entered into my life and, the dumbass that I am, I havent managed to rid myself of it. The strongest kind of love is unrequited. Id have preferred to never have realized this, but its the truth: nothing could be worse than to love someone who doesnt love you backand at the same time its the most beautiful thing thats ever happened to me. To love someone who loves you back is just narcissism. But to love someone who doesnt love you backnow thats true love. I was waiting for some kind of test, an experience, a profound realization that would be able to transform me: unfortunately, I got all that I wanted and more. I love a girl who doesnt love me, and I no longer love the one that does. Women are for me a means to detest myself.
Fan-Chiang asked: What is love? The master says: To value the effort above the reward may be called love. (Confucius)

Thanks, you swindling Asian, but personally I wouldnt mind a bit of reward as well. In the meantime, Ive been deserted. Ever since Alice found out my wife left me, shes become

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scared, and beat a hasty retreat. No more phone calls, no more voicemails left on answering machine 3672, no more hotel room numbers on the Bi-Bop answering machine3. Im like a clingy mistress waiting for her married lover to remember her tight little ass. Having always preferred broad, open avenues, suddenly I find myself haunting the backstreets. A single question torments me incessantly and sums up my entire existence: Which is worse: to make love without loving, or to love without making love? I feel like Tintins dog Snowy in the midst of an existential crisis, with a little angel on one shoulder telling him to do good, and a little demon on the other ordering him to do bad. Me, Ive got a cherub wanting me to get back with my wife, and a devil insisting that I sleep with Alice. My head is a never-ending talk show between the two in front of a live studio audience (me). Id have preferred that the devil order me to fuck my wife.

Bi-Bop and the 3672 Memophone were inventions of France Telecom destined exclusively to promote adultery, so as to excuse themselves for all the snitches enabled by the redial button, and the number of drug deals made possible by their pagers.

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XVIII Highs and lows

Life is a sitcom: a series of scenes that unfold always in the same settings, with more or less the same characters, forever awaiting the next episode with the same vaguely exhausted impatience. When Alice came into my life it was somewhat surprising, kind of like if someone from the cast of Sex in the City turned up on Friends. To describe Alice, Ill get straight to the point: shes an ostrich. Like this flightless bird, shes tall, wild, and hides at the first sign of danger. Her never-ending slender legs (two in number) support a sensual body bearing stuck-up fruits (of the same number). Long, black hair runs across her face, which is as intense as it is gentle. Her body seems to have been designed with the express purpose of unsettling the lives of happily married men. Thats about the only thing that differentiates her from an ostrich (aside from the fact that she doesnt lay twopound eggs). I remember the first time we met, at my grandmothers funeral. Id come without my wife, who understandably found such family gatherings boringhaving to deal with your own family is bad enough without having to worry about your hus52

bands. Besides, I was the one who insisted that, wherever she was now, my grandmother was hardly likely to realize if she didnt come. I dont know, I must have had a feeling that something big was about to happen. Everyone in the church was looking at my grandfather to see if he was crying. PLEASE GOD, DONT LET HIM CRY, I prayed. But the priest had a secret weapon: he invoked grandma and grandpas fifty years of marriage. My grandfathers eyeand he was a retired colonel, no lessbegan to well up with tears. As soon as the first tear slid down his cheek, it was as if the floodgates had opened; the entire family began to sob, staring in stunned silence at the coffin. It seemed impossible that grandma could be inside. It wasnt until she was dead that I realized how much I appreciated her. Jesus Christwhen I wasnt walking out on those I loved, they were dropping dead. I began to sob hysterically, for Im a rather sensitive guy. When I was able to see through the tears, I noticed this cute brunette observing me. Alice had seen me cry. I dont know if it was the emotion, or the strangeness of the situation, but I suddenly felt intensely attracted to this mysterious apparition wearing a tight black sweater. Later on, Alice admitted that she had found me very handsome: lets chalk up that error of judgment to her overactive maternal instinct. All that mattered was that my attraction to her was reciprocatedshe wanted to console me, that much was clear. This incident taught me that the best thing to do at a funeral is to fall in love.

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She was the friend of a cousin. She introduced me to her husband, Antoine, a nice guymaybe too nice. As she was kissing my tear-streaked cheeks, she realized that Id realized that shed noticed that Id noticed that she was looking at me the way I was looking at her. Ill always remember the first thing I said to her: Your face has excellent bone structure. I had the opportunity to study it in detail. She was a young woman of 27, beautiful yet organic. The quivering of her eyelashes. A sulky laugh that makes your heart leap in your ribcage that all of a sudden feels too small. She was a marvel of sideways glances, her windswept hair, the curvature of the small of her back, the glistening of her magnificent teeth. She was Claudia Cardinale in The Leopard. Betty Page stretched out to 58. She was tenderly wild, serenely flirtatious, shamelessly reticent. A friend, an enemy. How had I never met her before? What was the point of knowing so many people if I didnt know her? It was cold in the churchyard. You know where this is going: yes, her nipples were getting hard beneath her tight black sweater. Her breasts were erect in unisonwhat symmetry! The purity of her expression belied the sensuality of her body. Precisely my type: there are few things I enjoy more than the contradiction between the face of an angel and the body of a whore. I have a thing for dichotomies.

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At this moment I realized Id do anything to be part of her life, her mind, her bed, plus whatever else was on the table. Not just an ostrich, she was a lightning rod, inciting electrifying infatuation at first sight. Have you been to the Basque country? I asked her. No, but Ive heard its pretty. Not pretty, gorgeous. What a shame were both married, otherwise we could run away and start a family on a farm out there. Would we have sheep? Of course wed have sheep. And ducks for foie gras, cows for milk, chickens for eggs, a cock for the chickens, an old short-sighted elephant, a dozen giraffes and a flock of ostriches like you. Im not an ostrich, Im a lightning rod. Well look at you! So if you can read my thoughts, what should we do now? After she left, I wandered, happy and heedless, through the streets of Guthary, the town where Paul-Jean Toulet was born, and where I had spent my idyllic childhood. I strolled about, carefree and animated, although I usually hate to go on walks (nobody seemed to noticepeople always do weird things after a funeral), I meandered along the shoreline, alive to every rock, every wave, every grain of sand. I felt my soul brimming over. Heaven itself belonged to me. The Basque coast brought me

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more luck than the beaches of Rio. I smiled up at the listless clouds in the sky and grandmother who held nothing against me.

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XIX Flee happiness lest it run away

At some point you have to decide: either you live with someone or you desire them. You cant desire what you already haveit goes against nature. Which is why even a perfect marriage can be torn apart by any passing stranger. Even if youve married the most beautiful girl you can imagine, at any point a stranger could walk into your life unprovoked and hit you like a surprise overdose of aphrodisiacs. And Alice wasnt just any strangershe was wearing a tight black sweater. A tight black sweater can forever alter the course of two lives. All my problems are the result of my childlike fascination with anything new, my morbid desire to yield to the thousands of unbelievable possibilities that the future has to offer. Its ridiculous the extent to which what I dont have excites me more than what I do. But am I really any different from everyone else? Wouldnt you prefer to read a book that you havent read before, see a play that you dont already know by heart, vote for any old presidential candidate as long as hes a new face? My most cherished memories with Anne date from before our marriage. Marriage should be criminalized: its a murderer of mystery. You meet this enchanting creature, you marry her and all of a sudden the enchanting creature has vanished: shes 57

turned into your wife. YOUR wife! What a shame, how shes fallen from grace! In fact men should spend their whole lives chasing after someone they know theyll never have. (For this, as it turned out, Alice was ideal.) The problem with love, as I see it, is this: in order to be happy you need to have security, whereas to be in love you need insecurity. Happiness requires confidence whereas love requires doubt and anxiety. Thus, in summary: marriage was conceived to ensure mutual happiness but not enduring love. And to fall in love is not the best way to find happiness; if it were, wed all know by now, wouldnt we. Im not sure if Im making myself clear, but it makes perfect sense to me: marriage mixes together things that werent meant to go together. When I got back to Paris, I could feel that something had changed. Anne had been knocked off her pedestal. We made love half-heartedly. My life was falling apart. Are you familiar with the ninth circle of hell? I had just moved into the flat below. Theres so such thing as happiness in love. Theres no such thing as happiness in love. THERES NO SUCH THING AS HAPPINESS IN LOVE.

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How many times must you repeat it before you get it through your head, dumbass?

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XX Everything goes to shit

When a pretty girl looks at you the way Alice had looked at me, there are two possibilities: either shes a tease and youre in trouble; or else shes not a tease and youre really in trouble. There I was, happy as a clam in my comfortable, hermetically-sealed shell, when all of a sudden Alice comes along and plucks me up, pries open my mouth and squirts me with lemon juice. Dear God, I repeated to myself continuously, May this girl be in love with her husband, because if not, Im in deep shit! I didnt contact Alice. I was hoping my feelings would fade over time. I was right: my feelings did fade over time, only not the ones I intended. It was Anne who suffered the consequences, much to my despair. Theres so much sadness in the world, and yet little can compare to that which comes over a woman who can feel the love you once had for her fading away, ever so slowly, not from one day to the next, no, but inexorably, like sand through an hourglass. A woman needs a mans admiration in order to blossom, at least thats the way I see things. A flower needs sunlight. Anne was wilting before my absent gaze. 60

What could I do about it? Marriage, time, Alice, the world, the movement of the planets, tight black sweaters, the Maastricht treaty, everything seemed to be conspiring against our love. I was leaving my wife, and yet I felt it was to myself I was saying goodbye. The hardest part wouldnt be to leave Anne but to abandon the beauty of our story. I felt like every person who has had to abandon an impossibly ambitious project: simultaneously disappointed and relieved.

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XXI Question marks

When I run into a friend on the street, more and more often it goes like this: Hey, whats up? Hows life? Shit. And you? Shit. Yeah. Well, see you. Or a friend will tell me a joke: Whats the difference between love and herpes? ... Come on... Think about it... Cant you guess? ... Its easy, herpes lasts your whole life. I dont laugh. I dont see whats so funny about that. I must have lost my sense of humor somewhere along the way. Its rather exasperating to realize that you ask yourself the same questions as everyone else. Its a lesson in humility. Am I right to leave someone whos in love with me? Am I a piece of shit? What is the meaning of death? Am I going to make the same stupid mistakes as my parents? 62

Can you really be happy, and if so, at what time? Is it possible to fall in love without it ending in blood, sperm, and tears? Couldnt I earn WAY MORE while working WAY LESS? What kind of sunglasses should you wear in Formentera? After several weeks of agonizingly wrestling with my conscience, I arrived at the following conclusion: if your wife is starting to become a friend, its time to ask a friend to become your wife.

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XXII Reunion

The second time I saw Alice was at some birthday party not worth describing. Essentially, one of Annes friends had just grown a year older and thought it necessary to celebrate the event. When I recognized Alices supple silhouette (her fragile yet elastic skin), I was in the middle of pouring a glass of champagne for Anne. I kept filling the glass a little past the rim, soaking the tablecloth. Alice was toasting with her husband. I felt the blood rush to my face. I knocked back my whiskey. I had to watch my feet to keep myself from stumbling, which allowed me to hide my flushed face with my hair. Abandoning my wife, I rushed into the bathroom to check my hair, check my shave, take off my glasses, brush the dandruff off my shoulders, pluck the stray hair peeking out of my left nostril. What do I do now? Should I ignore Alice? To hit on attractive women, you mustnt talk to them directly, you have to pretend as if they dont exist. But what if she left? The thought of never seeing her again was already unbearable. So I had to talk to her, without actually talking to her. I went back into the living room, wandering past her while pretending not to see her. Marc! Not even going to say hello? Oh! Alice! What a surprise! So sorry, I didnt see you there! Its so... good... to see you... again... 64

You too! Howve you been? She was fittingly polite, indifferent, nightmarish, constantly glancing over my shoulder. You remember Antoine, my husband? Icy handshake. Arent you going to introduce us to your wife? Uh... I think shes in the kitchen putting candles on the birthday cake... No sooner had I finished my sentence than the lights went out, the drone of Happy Birthday began, and Alice vanished into the adversity of the crowd. I watched as she took Antoines hand and they drifted away as if on a moving walkway, and all the while the birthday girl goes on laughing about her age, to cheers from her girlfriends of roughly the same age. Most of you reading this have surely seen on TV what an imploding building looks like: you know, when they bring down an entire apartment building with explosives. After a short countdown, you watch the building wobble and then collapse into itself in a cloud of dust and gravel. Thats exactly what my heart felt like. Alice and Antoine were heading for the door. I had to do something. I can see the whole thing unfolding in slow motion as if it were yesterday. I followed them into the coatroom. There, as Antoine was rummaging through the cluttered coat

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hangers, Alice turned her dark, brimming eyes towards me and I whispered: I dont believe it, Alice, it cant be you... Didnt you feel anything between us last month in Guthary? What about our ostrich farm? Her face softened. She looked down and, speaking softlyso softly I wondered if I had only dreamt itshe whispered these two words as she discreetly brushed her hand against mine, before she disappeared with her husband: Im scared... My fate had been sealed. Anne kept asking me, Who the hell was that? but the building was swiftly rising from the cloud of dust. The video of its implosion was rewinding. Brass bands were celebrating its inauguration. It was July 14th, with fireworks, and Chinese lanterns! The mayor of Parly 2 gives a speech! The whole thing is broadcast live on France 3! The crowd is suicidally overjoyed! Bang! Bang! The citizens are dying of jubilation! Its a mass suicide! A Jonestown holiday! A Solar Temple rally! People go out guffawing in ecstasy! Its madness, absolute fucking madness! The most beautiful parties are those that take place in your head.

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XXIII To leave

Im fascinated by the intense tension that can build between a man and a woman who scarcely know each other its electric, tremulous, palpablewithout any particular reason, just like that, simply because theyre attracted to one another and will go to such great lengths to hide that fact. They dont need to speak. Its a game of glances, of body language. Its like a riddle, the most important brain-teaser of your life. The uneducated call this eroticism, when in fact its nothing less than pornography, by which I mean sincerity. The entire world could collapse into itself, but youd still have eyes only for these other two eyes. Deep down, in this moment, you finally know. You know that you could leave immediately with this person with whom youve scarcely exchanged three sentences. To leave: the most beautiful phrase in the English language. And you know youre ready to use it. Lets leave. We have to leave. One day, well take a train and just leave (Blondin). Your bags are packed, and you know that the past is no more than a muddled heap behind you that you must try to forget, because youre only beginning to be reborn. You know that whats happening is very serious, but do nothing to slow the pace. You know that theres no way out. You know that youre about to 67

hurt someone you love, that youd prefer to spare them the pain, that you should reason with them, take your time, think things through, but To leave, Leave! is too strong to resist. To start over. To go back to square one. Its as if your entire life had been spent underwater, a child holding his breath. The future is the bare shoulder of an unknown woman. Life has offered you a second chance; Destiny is reshuffling her cards. Some may think that this attraction is just superficial, and yet theres nothing more profound; youre ready to do anything; youll accept every flaw; youll forgive every imperfection; youll even seek them out, with amazement. We are only ever attracted by shortcomings. Alice was upset, Id made her scared! Scared! And yet between the two of us, she was certainly the less terrified one. Nonetheless, Id never been so ecstatic to scare the shit out of someone. I didnt yet know that Id come to regret it.

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XXIV The beauty of beginnings

During one of our secret hookups, after having made love three times in a row while crying out in pleasure at the hotel Henri-IV (place Dauphine), I took Alice out to the Caf Beaubourg. Im not sure why, as I detest that atrocious place, like all designer cafs. The designer caf was invented by the Parisians to gather up vacationers, so they themselves can dine in peace at the Caf de Flore. Walking out onto the plaza, before the factory that is the Georges Pompidou, we stopped beneath the Gnitron, the digital clock counting down the number of seconds left before the year 2000. You see, Alicethis clock symbolizes our love. What are you talking about? The countdown has started... One day, youll get bored, Ill annoy you, youll be pissed I didnt put the toilet seat down, Ill spend the entire night watching TV, and youll cheat on me, like youre cheating on Antoine right now. There you go again, Marc... Why cant you just enjoy the present moment, instead of working yourself up about our future? Because we dont have a future. Watch the seconds ticking away, theyre bringing us closer and closer to unhappiness... We only have three years left to love each other... Everything may 69

be wonderful today, but according to my calculations, it will be over between us by the... 15th of March, 1997. What if I just left you right away, to save time? No, wait! I take it back... At this moment I realized that Id be better off keeping my mouth shut regarding my stupid-ass theories. Um... I responded, Why dont you just break up with Antoine instead? Then we could go live in the Little House on the Prairie, and watch our kids grow up in the Secret Garden... Thats right, make fun of me, while youre at it! Youre a great guy, Marc, but why do you always have to ruin all of our nice moments with your bouts of depression? My love, if you ever cheat on me, I promise you two things: first Ill kill myself, then Ill show you a domestic dispute youll never forget. We went on like this, an illegitimate couple, strolling side by side, gazing into each others eyes, but never holding hands in case we should run into friends of her husband or my wife. With Alice, I discovered what it meant to be gentle. I learned about character and lifelong lessons. I think thats what attracted me to Alice. The first time you get married youre looking for perfectionthe second time youre looking for the truth. The most beautiful thing about a woman is her health. I love a woman who radiates Health, that prison of pleasure! I want

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her to love to run, to explode into laughter, to stuff herself silly. Her teeth as white as the white of her eyes, her mouth as fresh as a newly-made bed, her cherry red lips from which every kiss is a precious gem, her skin taut like the head of a drum, her breasts round like softballs, her clavicle thin like the wings of fowl, her legs golden like the Tuscan sky, her ass round like the cheek of an infant, and above all, above all NO MAKEUP. She should smell of milk and sweat rather than perfume and tobacco. The final test was the swimming pool. People reveal their true character around a swimming pool: an intellectual woman will read in the shade of her hat, a sporty woman will organize a game of water polo, a narcissistic woman will work on her tan, a hypochondriac will smear herself with SPF 50... If you meet a woman who hovers at the edge of a swimming pool so as not to get her hair wet, run. If she dives in with a laugh, dive in after her. Believe me: I did everything I could not to fall in love. Consider yourself in my situation: once bitten, twice shy. And yet I couldnt stop thinking about Alice. There were times when I hated her, when I truly despised her; when I found her ridiculous, poorly dressed, cowardly, crude; a falsely romantic bitch trying to save her pathetic little marriage; a wretched, selfish coward; an unpleasant, stupid Olive Oyl, with her grating voice and her fashion victim sensibility. Then, a moment later, Id

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look at her photo or hear her adorable sweet voice on the phone, or shed appear before me and smile, and I would be in awe, in admiration, blinded by such delicate beauty, her breathtaking eyes, her velvety skin, her long, windswept hair; she was a wild animal, a dark-haired savage, a fiery squaw, she was Quasimodos Esmeralda and my God how I thanked heaven then for giving me the opportunity to have met such a creature. Heres a simple test to determine if youre in love: if after four or five hours apart you begin to miss her, it means youre not in loveif you were, 10 minutes apart would have sufficed to make your life utterly unbearable.

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XXV Thanks Wolfgang

Cheating on your wife isnt particularly cruel in and of itself, as long as she never finds out. I even believe that a lot of husbands do it to experience a sense of danger, to step out of their comfort zone, like when they were first courting their wives. From this perspective, adultery could be seen as an affirmation of marital love. But maybe not. In any case, I think Id have had a hard time convincing Anne of that. I remember our last dinner together. I wish I didnt, but I do. Bad times, they say, make for good memories: Id love for that to be the case. In my experience, they remain etched in my mind, filed away under Bad Times, and I havent managed to feel any sort of nostalgia for them. I hope Im reincarnated as a video recorder so I can just erase these images that haunt me. Anne blamed me for everything, then blamed herself for blaming me for everything, which only made me feel worse. I explained to her that everything was my fault. I had made my life into my own private film, why else would I have cut my hair so short during our three years of marriage? I used to have long hair, and now I was letting it grow back out. I was like Samson: without my hair, I was powerless! Whats more, I had never worked up the nerve to ask her father for his daughters hand in 73

marriage. Our marriage was thus invalid. She laughed softly at my jokes. I felt like a dick, but she smiled sadly as if she had always known that it would end like this, in this pretty restaurant, staring across this white tablecloth glowing in the candlelight, chatting like old friends. We didnt even cry. You can break every tie with someone, go back on every promise you had made, and remain seated across the table from her like its no big deal. Finally she told me that she had found someone, better known, older, gentler. It was true (as I found out laterI was the last to know, apparently), she had met him at her workplace. I wasnt prepared for this at all. I was beside myself. A woman who sleeps with older men is just as bad as an old guy who sleeps with younger women. Its too easy! I would rather have a handsome, reassuring older guy than a ugly, neurotic guy my age, she responded. I dont know why I imagined that Anne would remain a tearful, inconsolable widow. Nor do I know why this news hurt me so much. Actually, noI do know why. It was a matter of pride. I was pretentious. You think youre irreplaceable, but then youre quickly replaced. What did I think would happen? That she would kill herself? That she would just waste away? While I was busy dreaming of Alice, imagining I was some kind of playboy surrounded by women, Anne was thinking about my replacement and cheating on me happily so everyone would know about it. I fell back to earth with a thud that night. A kind

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of poetic justice. On my way back home, I heard Mozart on the radio. Beauty ends in Ugliness, Youth will always Wither, Life is but a slow Putrefaction, we Die each and every Day. Luckily we still have Mozart. How many lives has Mozart saved?

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XXVI Sex chapter

Its time we got to the heart of the matter, by which I mean sex. Most of the stuck-up girls I grew up with think that having sex consists of lying on your back while some shitfaced idiot in a suit jacket jiggles above you before he ejaculates inside you and begins to snore. Their sexual education was conducted in a series of society parties, private members clubs, and SaintTropez nightclubs by the worst fucks on earth: daddies boys. The sexual failings of daddies boys stem from the fact that, from their earliest childhood, theyve grown accustomed to getting whatever they want without having to work for it. Its not that theyre selfish (men are ALL selfish in bed), its just that nobody has ever told them that that theres a difference between a girl and a Porsche. (When you ruin a girl, dad doesnt come bitch you out.) Luckily, Anne didnt fall into this category, but she wasnt particularly interested in sex either. The wildest sex we ever had was on our honeymoon in Goa, after smoking Datura. Squirting, pumping, panting, coming. We had to smoke down just to relax in the thick monsoon air. But unfortunately, this sexual high point was but a hallucinogenic exception: in fact, I was so starry-eyed during our trip that I even let her beat me at ping76

pong, which just goes to show that I wasnt in my right mind. Thats right, Anne, Im letting you know now, if youre reading this book: during our honeymoon, I intentionally lost at pingpong, okay?? Sex is a lottery: two people could each love it on their own, and still be incompatible. You think that it will get better with time, but it doesnt. Sex is skin-deep, which is to say its unfair (as is everything skin-related: racism, facial discrimination, acne...). Whats more, our affection only made things worse. With love, you know youre in trouble when youve gone from hardcore pornography to baby talk. As soon as youve gone from saying: Im gonna fuck your face, you little slut to: My cutie wootie baby pumpkin muffin give me a smoochie woochie, its time to sound the alarm. You can see it happening quickly: peoples voices start to change after just a few months of living together. A big manly stud with a booming voice will start talking like a toddler sitting on mommas lap. A vamp fatale with her husky voice becomes a cooing little girl who appears to have mistaken her husband for a kitten. Our love was vanquished by inflection. And then theres this monstrous, chilling concept, the most powerful sleep aid ever invented: Conjugal Duty. One or two days without fucking, no big deal, it goes unmentioned. But after four or five days, the anxiety of the Duty becomes a topic of

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conversation. Another week without sex and both of you are wondering if somethings wrong, and pleasure starts to feel like an obligation, a chore, you let one more week pass and the pressure becomes unbearable, youll end up masturbating in the bathroom staring at pornos just to get it up, its inevitable, its the antithesis of desire; and there you have it, thats the Conjugal Duty. Our generation is extremely poorly educated when it comes to sex. They think they know everything because theyre bombarded with hardcore porn, and our parents claim to have led the sexual revolution. But everyone knows the sexual revolution never happened. With sex as with marriage, nothing has changed a bit in over a century. Its nearly the year 2000 and the traditions are the same as in the 19th centuryand even less modern than in the 18th century! Men are macho, awkward, shy; and women modest and uncomfortable, confused by the idea of acting as if they were nymphos. The success of sex-filled radio and television shows, and the minuscule percentage of teenagers who use a condom, are proof that our generation is hopeless when it comes to sex. It just goes to show that nobody is capable of having a casual, normal conversation about it. And if regular teenagers are sexually inept, just imagine the rich kids... a catastrophe. As for Alice, she was never part of those disgusting circles. She considers sex not as a duty, but as a game in which its good to learn the rules in advance, before eventually changing them

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to her liking. She finds nothing taboo, collects fantasies, wants to try everything. I made up for thirty years of lost time with her. Alice taught me how to caress. Women have to be stroked with the tips of your fingers, teased with the tip of your tongue; how was I supposed to figure all this out if nobody ever told me? I discovered you could make love in all sorts of places (a parking garage, an elevator, bathrooms in nightclubs, bathrooms on trains, bathrooms on planes, and not just in bathrooms, in grassy fields, in the water, in the sunshine) with all sorts of accessories (sadist, masochist, fruits, vegetables) and in all sorts of positions (upside down, upside up, with others, tied up, unbound, The Flagellant of Seville, The Gardener of Tortures, The Ball Juice Dispenser, The Petrol Pump, The Snake Swallower, The Demonic Dominatrix, 3615 Nibs, free gangbang at Les Chandelles). For her I became more than hetero-, homo-, or bisexual: I became omnisexual. Why limit yourself? I want to fuck animals, insects, flowers, seaweed, trinkets, furniture, stars, anything that will have us. I even found I had an astonishing ability to come up with stories, each more ridiculous than the last, just to be able to whisper them into her ear while we were at it. Some day, Ill publish a collection of stories that will shock people who thought they know me.4 Id become a bona fide polymorphous pervert; in short, a bon vivant. I dont see why only dirty old men shouldnt have the right to be lewd.
4

Short Stories on Ecstasy (ISBN: 2070413586)

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In summary: if a fuck buddy can turn into the love of your life, the opposite is quite unlikely.

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XXVII Letters (I)

First letter to Alice: Dear Alice, You are a wonder. I dont understand why it is that, just because your name is Alice, nobody will tell you that youre a wonder. My head is spinning. Women like you should be forbidden from going to the funerals of my grandmothers. Sorry for this short note. It was the only way to feel close to you this weekend. Marc. No response. Second letter to Alice: Alice, Seriouslyare you the love of my life, after all, or not? You say that youre scared. What am I supposed to say to that? You think that Im playing around, but Ive never been more serious. I dont know what to do. I want to see you, but I know that we shouldnt. Last night I performed my marital duty while thinking about you. Its indecent. Youve torn my world apart,

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but I dont want to do the same to yours. This will be my final letter but I will not soon forget you. Marc. P.S.: When you lie, when you tell a woman that you love her, you may believe you are lying, and yet something compelled you to say those words to her, and thus they are true. (Raymond Radiguet) No response. It was not my final letter.

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XXVIII The depths of despair

Hey everyoneits me again, the knight of the living dead. Id have loved to just be melancholy, it has a certain elegance; yet instead I vacillate between liquefaction and deliquescence. Im a zombie baying at the moon because Im still alive. The only cure for my migraine would be 1000mg of aspirin but I cant take any because I already have stomach pains. If only I could hit bottom! But no. Im falling, further and further, and yet theres still no bottom to bounce back off of. I wander Paris from end to end. I come to stare up at the building where you live with Antoine. I thought Id been flirting with you just for the fun of it, and now here I am, wandering breathless outside your door. Warning: love may cause respiratory problems. The lights in your apartment are on. Maybe youre having dinner, or watching TV, or listening to music while thinking of me, or not thinking of me, or maybe youre... you two are... No, oh God, please tell me youre not doing that. I stand here bleeding in the street, but theres no blood, Im bleeding from within, asphyxiating in plain daylight. Passersby stare at meis there some magnificent architectural detail weve perhaps missed? Or could this poorly-shaved young man with disheveled hair be a new hobo in the area? Look babe, even the homeless wear 83

agns b. in our neighborhood. Shut up, idiot, cant you see hes a dealer! Oh May, the miserable month of May. Its unending succession of long weekends: May Day, Armistice Day, Ascension, Pentecost. The long weekends without Alice begin to pile up. Its a terrible deprivation imposed by the French republic and the Catholic church, as if to punish me for having disobeyed them. A crash course in suffering. Nothing interests me anymore besides Alice. She occupies my every thought. Going to the movies, eating, writing, reading, sleeping, dancing to techno, working, all these concerns that used to dominate my idiotic six-figure lifestyle now seem meaningless. Alice has drained the color from the universe. Suddenly Im 16 again. I even bought her favorite perfume so I could inhale it as I think about her, but it wasnt the same sweet scent of dusky drowsy skin long loving legs stunning slender languid siren hair. You cant fit all of that into a bottle. Twentieth century love is a telephone that never rings. Its entire afternoons spent fixating on footsteps on the stairs, like so many false hopes, since you already left a message on our secret answering machine at noon canceling our tryst. Another story of an adulterous arrangement gone wrongI know, its not particularly original, Im sorry; I cant help it if its still the worst thing to ever happen to me. This is a book about a spoiled child, dedicated to all the idiots too righteous to be happy. A

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book about bad guys whom nobody feels sorry for. A book about the people who shouldnt be suffering from a loneliness theyve brought on themselves, yet suffer nonetheless, a suffering all the more unbearable because they know they have no one to blame but themselves. Because love is not simply to hurt or be hurt. Sometimes it can be both.

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XXIX Depressive diet

Being alone has become a shameful illness. Why is everybody afraid of solitude? Ill tell youbecause it forces you to think. If Descartes were alive today, he wouldnt write: I think, therefore I am. Instead hed write: Im alone, therefore I think. Nobody wants to be alone, because it leaves too much time to just sit around and think. And yet thinking leads to intelligence, which serves only to make you even sadder. I dont think anything exists. I dont believe in anything. Im of no use to myself. My own life is useless to me. Whats on TV tonight? The only good news: depression makes you lose weight. Nobody ever talks much about this diet, which is the most effective one of all. The Depressive Diet. Put on a few extra pounds? Get divorced, fall in love with someone who doesnt love you back, live alone and wallow in your sorrowthen watch those extra pounds melt away. Youll find yourself fit and beautifulif you ever make it out of your depression, that is. What a shame that Im in love, I cant even make the most of my newfound bachelorhood. When I was in college, I loved being single. Every woman seemed beautiful to me. Theres no such thing as ugly women, I used to say, Only glasses of vodka 86

too small. These werent merely the ramblings of a budding alcoholic, I really believed it. Every woman has something, it may be an amused kind of silence, an absent-minded sigh, the way she twists her ankle, or a wayward lock of hair. Even a complete troll contains a hidden treasure. Maybe even Mimie Mathy has hidden talents! And then Id burst out laughing, the laugh Id use to punctuate my own jokes, back before I discovered true loneliness. These days, when I get drunk off watered down bourbon, I just mutter to myself like a bum. I head to jack off in a video booth at 88 rue Saint-Denis, flicking between 124 channels of porn. Some guy sucking a 12-inch black cock. Zap. A girl in bondage having wax dripped on her tongue with electrodes attached to her shaven pussy. Zap. A peroxide blonde with fake tits swallowing a mouthful of sperm. Zap. A guy in a hood piercing a Dutch girls tits as she howls Yes, Master. Zap. A young inexperienced girl forcing one dildo up her ass and another up her vagina. Zap. Triple cum shot over two lesbians with clothes-pins attached to their nipples and clitoris. Zap. Fat pregnant woman. Zap. Double fist-fucking. Zap. Some guy pissing in a tied-up Thai girls mouth. Zap. Fuck, Ive run out of change and I havent come yet, too drunk to keep it up. I talk at the top of my voice in the sex shop and wave my arms around. I buy a bottle of poppers. I try to make friends with the alcoholics on the rue Saint-Denis who stumble about yelling that in their day the most beautiful women in the world couldnt resist

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them. But they wouldnt let me in their club: instead they offered to beat me up, to show me what it meant to suffer for legitimate reasons. So I crawl home, my crestfallen face inundated with the odor of alkyl nitrate, smelling like shit, its been years since Ive been this drunk, I feel a terrible urge to vomit and shit and the same time, but I cant do both at the same time, Ive got to choose. I decide to begin by expelling the diarrhea, an appalling, stinking pure splatters onto the porcelain, but suddenly the urge to puke is too much, I turn around to throw up this bilious acid as it tears at my throat, squatting ass naked in a cloud of disinfectant, when all of a sudden I get the shits again and I end up projecting a liter of pestilent liquid shit all over the bathroom door, sobbing and bawling for my mom.

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XXX Letters (II)

The third letter did the trick. Thank you, Post Office: telephones, fax machines, and the internet will never surpass in romantic beauty the good old peril of communicating by mail. Dear Alice, I will wait for you every night at 7 P.M., on a bench, at Place Dauphine. Come or dont come, but Ill be there, every night, starting tonight. Marc. I waited for you Monday, in the rain. I waited for you Tuesday, in the rain. Wednesday it didnt rain, and you came. (Sounds like a Yves Duteil song.) You came? Guess so. Why didnt you come Monday or Tuesday? It was raining... I should maybe just... get you a cellphone. You smiled. A phantomess veiled behind a mane of hair foreshadowing pleasures to come. A fresh-faced girl sprung from a Manga comic smiling at me without any concern for the consequences. I took hold of your hand as I would a precious 89

artifact. Then a moment of awkward silence, which I tried to break: Alice, I think Ive got it bad... But you interrupted me: Shh... Then you leaned over to kiss me on the lips. Thats impossible, was I dreaming? Could something so wonderful still happen to me? I tried again: Alice, this has got to stop, now, because if not, itll be too late, Ill be too much in love with you, and you dont know me, but I can be hard to deal with in this kind of situation... But this time it was your tongue that interrupted me and all the violins from all the most beautiful love songs in the world would have sounded like nails on a chalkboard compared to the symphony that resounded in my head. And if you think Im ridiculous, then fuck you.

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XXXI The enamored divorc

I rarely go to place Dauphine these days, except on nights Im sufficiently wasted to face it, like tonight for example, when Im here sitting on our bench out of pure masochism. The passing riverboats bathe the Pont-Neuf in their light. A few more yards along, and we would have been lovers on the bridge. Im cold and Im waiting for you. Its been six months since our first kiss here, and still I wait. I never thought Id end up here like this. It must be that Im being punished for something, I must have to atone for something, why else would somebody put me through this? I weep when I awaken, I whine when I go to sleep, and in between I just feel sorry for myself. I had dreamed of being Laclos and wound up Musset. Love is incomprehensible. Its impossible to understand it when you see others in love, much less when it happens to you. When I was twenty I could still keep my emotions under control, now I feel like I dont have a say in anything I do or feel. Whats most upsetting for me is to see the extent to which my love for Alice has replaced the love I felt for Anne, as if my love life was some kind of zero-sum game. Im horrified by how little I hesitated. Thered have been no vaudeville, no having to decide between the legitimate lover and the mistress, simply one person replacing another, quietly, with no big fuss, as if tip91

toeing into my mind. Cant it be possible to love someone without it being at the cost of somebody else? Thats surely the crime Im paying for now... Its so strange, here I am at place Dauphine and yet its you, Anne, my ex-wife, that Im thinking about... Maybe some day, Anne, later on, much later on, well run into each other in some brightly-lit place; with people all about, and trees, a beam of sunlight, I dont know, maybe some birds chirping like on the day we got married, and in all the commotion our eyes will meet, well think back fondly about the past, back when we were twenty, when we shared our first hopes, our first defeats, when we dreamed together, when we kissed the sky, before it caved in upon us, because those days, Anne, those days are ours and nobody can ever take them away from us. Its called: Adolescence.

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XXXII I dunno

There were many secret hookups at place Dauphine. Many dinners hidden away at chez Paul or Delfino. Countless stolen afternoon at the Htel Henri-IV. Eventually, the receptionist knew us so well that he spared us the knowing look, the awkward: No luggage? since we had our room booked by the month. Room 32. It smelled like sex whenever we left. Between orgasms, I couldnt help but interrogate you. Goddamn, Alice, I love you from the tips of your toes to the tip of your nose. Where is this thing going? I dunno. You think youre going to leave Antoine? I dunno. Do you want to move in together? I dunno. Would you prefer we just stay lovers? I dunno. Well what the fuck are we going to do? I dunno. Why do you always say, I dunno? I dunno. I was too logical. I dunno was something I would come to hear often; I should have just gotten used to it. 93

And yet sometimes I lost my shit: Leave him! LEAVE HIMMM! Stop it! STOP ASKING ME! Just get divorced, for fucks sake! Absolutely not, Marc! You scare me too much, Ive always told you that. Our love is beautiful only because its impossible, and you know that. The day that I leave Antoine, you wouldnt even love me anymore. NOT TRUE, NOT TRUE, ABSOLUTELY NOT TRUE! But in my heart of hearts, I was afraid she might be right. I was crazy about her because I couldnt have her. The deaf and the hard of hearing could have better discussions than ours.

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XXXIII The impossible decrystallization

I suppose I should tell you how I died. You remember Rebel Without a Cause with James Dean? In it, a group of idiotic teenagers entertain themselves by accelerating their car towards the edge of a cliff. Its a game they call chicken. The point of the game is to brake at the last possible moment. Whoever brakes last is the ballsiest of the group. Lets just say the size of his dick is proportional to the time elapsed before he brakes. Of course, inevitably, one of the idiots ends up at the bottom of the cliff, in a Chevrolet crushed like a sardine can. Wellthe more time Alice and I spent together, the more we were like these rebels without a cause. We were accelerating towards the edge of a cliff, pedal to the floor. What I didnt know is that I would be the dumbass who wouldnt break until it was too late. The most important rule when youre having an affair is not to fall in love. You meet up in secret, for the fun of it, for the secrecy, for the thrill. Its an easy way to feel heroic. But do not ever let your feelings get mixed up in it! Youll end up confusing pleasure with love. And you might never find your way back. If Alice and I fell into this trap, its for good reason: its so much easier to make love when youre actually in love. Being in love makes women feel like foreplay lasts longer and men feel like its over more quickly. And this was our undoing. We were 95

indulgent. Alice and I pretended to be in love, to make our orgasms more intense. And we ended up believing we were. When it comes to love, nothing is more powerful than the power of suggestion: what a shame that it only works one way. You think youre just playing around, which is truebut youre playing with fire. We were already floating above the abyss, like those cartoon characters who look at the camera, then down at the chasm beneath their feet, then back at the camera, before beginning to plummet for real. Thats all folks! I remember when Anne and I split up; no matter what party I set foot in, everyone I ran into would ask me in a stilted tone: where was Anne, what was Anne up to, why wasnt Anne there, how was Anne doing these days? Id respond with one of the following: She had to work late tonight. Isnt she here? I was just looking for her, I have a date with my wife. Between the two of us, she was right not to come to this lame-ass party: I should have listened to her, shes got a sixth sense when it comes to these things, oh, sorry, its your party isnt it... Anne? Were in the middle of a divorce! Ha ha! Just kidding. Shes been working so late recently! Everythings fine, Ive got curfew at midnight tonight. Shes at a seminar with the Congolese football team.

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Anne? Anne who? Marronnier? What a coincidence, a girl with the same last name as me! Annes in the hospital... A terrible accident... She begged me to stay with her as she shrieked in pain, but I just couldnt pass up this great party. These salmon eggs are delicious, dont you think? On the other hand, the way shes been working, Ill be filthy rich soon. Marriage is an imperfect institution. Wheres Alice? Do you know Alice, by any chance? You havent seen Alice, have you? Do you think Alice is coming? On the other handevery time I heard someone say the name Alice, it was like a knife through the heart. Dear friends, would you please be so kind as to never again say l name in my presence? Thanks in advance, Marc. Heaven is other peoplebut its important not to overdo it. More and more often I heard people gossiping about me and Anne. I didnt really mind that people were gossiping about me; theyd been spreading rumors since before they were even true. Personally, Id never been bothered by the worldly jealousy and superficiality of these nightlifers, but I was frankly disgusted to hear that theyd been talking shit about Anne. If I went out at night, it was to just make life slow downI couldnt bear the thought of existence coming to a halt at 8 P.M. I wanted to steal the hours of life being wasted by people that went to bed early.

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But thisthis was too much. I would stop going out. I realized that I hated these people that would feed off of my misery. I was just like them, a scavenger. But Id had enough: I wasnt amused anymore. This time I wanted to make the most of the situation. They would have to carry on without me. I had to give up writing gossip columns in pop magazines. Farewell, my fair-weather Parisian friends, I will not miss you. Carry on your slow putrefaction without me, I do not envy you; on the contrary, I pity you. Thats the great tragedy of our society: even the rich arent enviable. Theyre fat, ugly and rude, the women are disfigured by plastic surgery, the men are doing time, the kids are doing drugs, they have the fashion sense of hobos, theyre posing for trashy photos in Gala magazine. The rich have forgotten that money is a means, not an end. They dont know what to do with it all. At least when youre poor, you can tell yourself that everything would work out if only you had money. But when youre richyou cant tell yourself that with a new house in the countryside, another sports car, another pair of thousand-dollar shoes, or another supermodel on your arm, everything would be better. When youre rich, youre out of excuses. Thats why all millionaires are on Prozac: nobody dreams of being them anymore, not even themselves. Writing about Parisian nightlife was a vicious circle that I had gotten sucked into. I would go out and get shitfaced in or-

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der to write a column about the last time I went out and got shitfaced. I had to stop, face the daylight. Lets see, what kind of columns could an unemployed freeloader write? Imagine Count Drinker in broad daylight: how would he make ends meet? What kind of job are bloodsuckers good at? So thats how I became a literary critic.

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XXXIV The theory of eternal return

When I told my parents (separated in 1972) about my divorce, they tried to reason with me. Are you sure about this? Theres no way to make things work? Think long and hard about this... Psychoanalysis had had a considerable influence in the 60s, which probably explains why my parents blamed themselves for everything. They were much more worried than I was; suddenly I didnt feel I should bring up Alice. One disaster at a time is enough. I explain to them calmly that love lasts three years. They disagree, each in their own way, but theyre not particularly convincing. After all, their own marriage scarcely lasted much longer. I can hardly believe that my parents spent so much time hoping, thinking, and finally believing that I would be any different. We exist solely to relive the actions of our parents, in the same order, just as they have made the same mistakes as their own parents, and so on. But that doesnt matter. Whats worse is when you make the same stupid mistakes that you yourself have made before. And yet thats exactly what I do. I wind up in the same rut every three years. I live in a perpetual state of dj-vu. My life is series of reruns. Its like Im a CD player programmed to endlessly repeat the same song. (I 100

love comparing myself to machinestheyre easy to fix.) This isnt the comedy of repetition, but an all too real nightmare: imagine a white-knuckle roller-coaster with stomach-churning corkscrews and heart-stopping plunges. You let yourself ride it once, but thats enough. You step off the ride and yell, Oh my God, I nearly puked up my cotton candy three times. You wont get me on that thing again! Me? I get on it again and again. I have a season ticket to this diabolical ride. Space Mountain is my home. I finally understand what Camus meant when he wrote: One must imagine Sisyphus happy. He meant that we spend our lives making the same mistakesbut maybe thats what happiness is. I suppose I should just get used to the idea. To love my unhappiness because, after all, its full of new beginnings. I keep having the same dream: Im pushing my rock up the boulevard Saint-Germain. I double-park it. A police officer tells me to move my rock or hell give me a ticket. So I try to move it when suddenly it slips away down the rue Saint-Benot, picking up speed as it goes. Ive lost all control of ithardly surprising given that its a six-ton block of granite. When it reaches the corner of the rue Jacob, it crashes into a little sports car, crushing the hood, the car door, and the pretty boy who was driving it. Ouch! I fill out the accident report next to his hot sobbing widow. I nibble her shoulder. Where it says Registration, I write: S.I.S.Y.P.H.U.S. (second-hand model). Then I roll my

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rock back up the rue Bonaparte, inch by inch, sweating blood, and leave it in the parking lot at Saint-Germain-des-Prs. Tomorrow, this spectacle will begin again. And one must imagine me happy.

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XXXV Tender is the night

Ever since I decided Id had enough of Parisian nightlife, Ive been going out every night; we have to say our goodbyes, after all. Word starts to get out that Im single. A single omnisexual of my age, in Paris in 1995, is as unheard of as a homeless person staying at the Gstaad Palace Hotel. Nobody seems to notice that Im dying of a broken heart, since Ive always been quite thin, even when I was happy. I wander around the city, my misery slung over my shoulder. Tonight, yet again, Alice has told me that she cant bring herself to lie to her husband any longer and that shes breaking up with me. Usually she dumps me on a Friday to have a guilt-free weekend, then calls me up again Monday afternoon. So I called Jean-Georges to ask him if he wanted me to bring some wine for his dinner party, or something for dessert. Ive decided to cheat on Alice with her best friend. She didnt need much persuading before agreeing to come to the dinner party with me: I told her that Id been feeling like shit Ive noticed that women can never resist when their best friends boyfriend tells them hes feeling like shit. It must bring out a sense of duty in them, the devoted nurse, her inner Little Sister of the Poor.

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Julies problem is that shes super hot. Shes always complaining that guys never fall in love with her. And its true that whenever men meet her they have an unfortunate tendency to want to perform a breast exam, if not a complete physical. They dont much respect her, but thats partly her own faulttheres no law requiring that she wear shirts made for eight-year-olds that barely come down to her belly button thats pierced with a gold ring. You know, guys would be more likely to fall in love with you if you didnt give in right away. Guys are like cheap cuts of meat, you have to let them marinate. Youre saying that I should treat men the way Alice treats you? Not so blonde after all, is she. Um... On second thought, no. Be gentle with them, its best feel sorry for themguys are sensitive creatures at heart. Jean-Georges did it up for this party. Here, tranquil souls can converse in perfect harmony. Belligerence is forbidden at his house, even though his parties are packed with celebrities. Actors, directors, fashion designers, painters, even people who dont yet realize theyre artists. Ive noticed that the more gifted people are, the gentler they behave. It always holds true. Julie and I sat down on the couch to nibble on canaps. So... Youve known Jean-Georges for a long time? she asked me.

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Since forever. Dont be fooled by appearances: tonight he probably wont say two words to me, and yet hes my closest friend, in fact, one of the only people of my own gender I can stand to be around. Were like two queers except we dont sleep together. So, she whispers, sitting up, bringing her two spheres of flesh up to the tip of my nose, Are you going to tell me whats wrong? Alice left me, my wife left me, and my grandmas dead. I never would have thought Id find myself so alone. Feeling more and more sorry for myself, I edge closer to her on the sofa. Seducing a girl at a party essentially consists of closing the gap: you just have to move closer, inch by inch, without being too obvious. If you notice a girl you find attractive, move a little closer (6 feet away). If you still find her attractive, start talking to her (3 feet away). If she smiles at your lame jokes, ask her to dance or offer to get her a drink (18 inches). Then sit down next to her (12 inches). When you see a gleam in her eyes, gently brush a stray lock of hair behind her ear (6 inches). If she doesnt protest, bring your face a bit closer as you talk to her (3 inches). If her breathing becomes heavy, press your lips against hers (0 inches). The objective of this strategy, of course, is to reach a negative distance as a result of the penetration of a foreign body inside of hers (roughly -4.5 inches according to the national average).

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Im miserable as a stone, I say, narrowing the distance that separates me from the irreparable. No, nomore miserable than that, because nobody breaks up with a rock, and rocks cant die. Yeah, sounds rough... So youre pretty bummed out, huh. I begin to ask myself what Alice sees in this ravishing idiot. I must have misunderstoodthis couldnt be her best friend. But I go on with my plan. I suppose I only have myself to blame, though... Writers are never happy... Oh, youre a writer? Do you write books? I thought you were an events organizer? Um... Yeah, thats true, but Ive published, lets see, I dont know, a couple books, I say, looking down at my nails. Journey to the End of Whatever, maybe youve heard of it? Um... Well, I wrote that. Im also the author of The Unbearable Futility of Being and Im currently working on The Sorrows of Young Marronnier... So... Whens your next party? You gonna put me on the guest list?! Some girls are so bovine, they make you feel like a country vet. But I force myself to keep goingif I start dating Julie, Alice would be devastated, I have to push on, no matter what it takes.

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You know, Julie, the best part about getting divorced is being able to wash your hands without getting soap stuck between your fingers. Whys that? Because of the wedding ring. Oh, right, now I get it... Youre funny! Are you seeing anyone at the moment? No. I mean, yeah, a few guys. But nothing serious. Yeah, same as me. But youre in love with Alice, arent you? Yes, of course, but its complicated. I think my problem is I fall in love but never manage to stay in love. As I say these words, I position myself just millimeters from her lustrous lips. I wonder if there isnt a bit of collagen in her overly-plump upper lip. Im about to move in when she turns her cheek to me. Rejected. Thats it. Ive had enough. I get up and walk away, abandoning her on the sofa. Poor bitch, now I understand why guys treat her like a disposable razor. Lets face iteven if I screwed this girl right in front of you, Alice, you wouldnt even care (on the contrary, it would probably turn you on). I love you, no one but you, youll just have to accept it, even if you arent prepared to turn your life upside down. In the same city you live in, there is a man who loves you and suffers for your love, whether you like it or not. Constantly reminding you of this is the best hope

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I have to make you give in. Ill be your patient lover, your calm torture, a silent temptation. Call me Tantalus. A couple hours later, as I was flipping through an old copy of Tender is the Night, I noticed Julie flirting with a father and his son, triggering a heated family feud. I spent the weekend getting completely shitfaced. I didnt leave Jean-Georges place for three days. Living off of Pringles and Four Roses. The only thing we listened to was the album Rubber Soul by the Beatles. At one moment, I thought I heard Julien composing a song at the piano. I staggered to my feet every three hours just so I could keep drinking, becauseno matter what they saythe best way to avoid regretting something is to forget it ever happened.

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XXXVI Freelance

I settle into waiting modeon the upside, it keeps me busy. I fill my Desert of the Tartars with whatever I find. So I was recently asked to do a pitch for the release of a new perfume: Hypnosis by David Copperfield, Las Vegas. Ill get paid ten grand (five if we dont get the contract). The trick is to find a phrasesomething short, punchy, and provocativethat communicates simultaneously how the consumer will directly benefit from the product as well as suggesting why this is the perfume to buy. To put it plainly, my job is to demonstrate that this perfumethanks to a patented formulaenables women (the target) to seduce men (the target of the target) but not just for one night: for a lifetime of enduring love. I go back after a week of reflection with the following list of slogans: You dont need a wedding ring when you wear Hypnosis by Copperfield. Hypnosis by Copperfield. Its not a perfumeits a magic trick. Hypnosis by Copperfield. For tonight, and tomorrow night, and every other night. Hypnosis by Copperfield. Every secret compartment hides a love story. Spray on Hypnosis and watch it change your life. 109

Hypnosis by Copperfield. This perfume is rigged. Hypnosis: the scent of amnesia. Hypnosis by Copperfield. Afterwards, youll pretend you cant remember. The meeting doesnt go well. Nobody is impressed by my ideas, not even me. I listen to their advice, leave Paris the same afternoon for Verbier, a Swiss winter sports resort in the Valais. Its from there that, after three weeks of working, I fax back the slogan you all know and which, in less than a year, was to make Hypnosis the market leader in mass-market fragrances: COPPERFIELD. BECAUSE LASTS THREE YEARS.
BY

HYPNOSIS

WITHOUT IT, LOVE

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XXXVII The sentimental cynic

Im sitting here in the same caf where I sit every night, trying to figure this all out. I keep telling myself that Im dead, and yet I still go on living. Ive nearly died many times: I was almost was run over by a car (it missed me by a hair), Ive fallen out of a window (I landed in some bushes), and I almost contracted a lethal virus (but I wore a condom). What a pity. Death would befit me well. Prior to my descent into hell, I was afraid of dying. These days, it would be a blessing. I cant even bring myself to understand why people are so worried about dying. Death has more surprises in store for us than does life. Now, I look forward to dying. I cant wait to leave this world and find out what awaits us in the next. I think people who are afraid of dying just arent very curious. My problem is that youre the solution. Its always the most cynical and pessimistic people that fall the most violently in loveit matches their temperament. My cynicism couldnt wait to be refuted. Those who criticize love are usually the ones who need it most: in the heart of every Valmont sleeps a hopeless romantic who just cant wait to break out his flute. And there we go againthe trap snaps shut once more, the machine is set in motion. Once again Im caught up dreaming 111

about sunlit gardens in country houses, of the song of the rain on the roof at dusk, of picking a bouquet of violets, hand in hand with her, far from the city so we can make love again and again, until were bursting with joy, crying out in pleasure, holding each other close as we revel in how perfect we are for each other, chilled melon and Parma ham, or Florence, or Milan, if theres enough time...

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XXXVIII Letters (III)

Fourth letter to Alice: My dear ostrich, I think about you all the time. I think of you in the morning, as I walk through the morning frost. I walk slowly on purpose so I have more time to think of you. I think of you in the evening, when I begin to miss you at parties, where I get drunk to think about anything but you, which has only the opposite effect. I think of you when I see you and when I dont. Id love to be able to do something other than think of you but I havent the strength. If you have any tips on how to forget you, kindly let me know. This has been the worst weekend of my life. Ive never missed anyone like Ive missed you these past few days. Without you, my life is just a waiting room. What could possibly be more horrid than a hospital waiting room, with its harsh fluorescent lighting and linoleum tiles? Is it even humane to do this to me? Whats worse is that Im completely alone in my waiting room, theres nobody severely wounded and bleeding everywhere to reassure me, no magazines on the coffee table to distract me, no numbered tickets to give me hope that my waiting may one day come to an end. I have a stomachache and theres

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nobody to make me feel better. Being in love is a stomachache for which you are the only cure. Alice. I never knew this name would come to mean so much to me. I had heard about sorrow but I never knew its name was Alice. Alice, I love you. Its like these words are inseparableyour name isnt Alice, but Alice-I-love-you. Your miserable Marc. As expected, Alice called me up the following Monday. She swore that she was crazy about me, and promised that she would never leave me again. I undressed her tenderly in an apartment borrowed from a friend. To say that our reunion was pleasurable would be an understatement. The pleasures we experienced that afternoon should be filed as the benchmark in Svres under exceptional sexual pleasure as experienced between a human couple of complementary genders. And then, in spite of her promise, Alice went home to her husband around 9 P.M., exhausted, and once again I found myself alone to face the empty hours.

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XXXIX Still falling

I should let you know nowIm not sure this book will have a happy ending. The past few weeks have been among the most miserable and most magnificent of my life, and I have no reason to believe that things wont go on like this. Ive tried so much to shape my destiny, only to realize that destiny isnt playdough. The end of the world took place last week. Alice called me to say that she and Antoine were going on vacation to try and save their marriage. This time, she said, it was really over. We hung up without saying goodbye. Hiroshima mon amour. You see what happens when youre in lovebefore you know it, youre referencing Marguerite Duras. I watch a fly bashing its head against my bedroom window and realize thatlike metheres a pane of glass between it and reality. Separated from happiness by an invisible prison. Living a double life is a luxury reserved for schizophrenics. Alice got to have her cake and eat it tooher forbidden passion with me, and her cozy little life with her husband. Why settle for one life when you can have several? She switches between guys like theyre TV channels (I just hope Im Eurosport). Its over. I.T.S. O.V.E.R. Its funny how Im able to write these words, incapable as I am of believing them. From time to time I 115

have these flashes of megalomania: If she doesnt love me anymore, I tell myself, then I dont love her! Shes not on my level? Too bad, you cunt! And yet these bursts of pride are short-lived, because I have an underdeveloped will to live. Youll have to forgive mewriters are often quite miserable, I hope Im not boring you too much with my suffering. To write is to complain. There isnt much of a difference between a novel and a complaint to the Post Office. If I had the choice, I wouldnt spend my life holed up in my apartment, typing away at a computer. But I dont: Im not sure Ill never be able to talk about anything else. Look at what Ive become... Im writing the same book as everyone else... Two lovers switching places... You leave a wife who loves you for a woman who doesnt... Whats wrong with me? What became of my shamelessly decadent soires? I got so wrapped up in my Left Bank problems... Its like new French cinema... Love is the problem of those who dont have any other problems... And yet, its the first time in my life that I feel a physical need to write... People used to tell me about the need to write, and Id pretend to understand, but I was so naive... Even this self-deprecation is just self-defense to the nth degree... (Thank you, Drieu, Thank you, Nourissier.) I dont have anything else to write about... This had to come out sooner or later... If you havent written the story of your divorce, you havent written at all... Maybe its not such a bad idea to make

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whats personal, public... If what I write is uninspired, its because its universal... We should avoid originality, stick to whats timeless... Im a student of sincerity... I know that somewhere beneath all this suffering is a flowing river, and if I can manage to make the source of it spring forth it might be of some comfort to the happy few who have known such despair. I want to warn them, to explain things, so that they never experience the disappointment Ive felt. This is the task that Ive set myself, and it helps me see things clearly. And yet it may be that the river remains entirely underground...

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XL Conversation in a palace

Jean-Georges has never seen me like this. He tries desperately to cheer me up, like someone reaching out a hand to a drowning man. Were sitting in a bar at some big hotel, but I dont remember which because weve hit them all up at some point. I ask him: So do you think love lasts just three years? He looks at me with pity. Three years! Thats optimistic! My God, three days is more than enough! Whos been telling you such bullshit, my love? Its something to do with hormones, or biochemistry or something... After three years its all over, and theres nothing you can do about it... Dont you find that sad? Not at all, pumpkin. Love lasts as long as its meant to, it doesnt matter in the end. But if you do want it to last, you need to learn to get used to boredom. You need to find someone you want to be bored shitless with. Because if eternal passion is impossiblethe best we can hope for is a pleasant state of boredom. Yeah, maybe youre right... Do you think Ill ever stop running after ghosts? Youre looking at the problem the wrong way. The more you seek passion, the more youre disappointed when it comes 118

to an end. What you have to do is seek out boredom, because then youll always be pleasantly surprised when youre not pissed off. The problem is that passion should never have been institutionalized; boredom should be the norm, and passion just the cherry on top. Remember, fear of boredom... Is the first sign of self-loathing... I know, you tell me all the time... Ugh... When I see all these couples who despise each other, bore each other, cheat on each other and grimace all just for the sake of their marriage, Im glad I got divorced... At least Ill remember my love stories with a happy ending. Honey, Im not talking about Anne, but Alice. Here you are fantasizing about her, when you dont even know her. Thats what your problem is: youre in love with someone you dont even know. Do you really think youd be able to put up with her if you had to live with her? What turns you on is the fact that you cant have her. If I were you, I would call Anne. Jean-Georges? Yes, sweetie? Stop talking shit. You want another drink? Sure, if youre paying. Jean-Georges, can I ask you something? Always. Have you ever had your heart broken? You know I havent. Ive never fallen in love. Its my one great tragedy.

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Sometimes I envy you. I can never STAY in love, which is even worse. Jean-Georges falls silent, and suddenly I was sorry I had asked. He turns away and his eyes glaze over. He says, serious now: Dont try and turn this around on me. You know I envy you, and always have. Ive been suffering since the day I was born. Youve discovered a pain that I would give anything to feel. Lets change the subject, if thats okay. There you have it, my depression is contagious. Now were both depressedclearly, were making progress. Do you think Im a dick? No, of course not. Youre just figuring things out yourself, youre just a beginner. Youve still got a lot to learn. On the other hand... On the other hand what? On the other hand, youre a big fag, and if you dont shut up Im gonna stick it where the sun doesnt shine. And with that the son of a bitch grabs me and we roll on to the floor, flipping over the table, knocking over our drinks and chairs in a fit of laughter, while the bartender thumbs frantically through the phone book to find the emergency number for the Sainte-Anne Psychiatric wing.

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XLI Conjectures

It was at this point that something terrible happened: I started leaving my socks on when I went to bed. I had to do something, otherwise I would start drinking my own urine. I tossed and turned in my bed as I thought about what JeanGeorges had said. What if he was right? I had to call Anne. Alice wasnt ready to be with me, after all, so maybe I was wrong to get divorced. All was not lost: plenty of couples get back together not long after getting divorced. Just look at Adeline and Johnny Hallyday. Nobad example. Uh, Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. Ok, not much better. I could get Anne back. I had to get Anne back. It could be done. We hadnt tried everything yet. We were going to try everything. We were so busy trying to spare each other the trouble that we never really tried to talk things out. We would be together again, and soon wed look back on our divorce and laugh. We had been through worse. No, on second thoughtwe hadnt been through worse. It used to be that marriages held up in spite of these kinds of flings. These days, marriage is a fling. We live in a society founded on selfishness. Socialists called this individualism, but theres a simpler way of putting it: we live in a society of soli121

tude. There are no families, no villages, no God. Our ancestors delivered us of these oppressions and turned on the TV. Weve been left to our own devices, incapable of taking an interest in anything but our own belly buttons. Ive nonetheless devised a plan. I had hoped not to be driven to such extreme measures but the departure of Alice with her husband calls for a counterstrike of nuclear proportions. Theres no time for dignity. My plan is to call Anne. I pick up the phone with a smile I believe is Machiavellian, but which actually is just quite intimidated.

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XLII The Stirring Strategy

How longs it been? I ask Anne, pulling out the table so she can sit on the bench. We used to love sitting side by side at this restaurant, but that was then, and tonight were sitting face to face. She looks at me curiously and then says: Four months, one week, three days, eight hours and (she says, checking her watch) sixteen minutes. And forty-three, forty-four, forty-five seconds... We begin by making conversation, talking about all the things that let us avoid discussing why were really hereour jobs, our friends, our memories. As if everything had never happened. But Anne could tell that I was miserable, and it made her miserable to not be the cause of my misery. By the time we get to dessert, she asks, vaguely annoyed: Look, you didnt ask me to dinner to talk about old times. What did you want to say? Well... You left some of your things at the house, and I was wondering if you wanted to come pick them up. But while youre here, I thought we might spend the weekend together and see if...

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Excuse me? Are you out of your mind? Were divorced, Marc! I know youre not in love with me anymore, and besidesIm not your fucking play toy you can just drag around! Shh, not so loud... I turn to the guy at the next table. Were divorced, I just asked her to spend the weekend with me, but she said no. There, now you know everything. Would you kindly stop listening now? Or maybe your life with that slut youre having dinner with is so fucking pathetic that you have to eavesdrop on other peoples lives. The guy gets up, I get up, our women have to pull us apart at least now you cant say there isnt any action in this book. Then I pay the bill and we leave the restaurant. Outside, its even darker than before. We walk for a bit, laughing. I tell her Im sorry. She says its okay. She seems to be doing better with all this than I am. Its too late, Marc... Were just past the point of no return. Im in love with someone else, and so are youtheres just no point in trying to make this work anymore. I know, I know, Im being ridiculous... I just thought there was some way we could work things out... You sure you dont want me to give you a ride home? No, its okay, Ill take a cab... Hey Marc, I want to give you a bit of advice for your future girlfriends. Try to empathize, learn to see things through their eyes.

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And then, just as were about to part ways, the feelings build up. We fight back our tears, but in our hearts they trickle down. Never again will I hear her cute, childlike laugh. My loss is her new boyfriends gain, if he knows how to make her laugh. Anne has become a stranger to me. We leave each other to follow our own paths. She steps into the taxi, I gently close the door behind her, she smiles at me from behind the window, and the car drives away... If this were a romantic comedy, Id start running after the taxi, the rain in my eyes, and wed fall into each others arms when the cab reached a red light. Or maybe it would be her that would suddenly change her mind, begging the driver to stop, like Audrey Hepburn/Holly Golightly at the end of Breakfast at Tiffanys. But life isnt a romantic comedy. In real life, taxis keep driving. First you leave your parents house, and then, sometimes, the house you lived in with your first wife, and yet its always the same pain, in which suddenly, you feel like an orphan all over again.

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XLIII Cheap Trick

Spouses have dinner, lovers have lunch. The next time you notice a couple at a bistro having lunch, try taking a phototheyll cuss you out. Try the same thing with another couple at night and theyll smile and pose for the camera. Alice called me as soon as she got back from her vacation with her husband. After making sure to empathize with her, imagining what she must be feeling, I calmly suggested we have lunch. Ill bring a slide projector. She didnt find that very funny, which was fine because I wasnt trying to be. Since she got back, shes been telling me that it was miserable, swore that they never had sex, but I interrupt her: Its fine. Im leaving town this weekend with Anne. We all know this is a lie, except Alice, who looks as if shes just taken a Scud missile to the face. Oh. So, I say, nonchalantly returning to the topic of conversation, Have a good trip? Alice slaps me, and yet shes the one who bursts into tears. Ive been collecting melodramatic meals recently. Fortunately, this time theres nobody sitting at the next table. Unfortunately, 126

Alice leaves too. Suddenly the restaurant feels a bit empty. And I try to savor my revenge, Here I am alone, with my heart full of alms (Paul Morand), and I go back to drinking gallons of wine until I cant hold myself up, standing or seated. Yet another liquid lunch. Revenge is a dish you cant eat. Whats astonishing isnt that all the worlds a stageits the fact that there are so few people in the cast.

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XLIV Letters (IV)

One week later. Last letter to Alice: My love, The weekend with Anne solved nothing. Its not even worth talking about. I needed to be certain, like you, that I had made the right choice. Im sorry if I hurt you. I also wanted you to feel how much it hurt me when you went away with Antoine. Its stupid, I know. But youll never know how much youve hurt me. Alice, we are made for one another. Its insane. Everything is beautiful when Im with youeven me. But Im afraid that youre afraid. I cant stand that Im not the only man in your life. I hate your past, because it stands in the way of my future. I just hope that all of this pain serves some purpose, in the end. Why dont you trust me? Because Im crazy? Thats no excuse, because youre crazy too. Do you think we love each other only because things are complicated? In that case, wed be better off if we just split up. Id rather be miserable without you than with you. Our love is indelibleI cant understand why you dont see that. I am your future. Here I am, Im real, you cant go on living 128

as though I dont exist. Im sorry, but in the words of Leonard Cohen, Im your man. We have no right to run away from happiness like this. Most people arent as lucky as we are. When theyre attracted to each other, they dont fall in love. When theyre in love, the sex is bad. Or else the sex is good, but they have nothing to talk about. Weve passed all of the tests with flying colors, yet none of this means anything because were still not together. What were doing is unforgivable. We should just stop making each other miserable. It should be a crime not to jump at the chance to be happy when the opportunity presents itself. Were being cruel to ourselves. How much longer can we go on like this? For whose sake? Its immoral to put ourselves and everyone else through all this pain, and for nothing. No one will blame us if we seize this opportunity to be content. This really is my last letter. I cant keep playing this game of cat and mouse. Im worn out, exhausted, lying at your feet, just waiting for you to deliver the final blow. When youre in this much pain, you lose all sense of pride. Im writing not to beg to you to come back, but to tell you that Ill always be here waiting. Just one word from you, and we can start our ostrich farm. No word, and Ill still be here, somewhere, living on the same planet, just waiting for you. Im crazy about you, I want no one but you, I think of no one but you, I belong only to you, body and soul. Marc, who cried while writing this.

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XLV So

So I pick up my pen to put into words how much I love her, how she has the longest hair in the world and Im drowning in it, and if you find that ridiculous I pity you, her eyes are mine, she is me, I am her, and when she screams I scream too and everything I ever do will be for her, forever, Ill give her everything always and until I die she will be the reason I get up every morning, to kiss again and again her wrists, her shoulders, her breasts, and then I realize that when youre in love you write sentences with no end, theres no time to put in periods, you have to keep writing, keep writing, run faster than your heart, and the sentence doesnt want to end, love knows no punctuation, and tears of passion trickle down your cheek, when youre in love you wind up writing never-ending things, when youre in love you always wind up thinking youre Albert Cohen, Alice came back, Alice left Antoine, she left, at last, at last, and we took off, literally and figuratively, we took the first flight for Rome, of course, where else, Hotel dAngleterre, Piazza Navona, Fontana di Trevi, vows of undying love, singing ballads on a Vespa, when we asked for helmets the rental guy understood everything and said it was too hot, and love, constantly making love, three, four, five times a day, it makes your dick hurt, youve never come so much, and then you start all over, youre no 130

longer alone, the sky is beautiful, without you I was nothing, finally I can breathe again, we walk above the pavement, hovering a few inches above the ground, nobody sees it but us, were on cushions of air, we smile for no reason at locals who think we must have Downs syndrome, or are members of some cult, the Cult of the Levitating Smilers, suddenly everything is so easy, you put one foot in front of the other and its happiness love life tomato and mozzarella salad drenched in olive oil and pasta parmigiano and we never finish our plates, too busy gazing into each other eyes, stroking each others horny hands, I dont think weve slept in ten days, ten months, ten years, ten centuries, the sun over the beach in Fregene we take photos like the one Anne found in Rio, its enough just to look at one another and to breathe, this is forever, forever and always, its unbelievable, its mind-blowing how overcome with joy we are, Ive never felt like this before, do you feel like this too, you could never love me as much as I love you, no I love you more, no me, okay its us, its wonderful to be so completely incapacitated, to run towards the sea, you were made for me, how can I describe something so beautiful with mere words, its as if, as if youd stepped from the dead of night into the dazzling daylight, like the rush of coming up on molly but it never goes away, like a stomachache suddenly disappearing, like the first gulp of air after holding your breath, like a single answer to every question, days pass like minutes, you forget the world around you, youre reborn in every second, you think no ugly thoughts, youre in a

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perpetual sensual sexual adorable invincible present, nothing can stop us, you know our love is strong enough to save the world, were appallingly happy, you go up to the room, wait for me in the lobby, Ill be right back, and as soon as the escalator doors close I take the stairs four at a time so I can open the door for you when you reach our floor, oh there are tears welling up in our eyes just from the three minutes spent apart, remember when you bit into a ripe peach and the juice trickled onto your tanned thighs oh fuck I want you all the time, again and again, Im gonna come on your face, oh Marc, oh Alice, Im coming, its longgg, its harddd, we didnt spent a single minute sightseeing, and now shes all giggly, what did I say to make you laugh like that, nothing Im just nervous, I came so hard, I love you, baby, what day is it?

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II THREE YEARS LATER AT FORMENTERA

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I D-Day 7

Casa le Moult. Here I am at Formentera to finish my book. This will be the last book in the Marronnier trilogyin the first, I fell in love; in the second, I got married; in the third, I got divorced and fell in love with someone else. The wheel has come full circle. Everyone tries to be innovative in their writingwith their style (fancy words, Anglicisms, odd sentence structure, advertising slogans, etc.) or with the message (clubbing, sex, drugs, rock and roll), but soon you realize that what you want most is just to write a love story with simple sentenceswhich is, of course, the most difficult thing in the world. I listen to the sounds of the sea. Im finally beginning to slow down. The fast life makes it impossible to truly be yourself. Here, you can read the length of the days in the sky. In Paris, my life had no sky. Constantly churning out a slogan, or faxing an article, answering the phone, hurry up, rushing from meeting to meeting, eating on the go, quick, quick, swerving through traffic on my scooter only to arrive late to a cocktail party. Given the breakneck absurdity of my existence, I thought I had deserved to put on the brakes for once. To focus. Concentrate on one thing at a time. Appreciate the beauty of the silence. En-

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joy the slowness of life. Listen to the perfume of the colors. All the things the world would like to take away. We have to start over. Society needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. These days, those who have money dont have any time, and those who have time dont have any money. Getting out of work is as hard as getting out of unemployment. The idler is public enemy number one. People get chained to money: they give up their freedom to pay their taxes. Its becoming increasingly clear that the real issue to discuss in the next century will be how to eliminate the tyranny of capitalism. Formentera, you little island... A satellite of Ibiza in the constellation of the Balearics. Formentera is like Corsica without the bombs, Ibiza without the clubs, Mustique without Mick Jagger, Capri without Herv Vilard, the Basque country without the rain. White sunshine. Spin on a Vespa. Heat and dust. Withered flowers. Turquoise sea. Scent of pine. Song of cicadas. Yellowbellied lizards. Goats gently butting. No buts! I tell them. Red sun. Gambas a la plancha. Vamos a la playa. Orange moon. Gin gimlets. I was searching for relief, and its here, where its too hot to write long sentences. You dont have to be in a coma to be on holiday. The seas overflowing with water. The sky is forever moving. The stars are shooting by. Breathing should be a full-time job.

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This is the story of a guy who holes up on an island to finish this book, which isnt called Paludes. This guy leads a hectic life, and so he finds it totally weird to be all alone in the middle of nowhere with no phone and no TV. In Paris, hes in a hurry, hes dynamic; here, he barely moves, goes on walks in the evening, always by himself. Barnabooth in Florence, Byron in Venice, the panda in the Venice zoo is his model. The only time he speaks is to say hi to his San Francesco maid. This guy wears a black shirt, white jeans, and Tods sandals. Drinks nothing but Pernod and gin gimlets. Eats nothing but chips and quesadillas. Listens to just one album: Rubinsteins recording of the Kreutzer sonata. Yesterday, you might have spotted him cheering a goal in the France-Spain match, a courageous gesture, albeit in poor taste when youre the only Frenchman in a Spanish bar. If you were to run into this guy, youd probably say to yourself: What the fuck is this Parisian asshole doing in La Fonda Pepe in the off-season? But that would piss me off a little, because that guy is me. So kindly shut your mouth, okay? I am a hermit smiling at the warm west wind. In one week Ill have been with Alice for three years.

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II D-Day 6

Okay, fine. When Alice left Antoineand then when we moved in together in the rue Mazarin (the street where Antoine Blondin died)I admit I freaked out a bit. Happiness is even more terrifying than sadness, in a way. Finally having what I wanted most in the world filled me with joy, but also made me wonder: would I make the same mistakes all over again? What if I was just a serial monogamist? Now that I had Alice, did I really want her? Would I become a pushover? Would I get bored of her? When would I stop asking such stupid fucking questions? Antoine wanted to kill me, to kill her, to kill himself. Our relationship rose from the ashes of a double divorce, as though it required two human sacrifices to create one new love. Schumpeter called that creative destruction, but Schumpeter was an economist, and economists are rarely romantics. We had destroyed two marriages in order to remain together, like a blob absorbing its victims to grow larger. Happiness is a monster that, if it doesnt kill you outright, will force you to take a few lives yourself.

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Jean-Georges came to stay with me in Formentera. Together we put the world to rights and then went snorkeling to visit the fish. Hes writing a play, so hes drinking as much as me. A poem to be read while drunk: In Formentera Youll ferment-a-lot. We meet old hippies, completely stoned, who have been living here since the sixties. How have they managed to stay together so long? I have tears welling up in my eyes. I buy weed from them. Jean-Georges and I get drunk and play pool in cafs. He tells me about his love life. Hes just met the love of his lifefor the first time, hes happy. To lovewhat else is there to live for? he says to me. Having kids? No way! Bringing a child in to a world as fucked up as this? That would be criminal! Selfish! Narcissistic! I give women something better than a childI give them a book! I declared proudly, raising my finger. We wink at the waitress. Shes stunning, wearing a bolero, a light down covers her olive skin, she has large dark eyes, she arches her back, wild like a squaw. She looks like Alice, I say. If I slept with her, I wouldnt really be cheating.

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Alice is in Paris; shes coming to join me here in a week. In six days Ill have been with her for three years.

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III D-Day 5

The waitress with the backless dress is named Matilda. Shes fucking hotttt. Jean-Georges sang her that Harry Belafonte song: Matilda she take me money and run Venezuela. I think I could fall in love with her if I didnt miss Alice so much. In the bar at Ses Roques, we asked her to dance. She clapped her bronzed hands, waved her hips, whipped her hair around. She had armpit hair. Jean-Georges asked her: Excuse me, miss, we need a place to sleep. Do you have any room at your place, por favor? She was wearing a thin gold chain around her waist and another around her ankle. Unfortunately, Matilda didnt take our money and didnt run off to Venezuela. But she was happy to sit and roll joints with us until we fell asleep beneath the stars. Her fingers were long and nimble. She licked the cigarette paper meticulously. I think we all felt a little muddled, Matilda included. Back at the Casa, completely shitfaced, Matilda grabbed my cock. She has a cavernous but muscular pussy that smelled like vacation. Her hair reeked of pot. She screamed so loudly that Jean-Georges had to fill her mouth to shut her up; after that we 140

switched places before ejaculating at the same time on her large firm breasts. Immediately after I came, I woke upsweating, dying of thirst. A real hermit shouldnt mess around too much with narcotic plants. In five days Ill have been with Alice for three years.

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IV D-Day 4

The single man quickly returns to being a Neanderthal. After a few days he stops shaving, stops showering, starts to grunt. It took millions of years for mankind to build civilization, but less than a week for him to revert to Homo erectus. I find my gait becoming increasingly ape-like. I scratch my balls, eat my boogers, move about in short hops. At mealtimes, I mash everything together and eat it with my hands, mixing sausages with gum, chips with chocolate milk, Coca-Cola and wine. Then I burp, fart, and begin to snore. Such is the life of a young avantgarde French writer these days. Then Alice arrived early. Three days before she was supposed to show up, she crept up behind me and put her hands over me eyes: Guess who? No s. Matilda? Asshole! Alice! We fell into each others arms. If you were hoping to surprise me, it worked! Did I feel obligated to say that? Admit it, you werent expecting me! And who the hell is Matilda? 142

Oh no one... Just somebody Jean-Georges was hitting on last night. If this isnt happiness, its close enough. We gnaw on Jabugo on the beach, the water is warm, Alice is tan, which makes her eyes turn a beautiful shade of green. We nap in the afternoon. I lick the sea salt off her back. We dont sleep much other than that. While we make love, Alice lists all the boys in Paris who have begged her to break up with me for them. I recount in detail my erotic dream from last night. Why do the women I love always have cold feet? Jean-Georges and Matilda meet up with us for dinner. They seem quite besotted. They just discovered they both lost their fathers this year. But its worse for me because Im a girl, says Matilda. I hate girls who are in love with their fathers, especially when their fathers are dead, says Jean-Georges. Girls who never loved their fathers are either frigid or lesbian, I suggest. Alice and Matilda dance together, looking all the while like a pair of slightly incestuous sisters. We rub up against them. Everything is going well, things could have taken an erotic turnunfortunately we go our separate ways, but we each make up for it in our own rooms.

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Before I go to bed, I succeed in doing something unprecedented for meI take off my watch. If love is to last forever, you have to live outside of time. Modern life is what destroys love. What if we just moved here? Everything is cheap. I could fax everything back to Paris, get a couple of advances from some publishers, from time to time I could expedite some advertising campaigns by DHL... And wed be bored to death. Dammit, Im starting to panic again. I can feel the danger approaching. Im sick of being me. Id love if someone could just tell me what I really want. Its true that sometimes our passion begins to feel more like affection. Has the machine been set in motion? We have to secrete more endorphins. I love her and yet Im terrified well get tired of each other. Sometimes well pretend to be bored as fuck on purpose. Shell say: Alright... Im going to run some errands... See you soon... And I respond: When you get back, lets go for a walk... Pick some rosemary... Have lunch on the beach... Buy the paper... Do nothing... Or kill ourselves... The only appropriate way to die in Formentera is to fall off a bicycle, like Nico.

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I tell myself that if we can joke about it, maybe things arent so bad. The suspense is building. In four days Ill have been with Alice for three years.

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V D-Day 3

Alice and I make love less and less, but it gets better and better. I tenderly caress the few square inches of skin I know she loves best. She gently shuts my eyes. She used to have an orgasm every other time, now she comes every time. She lets me write all afternoon, as she lies out in the sun. She comes back around six and I make her an iced Moorish coffee. Then I make sure shes evenly tanned all over. I squeeze her grapefruits. She sucks me off, then I fuck her in the ass. She reads this over my shoulder, and asks me to take out I fuck her in the ass. I agree, and change it to I take her from behind. Then when she walks away I press Command-Z on my Mac. This is what it costs to write fictionthe history of literature is a long litany of such betrayals, I hope shell forgive me. I refuse to finish Tender is the Night, I have a terrible feeling that things wont end well for Dick Diver and Nicole. I listen to the Kreuzter sonata and think about the eponymous short story by Tolstoy. The story of a man who kills his unfaithful wife. The couple was inspired by the violin and the piano in Beethovens sonata. I listen to them sing together, interrupt each other, leave each other, forgive each other, hate each other, and finally come together for the last big crescendo. Its the sound of a couple liv-

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ing together. The violin and the piano are incapable of playing alone... If our relationship falls apart, Ill be completely indifferent. I could never give as much of myself to anyone else. Will I end up fucking high-class whores and watching porn alone? This has to work. We have to get past the three-year mark. I change my mind every two seconds. Maybe we should live apart. Living together is exhausting. I have no reservations; Im not opposed to the idea of wife swapping. After all, if youre going to cheat on each other, you might as well do it together. An open relationship, maybe thats the answer: prearranged adultery. No. I know: we need to have a baby, and fast! I scare myself. Th e countdown inches toward the Damocletian sword. In three days Ill have been with Alice for three years.

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VI D-Day 2

My mistake was in wishing for life to stand still. We all want time to stop, love to last forever, nothing to ever die, to bask forever in some pampered childhood. We put up walls to protect ourselves, and then one day we realize those same walls have become our prison. Now that Alice and I are together, Ive stopped putting up walls. Every second I spend with her is a gift. Ive realized that you can be nostalgic about the present. Sometimes there are moments so wonderful that I stop and say: Damn, Im going to miss this moment later on: I dont ever want to forget this memory, so I can think back to it when things have gone to shit. Ive discovered that in order to stay in love, a person must always have a bit of mystery. You have to avoid boredomnot through feeble, artificial attempts at novelty, but by learning to appreciate the beauty of daily life. To be generous and honest. You know youre in love when you put toothpaste on someone elses toothbrush. Above all, Ive learned that in order to be happy, you first have to have been extremely depressed. Until you have learned to suffer, happiness will never endure. The love that lasts just 148

three years is the love that has neither scaled mountains nor lingered in the depths of despair, but the kind of love that is handed to you on a plate. Love only lasts if everyone involved knows what it costs, and its best to pay in advance, or else you might find yourself having to settle the bill later on. We werent prepared for happiness, because we werent yet used to misery. We had grown up in the religion of comfort. You first have to know who you are and who you love. You have to be a finished person to live an unfinished story. I hope that the deceptive title of this book hasnt exasperated you too much: of course love doesnt last just three years, and Im glad I was wrong about that. And its not just because this book is published by Grasset that Im coming clean. I dont know what the past holds for me (as Sagan used to say), but I carry on, filled with wondrous dread, because I have no other choice, I carry on, not quite as carefree as before, but I carry on nonetheless, I carry on in spite of everything, and I swear it is beautiful. We make love in the translucent waters of a deserted creek. We dance on the balcony. We flirt in a dimly-lit alley, drinking Marqus de Cceres. We eat and eat. Were finally living the life. When I asked her to marry me, she responded, gently, romantically, delicately, beautifully, poetically: No.

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The day after tomorrow Ill have been with Alice for three years.

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VII D-Day 1

The sun is ineluctable. It may not be obvious, but I spent hours forming that sentence. The birds are chirping, which is the only way I know its day. Even the birds are in love. It was the summer that The Fugees covered Roberta Flacks Killing Me softly and I knew Id always remember it. Marc, you know tomorrow is our three-year anniversary? Shhh! Shut up! Who cares, I dont want to know! I think its cute, I dont know why you have to be so mean about it. Im not being mean, I just need to work. You want to know something? Youre a selfish, pretentious bastard, and youre so in love with yourself that it makes me sick. To be able to love someone else, you first have to love yourself. Your problem is you love yourself so much, theres no room for anyone else! She drove off on my moped, kicking up a magical trail of dust behind her on the bumpy road. I didnt go after her. When she came back a few hours later, I apologized and kissed her feet. I promised her wed have a barbecue, just the two of us, to

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celebrate our anniversary. The flowers in the garden were yellow and red. I asked her: How long until you leave me? About twenty pounds from now. Hey! I cant help it if happiness makes you gain weight! At the same moment in Paris, an artist named Bruno Richard writes in his journal: Happiness is the silence of unhappiness. Now he can die happy. Tomorrow will mark three years that Ive been with Alice.

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VIII D-Day

The last day of summer has arrived. You can smell the end approaching on the beaches of Formentera. Matilda took off without leaving a forwarding address. The wind whips through the low stone walls and between our feet. The sky is inexorable. Silence spreads across the Balearics. Epicurus advice is to content oneself with the present, with its plentitude of simple pleasures. Must we prefer pleasure to happiness? What ifinstead of constantly questioning how long love will lastsimply reveling in the present moment is the best way to prolong it? We will be friends. Friends who hold hands, who lie making out on the beach, who delicately fuck up against the wall of a villa while listening to Al Green, but friends just the same. Were graced with magnificent weather the day of our anniversary. On the beach we swam and slept, happy as can be. The Italian bartender at the tiny kiosk recognized me: Hello, my friend Marc Marronnier! I responded: Marc Marronnier is dead. Ive killed him. From now on its just me, and my name is Frdric Beigbeder.

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He didnt hear any of that because of the blaring music. Alice and I shared a melon and some ice cream. I put my watch back on. I had finally become one with myself, reconciled with Earth and time. And evening came. After a detour to Kiosko Anselmo, where we had a Gin-Kas while listening to the waves splashing against the pontoon, we returned home. The night was alit with stars and candles. Alice had fixed a tomato and avocado salad. I lit a stick of incense. An old flamenco tune could be heard through the static of the radio. The lizards were hiding out under the azulejos. Suddenly the crickets fell silent. Alice sat next to next to me, smiling happily. Wed each drunk two bottles of ros. Three years! The countdown was over! What I had failed to understand is that a countdown is just a beginning. At the end of every countdown is a fuse ready to ignite. Hallelujah! And to think how Id been worrying like an idiot! The most wonderful thing about life is that it goes on. We kissed slowly, holding hands beneath the orange moon, listening to the future. I looked at my watch: it was 11:59 p.m. Another sixty seconds, and we had made it. Verbier-Formentera, 1994-1997

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