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Christine Hall Volkoff - Travels Through Love and Time

Christine Hall Volkoff - Travels Through Love and Time

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05/24/2012

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  • Tag(s): romantic bisexual Paris lesbian "coming of age"
  • Journeys beyond our selves…
  • By Christine Hall Volkoff
  • It had started as such a good day. As I sat on the bluff amongst the
  • At night I would usually discuss the day with Simone
  • I was hopeful that maybe she was taking enough of an interest in her
  • I was crestfallen. Francesca d’Alessi was a distant friend of my moth-
  • I could not believe that my mother had had the nerve to impinge on
  • Why does she have to come here?
  • - When is she coming?
  • - Today. Mr. Vernet is bringing her at 3:00
  • I hated her
  • The idea of having to contend with “La d’Alessi” for a whole week
  • I ate my lunch distractedly. I was not even interested in finding out the
  • - Bummer! Said Ondine…why don’t you come to our house for dinner
  • - Is she here?
  • - Is she going to have dinner at home?
  • - Indeed
  • - So you don’t mind being here all alone for the summer?
  • - Do you have friends on the island?
  • What do you think!?
  • - Yes I do
  • - Are they nice?
  • You need to take the ferry? (I was asking a hopeful question)
  • - I am meeting a friend at 10:30
  • - Then you better leave now…it takes about 20 minutes
  • A friend? Hell…was she going to bring Hollywood to the island?
  • - Mrs. D’Alessi is meeting her friend Tomaso at the ferry. He will be
  • I just could not believe her nerve…I suddenly was being kicked out of
  • - Hey you guys! What are you up to?
  • - Nothing…what are you doing today?
  • - We want to go fishing at Notre-Dame. Do you want to come?
  • - Sure…
  • - Do you guys know that Francesca d’Alessi is spending the summer
  • All three of them looked at me stunned
  • I rolled my eyes
  • - I read an article in Cinemonde…she and Selena Hirschberg are doing
  • Europe
  • I shrugged my shoulders…
  • - Have you seen him? Maybe he’s a she!
  • I woke up suddenly from my dream. I could still hear the bird sound
  • Italian
  • They seemed to be going out of their way to pay attention to me
  • My guess was that they realized that they had forgotten to close the
  • And what a day it was!
  • The speedboat was waiting for us at the harbor. It was a sleek wonder
  • I got up by myself on the second round and off we went into deeper wa-
  • Francesca
  • - Cover yourself up with whipped cream and do the Dance of the
  • Plage d’Argent under the moonlight. We had to jump off the boat into
  • Ciao Christina!
  • Good luck with the little deer
  • See you soon I hope!
  • I suddenly remembered that Tomaso had had to leave early on the
  • We usually did not have fireworks on or near the island but some people
  • This July 14th looked like it was going to be a work day for both
  • Francesca and me
  • She was already on the phone talking in an agitated way in Italian by
  • - You don’t know what you are talking about! I was sitting behind
  • Eh? He turned to me with his most devilish smile. I would rather have
  • And on we went…
  • - You know me? And do I know you?
  • - No you don’t…yet…but will you do us the honor of joining us for a
  • - Yes I am. I replied in a serious tone that left no room for banter. So he
  • - What’s going on over there?
  • - Looks like that little guy from Nice-Matin has spotted your friend
  • Ondine…
  • I rolled my eyes and cursed under my breath. I don’t think Francesca
  • - Is everything OK? I asked
  • The band was playing a French cover of the Rolling Stone’s Honky
  • - I’m going with you!
  • Francesca turned around and as the flashes went off she graciously
  • Revelers and sailors were waving back and saying goodnight. I did
  • We got back to the house safe and sound. We could still hear the music
  • I read my mystery book for a while before turning off the light. But my
  • I could hear Simone’s voice in broken English behind the door as I was
  • I used to love going out on the Nostromo with my parents when I was
  • We were going to stay overnight? I could hardly contain my excitement
  • I had not stayed overnight on Nostromo since I was about five years old!
  • Felipe was coming over to help us with the big bag and with some
  • - I am so glad that we came here…I didn’t feel like staying on the other
  • - What is it like to act? Do you like it?
  • She graciously answered the question
  • - But in reality you find out eventually that all these characters that
  • The sun was half way gone. Francesca was asking:
  • - And do they get to see it?
  • - Che bello…what a beautiful story…
  • We were quiet and looking into each other’s eyes all of a sudden. Just
  • - How come you know how to sail like that?
  • - My family lives near Naples. My father and I would go sailing all the
  • - Do you still live in Naples?
  • - No…my husband has a villa on Capri and we go there every now
  • - Do you…huh…do you love your husband?
  • - Why do you sleep with Tomaso then?
  • - Does your husband know about Tomaso?
  • - Yes he does
  • - And he doesn’t mind?
  • - What is it that makes someone a great lover?
  • She was thinking hard…she was actually going to answer my
  • - What about Selena Hirschberg?
  • - What about her? Asked Francesca…she looked like she was taken
  • - Bambi says you sleep with her
  • - Bambi! That guy sure knows a lot! Where did he get this?
  • She paused…looked down…then looked back up straight at me
  • - You’re in love with Selena?
  • - It’s not so weird you know…you’ll see…everybody does it. Those
  • - Is Selena a great lover?
  • Francesca was pensive
  • - Is that good or bad?
  • I was still processing this deluge of revelations from an adult I hardly
  • - Let’s go for a swim!
  • - Now? The water around the boat was black and uninviting
  • - Come on! It’s delicious!
  • - Do you know the names of the stars? She asked…
  • - Tell me more…
  • - More…tell me more…
  • The night was calm and the air was still warm. Out from behind the
  • Francesca went up ahead of me. The drops of water on her body were
  • - Do you know where the towels are?
  • book while Francesca took her turn in the little bathroom. The boat was
  • I turned toward the wooden wall in my bunk. I could hear the blood
  • Hollywood musical. Francesca and I smiled at each other a lot. At some
  • I turned into a better sailor. The sea was a little rougher on the Western
  • I had left the big duffel in the cabin. Felipe said he would bring it over
  • I don’t think she was fooled for one second by my calm demeanor
  • Spanodakis had the money and the clout to abscond with Francesca any
  • I imagined that I could have brought Francesca up here. We would
  • It was almost dark when I finally came down the hill and I realized
  • The portion of pier where the Orion was docked was locked so I could
  • - Yes?
  • - La Signora d’Alessi has requested that Christina come and fetch her
  • I could not help but smile…
  • I did not have to tell Christina to jump on the bicycle and ride like the
  • - It was good
  • - Did you sleep with him?
  • - Did he want to sleep with you?
  • She responded seriously this time
  • She paused…
  • So we sat in the kitchen. I got some ice water from the refrigerator. I
  • - Just remember to always stop and think about whether something
  • This went against everything I had ever heard from teachers and ad-
  • She finished her glass and got up. I did too; it was time to go to bed
  • - OK
  • She went into her room and closed the door
  • Francesca’s light to go out. She had closed the drapes and I could not see
  • I did not have to wake Francesca in the morning. I could hear her and
  • - Where are you going now?
  • I hopped in the back of the jeep with the bags and off we went toward
  • Mr. Vernet had come to pick up Francesca with the Riva. I looked at
  • - Ti voglio bene…don’t forget…
  • I managed to return to some kind of routine in the days that followed
  • - Who told you that? You’re just a kid! Who told you that?
  • - It means “I love you”. That’s what it means. Now stay out of trouble!
  • Tropez. She agreed
  • People around you talk about them in familiar tones as if they knew
  • I remember crying secretly in my room when my parents eventually
  • My life was full of schoolwork and suspended living. I saved clothes
  • England where I had spent a couple of windy summers but I was disen-
  • I said I had no idea. I had long ago given up on any kind of argument
  • I arrived in Cannes a little later than I had planned. The Croisette was
  • The scene inside was exciting. I had a reserved seat amongst all the
  • I saw her. She was surrounded with people and photographers. She had
  • Thank you…I will be there! Francesca was well received by the crowd
  • The film started…
  • She played a prostitute who was trying to escape her situation in
  • Palermo and rebuild her life. The film was harsh and violent. There were
  • - You must be Christina! He said… I feel like I know you already!
  • Come on in…I am Marco d’Alessi
  • She looked a little bit older; I could see new tiny wrinkles in the corner
  • He shook my free hand and talked to me while more people were com-
  • Francesca squeezed my hand and let it go. She had to move into the
  • I knew what was happening…what was going to happen. I wanted it
  • - Is this your car?
  • It was. I was looking at him as he was driving. This dashing young
  • We arrived at Eden Roc. He took his key and we went down to his
  • - Are you taking birth control? He asked
  • - Don’t worry…I will be careful
  • I took off my underwear. Feeling someone’s naked body against mine
  • I was not going to be one of these great lovers after all…I hadn’t gone to
  • - Good morning! Shall we order breakfast?
  • I apologized and said that I was supposed to have breakfast with
  • 8:00 for breakfast? We realized we could get on a flight directly from
  • Oh my God! I had missed them…It was 9:05…Maybe there was still a
  • Carlton. Then I saw Francesca and Marco walking out of the hotel. I was
  • -I love you! Oh…I love you!
  • I must have choked on the last word. Francesca was calm as usual
  • Marco came to separate us gently
  • - Ciao Christina!
  • - Come to Rome! Please come visit! Said Francesca
  • Francesca d’Alessi was killed six months later in a head on collision with
  • I was in the middle of finals
  • I finished school eventually. But instead of getting a good job related
  • -Tell me that you love me…
  • - I do…I love you
  • - Ti voglio bene…don’t forget!
  • Cafes are genuinely important to the quality of life in Paris. In Califor-
  • Marie…I guess I could see what was attractive about her enough to un-
  • I became conscious of the fact that I was talking to George about
  • Panic… No other word can describe the chaos that was taking place in
  • Only people who exile themselves voluntarily like I had can understand
  • Everything happens for a reason. But still…If the woman was in any way
  • - Excusez moi…
  • - Oui?
  • The time…I did detect an accent. Maybe she wasn’t French after all…I
  • - Quatre heures dix. Ten past four
  • - Oh! Are you an American? She said in English
  • She took off her glasses and put down her book
  • I introduce myself to her
  • Her smile was absolutely devastating. She did not look like Marie at
  • Paris for three years now. She had a job as a production assistant for one
  • (OK…I get this…) and she was staying at a friend’s apartment Rue de
  • Nevers. The friend was travelling around the world or something for a
  • -No kidding!
  • -What movie is it?
  • -Were you going alone?
  • I was taken aback by the request. Yet a feeling of excitement that felt
  • - I loved it. Thank you very much for letting me come along
  • How could I have lost her so soon!
  • Madonna
  • Maybe this was what had stopped me from asking Linda if I could see
  • Here’s to you Alison who that the nerve to call me sick for loving you
  • Or maybe she would not be there. Then I would come back day after day
  • Louise”. I could never forget it. There was a connection between its at-
  • I remembered how upset she seemed about her boyfriend. There is noth-
  • Alison…Where are you now? Why did you leave me in this predica-
  • I woke up very early. Too early. I must have slept for three hours all
  • I don’t even know what I’m missing! I’ll just have fun with my friend
  • I would still have time to go by the Babylone and check out the scene
  • I had the car today. Parking was going to be a pain. Francoise had ad-
  • Movies were the closest thing to something like this. What if there is
  • Pocket books? Yes. Marguerite Duras. They had every book she’d ever
  • - Five o’clock. Are you a regular here?
  • She laughed. A joke… What a joke. Yet here she was. Let’s not be cyn-
  • - No problem. I’ll be here!
  • - See you then!
  • Some directors specialize in films that are supposed to have all kinds of
  • It was torture stopping myself from looking at my watch constantly. I
  • Taylor in “Suddenly Last Summer”? Maybe she was trying to get her
  • The little park Boucicaut was getting ready for the end of the day. The
  • Damn! How many sparkling waters can I drink without having to use
  • Linda the unknown…
  • I don’t have to wonder anymore
  • Everything seemed to come very easily around her
  • - I was curious to read what you were reading. It’s OK. I did not hate
  • - Where shall we go?
  • It was early still. I was far from hungry. I did not feel like going any-
  • Linda laughed. Her laugh was devoid of any kind of mockery or ri-
  • The setting sun was bathing the café with golden light. Alis-
  • - What’s going on?
  • I worked for ten hours in a row. I’m glad I had some time today
  • The conversation went on about her work and what it was like. She
  • - What do you mean?
  • Ouch! Stand still as the rock of Gibraltar. She did seem to be enjoying
  • She looked at me with great suspicion…
  • - Are you religious? Like Catholic or something?
  • Sorry
  • I was reluctant to move the car from my once in a lifetime parking place
  • The story of my family had never sounded so special or interesting be-
  • Maybe she should look into consciously fighting her addictive tenden-
  • How is it that our lives are so strange? That proclaiming that we are
  • Linda was looking at the menu. The piano in the background was
  • - Pierre! I didn’t know they allowed you in here!
  • - Lindy! Where the hell have you been?
  • Pierre looked like a typical French businessman on a drunken night
  • - He calls you Lindy?
  • Linda started laughing and her eyes filled up with tears as she raised
  • - The strange part is that Pierre said nothing. He sees Julien all the
  • Zone
  • Dorothy Sayers fan will agree that the real payoff comes when you find
  • (as in the Hollywood classic “Gaslight”) as a common pastime in the les-
  • - You seem to have little respect for all this lesbian drama…
  • - I guess I am still angry at them. I feel that we all need each other’s
  • - She was when she would start saying that she had no free will and
  • - It was not like what you are describing…She was shaking her head
  • - How many women did you sleep with? I tried to maintain a matter
  • Angeles in communication. I guess we did our best to communicate in a
  • Monica for a full week. It was wild
  • - What happened after that?
  • We had finished our food. The champagne was almost gone. There
  • - Have you ever thought of doing it again?
  • Part of me knew for a fact that this encounter was going to change my
  • She took her time to answer. The piano started playing again a song I
  • - Well not really. I have been very absorbed with Julien for the past
  • - I am sorry it ended like it did. It must have been rough on you
  • He did not seem to have had any problem making a commitment to
  • Sonja
  • - Would you want to get back with him?
  • I was never sure that I wanted to get back with Alison. I knew I
  • Friendship on the other hand seemed to involve more intimacy than she
  • I looked around the Closerie while she went downstairs to the bathroom
  • Maybe she did not get too much of a chance to talk to anyone about per-
  • Babylone
  • - It is very nice. You have to come see it some time. I’d give anything
  • Her voice became very soft
  • - You take care too…
  • Was there anything I could have done to make this better and clearer?
  • Was I cautious because of a correct instinct that I had to be very careful
  • This particular problem was not helping me deal with the extreme
  • (I now took the liberty of calling her Lindy to myself and it felt quite
  • Alison liked to think that my affection for her was nothing but an ab-
  • Marie did not seem to have helped develop her imagination nor her self-
  • Natalie Barney would hold her court in total openness and freedom. Yet
  • Driving past the Rue de Nevers was especially difficult as I would
  • No call the next day either. I was going crazy. I was cursing my life
  • - Sorry…I’m glad I thought of giving it to you again. Would you like
  • I had plans with Francoise and her husband. But things could be
  • - You mean tomorrow?
  • - I would love to. Where shall we meet? I was sure she was going to
  • - Why don’t you come and meet me at the apartment?
  • - Great! I’ll be there! What time?
  • I was ecstatic about the idea that I was going to see where she lived. It
  • I called Francoise to reschedule our plans for the next day. She was
  • - Allo?
  • - Lindy?
  • - Hi! I totally forgot about the code and all that. Sorry…
  • Slavic women’s choir softly playing on the stereo
  • I was expressing my enthusiasm about the place
  • - Then where will you live?
  • The kitchen looked like it belonged in a medieval castle and not this
  • Bordeaux. I looked puzzled
  • - I think it’s perfect…
  • We sat down for a while on the couch and had glasses of wine. The
  • I kept being torn between asking him about Sonja and refusing to talk
  • Julien. I felt safe because she had not pretended to be in love with me or
  • Lindy was sitting at the table across from me. We were talking about
  • We were going over everything. She was actually asking me what it
  • She laughed…
  • - I’m not so sure that the straight world has gone beyond that at all…
  • Brahmin or Untouchable. Pariahs seem to me to be the result of a tacit
  • - And now?
  • It took three nights…Three nights of agitation and daydreams. I saw
  • Her voice on the line…With a French intonation…”Allo?”
  • - Now?
  • - Come only if you want to. You remember the code?
  • - Yes but…
  • - I think we need to help things go where they want to go…
  • My ears were pounding with the bass drum of my heart. How can this
  • - I’ll be there! Don’t you fall asleep!
  • She laughed again
  • - No chance!
  • I got out of bed and put away the childish nightgown that I always
  • The code…Up the stairs…I was getting a little less confident. Did I un-
  • Lindy and I were in a situation close to a pickup scene or one night
  • No performance anxiety or uneasiness. We seemed familiar to each
  • I asked Lindy how she could have had the nerve to ask me to come
  • Lindy did not seem to suffer from any fear of having converted herself
  • - What are you thinking?
  • Ooops…I was exposed and felt disrespectful of the present moment. I
  • - I’m afraid I was thinking about Alison and Marie. How we think the
  • - Fear of what?
  • - Are you feeling any of these fears?
  • - You mean now?
  • - Yes now…
  • We were making plans of the greatest importance. I was going to leave
  • Everybody else could stay in the dark. Who cared?
  • Lindy was standing on the doorstep looking quite regal wearing a
  • I knew I was racing down the old uneven steps
  • The taxi was getting stuck in traffic by the Porte Clignancourt on its
  • - Are you going on vacation? Hassan the taxi driver was trying to
  • - Are you going back home then?
  • Hassan smiled…
  • -Should I take you back?
  • We went down to the Vert Galant to watch the golden hour descend
  • - As long as it is temporary! Lindy said it as she leaned her head on my
  • - Welcome! I am honored that you chose to bring beauty and love un-
  • It was only the beauty of the full moon over the river and the bridges
  • Victor Hugo novel. She told me she had identified with Esmeralda. I told
  • -You know that I love you. I said…You know that?
  • She replied softly
  • -Yes…I’m afraid that I feel the same way about you
  • -What do you think we should do about it?
  • -You mean other than what we’ve been doing? I asked
  • -Yes
  • We stayed silent for a while. I watched a speedboat going upstream
  • -How about…I stopped mid-sentence
  • - How about…nothing?
  • She said it looking at me with the sweetest and most glorious smile
  • Wow. I was shocked. Part of me was hurt that Lindy had not said that
  • - All right…We can try that…I’m with you… I am…
  • We were still all alone on the stone bank. We kissed in the shadow of
  • Pont Saint Louis
  • I guess we had found our legs again
  • Lindy insisted on going out to Rue de Buci to do some shopping for
  • -Will you always love me?
  • -Will you always desire me?
  • -Yes! I will! Now I realize what Diego meant last night… good to you
  • Suddenly our lovemaking became more emotional than skillful. Not sur-
  • There was promise and regret in her tone. I did not know which one to
  • Lindy's shooting crew was supposed to come pick her up a little before
  • Lindy said she would call me and leave a message on my answering
  • The entrance to the Rue de Nevers is marked by an arch made of a
  • The van started honking
  • I turned around and felt lightheaded as quiet tears started flowing
  • But I knew that my life had completely changed already…I was a dif-
  • And then she had turned me loose…Maybe it was the most generous
  • When I finally got to the airport the first thing I did was call her and
  • Like a gift from the heavens it was easy to tell
  • It was love from above that could save me from hell
  • At 28 she had come back to live at home and go to school to study for a
  • PhD in psychology. Home was a beautiful villa in the wealthy part of
  • I had met her and Minna at a mountain resort in Colorado a few
  • It was in the morning that I felt the first signs that the disturbance was
  • Minna and I were having some breakfast while looking out to the ocean
  • Minna told me the secret location of the spare house key so I could let
  • It was almost a relief to leave the house and drive on the freeway on
  • Beverly Hills to the grimy sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard. I pulled
  • Had Minna decided to forego the Awards night? Nah…in spite of her
  • I had just discovered the DVDs when Bethany came back down and
  • I was holding up the bottle of 12 year old Scotch that Bethany had
  • She smiled
  • - Great idea!
  • - Would you like to share some of last night’s leftovers with me? I
  • She seemed to begin to relax a little. I wasn’t thinking of Von Aschen-
  • She was talking easily of this and that. We talked about movies we
  • Australia. I could picture in my mind Bethany travelling through Aus-
  • I heard myself voice the question I had been dying to ask
  • She explained that VJ had called her while she was still at school to
  • - Do you have any idea where he went?
  • I asked where she thought he went
  • - Or at the emergency room
  • - Well that's true… she did not seem convinced
  • - Are you kidding?
  • - But let’s get back to the matter at hand here… do you two get along
  • I could picture a 14 year old Bethany studying late at night trying to
  • She looked at me with a funny little smile. Maybe the rescue operation
  • - How does being with a man compare to being with a woman?
  • - Was that your first time?
  • Francisco…How it was magical and terrifying at the same time
  • I don’t think Bethany was much aware that at the time homosexual af-
  • I am back in my room. My head is spinning a little from the wine. I can
  • I recommend to myself a long hot shower to help me get in the mood
  • Holmes
  • - Mind if I come in? She says…
  • - Of course not…
  • - Sure…Let me find my pen…
  • What follows is hard to describe in the sense that sexual encounters
  • I guess it went quite well after all. I look at Bethany in the amber light
  • We jump off in tandem
  • - Whoa…
  • She rises and fumbles for the kimono on the floor. She turns back to
  • - So I hear you and Bethany lived it up last night?
  • Bethany closed her eyes and blew me a kiss. I am not very good at blow-
  • Bethany somehow seemed to have happened on a parallel branch of real-
  • Bethany’s name. It is funny how technology has given all of us the
  • It was a sign that I had to start working hard on my recovery. I had to
  • Carlos Santana song that I had heard only a couple of times before. I
  • I realized that what we had given each other did not require repeated
  • I do owe her respect and love for who she is and not who I sometimes

Travels Through Love and Time

Christine Hall Volkoff

Published: 2009 Tag(s): romantic bisexual Paris lesbian "coming of age"

1

TRAVELS THROUGH LOVE AND TIME Journeys beyond our selves… By Christine Hall Volkoff

Part 1: NOSTROMO One of these mornings you’re going to rise up singing spread your wings and take to the sky… DuBose Heyward, Ira Gershwin “Summertime” Day One

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It had started as such a good day. As I sat on the bluff amongst the pines, looking at the entire view of the island all around me, the cicadas were so loud that I could hardly hear myself think. The sea was calm, with a few white sails here and there. I could see the little harbor, with pieces of the village around it. I recognized the Navy fort to my right, and the white beaches to the North, and tried in vain to spot my parent’s house off the Chemin du Langoustier. It felt so good to be out there in the warm breeze, taking in the scent of hot pine sap, the sweet loneliness of being up there with myself and my dreams. One day, I would be up here with someone I loved, and we would kiss in the shadow and protection of the maritime pines, we would own the world. I got up, and went back to my clunky bicycle. The brakes were so bad, that my friends and I had bought some cheap sandals with high cork heels at the Porquerolles market, so we could drag our feet and use the heels as brake pads in order to slow down. I cautiously started down the trail, bouncing the tires over the pine needles and roots. I was on the island for the summer. My parents were both gone, typically in their separate ways, my father in Italy and my mother somewhere in Scandinavia. I enjoyed having the house to myself. Not quite to myself since I had Simone, my governess to take on all the hard work and boring tasks in the house, and take care of me. It was a great deal, and I appreciated every minute. The freedom was palpable, almost unbearable, and I could only hope I could summon the experiences to make it unforgettable. I rode through the village, still bouncing on all the rocks, and took the one paved road to the left, back to the house. I had worked up an appetite, and was looking forward to sitting out in the courtyard, eating Simone’s delicious food and looking at the bees dancing around the wisteria. I was reading a mystery. I always liked to read while having lunch. At night I would usually discuss the day with Simone. I parked the bicycle in the service entrance, and knew right away something was wrong. Simone looked worried. “Your mother called!” she said. Oh no. “Is she coming?” I said, with a mixture of hope and fear. I was hopeful that maybe she was taking enough of an interest in her progeny to come and spend some time with me. I was afraid that she would be coming home and start taking away my precious freedom. -No, but she has invited Mrs. d’Alessi to stay here for a week. -What?!

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especially the ones directed by the Italian New Wave. Mr. slightly above my head. I regularly gave them looks that could kill.Shit! Whatever…I said. I decided that I would not have 4 . but who seemed to have been very instrumental in the rise of her career. . and I also suspected a former lover of my father’s.Why. Right now.Today. and usually did the most stupid cutesy things to try to make me smile. though I could not at that time really appreciate whether she was a good actress or not. very blue eyes. The idea of having to contend with “La d’Alessi” for a whole week made me want to pull out all of my mother’s roses and trample them until there was no trace left of them. a perfect face and a perfect body with (what I admired most) straight hair. and ran away to my room. She had dark skin. She was married to Marco d’Alessi. as Simone frowned at the word. why is she coming? Doesn’t she have enough houses already? Why does she have to come here? . and she wants be incognito. Since my father was working in the film business. I had met many famous actresses and actors throughout my fourteen years.Oh right. Some of the films. I had never met her. I thought she was beautiful. that she needed the rest. a producer who was much older than her.I was crestfallen.When is she coming? . This was a double whammy! . like she can’t take the ferry like everyone else…give me a break! I liked Francesca. Francesca d’Alessi was a distant friend of my mother’s.You mother said she had business in France. I could not believe that my mother had had the nerve to impinge on my freedom without even coming back herself. of a non-descript color with blonde highlights in typical Hollywood fashion. I still could not believe it! One whole week! . especially from the point of view of a kid. were I have to admit. She looked good in black and white though. They seemed to always listen to themselves talk. but I had seen some of her movies. however. Vernet is bringing her at 3:00. I hated her. and always found them to be extremely boring in person. . She was a well known Italian actress currently living in Hollywood.

who were brothers. So Ondine and I went to pick up the boys. So there. The canoe leaked. I was furious at my mother. we would lie on the silver sand in full sunlight and discuss everything from our parents. turn it over to empty it and start all over again. Let him or her go free. making shopping lists. but had a special feeling for Jean-Pierre. I hopped on the bike. and off we went. At 2:30. He was skinny. and I always ended up with Jean-Remy. So it was really Ondine and me and the boys. It was me and “the girls”. I could imagine that the nickname was left over from when he was a chubby toddler. He had the looks of an angel. I liked them all. and the game was to paddle as fast and as far as possible before the canoe finally sank. Veronica was older than her sister Ondine. I made my escape. as possible. working hard.anything to do with her. but who knows… Bambi incidentally. nor did I care at that moment about who was the murderer. and the manners of a bad boy. Bambi. After all our exertions. did not return my feelings. but quite strong for a fifteen year old. She knew how to drop the competition aspect. We played a game where we would pull out the old canoe that we had hidden at the Plage d’Argent. singing and paddling slowly in unison until we sank. I did not like paddling with Bambi anyway. and summoned the troops to spend the afternoon at Plage d’Argent. Let him or her kill them all for all I care. as he always yelled at me. He was very tan from being constantly out in the sunlight in a bathing suit. and that always fell in front of his eyes. Ondine and Veronica. Simone was busy cleaning rooms. and would continue living my life as close to the way it had been so far this summer. to the latest news. We made 5 . and maybe it was going to follow him into old age. we will know for sure who done it. and me and “the boys” Jean-Pierre and Jean-Remy. Then. I was not even interested in finding out the next clue in my book. whose nickname was of all things. My favorite partner whenever she joined was Ondine’s sister Veronica. I had a crush on Bambi. This was probably what attracted me. rushed to my friends’ house in the village. and I loved to watch him. I ate my lunch distractedly. and pretend we were on an island in the Pacific. Once they are all dead. He had blond hair that was curly in places. we had to drag the canoe on the bottom. and did not join us very often. Bambi liked to have Ondine as his partner.

but there was something about her demeanor.Bummer! Said Ondine…why don’t you come to our house for dinner tonight? We’re having fish. those who lived on the island all year round. as close to midnight as I could. I proceeded to eat some toast with jam and drink some 6 . Francesca wanted to be incognito. I mentioned that I was going to have to deal with an unwelcome guest. Bambi even showed me his new zippo lighter.You must be Christina…happy to meet you. Obviously. but you are welcome! . . I shook her hand. ignored the Italianization of my name. as I usually did on cloudy days. so I felt I had to respect that. As she looked up. we did not stay in hotels. Francesca d’Alessi was there. d’Alessi or not.Yes. even against your will as was the case for me that morning. They were blue. I took a shower. see you tomorrow morning! Good night. I will! I was relieved not to have to face the awkward situation of whether I was welcome to eat with Mrs. buttering a slice of toasted bread. I woke up late.Is she here? . Today was a good day. and told her I would not be home for dinner. . Simone was not free to talk. She extended her hand to me. we were locals. other than mocking or yelling. that somehow pulled you in. . A good day was when Bambi paid some attention to me.Thanks. and went out into the patio for some breakfast.OK. and sat down at the table. .Is she going to have dinner at home? . She did not seem as beautiful as she looked in the movies.Indeed.fun of the people we called tourists. I’m Francesca. grabbed a t-shirt and some shorts to put on. . like pools of aquamarine contrasting with her dark skin. We had houses. and biked home as slowly as I could. good luck… I had a good time with Ondine and Veronica and her parents. as usual. I was struck by the color of her eyes. So I called Simone from Ondine’s parents’ house in the village. but I did not say who it was. luminous. Day Two The next day was a little cloudy. yet in our minds slightly above of the real locals.

I just could not believe her nerve…I suddenly was being kicked out of what used to be my parents’ house. I just turn left on the road and walk? How far is it? . .Yes I do. . and her English was definitely superior to my Italian. She spoke to me in English. . and then she changed the subject. and they let me join in.Then you better leave now…it takes about 20 minutes. He will be here for two nights. even less obtained as a result. but had recently become mine. It’s too small.Not far.So you don’t mind being here all alone for the summer? .Mrs. You need to take the ferry? (I was asking a hopeful question). and besides you cannot get lost on the island. When I arrived at Ondine’s. I aced the spelling dictation as usual. . to get to the harbor. and still had not completely incorporated into my consciousness the idea that letters could be added or subtracted.So. . but sweated a little more for the math. . thanks to Simone’s nurturing help. but Francesca started in. actually I like it a lot! I tried not to sound as if I was giving her a hint… . I had missed the first few days of class in algebra. I went to the kitchen and interviewed Simone. and telling her I would probably spend the day and evening with Ondine and the guys.coffee. she was doing summer homework with her tutor. A friend? Hell…was she going to bring Hollywood to the island? While Francesca was gathering her things to go.I am meeting a friend at 10:30.Do you have friends on the island? What do you think!? . 7 . So the whole thing had been arranged for Francesca to meet some boyfriend behind her husband’s back? I rolled my eyes. D’Alessi is meeting her friend Tomaso at the ferry. she said. and grabbed the bike after kissing Simone on the cheek out of compassion.Are they nice? The grilling was really getting to me.No. I replied yes.

and very soon we grew tired of looking at the sand bottom. . and snorkel gear. and as we were tying cherry stems into knots using only our tongues. .And you were going to tell us when? Said Ondine.Do you guys know that Francesca d’Alessi is spending the summer here? My dad saw her at the wharf this morning. what kind of a traitor are you? I rolled my eyes . .Oh.Hey you guys! What are you up to? . Bambi had brought a fishing gun. I want nothing to do with her…she’s like using our house to meet her boyfriend behind her husband’s back.Her boyfriend? Said Bambi. we caught octopus and would pry the animal from the spear while it was grabbing at us with all tentacles.Nothing…what are you doing today? . Bambi and Jean-Remy walked in. on our bikes. but Francesca d’Alessi is a dyke! Ondine was poking Bambi with her trident.She is supposed to be incognito. I don’t think she is staying all summer however… All three of them looked at me stunned. I know. Fishing did not mean sitting quietly and waiting for the fish to bite. and sat on the beach. I said sighing.Sure… And off we went. Bambi started the conversation. Do you want to come? . I hated catching octopus and always hoped that they were all busy somewhere else whenever we went fishing. She is actually staying at our house. Jean-Remy caught some poor unsuspecting sand dab that day. Fishing meant hunting down the fish.We had sandwiches and cherries for lunch. and did not want to go back to the house and look for it. . 8 . and spearing them with harpoon guns or hand held tridents.We want to go fishing at Notre-Dame. Sometimes. I had learned from a local kid how to turn the head inside out and beat out the ink before handing the octopus to the chef for lunch. Besides. . as I did not remember where mine was. I had borrowed mine from Veronica.

and below us was the blue. I woke up suddenly from my dream. Suddenly. who had brought a whole batch of sea urchins. I sneaked into the guest room that had become Francesca’s. and picked up my mystery book. know that?! . repeated moaning. No one was there. like seagulls. but I was already dozing off. evoking pain or almost unbearable pleasure. like blue herons. and ultra grainy photos of Selena doing various menial tasks suddenly multiplied on the front pages of every single tabloid in Europe. by refusing all the interviews.You better beware. said Bambi pointing at me…she might attack you! I shrugged my shoulders… . his name is Tomaso. feeling lighter than a feather. This was no bird. Her boyfriend came today. with long necks. This had driven the paparazzi crazy.What? Come on! How could you. prolonged moan. I was flying in the middle of a flock of large birds. happy and comfortable.She’s not a dyke. men sized sneakers there. that broke into a long. and I could see evidence of Tomaso’s presence. The birds were flapping their wings and calling each other with loud sounds.Have you seen him? Maybe he’s a she! The joking continued as we all went back to Ondine’s parents. infinite ocean. cuff links here. finally interested in the next clue. I could still hear the bird sound. The move broke my balance. Argentinian star who had created a sensation at the last Cannes Festival after her film won the Palme d’Or. We were all soaring above white clouds. Things were quite messy in there.I read an article in Cinemonde…she and Selena Hirschberg are doing it. and Simone had already retired to her cottage in the back of the garden. intense with sweetness. Various items of feminine and masculine clothing were strewn on the large bed. little old you. I went back to my room. I was hanging on to one of them. and I started falling. I swear! There was a pretty hot picture of them together. the bird plunged into a cloud with a vertiginous dip. The sounds were gentle but seemed uncontrollable. intense. I realized I was hearing Francesca and Tomaso making love. At some point I heard Francesca and Tomaso coming in. and the 9 .. When I arrived back at the house. of all people. so I turned off the light and fell asleep almost instantly. it was still early. It was a soft. Selena Hirschberg was the dark. . mysterious. .

. He left the room. wake up! . realizing they had left the door open. Outside. 10 . following their movements. the moon was bright and the breeze was a little chilly. listening. My guess was that they realized that they had forgotten to close the door last night. Without warning. I heard water running. When I did not respond. and realized it was going to get cold. punctuated by more laughter and a soft masculine voice. A small light went on behind the drapes in the room across the patio. The loneliness was palpable. Safe in the warmth of my bed. Then. and they felt they owed me something for disrupting my sleep. There was silence for a while. It took a while. and I got up and joined them in the patio.Christina. and handed me an already buttered piece of toast. and I did not have the nerve to go and close it for them. come have breakfast with us…we have plans! I sat up. His smile was disarming and contagious. I got up. Day Three I woke up to a knock on my door. as I crossed my arms over my knees and waited until the swells within me subsided. the door opened slightly.wings flapping was the sound of the headboard on the guest room bed hitting the wall. . where I could not hear anything. more voices. No way could I sleep. as I could not get a handle on it nor pinpoint the cause of it. Francesca greeted me. They seemed to be going out of their way to pay attention to me.What? I was wide awake by now. Someone got up. feigning sleepiness. The light was turned off. with that racket going on. wearing nothing but shorts. But all was quiet and I eventually went back to sleep. I sat on the steps on the other side of the patio. and the leaves of the wisteria were fluttering in the dark. the sound of laughter. whispering in Italian. and some dark haired athlete was tiptoeing into my room. I crossed the patio and went back to my room. and then the sound of the door to the guest bedroom closing. and the moaning started again. I started sniffling.Come on. I could see stars and some clouds. an immense sadness came over me. I stayed awake for a while. and went outside. Shivering. to the point where tears came to my eyes. and Tomaso introduced himself.

Tomaso recommended a light Pastis for me. the three of us went to dinner at the Langoustier. We exited the harbor and the boat rose up as it picked up speed toward Notre Dame. so engaging. he said. on a large circle off the coast. a Riva speedboat. when the boat slowed down far from the shore into the dark blue. I declined the drink until later. and Tomaso showed me how much more glamorous it was to eat melon with salt. We had melon. being part of them. Vernet helped us on board and pointed to the well stocked bar in the back. Tomaso looked like a Greek God. bobbing by the wharf. This is how real people live. We had grilled “loup” with fennel. I hadn’t…”today is a good day to start”. that I had to forget my anger as I walked with them to the little harbor. the wake. looking all around me while Francesca was waving from the boat. the misty coast beyond. I will remember this always. The day was gorgeous. At night. There I was. and there I was walking with them. Maybe this is even how my parents lived when I was not around. We talked about many things that I had never talked about with adults. After I climbed back on the boat. as I was feeling quite inebriated already. After I had spent some time enlightening 11 . said Tomaso. Francesca’s smiling face. or even with anyone. And what a day it was! The speedboat was waiting for us at the harbor. Not a cloud in the sky. It was a sleek wonder of mahogany and chrome. He was so energetic. The captain Mr. finally sipping that Pastis. I told them I had a crush on Bambi. It was exhilarating to be gliding on water in the frothy wake. and the Mediterranean looked like a lake of infinite blue. saying it would take the edge off my first water skiing attempt. as Tomaso jumped into the water holding the rope. and I managed to get up on the skis. I said to myself.The plan was that Tomaso was going to go water skiing. My favorite part was letting myself sink standing upright all the way. on my way to spending the day with them. I remember looking at my foot resting on the chrome step on the edge of the boat. I thought. ready to take his turn with the mono ski. the sky. and the walls of water with rainbows kicked off by Tomaso. I got up by myself on the second round and off we went into deeper waters. and would I please join them? Had I ever water skied? No. This is how people eat it in Rome. We had wine. dark green towel. Francesca looked luminous and stunning. Tomaso held me for my first attempt from the beach. Francesca wrapped me up in a warm. with skis and ropes sticking out at the stern.

and Mr. but I could not fathom what was so powerful that those who did it could lose control of their voices and their movements as if caught in a current stronger than their will. . he doesn’t know what he’s missing. and wait for him in his room.them on his name and nickname. I was laughing so hard.Cover yourself up with whipped cream and do the Dance of the Seven Veils. heard some cats meowing. night birds shrieking and rustling in the leaves. I had tears in my eyes. everyone!”. Hear them or see them do something that was going to give me some clue as to what was really going on. . lifting her glass. 12 . I opened it and read: Ciao Christina! Good luck with the little deer See you soon I hope! Your Tomasino. and listened over the crickets. and their conscious beings. Vernet took us back to Plage d’Argent under the moonlight. Running across the living room. I fell sound asleep. We had to jump off the boat into the water. we realized that we had made a mess by dripping salt water all over the tiles. Tomaso kissed me goodnight on both cheeks. I knew the facts of life of course. said Francesca. We waved goodbye. Now that they were my friends. Once in my bed. Eventually. and splashed around as we ran toward the house. said Tomaso. and joined her. as it was too shallow for the Riva to go any further. Francesca said goodnight cheerfully and went into the bedroom. After dinner. “Buona Notte. Tomaso and I volunteered to mop the floor.Wrap yourself up with cellophane.Well. I listened into the night. After we were done drying the floor. I was hoping that I would hear them again making love. . I listened. Day Four As I woke up. said Francesca. I realized that there was a little piece of paper on the pillow next to my head. exhausted by what had to have been the best day of my life. they started giving me advice on how to “score” Bambi. we got back into the boat.

because you do. She saw me and smiled at me with a little wave of her hand.I suddenly remembered that Tomaso had had to leave early on the morning ferry…I folded the note. . Even Bambi. I just know she’s not a dyke. and put it away in a little cigar box I kept hidden in a drawer. I waved back and grabbed my bike. the whipped cream and the Dance of the Seven Veils. looking at his back and the blond curls in the back of his head. I would suddenly be tall. I would rather have died on the spot than shared anything I knew from the time I had spent with Francesca. She was already on the phone talking in an agitated way in Italian by the time I was up and about. we had sandwiches for lunch. My confidence had also increased. as if the last piece of the puzzle had just fallen in. had changed. We worked for a while. as his wisecracks about Francesca were beginning to get on my nerves. Afterwards. This July 14th looked like it was going to be a work day for both Francesca and me. that’s all! 13 . Bastille Day. . After all. I had an appointment with the tutor at Ondine’s house. “the little deer”.You don’t know what you are talking about! I was sitting behind him. We usually did not have fireworks on or near the island but some people took the boat to Hyeres to watch them. and I actually did better in math this time. and less interested in counting the number of times he spoke to me or looked at me with any expression other than irritation. Today was the 14th of July. I threw some sand at him. . a celebration in all of France. I was less in awe of the new chrome zippo. it was as if the world was coming together. I still enjoyed looking at him. don’t you? What do you know that we don’t? Eh? He turned to me with his most devilish smile. we went to Notre Dame for a swim with the boys. I used to be visiting that beach. tan and fearless. now I secretly owned the beach. I am the one who felt irritation. but I was also chuckling to myself. that I had sped across the water in a mahogany speed boat with ice cubes clinking in my glass of Pastis. As a matter of fact. thinking about the cellophane. it was here that I had gone water skiing the day before. I noticed that everything around me had changed. When she looked at me.Oh.Nothing.

Some of the little kids were lighting fireworks in the corner by the little church. He came over. Francesca had a way of drawing people out. She looked tan.Looks like your friend is having a great time with the Navy. Couples and kids were dancing. and no makeup whatsoever. . rum “baba”. and younger than her thirty something years.And on we went… That night. There were tables and chairs all around a makeshift dance floor.My. and a whole side of the square was all white and blue with their uniforms. I know you… . Then it was time to go to the July 14th Ball. will ya? . Veronica.Lay off her. was playing “Johnny B. all decorated with bright colored paper lanterns and flags. Francesca cooked some homemade spaghetti. Simone decided to pass on a evening of patriotic revelry. over in the far corner. as I went over to join Ondine. 14 . Many of the sailors had come down from the fort. Francesca was wearing a blue work shirt and jeans. d’Alessi. on the village square. and I had seldom seen Simone smile and laugh as she did that night.You know me? And do I know you? . She took in the scene. Groups and families at the tables were laughing and lifting their glasses of cheap champagne in toasts. so Francesca and I walked down to the little square. and took off his hat.No you don’t…yet…but will you do us the honor of joining us for a drink? The sailor seemed so nice and so respectful. to thank her for taking such good care of us. Some local band. . We had a great time. Her presence was hard to ignore. and one of the sailors spotted her. and I went to the bakery to buy a special cake. Bambi and Jean-Remy with a smattering of parents. aren’t we protective…. I saw her disappear in a cheering sea of white and blue. Francesca decided that she would invite Simone to have dinner with us. . that Francesca agreed to join them. Simone’s favorite and mine as well. Good” and singing it in French. and smiled. We could already hear the music from the terrace. with electric guitars and accordions. said Bambi.Mrs. obviously obsessed by Francesca. of course.

and she was supposed to be incognito. I should have spotted the photographer and warned her. Bambi and I were honing our zombie dance. . and twirl me around. .Looks like that little guy from Nice-Matin has spotted your friend yakking it up with the sailors. and I suddenly was ashamed of the jealousy I was feeling. . and it made me extremely proud and happy. I caught her looking at Veronica with a flash of admiration. pick me up in his arms. and I was more comfortable with his kind of choreography. She nodded yes without answering. and Francesca said “Oh. and soon he and I. and it was always a joy to watch her dance with her long wavy black hair flowing like a Tahitian’s. After a while.What’s going on over there? . So he finally stopped. until he finally had to laugh. . Veronica and Francesca ended up as a wild foursome. I looked around for Francesca.Yes I am. executed in zombie like jerks. and some tourist amateur photographers.Is everything OK? I asked. and seemed to be having a great time. and some of the sailors joined us as well. I said…still a little worried. I got up to greet her. Francesca got up followed by the photographer from Nice-Matin. The band was playing a French cover of the Rolling Stone’s Honky Tonk Women. Francesca was a good dancer. and I saw a bunch of flashbulbs going off.I guess it’s OK with her. I don’t think Francesca was counting on this. But I knew that famous people were always torn between the fear of being recognized and the fear of being ignored or unknown.. and we all started dancing in a circle. That’ll make a nice front page. sometimes. and I proceeded to introduce her to my friends. Veronica was the most graceful of us all. I’ll bet! Said Ondine… I rolled my eyes and cursed under my breath. I looked over and Francesca was laughing with the sailors. 15 . She walked over to our table. but I had not been paying attention. if a little subdued and controlled. so we danced like zombies together. you know that?! That was the biggest compliment he had ever bestowed on me. I haven’t danced yet! Let’s dance!”. Bambi was more into strange Mick Jagger style poses.Christine! You’re almost cool. I replied in a serious tone that left no room for banter. We all got up to dance with her. and so did Bambi and Jean-Remy.

everyone! Revelers and sailors were waving back and saying goodnight. I could hear her sing to herself “y todo a media luz crepusculo interior…la la la…”. It was very dark and still warm. I read my mystery book for a while before turning off the light. and as the band started playing “A Media Luz”a popular tango. You just wait and see… She looked excited. she took my hand. leaving the crowd and the photographers behind. At some point. and we could hardly see. Francesca took me aside on the way back to the table.At some point.I need to go home. . the flashbulbs got to be a little too much. and we started walking home.Christina. as if at some grand event. and then was quiet all the way back. We could still hear the music coming from the square. I did not want to leave Francesca alone.But Mrs. . Myriads of stars were out.Buona notte. But my interest in who could possibly be the murderer had waned considerably since I had first taken it up… Day Five I could hear Simone’s voice in broken English behind the door as I was getting ready to come out for breakfast. Hall doesn’t want Christine to go out on the water! 16 .I’m going with you! Francesca turned around and as the flashes went off she graciously waved at the crowd. and twirled away back to her room. so I waved at my friends from afar. As we said goodnight. la media luz de amor…la la la”. . Francesca grabbed both my wrists and looked at me with those incredible blue eyes. so I could guide her on the trail. She kissed me on my right cheek. carina…I have a great idea for tomorrow. . We got back to the house safe and sound. sweetie… . “Y todo a media luz…” Francesca was singing in Spanish “que es un brujo el amor”…then she hummed to herself for a little bit “que suave terciopelo. no moon yet.

blankets. my mother decided she hated the sea. She turned to me. it would be fine with her to take the Nostromo out. As I was finishing breakfast. I had not stayed overnight on Nostromo since I was about five years old! Felipe was coming over to help us with the big bag and with some groceries. all teak and brass sloop with an inboard motor. My father had named it “Nostromo” after his favorite Joseph Conrad novel. for the boat? I did indeed. my parents’ sailboat. . I used to love going out on the Nostromo with my parents when I was little. and a comfortable cabin with all the amenities. sheets. . seaworthy. pillows.As I walked out. Then. and with friends of my mother’s every now and then. “Felipe. some pots and pans. The Nostromo was small. Francesca talked to Felipe in Italian for quite a while. I had a few occasions to go out on the boat. The big duffel bag is where we kept all that was needed for an overnight on board Nostromo. Francesca looked ready. It lived in the harbor. under close supervision from Felipe who knew the sea inside and out and who told me 17 . and we were packing essentials for overnight. and that the brass tacks were kept shiny as new. less than 30 feet long. and a striped sailor shirt.Christina. but it was a beautiful. After my parents separated.Yes. . Do you know where we can reach her? Simone didn’t know. it looked like it was all set. but she added that if Mr. Overnight?! We were going to stay overnight? I could hardly contain my excitement. is this true? . says Francesca. I’ve done it before…I had done it. with Felipe the Corsican man who was in charge of maintaining it.Do you know where the “big bag” is. I think she was getting tired of always policing things on behalf of my absent mother. She was smiling and joking. wearing jeans that were tearing at the knee. I could not help but bounce and skip on the road as we walked to the harbor with Felipe. and taking me with her. Felipe agreed. and she instructed me to go and get it. I realized they were actually discussing the possibility of Francesca going out on the Nostromo. Felipe says you can handle working the jib. sure. un minuto per favore…”she said.She knows I know how to handle a sailboat. and my father started using sailing excursions to attract young women. She was discussing the idiosyncrasies of the boat with Felipe. and Felipe made sure that it was clean. including my mystery book of course.

brought down the sails and used the motor to pick the best cove. There were very few other boats around. and swam around with Francesca. as I had not been sailing for a long time. drinks in hand. but I noticed that she wore a thin gold chain around her waist. Once we passed the jetty. and then proceeded to do the same with the jib. get out the sheets and make the two little bunks in the main cabin. I poked around in the cabin for a while. I tried not to stare at her. down to a simple two piece black bathing suit.everything step by step. On the boat. and then I jumped from the bow. easy swimmer. I was nervous. with calm seas and a soft breeze. pulled the jib from the hold to get it ready and hooked it up. where the little rocky coves were that were not reachable by land. This put the breeze at our back. and nothing seemed to come easily. Fortunately. in a tribute to her natural beauty. waved at him. she was all fluidity and elegance. But my movements were awkward and I felt at all times like I was going to fall and make a fool of myself. But there was no way I was going to say anything that might impede Francesca’s incredible plans. Francesca took off her jeans and her shirt. Francesca decided we had to watch the sunset together. We spent the day swimming and lying in the sun. I went below deck to dry up and put on some clothes. and I didn’t have too much work to do after all. Francesca’s plan was to go to the Southern side of the island. She dove head first into the green water without hesitation. I recognized Bambi’s mother and a friend in a converted fishing boat. It looked like a perfect day though. but also intimidated to be out there. She was slender and strong. it was time to sail. The shackles were rusty with salt. I felt privileged. and she 18 . Felipe partly unfurled the main sail. found my snorkeling gear and my fish gun. with skin the color of light rosewood. and we were off. We did one clumsy port tack. he pulled out the plank. Finally. but decided I did not feel like killing anything today. She was a smooth. her hair and face would glisten with liquid sunlight. Francesca started the engine. I dropped the rope ladder from the stern to make sure we could get back on. I helped Francesca hoist the main sail. We dropped anchor. Then he helped us open the duffel. almost alone with her. In the water. until the light began to change and all the other boats had left for the day. ideal for apprentice sailors. When she came up from diving.

The sun was half way gone. the good ones.made Pastis for both of us. Too many people… .Well. and the sun was surrounded by pink clouds. these people mount an incredibly difficult and expensive expedition to go to the North of Scotland to the Faeroe Islands. She handed me my drink. Does it bother you when people recognize you? . they never see it…the heroine and this guy she likes are up there waiting and waiting. but I have read the novel by Jules Verne. the scenery was breathtaking. But I always think my job is to act. because you can be many different people. But it’s all right… 19 .I am so glad that we came here…I didn’t feel like staying on the other side after last night.But in reality you find out eventually that all these characters that you play. Coming back up. they’re all you! They are all alive within you…All these different feelings. In it. .The common wisdom is that acting is great. And at the time when the ray finally happens they are busy looking into each other’s eyes. it is flattering in a way…especially if they are friendly.Christina. . the desperate ones. Francesca was asking: . Not to be on public display like that… . When she explained something. .What is it like to act? Do you like it? She graciously answered the question. I’ve known them all. and I told the story as if I was daring to tell an intimate dream. And all they see is love…the light of love. have you ever seen it? Il raggio verde? The green ray? . other than yourself.You seemed to be OK last night. the icky ones. watching the sun go down. They are so into each other.No. they are not foreign to me.And do they get to see it? I looked at her. It’s just a matter of filtering the right one at the right time. though. The rocks by the cove had taken the color of blood. . with all kinds of hand gestures. she truly talked like an Italian. that they miss the ray altogether. to be sure that there will be no land to interfere with their viewing of the green ray.No. and we sat on the deck side by side. . I’ve had them all at one point or another.

I was determined to direct the conversation. but he is not the marrying kind. She had made another batch of Italian pasta. honey…but as far as I know he doesn’t seem to mind. Francesca looked genuinely moved. I wanted to know everything about Francesca. Just like in the story. I love him very much.And he doesn’t mind? . He is a good friend and a great lover. Then. . let me see… 20 .What is it that makes someone a great lover? . but most of the time we live in Malibu.Do you still live in Naples? . but it was only something from a book. I have Tomaso. So. people like me and my husband love each other.How come you know how to sail like that? . California. and I had a little bit of rose wine.Well. I was the one who looked away first. My father and I would go sailing all the time.Che bello…what a beautiful story… We were quiet and looking into each other’s eyes all of a sudden. to find that the sun was at the green ray point. She had mentioned her husband.. but we are not really physically in love with each other anymore.I don’t know for sure. .Yes. She got up and decided to make dinner. I asked the question that I was dying to ask… .Hmm…sometimes. and it opened the door to more important questions.My family lives near Naples. but no green ray was showing up.Yes he does. while I stayed outside and watched the dusk fall on the walls of the cove.Do you…huh…do you love your husband? . . .No…my husband has a villa on Capri and we go there every now and then. I do. I love Tomaso.Why do you sleep with Tomaso then? . I was sailing alone when I was about your age… .Does your husband know about Tomaso? . .

I don’t know. . however. but I think he read it somewhere. fiery. she is…too good maybe. so you can stay longer… Not that this made any sense to me. I was still on the attack. trying to wrap my mind around all of this.It’s not so weird you know…you’ll see…everybody does it.Yes. . That’s enough motivation to be sleeping with her. . Anytime I can.She was thinking hard…she was actually going to answer my question! . And those who are angry about it are those who want to do it the most! . .You love a lot of people.Bambi says you sleep with her. You would love her too… .A great lover is someone you feel so safe with. She is beautiful. I said.Is that good or bad? .Is Selena a great lover? Francesca was pensive.Bambi! That guy sure knows a lot! Where did he get this? . you know. .What about her? Asked Francesca…she looked like she was taken aback by the question. and Indian. believe me. I do. if there is such thing… Sometimes she can make you forget who you are.Yes. I am.Well.You’re in love with Selena? . . but I appreciated her effort. . Those who don’t do it have thought about it at least once in their lives. that they can take you to the edge and they are still with you. make love with Selena and all that stuff? .Yes. She paused…looked down…then looked back up straight at me.Well. don’t you think? . I was remaining silent. You are not left alone out there.Do you. it feels very good…but I think in the long run. 21 . it might be bad… I was still processing this deluge of revelations from an adult I hardly knew. I’m in love with Selena. like.What about Selena Hirschberg? . .

she proceeded to take off all her clothes. I do. I could hear night birds flapping their wings.Yes sweetheart.Do you know the names of the stars? She asked… . smiling to myself and enjoying the feeling of swimming naked in warm waters. I could see Francesca floating on her back. Betelgeuse. We swam a little far from the boat. I could not see her very well. the Big Bear. and floated on our backs looking at the stars. The water felt incredibly warm.. She laughed. Oh. but I could feel the water rippling from her movements to stay afloat. I was saying the names in French. . Rigel. my heart is full…but there is always room for more. this was the life…indeed… 22 . I was floating too. the Medium Bear. . Vega de la Lyre.Tell me more… Sirius. Arcturus. you know. looking at the sky. On saying this.Yes. So.Let’s go for a swim! . Orion. that it was hard to distinguish the constellations. Cappella. Out from behind the cove.Now? The water around the boat was black and uninviting. the Little Bear. at least some of them… I started naming them. without even thinking so I wouldn’t have time to get afraid. and I was surprised at the sense of freedom and vulnerability that it gave me. . the moon started emerging like a spotlight. and jumped off feet first holding my nose as usual. I thought…I’ve got to do it. .Yes now! Come on. and to dive head first from the boat into the night. . remembering what I had heard about them at the Paris Planetarium. I took off all my clothes as well. and the stars began to fade. hardly making a splash.Come on! It’s delicious! What the hell.More…tell me more… The night was calm and the air was still warm. Swimming without a bathing suit was new to me. There I was. let’s do it! Let’s go for a midnight swim! Upon saying this. and the hollow sound of waves in the rocky coves. she suddenly got up. Goldilocks… I was making them up. It all seemed like a dream. . There were so many stars. Francesca was listening intensely. all alone in the wilderness with this woman who was treating me like her equal.

Once the moon was up, the cool breeze also rose, and we decided to get back onto the boat. Fortunately, I had left the little ladder unfolded at the stern. Francesca went up ahead of me. The drops of water on her body were like glitter in the moonlight. I could see the chain around her waist. - Do you know where the towels are? I did, and I got them for both of us…We dried off inside the cabin, and closed the door. Inside, the light was soft, and since we had already made the bunk beds, they looked cozy and inviting. I went into the little bathroom to brush my teeth, and then settled down in my bunk with my book while Francesca took her turn in the little bathroom. The boat was gently rocking, making creaking sounds and I could hear the waves licking at the hull. I liked that a lot. I was imagining that we were miles away from civilization. Me and Francesca, we were alone on the ocean. She came over and sat on my bunk, she was still naked, her shoulders wrapped in her towel. She took my hand. - You are a wonderful kid, she said. Then she bent over and lightly kissed me on the lips, lingering just a little. When she stopped, I was bathing in the light of her smile and my heart was beating faster. She was still holding my hand. Without thinking, I brought her hand to my lips and kissed it. - You need to be happy, my sweetheart… As she said that, my eyes started blurring with tears. I could feel uncontrollable sobs welling up in my throat. She lifted me from the pillow, and held me for a long time. “…there… there…” she was saying, rocking me gently. “There, my angel…May your dreams guide you to happiness”. In between sobs I kept trying to say “but I am happy”, but I don’t think anything intelligible came out. When the storm finally subsided, I realized her neck was drenched with tears, and I pulled back. I used a corner of her towel to dry her, and she gently patted my swollen eyes with another corner. We were so close; I could feel the warmth from her skin like a heat lamp. She took a tissue from the little night table in between the bunks, and handed it to me. I blew my nose, and greedily grabbed her hand again as I lay back down. I was looking at her face in wonder. I was taking in her beauty and trying to slow down my breathing. She stroked my hair and my cheeks for a while. Her touch was calming and electrifying at the same time. She kissed both my eyes and my

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lips, soft as a feather. Then she kissed my hand, as she was letting go of it to get up from my bunk. I was still trembling, as she lay down on her side and turned off the light, whispering “good night, sweetie…go to sleep…lots to do tomorrow!”. I turned toward the wooden wall in my bunk. I could hear the blood rushing through my veins, and the water against the hull. My breathing was still shallow and I was shaking for no reason that I could think of. Finally, after what seemed to be a long time, I settled down, and turned around to face inside the cabin. The moon had risen even higher, and moonbeams were crisscrossing through the portholes. I could see Francesca sleeping with abandon, looking so vulnerable with her arms up on the pillow like a baby. She had kicked off the sheets, and her body seemed to be translucent in the moonlight. I would have given anything to have the nerve to cross over, and lie down next to her, holding her tight, and feeling her skin against mine, her hair against my face. I watched her sleep for quite a while. As she shifted in her sleep, each movement was one more expression of beauty. How can anyone be so perfect and not be cruel, obnoxious, or dead? I caught my eyes closing on their own, and I eventually drifted off into sleep with dreams of ocean waters and endless voyages through comfort and love. Day Six When I opened my eyes, it was late. The hatch was already open and sunshine was pouring in. I could see part of Francesca’s leg outside, she was already up. I could smell coffee in the little kitchen area. The boat was gently rocking and I could tell it was going to be a slightly cooler day. I got up, folded the sheets and put them and the pillows into the duffel bag. I went to the bathroom and brushed my teeth, then went up to meet Francesca in the bright light of the morning. “Good morning, amore mio!” she said, “here is some breakfast for you”. She had cut melon and strawberries into little cubes, made some toast and buttered it, and arranged everything neatly for me on the placemat on the folding table. As we prepared for departure, I was literally floating…not cautiously stepping on the deck, but gliding, swinging around the rigging like in a Hollywood musical. Francesca and I smiled at each other a lot. At some point, I hoisted the jib and dangled from the deck to undo a line that was caught. I saw a look of concern on her face but I looked back and waved. She smiled and blew a kiss in my direction. She kept calling “amore, let’s

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go, ready about!” “amore mio, let’s do another one”, and with every call, I turned into a better sailor. The sea was a little rougher on the Western side of the island, but by then, we were a well tuned seafaring team. She was my skipper, and I was her first mate. I was flying about the deck adjusting this, tying that, tightening, loosening, until the boat was steadily breaking the waves, full and by, panting at a good clip. Francesca held the wheel with her feet, and leaned back into the sunlight. I lay down on the cushions in the wheelhouse, and rested my head on her leg. I could see the white mainsail and the sky, and with every lift of the boat, I could feel the pressure of the muscles in her thigh. Every now and then, she would gently stroke my hair. I would look up at her and she would smile at me. It was like time had stopped, and the world was nothing but this infinite sky, dark blue sea and the wonderful isolation of our small sailboat… “Amore, it’s time…one last starboard tack to home…” I got up, she sat up at the helm, and we executed our last tack perfectly. I sat at the bow with my legs dangling, watching the harbor approaching as we encountered more boats and waved at them. I started furling the jib, and then we brought down the mainsail as the boat was gracefully turning in a circle. She started the motor, and we entered the little harbor, as I was lowering the bumpers. We had been gone for weeks, it seemed. I was arriving in a foreign country, an exciting new land. The small harbor master’s building, the small flotilla of white fishing boats once familiar, were like a discovery…a quiet side entrance into a new life. There was a large motor yacht in the harbor, the “Orion”, flying the colors of Greece in the guest slip at the far end of the dock. I busied myself doing all the chores I remembered from the last time I had sailed on the “Nostromo”. I folded the jib into the sail hold, and Francesca helped me wrap the mainsail into its blue protective cover. As I was swabbing the deck, a man was helping Francesca with the gangplank. He was dressed like a sea captain in a light opera, with white pants, a blue blazer and a white cap that he took off when he started talking to her. They were speaking English, but I could not hear what they were saying. As Felipe was walking toward us to get the keys, I took our bags out, locked the last hatch, and watched as the man hopped on a little golf cart, and sped off toward the Orion. I had left the big duffel in the cabin. Felipe said he would bring it over later, and we walked off toward home. I was windblown, my skin was sticky with salt, my hair matted, but Francesca still looked like she had just stepped out of a giant clam shell like Botticelli’s Venus.

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mainly about love. Ah. and walked over to where I could look at the little coves on the South side of the island. I sighed so loud it came out as a whimper. and how I had hoped she would never pull away. a lover’s kiss… But I was not Selena Hirschberg. and I was not even truly an adult. She would have taken my hand. Francesca had to pack in the afternoon. then just lay there and looked at the sky as I had on the Nostromo. her hair. and that did a lot to make up for my disappointment. and maybe kissed me again like she did on the boat. he is on the list to finance my next film. There we had 26 . I loved the look of her skin. The production company would love for me to give him a little push. We would have talked about all kinds of adult things. This was my last evening with Francesca. good…should be fun.Ah. He came to the island on the Orion every now and then. . I managed to compose myself and act reasonable. I was distressed. and I did not feel like hanging out with Ondine and the boys. and I could still feel her lips on mine. We would have walked through the pines on a really hot day. he invited me to have dinner with him on the Orion tonight. I don’t think she was fooled for one second by my calm demeanor.You know Christina. I rolled over and got up as if rejoining the present would ease my state of confusion. but could I imagine sleeping with her as a lover? I just liked the way she was so physically affectionate with me and called me all these beautiful Italian names. that was Stavros Spanodakis. I lay down for a long time. I imagined that I could have brought Francesca up here. a dyke. without having to walk the bike. I was pedaling with a vengeance. I was not a lesbian. the Greek billionaire. I loved Francesca. and I was angry that someone like Spanodakis had the money and the clout to abscond with Francesca any time he wanted. There we had been. and almost made it to my favorite spot. Maybe even more than that…a real kiss. . so I took a sandwich and rode my bicycle to the top of the hill. and I had been looking forward to spending every possible minute with her. but this was the first time I had actually seen him in person. I brushed off the pine needles. her eyes.. I slept for a while. carina… She put her arm around my shoulder as we walked. I could see the Orion in the harbor from up there. I would much rather stay with you.Sweetie. as Bambi would say.

No one can take this back. I could not help but smile… . and I added that I was sure my parents and Felipe would be quite surprised of my progress as a sailing partner. standing by the golf cart. But I could see there was light on the yacht. all right.Oh. At the gate to the pier. When she saw me she smiled and rolled her eyes toward Demosthenes. in a white evening gown that brought out her tan. who kept looking in the distance for the Christina in question to come and fetch la signora in some kind of vehicle.Allo? This is Demosthenes. I was sure of it. She was breathtakingly beautiful. She walked toward me. I saw Francesca. It was almost dark when I finally came down the hill and I realized that I had waited so Francesca would already be gone by the time I got home. and gold sandals.La Signora d’Alessi has requested that Christina come and fetch her at the dock. Next to her was Demosthenes. . and I hopped on my bicycle and made for the harbor. on foot. and turned and waved at Demosthenes. I said yes. the phone rang. with me walking 27 . possibly…She sometimes called at the strangest hours especially if she was in a different time zone and had forgotten about it. I am purser for Mr. It could be my mother. a little dejected by the ineffectiveness of my spying. and if any of the moving spots on the poop deck was actually Francesca. Spanodakis. There we had truly loved each other. Instead. The portion of pier where the Orion was docked was locked so I could not get anywhere near. Simone went to her little bungalow. as I got off the bike and we started toward home. At around eleven. not even Spanodakis in his fake captain’s uniform. Simone and I had dinner together. . She was wearing turquoise earrings.spent the night together. I will let her know. she will be there right away! I did not have to tell Christina to jump on the bicycle and ride like the wind to the harbor. and I was trying to make out what I was seeing. She asked me if I had had a good time on the Nostromo. After dinner. I heard a man’s voice with a strong accent. I could not really see anything and I went back home.Yes? .

how was it? I asked. My irritation at her dinner with Spanodakis was completely gone. Demosthenes climbed onto the cart and disappeared along the pier. The first thing she did was take off her shoes.Just remember to always stop and think about whether something feels good before you do it. Follow it all the way and don’t look back. .Christina! No.How do I know when something is really good? 28 . I wanted to take care of her. I chose the best glass for Francesca.Sweetheart. and rewarded me with a smile that melted my heart even more. She held mine in return. as a matter of fact he did. I don’t have to sleep with everyone just to make a movie. . This went against everything I had ever heard from teachers and advisors at school.No. She was giving me no details. . . But she was still in charge.It was good. and I was feeling possessive. not really…I still have a couple of years to decide.Did he want to sleep with you? She responded seriously this time. do you know what you are going to do? Like with school and all? . I reached for her hand across the table. I got some ice water from the refrigerator. I am very thirsty.Yes. I can say no. in mock annoyance. You can’t go wrong.Let’s have a drink…A drink of water actually. So we sat in the kitchen. . Good feelings led to nothing but depravation and laziness.Christina.So. not really wanting to know… . . please take my hand will you? You know I can’t see in the dark! And on we walked. of course not. a red crystal one with cut designs. . If it does. back to the house. But you see. and poured her a nice tall glass. what do you think!? .the bike. It’s good to say no to things you don’t want to do! The hell with them! She paused… . .Did you sleep with him? She laughed and frowned at me. then follow it.

OK. and every sensation seemed amplified. It never goes away. time to go to sleep…Come wake me up tomorrow morning if I oversleep. almost in a gasp. I wanted this feeling to never ever leave me.Oh my…said Francesca.You know it. She kissed my neck. it sticks to you. Sleep was entirely out of the question. just below the ear. that I had to breathe in and out. When I joined them. I did too. as she gently released me. it was time to go to bed.. too fast. I was not sad anymore. You drink too much. but I knew she was there.I will miss you too. come on sweetie. OK? She waited for my answer. she turned to me and we fell into a spontaneous embrace. As we were walking toward our rooms. . trying to understand what she was saying. She had closed the drapes and I could not see into the room. My heart was light. and waited for Francesca’s light to go out. and I could not bring myself to pick it up. I was looking at her. . because it stays with you. the sun was already warm and the smell of jasmine was in the air. I stayed for a long time afterwards in the dark. . Day Seven I did not have to wake Francesca in the morning. my angel. but then you wake up with a headache…that’s not good. I could have sworn I could feel our hearts beating together. I said. you can take it with you anywhere. I could hear her and Simone moving around and talking as I got up. The sensation was so strange and so powerful. it feels good. to remain within me forever. I could hear the night crickets. I wanted this being that I had become today. I was holding her very tight. . She finished her glass and got up. She went into her room and closed the door. the mystery book was still at the bottom of my backpack from our trip on the Nostromo. and it will keep. Tesoro. though you don’t always know it at first. But what 29 . trying to never forget. and I could imagine her. a strange energy was running through me. You do something really good.I will miss you. I went out into the patio. I could smell the pine needles and I could almost feel their warmth from having spent that whole glorious day in the sun.

30 . With Bambi. and I could swear I saw him blushing. but I had gone half way around the world before I came here… . closest to the speedboat. she waved at the crowd. I looked at the speedboat. so were Ondine. the postman. the jeep from the Langoustier came to pick her up.Where are you going now? . I saw Bambi. the varnished wood. warmer to my heart than a thousand suns. when she had been wearing a minimum amount of clothes while on the island. Mr. and off they went. You’ll have to come and visit me… I hopped in the back of the jeep with the bags and off we went toward the harbor. she smiled and gently hit his cheek in a make believe slap. and whispered in my ear. Jean-Remy and their parents. after she kissed him. She went to my friends. . At 10:30. and a small group of tourists from the 2 hotels in town.Well. disappearing behind its own wake. When they passed the jetty. the chrome step. it looked like everyone had come to say goodbye to Francesca. I helped load her bags in the back. it rose up like a rearing horse. Francesca was very gracious as usual. She gave me a hug. . When we parked by the wharf. and kissed them all on both cheeks. Then she came to me. while she sat next to the driver in front. I was the last one. Next to them.Oh. Veronica and their parents. I did not quite know what the adventure was. Vernet had come to pick up Francesca with the Riva.Ti voglio bene…don’t forget… Then Mr.mattered most to me was Francesca’s smile. The reporter from Nice-Matin was there. Vernet helped her onto the speedboat. I watched the Riva go slowly through the harbor. then Paris. and sped toward the misty coast in the distance. to Toulon. cameras in hand. and then I will fly to Los Angeles. I noticed with relief that she did not spend more time with Veronica than the others. the one policeman of the island. remembering that this was where my adventure had started less than a week ago. I commented on the large number of bags she was travelling with. but I knew that it had turned me upside down.

I could swim with her. Francesca would not be around to take me in her arms and comfort me with kisses. I was in a trance. How good was she. But I was determined not to cry. what does “ti voglio bene” mean? He laughed. I just want to know what it means… . we sat on the crowded beaches. Simone was sad to see me go. really? The love scenes were light and tasteful. but was happy to be able to close the house. They played a Spanish film with Selena Hirschberg. I don’t remember much about the plot of the movie. I asked him. with long black hair and very intense black eyes. When no one was around to distract me. We went dancing until dawn. I kept imagining Francesca instead of 31 . and my eyes were stinging. and shook his finger at me. Now stay out of trouble! Epilogue After a few more days. Selena was indeed very beautiful. I could think of Francesca and almost feel her presence. I asked for her permission to leave the island and finish the summer with some friends whose parents had rented a house near St. I read it somewhere. walk with her. .Felipe.No one…no one told me. I managed to return to some kind of routine in the days that followed. to being with my friends. as I was mainly interested in the love scenes. go home and join her son in Vendee. talk to her. When my mother called. One night.Who told you that? You’re just a kid! Who told you that? .I had a big lump in my throat. and tell her everything I had ever dreamt of telling her. Tropez.It means “I love you”. life was very different from what it was like on Porquerolles. That’s what it means. Tropez. I grew tired of my languor and perpetual nostalgia. I still felt like all my senses were in overdrive. in Ramatuelle they had stretched a sheet on the little square to make an outdoor movie theatre. . and decided that I needed a change of pace. gossiped and drove around with the older kids. When Felipe came to the house to bring the duffel bag. In St. favoring swimming and walking alone. She agreed. and we all went to see it. I lived it up as much as my fourteen years would allow me.

and it was now time to grow up and be the best student I could be in order to leave school as soon as possible and move on to University. I grew shy about contacting her. Every once in a while. and since I never heard from her. read about her. I thought of writing to Francesca. But I could not really tell what made their lovemaking so exciting.the male protagonist. just as I had escaped the island for St. However. and often saw her on television. and little by little they don’t belong to you anymore. who seemed quite delighted with Selena’s performance. He himself also lived in Rome. including my mother who finally came back. I knew I could probably get her phone number through my father. This part of my life was over. And so I did. and I could not help but let it brighten my day. Yet. and we all returned to Paris. I think what I wanted most was to be away in new surroundings. Tropez two years before. There. I would have a dream about Francesca where we would hold each other and kiss as if we were in love. Guillaume. This was not based on visiting Francesca in Malibu. When you love someone who is in the public eye. and went on to the Sorbonne for an intermediary year. it is as if their public persona is somebody else altogether. or a saint. the summer wound down. My mother was not very forthcoming. People around you talk about them in familiar tones as if they knew them personally. and settled down into the gloomy weather and everyday routine. I remember crying secretly in my room when my parents eventually sold the house on Porquerolles and the Nostromo. Many times. So my decision I think had more to do with the fact that my father was American yet I had never been to America. or a famous cop. and then to the Institute for Political Studies on the Rue St. except that maybe the guy was somebody else’s husband. 32 . I eventually let my life drift away from the memories of that summer. though I very seldom spoke to him. or maybe calling her. I don’t really remember… Finally. I arranged for an exchange scholarship with a university in California. I went to see all her movies. I did very well in the “baccalaureat”. and seemed to resent any interest that I showed in Francesca. They were separated and they had no reason to keep them. and I hoped I could get her address through her agent in Paris. because I had read that she had left Hollywood and had returned to Italy to live in Rome with her husband. I would wake up and imagine that she was having the same dream. I went back to school.

I arrived in Cannes a little later than I had planned. My time with Francesca on the island seemed so far away. I could not believe it. and I was a little bit nostalgic for myself as the kid with the no brakes bicycle and the summer tan. I was eighteen years old. the phone rang. though…why else would she want us there? I said I had no idea. I did not know what to expect or what to think. I was surprised and excited. and said that of course we would attend. and if so. She said that Francesca had asked if my mother and I would be able to attend. kissed in cars and under piers in England where I had spent a couple of windy summers but I was disengaged from most things. She told me that Francesca d’Alessi had a film that was being presented at the Cannes Film Festival. but I hate the Festival. I enjoyed the drive. I picked up my ticket at the will call. I had long ago given up on any kind of argument with my mother. I was secretly delighted that I was going to go on my own. I picked it up.My life was full of schoolwork and suspended living. I decided that the most fun would be to drive down to Cannes. but the task had seemed daunting. as it was already time to go to the screening.Sorry. their conversations and their sexual games. I left early in the morning. I had packed a new dress that I had bought the day before. I wanted to look as good as possible. a jacket and some shoes with a reasonable heel. on the day of the screening. and walked over to the Palais des Festivals where the screening was to take place. After all these years. so I had passed my driver’s license test a few months earlier. and the idea of going there makes me sick! But you can go if you want…I bet you Francesca just wants to paper the audience. but I was always on the periphery of their circles. she said. and checked in. I was flabbergasted. put on my dress. and to please thank Francesca for us. I had friends. One morning in May. . except maybe books and films. I went to the hotel. and 33 . I did not have time to enjoy the room. Francesca was thinking about us! I told my mother the news when she came back home in the afternoon. she had reserved a room for us at the Martinez Hotel in Cannes. all by myself. The Croisette was swarming with people and I had to park in a lot on Rue d’Antibes as the Martinez garage was full. I took a quick shower. I saved clothes that I liked for a future time where I would be fully alive. I had flirted. and seeing the weather improve mile by mile as I approached the Mediterranean. to put it mildly. and it was a woman from United Artists in Paris.

While she was on stage and they were introducing the movie. designed for grand entrances and flamboyant exits. abstract way that made them seem more like nightmares than any kind of reality. and I kept bumping into people. Finally. but none of them would ever recognize me. some of them I had met before. especially since she had left Hollywood. as she walked toward the stage. only sordid sex scenes but filmed in a grainy. back then… As the end credits rolled. I remembered what she had said that evening on the Nostromo about how she acted feelings that had been hers at some point or another in her life. Francesca was on screen most of the time. This was my first time at Cannes. I made my way to the Carlton with great difficulty. The director came to take a bow. yet knew how to keep some good natured distance. The film started… She played a prostitute who was trying to escape her situation in Palermo and rebuild her life. and she fluttered a miniature wave in my direction. Her face lit up in a glorious smile. She saw me. There were no love scenes. The film was harsh and violent. She was surrounded with people and photographers. She was smiling as she made her way through the crowd with her usual grace. I got to 34 . I had a brief moment of guilt. Suddenly. and how little I had given her in return. and she gave me the suite number. everything. and whispered that the reception would be at the Carlton. thinking of all she had given me. That was fine with me. She had the same easy elegance that I remembered. I had to cross to the beach side. and then I saw her. The scene inside was exciting.walked on the red carpet to the auditorium. I was only interested in one of them. Thank you…I will be there! Francesca was well received by the crowd. the crowd roared and applauded. as the crowd was thick getting out of the Palais. I was happy to be there. There was a heartbreaking sadness in the character. the drive. and held out his hand to bring Francesca up for a standing ovation. and she was good. My parents had gone often. She was very popular in France. some woman came over to me. but had never brought me with them. I had a reserved seat amongst all the celebrities. I looked around for her for what seemed like a long time. and walking on the Croisette. She always drew people to her. It was a great success. This seemed to serve her well in this kind of event. it was all worthwhile. to have come all this way to honor her. after the screening. the dress.

Sorry. look at her…isn’t she beautiful!? Come here. with a TV crew who was doing an extensive interview. but he made me feel at ease and welcome. she called…come say hello to my Christina. . Oliver. He had a strong Italian accent and thinning hair. I told her that I was going to a university in California in a few days.the hotel. and a charming manner. At some point. and then took my hand. She held it throughout the endless procession of people coming to congratulate her. and many other quite mundane subjects as the night wore on. . We both reached out for the same one. He shook my free hand and talked to me while more people were coming to solicit Francesca. She gave me a hug. and various appetizing canapes. how you have grown! Che bella! Marco. someone came by with a tray full of little sandwiches with smoked salmon. about California. . with straight longish brown hair. I said we had gone on a sailing voyage together. At the second glass of 35 . He was extremely handsome. Look how beautiful she is…she is going to California! A young man approached. and we had a few private minutes to talk. and I was flattered of the attention he was giving me.Oliver. She caressed my cheek briefly. Dio mio. Francesca squeezed my hand and let it go.You must be Christina! He said… I feel like I know you already! Come on in…I am Marco d’Alessi.Christina! Oh. He looked at me and we both laughed. I could see new tiny wrinkles in the corner of her eyes. and did not offer any more details. and found the suite without getting lost. and I said that I still felt a little bit tentative about everything. but they gave her face a kind and soft expression that made her more real and more human. He was looking at me as if he thought I was beautiful. I found him very attractive. and asked me if how I knew Francesca. Francesca was sitting on the couch in the living room. His name was Oliver Schneider. She had to move into the next room. They were going to distribute the film. He sat next to me on the couch. and we started talking about the film. come sit next to me… She looked a little bit older. She asked me if I felt good about it. surrounded by people holding champagne flutes. I knocked on the door. carina…got to work…don’t go away! Oliver brought me a glass of champagne. . and an elegant older man opened it. and he worked for United Artists in Hollywood. He held out his hand. and our hands touched. dressed in a tuxedo.

it’s so beautiful there… I knew what was happening…what was going to happen. the breeze was cool but not cold. he would turn to me. and I did not see Francesca. but I took it in all the same. We got up and went out on the terrace to look at the row of palm trees and the ocean sparkling in the moonlight.Is this your car? . This dashing young man was taking me. We were reclining on the couch. Most people had left. I would have quite a story to tell Francesca tomorrow. and gently stroke my arm. smile. I thought it would be better to see her without all these people. and looking into each other’s eyes. I was looking at him as he was driving.Come with me to my hotel. then turned away to go back to the living room. The car was gliding silently on the winding road. He took his key and we went down to his room. Isn’t it great? It was. I could not help but touch the walnut dashboard. Every now and then. But it was time for me to finally pass into adulthood. I knew he was wrong. “You are so sophisticated!”. in a convertible Bentley. . and his remark was only based on my friendship with Francesca. We smoked cigarettes and had more champagne. and went down to the lobby with Oliver. It was a suite. He said that Francesca was very tired. He got a bottle of champagne out of the refrigerator. and stopped constantly looking to see if Francesca was done with the interview. I did not quite know if I was in love with him. We were standing very close to each other. Ten minutes later. right by the water. but I had a quick daydream of him and me getting together in California. I was a little bit nervous. I rented it…the company pays for it. I kissed him back. I wanted it to happen. Marco was saying goodbye to everyone. I grabbed my jacket. I said I would be there. I felt so glamorous and grown up. and he kissed me very lightly. little old me. You’ll see. and I could not imagine better circumstances. he said to me. He came to us. We arrived at Eden Roc. and said goodnight. on this most anticipated adventure.Nah. . and we 36 .champagne I was beginning to feel good. and would I please come tomorrow morning at 9:00 and have breakfast with them. of course not. he said. He opened it. Everything was perfect. He followed me with his hand on my shoulder. I said yes. we were driving on the lower Corniche toward Cap d’Antibes.

we drank. Feeling someone’s naked body against mine was a brand new. he got up and went into the bathroom. The pain was not too bad. I am going to have to practice this to get better at it.Don’t worry…I will be careful. I stayed in the bed and pretended to be asleep. He got back into bed. So this was what made the world go round. Oh well. . I could not believe that people like Francesca would find themselves ever in such an undignified position. exciting sensation. and it did not seem to be connected to another human being. There were no stars. I felt sticky and afraid to move. I went back to the room. I thought. he said. Afterwards it was just strange to feel this movement inside of me. There was enough light from the hotel above to see that there were rock steps going into the water. I was shivering in the water. 37 . “You have beautiful shoulders”.Are you taking birth control? He asked. but cleansing and soothing even though it was also stinging quite a bit. I was for a time. I am not. at the critical moment. because I wanted to see everything. I was getting really cold. and then turned off the light as he undressed and I took off my underwear. I guess I was not going to be one of these great lovers after all…I hadn’t gone to the edge. I could feel my knees trembling as he gently guided me into the bedroom. . At first. Our glasses clinked for the toast. He undid my dress. Oliver was kind and gentle. . I started drifting off and isolating myself. he said. whatever that was. But then. I went into it up to my waist and floated a little. Afterwards. it had been very enjoyable. when he put his hands behind my knees and pushed my legs back until I could see my feet in the air. and then he kissed me.No. and I went down. I felt numb and detached. . I was sorry that the lights were out. though it was sharp and radiated all the way to my throat.Here’s to us. as we sank onto the huge bed flooded with silver light from the open window.went out on the deck. The water was cold. and the clouds were attacking the moon. and pretty soon I could tell from his breathing that he had fallen asleep. I got up. turned away from me. as we kissed and went through a few preliminaries. and went outside. which looked out on a little rocky cove in which the sea formed a natural pool of shimmering moonlight. know everything and be fully present.

I really wanted to ask what he thought of me as a lover: had I been really bad. it was already eight o’clock. Then I went back into the bed and eventually entered a dreamless sleep. this is Francesca. under the covers. last night. I got up and was mortified to see that there was a blood stain on the otherwise pristine white sheets of the prestigious Eden Roc Hotel. and I did not linger. and rushed to my room. The sky was overcast. . but I did not want Francesca to see me in the same clothes as last night. dressed in tennis whites. and stuck to nervous small talk to avoid silence. I picked it up. I wanted Francesca to know that I had slept with Oliver. and put on my travelling clothes. He asked me if I wanted to be dropped off at the Carlton. as I was going to drive back to Paris today. which I have to say hurt my feelings a little. and said: “Don’t worry…they’re used to it. But can you come at 8:00 for breakfast? We realized we could get on a flight directly from Nice to Rome instead of going through Paris. Somehow. and what I could have done to improve my performance? But I did not feel like I knew him well enough to ask. Oliver came out smiling and handsome. People come here on honeymoon all the time”. It was five minutes to nine. I wanted to hide it from her.Good morning! Shall we order breakfast? I apologized and said that I was supposed to have breakfast with Francesca at the Carlton at nine. and ran hot water all over myself. I know it is early.Oliver was still asleep. and that I needed to leave as soon as possible. and we need to be at the 38 . He noticed my expression of dismay. We exchanged phone numbers. I picked up my key. I took a shower. He did not argue very much. but my mind was already with Francesca. asking him where he was going. and I needed to freshen up and be by myself for a while. Honeymoon…yes of course…I covered up the spot. I went into the bathroom. and off we went. when he was returning to California. He opened the door of the Bentley for me. and I waved at him as he pulled off on his way to play tennis at Eden Roc. so we left the top up. when I saw that the message light on the telephone on the nightstand was blinking red. When I woke up to the sound of the shower. This morning. I led the conversation. He kissed me goodbye as a satisfied lover would. So he took me to the Martinez. and all kinds of trivial questions. and dialed the code… “Hi carina. and went into the dressing room to get dressed in private and digest my humiliation.

I had left my handbag at the Martinez so it would not slow me down. and saw that a black limousine was waiting in front of the Carlton. once at the sign. Marco was waving at me from the other side. We can’t afford to miss this plane. all the way until Francesca was finally sitting in the car. Then I saw Francesca and Marco walking out of the hotel. as now my cheek was right against hers. “You cheated on me!” I did not reply. but I managed to cross the street without making a commotion. shooting starts tomorrow morning… We let go but I held on to her hand as the driver opened the door. What I really wanted to do is go get the car.airport at 9:30. I watched it drive away until it was a mere little black dot. and started running toward the Carlton as fast as I could. I crossed over on the beach side. The window started going up. “You!” She said smiling and pointing her finger at me in mock reproach. Finally. Please come. The tinted glass was too dark. I must have grown. I could see the Carlton Beach sign and I was focusing on it. to not have to wait for the red lights. and drive straight to Rome as fast as I could. uncontrolled. -I love you! Oh…I love you! I must have choked on the last word. Francesca spotted me immediately.Ciao Christina! . always…you’ll get the hang of it! Marco came to separate us gently. and she disappeared behind it. then glided on toward Nice. . Oh my God! I had missed them…It was 9:05…Maybe there was still a chance…I rushed down the stairs without waiting for the elevator. I could not see inside. Christina…but we need to go. The words came out of me on their own. .Sorry Francesca. I would ask Francesca if we were really in love 39 . but rushed and fell into her arms. way out there on the Croisette. I was holding her very tight. out of breath and disheveled. I was relieved. I would love to see you…love you sweetheart”. The limo started off then did a U-Turn around the center divider. There.Don’t be sad. sweetie…go for the good life.Come to Rome! Please come visit! Said Francesca. I looked over to the other side. . not wanting to look anywhere else until I was there. I surprised myself with the intensity of my emotion. Francesca was calm as usual.

and paid for a hotel room that I didn’t even use. But instead of getting a good job related to my studies. I finished school eventually. I guess.with each other. a languid feeling would come 40 . I had to return the car to my mother. My mother did not attend. I found solace in playing music and singing. and not mine. and I had to report to school in California by the end of next week. I looked for Tomaso. I did not have my passport with me. I had managed to miss her in Cannes. I saw Marco. I was in the middle of finals. thus reducing to one minute what was to be my very last encounter with Francesca? Why didn’t I move Heaven and Earth to try to get her address or telephone numbers during those four years? Why the hell did she have to go to Ostia that night? There was a memorial service. that I had to pull over and try to take in what was being said on the radio. then I would insist that we do something about it. that I saw my father walking in the crowd behind her casket. As it turns out. It was during a week of finals for me in California. I never did go and visit her in Rome or anywhere else. after she had invited me. Besides. and ended up in the unlikely situation of pursuing a musical career. but did not see him. And if so. on warm summer evenings when the sky was especially purple with the best sunsets brought on by pollution especially in Los Angeles. with some other family members that I did not know. I was just alone. way back then. trying to get a handle on an unfathomable grief. But I did not do it of course. full of regret and unanswered questions. I was so stunned. Sometimes. now that I was not only older. aside from some depressing one night stands that seemed to be the normal thing to do at the time. I could swear in one of the newscasts. I don’t think they would have been very supportive. I hated taking birth control pills. I think the woman next to him was Francesca’s mother. Francesca d’Alessi was killed six months later in a head on collision with a drunk driver somewhere near Ostia. I remember exactly where I was when I heard. Francesca was their friend. looking despondent. but a real woman. I did not attend. I stayed out of any relationship with anyone for quite a while. and I could not imagine myself spending my life with any of my partners. and now. Why was I so eager to lose my virginity that night of all nights? Why did I insist on changing at the Martinez. taller. I could not believe neither my mother nor my father found it necessary to call me and tell me in person. I had to find out her address. I was in my car. driving to school.

it’s just a home away from a home that might be far away. . . and I would imagine our dialog… . or read a book. to visit family and old friends. But they are very self conscious and snobbish in a cheap sort of way. perfect.I do…I love you. -Tell me that you love me… . no. and an eventual movie. I was sitting with my friends George and Francine outside “Le Babylone”. or even write one if so inclined. There is no implication of the place being special. on that warm day in June.Ti voglio bene…don’t forget! But I must have forgotten. In my case. tell me in Italian! . where I was born. with friends or alone. and to a semi-Californian it is always amazing to see and feel how animated the Paris streets are and how the passers-by. way back then… Part 2: MODERATO All Dharma is a dream… Tibetan Proverb Chapter One Cafes are genuinely important to the quality of life in Paris. because it took me so long and so many years to finally understand all the things she had said to me. or cool. it was just a nice place to rest between bouts of shopping.over me to assuage my loneliness. In California where I live. there are cafes. I had come to Paris. even though they might sometimes be rude or angry. a totally non famous and nondescript café on the Rue de Babylone.Francesca. across from Le Bon Marche department store. tell me life is good. or inhospitable for any reason. amore. It was a beautiful sunny day. order anything from milk to 12 year old Scotch.No. always seem more alive and more at ease than 41 . and take a healthy vacation away from my job and my problems in California. Here in Paris. You can sit on the terrace and people watch. they are real places where you can go and spend all day.Life is good. Francesca would be there with me. athletic and free as she was when I was fourteen years old. in the chic part of Silicon Valley.

But Alison had gone for the whole kit and caboodle. weathering flashes of interest. show or otherwise. like grey fruit ready to be picked. unless it turned out that she went back to see it with Marie.the crowds in Hollywood. mainly about movies and filmmaking which is what Francine did for a living. but for the time being they were quite content with the status quo and so was I. it took off with a racket like so many banners flapping under hurricane winds. started interfering with my side of the conversation. I had a flash suddenly of how much we enjoyed the film when we saw it. I don’t believe they were really interested either. and Marie liked it. whether it is between women. I remembered what fun it was to talk with her afterwards about what was so good about this scene or that scene. our film talk was far from shallow and involved a lot of revealing comments and humor. which gave me a real feeling of closeness when we talked. Yet the minute you approached this fluttery harvest. leaving me at a loss to understand anything ever again about any relationship. George mentioned in passing an old film I had seen with Alison. insidious. the only comments she seemed capable of were: “I liked it!” Why. I knew a lot about them. I think they would be really concerned and ready to intervene if something awful happened to me. why did you like it Alison? “It was good!” or “I hated it!” Why? “It was sick!” or “I hate Cher!”. But they knew close to nothing about me and my personal life. After she left me. Pronouncements that were definite and unquestionable. they had been married for more than twenty years and I had even accompanied them through some rough times. whom I regularly saw at each of my yearly visits. 42 . Marie…I guess I could see what was attractive about her enough to understand flirting with her. tempered with the confused appraisal of some unspeakable darkness. I was having a lively discussion with my friends. but with whom I cultivated a decidedly distant approach to really personal conversations. or even in San Francisco. men or whooping cranes. It was an esoteric South American work but it still put us on the edge of our seats. and the thought of her. There were pigeons everywhere. Besides. wavering. not out of indifference but out of bad habits contracted in the process of living in the world of fashion and business. clustered in the trees in the Parc Boucicaut across the street.

Her expression was soft and bright. and how I had met her. as if I was on stage. Next to us. It gave it an Indian look that reluctant as I was to give Marie anything positive. she was smiling while looking in my direction. 43 . and to be present in the conversation. at the terrace of the Babylone. here it was again. and pursued the conversation. which I did with some success. with cute wisecracks and colorful descriptions. huge green eyes. across from the doorway. He was asking me questions about a common friend. She sat down. as if during an intermission. and I was craning my neck trying to see what it was. She was reading a book. It was Marguerite Duras’ “Moderato Cantabile”. Unbelievably. George and Francine were in stitches. wearing the same Ray Ban sunglasses that Francine was wearing. They had been my silent supporters and companions through years of solitude. and had thick dark hair tied up in an unruly bun. I became conscious of the fact that I was talking to George about something. She did not look like Marie in the least after all. I made a conscious effort to start looking at him. and they could do no wrong. She came back very soon. We were sitting at the narrow end of it. She got up and went inside. He hates it. and as she walked through the door back to the terrace. make it wild and funny. The terrace was fairly empty. and she had beautiful. I had seen the movie long time ago. and even though it was not really elegant. and the audience hates it too. She looked at me very briefly. The anecdotes kept pouring in. put on her Ray Bans. She was drinking a café-crème. Only after I caught out of the corner of my eye the woman smiling and looking in our direction. and picked up her book again while the waiter brought her another café-crème. a woman was sitting. willing my thoughts away from California and back here. The woman was thin. did I realize that I was doing all this for her benefit. unlike Marie. it made her face look exotic. and in spite of my incredible efforts at mind control. and all I remembered from it was some kid playing a sonata on the piano. I saw that she had taken off her sunglasses.I blinked and forced myself to not think about her. Her book was still there. I had appreciated for years in Gauguin’s paintings of the women of Tahiti. but I was looking over his shoulder at the woman. I felt some relief. but I surprised myself by going out of my way to liven it up. Marie had a straight Greek nose. the woman looked remotely like Marie. I started telling the story. facing the rounded sidewalk.

I took in the white collar. and white tennis shoes. But the train was prompt and ready. I was going to take the Metro since I didn’t have my mother’s car and they were going to take the bus. absurd temptation of going right back to the café was grabbing me and telling me to stay on the edge of my seat. “It must be something in the air” Francine was saying to the waiter as an excuse for our absent mindedness. but I had already told Francine and George that I had to be somewhere. old people. I got up too. the woman and I were the only ones wearing tennis or basketball shoes and not jogging or playing ball. Here. This is ridiculous. I hopped on. secretly hoping that the train would be endlessly late so I could come back up and see if the woman was still there. As I was saying goodbye to my friends. We came back. we were gone. tight black pants. grey sweater. and occasional lover to a forlorn jobless actor or two. in the company of people who would not understand anything of me and my life. and shady characters. and started flying with my thoughts toward Solferino. Unthinkable… It was unthinkable. We were walking through the park amongst myriads of running toddlers. I thought. that I would have these feelings here. beige oversize canvas handbag. There had been nothing seductive about the woman. and who were not close enough for me to make the superhuman (for me) effort of coming out. nuns. Just like that. I am in love. But that was precisely what attracted me. and I rushed into the station. and my mind was racing all over the place. I was looking behind them to remember everything about the woman. There had been nothing but a light smile and a square look. all hanging out in the same sunny garden. in this café. We said goodbye again. No stealthy approach or meaningful glance full of sexual undertones. The insane. in Paris. Panic… No other word can describe the chaos that was taking place in my brain. I think those tennis shoes got me especially because in the entire city of Paris. and the woman this time did not look up. where I had only been a good daughter and friend. We were already crossing the Rue de Babylone to go through the park. Then before I even knew it. as if in a dream. ready to 44 . George and Francine were getting ready to leave.My heart started pounding. I was tempted to stay at the café and talk to the woman. There I was right here in the land of my youth. when Francine realized that we had forgotten to pay. their favorite mode of transportation.

I am being overcome by a romantic delusion born out of hellfire. I automatically lose any appeal I might have had. after already making two exits in a row? “Hi! I see you like Marguerite Duras. Only people who exile themselves voluntarily like I had can understand this sentiment. But still…If the woman was in any way interested. So what kind of mess would I get myself into? Oh. Everything happens for a reason. and I had to explain why I had come back? On the other hand. glued to the moleskin until my final destination near my mother’s house. and it was all for a reason. What to do? What if I came back to the café. what would I do? I was here to visit family and friends who did not know anything about my life. I automatically assumed the woman was French. here I am. and give yourself new pride in a world where everyone is willing to address you as an adult. what if? Chapter Two The train. I was interested enough in someone or something to actually be tempted to go look for it. after an excruciating wait at Solferino and an endless journey. What would I say to her if I came back to the café. where I belonged. and getting battered constantly by her lack of interest in who I am and what I do or say. you can get rid of the very shame that shaped your being. and if things did happen for me. for the first time since losing Alison. Just because she knows me already or thinks she does.bolt when the train reached Solferino so I could run to the other side and jump on the train back to Sevres-Babylone. finally pulls into Sevres Babylone…I am walking very fast…not 45 . She is tres amusante!”. fantasizing and making a big deal out of nothing. I’ve read all her books. On the other hand the infamous cold and oh so arbitrary voice of reason was telling me to stay right there. and ran into George and Francine still waiting for their bus. which would also make me very uncomfortable. every woman in Paris who doesn’t walk around in men’s clothes and slicked back short hair is absolutely straight in every way. In a foreign language. On the other hand I can’t spend my life loyal to Alison in thought. By the way. The fact that I thought for a second that she looked like Marie was enough to attract my attention to her. Maybe I am attracted to the woman because I don’t know anything about her…Alison style…But what if she was a friend of somebody I knew? Shudder…What if. Besides. This is the craziest delusion I have ever had.

Someone gave me the face as a present. s’il vous plait? The time…I did detect an accent. I said in English also. In French as I feared. and that is good. She still has not looked up. If I go slowly. I walk past her and go inside the café. she will be gone.J’aime votre montre. and Francine has warned me that the toilet was a Turkish toilet. What do I do now? The waiter comes. I’ll have a café crème.Well. but this time I am sitting next to her and not facing her as I was before. and I can’t even pretend to go to the bathroom. If I go fast. I sit down at the terrace. I sort of designed it. I said in French. He does not seem to recognize me. but she spoke to me! . God! This street is crowded…I am walking on the park side of the Rue de Babylone…The café is in sight. she can leave anytime. in California. it is dark. . I can go twice as fast. I’m not. d’ou vient-elle? I like your watch. Maybe she wasn’t French after all…I flashed my new watch with mountains on it. mind you. I come back up. The escalator. I see the waiter bringing stuff. but I still don’t see the terrace facing Le Bon Marche…Ten more steps. where does it come from? . 46 .Oh! Are you an American? She said in English. I’ll run into George and Francine. Besides. and said: . Up. . but I have lived there for twenty years. and I bought the band where I live.Quatre heures dix.Excusez moi… She spoke to me. Downstairs. Ten past four. I was all wrong. tennis or not. out into the sunlight.Oui? -Est-ce-que vous avez l’heure. It smells bad. Up the stairs…No. but walking very fast. and she is reading the book. asking me what I want. She is still there. up. here it is…She is still there! Oh dear! What do I do now! She has her sunglasses back on. -No. She does not look up.running. pretending to make a phone call. with an empty café crème in front of her. at the same table where I was with George and Francine. I can’t aim properly in Turkish toilets (how do real people do it?) and it would not do any good to come back up with wet shoes. It’s always time to try liking things I never liked before… . if I wait any longer.

she said. I said. She had a job as a production assistant for one of the TV Stations. and my eyes started stinging when I described how hard it was for me to work with someone I had once been involved with. yes? .Well. -Hi Christine. cheerful laugh. The conversation flowed very easily. 47 .You speak French beautifully. . Alison is a woman…Not that it makes it any easier. and I was not nervous anymore. with no warning. She was beautiful. no preparation. -Working with men is hard enough to begin with. She did not look like Marie at all. there was a lull in the programming. Linda said. and she was trying to decide whether to stay in Paris or go back home. She had just broken up with a boyfriend (OK…I get this…) and she was staying at a friend’s apartment Rue de Nevers. it is very short. I explained to her my situation. at the beginning of June. I said in pure American ritual. Right now. The friend was travelling around the world or something for a few months. nothing happens. but it paid well. and she had a little time to do some research way ahead of schedule. I’m glad to meet you. Alison again…I could not believe that the pain was so very much alive after all this time. and it’s the end. And then it came. fast and easy. and you can read the most obscure French books without any problem. We laughed together. mind you. I said: -Oh. -Linda. she said. freer somehow that what had gone on earlier with my friends. all these attempts at eradicating her out of my mind forever and ever. my work at the theatres. and whom I still cared about a great deal. Her name was Linda. This man and this woman meet in a café. seemed to have trouble swallowing. I am from New York. I am one..Oh. let alone working with the ones we love…She too. It was pretty hectic and disorganized. and she had lived in Paris for three years now. she was from New York. I introduce myself to her. this…I am reading it for my job…Fortunately. warm and maybe a little sad. no calculation. my failed music career. My name is Linda. and it gave her a visa. I remembered that she was reading a book in not so evident French. She took off her glasses and put down her book. an easy. Her smile was absolutely devastating.

really…! -No kidding! We laughed. gloriously. and maybe I had just made a new friend. I was always on the hunt for new insights about relationships so I could heal this poorly sutured wound of mine. I wanted to understand everything. and shook her head. So. I was not about to throw it all away… -What movie is it? I explained about Thelma and Louise. how he created the character of Ripley. I go to the movies alone very often! She looked at me with an air of defiance. But. Four forty five. these days. intelligence. . I’d like to go with you. Courage. like movies and books. define it. and I felt so totally comfortable that I didn’t even resent the fact that the conversation started rolling on safer subjects. -Not really. I looked at my mountain watch again. I had not yet stopped to take a reality check. but instead I’d like to make the 5:30 show of this new movie I’ve been dying to see. and come out of it all happier. The good part was that I had been open with her. compassion…She seemed to have jettisoned them from her own personal Nostromo space ship. wiser. I had come back to the café. I was sobered up by the fact that she had a boyfriend. how. and still not die a horrible death in the end. talking with this stranger about almost intimate things just like that! I was still a little carried away. but I have no real recollection as to when. I said it half heartedly. and who paid for what. any new friend was a welcome resource for my Herculean task. or the woman who managed to be proven right. and kinder. and said: -If that’s OK. and how I liked most of his films. I think the waiter came and we both ordered sparkling waters.Do you have to be somewhere? She asked. Here I was. it’s all the same. women. simply.Linda smiled. looking into my eyes without a trace of discomfort or avoidance: -Men. Ripley used to be Alison’s favorite hero and role model. the pigeons and the department store had somehow disappeared from my consciousness. as I gladly noticed a shade of disappointment in her expression. about Ridley Scott. I had been brave. 48 . I was supposed to go visit a friend. as I realized I did not want to go to the movie anymore if it meant losing precious moments. -Were you going alone? -Yes. strong and true. open it up to the air. The street. and let it close naturally when its pain would not be needed anymore.

Yet a feeling of excitement that felt almost like deep happiness came over me. and I might as well find out the details. and I felt like visiting royalty. it’s simple. My host was very sweet. but I could definitely identify with her on that one. but that the ground floor was probably a safe bet! It took all my energy to keep connected with the environment enough to pay for the tickets and reach our seats. there is always a great feeling of expectation in the room. I did not feel nervous. -I know the feeling. and I respected the fact that she was straight and that was that. because I did not have any expectations. I felt always very close to her and we would hold hands and smile at each other in the darkness as the opening credits started. I had not taken a cab through Paris in years. It’s no fun. I loved going to movies with Alison. she said. Sometimes. and was talking excitedly about the Musee d’Orsay. When the lights dim in a theatre. and we went all the time. I said. and things are not yet very clear between us. Once we were seated. it was easier because there was no interference to our conversation. -What happened with your boyfriend. and the film itself was about to start. it feels like we could or should be lovers again any minute. but it’s very recent. -Oh. and it became suddenly a little more substantial. and now he is with her. She smiled. We actually took a cab to the movie theatre. I said. it was better than nothing. As I spoke. and I thought I could feel some unexpected emotional current surging between us. then he met this Italian model. Julien and I were together for two years. the houselights went down. I asked. and sometimes I think that she makes a point of showing me how little she cares about me. which was a very fancy one on the Champs-Elysees. I said that would be quite all right. Are you friends with Alison? The question sounded very natural. But I was not about to believe that straight women could ever be turned around.I was taken aback by the request. Where did the train tracks use to be? I said I had no idea. If we could be friends. The details were slim. I still had this hand holding reflex when we started going 49 . It was very exciting. I added that I was very happy that she was coming with me to the movies. Do you still have any kind of relationship with him? -We’re trying very hard to be friends. We had fortunately missed the endless string of commercials that show in French theatres. -Not really.

and I’m already very late. but I always kept it in check. Alison and I would somehow communicate through the movies. the two women characters find no way out of the world around them. -Well. turned around. I said in what must have been a heart rending tone. The whole experience was strange. because she stopped. The film was good. Linda seemed to react. said “nice meeting you” in a hurried tone. and our cheeks would touch. and while the plot was progressing. nice meeting you too.I loved it. As we walked out into the still sunny street. and looked at me every time there was something particularly funny or difficult. it’s late. I felt a little bit the same way with Linda. and rushed down into the Metro. and then I realized what the problem was: How would I see her again? We hadn’t made any 50 . It was a little bit like being with Alison again. she grabbed my wrist. At the end of the film. but not close enough to distract me from what was happening on the screen. and she was saying to me with seriousness and emotion: . Sometimes she smiled softly the way Alison used to. violent at times. she had already disappeared through the swinging doors. flashed that incredible smile and said:”I really liked talking to you. The temptation was not far. I stayed frozen in space for about five minutes. Thank you very much for letting me come along. She shook my hand formally. I felt like I knew her.to movies again after she and Marie broke up. I turned to her and thanked her too. including love. I liked especially when she would make a comment to me in a whisper. but somehow exhilarating and empowering. but I never minded that if there was a good reason for it. and jump to their deaths in a green T-Bird in a flash of sunlight that looked like Heaven. Equally seriously. you know” I did not have the time to answer. I have to run. in a strange sort of way. It was very sad. -Oops. and I held a stiff position most of the time so our legs would not touch and I could maintain an excruciating formal distance. It was only to look at my watch. and her hair would feel like a caress on my temples. I’m having dinner with a friend. and where anything was possible including friendship. I felt like taking Linda’s arm as we walked out. it seemed that I could tell how she felt at every minute. but in a situation that was not blocked or preordained.

and anything 51 . But I also believed that Alison really did love me. like a traveling salesman pushing some household cleaner. If she was interested in me as a potential lover…if she was…My friend Ruth always said “if it’s on your mind. I was ready to accept any situation including total separation. just to have someone to go to the movies with. just to drop the ball again and be sitting alone thinking: Why. cruelty or indifference. and not believing that she could play a real active part in her own life. But these days. nothing happens.plans. I was. But in a way also. and then some program which happened to be about a man and a woman who meet in a café. I always found this to be quite true. Loving them can only be an exercise in self-destruction. I had vanquished my own passivity. nor exactly where she lived. then she would have wanted to. out of some kind of careless paralysis? I used to always accuse Alison of being passive. I watched the news on TV with my mother for a while. In a way. but it was too late. and very silently. and sometimes I would feel like I had been trying to convince her to be with me. it felt to me that I could be one of these. I made something good happen in my life and then let it go. and what a fool she was to be letting it go. let them go. and it’s the end. She would listen to me very patiently. How stupid can I be? Is it possible that once again. Now. They meet. to keep my attention on anything. out of a lack of reflexes? Damn! I ran down into the Metro myself trying to catch up with her. as long as I did not have to be plunged again into a sea of unreality where love turned into meanness. and falls hopelessly in love with a picture of Madonna. it’s on theirs too!”. The platform was empty and the trains had already left. Like “Moderato Cantabile”. doesn’t appreciate you. why did I let this go? Why didn’t I have the nerve to ask when I could see her again? What could be the danger? If she was really straight. So I would talk to her and try to make her see how valuable our relationship was. Did the book ever mention the stupidity of the person who lets it all slip by. except in cases where someone is really self-destructive. and that she was the one who was self-destructive in not recognizing that. I did not know her last name. for once. stupidly. honey. How could I still love Alison after all the hell I had gone through? If someone doesn’t love you. How could I have lost her so soon! Chapter Three It was very difficult at home.

and catch me unprepared for the distance that I should have taken right away. unattainable. If there was some truth to all this. and end up satisfied with my life? Was there room in our world for ease. she and I started having conversations that were very powerful and intimate. Be remote. Then. She said she lived Rue de Nevers. she would contradict her previous statements. Yes. Maybe this was what had stopped me from asking Linda if I could see her again. No. the next day. I could see her face. hating myself as I did for letting Linda go. As if this woman was going to avenge me for all the pain I had gone through. and we had gone to a movie together. Bad timing. No big deal. a move that seemed to surprise nobody but Alison. and therefore undesirable. Well. and she was staying at a friend’s anyway. you said. I had an idea. I could go lurking there until she showed up. maybe it was time for good timing now.that ever mattered was dropped into a black hole of oblivion and emptiness. then what’s the point? How could I wiggle my way through these traps of destiny and bad timing. it was time for practical considerations. Yet my feelings were so strong. I can still fall in love. It was hard to get my mind away from Alison. and what might even be called true love? Was I sick for believing in it. and that was why I liked her so much. Tomorrow or the next day just like in “Moderato”. Marie-like nose and all. you know. But if to get something you have to not want it anymore. Letting Linda go…Listen to me…I did not even know the woman. Above all else. pleasure. with a smile that electrified me and made me feel like I could conquer the world if I wanted to and therefore I did not even have to conquer it. To make the approach in such an indirect way would wreck the spirit of things. and that I was bound to lose every time. she would be there. What to do? And suddenly. that Marie and I were competing for Alison’s allegiance in a tug-of-war. 52 . The phone book was useless since I did not know her last name. and pretend that I just happened to be in the neighborhood. and some people do want to be with me! I had the strong impression that Linda liked me. and you will have everything. because I was open about my potential availability. and letting it give meaning to my suffering? Sleep was eluding me. When Marie left her. I always felt then. Ruthie! Here’s to you Alison who that the nerve to call me sick for loving you. I decided that I would go by the Babylone at exactly 4:00pm tomorrow. Here’s to you.

Something is going on there. Stop that too…One day. And yet…How many times do strangers ask you to go to a movie with you. I remembered how upset she seemed about her boyfriend. I am crazy. Maybe that was what life was all about. in a nondescript café. Alison…Where are you now? Why did you leave me in this predicament? No. and in between movies. and it still had that liberating. and not take any risks. Then. and every time I closed my eyes. I kept seeing Linda and the way she looked at me. Stop. What fun. Ah! But here I go again. I am giving all kinds of meanings to a nondescript encounter. I’m not so hard to please after all. not embark on the adventure whatever it is? It would be like pretending to Alison that I would never get back with her even if she was writhing at my feet and spitting on Marie when that was not really true. It was a risk to think that I could run into Linda again at the café and hope that she would want to see me there too. Like hell! Let’s have a cigarette and think. There was a connection between its atmosphere of danger. I had trained my mind to think about a brick wall (remember. Linda…Should I take this seriously? Should I forget about it all. the one with George Saunders?) or a flushing toilet. “Thelma and Louise”. my mind and my heart will be full of nothing but brick walls. There is nothing going on there. Why? Maybe because it was the first grown up thing I had ever done. and I think they turned more people into smokers by provoking their rebel selves. creating a handy image of disposal-with-humor. I kept trying to sleep. Maybe it would all end up in a flash of sunshine and then nothing. Because I am craving the feeling of being loved. The anti-smoking fanatics were not helping with that. rebellious aura to it. but I guess that’s what makes me so uninteresting.Or maybe she would not be there. 53 . Sleep. “Village of the Damned”. its forlorn country rock soundtrack. It would give me something to do in the afternoons. Smoking fought loneliness and feelings of being incomplete and inadequate. when I should think about a brick wall and go to sleep. Yet there were crazy things that could be done. Linda…I don’t even know Linda. that gave you some power even though you had none. I could never forget it. I had been smoking much more since the loss of Alison. and the way I felt now. which I guess soothed me a little. Don’t think about Alison. risked. uncertainty. Then I would come back day after day until I had to leave to go back home to California. and look at you like you were their long lost salvation…Ah! Sleep now. It was a risk to be honest with Alison about my hope of getting back together.

I’ll do what I can. The waiter stood in my way and said “Bonjour!”. At least you tried.I woke up very early. It was cloudy today. and we’ll solve it all in two sentences and three jokes. this one knew all about me and I could ask her advice and talk about Linda. Worried about parking. Ha ha. I went in. and make plans to have lunch with her and do something that would distract me. I suddenly started feeling lighthearted about everything. and everything was going to be OK. Brick walls were not necessary. go and go to the Babylone. different. and stared at everybody. I walked up the stairs. You can’t lose what you never did gain in the first place. She will tell you to get lost and you will. Maybe she was inside. OK. but not on the shelf. Parking was going to be a pain. I started feeling better. Why? Because if there was anything to it at all. and I was hoping that the traffic would be very bad so I could go slow and not arrive early. big deal. Maybe find a copy of “Moderato Cantabile”. What else is there in the world than unique. and maybe spend the rest of the time until four o’clock in the store. Look up the listings. Create something different with life. that would be fun. wait. let’s go up and see. I must have slept for three hours all and all. Yes. it was three thirty. What if there is nothing? Then the woman will not even understand what you were up to. Pocket books? Yes. So here I was. My mountain watch. spy at the TV station. all TV stations if I didn’t know which one it was. do it all. It took forever to reach the bookstore. Besides. Too early. I decided to go into the Bon Marche parking lot. It’s time. it was worth it. and wild things to die for? Movies were the closest thing to something like this. Marguerite Duras. I don’t even know what I’m missing! I’ll just have fun with my friend Francoise. her loss! I will never see Linda again. I went upstairs. It was there all right. to have breakfast with my mother. lurk Rue de Nevers. Friends were the only solid value these days. Maybe she was a regular. no such perverted thoughts can reach a pure mind. Besides. Francoise had advised me to go. She was not there. They had every book she’d ever written except that one. Out on the street. pretending again to make a phone call. Oh well. Alison does not want me. I had the car today. No Linda. 54 . and came back down to call a friend. Maybe he knew her. Suddenly I was sure Linda was going to be there. I would still have time to go by the Babylone and check out the scene. The terrace of the Babylone was empty. Five past four. look stupid and not know what to do with myself. My watch. Maybe rain was in the air this time. something unique and wild. I went down to the telephone. through the store almost running. OK.

all these figments of my fertile imagination. too late to go to the Babylone. and I did not feel like sitting down and ordering something. even though I did not quite understand it. I was. I think from the inside of the café. and had a good time. dejected. drove the car out. I had parked it on the street. I will not come back tomorrow. It seemed forlorn and deserted. The irony was just perfect now. Why not? I have nothing else to do anyway. It was all a ridiculous fantasy. Forget it. furious at her. I cannot wait any longer. The next morning. which is a sure sign of great intellectual content. theatres. and schedules.Ah! What the hell! I was disappointed. at everything. but what the hell. I slept better than the night before. and decided to go to the café. on your right. that I could not possibly have time to visit the Babylone. Let’s waste some more time. I opened the book and started reading… She arrived behind me. and go to a movie late and far enough that it lasted beyond four. and I wouldn’t have to worry about anything. The waiter came. pretending that I was someone else than I was. The car was the other way. Come on. I had the car again. I had my day organized in such a way. Here it is again. walking in that general direction. just in case. I have too much to do. Ah! A semi-obscure polish movie was playing at the Publicis Saint Germain. have lunch with some members of my family. Quarter to five. She put her hand on my shoulder and said: “So you are a regular here after all!” I 55 . a fool all the way. however. I looked at my watch: four thirty. I had seen everything. and sat at the terrace. Do you have “Moderato Cantabile”? Yes. That’s that. I bought the book. Alison used to say: “Unlucky in parking. and I ordered a sparkling water. I checked the Pariscope for films. Twenty past four. I went and enjoyed the film. careful to swing one more time by the Babylone. I did not even look at anything. I was going to be a normal person. since I was so tired. That’s far enough. I had probably dreamt the whole thing. and just start reading it. It was too late. I went to a friend’s house for dinner. but I felt there would be too many ghosts there. No one was there. Just to pay tribute to the potential of what could have been. Alison. and this time. lucky in love” every time I had trouble finding a spot. I went back down into the parking lot. a once in a lifetime spot. Like that. What a fool I am! A fool with Alison. be real. I successfully avoided all impure thoughts. Linda. Here’s a bookstore. a fool with Linda. I had a faint temptation to see Thelma and Louise again. here it is second shelf from bottom.

I laughed.Well. Her eyes were made of cool green. as a matter of fact. intelligent. I’ll be here! She got up. and touched my arm gently. not really. Are you free tonight? Suddenly.I’ll tell you what.See you then! She was gone. . “What time is it?”. all golden and pouring down like honey as Leonard Cohen would say. Here it was! It was late. Yet here she was. She laughed. I felt so incredibly strong. .Five o’clock. . . maybe you and I could have dinner together and pursue our various conversations of the other day! . as I pulled out “Moderato Cantabile” from my bag. It was as if all these images and memories from my past were coming back to help me understand the 56 . What’s going on? I was so elated that I could not stop smiling. with no shirt collar underneath. but the sun came out in rays like God appeared in “Quo Vadis”. exciting. and it is happening. I did not know how to get in touch with you.was too shocked to answer anything at all. lugging that huge bag. but if you didn’t mind waiting for me for about…huh…an hour and a half.No. I knew I had bought it for a reason. This is what was meant to happen. . I sure did not know how to get in touch with you! I was planning on coming here every day until you showed up. . Her sunglasses were on the top of her head. everything fell into place. I am. she was wearing jeans and a black sweater. interesting and interested. Life is really starting now. it was like the world. Linda said as she sat down next to me. Her smile hit me again. Now is the time to enjoy things. Let’s not be cynical and self deprecating. Her manner of approach was not very varied. and finally managed to look at her openly and with some kind of presence. She looked great. the universe. I won’t stand in the way.No problem. I turned around. I have to meet someone for work now. soft. I was hoping to find you again. looking straight into my eyes. soothing. and I just hid the book in my bag before she had a chance to see it and catch me at being sentimental. A joke… What a joke. I had forgotten their power.Yes. Are you a regular here? .Well.

Oh my God! It’s over already! Linda was right. It was not 70mm Scope or anything. Alcohol. and that it was wrong. I wonder why Linda was reading it. like Katharine Hepburn used Elizabeth Taylor in “Suddenly Last Summer”? Maybe she was trying to get her boyfriend’s new girlfriend interested in women so she would leave him alone? I was getting goofy and was thinking of ordering some alcoholic drink to calm my nerves.present. I was happy to see that all and all. nothing happens! And they were able to make a movie out of it. waiting for this unknown person and who knows if she was going to come back. It was torture stopping myself from looking at my watch constantly. dead wrong. in some strange way. like everything else is good in small quantities. but no one can really explain to you what they are. I had liked and assimilated the book better than a lot of the quoted critics. so you could always blame yourself for not getting something that everybody who was anybody should be getting just fine. God. I concentrated on the reviews that fill the end of the book. that woman is obscure. what if Alison was just a con artist and in Marie she had found a soul mate? What if I was really the intruder and did not know it? What if Linda was only using me as bait. Some directors specialize in films that are supposed to have all kinds of meanings. and if she was. The narrative was ominous. and tried very hard not to think for a while. I liked it. but it won a major award. I guess that’s possible. to think that one could replace the other. I’ll make the best of it! Chapter Four It was so incredibly hard to keep my mind on the book. I was stuck here in this café which was probably going to close soon. I should know. What kind of TV program these days would concern itself with something like this? Oh. Not everything should be explainable anyway. who was she anyway? Can we really instinctively know if people are good on first impression? I could tell from a mile away that Marie was operating on a level that was different from the one I was on with Alison. I won’t disappoint you. But what if. I said to the preciousness of the moment. and full of hidden meaning that was never uncovered. I was being so literary and self assured all of a sudden! After all. but our familiarity with pain makes us have to give up 57 . but I wanted to be as present as possible if and when she came back.

I was starting to feel a little bored. I was rambling on and on. suddenly she was back. nothing ever works for us. We’ve all got bad luck. before I even had the time to really worry… . The pigeons seemed to have calmed down. She smiled as if she understood. and should be saved for outings with people you trust. How old is she? I wonder…Younger than me. and I was careful to pay right away. 58 . forget it. everyone is all of a sudden always younger than you. Here’s the waiter. Five minutes. What could her last name be? I’ll ask tonight. Then the voice of my mother: nothing will ever be great for you. and the people were walking out of the Bon Marche with bags and packages of all kinds. so I don’t have to wonder anymore. and she seems to like me enough to go to a movie with me. It may seem like a long time now. she’s beautiful. Marguerite Duras was over and done with. getting slightly crazy. I did not hate it.everything. just in case I had to leave fast. I did! What a relief. But when you get to be forty. what does one do? Light a cigarette.I was curious to read what you were reading. ready to guard me against fantasizing about tonight. Everything seemed to come very easily around her. It suddenly became easy not to pretend. money and fame.“Moderato Cantabile”. Ah. but it will be nothing but a nanosecond when she’s here! Besides. heh? How do you like it? She did not seem surprised that I had the book. Should I prepare for good things. that’s how long it takes. automatic teller stops are never very glamorous. Linda is coming back soon. It’s OK. The brick wall was in place. Could I trust Linda? And trust her with what? I seem to have trusted her quite a bit already! What time? Five thirty only! Time slows down till it dies… The little park Boucicaut was getting ready for the end of the day. should I prepare for bad things? Just take the bet that everything will be great. I’m sure. ten if you really nurse it. and then. . because we cannot control our intake of anything that feels slightly better than excruciating. and ask me to dinner out of the blue. not thirsty. But maybe I was prejudiced in favor of it. Somehow. Where should we go? Should I drive? Do I have cash? Ooops! Yes. I was not hungry. Damn! How many sparkling waters can I drink without having to use the Turkish toilet? A stroke of genius: a café crème! Another tribute to Linda the unknown… The waiter brought it. with battlements and all. especially in love.

What’s going on? I lied. and we reviewed the real medicinal properties of a horrible Italian concoction named Fernet-Branca. the liquor of Verlaine and Rimbaud whose relationship was always alluded to. She was sitting on her haunches. listening to the park ranger and laughing at something. Linda was looking at me in a strange way. at some point during my adolescence. We had done pretty well going to the movies. We needed something to link us together. . I think I’ll have a Pastis. made from various plants including artichokes. The coolest thing was to drink it straight up. 59 . I had looked at her. nothing. I was nervous.. . This woman loves me and I love her. Her laugh was devoid of any kind of mockery or ridicule. diluted in water is refreshing.Oh. but never explained by schoolteachers. and I remember forcing myself to like it.Where shall we go? It was early still. and you can make it just the right strength. Alison…Alison. why don’t we just go inside and have an aperitif before it’s time to go to dinner? I need to shift gears after spending all this time alone with Marguerite and her wishy-washy characters. Pastis . the liquor of oblivion. The setting sun was bathing the café with golden light.It is still early. The thought of going now seemed impossible to me. Linda ordered some kind of traditional aperitif like Lilet. I offered. feel somewhat connected. Ricard or Pernod. I did not feel like going anywhere without having some time to get acquainted again. Pastis . We have a real chance at creating a relationship that will last and make us happy. Linda laughed. the bastard sons of absinth. light. looking very tan in the reflection of the…how do they call it…Alpenglow…Ah! Stop that. I was far from hungry. I had thought. I had something to lose. . for the first time since we had met. Tailor made. This is life. Her face was soft and gentle. all of a sudden. and how she looked that evening in Yosemite in the setting sun. but this was different. I felt shy. and we had a nice conversation about these drinks. without water or ice. It used to be in vogue. before we could face the trivial task of walking or driving to a restaurant. and just gave you this great feeling of having said something unforgettable. She heartily agreed and we went inside.

describing it all with great hand gestures. We were laughing when the waiter arrived. where is home now? Linda was explaining something. at least in my thoughts. and we cheerfully toasted to new friends. thin fingers. The basic idea was that this was all for friendship. I cannot feel your hand… ” Linda had something on me.So. I was amazed at the effect she had on me.I was so busy yesterday. “As the room is softly fading. In the open. It was getting dark. Alison was home. poems. I said she could never have a Fernet ever. . or will she send me a note ten years from now. Hell. . She seemed to know a lot about France and yet. Home…I guess California was home to me now. and she kept pushing it back. She knew enough about me to know that I could possibly be interested in her. trimmed nails. But what was she really thinking? Do people really do this sort of thing? Did she feel lonely for some American or semi-American company? What was really going on? Will I ever find out. and still live a perfectly happy life. a strand of her hair kept falling into her right eye. I can only kiss your shadow. smiling. and I had nothing on her. and tasted like what Pinochet gives to subversives to make them talk. everything seemed to amuse her as if it was still part of a long vacation. she had mentioned a boyfriend and nothing else. Yet. and one silver ring on the right hand. tell me more about yourself… 60 . but they still had not turned on the lights in the café. She was looking up. Linda said she had always dreamt of tasting it. everything was always new and exciting. saying I really wanted you but I let it go by? Once more. we would be caught looking back at those happy highways where we could never come again. I was letting myself stare at her. It felt great to watch her do that.It looked like mud. I tried to make an effort in an attempt to solve some of my riddles. I said. Everything was just fine. I worked for ten hours in a row. Her hands were beautiful. Linda said as if to apologize for her absence. daring and devastatingly original. Songs. Work was not really work. The conversation went on about her work and what it was like. I was decidedly in a literary vein tonight. I’m glad I had some time today. because it was strange and nothing affected you as much as it did at home. I thought of that Paul Simon song that I liked so much. as far as I knew. I remember feeling that way about California for the longest time. with long.

and the drinks were giving us a nice buzz so we decided it was time to go to dinner. not at all. who is supposed to have carried the infant Jesus across the water… She looked at me with great suspicion… .You know what that means? It means the one who carries Christ. One more trait that did not go over too well with Alison…Don’t be like her. She did seem to be enjoying herself however…I took a step backwards… . The story of my family had never sounded so special or interesting before now. as in St. We paid and got up. oh no. but I didn’t go. I need the other person to be a part of it too. We kept on comparing what was different and what we had in common. so I have none to tell. Hell. where we went to school. Both her parents were still alive. as she asked me about my parents. and religions are full of them. It did not really matter to us whose family had money. to meet me halfway. as my father had passed away a few years earlier. I felt better than I had in years about them. I don’t know…Your background…All the stuff that doesn’t really mean anything. I just like all these legends and stories. where they came from.No. So. We agreed on the Brasserie at La Closerie des Lilas. Linda. third generation American. Take a couple of steps. and her last name was Christoforos. I did however appreciate hearing that her father was of Greek origin. and this had to be in it under the heading “Cowardly approaches in the Nineties”. patron saint of transportation. I learned bits of trivia about her.Oh.Ruthie was writing a book on lesbian etiquette. but that I would do it for her sake. I’m not a power seducer. give me some clue… . but still matters when you don’t know anything about someone. an old traditional Montparnasse restaurant. As I was telling her everything I could think of. There’s also Catholic school and all the stories about nuns. That’s the fun part. . For some reason at first. I told her I was reluctant to move the car from my once in a lifetime parking place at the Carrefour Croix Rouge. Sorry. and she learned some about me. Christopher. and all that. the information seemed incredibly superficial and useless. as if anything we shared 61 .Are you religious? Like Catholic or something? . On and on we went.What do you mean? Ouch! Stand still as the rock of Gibraltar. I only had my mother.

“I have an addictive personality” she would say. we were laughing at everything. starting it and driving away happened without either of us noticing anything. It says “I want everything you have to offer so I can use it to help me be with somebody else. She looked just fine. my expectations were at the same time high and nonexistent. The thought of Alison came to my mind again. and if it is not you it won’t be you. as if we were saving ourselves for later. We had the evening ahead of us. staring at me softly with no fear. I had no history with Linda. whom I love more. It meant “Your love is a waste of time.contributed to bring us closer. history. our familiarity the kiss of death. age or status that was attracting me like a magnet. It seemed that to her. I shall love who loves me. convention. and life was incredibly simple and thrilling. She would shut me up. yet none of it meant anything to her. our history was like a curse. and I would go home feeling powerless. The level of our conversation was still quite basic. I would reply that I could go either way. Getting to the car. How is it that our lives are so strange? That proclaiming that we are screwed up is like a final pronouncement that leaves us feeling like half beings. or “I won’t”. Maybe she should look into consciously fighting her addictive tendencies since they made her unhappy. because something very basic had already been worked out for us. as if my conversation was always a great burden to her. Alison. and sensing the great void in all of us that says: “I can’t”. the mahogany and green. in the soft embrace of the piano bar. and I knew it was the beauty from inside. I could feel how much we loved and appreciated each other. But shame and its unimaginative cronies addiction and routine. unable and unwilling to change and create new possibilities? We can do anything if we learn to notice and appreciate our gift for happiness. because they don’t already know me like you do”. and the best was yet to come. Could it be this straight woman stepping into this restaurant with me with no history at all behind us? Does history matter one way or the other? Shame did not seem to be part of Linda’s experience. as we were walking into the Closerie. the presence of dead poets and soon to be executed lobsters. always seem to win out. and the times when we did things together after Marie had left her. but that love like ours was a rare commodity and should be taken care of like a rare and precious orchid. and will never lead to anything”. the one that was beyond looks. Can you read 62 .

Pierre! I didn’t know they allowed you in here! . Then they can talk about the manufacture of safety pins and it would still be erotic. 63 . I was trying to overhear their conversation. Finally. salads. as if things were getting a little hard to handle. The piano in the background was playing Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”.What’s happening? I asked. .Lindy! Where the hell have you been? Pierre looked like a typical French businessman on a drunken night out. but with a desperate sigh. even though we had nothing to really celebrate. Small talk is only acceptable when both people are aware that they are madly in love with each other. a few aging Hollywood stars and the political career of Shirley Temple. and I had developed an aversion to them. and were given a very nice table on the verandah. Alison used to lapse into small talk diatribes in order to avoid reality. . but it was not easy as Linda (Lindy?) was facing the other way. made bold by the waiter opening our bottle of champagne. Next thing I know. far enough from the lobster tank that we did not have to feel like Nazis on a rampage. looking into the faces of the soon-to-be-eaten. he said au revoir. the pianist was playing “Crazy”. The Closerie des Lilas is what the French used to call an American Bar. and he was talking directly to me. We decided on oysters on the half shell. which means that they serve cocktails and somebody plays “As Time Goes By” on a grand piano at least twice a night. and Linda turned back to me smiling. and confined in your preordained definition of what life is supposed to bring you? Chapter Five We were lucky.it too? Or are you like Alison blind as a bat. Linda was looking at the menu. champagne to “celebrate” as we both said. after discussing the weather. but a regular if expensive commodity here. he is going to play “Is That All There Is”. Linda looked gorgeous and suave as she turned around to greet someone. Romance was designed by God to give life to the ordinary. a great luxury in California. for all of us who can’t afford to watch the sunset on the Piazza San Marco from a gondola in Venice every evening. and we are both going to leave and say goodnight. a song I could definitely identify with. Yet this time.

that’s Pierre. So it was all coming out with a certain amount of sarcasm. it’s funny.You know. nothing. I also hated myself for being so interested in circumstances that had nothing to do with me. the evening might degenerate into a weather report… Linda started laughing and her eyes filled up with tears as she raised her glass of champagne. Also. I don’t happen to know you very well. Linda looked at me with a puzzled look.Well. and had not even introduced me to him. I’m afraid that this conversation with Pierre has upset you and if we don’t freely talk about it right now. accentuating the nickname humorously but still quite rudely because I was irritated that in the first place she had said “My friends call me Lindy” as if I could never dream of being accepted amongst this very exclusive group. and usually doomed to achieve the exact opposite results. that’s just it. She kept looking at me as she was drinking. you know. Why did I have these feelings. and secondly she had seemed so secretive about what had just gone on with Pierre. that’s the only way out of this. designed to get what I wanted without being honest about it. which did include a little bit of anxiety. it sort of hurt my feelings.Oh. He is a friend of Julien’s. come clean.So what’s going on? I said not giving up. My curiosity was somehow betraying my ulterior motives. I haven’t seen either of them in a long time. she said. .He calls you Lindy? . I sighed and got a grip on myself. . and I don’t usually introduce myself as Lindy to strangers. even though you and I can hardly call each other friends at this point in time. that’s how friends call me. I like it better than Linda Louise. .What do you mean Lindy? I said. . remembering how hard it was to keep conversations going with Alison. I was puzzled at myself. and I felt I was being intrusive with no right to be. and why was the possibility of something romantic between us such a sudden and essential part of my well being. . .Yes.Here’s to the weirdness of life. knowing what I already knew about her? To the weirdness of life indeed…She went on without any further prompting.. but when you said “that’s how my friends call me”. and that look set everything back on track for me. 64 . Come clean.

solid. superficial and boring. But they don’t want the case solved. his own problems with his girlfriend. manipulative. and especially why they did it. . It always seemed to me that they were designed to avoid any kind of truth that might require genuine tact. I feel that we all need each other’s help. was she? . as if there was no connection between me and Julien anymore other than acquaintance. I feel that they betrayed me by being crude.You seem to have little respect for all this lesbian drama… . so he can help. and beautiful. It felt as if she was already dead. But. Lord Peter Whimsey is trying to find clues. It gives me a strange feeling of wandering around the Twilight Zone. and he did not want to touch it with a ten foot pole. whether it is romantic or not. She would suddenly see everything in a light that was terrifying to both of us.But Alison was not boring. Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club…There is a dead body in the janitorial closet. It all sounded so familiar.But were there ever times when things were good? 65 . He sees Julien all the time. just removed. or worse. please don’t ignore his questions or he will never solve the case. as if anything he had to say would hurt me. . as well as some anecdotes involving “gaslighting” (as in the Hollywood classic “Gaslight”) as a common pastime in the lesbian community. and delicate handling..The strange part is that Pierre said nothing. Still. as usual. care. because her vision was too narrow to allow any hope for happiness or any kind of life for that matter. and he mentioned that he had talked about me with him yesterday.She was when she would start saying that she had no free will and that Marie was somehow pulling her strings even though she made her feel miserable. . He just talked about himself. he did not say anything more about it. like Alison’s glassy eyed forays into unreality. Don’t. and he did not seem to think that I might have liked some acknowledgement of my own predicament involving his best friend.I guess I am still angry at them. encouragement and commitment to truth in order to create something real. I shared some of these thoughts with Linda. every Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers fan will agree that the real payoff comes when you find out who did it. Linda seemed to detect some homophobia in my discourse.

. . and her voice was getting so low I was terrified that I was not going to be able to hear what she had to say. Sexually. she could be a hedonist. I’ve slept with women before…She smiled. in whole. though… . always mysterious. and was interested in everything. For some reason. incredibly sweet and exhilarating as if nothing could possibly ever go wrong in any of our lives ever. she became soft. she said. pure. I guess love between women has the capacity to open doors that some people think should have been kept shut. My heart started pounding again like it hadn’t since the day at the Babylone. mainly marijuana. beyond conventions.Does it worry you that you liked it? 66 . with unbelievable beauty. the food arrived.You know. unemotional. generous and seemingly invincible. and the conversation and the evening took on a different turn. Alison was often languid. with a touch of sadness to keep the momentary pleasures in perspective. and came out of it all sweet. I described my joy at seeing her. before Marie. passion. Linda was staring at me intensely. Alison. leaning her head to the side. and an endless belief in the goodness of this world. But when she was herself and connected. emotionally unleashed. looked at me like she understood what I understood and that was what linked us together. I can’t say I did not like it. . as if the memory of past loves. She was not eating but was swallowing hard. a daring lover with the ability to let go and be womanly.It was not like what you are describing…She was shaking her head softly. if they were good and true. She did have a gift for happiness. the strength that I felt from our connection when it was there. about Alison’s good sides from our past. and full of questions.As she said that. was sometimes willing to go all the way through those doors.It was hurried. I felt very free to tell Linda about Alison in very intimate terms. . I told her about Yosemite.How was it? Time had suspended itself beyond surprise. she had a tendency to indulge in artificial stimulants as Woody Allen says in “Annie Hall”. Everything became magical. wonderful madness. and maybe this is why wine was invented after all. I stopped talking. could fuel the present with spirit. vulnerable. that of the soul within. the way her face would light up with youthful energy. passionate and elegant at the same time.

I crossed my fingers she would not just shut off like Alison used to when she felt pressured. .How many women did you sleep with? I tried to maintain a matter of fact tone. with a very loud laugh. She was with some guy. movies. You need to be by yourself for a while anyway”.Have you ever thought of doing it again? Part of me knew for a fact that this encounter was going to change my life. You know. It was a little sad. She talked to me as if we were mere acquaintances. plays.What happened after that? .I went back to New York. . disturbing dream. but I was more involved with the other one. Somehow. and accepting her journey into absence and denial. this and that. I was not with anyone at the time. if she doesn’t grab this occasion to give you something. . to hide my fear of vulnerability. 67 . and all that. She told me that she hoped I was happy. two. forget the whole thing. especially since she made it all seem like it had been only a weird. After all. and we kept talking about men we liked and what we did with them. it was in her past and not in her present. We had finished our food.. Another part of me said: “If she doesn’t say – not until now -. Her name was Lisa. . but I decided that being honest and straightforward was the only way I was going to make the evening end well one way or the other. I guess we did our best to communicate in a meaningful way! We stayed together at a friend’s apartment in Santa Monica for a full week. I had to navigate very carefully between soliciting a reaction.Oh. but we were both trying to ignore that power. I was threading on thin ice. I met her at a seminar I was taking in Los Angeles in communication. and reconcile me with the idea of opening up to relationships in a grand way. The first one only once. and I was kind of happy to see her. I tried to agitate some memories. I ran into her at a party.A little bit. because she was getting married the next week. and started working for a TV station there. It was wild. and I just went on my merry way. There was no music playing anymore. which had not in any way altered our reality. The champagne was almost gone. we were afraid to cross a certain threshold. but she seemed to have forgotten them all. I guess…It’s almost as if it was very powerful. Sometimes any conversation that was not superficial and flat made her feel pressured.

The tamer and the tamed. but also how disappointed I was that Linda had not made any kind of approach. I would like him to come back so I could say no. . with women it is different. loud and clear. Back off. But I am probably kidding myself. That would have been a lie. I can’t really honestly say that I was deliriously happy when I was with him. I tried to undo any possible hex by discreetly touching the wood under our table.I am sorry it ended like it did. and how attractive they were. The truth is I don’t know what love feels like anymore… . It must have been rough on you. We remain good friends and semi in love like I am with my first lover Angela. Maybe if I was Marie. I got it. The piano started playing again a song I did not recognize. you know. I thought. Of course. I guess. But I wanted my wild horses free. Julien was a good guy. and ended up with this oh so very cool and glamorous fashion model named Sonja. and in the prairie. She said it always bothered her. OK. maybe I don’t either! I said. give me a break this time. Finally. but very self involved. I realized how hurt I still was about Alison. I have been very absorbed with Julien for the past two years. Knock on wood. Linda’s eyes were filling up. Lindy. as in reality it was seldom like that. and we dedicated the rest of the champagne to our common bewilderment. and plant my face in front of hers. It seemed from what I was hearing that the good times were few and far between. I could look at her in a deep meaningful way loaded with sexual vibes.I don’t know. and say: “Hey”.Would you want to get back with him? .Well not really. A bad sign. he had decided to cross over to the other side. back off. Not in the circus. We had a good life that fit in perfectly with the lives of everyone around us. where all the glitter masks captivity and pain. . He did not seem to have had any problem making a commitment to Sonja. He was a journalist of some kind. until she finally gave in and kissed me. because he kept saying how he could not make a commitment to her. Come on fate. and very attracted to women with a strong sense of image. .Well. Give me something. she said. and he was always talking to her about movie stars he had met.She took her time to answer. I could not say: believe me Lindy. and how the grass was always greener on the other side. This says it all. She went on talking about herself and Julien. 68 .

People seemed to be having fun. I’d give anything to own it. incredibly alone and rejected. maybe unforgettable memory? I knew I had to do something. and we were ready to go outside. as if we both had the same impression.I was never sure that I wanted to get back with Alison. She came back upstairs. when we connected. and you have to live with your impression after that. and wished our evening had been more on the side of danger and flirtation. whichever way it would go. this is where I live! The building looked very old. I regretted that Linda had not given me more hope. and a code keypad to keep the burglars out. But we had indeed established some kind of intimacy. Maybe this is why she had picked up a stranger at the Babylone. I felt betrayed and cheated. I looked around the Closerie while she went downstairs to the bathroom. Maybe she did not get too much of a chance to talk to anyone about personal things. Sometimes.Here. and on the way to the Rue de Nevers. Friendship on the other hand seemed to involve more intimacy than she could muster anyway. Never had it looked so glamorous and rich. Letting myself be pulled in to something resembling love. smiling and looking around too. I knew I wanted to get out of the hell I had been in when she was with Marie. anxious about the way the evening would end. to make this into a good. What is this going to be? What should my expectations be? What can I do. I would have done anything to make the pain stop. where I was to drop her off. it was comfortable. I drove straight into the narrow passage. so back into hell I went. with an old doorway. usually for a short time. Don’t let it be entirely anticlimactic. In fact she seemed to like it quite a lot. We were silent on the way to the car. how forward can I be. like a good antique.It is very nice. that the old café was suddenly transfigured by some yet to be understood meaning. When the reversal finally came however. . just to be 69 . and I thought it was worth all the suffering and tomorrow’s probable reversal. Linda and I paid and shared our bill. Goodbyes are all important when the situation is not clear. . was like giving in to the forces of evil. but my friend refuses to give it to me… I was sitting at the wheel. sagging a little. You have to come see it some time. and she did not seem too scared of it. and I wanted to make something good out of our relationship.

The least I need to do.You take care too… She was gone.Yes. In a panic. As the door opened. she had given me enough indication that she was open to the idea… I went home thinking about Alison. as if I had cheated myself on something. good night. She looked at me intensely for what seemed hours. I like the Babylone.sure that wherever this was leading wasn’t going to stop right here. and it felt good. I did too. OK? . I don’t know who let go first…Maybe I did. and then gave me a good. I wrote hers on a loose piece of paper that I had. she turned to me and said: . knowing that I would do everything in my power not to lose it. . she said. The apartment must be facing the back…I backed out of the alley. and give me yours too. I held her tight. This was a lot of fun. it was just a hug. and how if she had not left me I would be daydreaming about her and none of this fantasizing would be going on. . is get her phone number this time. We have to do it again. I went home thinking about how when the mere possibility of love came around. Was there anything I could have done to make this better and clearer? Was I cautious because of a correct instinct that I had to be very careful because of the lack of obvious invitation in her manner? Was I only careful because of my natural cowardice and homophobia? After all. She suddenly got out of the car. . dead in its tracks.Yes. honest. . I got back to the car. I felt empty and incomplete.Well. It did last a lot longer than a merely polite California hug. our deepest emotions and fears were challenged to 70 . California style hug. so I can get in touch with you without hanging out at the Babylone every day? -Oh yes. but all the same. and stared until I knew which windows would light up on the face of the building. None did. walking around the car to find myself next to her in the final moment.Talk to you soon. let’s! I said.Will you give me your phone number. take care… Her voice became very soft. fished the key out of her giant purse. but not all that much… We exchanged phone numbers. and headed for home. She went to the door.

gossip on a background of vacuum cleaning. At times. if the lesbian in charge sits there waiting for her to take the first step? I remember hearing from Alison how her first woman lover had to literally pounce on her to make anything happen. he had designed walls and floors that were paper thin. Domestic employees were supposed to be up at dawn anyway. so who cared if he cut the soundproofing budget to a minimum. I had a nice little room separated in the servants’ quarters. I felt that I had missed an occasion to create something. one can observe the most backward and creepy customs. like a deadly addiction to something we can never have. How I sat there 71 . freedom. by making some kind of a move. and let in a lot of thoughts about Alison. right next to my ear. But in the servants’ area. Otherwise. But the brick wall had a breach. with a common toilet for the whole floor. How will a straight woman ever do anything wild and different. hurried steps. And also of course. the City of Light and Glamour. or maybe it was that a choice was offered to me of how I was going to live from now on. who could forget how Marie had come to pick her up right in front of me. sounded like it was all happening inside my pillow. In my mother’s building. Everything that happened in the hallway. You could hardly hear the neighbors. My feelings about the evening with Lindy were very mixed. screams. The architect had thought it all out very well. honest verbal overture. unless they were playing basketball in their living room. It could have been great. everything would remain the mere shadow of reality.come out and give their names openly. After my dinner with Lindy. or at least a clear. which were not very constructive and did not offer many openings out of the cramped corner that my life in California had become. and would only affect our lives negatively. My mother’s apartment gave at all times an impression of solid comfort and silence. This interest in another person had in a way softened me up. (I now took the liberty of calling her Lindy to myself and it felt quite good) I had found it very hard to sleep and to make any sense of the whole adventure. Chapter Six It is always surprising how in Paris. This particular problem was not helping me deal with the extreme confusion that was taking place in my head. intellectual adventure you-name-it.

Maybe it was just 72 . life is too short to stop yourself from doing what you want even if it is only for the moment!”. Other times. Maybe it was time to make things happen in a different way. because it could bring us so much closer when it was over? But I guess people can’t look forward to what they are not aware of. with somebody else. she would claim that she was distant because she did not want to get my hopes up about us getting back together. then if nothing was gained. She liked to cultivate an image of me as this person who was out to smother her with favors. Pouncing just did not seem as exciting to me as responding to something hidden. she seemed to be replaying some Marie scenes. of all places. unconsciously casting me in the role of the weaker element. and how unexpected…In Paris. the city where so many had come to help their real lives unfold. let’s get on with some real fun. and told me so! What an interesting dilemma. and where Natalie Barney would hold her court in total openness and freedom. she had sought me out. It was not as simple as: “Forget him. If she did not.laughing at her crude approach. There was some history that I had to contend with. as Lindy obviously seemed more interested in Julien than in me. Yet to me. and swear to be with me forever. In fact. but definitely mutual. it looked like I possibly could encounter the same problems. Paris. A whole year and a half with Marie did not seem to have helped develop her imagination nor her selfesteem. not realizing of course that this was exactly what my sophisticated lover was dying for. however. She would come to me when she was ready. as long as I kept the messages true. Besides. Alison liked to think that my affection for her was nothing but an abject expression of my addictive tendencies. So far. and made a point of showing me that I was always the last thing on her mind…How could she not treasure what we had and want to preserve it in spite of the Marie interruption which might have been a good thing in the end. nothing was lost either. It was the city of tolerance where Vita Sackville-West used to take Violet on outrageous jaunts. Paris had always seemed closed and oppressive. On the other hand. Whenever I pointed out some moment of coldness or even outright hostility on her part. I felt that I had done the best I could by being honest and yet not pushing her into anything. even if she knew what could happen between us. she had already done the infamous deed. until she finally would have to give in. if not always clear.

but if you would like to leave a message 73 . still nothing. “Hello. straight woman in tennis shoes. yet totally unaffected. and distract yourself form all this trouble with Alison. as Parisian drivers don’t take kindly to unexplained slowing down. after our dinner. and she hadn’t called. The days went by. Sunday came and went. One can leave little concise masterpieces that say not too much.because I was from there and not from Oakland where there is no there… I started waiting for her to call me. choosing dark corners where we could kiss and increase the excitement of the excursion. I was dialing her number. husky. hoping to accidentally run into Lindy. All right! I had never really noticed the tone of her voice…Soft. Go ahead. and started applying my methods for not thinking. you are sure not to win! Do it! It’s only a telephone call for God’s sake… Before I knew it. various museums and sightseeing adventures that I would live on my own. A bonanza for shy people. Here it was…An answering machine. lay off. saying only as much as was safe to say. Ruthie. imagining that I was with Alison or Lindy. Driving past the Rue de Nevers was especially difficult as I would crane my neck. I felt discouraged. Lindy Christoforos. tsk. this is Linda. I cannot come to the phone right now. No such luck. I kept myself busy. Have a good time. I wondered if Lindy had one in her borrowed apartment…Well. and leave it on the machine. and I almost had a couple of accidents. Should I give up on the whole thing? Why hasn’t she called? I kept wishing that I had an answering machine in Paris. all right. there is only one way to find out. and leave a lot to the imagination. or maybe she’ll be with somebody new…Tsk. These devices are great. you have nothing to lose. You could prepare your message in your head. talking to them. but it’s like the Lottery. and every morning when my phone rang I was always hoping it was going to be her. American in Paris. lonely person who picked up strangers for no reason…But we had reached the weekend. I’m going to do it. more movies. Why should I wait for her to call? Telephones work both ways…I wish I could talk to Ruthie right now and get some encouragement…What would she say? The same thing Francoise had said. OK? But what if I get hurt…She’ll be back with Julien. without much success. Ruthie says: you might not win. and messages on them are like the modern version of telegrams in the old days. as I had in California. seeing friends and family. All right. If you don’t play.

Once you had mastered step one. she got tempted and then became scared when things got too close to really happening. Why can’t people stick to their original ideas? Maybe. “Hope to hear from you soon. Second. and at least play the game with all cards on the table. My phone number is blah blah blah…” I said. and later with Angela. I was cursing my life and the stupid situation I had gotten myself into. And at least. It would be a waste. we’ll see. I hope everything is OK. and I don’t get anything out of it. What an exotic. Waiting for phone 74 . attractive voice she had. If she claimed not to be interested. and eager to leave it so I did not have to wait for the phone call. I find someone who might be able to help me forget Alison. Hopefully. and tucked her cold feet back in. but she was the one who asked to go to the movie with me. I found myself dialing her number again. Once more. She had picked me up. No call the next day either. just like Alison. but there was nothing I could do about it. then to dinner. “I think we should talk about things a little more. well I just had to go with that. And why would anyone do this? She does not get anything out of it. Please call me”. and that there was none to waste. I had learned something since then: the hard part is to know what you really feel. Why can’t people just start living? I could remember myself as an adolescent. there was no other word for it. The thought was infuriating me.for me or Igor Metzguev who is now away till the end of October. “après le bip sonore”. and to not give in to disguises. Oh well. and how terrified I had been that I was going to become one of those infamous lesbians forever if I did as much as admit that I was in any way attracted to her. I was going crazy. and leave it to fate. the machine answered. cover ups and rationalizations. It sure made the bad part much more palatable. Two days later. I had to keep in mind that my time here was limited. Maybe there was a way I could talk about this openly with Lindy. or some other ethereal and fragile entity within my system. Becoming a sexual deviant was not so painful if you let yourself enjoy the good part. she is just like Alison. Again. I would have saved myself the humiliation of pouncing only to be turned down. please do so after the beep”. and is leading me on or toying with my mind or my heart. I had not asked to start this. things became more manageable. reluctant to leave my room. as she repeated the last part in French. Please call me in the mornings. First. if you want to do something…Do something? What? How silly. I hung up. I said. I had come back to the café all right. I left my message in English.

Dream on. Well. Once more. I enthusiastically agreed. that there was no more hope. It is the daily grind of the betrayed. adding that I was looking forward to seeing her tomorrow. Sometimes. Would you like to get together again? It would be great to talk… . I said goodbye. and we talked a little bit longer about how busy she was at work and how idle I was for the time being.Fine.Yes. “Same here” she said very sweetly. I was wondering if we could get together on Saturday night… I had plans with Francoise and her husband. Right.Great! I’ll be there! What time? We decided on seven. deciding at times. she was ahead of me and surprised me. How are you? . with a lot of Alison dreams.I would love to.Sorry…I’m glad I thought of giving it to you again. 75 . of the unreality that sometimes seeps from real life into our dreams. are you kidding? This is great. just for old time’s sake. especially now that I have your phone number again. I slept with great difficulty. but after all she was not French.No. ha. I kept myself busy all day again. she does not want me. and you are not listed. She does not know what she’s missing. we’ll call you. dreams of rejection. if she does not want me.You mean tomorrow? . I knew all about it from my last days in the music business. But things could be arranged… . early in the morning. . It was Lindy. . the phone rang while I was still half asleep. reality begins to follow our wildest fantasies…This is when things become really fun. I somehow had misplaced the piece of paper it was on. Saturday as in tomorrow. A little early for a French date. She did not seem afraid or disturbed. . and that was it. Don’t call us.calls has to be one of the most horrible things in life. “Hi! Is this too early to call? Did I wake you up?” .Why don’t you come and meet me at the apartment? . Then. of disconnection.Well. ha. We hung up. Where shall we meet? I was sure she was going to say the Babylone.

I did like it when people came to visit me in California. threatening to rain. Besides. I decided not to 76 . I felt that other people. it was much more fun to go there. had much cleaner. and who knows. There were other people in the world who could give her joy and excitement. and the stigma had stayed with me.I was ecstatic about the idea that I was going to see where she lived. Neither of us really liked it. trying very hard to concentrate on a conversation. The clocks once more. I took my mother with me to see a movie. nicer houses…I did not really have a home of my own in Paris nowadays. after a sleepless night. extremely noisy. but it had taken years of getting used to having my own house and being able to clean it every once in a while. as a friend. I was definitely applying for the job of being one of them. less ready to abide by the dynamics laid out by Julien which said that her role was to be sad and abandoned. How was I going to spend the day. as a lover as well…I was certainly willing to give it a try… Chapter Seven I woke up in the usual racket. The weather was overcast. I had lunch with some friends from high school. After lunch. Even my little room was an extension of my mother’s apartment and as we know. I knew something had to be done and that the situation had to evolve fast. In my mind. I called Francoise to reschedule our plans for the next day. if she was going to give me the break that Alison would not give me: The feeling of being valued and appreciated. or I would be going back to hell in California without having gone through to the end of this. seemed to have slowed down to intergalactic time. normal people. The real conversation was going on in my head about what I was going to tell Lindy tonight. and inviting her was out of the question. The nickname just sounded so much better and more adventurous somehow. She was very excited and made me promise to tell her everything about my second evening with Lindy. and that it was very seldom the other way around. I think it might have been because I always felt better outside of my home when I grew up. I was going to have the car. It always struck me as unfair that I always liked to go and visit other people. a French one with a lot of style and very little substance. it gave her a more assertive attitude. to not be too impatient about the evening? It was all set with my mother. and we went home in the always hellish traffic.

It felt and I felt a little bit slanted.Yes. welcoming. and did not know where the apartment was. the tangled webs… I drove all the way into the Rue de Nevers. I had the piece of paper with her phone number. life was beginning to make sense again. Sorry… She hugged me. and started going up the ancient staircase. I decided to cross the bridge. She answered. maybe there is some truth to the lucky in love. Seven twenty five. I walked out of the Rue de Nevers into a café. I started feeling present and alive again. Everything was all right. I went back onto the quay. I realized I did not have the code. As I drove. . I punched in the code. It was locked. Fortunately. Oh. Here we go. I cultivated my anger at Alison. and had to back up because there was not a single parking place.Allo? . It was beginning to drizzle as I walked back across the bridge. and tried to open it. the carrier of Christ. Smiling. she sounded very sweet. she said without questioning my use of the nickname. I arrived at her door. I had to make change and go downstairs to call. At the end of this drive. there is Lindy Christoforos. I did my best to free my mind of all expectations and concentrate on living in the present.rehearse my upcoming encounter with Lindy. an almost Greek woman with a French exboyfriend. and finally found a place on the other bank.Hi! I totally forgot about the code and all that. I walked back.Lindy? . which was definitely worth checking out. Oh my God! Six thirty! I’d better leave now. and told me it was on the fifth floor. She looked 77 . and leave everything to the moment. . as a means of stopping myself from having too many expectations about Lindy. and searched the side streets to no avail. I could be fashionably late. think of the time it will take to find a parking place! I said goodnight to my mother. The most difficult task ever undertaken by mankind. but I did not want to aggravate Lindy for stupid reasons like being really late. as I went into the apartment. She gave me the code. It was almost a quarter past seven. I needed to get to a phone and call her. She was on the last floor. Is that you? I described my predicament. and left in the still crowded evening. feeling much better. unlucky in parking saying after all. waiting for me. left.

stunning in the golden light, at home barefoot and in jeans, a white shirt, and a proprietary air about the place, that gave her even more presence and beauty. The apartment was an attic with beams, and a whitewashed ceiling. The floor was covered with antique red hexagonal tiles, with a Navajo rug here and there. The floor was at a different level in each room, and the walls were decorated with paintings by unknown painters, the Picassos of the future, a great investment for her friend Igor. The windows were looking out on the roofs and the river. The night was misty, soulful and mysterious. Lindy was taking me into the kitchen, which was not really a kitchen, but opened up into the large living room. The lighting was soft and subdued, with candles and dimmed lamps. She had some Slavic women’s choir softly playing on the stereo. I was expressing my enthusiasm about the place. - You can see why I’d love to have this as my own. Unfortunately, Igor is coming back this fall. - Then where will you live? - Good question. Julien and I used to live together, so I don’t know where I will end up. The kitchen looked like it belonged in a medieval castle and not this penthouse apartment. There seemed to be a whole dinner prepared on the counter, a salad bowl, oysters, clean dinner plates, and a bottle of Bordeaux. I looked puzzled. - Oh yes, she said, since this is Saturday night and it’s madness and lines everywhere, I thought we would have dinner here instead of going out. Is that OK? - I think it’s perfect… We sat down for a while on the couch and had glasses of wine. The moment was truly magical. Outside, I could hear the horns, the senseless agitation, and the meaningless frenzy of Saturday nights in a working town. Inside, there was this feeling of safety with underlying excitement. Nothing can really go wrong. It’s all here, ready to go, just enjoy the ride and don’t pretend you are not really on it. I had asked Lindy how she had been since the last time, and she was telling me. The level of intimacy had definitely risen, even though things were still quite formal between us. She had seen Julien, and had had lunch with him.

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- He was all right, and making a real effort to redefine our relationship. I kept being torn between asking him about Sonja and refusing to talk about her. What would I need to know about her, except that she is richer, more famous, and more beautiful than I am? I don’t need to hear that. I wanted to tell Lindy that I thought she was quite beautiful herself, but I kept quiet, saving all my nerve for later. We went on for a while, comparing Alison and Julien, and their ways. I described to Lindy, how Alison had made a specialty of rejecting me and never missing an occasion to tell me how she never really was in love with me not now and not ever. If Alison hinted at a conversation she had had about us, I always hated myself for asking what had transpired. Somehow it came down to “This will hurt your feelings, because I don’t really love you”. Sure enough, my feelings got hurt really badly, and I hated myself for ever believing that there was more to it than “It was fun for a while, and then it was not fun anymore, so I left you for somebody who was new and more fun”. The fact that Marie was one of the most abusive people I had ever heard of did not seem to figure into her reasoning. The fact that instead of being angry at Marie for leaving her and treating her poorly she took it out on me did not seem to cross her mind. Yet, yet, there were times when I could have sworn that she loved me, that we loved each other body and soul, that we meant the world to each other. Where was the truth and where was reality? Could there really be two realities? - Don’t you think, said Lindy, that there can be two realities, one that is real, in harmony with some kind of universal flow, and one that’s an illusion…? The hard part is to decide which one will hurt us the least. I think that Julien was happier with me than he is with Sonja, however right now, he needs to do this. Somehow, it did not bother me that she sounded still so involved with Julien. I felt safe because she had not pretended to be in love with me or anything of the sort. We had a clean slate. I was still nervous because I felt my grip on reality had been loosened by my experience with Alison, and I was not sure that my instincts were in any way to be trusted. It was a little bit like driving a Mack truck on a mountain road in the fog while blindfolded. How good a driver was I really? Did loving women always include power games and drama? Was drama really the most desirable thing in the world? I felt that the only way to protect myself against drama and meaningless pain was to tell the truth clearly about what I

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wanted. At least, I could pull myself out of a game that I did not know how to play. Then, and this was the hardest part, I had to train myself to deal with the reactions to what I had said. Rejection is never fun for anyone, but I keep hoping that there is some way to limit the extent of the damage. If the reactions feel cruel, shallow or beyond the pale standoffish, then I have to realize that these were not my people and that I was mistaken to be involved with them in the first place. It was probably a symptom of my own sickness that I still loved Alison. Was Lindy a symptom of my sickness, or a definite sign of recovery? The only way to find out was to level with her, and I was committed to doing just that tonight. There are moments in life when some kind of weird strength takes over, and you just know that the truth is the only thing that will do. We can’t afford to mess with lies, when we only have three weeks to express ourselves…Indeed we should never mess with lies at all, because what can seem like an extensive lifetime does not feel much longer than three weeks when the time comes to leave graciously… We decided to have dinner. There was a table, set French style with a tablecloth, right in front of the largest window, and it was overlooking the slate roofs above the Rue Guenegaud. As we were taking dishes and stuff out of the kitchen, we would touch slightly by accident as we would reach to get something from the counter. The power of the feeling scared me, and I wondered if she experienced the same thing. Yes, Ruthie, I am still wondering. After all these years… Lindy was sitting at the table across from me. We were talking about absolutely everything. Julien and Alison were of course recurring subjects of our analysis, but somehow, I think neither of us was bothered by the reference to the other person. It was almost as if bringing it all out into the open was somehow purging, cleansing, liberating. We were eating and thoroughly enjoying the whole experience. There were times when Alison and I would get together and do things, but she would often start daydreaming, or scanning the crowd for somebody she was dying to see, probably Marie and her new girlfriend. Lindy and I were talking about others, yet we were present and relishing each other’s company, at least for the time being. We were going over everything. She was actually asking me what it was like to live one’s life identified as a lesbian.

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one to hate. I poured us some more wine. like you know. full of resentments and judgments about 81 . If one were to describe her relationship with Marie as a man and a woman. some that we had never read but wished we had. it depends. that kind of thing…very twenties somehow. Pariahs seem to me to be the result of a tacit agreement between the oppressor and the oppressed. Do you really want to know? She laughed… . really. Brahmin or Untouchable. the world and everything else. and I agreed with her. I saw myself as a bitter curmudgeon.You’re right…Of course. when they have the means to make magic? Why are they trying to be so tough and flirtatious.. . both parties have to agree.Sometimes. side by side. and talking about ourselves. I said. . Don’t you think? Lindy was walking on eggs trying not to be offensive. and found some books in French and English that we had read. trying to stay relatively cool. gay or straight. This Alison thing has made me question everything. Why? I don’t know…Maybe for the same reason someone like Gandhi thought the lowest among us were the chosen ones that would show the world the way to Truth. that I would have been better off straight.It sounds to me. At that moment. cuz he’s such a guy…Surabaya Johnny…I’m putty in your hands. why do gay women think this is attractive behavior? Why do they like sex to be so objectified. and the broad he likes to make fun of and drive crazy with jealousy. I was not above any of the behaviors I was criticizing. We sat on the couch. Compared to her. we checked out Igor’s bookcase. so exclusive and unreal? . I think gay women are so screwed up. I still think gay women should be above all this. and the other ones to hate themselves in response. After dinner. Somehow. you’re right! But for some reason. I didn’t care.You don’t have to tell me! Obviously however. I am curious… Touche! I took a swig of wine. sipping some old cognac. I felt very close to Lindy. it would sound so horrible and abusive. and some we could never read no matter what desert island we were on. and the conversation moved on to easier grounds. The straight world has gone beyond that.Oh well. that the key to all this is the same. a tough biker type with tattoos.I’m not so sure that the straight world has gone beyond that at all… . Yet the payoff when it happens makes it all worthwhile. Yet she hangs on.

Oh God! It’s so incredibly late! I am keeping you up. ease. Whatever tape she had been playing had run out. so you can always enjoy that special moment. all I could think about when I got here was whether or not I would ever sleep with you… She smiled. The smoke was bathing the room with some ancient. and more of a promise of serenity. . As I was speaking. followed my unfortunate lead and said as she got up. protective of each other. . Behind her I saw a clock. animated by a natural love and enjoyment of all the nice things in life. as if some new understanding was dawning on us as we were discovering each other. There was silence in the room. from the simplest to the most difficult. as it had a few times before.Is that good or bad? . . for whatever reason. and devoid of any expectation. I should go. I could hear her breathe. and I could see her heart beating in the tender part of her neck. The silences were easy. There was less of a tremulous impatience and intrusive desire. prophecies. . .It feels good. like relationships and other hellish endeavors. It’s strange…Like all feeling of control is gone. even though I would be at a loss to explain why.Now my mind seems empty. quite peaceful.What are you thinking? She asked as I was staring into space. Panic seized me. in our review of the world and the past. one of those that make you swear you will never smoke too much. and realized to my amazement that it was past two in the morning. and answers to the riddles of the world. as if the nervousness of our first encounters at least on my part was gone. The magical courage came back to me. whom in my moment of passivity I expected to pick up the reins and lead me back to sanity. I asked her permission. unspeakable mystery though the orange flickering light of the candles. empty glass in hand: 82 . Maybe this was the first real sign of love between us. yet compassionate of others. generously. Every object seemed to carry its own load of deep meanings.And now? . We felt. and lit an after dinner cigarette. and emotional release. evaluating he changes in my mood. easily. I was amazed at my own fear and cowardice.everything and everyone.I was thinking of how. Lindy. She seemed kind.

Aie! Goodness. and turned around to say goodbye… . dream like…like life itself. I mumbled something about helping with the dishes. and imaging myself getting up. I was putting on my jacket. its searchlights on. against mine. We are shooting some location footage for the archives. without pulling back. all was said and done. but she said she would take care of it all. I am sorry to keep you up so late. I had a wonderful evening. and I was down the stairs before I could even think of looking back to see if she was still there and catch a last glimpse of her. my heart was pounding away. thanks to some inner pilot who was taking over my feet. I would constantly wake up. The courage came back: I had the nerve to look straight into her eyes. I bounced out into the cold night. and I would never leave Igor’s unbelievably idyllic bohemian apartment.No. that she actually enjoyed washing dishes. climbing up the stairs out of breath. I had no idea where the car was. illuminating the river banks. and had very little tolerance for the obligations of those who did work…Why did she have to get up early tomorrow of all days? The sneaky impatience was coming back. I’m sorry… . sweetest. “I’ll call you” she whispered. Damn! I admire people who enjoy washing dishes so much…But I had to go. bright as day. We both laughed.. along with the frustration of not knowing what I was doing. and I have to be there. In Paris. 83 . I felt some huge wave of unreality wash over me as I walked across the bridge. and leave her cheek right there. and a late night promenade boat glided by like a waterfall. I did start toward the bridge. Oh.Thank you. When we finally pulled apart after quite a while. Chapter Eight The idea of sleep was now foreign to me. We were both rewarded for our courage. and she. I did not work. The cathedral was still lit. she opened it. gathering my things. driving or better yet walking to the Rue de Nevers. Instead. embraced in a final hug. punching the security code that was engraved in my mind forever. and disappearing around the bend in a crown of light beams. you’re right! And tomorrow is the only Sunday where I have to get up at dawn. she had the nerve to give me a hug. when we found ourselves involved in the softest. We walked to the door together. fullest kiss one can imagine. and Lindy looked flushed and out of breath. and knocking on Lindy’s door…She would be awaiting me.

What do you mean? I felt like a traitor.Well. drank nothing.Come only if you want to. if you don’t know what I mean. and it all seems like an everyday occurrence… .Yes. then maybe you should not come over at all! I was caught… 84 .Lindy? . Why was I still hiding and pretending? Lindy burst out laughing. it felt like a dream.I was hoping it was you in person too. but there was also a nervous tone to her voice that was unmistakable. She knew. how are you? . I had come back from some dinner party where I ate nothing. My attention was hanging by a thread…I was not listening to any conversations. You are flying through a cloud chatting with Julius Caesar. My only comfort was to walk. I saw some friends. Closing in… Suddenly. walk everywhere. Hi! I was hoping it was you… . I was finally in bed after having walked around the block about five times. The walls were oppressive like the torture chamber in the Cask of Amontillado. until I felt so tired that the idea of calling Lindy seemed like an impossible endeavor.Well. You remember the code? . On the third night. How can this woman be like this? Does she know what she is saying? Does she really mean what she means? . .I think we need to help things go where they want to go… My ears were pounding with the bass drum of my heart.It took three nights…Three nights of agitation and daydreams. but in dreams everything always seems so normal. I was wondering if you could possibly come over… . saw and heard nothing. It was half past ten. If she is home.Yes but… . well that will be a sign… Her voice on the line…With a French intonation…”Allo?” . I knew.Now? She sounded as if she was joking. but my connection with them had become incredibly tenuous. I saw myself dial Lindy’s number. Again.

Did I understand all of this the way it was meant to be understood? Lindy… She opened the door.This is OK. where I proceeded to park on the sidewalk. I turned right on the bridge.Sometimes. I did not feel like a tourist anymore. The monuments on the river bank were all lit. like a special favor to me. I regained my composure. It was on a weekday. wait a minute! I’m the one supposed to ask you these questions. right? You’re not scared or anything. but not like a native either. Paris would never be the same again. . I put on a T-shirt. grabbed both of my wrists. started the car. and sat me down on the couch. 85 . and the way she gave in so easily to feelings of impending freedom. The world never sleeps.No chance! I got out of bed and put away the childish nightgown that I always wore when I was in Paris. her beauty. and I was ready for it. and yet the streets were still crowded. She closed the door. and said “All right…” with relief. and escaped into the shiny night. things get really clear for me. and left. in awe of her poise. My mind was blank. Paris never sleeps. Life had just become different in the past half hour. a jacket. and I was already used to it. I could never have imagined that you… . This is what I want to do right now. I was staring at her. directly into the Rue de Nevers. There was nothing crude or trivial like the shallow oppression of the everyday city. . The code…Up the stairs…I was getting a little less confident. In this new life. I knew exactly where I was going and why. jeans.. alone and in a state of total lack of expectations. and proceeded with the matter at hand without further discussion.Hey. I went down to the garage. there were no cops to give you parking tickets. are you? . I was not particularly nervous. as the streets were varnished by the drizzle. shoes…I was going through the motions.I’ll be there! Don’t you fall asleep! She laughed again. You know.

and fluid like water. but smiling upon us as no ghost can stay angry in the face of tenderness. and the faint light of day was beginning to grace Igor’s romantic skylights. Why hadn’t she simply called me first? 86 . and somewhere in my mind I felt some regret for all the times that we did not make love. The bedroom was on top of a couple of wooden stairs. we sat on top of the bed facing each other. Yet there was the recognition of love. This morning the show featured ethereal streams of translucent magenta over a sky of purple agate. like a connection to the secular world that had brought us together. lithe and free of all the betrayals to come. So we simply stuck to words for a while. I had a thought for Alison. but nobody had ever let down their hair for me like that before. Lindy reached behind her head. Lindy and I were in a situation close to a pickup scene or one night stand. Then. and keeping her eyes on me.Suddenly. the one who savored all that life had to offer. heavy. while we were still together. and desire had driven us more than thoughts of everlasting companionship. I had never realized the power and seductiveness of such a simple gesture. it was thick. It was late. Lindy and I were finally taking a break and talking. We undressed slowly. carefully. and the intensity of our feelings betrayed a depth that we had not really prepared ourselves for. We seemed familiar to each other somehow. since sleep seemed to be entirely out of the question. the one who could share. Sleep meant relaxing. through the skylights. give and receive and enjoy it all like some spiritual homework given to us by some divine teacher. When I ran my fingers through her hair to keep it away from our faces as we kissed. dawn finally won over the darkness. young. shook her head gently and let her hair down. and relaxing brought on more lovemaking. a garret with a huge skylight and a bed that took almost all the space. I asked Lindy how she could have had the nerve to ask me to come over so directly after I had spent three agonizing days of hesitation about calling her. No performance anxiety or uneasiness. The ghosts of Alison and Julien were there. When we were done. and I knew I had been granted a privilege usually reserved to the Gods of Ancient Greece. making a game of folding each item neatly. I felt I was becoming the adult I was meant to be. I had seen it done many times in movies. We barely knew each other. I could see it all from Lindy’s bed.

It seems to me that we are on a sailboat. And somehow. that will be it. I was committing a terrible crime considering the circumstances.Do you ever do this…put something in the hands of fate? Think well. It was a crime against me and Lindy. Our conversation breaks were taking an alien turn… . We were swimming in warm waters.To me. I feel like time has stopped.What are you thinking? Ooops…I was exposed and felt disrespectful of the present moment. as usual. The love that dares not speak its name…indeed…To their credit. rite of shame.I’m afraid I was thinking about Alison and Marie. and without a single thought for how much it might hurt me… . but Lindy reminded me that I was the one who came back to the café to look for her. then it will be a sign and I swear that I will do the rest of the work. Instead. . She was definitely innocent of any such crime. she seemed to enjoy it with a vengeance. and I will never go back. If she calls me. so to speak! I felt I had been cowardly. who was smiling at me as she was asking the question. I guess we both had done a good day’s work. and how you don’t seem to be feeling any fear… 87 . and were now collecting the fruit of our labor. and we are gently sailing into the heart of the blue ocean. if she doesn’t call me.. the I only wanted to be friends – what have you done to me – I’d rather not see you again rite of passage. . it feels like I have come home to the place that I have been wanting to visit for so long… Lindy did not seem to suffer from any fear of having converted herself to a low form of human being. Nature had become our friend and the sun our brother. nor will I wish to… . the betrayal. We were very different people from the night before. rolling around in her pleasure as in lukewarm tides of Caribbean surf…I was amazed that she did not seem to suffer the agony of “is this all right?” and the fear that every woman lover of women must feel at some point: the fear of the reversal. pleased with herself. and take it all the way. plague that can break the most wonderful attempts at liberation.You did. How we think the oddest things at the oddest moment! But I was also thinking about you. I did not do a very professional job…Well thank you for bringing me back to my senses. Alison and Marie dared speak its name…at least for a little while. in a cocoon of softness.

Then Lindy would go to work. looking for my familiar insecurities. It was evident that what really counted. We were making plans of the greatest importance. In fact. we had an edge on the world…It seemed ridiculous that anyone could ever feel uncomfortable about being gay. I was going to leave and go home as if nothing special had happened. but that she would be afraid that he would ask her to bring me over to his house so he could watch us and do it with us. and the green green eyes of Lindy that were watching over me in the blue light of dawn over the roofs of the Rue de Nevers… We made love one more time. so indestructible. We sat on the couch where we had sat that first night when we had dinner. maybe a little smug…Well. Except that I knew that when the evening came. it 88 . or straight or anything. and I would have a normal day. what God or whoever meant for us to feel. we slowly got up. calm. which superseded and sanctified everything.Fear of what? . None of it seemed to matter one bit. this freedom. but I could not find that many at all. fear that I will turn against you.You mean now? .Are you feeling any of these fears? . was this great happiness. Afterwards. we could spend 48 hours together in a row. I could not find any. and by then we had all the skills and effortlessness acquired through a long and full night together. . No evil could ever come of it. relishing the delightful weariness in our bodies.Yes now… I searched within the deep recesses of my heart.. All I could find was a welling up of happiness. She was laughing and we felt so strong. I took a shower while Lindy was making some coffee. Everybody else could stay in the dark. this comfort. laughter.Fear of being catalogued a lesbian forever. I would go back to Lindy and we would have this most wonderful secret affair…Maybe before I had to leave. Who cared? She said she might tell Julien. or worse yet. that I will stick to you like glue and that you’ll never be able to shake me and get on with your life. On the contrary. The day was really here. and the noises of the cars on the Quai were finally penetrating the reverent silence of Igor’s apartment. Would everybody know about this? I said I had a couple of people I was going to call and tell immediately.

said the woman…I am Pamela…I am shameless. Bravely. someone watching over me. On the right side was a building under construction with a huge billboard. pick up bars and gay bars. It was light out. I backed it up to the Quai. They gave you the terminal for free. back to the café after jumping out of the train at Sevres-Babylone… Chapter Nine The taxi was getting stuck in traffic by the Porte Clignancourt on its way to Roissy Airport. you are faceless. the magic was lingering. “Hi. out on the street. at the door. of imagination and the celebration of consciousness. singles groups. There was a God. and had given me the nerve to come back to her. It showed a scantily clad woman with deep cleavage and an enticing smile. requesting that one dial 3615-ORGASM on their minitel. It was time for me to go. of intelligence. or a Goddess.was the essence of generosity. I felt elated and shaky. The car was still there. and then collected on your various calls and time online. I had to go. and next thing I knew I was racing down the old uneven steps. with me.Are you going on vacation? Hassan the taxi driver was trying to break my daydream so I could join him and bring some friendly company to his day. I was out in the light. Minitel was the computer network installed by the French bureau of communications. call me…” I suddenly thought of the loneliness everywhere. 89 . My mind was full of memories of the night and expectations of nights to come. Someone had to make a decision. if I didn’t want my mother to think that I had disappeared with her car. illegal. We stayed on the landing and kissed until the temptation to go back inside became unbearable. Lindy was standing on the doorstep looking quite regal wearing a fluffy terrycloth bathrobe from a famous hotel on Cap d’Antibes that I had once visited long time ago. I had been so lucky! . and sped toward the darker western skies. She had to go to work. The mystery had been replaced by the ordinary. Yet. who had put me on the path of this unknown woman. that people tried to escape from through minitel networks. out of place. I lightly kissed her neck just where I always saw her heart beating.

I usually always took the Sunday flight. and we quite enjoyed negotiating the narrow steps and tight corners. Lindy told me she had a previous engagement with her friend Diego. no…thank you. on Tuesday. on my way back to California.Are you going back home then? . and we were mellow. slow and gentle. I had said goodbye to everyone. It was as if our souls were somehow directing our bodies into a dance around the light as it kept changing. and called a cab to leave on Sunday. Then we closed the door on the stairs. the temptation…I smiled back.No. the setting sun graces the river with sparkle. The bag was not too heavy. with him. I think Francoise and her husband were the only ones who knew of my secret plans. and he and Lindy had been a comfort to each other. So this time. Lindy had taken Monday off. I had jumped off the train of time. But Lindy and I had made other plans. I had packed. Rue de Nevers. I entered the code. not really either…I guess I’m just going away. and we were going to get our 48 hours together. . and under Igor’s skylights we made love in the bright sunshine. Once more. Without any prompting on my part.No. who lived on a barge on the river. while it sets ablaze the windows of the Institut and glows through the glass roof of the Grand Palais. I was in my home 90 . She did not want to cancel. We went down to the Vert Galant to watch the golden hour descend upon the center of the city. It was as if we were on a beach. I’m not. She said she would love for Diego to meet me and for us to have our first dinner as lovers. I was off to Cythera…in a taxi. Hassan smiled… -Should I take you back? Ah. born in Argentina.No. His beloved wife Antonia had died a couple of years before. and proceeded to wheel my suitcase up the five flights of stairs. Diego was a painter in his mid seventies. I could not figure out whether I had stepped into a dream or if I had finally awakened to reality. . There I was. the streets and the city.. Climbing into the taxi. I had told the driver to take me Rue de Nevers instead. Lindy came down to help me. It was hot and sultry. On a clear summer day.

from his mother’s ancient recipes. lounge chairs. We agreed that while it would be great to be able to make out in the open like these people. yet exuded calm. and he said he had prepared food especially for us. The strangers around us seemed more interesting and friendly than usual. Diego saw us walk in from an old fashioned bar. and many couples around us were holding hands or kissing. posing by a dangerous looking waterfall. The deck was decorated with flowers. a table was set for three. There were sweet and sour vegetables to soothe the heart. with an exuberance of color. but had the looks of a converted seafaring vessel. The kitchen was a perfect boat’s kitchen. I loved it and wanted to move in and stay forever. We toasted to all of us. where he was busy mixing some South American cocktail in a silver shaker. He took us on a tour of the barge. seafaring lore and framed photographs. Diego’s barge was anchored not far from the Pont Neuf. and cared for him as if I had known him all my life. a living room that Diego had turned into his workshop. By the door there was a crisp black and white photograph of Antonia.As long as it is temporary! Lindy said it as she leaned her head on my shoulder and stole a kiss on the base of my neck. we also enjoyed keeping a tantalizing distance. with candles and a bottle of wine. but it had suddenly become a mysterious undiscovered place of striking beauty. to friendship and love. young.Welcome! I am honored that you chose to bring beauty and love under my roof. The door was open on an interior full of paintings. It was small. I laughed with him. We were in love with each other. His paintings were abstract. . and the world loved us back. Good for sex. By the window on the river side. 91 . . we were in love with the world. The Vert Galant is a place for lovers. and grilled sweetbreads on a wooden board. We climbed aboard and right away. he said smiling broadly and waving us in. as if to protect it from being shaken by storms on the high seas. It had a bedroom. he said. We walked along the still crowded square. a green and white umbrella and a couple of small palm trees. Every item had its place. happy. according to him.city. Diego was a great cook. Dinner was delicious. and up to the bridge.

and walked off into the night holding hands. Finally. Maybe that first day at the Babylone. Unfortunately. and gave us each one. The next morning. For dessert. We had some coffee and some fruit. to always treasure as a souvenir. Our lovemaking had become more sophisticated and quite intense. but could not stay apart for too long. sipped Argentinian style through silver straws from carved gourds. our friend and protector. That night. when lunch time came around and we felt hungry for food. we managed to fall asleep in each other’s arms before the skylights had a chance to turn purple with the first signs of dawn. but we wanted to look at each other and not be in the dark. we said goodnight to our host. I told her I loved Diego and never wanted to lose touch with him. and how once you dropped out of the everyday routine the chances of running into someone you knew were quite slim. 92 . we woke up giddy with renewed energy. So. but it swiftly passed as our conversation continued by candlelight interrupted by the soft rocking of the barge whenever the tour boats glided by in an explosion of flood lights. and always be true! Diego said…there was a second of unease. my friend Diego. some unconscious part of us already knew what was in store. So we went to have a light lunch on the Place Dauphine. We were stunned that everything was going so well. and the names of Julien or Alison were conspicuously absent from our conversation. one of the most erotic tangos ever written. Lindy was laughing a lot. we decided it was time to take a real break and spend some time doing more mundane things together. I had escaped with a lie. exhausted and overwhelmed. as Lindy and I had not yet speculated on where we were going from here. I pointed out how easy it is to lose oneself in Paris. Lindy said she did not care who she ran into. Then Diego took two Polaroid photos of us. he said. we had dulce de leche. so I did care. We finished the evening with yerba mate. and Diego and I entertained Lindy with an improvised duet of “A Media Luz”. It was only the beauty of the full moon over the river and the bridges that held us back from running full speed ahead to the moonlit garret awaiting us on top of the Rue de Nevers. At first we thought of going to a movie.Always be good to each other. which at first was more about reminiscing and commenting on our last twenty four hours..

-You know that I love you. unbelievably. I said…You know that? We had said it to each other many times in the heat of the night. sitting out on the stone steps. the hunchback who lived in the tower. while the women sang and both consumed the little restaurant’s entire stock of Ouzo. and was almost disappointed when my mother finally found me. nothing but cobblestones and the milky flow of the river. remembering incidents sometimes hilarious that had happened to us while visiting or near those places. and walked to the lower bank by the Pont Saint Louis. and I confessed to Lindy that my legs were still a little bit shaky. She admitted hers were too. as typically in Paris they were always under construction. The closest virgin territory was the towers of Notre Dame. we remembered reading the Victor Hugo novel. 93 . I had accepted I was going to have to live there forever. and we were still laughing when we reached the top. I told her I had identified with Quasimodo. Standing by the chimaera with the horns. there was a sweet summery stillness in the air as we took in the beauty of the spot. rang the bell and saved Esmeralda from hanging. Of course I was in love with Esmeralda then. and we needed a rest. In between the rumble of tour boats. and now. So we crossed to the Ile Saint Louis. Climbing up was surprisingly tiring. There is something about a moving body of water that brings on a contemplative mood. and looking into them it suddenly occurred to me that the two of us might be more than a mere sexual adventure. A few of them had come to Paris for a brief visit with her. in broad daylight and in complete consciousness. The men had danced until dawn. and started up the stairs. She told me she had identified with Esmeralda. Lindy’s eyes were joyful and limpid. She talked about her Greek family on her father’s side. Going down was even harder than going up.We decided that we wanted to discover something together. so we would always remember it as ours. she was in love with me. and the view was sweeping and breathtaking. They had taken over a restaurant near the Pantheon. As we were talking. but it was a different story to say it like that. I told her I had gotten lost in the Cluny museum as a kid. and sat down below the stairs. There was nobody there. Neither of us had ever been up there. flatly. We entered from the side. It was not very crowded up there. We were pointing landmarks to each other.

I smiled back.She replied softly. the cathedral and the old Pont Saint Louis. hesitated for a while staring silently at the current creating little wakes around the pillars of the bridge. I said. Wow. -Nah. I guess we had found our legs again. -How about…I stopped mid-sentence. I did not know what to say. We were so well tuned by then.All right…We can try that…I’m with you… I am… We were still all alone on the stone bank. . I took a deep breath. -What do you think we should do about it? -You mean other than what we’ve been doing? I asked. I caught up with her. and rushed by the book and print vendors on the upper bank. But I was also surprised at the relief I felt. I could not stay in Paris. she said. under the protection of the trees. . We stayed silent for a while. It did not take much effort to get where we wanted to go. slender and graceful. -Yes. . and I could not bring myself to ask Lindy if she had plans to move to California. past the bumper to bumper traffic on the Quai. Let's go home… We went back up the steps.Now I know why you wear running shoes. we did not waste any time. I watched a speedboat going upstream and a flight of pigeons burst out from under the bridge. We had learned to move together and to be attentive to each other. .Come on. Then finally. We kissed in the shadow of the stairs. and as always trying to control her hair. but then dared to ask the hovering question. Once Rue de Nevers. Part of me was hurt that Lindy had not said that her utmost desire was to live with me forever and ever. I was shocked. -Yes…I’m afraid that I feel the same way about you. then walked briskly across the bridge. Lindy was running ahead.How about…nothing? She said it looking at me with the sweetest and most glorious smile. 94 . you’re not afraid…you’re never afraid! She laughed.

At some point. Then she took her turn. Lindy returned. daring and lighthearted. and tucked it next to the bookmark in the pages of the book on her nightstand. just live in the present and make the best of it all. the kind of music that made you want to move slowly and lean back while blowing smoke rings and absorbing some forbidden substance. not eating very much. letting myself believe that at least for these few hours. and toasting to everything. Even if I can't do anything about it. carefully putting away in my wallet the Polaroid print from Diego. -Will you always love me? -Yes.Once there. We were feeling euphoric. She had put on a jazz CD. and then I sat down at the desk and wrote the first love letter I had ever written in my life. it was also my own. we stayed as long as we could. All we had was champagne. we put our elbows on the table and held our left hands palm against palm as we pronounced some unlikely vows. It was long. I will always love you. elated by the memories of our day together. I repacked my suitcase. I started with the obvious. and held each other through the sometimes overpowering emotions that would surface in both of us afterwards. and I stayed alone in this beautiful apartment. The TV station must have been preparing a special on our dear Marguerite. I kept picturing Lindy reading it and the words flowed as easily as if they were dictated to me by Eros himself. and we sat down to dinner. but that was just fine. Ha! Imagine that! It was Marguerite Duras’ “The Lover”. shooter of arrows. Lindy insisted on going out to Rue de Buci to do some shopping for dinner. -Will you always desire me? -Yes. Once done. son of Aphrodite. I said. It was slow. and lover of Psyche. 95 . It was simple: no upheaval. and dreamy. I folded the letter. I always will. it will always be there. She smiled in the candlelight. no obligation. I called a cab for the next morning. I am not a fan of jazz but this one sounded like Miles Davis. and the ease with which we had solved our future.

I will be. I probably won't be living here… said Lindy. it was harder to let go than we expected. Lindy said she would call me and leave a message on my answering machine so that I would get it when I got home. There was promise and regret in her tone. and made love for what we felt could be the last time. as we didn't want to fall asleep and then have to just get up and go. as our fingers folded around our left hands and held tight. I said I would do the same. Not surprisingly. I was bouncing my suitcase on its rickety wheels without paying any attention to noise or damage.-Will you always be good to me? She asked. -Yes! I will! Now I realize what Diego meant last night… good to you and true to you. I made some coffee which I drank a little too fast and burnt myself. A lifetime had gone by. and soon we had to forget about dinner and proceed with all the living to be done. I had first seen the sun rise from Lindy's bed just a few days ago. We sealed the vows with a kiss. Suddenly our lovemaking became more emotional than skillful. we eventually did fall asleep. but it could also have fit within the blink of an eye. As it turned out. so I just held her and tried to engrave these few moments with her in my memory for ever. and then we rushed down the stairs to escape the feeling that we might be doing the wrong thing after all. the loving ahead of us. before the next morning. but she could have meant Paris. I looked up at the wispy pink clouds of dawn through the skylight one more time. We saw the van was already there in the frame of the arch. Lindy took a shower while I deliberately did not. A man and a 96 . -Next time you come to Paris. The entrance to the Rue de Nevers is marked by an arch made of a more recent building that had been constructed over the narrow passage. I think she meant the apartment. but we woke up in time without the alarm. We set the alarm for two hours before we had to get up. One last kiss. I cleaned up the dishes from the night before. the time came. and finished packing. Lindy's shooting crew was supposed to come pick her up a little before my cab was due. Finally. I did not know which one to go with.

By the time I went back to get my suitcase. but she looked at me briefly and I could see how impending tears could bring out the jade in her eyes. When I finally got to the airport the first thing I did was call her and leave a message on her answering machine. the sense of wonder that had graced our past four days. let the chips fall where they may. Her cheek against mine… briefly… "I love you". She was gone. her eyes were down. I lit a cigarette. We had crossed a threshold past the barriers of isolation. heart and mind had reconciled for the first time ever. I had never known such freedom. Lindy had taken me by the hand. -J'arrive. I began… The van started honking. And then. Had we missed the chance of a lifetime? But I knew that my life had completely changed already…I was a different person than I was three weeks ago…My body. and stereotype and there was no turning back. even if my heart was a little worse for wear at the moment. and walked outside the arch to throw it away in the public garbage can. j'arrive! She yelled back. I had never loved like this. hopping into the van and waving. and had to sit down on my suitcase. My heart and my breathing seemed to be fighting each other. What had we done?! I was leaning against the wall behind the arch trying to make sense of it all. I might come back soon.woman in the cab waved at Lindy. She waved back. after all these days of excruciating hesitation. and we were going to see how it would affect our separate destinies. I suddenly was exhausted. I finished the cigarette. When we pulled apart. I turned around and felt lightheaded as quiet tears started flowing down my face like a fountain. Hearing her voice on the recording again. We had a new take on life. and effortlessly walked me through it. or I might not. 97 . And then she had turned me loose…Maybe it was the most generous gift of all. my taxi had arrived. and then we held each other tight standing on the street inside the arch. trying to compose myself and think my way out of this sudden despair. but nothing could ever match the beauty and excitement of the discovery. I realized how far we had come in those few days. I might meet Lindy half way in New York. with such intensity. -Lindy. I had never lived like this. conformity. I waved back.

After the phone call. an exhilaration I hadn’t felt for many years came over me…it was a mere flutter of the heart. It was time to take my new self back into the world at large. Chad Kroeger "Into the Night". 98 . masculine with the masculinity of courage and strength. beautifully open. Half way through dinner that night. I went to the airport bookstore to see if by chance they had a copy of Marguerite Duras’ “the Lover”. There was also an aura of kinship. They called the San Francisco plane for boarding. of inner or past troubles. but it would be a great comfort to know that Lindy and I were once again reading the Obscure One at the same time together. There is always a mystery in those we are infatuated with. feminine with the femininity of gentleness and intuition…Androgynous with a sense of freedom and adventure that is not tied to any of the world’s stale institutions and rules of conduct. with a feeling that I would never get tired of looking at her. talking and laughing with me and Minna her mother. and off I went. Of course. Part 3: VON ASCHENBACH Like a gift from the heavens it was easy to tell It was love from above that could save me from hell Carlos Santana. Not that I am such a fan of hers mind you. and our job is to get them to reveal that mystery to us. If I did not end up being with her. As I entered the kitchen. There she was. and that her presence in a room enhanced our simplest experiences and gestures. Pure with the knowledge that she takes pleasure in the giving as well as the taking…She had enfolded me with love that was benevolent and generous. it occurred to me that I had a crush on Bethany. they didn’t have it.Lindy. well maybe I could be more like her. No surprise there. that made me feel a little too protective about someone I did not know all that well. so we can solve all of their problems. and I never thought of it until I went into the kitchen to put some plates away and help my gracious hosts with some facsimile of cleanup. drinking a little too much.

Even after I finally went back to the perfect guest room that Minna had given me. and I was looking forward to seeing them again. Gustav Von Aschenbach. but thought that I never would. I was lighthearted. Minna and Bethany were the bright spots of my week there. intelligent. and well travelled. in which the aging hero. becomes infatuated with a young boy named Tadzio. At 28 she had come back to live at home and go to school to study for a PhD in psychology. where I had gone with Alison my partner of many years and some members of her family. Minna had very kindly said to me that I was welcome to stay with them in Venice if I ever had to go to LA. Aschenbach sees himself as Tadzio’s protector. a sophisticated. I still was not worried 99 . This was a time in my life. I could already be at the point of channeling good old Von Aschenbach. I liked the way Bethany talked to people much younger or older than her as if they were her peers. active woman who wore jeans and could still look good in various types of hiking gear.I started thinking about Thomas Mann’s novella “Death in Venice”. Venice. and a visit to Los Angeles to meet with an attorney was part of this effort. I was probably only slightly younger than Minna whereas he was much older than Tadzio’s mother. I remembered Minna’s offer. struck me as most ominous. and Bethany was not a kid anymore. They were for me a symbol of my beloved West: Bethany a typical blond and lithe Southern California kid. I was appalled to think that at my age. Home was a beautiful villa in the wealthy part of Venice. It was just for a couple of days. So. while he is himself about to die. They were unconventional. We would stay up long after everyone else had gone to bed and discuss the world around glasses of wine and other exotic alcohols. and Minna. I had met her and Minna at a mountain resort in Colorado a few months before. sent her an email to which she responded promptly and repeated her invitation for me to come and stay. I had been doing this for the last year or so. enjoying all the fun and banter as we put away the dishes. where I realized that it was time to make peace with many people with whom I had somehow quarreled with for various reasons. As the epidemic of cholera descends upon the City of the Doges. The similarity in names. California. So there I was…I felt good. I liked the way Minna was always ready for adventures on skis or otherwise. I thanked her. Coming back to the dining room. I liked both of them a lot. and hoped that I would stay in touch.

But I wanted Bethany to somehow keep me in a special place in her memory. and not too smoggy. Much to my chagrin however. rich. and then out on a date with her boyfriend Vijay or “VJ” as they called him. as I 100 . I said. It was a beautiful day.about Aschenbach. and yet keep it light. It was in the morning that I felt the first signs that the disturbance was a little more serious than I thought. Minna was very matter of fact about the award. I marveled at the way I could still get this feeling. We had talked at length about VJ the night before. his mother was Indian and his father was from Boston or somewhere similar back East. though no engagement had been in the works as long as Bethany had not finished her PhD. I knew that Bethany was going to go to school all day that day. she would have to give a speech and there was no way of course that she could miss this event. a little bit of heaven for free as they say in Moroccan pastry shops when they give you a sample of their wares. and in love. He was slim. beautiful. with brown skin that highlighted Bethany’s blond hair as it blew in the wind. I was getting ready to go into Hollywood to meet the attorney. I think she probably had received so many of them already that they were part of the basic routine for her. amongst the many occupants of Minna’s guest room. elegant. In fact. I was spared honing the perfection of my few moments with her. They had showed me a photo of him and Bethany on some kind of fancy boat. That morning. It was almost a relief to leave the house and drive on the freeway on my way to Hollywood. They were your perfect textbook Hollywood couple. as Bethany was already gone by the time Minna and I were having some breakfast while looking out to the ocean. and know that it was just a gift. I was plotting to make sure that our moments together would be perfect…What did that mean? I didn’t really know. the water was glowing with silver sparkles under a light mist. holding bottles of beer and smiling at the camera. “Not exactly the Beauty and the Beast”. and Minna told me the secret location of the spare house key so I could let myself in later. and being one of the recipients. He had the most perfect features I had ever seen on a young man. VJ was one of these people blessed with a mixed heritage. Minna had to attend an awards banquet that night. His smile was broad and confident. So knowing that I was going to see very little of Bethany. Minna had assured me that the relationship was serious.

the “someone left a cake out in the rain” song. I decided it was too early. I detoured a little bit along 405 South. our level of conversation became more intimate than I thought it could ever be. but there were swimmers and waders basking in the fading sunshine. Then went back North and through Hollywood. it was at the time when the sun starts going down. and walked in with a spring in my step. and I was smiling back. from the palm lined avenues of Beverly Hills to the grimy sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard. The water was quite chilly. it felt like I had finally become myself. I smiled remembering how we used to make fun of “MacArthur Park”. The mist was gone.revisited many of my favorite locations on the way. People were smiling at each other. but he did apologize and agree that many things he did then were obnoxious. After all these years. I retrieved the key from Minna’s hidden location. and so did the lunch afterwards. feeling alive. well named Tinsel Town. and went right back outside. and the light somehow becomes richer and softer at the same time. and in touch with truths that I never thought would ever come to light. After catching up on our respective domestic situations for a while. saying hello. free and ageless. when it is us who should have cared enough to hang on to the recipe! 101 . We toasted to greed and to being young and stupid. Everything looked good this morning. It was liberating and strange all of a sudden. The meeting went very well. but I did not feel the same. years before when I had lived in Santa Monica. magnanimous and overflowing with forgiveness. guardian of our dreams and our longings. We even discussed a particular night. There. I felt generous. things might go better for me. I pulled into the attorney’s driveway on Selma. When I returned to Minna’s house in Venice. I felt better. I did not clear up all the mysteries surrounding our business relationship. hurtful and out of line. I walked on the beach all the way to the ocean and dipped my feet. and walked into the empty house. It was not too different from the times. I was lecturing to Richard Harris: let us not blame those who left the cake outside. What a place to live! I sat down on the sand. and stared at the waves for quite a while. As I watched two toddlers see their sand castle get destroyed in a surf apocalypse. and the silver of the morning had turned to gold. just for fun. where I reminded him he sexually harassed me as he implied that if I stayed with him that night.

Here was something different: "The Ultimate Orgasm". I said. I was holding up the bottle of 12 year old Scotch that Bethany had been drinking from the night before.D. Interesting. . that would be nice. pouring the whisky over the cubes with great care not to pour too much or too little. She smiled. by John Wyclife. I think she was very flattered and looking forward to it and would not miss it short of a catastrophe involving major National Security issues. three shelves below. but I wanted to be comforting somehow. I was examining the book collection as well. "Anna Karenina". I looked for DVDs in the bookcase. M. and as I always like to do. . cooling the glass with ice cubes. I went back to my dinner.Great idea! I prepared that Scotch on the rocks like it was the Holy Communion.Would you like to share some of last night’s leftovers with me? I offered. when I heard the front door open and close. maybe she forgot something. and others that seemed to be an endless repetition of stories of life after middle age divorce. . I found the leftovers from last night’s delicious dinner. . Well. and was getting ready to warm them up. Henry James’ "The Bostonians"… ah. They had a lot of current and past best sellers… some of them I had read. I did not want to intrude. Then some classics.I thought you were going out tonight. Her eyes seemed a little pink as if she had been crying. when it started looking a little more like dusk. and firmly intending to plant myself in front of the huge flat screen TV to watch one of Minna’s DVDs. Had Minna decided to forego the Awards night? Nah…in spite of her outward detachment.Finally. a second copy of “The Ultimate Orgasm". in time to see Bethany rush up the stairs. 102 . I went back to the living room. well so did I! She did seem upset. . . finding a plate. I went back into the house. Ah.Yes. you never know when it might be lost or stolen.Sure.Come here. and I’ll fix you a nice cup’o tea. Better to be safe than sorry! I had just discovered the DVDs when Bethany came back down and said hello.

but I am not about to go lurking after him or anyone for that matter! I asked where she thought he went.So I called his cell phone. there is this girl Olivia Ramos. eh? Hmmm…What does he say about you? 103 . It was dark outside. in the middle of the Outback. I could guess. by chance. Australia. I wasn’t thinking of Von Aschenbach then.Well. he was there. of course. we talked about our travels. .So what happened tonight? Do you want to talk about it. what we thought. She decided to stop by his house anyway just to keep his spirits up and help out. I could picture in my mind Bethany travelling through Australia by herself and how thrilling it must have been for those who met her just like that. and who got close enough for her to call them friends or lovers. or of any misplaced desire I might have experienced earlier…I just wanted Bethany to feel better. and I was determined to help in some way. For all I know. going down easy and was relaxing both of us. I can talk about it. . . . as Bethany and I sat down to dinner as the light turned crimson with the last rays of the sun disappearing into the ocean. .Do you have any idea where he went? .Or at the emergency room.Ah. She was talking easily of this and that. I heard myself voice the question I had been dying to ask. please.Oh. We talked about movies we liked. .Well that's true… she did not seem convinced. and she flirts with everyone including him.He thinks she’s hot. on the road. or would you rather not? Talk about it.She seemed to begin to relax a little. what a fiasco! She explained that VJ had called her while she was still at school to cancel their date as he was feeling sick. where we had been. He always says he thinks she’s really hot. but it was on voice mail. she’s from Brazil. but he was not there. don’t hold it in. . The wine was delicious and light. We talked about a book I had read about the unanswered questions surrounding the attacks of September 11th 2001. . Minna had opened a bottle of Chateau Haut-Brion last night that I brought to the table by the window.

this might not mean much to you. I do. that is of course very important… But Bethany. At least. I’m not. She looked straight back at me. And I should know because I happen to have developed a huge crush on you since…well. but I don’t think he’s ever said that about me. However. I said it lightly. She looked at me with a funny little smile. when in reality he is not always giving you what you need. since yesterday. . I believe that a good relationship should help you come into your own and not make you more dependent. And sex is good…at least it is for me… I could picture a 14 year old Bethany studying late at night trying to decipher Dr. I have.Well.Yes. from what you told me. Wyclife's arcane instructions. but that’s just me. Yet the ghost of Gustav Von Aschenbach was asleep in its unholy grave and not bothering me at that moment.Yes. .. She looked down briefly. . he’s never said it in my presence. I looked back at her.Well. like a joke. more than one. . have you ever been with a man? . I do love him…sometimes I think I live through him a little too much…I cling to him.No. amazed at her beauty. Maybe the rescue operation was beginning to work.Are you kidding? .Ha. smiling.Well.Oh. and did not seem embarrassed at all.But let’s get back to the matter at hand here… do you two get along well? Do you like being with him? . but if outwardly you are quite stunning. do you love him? Your mother thinks you will marry him… . I have been around the block a few times. he pays me nice compliments every now and then. she asked. We have fun together. and softly chuckled. At least that's what I would have done… .What do you know about this. . she laughed. maybe. I also think that there is something about you that is dangerously appealing. I said jokingly. it sounds like VJ might be more into himself than he is into you…and maybe this imbalance is what makes you hang on for dear life. What do you want to know? 104 . I mean it.

San Francisco…How it was magical and terrifying at the same time. I recounted how we had made solemn promises to each other and how we had kept them through the years. Bethany was staring at me quite intensely. oil pumping ones. I recalled for her the story of my first female lover. the ones with the little houses and the little lawns. Being with men is more labor intensive – as you know . whether I was with her or away from her. had put on an air of overwhelming sensuality and erotic possibility. I described to her how we had made love almost nonstop for 48 hours in a garret apartment near the river. . quasi erotic friendships with men. I went on to say that even though I have developed very deep. I had never experienced with them the same level of emotional intensity that I had with women. It was as if each moment was intensified. as it can expose the deepest recesses of our emotional selves. I reminisced on how any time we found ourselves alone on a beach or a secluded trail was an excuse to make love. and women are not always very careful with that. I told her about this perfect affair I had in Paris once. with a woman I had met at a cafe. in San Francisco’s North Beach.No. Still. Actually.and in a relationship with a man. how being with her transformed everything around me…Los Angeles. being with a woman is dangerous.How does being with a man compare to being with a woman? . illicit and were deeply hidden. I don’t think Bethany was much aware that at the time homosexual affairs were still considered abnormal. I said.And off we went. and of an overwhelming 105 . and how our lovemaking gave special meaning to all kinds of different places. On the other hand. She asked me all kinds of questions and I felt quite free to tell her all kinds of stories. my first time was right here in Los Angeles. and I suddenly stopped talking. I became conscious of my breathing.Was that your first time? .Quite different. one can remain guarded while possibly enjoying the sheer physicality of it. All of Los Angeles and surrounding suburbs even the industrial. even though she was married for ten years and had given birth to two children. . my lover and I would have romantic dinners in Topanga Canyon. I could hear the ocean as loud as if the house was right next to the surf. in Redondo Beach. East Los Angeles. and the ones with the big houses and the huge palm tree lined yards. into territories where acquaintances seldom go.

and started gathering the dishes. wearing a Japanese silk robe with stylized cranes on it. this is not quite the Caribbean. somewhat in love with her as I repeat her name to myself. as I really feel like running back and forth on the beach for miles all night long. we went up the stairs. I got up from the table. no…I want to enjoy the feeling and all that comes with it right now. Minna’s guest bathroom has one of those clear glass and tile sparkling clean showers with a huge shower head that dispenses a waterfall of warmth…there are also about 15 different kinds of shower gels and whatever else. more intoxicating than the alcohol. of an elegant. So. though she was still nervous about whether or not she would be able to go all the way to PhD. and was shamelessly taunting me. so I would think the water will be freezing and probably dangerous with undertow and rip tide. Wrapped in the towel. just like old Gustav liked to repeat Tadzio’s name. Here’s one of them “Relish the luxuriant fragrance of French Lavender”. Tonight has been so good. to our rooms. I can still hear the ocean out there. oh so very “now” nondescript color tending toward green. I force myself to come out and wrap myself in a huge bath towel. Instead. I broke the spell by making small talk. and we cleared the table. I will thank you…Goodnight! See you at breakfast…” I am back in my room. The salt in the air is exhilarating. wiping counters. Bethany got up as well. I finally exit the steamy bathroom. as I am entranced by her. Am I by any chance going down the same slippery slope of shame and obsession? No. Dying is not an option. I luxuriate. Gustav von Aschenbach emerged from the ashes of Thomas Mann. filling up the dishwasher. putting away unused silverware. “Good night Bethany that was fun! Take care of yourself now…” “Yes. I recommend to myself a long hot shower to help me get in the mood to go to sleep. so a shower will be a good substitute. My head is spinning a little from the wine. Finally. I open my window wide so I can see the moon and its reflection on the water. to find Bethany in my room. and it is strange to say. Once the kitchen was absolutely as sparkling clean as could be.desire to kiss her. and she replied that it was going quite well. 106 . Maybe even swimming! Swimming in the moonlight! However. asking how school was going for her so far. I am so proud of myself for keeping my distance with Bethany. and started busying ourselves in the kitchen.

where the travelers know all. are equally launched into some kind of unearthly plane. absolute physical abandon and comfort and an eerie feeling of belonging. as noted by my inner Sherlock Holmes. And then. I don’t really care. She lowers her eyes and starts . I’d like to get it. . I guess it went quite well after all. start to say something old and wise and reasonable. .You know…I need to say this. 107 . She looks flushed and smiling. But then. where the right moves start coming to you without thinking. She laughs. as she whispers “thank you so much for talking to me. and feel all.Oh Bethany. tonight…”. . forgotten . Caught between complete disbelief and heart failure. we did make it though the barriers and the hesitation. I start writing and stop dead in my tracks.Mind if I come in? She says… . where all shame and self consciousness disappear. a man’s robe. tenderness. OK. along with an old business card from something somewhere. What follows is hard to describe in the sense that sexual encounters are the ultimate “you had to be there” experience.Sure…Let me find my pen… I look around on the table and in my bag on the bed. hours ago. if only what’s his name could see you right now. naturally. sent back to their dark alleys. I look at Bethany in the amber light of my reading lamp. Instead it is a flight into some effortless journey.a little too big for her. I want to give Bethany what she wants. we end up kissing instead. I turn around. and I find it. all the way to some strange ease. enough suffering. The return is made of gentleness. All I can say is that after a few tentative and trembling moments. to my utter surprise. looking at me with the same moist eyes that she had when she first came back home. I feel Bethany’s hands around my waist from behind me. could you please write it down for me? It sounds really cool. she props her head up on her elbow. but…I don’t think…I’m not…I mean this is not…. oh so softly the back of my neck and along the top of my shoulder. but in one of those moments that seem written somewhere in some all knowing piece of ether.Of course not… -That book you mentioned. I say. she kisses softly.

Don’t worry. I had no idea how reality was going to impact everything now that the dreaded morning after had come. and I snap back to the world. I am not expecting anything from you. and by now. she knows how to celebrate her relief in the best way possible. Bethany…I am not free anyway. I don’t know when I ever got to sleep that night. We talk softly. and things don’t always have to work out that way.Whoa… She rises and fumbles for the kimono on the floor. She is looking at me. “…angel…” I say. I am in a way teaching. I got up. I smile. I follow her. don’t imagine that I know something secretly efficient about sexual matters. I am left alone in a mist of mystical proportions. how did you sleep? 108 . I hear the front door open. . because I remember waking up to the sound of voices downstairs. though.Here comes your mom. and started my morning ritual absent mindedly. She kisses me again lightly. or that I consider myself a “teacher of love” or something of a sort that would probably please Von Aschenbach to no end. She smiles back.. I’m not sure she would appreciate. I am in awe of my student. Her beauty is overwhelming me. I say as I try to disengage in a calm and measured manner. . I tried to absorb myself in mundane thoughts and finally walked down the stairs in the state of mind of an astronaut on her first flight beyond the orbit of the Earth. I must have. My last glimpse of her as my lover is of the hummingbird tattoo on the small of her back as she throws on the robe and shuts the door behind her. and tiptoes toward the door. Just consider this my legacy. But in reality. as I realize Minna is coming home. Now dear reader. She turns back to me and kisses me for such a long time that I am the one who pushes her off. We jump off in tandem. I grant you that.Good morning! Said Minna. you better get out of here. It seemed that Minna and Bethany were up and about. except that you always look upon this kindly and with respect. How easy it is to lose track of time. . and I know that the lesson only works if the teacher is prepared to trade places at some point and open up to all there is to learn. I guide her. As I turn off the light.

but maybe the way it came out was what I really meant. we got absorbed in the anecdotes from the banquet. I said goodbye to Minna. . chasing young things around Venice. As I turned toward the house. -Oh.What can I say…my pleasure! 109 . and thanked her for her kindness and hospitality. up. trying to make sure that I would remember everything. I answered that it went well. By the time I was packing up to go. radiant. but honestly. She laughed quite easily. . I couldn’t. My inner Gustav was somewhere else. Bethany eventually sat down with us at the table. even when she was sad.Out of the corner of my eye. At least I was relieved that she didn’t seem upset or ill at ease. I finally started relaxing. I slept very well.So I hear you and Bethany lived it up last night? We both spontaneously burst out laughing. I was feeling quite happy with myself. thank you! How was the awards banquet? Thankfully. I said. mixing stuff in the blender. and she was a perfect hostess. I waved back. and the conversation stayed away from my evening and how it went. Bethany came back just to keep me company. I could see Bethany. and I was feeling strong and gliding though life on a path of lightness and freedom. I couldn’t help but try to detect something beyond gracious hospitality. . looking at her. how Minna had prepared notes and gave a totally different speech. I saw Minna wave from the terrace. She asked a couple of questions about my meeting with the attorney. but on the other hand. dressed. feeling easy and detached. I came down and started loading the rental car. energetic. I walked over to her. . and it was about to be over. “Good morning!” She was smiling. and realizing that Minna only meant finishing the bottle of perfect Bordeaux.Thank you Bethany. when after what seemed to be a very long time. she was always radiant.Yep. I realized I had feared for a few minutes that I was not going to see her again. I saw Bethany finally walking out of the house. and it was well worth the trip. for being so…so graceful with me last night! I think I meant to say “gracious”. not wanting to be distracted from the moment. knowing that this was a once in a lifetime episode.

that it never occurred to me that she might not reply. But I didn’t really know. For about a week after I returned home. and I felt that for her. By the time I looked in the rear view mirror. I sent Minna an email to thank her for her hospitality. back home near San Francisco. Bethany closed her eyes and blew me a kiss. so far. Maybe she was upset because I teased her when she said that material possessions did not matter to her happiness. It was a strange feeling to return to everyday life. and to whom one can talk about just anything. I think she would have been more the confronting type. Minna and I were not old friends. I was looking forward to hearing from her. merely recent acquaintances and I did not feel free to email again and prod her into acknowledging me. From the shadow of the house. Relieved. Still somewhere. So there was a certain amount of longing.We both started laughing. I walked back to the car. the value of the experience was all in the fact that it was not to be repeated. in my dark little heart. and would not have taken the sullen silent approach. Or maybe she was one of these people who become briefly interested in travelling companions. but no pain. For some reason. To my surprise. I checked the computer every day for more than 3 months. Somehow. we had crossed a threshold beyond which there might not be room for our former relationship as the older friend who knows how to understand young people. as the episode with Bethany somehow seemed to have happened on a parallel branch of reality. and I said jokingly how easy it was to say this from the point of view of her current surroundings. Bethany was gone. and was fully expecting a response. this cut to the quick. my mind was still with Bethany. Had she found out about Bethany and me? I didn’t think so…If she knew and disapproved. waved again at Minna but she didn’t see me. so I got in the car and drove away. I am not very good at blowing kisses. I was hoping that I would hear from her…that she would call and say “I miss you” or something like that. hoping that she would catch up with her email. I had said that I did not expect anything. and finally answer me. I wondered why Minna was not responding. 110 . She had always been so pleasant with me. no response ever came. and then decides that they have too many friends already. However. I did not feel like I had cheated on anyone. to enjoying a link which would not be broken. to knowing how Bethany was doing.

I had to come to terms with the fact that I would probably never see nor hear from Bethany or Minna ever again. in an emotional space that carried a large payload of inadequacy. calm and collected when I told Bethany that I didn’t expect anything from her. I knew perfectly well that pursuing Bethany was not an option. This contact with reality helped me get back some of my footing. a herald of the end of my days which was approaching as surely as disinfectant spreading over the Piazza San Marco. It is funny how technology has given all of us the means to become stalkers. I could not imagine what it would be like to see her now. thinking about Bethany. He was not as striking as VJ. after all this turmoil and go back to the way it was before Venice. at her most…well. that I could not help but look at him affectionately as well. smooching at this year’s Gala”. Now. I went on with my everyday life with always a little bit of anxiety in the pit of my stomach. and maybe also shame. especially since it looked like Minna had lost her motivation to stay in touch. The first article that came up was the society page of the Venice News. It was a sign that I had to start working hard on my recovery. and plunged me into a dark vat of infatuation and yearning. at a time when my life should be settling into some kind of peace. I finally gave in and searched the Internet for Bethany’s name. Whenever something went wrong and I didn’t feel like I had been at my best for any reason. Some other times. Over the caption was a photo of Bethany. regret. The caption is what I saw first: “Bethany O’Brien and beau. 111 . Often. if I was alone somewhere. and became angry at myself. I would fall into a private swoon about my lost Bethany. radiant of course. and turning into Gustav von Aschenbach for good. Not only my partner. as I was distracted most of the time. and I would review over and over again our brief encounter in Venice. But this knowledge did not eliminate the longing for her. I felt like I was really cheating. This. I would also have moments where I realized how silly this whole thing was. Bethany was the angel of Death. Sometimes. I felt that maybe just like Tadzio. the local newspaper in Venice California. and he seemed to be excited and happy to be with her. and she was looking at the young man with such an affectionate smile. About two months later. and imagined what it would be like to be her. but everyone around me. I felt like I was Bethany myself. but he was looking at her and not at the camera. whatever that gala was I couldn’t even figure out from the article. And it was true in a way. nor really a desire. I would imagine that Bethany was with me. I had been so cool.Minna’s silence broke the link between me and Bethany.

was too distracting. had given of herself without fear. ever since I had seen Alfred Hitchcock’s eerie and suspense less “Vertigo” as an adult that it is not the mere human being that we obsess on. I had been aware. I happened to be driving down the hill at sundown. As I was singing and driving. too unnerving. to this gorgeous world. I loved the song. and I had to exorcise it somehow. was that Bethany whatever her original motives might have been. They seemed to be milling about and posing in some kitschy vacuum. that suddenly placed me back into myself as a teenager. with this strange feeling of being incomplete unless a specific chosen person loved me. to quiet evenings and noisy parties alike. when she happened to be needy and probably curious. and that memory was with me a lot of the time. accompanying me to work. without defenses and with a real purity of intent. and chasing after some unknown idea of success. the elation of absorbing it all and appreciating all 112 . It was not dark yet. Where the hell did this come from? Little by little. One day. My memory of the event however. the clouds suddenly opened up onto a patch of purple sky with a giant moon reflected in the waters of the San Francisco Bay. I could see all these other people who looked so typical. that last bastion of privacy. to horseback rides in the hills. They were playing a Carlos Santana song that I had heard only a couple of times before. except for this wonderful gift of herself for a couple of hours one night in Venice. to sleep. ostracized and unloved. I occurred to me that recent events in my life related to my family or what was left of it. but the streetlights had come on. a feeling of being vulnerable. California. and uninteresting. But was she really that different from them? How would I know? I hardly knew her. going for a sexy look. but more the idealized image that we have of them. It was not easy to dismiss a memory of such power. listening to the radio in my car. they all looked alike. But these were not tears of sadness…my throat constricted and my heart started beating a little faster…it was the joy of belonging…belonging to this music. except for Bethany. I did not enjoy feeling like one of those teenagers who have crushes on famous people that they can never attain. Looking at the photos from the Gala in the Venice News. and my eyes suddenly filled up with tears. responding to the splendid moon with glitter while the giant tsunami of fog was rolling over the hill. In the end. and could not help but start singing along full blast. had somehow caused an unconscious regression.

as I think it would be good and settling to know how her life is going. To be honest. It would last. Maybe it was the circumstances. it was our own. However I will never know who she really is or whom she chooses to be in her life of every day. When I look back at our brief moments together. She found it again where she wanted to find it. share in her happiness or be there for friendship and comfort when needed. still with delight. or maybe it was the spirit that we both harbored that night. who was beautiful and brave. and reminisce on occasion. At least. I have never read the “Ultimate Orgasm”.that was there for me. that the magic and mystery of sex was in reality a quick. because it lived in each of us. As it turned out. and I can only hope that it was like that for her as well. I do relish the memories of that night. miniature glimpse into the essence of life itself. it was like that for me. or maybe it was just one of those unworldly connections that happen sometimes between strangers. and we had opened that door for each other. Bethany and I had experienced it together that night in Venice. but we had inadvertently shared a moment blessed with a view of a world beyond our selves. My infatuation with Bethany remains to this day. I still grieve for any kind of link between us. I see nothing but love. and I found it deep within myself. was not about despair or death. but I could see clearly at that moment. and maybe it is better this way. I realized that what we had given each other did not require repeated encounters in order to remain. is to have recognized that my attraction to this young woman. I do owe her respect and love for who she is and not who I sometimes imagine her to be. The feeling was familiar. almost spiritual way. albeit in a more restrained. To keep… The most important. it was all about life…the good life…Aschenbach be damned!! 113 . and probably a representation of a self I would have liked to be.

www.com Food for the mind 114 .feedbooks.

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