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Christine Hall Volkoff
Published: 2009 Tag(s): romantic bisexual Paris lesbian "coming of age"
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
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?!
a perfect face and a perfect body with (what I admired most) straight hair. like she can’t take the ferry like everyone else…give me a break! I liked Francesca. though I could not at that time really appreciate whether she was a good actress or not. and always found them to be extremely boring in person. I had met many famous actresses and actors throughout my fourteen years. of a non-descript color with blonde highlights in typical Hollywood fashion. She was a well known Italian actress currently living in Hollywood. but I had seen some of her movies. I still could not believe it! One whole week! . She had dark skin. This was a double whammy! .Shit! Whatever…I said. She was married to Marco d’Alessi. Vernet is bringing her at 3:00. slightly above my head.When is she coming? . . Since my father was working in the film business. I could not believe that my mother had had the nerve to impinge on my freedom without even coming back herself. They seemed to always listen to themselves talk. however. especially from the point of view of a kid.Why.Today. that she needed the rest. and she wants be incognito. Right now. as Simone frowned at the word.Oh right. and usually did the most stupid cutesy things to try to make me smile. a producer who was much older than her. why is she coming? Doesn’t she have enough houses already? Why does she have to come here? . were I have to admit. I had never met her. Francesca d’Alessi was a distant friend of my mother’s. She looked good in black and white though. 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. and I also suspected a former lover of my father’s. I hated her.You mother said she had business in France. Mr. . Some of the films. I regularly gave them looks that could kill. I thought she was beautiful. and ran away to my room. especially the ones directed by the Italian New Wave. very blue eyes. I decided that I would not have 4 .I was crestfallen. but who seemed to have been very instrumental in the rise of her career.
Let him or her kill them all for all I care. He was skinny. I had a crush on Bambi. and I loved to watch him. and the manners of a bad boy.anything to do with her. She knew how to drop the competition aspect. and would continue living my life as close to the way it had been so far this summer. we would lie on the silver sand in full sunlight and discuss everything from our parents. and that always fell in front of his eyes. I was not even interested in finding out the next clue in my book. we will know for sure who done it. singing and paddling slowly in unison until we sank. We made 5 . rushed to my friends’ house in the village. I hopped on the bike. I ate my lunch distractedly. Let him or her go free. turn it over to empty it and start all over again. and did not join us very often. and off we went. My favorite partner whenever she joined was Ondine’s sister Veronica. So it was really Ondine and me and the boys. At 2:30. and summoned the troops to spend the afternoon at Plage d’Argent. Once they are all dead. Then. we had to drag the canoe on the bottom. Bambi liked to have Ondine as his partner. This was probably what attracted me. After all our exertions. but who knows… Bambi incidentally. and pretend we were on an island in the Pacific. working hard. I did not like paddling with Bambi anyway. making shopping lists. whose nickname was of all things. to the latest news. but had a special feeling for Jean-Pierre. So Ondine and I went to pick up the boys. Veronica was older than her sister Ondine. He had blond hair that was curly in places. It was me and “the girls”. as possible. He had the looks of an angel. who were brothers. and I always ended up with Jean-Remy. Bambi. and maybe it was going to follow him into old age. I liked them all. We played a game where we would pull out the old canoe that we had hidden at the Plage d’Argent. I could imagine that the nickname was left over from when he was a chubby toddler. did not return my feelings. as he always yelled at me. The canoe leaked. nor did I care at that moment about who was the murderer. I made my escape. and me and “the boys” Jean-Pierre and Jean-Remy. Ondine and Veronica. Simone was busy cleaning rooms. but quite strong for a fifteen year old. I was furious at my mother. and the game was to paddle as fast and as far as possible before the canoe finally sank. So there. He was very tan from being constantly out in the sunlight in a bathing suit.
Thanks. . we were locals. we did not stay in hotels. yet in our minds slightly above of the real locals. even against your will as was the case for me that morning. . and told her I would not be home for dinner.Is she here? . ignored the Italianization of my name. . as I usually did on cloudy days. I proceeded to eat some toast with jam and drink some 6 .Bummer! Said Ondine…why don’t you come to our house for dinner tonight? We’re having fish.Indeed. Bambi even showed me his new zippo lighter. I woke up late. see you tomorrow morning! Good night. I mentioned that I was going to have to deal with an unwelcome guest. I shook her hand. Francesca wanted to be incognito. and biked home as slowly as I could. We had houses. but you are welcome! . as usual. I was struck by the color of her eyes. So I called Simone from Ondine’s parents’ house in the village. Francesca d’Alessi was there. but I did not say who it was. other than mocking or yelling.OK.Yes. They were blue.Is she going to have dinner at home? . Day Two The next day was a little cloudy. A good day was when Bambi paid some attention to me. Today was a good day. like pools of aquamarine contrasting with her dark skin. and sat down at the table. and went out into the patio for some breakfast. so I felt I had to respect that. grabbed a t-shirt and some shorts to put on. luminous. I took a shower. as close to midnight as I could. .You must be Christina…happy to meet you. d’Alessi or not. Obviously. . that somehow pulled you in. I’m Francesca. good luck… I had a good time with Ondine and Veronica and her parents. buttering a slice of toasted bread. As she looked up. I will! I was relieved not to have to face the awkward situation of whether I was welcome to eat with Mrs. She did not seem as beautiful as she looked in the movies. Simone was not free to talk. those who lived on the island all year round. but there was something about her demeanor.fun of the people we called tourists. She extended her hand to me.
I replied yes. I just turn left on the road and walk? How far is it? . I had missed the first few days of class in algebra.Mrs. She spoke to me in English. but had recently become mine. I just could not believe her nerve…I suddenly was being kicked out of what used to be my parents’ house. thanks to Simone’s nurturing help. A friend? Hell…was she going to bring Hollywood to the island? While Francesca was gathering her things to go. she said.Yes I do. to get to the harbor. So the whole thing had been arranged for Francesca to meet some boyfriend behind her husband’s back? I rolled my eyes. and her English was definitely superior to my Italian. and telling her I would probably spend the day and evening with Ondine and the guys.I am meeting a friend at 10:30.So you don’t mind being here all alone for the summer? . I went to the kitchen and interviewed Simone.Not far. D’Alessi is meeting her friend Tomaso at the ferry.So. I aced the spelling dictation as usual. and grabbed the bike after kissing Simone on the cheek out of compassion.No. and still had not completely incorporated into my consciousness the idea that letters could be added or subtracted. You need to take the ferry? (I was asking a hopeful question). He will be here for two nights. actually I like it a lot! I tried not to sound as if I was giving her a hint… .Are they nice? The grilling was really getting to me.Do you have friends on the island? What do you think!? . . . but sweated a little more for the math. and besides you cannot get lost on the island. .coffee.Then you better leave now…it takes about 20 minutes. It’s too small. and they let me join in. even less obtained as a result. . she was doing summer homework with her tutor. but Francesca started in. . 7 . and then she changed the subject. . When I arrived at Ondine’s.
I know. I said sighing. I don’t think she is staying all summer however… All three of them looked at me stunned. and sat on the beach. Bambi had brought a fishing gun. She is actually staying at our house. 8 . on our bikes. Sometimes.We want to go fishing at Notre-Dame.Hey you guys! What are you up to? . . as I did not remember where mine was. and spearing them with harpoon guns or hand held tridents. . and as we were tying cherry stems into knots using only our tongues. Jean-Remy caught some poor unsuspecting sand dab that day.Oh. I had borrowed mine from Veronica.We had sandwiches and cherries for lunch. Bambi started the conversation. and did not want to go back to the house and look for it. and very soon we grew tired of looking at the sand bottom. but Francesca d’Alessi is a dyke! Ondine was poking Bambi with her trident.Nothing…what are you doing today? .Sure… And off we went. Do you want to come? . . Fishing meant hunting down the fish. Bambi and Jean-Remy walked in. Besides. I want nothing to do with her…she’s like using our house to meet her boyfriend behind her husband’s back.And you were going to tell us when? Said Ondine. what kind of a traitor are you? I rolled my eyes . and snorkel gear. Fishing did not mean sitting quietly and waiting for the fish to bite. I hated catching octopus and always hoped that they were all busy somewhere else whenever we went fishing. we caught octopus and would pry the animal from the spear while it was grabbing at us with all tentacles. 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.Her boyfriend? Said Bambi. .Do you guys know that Francesca d’Alessi is spending the summer here? My dad saw her at the wharf this morning. .She is supposed to be incognito.
. like seagulls. that broke into a long. the bird plunged into a cloud with a vertiginous dip. evoking pain or almost unbearable pleasure. his name is Tomaso. it was still early. cuff links here. I went back to my room. Things were quite messy in there. and the 9 . Suddenly. 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. The sounds were gentle but seemed uncontrollable. mysterious. Various items of feminine and masculine clothing were strewn on the large bed. and picked up my mystery book. of all people. The move broke my balance. This was no bird. infinite ocean. I was hanging on to one of them. Argentinian star who had created a sensation at the last Cannes Festival after her film won the Palme d’Or.You better beware. At some point I heard Francesca and Tomaso coming in. I could still hear the bird sound. who had brought a whole batch of sea urchins. men sized sneakers there. intense. but I was already dozing off.Have you seen him? Maybe he’s a she! The joking continued as we all went back to Ondine’s parents. know that?! . intense with sweetness.I read an article in Cinemonde…she and Selena Hirschberg are doing it. finally interested in the next clue.What? Come on! How could you. little old you. I realized I was hearing Francesca and Tomaso making love. and I could see evidence of Tomaso’s presence. and I started falling. The birds were flapping their wings and calling each other with loud sounds. repeated moaning.She’s not a dyke. When I arrived back at the house. feeling lighter than a feather.. I was flying in the middle of a flock of large birds. said Bambi pointing at me…she might attack you! I shrugged my shoulders… . with long necks. I sneaked into the guest room that had become Francesca’s. I swear! There was a pretty hot picture of them together. happy and comfortable. Her boyfriend came today. Selena Hirschberg was the dark. This had driven the paparazzi crazy. We were all soaring above white clouds. prolonged moan. It was a soft. like blue herons. so I turned off the light and fell asleep almost instantly. and Simone had already retired to her cottage in the back of the garden. I woke up suddenly from my dream. No one was there. and below us was the blue.
whispering in Italian. listening. realizing they had left the door open. as I crossed my arms over my knees and waited until the swells within me subsided. The light was turned off.wings flapping was the sound of the headboard on the guest room bed hitting the wall. I heard water running. the sound of laughter. and then the sound of the door to the guest bedroom closing. Shivering. There was silence for a while.What? I was wide awake by now. 10 . more voices. Safe in the warmth of my bed. Francesca greeted me. Day Three I woke up to a knock on my door. They seemed to be going out of their way to pay attention to me. punctuated by more laughter and a soft masculine voice. . wearing nothing but shorts. I could see stars and some clouds. I crossed the patio and went back to my room. Then. and they felt they owed me something for disrupting my sleep. feigning sleepiness. the moon was bright and the breeze was a little chilly. and some dark haired athlete was tiptoeing into my room. following their movements. When I did not respond. . and the moaning started again. Outside. But all was quiet and I eventually went back to sleep. I stayed awake for a while. to the point where tears came to my eyes. The loneliness was palpable.Come on. and went outside. His smile was disarming and contagious. I got up. where I could not hear anything. wake up! . I sat on the steps on the other side of the patio. with that racket going on.Christina. and realized it was going to get cold. and the leaves of the wisteria were fluttering in the dark. as I could not get a handle on it nor pinpoint the cause of it. Without warning. A small light went on behind the drapes in the room across the patio. No way could I sleep. I started sniffling. It took a while. and handed me an already buttered piece of toast. come have breakfast with us…we have plans! I sat up. and Tomaso introduced himself. the door opened slightly. and I did not have the nerve to go and close it for them. He left the room. an immense sadness came over me. My guess was that they realized that they had forgotten to close the door last night. Someone got up. and I got up and joined them in the patio.
I will remember this always. I got up by myself on the second round and off we went into deeper waters. looking all around me while Francesca was waving from the boat. or even with anyone. It was a sleek wonder of mahogany and chrome. I said to myself. and the Mediterranean looked like a lake of infinite blue. I declined the drink until later. the sky. Francesca looked luminous and stunning.The plan was that Tomaso was going to go water skiing. There I was. It was exhilarating to be gliding on water in the frothy wake. I told them I had a crush on Bambi. so engaging. Maybe this is even how my parents lived when I was not around. After I climbed back on the boat. The captain Mr. finally sipping that Pastis. saying it would take the edge off my first water skiing attempt. that I had to forget my anger as I walked with them to the little harbor. being part of them. Tomaso held me for my first attempt from the beach. and there I was walking with them. Francesca’s smiling face. My favorite part was letting myself sink standing upright all the way. as Tomaso jumped into the water holding the rope. After I had spent some time enlightening 11 . and the walls of water with rainbows kicked off by Tomaso. as I was feeling quite inebriated already. he said. said Tomaso. dark green towel. the wake. At night. bobbing by the wharf. a Riva speedboat. and I managed to get up on the skis. This is how real people live. He was so energetic. Francesca wrapped me up in a warm. I remember looking at my foot resting on the chrome step on the edge of the boat. The day was gorgeous. We exited the harbor and the boat rose up as it picked up speed toward Notre Dame. We talked about many things that I had never talked about with adults. on a large circle off the coast. and Tomaso showed me how much more glamorous it was to eat melon with salt. with skis and ropes sticking out at the stern. I thought. Tomaso looked like a Greek God. the misty coast beyond. on my way to spending the day with them. And what a day it was! The speedboat was waiting for us at the harbor. We had wine. ready to take his turn with the mono ski. when the boat slowed down far from the shore into the dark blue. and would I please join them? Had I ever water skied? No. We had melon. Vernet helped us on board and pointed to the well stocked bar in the back. I hadn’t…”today is a good day to start”. This is how people eat it in Rome. We had grilled “loup” with fennel. the three of us went to dinner at the Langoustier. Not a cloud in the sky. Tomaso recommended a light Pastis for me.
and their conscious beings.Wrap yourself up with cellophane. We waved goodbye. we got back into the boat. Eventually. Tomaso and I volunteered to mop the floor. said Francesca. night birds shrieking and rustling in the leaves. they started giving me advice on how to “score” Bambi. . . Hear them or see them do something that was going to give me some clue as to what was really going on. . said Francesca. Now that they were my friends.Well. I was laughing so hard. I listened into the night. 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. “Buona Notte. 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. After dinner. I fell sound asleep. heard some cats meowing. Francesca said goodnight cheerfully and went into the bedroom. and joined her. everyone!”. I knew the facts of life of course. I opened it and read: Ciao Christina! Good luck with the little deer See you soon I hope! Your Tomasino. and splashed around as we ran toward the house. he doesn’t know what he’s missing. 12 . and Mr. Once in my bed. I was hoping that I would hear them again making love. Vernet took us back to Plage d’Argent under the moonlight.Cover yourself up with whipped cream and do the Dance of the Seven Veils. exhausted by what had to have been the best day of my life. as it was too shallow for the Riva to go any further. I had tears in my eyes. and wait for him in his room. Tomaso kissed me goodnight on both cheeks. I realized that there was a little piece of paper on the pillow next to my head. Day Four As I woke up.them on his name and nickname. said Tomaso. After we were done drying the floor. lifting her glass. and listened over the crickets. I listened. Running across the living room.
When she looked at me. She saw me and smiled at me with a little wave of her hand. . that’s all! 13 . we went to Notre Dame for a swim with the boys. we had sandwiches for lunch.Oh. I still enjoyed looking at him. and put it away in a little cigar box I kept hidden in a drawer. it was here that I had gone water skiing the day before. a celebration in all of France. I would rather have died on the spot than shared anything I knew from the time I had spent with Francesca. don’t you? What do you know that we don’t? Eh? He turned to me with his most devilish smile. I waved back and grabbed my bike. tan and fearless. I was less in awe of the new chrome zippo. because you do. . Afterwards. After all. Bastille Day. and I actually did better in math this time. it was as if the world was coming together. As a matter of fact.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. I am the one who felt irritation. the whipped cream and the Dance of the Seven Veils. now I secretly owned the beach. I had an appointment with the tutor at Ondine’s house. as if the last piece of the puzzle had just fallen in. as his wisecracks about Francesca were beginning to get on my nerves. I noticed that everything around me had changed. She was already on the phone talking in an agitated way in Italian by the time I was up and about. I would suddenly be tall. “the little deer”. Even Bambi. I just know she’s not a dyke. and less interested in counting the number of times he spoke to me or looked at me with any expression other than irritation. I used to be visiting that beach.Nothing. had changed. We worked for a while. I threw some sand at him. that I had sped across the water in a mahogany speed boat with ice cubes clinking in my glass of Pastis. . but I was also chuckling to myself.I suddenly remembered that Tomaso had had to leave early on the morning ferry…I folded the note. looking at his back and the blond curls in the back of his head. thinking about the cellophane. My confidence had also increased. This July 14th looked like it was going to be a work day for both Francesca and me. Today was the 14th of July.
d’Alessi. Some of the little kids were lighting fireworks in the corner by the little church. Couples and kids were dancing. We had a great time. Francesca had a way of drawing people out. over in the far corner. She took in the scene. Francesca was wearing a blue work shirt and jeans.Mrs. Some local band. Groups and families at the tables were laughing and lifting their glasses of cheap champagne in toasts. of course. Her presence was hard to ignore. obviously obsessed by Francesca. Then it was time to go to the July 14th Ball. Simone’s favorite and mine as well. rum “baba”. Many of the sailors had come down from the fort. and took off his hat. Good” and singing it in French. to thank her for taking such good care of us. Veronica. and one of the sailors spotted her.And on we went… That night. Francesca cooked some homemade spaghetti. aren’t we protective…. and younger than her thirty something years. I saw her disappear in a cheering sea of white and blue. She looked tan. all decorated with bright colored paper lanterns and flags. as I went over to join Ondine. He came over. will ya? .My. with electric guitars and accordions. . Bambi and Jean-Remy with a smattering of parents. 14 . and I went to the bakery to buy a special cake.You know me? And do I know you? . Francesca decided that she would invite Simone to have dinner with us. and I had seldom seen Simone smile and laugh as she did that night. on the village square. . said Bambi.Lay off her.Looks like your friend is having a great time with the Navy. and a whole side of the square was all white and blue with their uniforms. and smiled. Simone decided to pass on a evening of patriotic revelry. I know you… . was playing “Johnny B.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. so Francesca and I walked down to the little square. . and no makeup whatsoever. There were tables and chairs all around a makeshift dance floor. We could already hear the music from the terrace. that Francesca agreed to join them.
She walked over to our table.Yes I am. I caught her looking at Veronica with a flash of admiration. I haven’t danced yet! Let’s dance!”. and she was supposed to be incognito. and I saw a bunch of flashbulbs going off. and seemed to be having a great time. That’ll make a nice front page. I’ll bet! Said Ondine… I rolled my eyes and cursed under my breath. I looked around for Francesca. and I proceeded to introduce her to my friends. and we all started dancing in a circle. pick me up in his arms. I said…still a little worried.I guess it’s OK with her. until he finally had to laugh. So he finally stopped. and twirl me around. sometimes.. But I knew that famous people were always torn between the fear of being recognized and the fear of being ignored or unknown. and I was more comfortable with his kind of choreography.What’s going on over there? . and Francesca said “Oh. so we danced like zombies together. I don’t think Francesca was counting on this.Is everything OK? I asked. and some tourist amateur photographers. 15 . but I had not been paying attention. Veronica was the most graceful of us all. Francesca got up followed by the photographer from Nice-Matin. and soon he and I. I replied in a serious tone that left no room for banter. and it was always a joy to watch her dance with her long wavy black hair flowing like a Tahitian’s. Francesca was a good dancer. We all got up to dance with her. After a while. The band was playing a French cover of the Rolling Stone’s Honky Tonk Women. executed in zombie like jerks. I should have spotted the photographer and warned her. . and I suddenly was ashamed of the jealousy I was feeling. and it made me extremely proud and happy. and some of the sailors joined us as well. . . I looked over and Francesca was laughing with the sailors. you know that?! That was the biggest compliment he had ever bestowed on me. Bambi was more into strange Mick Jagger style poses. I got up to greet her. and so did Bambi and Jean-Remy. Bambi and I were honing our zombie dance. Veronica and Francesca ended up as a wild foursome.Christine! You’re almost cool. .Looks like that little guy from Nice-Matin has spotted your friend yakking it up with the sailors. She nodded yes without answering. if a little subdued and controlled.
At some point. . everyone! Revelers and sailors were waving back and saying goodnight. so I waved at my friends from afar. so I could guide her on the trail.I’m going with you! Francesca turned around and as the flashes went off she graciously waved at the crowd. and we started walking home. . and we could hardly see. Hall doesn’t want Christine to go out on the water! 16 . la media luz de amor…la la la”. leaving the crowd and the photographers behind. “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. Myriads of stars were out.I need to go home. and then was quiet all the way back. she took my hand. Francesca took me aside on the way back to the table. the flashbulbs got to be a little too much. I did not want to leave Francesca alone. no moon yet. . 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. We got back to the house safe and sound.Christina. sweetie… . As we said goodnight. It was very dark and still warm.But Mrs. She kissed me on my right cheek. At some point.Buona notte. You just wait and see… She looked excited. carina…I have a great idea for tomorrow. I read my mystery book for a while before turning off the light. Francesca grabbed both my wrists and looked at me with those incredible blue eyes. We could still hear the music coming from the square. . and as the band started playing “A Media Luz”a popular tango. I could hear her sing to herself “y todo a media luz crepusculo interior…la la la…”. as if at some grand event. and twirled away back to her room.
less than 30 feet long. Felipe says you can handle working the jib. and taking me with her. pillows. She was discussing the idiosyncrasies of the boat with Felipe. says Francesca. blankets. . but she added that if Mr. After my parents separated. under close supervision from Felipe who knew the sea inside and out and who told me 17 . She was smiling and joking. I think she was getting tired of always policing things on behalf of my absent mother. it would be fine with her to take the Nostromo out. and a comfortable cabin with all the amenities. My father had named it “Nostromo” after his favorite Joseph Conrad novel. with Felipe the Corsican man who was in charge of maintaining it. Then. and she instructed me to go and get it. and we were packing essentials for overnight. The Nostromo was small. and with friends of my mother’s every now and then. it looked like it was all set. sheets. my parents’ sailboat. sure. Felipe agreed. Overnight?! We were going to stay overnight? I could hardly contain my excitement. for the boat? I did indeed. . but it was a beautiful. .As I walked out. It lived in the harbor. She turned to me. all teak and brass sloop with an inboard motor. I could not help but bounce and skip on the road as we walked to the harbor with Felipe.Yes. and Felipe made sure that it was clean. seaworthy. wearing jeans that were tearing at the knee. my mother decided she hated the sea. I used to love going out on the Nostromo with my parents when I was little. un minuto per favore…”she said. Francesca looked ready. some pots and pans. I had a few occasions to go out on the boat. including my mystery book of course. and a striped sailor shirt. is this true? . and my father started using sailing excursions to attract young women. As I was finishing breakfast. and that the brass tacks were kept shiny as new. I realized they were actually discussing the possibility of Francesca going out on the Nostromo. I’ve done it before…I had done it. “Felipe. The big duffel bag is where we kept all that was needed for an overnight on board Nostromo.She knows I know how to handle a sailboat.Christina.Do you know where the “big bag” is. Francesca talked to Felipe in Italian for quite a while. Do you know where we can reach her? Simone didn’t know. 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.
and swam around with Francesca. She was slender and strong. I felt privileged. The shackles were rusty with salt. waved at him. Felipe partly unfurled the main sail. and nothing seemed to come easily. We did one clumsy port tack. down to a simple two piece black bathing suit. Finally. We dropped anchor. I went below deck to dry up and put on some clothes. 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. Then he helped us open the duffel. There were very few other boats around. easy swimmer. In the water. ideal for apprentice sailors. Francesca’s plan was to go to the Southern side of the island. This put the breeze at our back. her hair and face would glisten with liquid sunlight. Once we passed the jetty. but I noticed that she wore a thin gold chain around her waist. I recognized Bambi’s mother and a friend in a converted fishing boat. and she 18 . But my movements were awkward and I felt at all times like I was going to fall and make a fool of myself. but also intimidated to be out there. with skin the color of light rosewood. in a tribute to her natural beauty. We spent the day swimming and lying in the sun.everything step by step. as I had not been sailing for a long time. I tried not to stare at her. On the boat. I helped Francesca hoist the main sail. she was all fluidity and elegance. found my snorkeling gear and my fish gun. Francesca started the engine. pulled the jib from the hold to get it ready and hooked it up. brought down the sails and used the motor to pick the best cove. Fortunately. When she came up from diving. I dropped the rope ladder from the stern to make sure we could get back on. Francesca decided we had to watch the sunset together. it was time to sail. until the light began to change and all the other boats had left for the day. and then I jumped from the bow. with calm seas and a soft breeze. I was nervous. where the little rocky coves were that were not reachable by land. and we were off. She was a smooth. and I didn’t have too much work to do after all. drinks in hand. almost alone with her. It looked like a perfect day though. and then proceeded to do the same with the jib. he pulled out the plank. but decided I did not feel like killing anything today. get out the sheets and make the two little bunks in the main cabin. I poked around in the cabin for a while. She dove head first into the green water without hesitation.
with all kinds of hand gestures.The common wisdom is that acting is great. though. the good ones. she truly talked like an Italian. In it. Not to be on public display like that… . that they miss the ray altogether. other than yourself. . but I have read the novel by Jules Verne. . I’ve known them all.I am so glad that we came here…I didn’t feel like staying on the other side after last night. they never see it…the heroine and this guy she likes are up there waiting and waiting. it is flattering in a way…especially if they are friendly. It’s just a matter of filtering the right one at the right time. I’ve had them all at one point or another.But in reality you find out eventually that all these characters that you play. She handed me my drink.Christina. When she explained something. these people mount an incredibly difficult and expensive expedition to go to the North of Scotland to the Faeroe Islands. they’re all you! They are all alive within you…All these different feelings. Too many people… . They are so into each other. the icky ones. they are not foreign to me. . And at the time when the ray finally happens they are busy looking into each other’s eyes. Does it bother you when people recognize you? . and we sat on the deck side by side. the scenery was breathtaking. . Francesca was asking: . because you can be many different people.Well. watching the sun go down. and I told the story as if I was daring to tell an intimate dream. .No. The rocks by the cove had taken the color of blood. to be sure that there will be no land to interfere with their viewing of the green ray. And all they see is love…the light of love.And do they get to see it? I looked at her.No. have you ever seen it? Il raggio verde? The green ray? .What is it like to act? Do you like it? She graciously answered the question.You seemed to be OK last night. and the sun was surrounded by pink clouds.made Pastis for both of us. The sun was half way gone. the desperate ones. Coming back up. But I always think my job is to act. But it’s all right… 19 .
Yes. I asked the question that I was dying to ask… . I have Tomaso. and I had a little bit of rose wine. . My father and I would go sailing all the time. people like me and my husband love each other. Just like in the story.I don’t know for sure.Che bello…what a beautiful story… We were quiet and looking into each other’s eyes all of a sudden. . . but it was only something from a book.Yes he does. She had made another batch of Italian pasta. I do.Hmm…sometimes. but no green ray was showing up. I was determined to direct the conversation.My family lives near Naples.Do you still live in Naples? .And he doesn’t mind? . let me see… 20 . I love Tomaso. . but he is not the marrying kind. but we are not really physically in love with each other anymore.No…my husband has a villa on Capri and we go there every now and then.. I was the one who looked away first. She had mentioned her husband. I was sailing alone when I was about your age… . I wanted to know everything about Francesca. Francesca looked genuinely moved. California. but most of the time we live in Malibu. She got up and decided to make dinner. to find that the sun was at the green ray point.Why do you sleep with Tomaso then? . and it opened the door to more important questions.Well.Do you…huh…do you love your husband? . I love him very much. He is a good friend and a great lover.What is it that makes someone a great lover? . . So. while I stayed outside and watched the dusk fall on the walls of the cove.How come you know how to sail like that? . honey…but as far as I know he doesn’t seem to mind. Then.Does your husband know about Tomaso? .
You would love her too… . .Do you. She paused…looked down…then looked back up straight at me. believe me.Yes.Bambi! That guy sure knows a lot! Where did he get this? . so you can stay longer… Not that this made any sense to me. That’s enough motivation to be sleeping with her. I said.Is Selena a great lover? Francesca was pensive. 21 . I was still on the attack.What about Selena Hirschberg? . fiery. it feels very good…but I think in the long run. I am. I was remaining silent. Anytime I can. she is…too good maybe.You’re in love with Selena? .You love a lot of people. like. trying to wrap my mind around all of this. . . that they can take you to the edge and they are still with you. You are not left alone out there. And those who are angry about it are those who want to do it the most! . . make love with Selena and all that stuff? . Those who don’t do it have thought about it at least once in their lives.Well.Yes.It’s not so weird you know…you’ll see…everybody does it.Bambi says you sleep with her. .She was thinking hard…she was actually going to answer my question! .Is that good or bad? . I’m in love with Selena. if there is such thing… Sometimes she can make you forget who you are. but I think he read it somewhere.I don’t know. you know. . it might be bad… I was still processing this deluge of revelations from an adult I hardly knew. however.Well.What about her? Asked Francesca…she looked like she was taken aback by the question. but I appreciated her effort. don’t you think? . She is beautiful.Yes. . . I do.A great lover is someone you feel so safe with. and Indian.
Do you know the names of the stars? She asked… . .Let’s go for a swim! . I took off all my clothes as well. Goldilocks… I was making them up. and to dive head first from the boat into the night. Arcturus.More…tell me more… The night was calm and the air was still warm. On saying this. I could not see her very well.. Orion. So. my heart is full…but there is always room for more. We swam a little far from the boat. and I was surprised at the sense of freedom and vulnerability that it gave me. and jumped off feet first holding my nose as usual. she proceeded to take off all her clothes. Vega de la Lyre. at least some of them… I started naming them.Yes sweetheart. .Now? The water around the boat was black and uninviting. Swimming without a bathing suit was new to me. Cappella. Betelgeuse.Tell me more… Sirius. without even thinking so I wouldn’t have time to get afraid. all alone in the wilderness with this woman who was treating me like her equal. I could hear night birds flapping their wings. let’s do it! Let’s go for a midnight swim! Upon saying this. she suddenly got up. Rigel. . and the hollow sound of waves in the rocky coves. I thought…I’ve got to do it. smiling to myself and enjoying the feeling of swimming naked in warm waters. the Medium Bear. remembering what I had heard about them at the Paris Planetarium.Yes now! Come on. . I was saying the names in French. you know. . . that it was hard to distinguish the constellations. There I was. The water felt incredibly warm. Francesca was listening intensely. She laughed. looking at the sky. I do. and floated on our backs looking at the stars. Out from behind the cove. the Big Bear. but I could feel the water rippling from her movements to stay afloat. It all seemed like a dream. and the stars began to fade. hardly making a splash.Come on! It’s delicious! What the hell. I was floating too. Oh. There were so many stars. this was the life…indeed… 22 .Yes. I could see Francesca floating on her back. the moon started emerging like a spotlight. the Little Bear.
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
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
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.
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. I lay down for a long time. I imagined that I could have brought Francesca up here. he invited me to have dinner with him on the Orion tonight. and maybe kissed me again like she did on the boat. then just lay there and looked at the sky as I had on the Nostromo. her hair. I would much rather stay with you. her eyes. without having to walk the bike. The production company would love for me to give him a little push. There we had 26 . as Bambi would say. I rolled over and got up as if rejoining the present would ease my state of confusion. . She would have taken my hand. and walked over to where I could look at the little coves on the South side of the island. There we had been. We would have walked through the pines on a really hot day. and I could still feel her lips on mine. a lover’s kiss… But I was not Selena Hirschberg. he is on the list to finance my next film. and how I had hoped she would never pull away. and almost made it to my favorite spot. but this was the first time I had actually seen him in person. and I was angry that someone like Spanodakis had the money and the clout to abscond with Francesca any time he wanted. I don’t think she was fooled for one second by my calm demeanor. the Greek billionaire. I could see the Orion in the harbor from up there. that was Stavros Spanodakis. I loved Francesca. carina… She put her arm around my shoulder as we walked. a dyke. .. and I was not even truly an adult. Maybe even more than that…a real kiss.Ah. I slept for a while. This was my last evening with Francesca. so I took a sandwich and rode my bicycle to the top of the hill. I sighed so loud it came out as a whimper. I managed to compose myself and act reasonable. mainly about love. Ah. I brushed off the pine needles. I was pedaling with a vengeance. good…should be fun. I was not a lesbian. He came to the island on the Orion every now and then.You know Christina. and I did not feel like hanging out with Ondine and the boys. and I had been looking forward to spending every possible minute with her. We would have talked about all kinds of adult things.Sweetie. I was distressed. and that did a lot to make up for my disappointment. I loved the look of her skin. Francesca had to pack in the afternoon.
Spanodakis. . I am purser for Mr. and turned and waved at Demosthenes. The portion of pier where the Orion was docked was locked so I could not get anywhere near. not even Spanodakis in his fake captain’s uniform. all right. When she saw me she smiled and rolled her eyes toward Demosthenes.Allo? This is Demosthenes. as I got off the bike and we started toward home. I said yes. Next to her was Demosthenes. I will let her know. . standing by the golf cart. with me walking 27 .La Signora d’Alessi has requested that Christina come and fetch her at the dock. There we had truly loved each other. She was breathtakingly beautiful. After dinner. and I was trying to make out what I was seeing. Simone and I had dinner together. It could be my mother. possibly…She sometimes called at the strangest hours especially if she was in a different time zone and had forgotten about it. and if any of the moving spots on the poop deck was actually Francesca. But I could see there was light on the yacht. I could not really see anything and I went back home. No one can take this back. At the gate to the pier. I saw Francesca. She asked me if I had had a good time on the Nostromo. I could not help but smile… .spent the night together. who kept looking in the distance for the Christina in question to come and fetch la signora in some kind of vehicle. 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. Simone went to her little bungalow. Instead. and gold sandals. and I added that I was sure my parents and Felipe would be quite surprised of my progress as a sailing partner. At around eleven. on foot. 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. the phone rang.Yes? . I was sure of it. She was wearing turquoise earrings. in a white evening gown that brought out her tan. and I hopped on my bicycle and made for the harbor.Oh. a little dejected by the ineffectiveness of my spying. I heard a man’s voice with a strong accent. She walked toward me.
not really wanting to know… . Good feelings led to nothing but depravation and laziness. and poured her a nice tall glass. I wanted to take care of her. I don’t have to sleep with everyone just to make a movie.How do I know when something is really good? 28 . So we sat in the kitchen. But you see.Yes.Christina.Let’s have a drink…A drink of water actually. . This went against everything I had ever heard from teachers and advisors at school.Did he want to sleep with you? She responded seriously this time.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. The first thing she did was take off her shoes. do you know what you are going to do? Like with school and all? . and I was feeling possessive. . I can say no. I chose the best glass for Francesca. in mock annoyance.So.Did you sleep with him? She laughed and frowned at me. as a matter of fact he did. not really…I still have a couple of years to decide. .Sweetheart. of course not. She was giving me no details. My irritation at her dinner with Spanodakis was completely gone. . I reached for her hand across the table.No. . . I am very thirsty. back to the house. I got some ice water from the refrigerator. please take my hand will you? You know I can’t see in the dark! And on we walked.the bike. . But she was still in charge. what do you think!? . If it does. Demosthenes climbed onto the cart and disappeared along the pier.It was good. . then follow it.Christina! No. You can’t go wrong. how was it? I asked. It’s good to say no to things you don’t want to do! The hell with them! She paused… . a red crystal one with cut designs. She held mine in return. and rewarded me with a smile that melted my heart even more.
almost in a gasp. because it stays with you. I was holding her very tight. I could have sworn I could feel our hearts beating together. just below the ear. to remain within me forever. come on sweetie. it sticks to you. She had closed the drapes and I could not see into the room. As we were walking toward our rooms. I did too. time to go to sleep…Come wake me up tomorrow morning if I oversleep. I said. trying to understand what she was saying. the sun was already warm and the smell of jasmine was in the air. OK? She waited for my answer. trying to never forget. but then you wake up with a headache…that’s not good. I could smell the pine needles and I could almost feel their warmth from having spent that whole glorious day in the sun. I was looking at her. and I could imagine her. and it will keep. . the mystery book was still at the bottom of my backpack from our trip on the Nostromo. I could hear the night crickets. I stayed for a long time afterwards in the dark. and waited for Francesca’s light to go out. but I knew she was there. She finished her glass and got up. You drink too much.I will miss you too. I wanted this feeling to never ever leave me. The sensation was so strange and so powerful. that I had to breathe in and out. too fast. and every sensation seemed amplified. you can take it with you anywhere.Oh my…said Francesca. it was time to go to bed. But what 29 .I will miss you. I wanted this being that I had become today.OK. I was not sad anymore. a strange energy was running through me. she turned to me and we fell into a spontaneous embrace. . my angel. .. and I could not bring myself to pick it up. I went out into the patio. as she gently released me. When I joined them. . It never goes away. though you don’t always know it at first. She kissed my neck. She went into her room and closed the door. Tesoro. it feels good. Day Seven I did not have to wake Francesca in the morning.You know it. I could hear her and Simone moving around and talking as I got up. Sleep was entirely out of the question. You do something really good. My heart was light.
then Paris. she waved at the crowd. At 10:30. When they passed the jetty.mattered most to me was Francesca’s smile. she smiled and gently hit his cheek in a make believe slap. I helped load her bags in the back. 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. disappearing behind its own wake. to Toulon. and kissed them all on both cheeks. I noticed with relief that she did not spend more time with Veronica than the others. When we parked by the wharf. The reporter from Nice-Matin was there.Oh. and whispered in my ear. while she sat next to the driver in front. I looked at the speedboat. the chrome step. the varnished wood. I did not quite know what the adventure was. Vernet helped her onto the speedboat. and a small group of tourists from the 2 hotels in town. after she kissed him. I saw Bambi. and I could swear I saw him blushing. Veronica and their parents. but I had gone half way around the world before I came here… . Francesca was very gracious as usual. so were Ondine. warmer to my heart than a thousand suns. Then she came to me. With Bambi. I was the last one. 30 . but I knew that it had turned me upside down. and off they went. Mr. I watched the Riva go slowly through the harbor. it rose up like a rearing horse. it looked like everyone had come to say goodbye to Francesca. Jean-Remy and their parents.Well. when she had been wearing a minimum amount of clothes while on the island. the jeep from the Langoustier came to pick her up. the one policeman of the island. closest to the speedboat. I commented on the large number of bags she was travelling with. She went to my friends. .Ti voglio bene…don’t forget… Then Mr. the postman.Where are you going now? . She gave me a hug. and sped toward the misty coast in the distance. Vernet had come to pick up Francesca with the Riva. remembering that this was where my adventure had started less than a week ago. Next to them. . cameras in hand. and then I will fly to Los Angeles.
Felipe. She agreed. with long black hair and very intense black eyes. 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 lived it up as much as my fourteen years would allow me.It means “I love you”. Tropez. I could think of Francesca and almost feel her presence. How good was she. and my eyes were stinging. I don’t remember much about the plot of the movie.I had a big lump in my throat. we sat on the crowded beaches. what does “ti voglio bene” mean? He laughed. but was happy to be able to close the house. and tell her everything I had ever dreamt of telling her. Simone was sad to see me go. When Felipe came to the house to bring the duffel bag. really? The love scenes were light and tasteful. We went dancing until dawn. Selena was indeed very beautiful. Tropez. One night. .Who told you that? You’re just a kid! Who told you that? . In St. I still felt like all my senses were in overdrive. and shook his finger at me. I asked him. as I was mainly interested in the love scenes. When my mother called. I managed to return to some kind of routine in the days that followed. That’s what it means. walk with her. I read it somewhere. in Ramatuelle they had stretched a sheet on the little square to make an outdoor movie theatre. I grew tired of my languor and perpetual nostalgia. Now stay out of trouble! Epilogue After a few more days. . gossiped and drove around with the older kids. Francesca would not be around to take me in her arms and comfort me with kisses. to being with my friends. and decided that I needed a change of pace. I was in a trance. I just want to know what it means… . But I was determined not to cry. and we all went to see it. I kept imagining Francesca instead of 31 . I could swim with her.No one…no one told me. life was very different from what it was like on Porquerolles. talk to her. They played a Spanish film with Selena Hirschberg. When no one was around to distract me. favoring swimming and walking alone. go home and join her son in Vendee.
though I very seldom spoke to him.the male protagonist. Tropez two years before. 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 went back to school. He himself also lived in Rome. I did very well in the “baccalaureat”. My mother was not very forthcoming. and settled down into the gloomy weather and everyday routine. I would have a dream about Francesca where we would hold each other and kiss as if we were in love. I eventually let my life drift away from the memories of that summer. This was not based on visiting Francesca in Malibu. including my mother who finally came back. I remember crying secretly in my room when my parents eventually sold the house on Porquerolles and the Nostromo. I don’t really remember… Finally. When you love someone who is in the public eye. and seemed to resent any interest that I showed in Francesca. and then to the Institute for Political Studies on the Rue St. There. I thought of writing to Francesca. or maybe calling her. or a famous cop. I knew I could probably get her phone number through my father. read about her. Yet. and I could not help but let it brighten my day. and we all returned to Paris. and little by little they don’t belong to you anymore. Guillaume. just as I had escaped the island for St. I think what I wanted most was to be away in new surroundings. And so I did. Many times. and I hoped I could get her address through her agent in Paris. They were separated and they had no reason to keep them. Every once in a while. and went on to the Sorbonne for an intermediary year. People around you talk about them in familiar tones as if they knew them personally. I went to see all her movies. I arranged for an exchange scholarship with a university in California. However. So my decision I think had more to do with the fact that my father was American yet I had never been to America. I would wake up and imagine that she was having the same dream. and often saw her on television. But I could not really tell what made their lovemaking so exciting. 32 . I grew shy about contacting her. or a saint. who seemed quite delighted with Selena’s performance. the summer wound down. and since I never heard from her. except that maybe the guy was somebody else’s husband. This part of my life was over. it is as if their public persona is somebody else altogether. because I had read that she had left Hollywood and had returned to Italy to live in Rome with her husband.
a jacket and some shoes with a reasonable heel. I went to the hotel. the phone rang. and if so. except maybe books and films. as it was already time to go to the screening. I was secretly delighted that I was going to go on my own. but I hate the Festival. kissed in cars and under piers in England where I had spent a couple of windy summers but I was disengaged from most things. I wanted to look as good as possible. so I had passed my driver’s license test a few months earlier. . but I was always on the periphery of their circles. on the day of the screening. I had long ago given up on any kind of argument with my mother. I picked up my ticket at the will call. and checked in. I did not have time to enjoy the room. I had friends. 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.My life was full of schoolwork and suspended living. 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 saved clothes that I liked for a future time where I would be fully alive. to put it mildly. and said that of course we would attend. After all these years. I did not know what to expect or what to think. I left early in the morning. and seeing the weather improve mile by mile as I approached the Mediterranean. I had flirted. I was eighteen years old. though…why else would she want us there? I said I had no idea. Francesca was thinking about us! I told my mother the news when she came back home in the afternoon. and it was a woman from United Artists in Paris. One morning in May. put on my dress. She said that Francesca had asked if my mother and I would be able to attend.Sorry. I could not believe it. their conversations and their sexual games. I picked it up. and 33 . I was surprised and excited. but the task had seemed daunting. she said. I arrived in Cannes a little later than I had planned. she had reserved a room for us at the Martinez Hotel in Cannes. and walked over to the Palais des Festivals where the screening was to take place. and I was a little bit nostalgic for myself as the kid with the no brakes bicycle and the summer tan. I enjoyed the drive. I was flabbergasted. I took a quick shower. She told me that Francesca d’Alessi had a film that was being presented at the Cannes Film Festival. I had packed a new dress that I had bought the day before. I decided that the most fun would be to drive down to Cannes. My time with Francesca on the island seemed so far away. all by myself. and to please thank Francesca for us.
and I kept bumping into people. I was happy to be there. abstract way that made them seem more like nightmares than any kind of reality. The scene inside was exciting. and she gave me the suite number. and she was good. and then I saw her. the drive. the crowd roared and applauded. but had never brought me with them. I looked around for her for what seemed like a long time. She always drew people to her. only sordid sex scenes but filmed in a grainy. and she fluttered a miniature wave in my direction. Finally. There was a heartbreaking sadness in the character. She was surrounded with people and photographers. She had the same easy elegance that I remembered. There were no love scenes. My parents had gone often. after the screening. The film was harsh and violent. back then… As the end credits rolled. some woman came over to me. She was smiling as she made her way through the crowd with her usual grace. The film started… She played a prostitute who was trying to escape her situation in Palermo and rebuild her life. but none of them would ever recognize me. Francesca was on screen most of the time. While she was on stage and they were introducing the movie. I got to 34 . everything. 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. the dress. some of them I had met before. Suddenly. Thank you…I will be there! Francesca was well received by the crowd.walked on the red carpet to the auditorium. and whispered that the reception would be at the Carlton. I had a brief moment of guilt. Her face lit up in a glorious smile. She was very popular in France. and walking on the Croisette. and held out his hand to bring Francesca up for a standing ovation. as the crowd was thick getting out of the Palais. designed for grand entrances and flamboyant exits. I was only interested in one of them. That was fine with me. This was my first time at Cannes. I had a reserved seat amongst all the celebrities. This seemed to serve her well in this kind of event. it was all worthwhile. especially since she had left Hollywood. I made my way to the Carlton with great difficulty. It was a great success. thinking of all she had given me. The director came to take a bow. I had to cross to the beach side. as she walked toward the stage. and how little I had given her in return. to have come all this way to honor her. yet knew how to keep some good natured distance. She saw me.
I knocked on the door. He was extremely handsome.the hotel. how you have grown! Che bella! Marco. He sat next to me on the couch. carina…got to work…don’t go away! Oliver brought me a glass of champagne. and we had a few private minutes to talk. She asked me if I felt good about it. someone came by with a tray full of little sandwiches with smoked salmon. . He held out his hand. and found the suite without getting lost. about California. I found him very attractive. Oliver. She gave me a hug. At some point. At the second glass of 35 . Look how beautiful she is…she is going to California! A young man approached. and asked me if how I knew Francesca.You must be Christina! He said… I feel like I know you already! Come on in…I am Marco d’Alessi. and I was flattered of the attention he was giving me. I told her that I was going to a university in California in a few days. He shook my free hand and talked to me while more people were coming to solicit Francesca.Sorry. and many other quite mundane subjects as the night wore on. she called…come say hello to my Christina. and he worked for United Artists in Hollywood. Francesca squeezed my hand and let it go. . He was looking at me as if he thought I was beautiful. I could see new tiny wrinkles in the corner of her eyes. and various appetizing canapes. and our hands touched. He had a strong Italian accent and thinning hair. with straight longish brown hair. His name was Oliver Schneider. and an elegant older man opened it. come sit next to me… She looked a little bit older.Christina! Oh. and a charming manner. look at her…isn’t she beautiful!? Come here. I said we had gone on a sailing voyage together. and we started talking about the film. He looked at me and we both laughed. . dressed in a tuxedo. Dio mio. and then took my hand. but he made me feel at ease and welcome. We both reached out for the same one. with a TV crew who was doing an extensive interview. and did not offer any more details. She caressed my cheek briefly. surrounded by people holding champagne flutes. .Oliver. Francesca was sitting on the couch in the living room. They were going to distribute the film. and I said that I still felt a little bit tentative about everything. She held it throughout the endless procession of people coming to congratulate her. but they gave her face a kind and soft expression that made her more real and more human. She had to move into the next room.
and looking into each other’s eyes. he said. He got a bottle of champagne out of the refrigerator. Most people had left. I kissed him back. and gently stroke my arm. but I took it in all the same. smile. little old me.Come with me to my hotel. Everything was perfect. he said to me. he would turn to me. It was a suite. He opened it. and said goodnight. Ten minutes later. Every now and then. We were standing very close to each other. I felt so glamorous and grown up. then turned away to go back to the living room. I wanted it to happen. and we 36 . We arrived at Eden Roc. You’ll see. I said I would be there. . I knew he was wrong. I rented it…the company pays for it. He followed me with his hand on my shoulder. But it was time for me to finally pass into adulthood. the breeze was cool but not cold. and went down to the lobby with Oliver. I was looking at him as he was driving. “You are so sophisticated!”. in a convertible Bentley. we were driving on the lower Corniche toward Cap d’Antibes. We got up and went out on the terrace to look at the row of palm trees and the ocean sparkling in the moonlight. This dashing young man was taking me. I thought it would be better to see her without all these people. We smoked cigarettes and had more champagne. and would I please come tomorrow morning at 9:00 and have breakfast with them. He took his key and we went down to his room. of course not.Nah. right by the water.Is this your car? . I was a little bit nervous. and he kissed me very lightly. I would have quite a story to tell Francesca tomorrow. it’s so beautiful there… I knew what was happening…what was going to happen. on this most anticipated adventure. I could not help but touch the walnut dashboard. but I had a quick daydream of him and me getting together in California. and stopped constantly looking to see if Francesca was done with the interview. and I could not imagine better circumstances. and I did not see Francesca. The car was gliding silently on the winding road. I did not quite know if I was in love with him. He came to us. I said yes.champagne I was beginning to feel good. Isn’t it great? It was. We were reclining on the couch. He said that Francesca was very tired. and his remark was only based on my friendship with Francesca. . Marco was saying goodbye to everyone. I grabbed my jacket.
But then. So this was what made the world go round. and pretty soon I could tell from his breathing that he had fallen asleep. and then turned off the light as he undressed and I took off my underwear. Afterwards it was just strange to feel this movement inside of me. turned away from me.No. He undid my dress. I went into it up to my waist and floated a little. and I went down. because I wanted to see everything. . Afterwards. but cleansing and soothing even though it was also stinging quite a bit. we drank. when he put his hands behind my knees and pushed my legs back until I could see my feet in the air. he said. . At first. “You have beautiful shoulders”. I started drifting off and isolating myself. There were no stars.Are you taking birth control? He asked. and then he kissed me. I felt numb and detached. I guess I was not going to be one of these great lovers after all…I hadn’t gone to the edge. I am not.Don’t worry…I will be careful. exciting sensation. . he got up and went into the bathroom. and the clouds were attacking the moon. Oh well. The pain was not too bad. I could feel my knees trembling as he gently guided me into the bedroom. Feeling someone’s naked body against mine was a brand new.Here’s to us. as we kissed and went through a few preliminaries.went out on the deck. I was sorry that the lights were out. I could not believe that people like Francesca would find themselves ever in such an undignified position. The water was cold. know everything and be fully present. I felt sticky and afraid to move. I was shivering in the water. whatever that was. I went back to the room. and it did not seem to be connected to another human being. though it was sharp and radiated all the way to my throat. which looked out on a little rocky cove in which the sea formed a natural pool of shimmering moonlight. 37 . as we sank onto the huge bed flooded with silver light from the open window. There was enough light from the hotel above to see that there were rock steps going into the water. I am going to have to practice this to get better at it. Our glasses clinked for the toast. . at the critical moment. Oliver was kind and gentle. and went outside. I got up. I stayed in the bed and pretended to be asleep. I was getting really cold. it had been very enjoyable. he said. I thought. I was for a time. He got back into bed.
. and stuck to nervous small talk to avoid silence. I picked up my key. I picked it up. It was five minutes to nine. People come here on honeymoon all the time”. The sky was overcast. I really wanted to ask what he thought of me as a lover: had I been really bad. and said: “Don’t worry…they’re used to it. and I did not linger.Oliver was still asleep. this is Francesca. when he was returning to California. and we need to be at the 38 . 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 all kinds of trivial questions. but I did not want Francesca to see me in the same clothes as last night. and put on my travelling clothes. I wanted to hide it from her. dressed in tennis whites. He opened the door of the Bentley for me. asking him where he was going. and ran hot water all over myself. when I saw that the message light on the telephone on the nightstand was blinking red. and what I could have done to improve my performance? But I did not feel like I knew him well enough to ask. 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. and dialed the code… “Hi carina. which I have to say hurt my feelings a little. under the covers. He asked me if I wanted to be dropped off at the Carlton. and went into the dressing room to get dressed in private and digest my humiliation. as I was going to drive back to Paris today.Good morning! Shall we order breakfast? I apologized and said that I was supposed to have breakfast with Francesca at the Carlton at nine. We exchanged phone numbers. He did not argue very much. and I waved at him as he pulled off on his way to play tennis at Eden Roc. and rushed to my room. I wanted Francesca to know that I had slept with Oliver. Honeymoon…yes of course…I covered up the spot. I took a shower. I know it is early. last night. So he took me to the Martinez. I led the conversation. so we left the top up. and I needed to freshen up and be by myself for a while. He kissed me goodbye as a satisfied lover would. He noticed my expression of dismay. When I woke up to the sound of the shower. Oliver came out smiling and handsome. I went into the bathroom. but my mind was already with Francesca. Then I went back into the bed and eventually entered a dreamless sleep. it was already eight o’clock. This morning. and off we went. and that I needed to leave as soon as possible. Somehow.
Ciao Christina! . Marco was waving at me from the other side. I was holding her very tight. and drive straight to Rome as fast as I could. all the way until Francesca was finally sitting in the car. I would ask Francesca if we were really in love 39 . always…you’ll get the hang of it! Marco came to separate us gently. . Please come. Francesca was calm as usual. and saw that a black limousine was waiting in front of the Carlton. Then I saw Francesca and Marco walking out of the hotel. The tinted glass was too dark. I was relieved. to not have to wait for the red lights. I could not see inside. I would love to see you…love you sweetheart”. as now my cheek was right against hers. then glided on toward Nice. I could see the Carlton Beach sign and I was focusing on it. I looked over to the other side. “You!” She said smiling and pointing her finger at me in mock reproach. Christina…but we need to go. Francesca spotted me immediately. What I really wanted to do is go get the car. but I managed to cross the street without making a commotion. and she disappeared behind it.Come to Rome! Please come visit! Said Francesca. There. . The limo started off then did a U-Turn around the center divider. The window started going up. way out there on the Croisette. I surprised myself with the intensity of my emotion. We can’t afford to miss this plane. I had left my handbag at the Martinez so it would not slow me down. Finally. uncontrolled. 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. and started running toward the Carlton as fast as I could. once at the sign. I crossed over on the beach side.Don’t be sad. out of breath and disheveled. sweetie…go for the good life. -I love you! Oh…I love you! I must have choked on the last word.airport at 9:30. I must have grown. but rushed and fell into her arms. I watched it drive away until it was a mere little black dot. .Sorry Francesca. shooting starts tomorrow morning… We let go but I held on to her hand as the driver opened the door. “You cheated on me!” I did not reply. not wanting to look anywhere else until I was there. The words came out of me on their own.
trying to get a handle on an unfathomable grief. but did not see him. I remember exactly where I was when I heard. I had to find out her address. and I had to report to school in California by the end of next week. I was in my car. I looked for Tomaso. And if so. that I had to pull over and try to take in what was being said on the radio. I think the woman next to him was Francesca’s mother. But I did not do it of course. now that I was not only older. on warm summer evenings when the sky was especially purple with the best sunsets brought on by pollution especially in Los Angeles. Francesca d’Alessi was killed six months later in a head on collision with a drunk driver somewhere near Ostia. It was during a week of finals for me in California. My mother did not attend.with each other. and not mine. I did not have my passport with me. and paid for a hotel room that I didn’t even use. I could not believe neither my mother nor my father found it necessary to call me and tell me in person. I never did go and visit her in Rome or anywhere else. Why was I so eager to lose my virginity that night of all nights? Why did I insist on changing at the Martinez. taller. and ended up in the unlikely situation of pursuing a musical career. I saw Marco. and now. Sometimes. full of regret and unanswered questions. then I would insist that we do something about it. but a real woman. I was in the middle of finals. Besides. way back then. I had to return the car to my mother. I had managed to miss her in Cannes. But instead of getting a good job related to my studies. I don’t think they would have been very supportive. I found solace in playing music and singing. As it turns out. I was so stunned. I was just alone. I did not attend. I finished school eventually. driving to school. I hated taking birth control pills. and I could not imagine myself spending my life with any of my partners. that I saw my father walking in the crowd behind her casket. a languid feeling would come 40 . I stayed out of any relationship with anyone for quite a while. after she had invited me. Francesca was their friend. looking despondent. 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. I guess. aside from some depressing one night stands that seemed to be the normal thing to do at the time. with some other family members that I did not know. I could swear in one of the newscasts.
No.I do…I love you. across from Le Bon Marche department store. even though they might sometimes be rude or angry. in the chic part of Silicon Valley.Life is good. there are cafes. tell me life is good. I had come to Paris. tell me in Italian! . In my case. -Tell me that you love me… . It was a beautiful sunny day. it’s just a home away from a home that might be far away. with friends or alone. order anything from milk to 12 year old Scotch. or cool. There is no implication of the place being special. where I was born. I was sitting with my friends George and Francine outside “Le Babylone”. .over me to assuage my loneliness. they are real places where you can go and spend all day. In California where I live. and to a semi-Californian it is always amazing to see and feel how animated the Paris streets are and how the passers-by. You can sit on the terrace and people watch. But they are very self conscious and snobbish in a cheap sort of way. . amore. it was just a nice place to rest between bouts of shopping. Francesca would be there with me. athletic and free as she was when I was fourteen years old. always seem more alive and more at ease than 41 . Here in Paris. a totally non famous and nondescript café on the Rue de Babylone. perfect. or read a book. or inhospitable for any reason. 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. on that warm day in June. or even write one if so inclined. and take a healthy vacation away from my job and my problems in California.Ti voglio bene…don’t forget! But I must have forgotten. and an eventual movie. no.Francesca. and I would imagine our dialog… . because it took me so long and so many years to finally understand all the things she had said to me. to visit family and old friends.
started interfering with my side of the conversation. and the thought of her. Besides. but for the time being they were quite content with the status quo and so was I. 42 . Pronouncements that were definite and unquestionable. wavering. weathering flashes of interest. whom I regularly saw at each of my yearly visits. But they knew close to nothing about me and my personal life. clustered in the trees in the Parc Boucicaut across the street. I don’t believe they were really interested either. Yet the minute you approached this fluttery harvest. and Marie liked it. mainly about movies and filmmaking which is what Francine did for a living. our film talk was far from shallow and involved a lot of revealing comments and humor. unless it turned out that she went back to see it with Marie. After she left me. Marie…I guess I could see what was attractive about her enough to understand flirting with her. show or otherwise. not out of indifference but out of bad habits contracted in the process of living in the world of fashion and business. why did you like it Alison? “It was good!” or “I hated it!” Why? “It was sick!” or “I hate Cher!”. There were pigeons everywhere. they had been married for more than twenty years and I had even accompanied them through some rough times. whether it is between women. like grey fruit ready to be picked. men or whooping cranes. George mentioned in passing an old film I had seen with Alison. insidious. it took off with a racket like so many banners flapping under hurricane winds. I had a flash suddenly of how much we enjoyed the film when we saw it. I was having a lively discussion with my friends. tempered with the confused appraisal of some unspeakable darkness. the only comments she seemed capable of were: “I liked it!” Why.the crowds in Hollywood. or even in San Francisco. which gave me a real feeling of closeness when we talked. I think they would be really concerned and ready to intervene if something awful happened to me. but with whom I cultivated a decidedly distant approach to really personal conversations. I knew a lot about them. leaving me at a loss to understand anything ever again about any relationship. It was an esoteric South American work but it still put us on the edge of our seats. I remembered what fun it was to talk with her afterwards about what was so good about this scene or that scene. But Alison had gone for the whole kit and caboodle.
She sat down. I saw that she had taken off her sunglasses. put on her Ray Bans. The terrace was fairly empty. It was Marguerite Duras’ “Moderato Cantabile”. and how I had met her. Only after I caught out of the corner of my eye the woman smiling and looking in our direction. 43 . I started telling the story. the woman looked remotely like Marie. and picked up her book again while the waiter brought her another café-crème. It gave it an Indian look that reluctant as I was to give Marie anything positive. and they could do no wrong. Unbelievably. George and Francine were in stitches. She did not look like Marie in the least after all. but I was looking over his shoulder at the woman. which I did with some success. and all I remembered from it was some kid playing a sonata on the piano.I blinked and forced myself to not think about her. I became conscious of the fact that I was talking to George about something. it made her face look exotic. and as she walked through the door back to the terrace. She came back very soon. huge green eyes. She got up and went inside. willing my thoughts away from California and back here. as if I was on stage. Next to us. and in spite of my incredible efforts at mind control. and pursued the conversation. here it was again. Her expression was soft and bright. The anecdotes kept pouring in. We were sitting at the narrow end of it. make it wild and funny. and the audience hates it too. across from the doorway. I had appreciated for years in Gauguin’s paintings of the women of Tahiti. and she had beautiful. She was reading a book. The woman was thin. They had been my silent supporters and companions through years of solitude. did I realize that I was doing all this for her benefit. I made a conscious effort to start looking at him. She was drinking a café-crème. I had seen the movie long time ago. and had thick dark hair tied up in an unruly bun. with cute wisecracks and colorful descriptions. unlike Marie. and to be present in the conversation. and even though it was not really elegant. He hates it. but I surprised myself by going out of my way to liven it up. she was smiling while looking in my direction. Her book was still there. a woman was sitting. and I was craning my neck trying to see what it was. wearing the same Ray Ban sunglasses that Francine was wearing. I felt some relief. He was asking me questions about a common friend. as if during an intermission. at the terrace of the Babylone. Marie had a straight Greek nose. She looked at me very briefly. facing the rounded sidewalk.
absurd temptation of going right back to the café was grabbing me and telling me to stay on the edge of my seat. I thought. There had been nothing but a light smile and a square look. all hanging out in the same sunny garden. I was going to take the Metro since I didn’t have my mother’s car and they were going to take the bus. I hopped on. Just like that. in this café. ready to 44 . but I had already told Francine and George that I had to be somewhere. Then before I even knew it. grey sweater. where I had only been a good daughter and friend. We said goodbye again. We were walking through the park amongst myriads of running toddlers. and started flying with my thoughts toward Solferino. I am in love. old people. and who were not close enough for me to make the superhuman (for me) effort of coming out. their favorite mode of transportation. I was tempted to stay at the café and talk to the woman. I took in the white collar. the woman and I were the only ones wearing tennis or basketball shoes and not jogging or playing ball. The insane. “It must be something in the air” Francine was saying to the waiter as an excuse for our absent mindedness. I got up too. and I rushed into the station. I think those tennis shoes got me especially because in the entire city of Paris. There had been nothing seductive about the woman. Here. Panic… No other word can describe the chaos that was taking place in my brain. beige oversize canvas handbag. As I was saying goodbye to my friends. in Paris.My heart started pounding. when Francine realized that we had forgotten to pay. we were gone. But the train was prompt and ready. There I was right here in the land of my youth. Unthinkable… It was unthinkable. that I would have these feelings here. No stealthy approach or meaningful glance full of sexual undertones. George and Francine were getting ready to leave. But that was precisely what attracted me. We were already crossing the Rue de Babylone to go through the park. nuns. This is ridiculous. secretly hoping that the train would be endlessly late so I could come back up and see if the woman was still there. I was looking behind them to remember everything about the woman. in the company of people who would not understand anything of me and my life. and white tennis shoes. and shady characters. as if in a dream. We came back. and occasional lover to a forlorn jobless actor or two. tight black pants. and the woman this time did not look up. and my mind was racing all over the place.
The fact that I thought for a second that she looked like Marie was enough to attract my attention to her. and if things did happen for me. She is tres amusante!”. for the first time since losing Alison. This is the craziest delusion I have ever had. glued to the moleskin until my final destination near my mother’s house. where I belonged. here I am. every woman in Paris who doesn’t walk around in men’s clothes and slicked back short hair is absolutely straight in every way. after already making two exits in a row? “Hi! I see you like Marguerite Duras. and give yourself new pride in a world where everyone is willing to address you as an adult. finally pulls into Sevres Babylone…I am walking very fast…not 45 . and it was all for a reason. you can get rid of the very shame that shaped your being. What would I say to her if I came back to the café. and getting battered constantly by her lack of interest in who I am and what I do or say. So what kind of mess would I get myself into? Oh. I automatically assumed the woman was French. what would I do? I was here to visit family and friends who did not know anything about my life. fantasizing and making a big deal out of nothing. Besides. On the other hand I can’t spend my life loyal to Alison in thought. I automatically lose any appeal I might have had. I was interested enough in someone or something to actually be tempted to go look for it. 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. I am being overcome by a romantic delusion born out of hellfire. What to do? What if I came back to the café. By the way. 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. and I had to explain why I had come back? On the other hand. which would also make me very uncomfortable. Only people who exile themselves voluntarily like I had can understand this sentiment. But still…If the woman was in any way interested. what if? Chapter Two The train. In a foreign language. Everything happens for a reason. 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. and ran into George and Francine still waiting for their bus. after an excruciating wait at Solferino and an endless journey.
He does not seem to recognize me. I sit down at the terrace. mind you. and I can’t even pretend to go to the bathroom. but I have lived there for twenty years. with an empty café crème in front of her. if I wait any longer. . up. and that is good. and Francine has warned me that the toilet was a Turkish toilet.J’aime votre montre. I said in French. I said in English also. tennis or not. It smells bad. and I bought the band where I live. in California. but I still don’t see the terrace facing Le Bon Marche…Ten more steps.Oh! Are you an American? She said in English. I was all wrong. She still has not looked up. pretending to make a phone call. The escalator. She is still there.Well. asking me what I want. at the same table where I was with George and Francine. 46 . I’ll run into George and Francine. but she spoke to me! . here it is…She is still there! Oh dear! What do I do now! She has her sunglasses back on. -No. It’s always time to try liking things I never liked before… . Up the stairs…No. and said: . I’ll have a café crème. s’il vous plait? The time…I did detect an accent. I come back up.running. and she is reading the book. In French as I feared. If I go fast. Besides. where does it come from? . Maybe she wasn’t French after all…I flashed my new watch with mountains on it. she will be gone.Oui? -Est-ce-que vous avez l’heure. Up. but this time I am sitting next to her and not facing her as I was before. What do I do now? The waiter comes. If I go slowly. I walk past her and go inside the café. she can leave anytime. I can go twice as fast. She does not look up.Excusez moi… She spoke to me. I see the waiter bringing stuff. I’m not. d’ou vient-elle? I like your watch. God! This street is crowded…I am walking on the park side of the Rue de Babylone…The café is in sight. Ten past four. Downstairs. out into the sunlight. . 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. Someone gave me the face as a present.Quatre heures dix. I sort of designed it. it is dark. but walking very fast.
-Working with men is hard enough to begin with. all these attempts at eradicating her out of my mind forever and ever. Alison again…I could not believe that the pain was so very much alive after all this time. Linda said. It was pretty hectic and disorganized. Her smile was absolutely devastating. with no warning. We laughed together. nothing happens. there was a lull in the programming. I remembered that she was reading a book in not so evident French. let alone working with the ones we love…She too. 47 . at the beginning of June. and I was not nervous anymore. I introduce myself to her. I said in pure American ritual. I explained to her my situation.Oh. Right now. she was from New York. warm and maybe a little sad. and you can read the most obscure French books without any problem. she said. and my eyes started stinging when I described how hard it was for me to work with someone I had once been involved with. I’m glad to meet you. Her name was Linda..Well.You speak French beautifully. my failed music career. no calculation. I am from New York. My name is Linda. I said: -Oh. She took off her glasses and put down her book. This man and this woman meet in a café. -Hi Christine. yes? . She had a job as a production assistant for one of the TV Stations. I am one. an easy. mind you. but it paid well. and she was trying to decide whether to stay in Paris or go back home. The friend was travelling around the world or something for a few months. this…I am reading it for my job…Fortunately. She had just broken up with a boyfriend (OK…I get this…) and she was staying at a friend’s apartment Rue de Nevers. She did not look like Marie at all. my work at the theatres. freer somehow that what had gone on earlier with my friends. it is very short. she said. seemed to have trouble swallowing. The conversation flowed very easily. fast and easy. I said. no preparation. Alison is a woman…Not that it makes it any easier. . -Linda. and she had a little time to do some research way ahead of schedule. and it gave her a visa. and it’s the end. and she had lived in Paris for three years now. cheerful laugh. And then it came. She was beautiful. and whom I still cared about a great deal.
and let it close naturally when its pain would not be needed anymore. and who paid for what. and come out of it all happier. but instead I’d like to make the 5:30 show of this new movie I’ve been dying to see. really…! -No kidding! We laughed. any new friend was a welcome resource for my Herculean task. and maybe I had just made a new friend. The street. So. I wanted to understand everything. open it up to the air. as I gladly noticed a shade of disappointment in her expression. intelligence. it’s all the same. -Not really. I was not about to throw it all away… -What movie is it? I explained about Thelma and Louise. Ripley used to be Alison’s favorite hero and role model. The good part was that I had been open with her. I go to the movies alone very often! She looked at me with an air of defiance. and how I liked most of his films. strong and true. Here I was. gloriously.Linda smiled. Courage.Do you have to be somewhere? She asked. I had come back to the café. how. as I realized I did not want to go to the movie anymore if it meant losing precious moments. about Ridley Scott. wiser. the pigeons and the department store had somehow disappeared from my consciousness. I had not yet stopped to take a reality check. and shook her head. Four forty five. I had been brave. talking with this stranger about almost intimate things just like that! I was still a little carried away. define it. women. I’d like to go with you. but I have no real recollection as to when. I looked at my mountain watch again. these days. I think the waiter came and we both ordered sparkling waters. and I felt so totally comfortable that I didn’t even resent the fact that the conversation started rolling on safer subjects. looking into my eyes without a trace of discomfort or avoidance: -Men. and said: -If that’s OK. like movies and books. how he created the character of Ripley. But. 48 . and still not die a horrible death in the end. I was sobered up by the fact that she had a boyfriend. -Were you going alone? -Yes. or the woman who managed to be proven right. compassion…She seemed to have jettisoned them from her own personal Nostromo space ship. and kinder. I was always on the hunt for new insights about relationships so I could heal this poorly sutured wound of mine. I was supposed to go visit a friend. I said it half heartedly. . simply.
Once we were seated. then he met this Italian model. -Oh. 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. and the film itself was about to start. Where did the train tracks use to be? I said I had no idea. it was better than nothing. I added that I was very happy that she was coming with me to the movies. she said. and I felt like visiting royalty. But I was not about to believe that straight women could ever be turned around. and things are not yet very clear between us. I asked. As I spoke. It was very exciting. -What happened with your boyfriend. We actually took a cab to the movie theatre. and sometimes I think that she makes a point of showing me how little she cares about me. I said that would be quite all right. and it became suddenly a little more substantial. and I respected the fact that she was straight and that was that. My host was very sweet.I was taken aback by the request. and now he is with her. Yet a feeling of excitement that felt almost like deep happiness came over me. there is always a great feeling of expectation in the room. because I did not have any expectations. Julien and I were together for two years. Do you still have any kind of relationship with him? -We’re trying very hard to be friends. it was easier because there was no interference to our conversation. Sometimes. and we went all the time. it’s simple. We had fortunately missed the endless string of commercials that show in French theatres. -Not really. It’s no fun. but it’s very recent. If we could be friends. I still had this hand holding reflex when we started going 49 . and I might as well find out the details. the houselights went down. I did not feel nervous. I said. which was a very fancy one on the Champs-Elysees. I said. When the lights dim in a theatre. She smiled. 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. The details were slim. I had not taken a cab through Paris in years. it feels like we could or should be lovers again any minute. but I could definitely identify with her on that one. and was talking excitedly about the Musee d’Orsay. I loved going to movies with Alison. Are you friends with Alison? The question sounded very natural. and I thought I could feel some unexpected emotional current surging between us. -I know the feeling.
I’m having dinner with a friend. the two women characters find no way out of the world around them. As we walked out into the still sunny street. and her hair would feel like a caress on my temples. but somehow exhilarating and empowering. The whole experience was strange. violent at times. it’s late. but I always kept it in check. Alison and I would somehow communicate through the movies. I felt like I knew her. I said in what must have been a heart rending tone. said “nice meeting you” in a hurried tone. and jump to their deaths in a green T-Bird in a flash of sunlight that looked like Heaven. and then I realized what the problem was: How would I see her again? We hadn’t made any 50 . it seemed that I could tell how she felt at every minute. I stayed frozen in space for about five minutes. I liked especially when she would make a comment to me in a whisper. turned around. It was a little bit like being with Alison again. you know” I did not have the time to answer. At the end of the film. -Well. It was very sad. Thank you very much for letting me come along. The film was good. and rushed down into the Metro. and she was saying to me with seriousness and emotion: . -Oops. but in a situation that was not blocked or preordained. because she stopped. and our cheeks would touch. in a strange sort of way. I felt like taking Linda’s arm as we walked out. I turned to her and thanked her too. nice meeting you too.to movies again after she and Marie broke up. Linda seemed to react. I felt a little bit the same way with Linda. and I held a stiff position most of the time so our legs would not touch and I could maintain an excruciating formal distance. and looked at me every time there was something particularly funny or difficult. The temptation was not far. and I’m already very late. I have to run. Equally seriously.I loved it. but not close enough to distract me from what was happening on the screen. Sometimes she smiled softly the way Alison used to. and while the plot was progressing. she had already disappeared through the swinging doors. She shook my hand formally. and where anything was possible including friendship. including love. but I never minded that if there was a good reason for it. flashed that incredible smile and said:”I really liked talking to you. she grabbed my wrist. It was only to look at my watch.
doesn’t appreciate you. out of a lack of reflexes? Damn! I ran down into the Metro myself trying to catch up with her. stupidly. to keep my attention on anything. I was. except in cases where someone is really self-destructive. just to drop the ball again and be sitting alone thinking: Why. How could I have lost her so soon! Chapter Three It was very difficult at home. I was ready to accept any situation including total separation. If she was interested in me as a potential lover…if she was…My friend Ruth always said “if it’s on your mind. How could I still love Alison after all the hell I had gone through? If someone doesn’t love you. and what a fool she was to be letting it go. and sometimes I would feel like I had been trying to convince her to be with me. Now. I did not know her last name. But in a way also. I watched the news on TV with my mother for a while. 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. just to have someone to go to the movies with. and anything 51 . and then some program which happened to be about a man and a woman who meet in a café. as long as I did not have to be plunged again into a sea of unreality where love turned into meanness. How stupid can I be? Is it possible that once again. She would listen to me very patiently. But I also believed that Alison really did love me. it felt to me that I could be one of these. But these days. like a traveling salesman pushing some household cleaner. nothing happens. Did the book ever mention the stupidity of the person who lets it all slip by. then she would have wanted to. So I would talk to her and try to make her see how valuable our relationship was. honey. Like “Moderato Cantabile”. and falls hopelessly in love with a picture of Madonna. out of some kind of careless paralysis? I used to always accuse Alison of being passive. let them go. for once. They meet. and it’s the end.plans. but it was too late. Loving them can only be an exercise in self-destruction. The platform was empty and the trains had already left. nor exactly where she lived. I always found this to be quite true. and very silently. cruelty or indifference. In a way. I had vanquished my own passivity. I made something good happen in my life and then let it go. and that she was the one who was self-destructive in not recognizing that. it’s on theirs too!”. and not believing that she could play a real active part in her own life.
Above all else. But if to get something you have to not want it anymore. As if this woman was going to avenge me for all the pain I had gone through. What to do? And suddenly. you said. Letting Linda go…Listen to me…I did not even know the woman. that Marie and I were competing for Alison’s allegiance in a tug-of-war. and she was staying at a friend’s anyway. No big deal. Then. 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. When Marie left her. and that was why I liked her so much. maybe it was time for good timing now. 52 . Maybe this was what had stopped me from asking Linda if I could see her again. and therefore undesirable. a move that seemed to surprise nobody but Alison. Well. Yet my feelings were so strong. you know. then what’s the point? How could I wiggle my way through these traps of destiny and bad timing. Here’s to you. she would contradict her previous statements. The phone book was useless since I did not know her last name. it was time for practical considerations. 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. and pretend that I just happened to be in the neighborhood. 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. Tomorrow or the next day just like in “Moderato”. and end up satisfied with my life? Was there room in our world for ease. Be remote. pleasure. and what might even be called true love? Was I sick for believing in it. She said she lived Rue de Nevers. hating myself as I did for letting Linda go. she and I started having conversations that were very powerful and intimate. If there was some truth to all this. I always felt then. unattainable. I had an idea. I could go lurking there until she showed up. and you will have everything. and letting it give meaning to my suffering? Sleep was eluding me. and some people do want to be with me! I had the strong impression that Linda liked me. Marie-like nose and all. Yes. and catch me unprepared for the distance that I should have taken right away.that ever mattered was dropped into a black hole of oblivion and emptiness. I could see her face. and we had gone to a movie together. the next day. Bad timing. I can still fall in love. because I was open about my potential availability. No. It was hard to get my mind away from Alison.
Maybe that was what life was all about. I remembered how upset she seemed about her boyfriend. Why? Maybe because it was the first grown up thing I had ever done. Stop. and every time I closed my eyes. Ah! But here I go again. and look at you like you were their long lost salvation…Ah! Sleep now. It would give me something to do in the afternoons. It was a risk to be honest with Alison about my hope of getting back together. The anti-smoking fanatics were not helping with that. which I guess soothed me a little. I’m not so hard to please after all. my mind and my heart will be full of nothing but brick walls. “Village of the Damned”. Don’t think about Alison. I am giving all kinds of meanings to a nondescript encounter. 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. Something is going on there. and not take any risks. Because I am craving the feeling of being loved. Linda…I don’t even know Linda. Maybe it would all end up in a flash of sunshine and then nothing. I am crazy. Linda…Should I take this seriously? Should I forget about it all. the one with George Saunders?) or a flushing toilet. and I think they turned more people into smokers by provoking their rebel selves. I had trained my mind to think about a brick wall (remember. And yet…How many times do strangers ask you to go to a movie with you. I could never forget it. 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. “Thelma and Louise”. its forlorn country rock soundtrack. uncertainty. Stop that too…One day. Then I would come back day after day until I had to leave to go back home to California. Like hell! Let’s have a cigarette and think. There was a connection between its atmosphere of danger. and in between movies.Or maybe she would not be there. What fun. Yet there were crazy things that could be done. Sleep. in a nondescript café. that gave you some power even though you had none. I kept seeing Linda and the way she looked at me. but I guess that’s what makes me so uninteresting. rebellious aura to it. and it still had that liberating. creating a handy image of disposal-with-humor. Then. I kept trying to sleep. when I should think about a brick wall and go to sleep. Smoking fought loneliness and feelings of being incomplete and inadequate. 53 . Alison…Where are you now? Why did you leave me in this predicament? No. and the way I felt now. There is nothing going on there. risked. I had been smoking much more since the loss of Alison.
but not on the shelf. I went down to the telephone. this one knew all about me and I could ask her advice and talk about Linda. Create something different with life. pretending again to make a phone call. Ha ha. It was cloudy today. Maybe she was a regular. and wild things to die for? Movies were the closest thing to something like this. Francoise had advised me to go. Marguerite Duras. I suddenly started feeling lighthearted about everything. You can’t lose what you never did gain in the first place. Pocket books? Yes. I walked up the stairs. I’ll do what I can. What if there is nothing? Then the woman will not even understand what you were up to. I would still have time to go by the Babylone and check out the scene. Parking was going to be a pain. Besides. and came back down to call a friend. I had the car today. It’s time. OK. and make plans to have lunch with her and do something that would distract me. Yes. all TV stations if I didn’t know which one it was. and maybe spend the rest of the time until four o’clock in the store. Suddenly I was sure Linda was going to be there. It took forever to reach the bookstore. no such perverted thoughts can reach a pure mind. Oh well. Alison does not want me. and everything was going to be OK. She was not there. My watch. I must have slept for three hours all and all. and I was hoping that the traffic would be very bad so I could go slow and not arrive early. I went in. They had every book she’d ever written except that one. her loss! I will never see Linda again. different. What else is there in the world than unique. Friends were the only solid value these days. to have breakfast with my mother. through the store almost running. The terrace of the Babylone was empty. let’s go up and see. I don’t even know what I’m missing! I’ll just have fun with my friend Francoise. wait. Besides. look stupid and not know what to do with myself. Too early. I went upstairs. Out on the street. No Linda. Maybe rain was in the air this time. it was three thirty. My mountain watch. Why? Because if there was anything to it at all. Maybe find a copy of “Moderato Cantabile”. something unique and wild. go and go to the Babylone. Maybe she was inside. it was worth it. spy at the TV station. Maybe he knew her. and we’ll solve it all in two sentences and three jokes.I woke up very early. At least you tried. The waiter stood in my way and said “Bonjour!”. She will tell you to get lost and you will. that would be fun. OK. and stared at everybody. big deal. Worried about parking. So here I was. I started feeling better. Look up the listings. Five past four. Brick walls were not necessary. do it all. I decided to go into the Bon Marche parking lot. lurk Rue de Nevers. 54 . It was there all right.
The waiter came. Alison used to say: “Unlucky in parking. The next morning. drove the car out. and schedules. be real. I had parked it on the street. and go to a movie late and far enough that it lasted beyond four. Quarter to five. Just to pay tribute to the potential of what could have been. furious at her. and just start reading it. That’s that. I was. and decided to go to the café. I had the car again. have lunch with some members of my family. It was all a ridiculous fantasy. I had probably dreamt the whole thing. pretending that I was someone else than I was. Alison. I had a faint temptation to see Thelma and Louise again. and I ordered a sparkling water. and had a good time. She put her hand on my shoulder and said: “So you are a regular here after all!” I 55 . Here’s a bookstore. a once in a lifetime spot. a fool with Linda. here it is second shelf from bottom. I had seen everything. That’s far enough. since I was so tired. I cannot wait any longer. Like that. Forget it. Linda. I bought the book. Do you have “Moderato Cantabile”? Yes. just in case. I checked the Pariscope for films. Twenty past four. I went and enjoyed the film. Ah! A semi-obscure polish movie was playing at the Publicis Saint Germain. walking in that general direction. but what the hell. I went to a friend’s house for dinner. I opened the book and started reading… She arrived behind me. however. I did not even look at anything. I had my day organized in such a way. The irony was just perfect now.Ah! What the hell! I was disappointed. Let’s waste some more time. I was going to be a normal person. The car was the other way. too late to go to the Babylone. dejected. but I felt there would be too many ghosts there. I think from the inside of the café. and I wouldn’t have to worry about anything. Come on. a fool all the way. I went back down into the parking lot. and sat at the terrace. at everything. I successfully avoided all impure thoughts. theatres. No one was there. on your right. careful to swing one more time by the Babylone. all these figments of my fertile imagination. Here it is again. Why not? I have nothing else to do anyway. It seemed forlorn and deserted. and I did not feel like sitting down and ordering something. It was too late. I have too much to do. lucky in love” every time I had trouble finding a spot. and this time. that I could not possibly have time to visit the Babylone. I will not come back tomorrow. even though I did not quite understand it. I looked at my watch: four thirty. I slept better than the night before. What a fool I am! A fool with Alison. which is a sure sign of great intellectual content.
No problem. .was too shocked to answer anything at all. and I just hid the book in my bag before she had a chance to see it and catch me at being sentimental. . I felt so incredibly strong. Life is really starting now. Are you free tonight? Suddenly.Yes. I did not know how to get in touch with you. lugging that huge bag. and touched my arm gently. I have to meet someone for work now. and finally managed to look at her openly and with some kind of presence.See you then! She was gone. This is what was meant to happen. Her eyes were made of cool green. it was like the world. I knew I had bought it for a reason. She looked great. with no shirt collar underneath. interesting and interested. I turned around. the universe. I had forgotten their power. looking straight into my eyes. Now is the time to enjoy things.Well. Are you a regular here? . soothing. she was wearing jeans and a black sweater. I’ll be here! She got up. but if you didn’t mind waiting for me for about…huh…an hour and a half. all golden and pouring down like honey as Leonard Cohen would say. soft. 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. Her sunglasses were on the top of her head. Yet here she was. I won’t stand in the way. exciting. . I laughed.I’ll tell you what. She laughed. . Linda said as she sat down next to me.Five o’clock. everything fell into place. not really. Her manner of approach was not very varied.No. A joke… What a joke. but the sun came out in rays like God appeared in “Quo Vadis”. I am. It was as if all these images and memories from my past were coming back to help me understand the 56 . intelligent. I sure did not know how to get in touch with you! I was planning on coming here every day until you showed up. What’s going on? I was so elated that I could not stop smiling. . “What time is it?”. . and it is happening.Well. Let’s not be cynical and self deprecating. Her smile hit me again. Here it was! It was late. as a matter of fact. I was hoping to find you again.
I guess that’s possible. and if she was. like everything else is good in small quantities. 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. Oh my God! It’s over already! Linda was right. I was being so literary and self assured all of a sudden! After all. I was happy to see that all and all. I wonder why Linda was reading it. What kind of TV program these days would concern itself with something like this? Oh. and tried very hard not to think for a while. waiting for this unknown person and who knows if she was going to come back. But what if. I was stuck here in this café which was probably going to close soon. Not everything should be explainable anyway. I had liked and assimilated the book better than a lot of the quoted critics. I concentrated on the reviews that fill the end of the book.present. It was not 70mm Scope or anything. Some directors specialize in films that are supposed to have all kinds of meanings. It was torture stopping myself from looking at my watch constantly. I should know. but it won a major award. The narrative was ominous. I won’t disappoint you. 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 liked it. but I wanted to be as present as possible if and when she came back. and that it was wrong. in some strange way. but no one can really explain to you what they are. God. that woman is obscure. so you could always blame yourself for not getting something that everybody who was anybody should be getting just fine. 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. and full of hidden meaning that was never uncovered. Alcohol. to think that one could replace the other. dead wrong. but our familiarity with pain makes us have to give up 57 . I’ll make the best of it! Chapter Four It was so incredibly hard to keep my mind on the book. I said to the preciousness of the moment. nothing happens! And they were able to make a movie out of it.
ready to guard me against fantasizing about tonight. Then the voice of my mother: nothing will ever be great for you. nothing ever works for us. But maybe I was prejudiced in favor of it. and she seems to like me enough to go to a movie with me. 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. suddenly she was back. automatic teller stops are never very glamorous. The brick wall was in place. not thirsty. what does one do? Light a cigarette. I’m sure. But when you get to be forty. It’s OK. . that’s how long it takes. and should be saved for outings with people you trust. forget it. because we cannot control our intake of anything that feels slightly better than excruciating. and the people were walking out of the Bon Marche with bags and packages of all kinds. should I prepare for bad things? Just take the bet that everything will be great.I was curious to read what you were reading. She smiled as if she understood. Everything seemed to come very easily around her. I did! What a relief. especially in love. she’s beautiful. before I even had the time to really worry… . just in case I had to leave fast. getting slightly crazy. Marguerite Duras was over and done with. Five minutes. I was rambling on and on. 58 . Here’s the waiter. How old is she? I wonder…Younger than me. Linda is coming back soon. 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. ten if you really nurse it.“Moderato Cantabile”. and ask me to dinner out of the blue. with battlements and all. I was starting to feel a little bored. I did not hate it. heh? How do you like it? She did not seem surprised that I had the book. so I don’t have to wonder anymore. and then. It suddenly became easy not to pretend. The pigeons seemed to have calmed down. We’ve all got bad luck. and I was careful to pay right away. but it will be nothing but a nanosecond when she’s here! Besides.everything. It may seem like a long time now. Should I prepare for good things. Where should we go? Should I drive? Do I have cash? Ooops! Yes. Somehow. What could her last name be? I’ll ask tonight. Ah. everyone is all of a sudden always younger than you. money and fame. I was not hungry.
We needed something to link us together. diluted in water is refreshing. This is life. We have a real chance at creating a relationship that will last and make us happy. Tailor made. I was nervous. Linda ordered some kind of traditional aperitif like Lilet. and I remember forcing myself to like it. and we had a nice conversation about these drinks. I did not feel like going anywhere without having some time to get acquainted again. Linda was looking at me in a strange way. Pastis . We had done pretty well going to the movies. Ricard or Pernod. all of a sudden. Alison…Alison. and you can make it just the right strength. Linda laughed.Oh. Her face was soft and gentle. . and just gave you this great feeling of having said something unforgettable. I had thought. I felt shy. and how she looked that evening in Yosemite in the setting sun. . I offered. for the first time since we had met. I had something to lose. She heartily agreed and we went inside. nothing. without water or ice. Her laugh was devoid of any kind of mockery or ridicule..What’s going on? I lied. 59 . at some point during my adolescence. 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. . feel somewhat connected. The thought of going now seemed impossible to me. Pastis . made from various plants including artichokes. listening to the park ranger and laughing at something. It used to be in vogue. I was far from hungry. but never explained by schoolteachers. The coolest thing was to drink it straight up. This woman loves me and I love her. She was sitting on her haunches. the bastard sons of absinth. the liquor of Verlaine and Rimbaud whose relationship was always alluded to. looking very tan in the reflection of the…how do they call it…Alpenglow…Ah! Stop that.It is still early. and we reviewed the real medicinal properties of a horrible Italian concoction named Fernet-Branca. before we could face the trivial task of walking or driving to a restaurant. I had looked at her. I think I’ll have a Pastis.Where shall we go? It was early still. The setting sun was bathing the café with golden light. light. but this was different. the liquor of oblivion.
I tried to make an effort in an attempt to solve some of my riddles. Everything was just fine. Her hands were beautiful. where is home now? Linda was explaining something. It was getting dark. a strand of her hair kept falling into her right eye. Yet. Linda said as if to apologize for her absence. poems. In the open. and I had nothing on her. and tasted like what Pinochet gives to subversives to make them talk. smiling. She was looking up. I said. and we cheerfully toasted to new friends. I was amazed at the effect she had on me. I remember feeling that way about California for the longest time. and one silver ring on the right hand. I cannot feel your hand… ” Linda had something on me. everything seemed to amuse her as if it was still part of a long vacation. “As the room is softly fading. tell me more about yourself… 60 . we would be caught looking back at those happy highways where we could never come again. 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. I was letting myself stare at her. Linda said she had always dreamt of tasting it. She knew enough about me to know that I could possibly be interested in her. We were laughing when the waiter arrived. I can only kiss your shadow. Songs. everything was always new and exciting. at least in my thoughts. I worked for ten hours in a row. describing it all with great hand gestures. The basic idea was that this was all for friendship. I was decidedly in a literary vein tonight. and she kept pushing it back. thin fingers. Home…I guess California was home to me now. Alison was home. but they still had not turned on the lights in the café. or will she send me a note ten years from now.I was so busy yesterday. Work was not really work.So.It looked like mud. because it was strange and nothing affected you as much as it did at home. . with long. I thought of that Paul Simon song that I liked so much. trimmed nails. and still live a perfectly happy life. she had mentioned a boyfriend and nothing else. daring and devastatingly original. as far as I knew. . She seemed to know a lot about France and yet. I said she could never have a Fernet ever. I’m glad I had some time today. The conversation went on about her work and what it was like. saying I really wanted you but I let it go by? Once more. Hell. It felt great to watch her do that.
The story of my family had never sounded so special or interesting before now. as she asked me about my parents. I did however appreciate hearing that her father was of Greek origin. One more trait that did not go over too well with Alison…Don’t be like her.No.Oh. On and on we went.Ruthie was writing a book on lesbian etiquette. I learned bits of trivia about her. I felt better than I had in years about them. and religions are full of them. as in St. but still matters when you don’t know anything about someone. and she learned some about me. I don’t know…Your background…All the stuff that doesn’t really mean anything. Linda. I told her I was reluctant to move the car from my once in a lifetime parking place at the Carrefour Croix Rouge. For some reason at first. and this had to be in it under the heading “Cowardly approaches in the Nineties”. I just like all these legends and stories. So. Both her parents were still alive. and all that. but I didn’t go. the information seemed incredibly superficial and useless. so I have none to tell. where they came from. As I was telling her everything I could think of. and the drinks were giving us a nice buzz so we decided it was time to go to dinner. an old traditional Montparnasse restaurant. . not at all. It did not really matter to us whose family had money. Sorry. give me some clue… . I only had my mother. oh no. as if anything we shared 61 . Christopher. I need the other person to be a part of it too.What do you mean? Ouch! Stand still as the rock of Gibraltar.You know what that means? It means the one who carries Christ. but that I would do it for her sake. and her last name was Christoforos.Are you religious? Like Catholic or something? . That’s the fun part. Hell. patron saint of transportation. to meet me halfway. Take a couple of steps. as my father had passed away a few years earlier. She did seem to be enjoying herself however…I took a step backwards… . third generation American. There’s also Catholic school and all the stories about nuns. We paid and got up. We agreed on the Brasserie at La Closerie des Lilas. who is supposed to have carried the infant Jesus across the water… She looked at me with great suspicion… . where we went to school. We kept on comparing what was different and what we had in common. I’m not a power seducer.
in the soft embrace of the piano bar. “I have an addictive personality” she would say. 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. our familiarity the kiss of death. and I knew it was the beauty from inside. and life was incredibly simple and thrilling. The thought of Alison came to my mind again.contributed to bring us closer. the one that was beyond looks. I would reply that I could go either way. and if it is not you it won’t be you. because they don’t already know me like you do”. It says “I want everything you have to offer so I can use it to help me be with somebody else. history. 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. convention. Maybe she should look into consciously fighting her addictive tendencies since they made her unhappy. unable and unwilling to change and create new possibilities? We can do anything if we learn to notice and appreciate our gift for happiness. as we were walking into the Closerie. or “I won’t”. I could feel how much we loved and appreciated each other. I had no history with Linda. It meant “Your love is a waste of time. my expectations were at the same time high and nonexistent. the presence of dead poets and soon to be executed lobsters. our history was like a curse. Alison. we were laughing at everything. and the times when we did things together after Marie had left her. and the best was yet to come. She looked just fine. Getting to the car. and will never lead to anything”. starting it and driving away happened without either of us noticing anything. age or status that was attracting me like a magnet. She would shut me up. It seemed that to her. We had the evening ahead of us. always seem to win out. But shame and its unimaginative cronies addiction and routine. because something very basic had already been worked out for us. I shall love who loves me. staring at me softly with no fear. whom I love more. Can you read 62 . The level of our conversation was still quite basic. yet none of it meant anything to her. as if my conversation was always a great burden to her. as if we were saving ourselves for later. and I would go home feeling powerless. but that love like ours was a rare commodity and should be taken care of like a rare and precious orchid. the mahogany and green. and sensing the great void in all of us that says: “I can’t”.
Romance was designed by God to give life to the ordinary. the pianist was playing “Crazy”. but with a desperate sigh. salads.What’s happening? I asked. which means that they serve cocktails and somebody plays “As Time Goes By” on a grand piano at least twice a night.it too? Or are you like Alison blind as a bat. after discussing the weather. Finally. far enough from the lobster tank that we did not have to feel like Nazis on a rampage. but a regular if expensive commodity here. Linda looked gorgeous and suave as she turned around to greet someone. Alison used to lapse into small talk diatribes in order to avoid reality. We decided on oysters on the half shell. Yet this time. a great luxury in California. I was trying to overhear their conversation. a few aging Hollywood stars and the political career of Shirley Temple. and he was talking directly to me. 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. and Linda turned back to me smiling. he said au revoir. 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 confined in your preordained definition of what life is supposed to bring you? Chapter Five We were lucky. Then they can talk about the manufacture of safety pins and it would still be erotic. Next thing I know.Pierre! I didn’t know they allowed you in here! . as if things were getting a little hard to handle. he is going to play “Is That All There Is”. The Closerie des Lilas is what the French used to call an American Bar. . champagne to “celebrate” as we both said. but it was not easy as Linda (Lindy?) was facing the other way. a song I could definitely identify with. made bold by the waiter opening our bottle of champagne.Lindy! Where the hell have you been? Pierre looked like a typical French businessman on a drunken night out. . and I had developed an aversion to them. The piano in the background was playing Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”. 63 . and were given a very nice table on the verandah. Linda was looking at the menu. and we are both going to leave and say goodnight. looking into the faces of the soon-to-be-eaten.
I also hated myself for being so interested in circumstances that had nothing to do with me. I sighed and got a grip on myself.So what’s going on? I said not giving up. Come clean. . that’s how friends call me.He calls you Lindy? . and usually doomed to achieve the exact opposite results. 64 . I was puzzled at myself. My curiosity was somehow betraying my ulterior motives. She kept looking at me as she was drinking. remembering how hard it was to keep conversations going with Alison. and that look set everything back on track for me. but when you said “that’s how my friends call me”.Well. . it sort of hurt my feelings. I like it better than Linda Louise. that’s just it. nothing. Also. she said. that’s the only way out of this.Yes.. Linda looked at me with a puzzled look. . and had not even introduced me to him. come clean.What do you mean Lindy? I said. and secondly she had seemed so secretive about what had just gone on with Pierre. you know. and why was the possibility of something romantic between us such a sudden and essential part of my well being.You know. it’s funny. and I felt I was being intrusive with no right to be. and I don’t usually introduce myself as Lindy to strangers. I don’t happen to know you very well. He is a friend of Julien’s. I haven’t seen either of them in a long time. knowing what I already knew about her? To the weirdness of life indeed…She went on without any further prompting. Why did I have these feelings. which did include a little bit of anxiety.Here’s to the weirdness of life. designed to get what I wanted without being honest about it. I’m afraid that this conversation with Pierre has upset you and if we don’t freely talk about it right now. . that’s Pierre. even though you and I can hardly call each other friends at this point in time. 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. . So it was all coming out with a certain amount of sarcasm. 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. .Oh.
so he can help. Still. I shared some of these thoughts with Linda. She would suddenly see everything in a light that was terrifying to both of us. . He just talked about himself. please don’t ignore his questions or he will never solve the case. I feel that they betrayed me by being crude. . encouragement and commitment to truth in order to create something real. It all sounded so familiar. It always seemed to me that they were designed to avoid any kind of truth that might require genuine tact. and he mentioned that he had talked about me with him yesterday. and delicate handling.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. or worse. solid. . Lord Peter Whimsey is trying to find clues. I feel that we all need each other’s help. and beautiful. Don’t. just removed. as if there was no connection between me and Julien anymore other than acquaintance. It gives me a strange feeling of wandering around the Twilight Zone. and especially why they did it. every Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers fan will agree that the real payoff comes when you find out who did it. manipulative.I guess I am still angry at them.The strange part is that Pierre said nothing. as well as some anecdotes involving “gaslighting” (as in the Hollywood classic “Gaslight”) as a common pastime in the lesbian community. and he did not seem to think that I might have liked some acknowledgement of my own predicament involving his best friend. It felt as if she was already dead. Linda seemed to detect some homophobia in my discourse.But Alison was not boring. like Alison’s glassy eyed forays into unreality. But. superficial and boring. was she? .But were there ever times when things were good? 65 . care. his own problems with his girlfriend. he did not say anything more about it. as usual.. because her vision was too narrow to allow any hope for happiness or any kind of life for that matter. and he did not want to touch it with a ten foot pole.You seem to have little respect for all this lesbian drama… . whether it is romantic or not. But they don’t want the case solved. as if anything he had to say would hurt me. Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club…There is a dead body in the janitorial closet. He sees Julien all the time.
a daring lover with the ability to let go and be womanly. incredibly sweet and exhilarating as if nothing could possibly ever go wrong in any of our lives ever. with unbelievable beauty. She was not eating but was swallowing hard. I stopped talking. unemotional. always mysterious. as if the memory of past loves. she could be a hedonist. I can’t say I did not like it. beyond conventions. I guess love between women has the capacity to open doors that some people think should have been kept shut. . I described my joy at seeing her. vulnerable. in whole. . she said. she became soft. Alison was often languid. with a touch of sadness to keep the momentary pleasures in perspective. She did have a gift for happiness. was sometimes willing to go all the way through those doors. I felt very free to tell Linda about Alison in very intimate terms. mainly marijuana. generous and seemingly invincible. Everything became magical. and an endless belief in the goodness of this world. But when she was herself and connected. the way her face would light up with youthful energy. the food arrived. and the conversation and the evening took on a different turn. and maybe this is why wine was invented after all. . though… . about Alison’s good sides from our past. wonderful madness. and came out of it all sweet. looked at me like she understood what I understood and that was what linked us together. and was interested in everything.As she said that. My heart started pounding again like it hadn’t since the day at the Babylone. 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. if they were good and true. Alison. emotionally unleashed. Linda was staring at me intensely. pure.It was hurried. could fuel the present with spirit. I told her about Yosemite. Sexually. she had a tendency to indulge in artificial stimulants as Woody Allen says in “Annie Hall”. . passion.Does it worry you that you liked it? 66 .How was it? Time had suspended itself beyond surprise. I’ve slept with women before…She smiled. leaning her head to the side. For some reason. before Marie.You know.It was not like what you are describing…She was shaking her head softly. the strength that I felt from our connection when it was there. that of the soul within. passionate and elegant at the same time. and full of questions.
She told me that she hoped I was happy. I guess…It’s almost as if it was very powerful. After all. two. The champagne was almost gone. I ran into her at a party. but I was more involved with the other one. especially since she made it all seem like it had been only a weird. She was with some guy. I was not with anyone at the time. and accepting her journey into absence and denial. We had finished our food. Another part of me said: “If she doesn’t say – not until now -. Somehow. It was a little sad.A little bit. I was threading on thin ice.What happened after that? . I had to navigate very carefully between soliciting a reaction. It was wild. to hide my fear of vulnerability. and all that. because she was getting married the next week. She talked to me as if we were mere acquaintances. and started working for a TV station there. this and that. There was no music playing anymore.How many women did you sleep with? I tried to maintain a matter of fact tone. You know. and we kept talking about men we liked and what we did with them. it was in her past and not in her present. I crossed my fingers she would not just shut off like Alison used to when she felt pressured. The first one only once. 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. .. plays. and reconcile me with the idea of opening up to relationships in a grand way. . I tried to agitate some memories. 67 . disturbing dream. but she seemed to have forgotten them all. and I just went on my merry way. . Sometimes any conversation that was not superficial and flat made her feel pressured. . if she doesn’t grab this occasion to give you something.I went back to New York. 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. with a very loud laugh.Have you ever thought of doing it again? Part of me knew for a fact that this encounter was going to change my life. movies. I met her at a seminar I was taking in Los Angeles in communication. but we were both trying to ignore that power. forget the whole thing. which had not in any way altered our reality. Her name was Lisa. we were afraid to cross a certain threshold.Oh. and I was kind of happy to see her. You need to be by yourself for a while anyway”.
Would you want to get back with him? . where all the glitter masks captivity and pain. That would have been a lie. A bad sign.She took her time to answer. loud and clear. But I wanted my wild horses free. and he was always talking to her about movie stars he had met. Come on fate. But I am probably kidding myself. maybe I don’t either! I said. and we dedicated the rest of the champagne to our common bewilderment. Give me something. I could look at her in a deep meaningful way loaded with sexual vibes. and how attractive they were. Finally. Julien was a good guy. Linda’s eyes were filling up. Knock on wood. she said. I realized how hurt I still was about Alison. Of course. Not in the circus. 68 . The tamer and the tamed. and how the grass was always greener on the other side. back off. and in the prairie. until she finally gave in and kissed me. I can’t really honestly say that I was deliriously happy when I was with him. I would like him to come back so I could say no. This says it all. I guess. I tried to undo any possible hex by discreetly touching the wood under our table.I am sorry it ended like it did. I could not say: believe me Lindy. We remain good friends and semi in love like I am with my first lover Angela. he had decided to cross over to the other side. but very self involved. She went on talking about herself and Julien. . . We had a good life that fit in perfectly with the lives of everyone around us. I thought.Well not really. It must have been rough on you. I have been very absorbed with Julien for the past two years. I got it. but also how disappointed I was that Linda had not made any kind of approach. Maybe if I was Marie. . He did not seem to have had any problem making a commitment to Sonja.Well. He was a journalist of some kind. She said it always bothered her. you know.I don’t know. and plant my face in front of hers. It seemed from what I was hearing that the good times were few and far between. give me a break this time. The piano started playing again a song I did not recognize. and say: “Hey”. The truth is I don’t know what love feels like anymore… . as in reality it was seldom like that. because he kept saying how he could not make a commitment to her. Lindy. and ended up with this oh so very cool and glamorous fashion model named Sonja. and very attracted to women with a strong sense of image. Back off. with women it is different. OK.
smiling and looking around too. maybe unforgettable memory? I knew I had to do something. that the old café was suddenly transfigured by some yet to be understood meaning. She came back upstairs. usually for a short time. I felt betrayed and cheated. it was comfortable. Goodbyes are all important when the situation is not clear. What is this going to be? What should my expectations be? What can I do. and you have to live with your impression after that. was like giving in to the forces of evil. Maybe she did not get too much of a chance to talk to anyone about personal things. when we connected. Don’t let it be entirely anticlimactic. and I wanted to make something good out of our relationship. Linda and I paid and shared our bill. and a code keypad to keep the burglars out. like a good antique. . Never had it looked so glamorous and rich. this is where I live! The building looked very old. In fact she seemed to like it quite a lot. with an old doorway. just to be 69 . Friendship on the other hand seemed to involve more intimacy than she could muster anyway. and on the way to the Rue de Nevers. Maybe this is why she had picked up a stranger at the Babylone. so back into hell I went. I’d give anything to own it. You have to come see it some time. I knew I wanted to get out of the hell I had been in when she was with Marie. I would have done anything to make the pain stop. I drove straight into the narrow passage. sagging a little. where I was to drop her off. When the reversal finally came however. whichever way it would go. to make this into a good. But we had indeed established some kind of intimacy. and I thought it was worth all the suffering and tomorrow’s probable reversal. but my friend refuses to give it to me… I was sitting at the wheel. I regretted that Linda had not given me more hope. and we were ready to go outside. incredibly alone and rejected. how forward can I be. Letting myself be pulled in to something resembling love.I was never sure that I wanted to get back with Alison.It is very nice. People seemed to be having fun. and wished our evening had been more on the side of danger and flirtation. Sometimes. . We were silent on the way to the car. and she did not seem too scared of it.Here. anxious about the way the evening would end. I looked around the Closerie while she went downstairs to the bathroom. as if we both had the same impression.
good night. The least I need to do. and it felt good. she had given me enough indication that she was open to the idea… I went home thinking about Alison. I got back to the car. I felt empty and incomplete. I did too. I went home thinking about how when the mere possibility of love came around. so I can get in touch with you without hanging out at the Babylone every day? -Oh yes. The apartment must be facing the back…I backed out of the alley. I wrote hers on a loose piece of paper that I had. is get her phone number this time. I like the Babylone. California style hug. walking around the car to find myself next to her in the final moment. our deepest emotions and fears were challenged to 70 . As the door opened. and give me yours too. dead in its tracks. knowing that I would do everything in my power not to lose it.Yes. We have to do it again. . . This was a lot of fun. take care… Her voice became very soft.You take care too… She was gone. 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. as if I had cheated myself on something. but not all that much… We exchanged phone numbers. she said. She suddenly got out of the car. OK? . fished the key out of her giant purse. but all the same. I held her tight. . It did last a lot longer than a merely polite California hug. . and how if she had not left me I would be daydreaming about her and none of this fantasizing would be going on. and stared until I knew which windows would light up on the face of the building.Yes. she turned to me and said: . She looked at me intensely for what seemed hours. and then gave me a good.Will you give me your phone number. honest.Talk to you soon. She went to the door. it was just a hug. I don’t know who let go first…Maybe I did. In a panic.sure that wherever this was leading wasn’t going to stop right here. None did. let’s! I said. and headed for home.Well.
by making some kind of a move. and would only affect our lives negatively. like a deadly addiction to something we can never have. I had a nice little room separated in the servants’ quarters. or at least a clear. You could hardly hear the neighbors. sounded like it was all happening inside my pillow. everything would remain the mere shadow of reality. intellectual adventure you-name-it. one can observe the most backward and creepy customs. the City of Light and Glamour. Everything that happened in the hallway. with a common toilet for the whole floor. The architect had thought it all out very well. This particular problem was not helping me deal with the extreme confusion that was taking place in my head. honest verbal overture. so who cared if he cut the soundproofing budget to a minimum. And also of course. who could forget how Marie had come to pick her up right in front of me. How I sat there 71 . My feelings about the evening with Lindy were very mixed. he had designed walls and floors that were paper thin. At times. My mother’s apartment gave at all times an impression of solid comfort and silence. How will a straight woman ever do anything wild and different. and let in a lot of thoughts about Alison.come out and give their names openly. unless they were playing basketball in their living room. screams. or maybe it was that a choice was offered to me of how I was going to live from now on. Otherwise. hurried steps. In my mother’s building. But the brick wall had a breach. (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. right next to my ear. gossip on a background of vacuum cleaning. It could have been great. Chapter Six It is always surprising how in Paris. But in the servants’ area. freedom. which were not very constructive and did not offer many openings out of the cramped corner that my life in California had become. 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. This interest in another person had in a way softened me up. I felt that I had missed an occasion to create something. Domestic employees were supposed to be up at dawn anyway. After my dinner with Lindy.
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. Whenever I pointed out some moment of coldness or even outright hostility on her part. Pouncing just did not seem as exciting to me as responding to something hidden. life is too short to stop yourself from doing what you want even if it is only for the moment!”. of all places. 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. Besides. nothing was lost either. A whole year and a half with Marie did not seem to have helped develop her imagination nor her selfesteem. however. Paris. the city where so many had come to help their real lives unfold. She liked to cultivate an image of me as this person who was out to smother her with favors. and told me so! What an interesting dilemma. So far. and where Natalie Barney would hold her court in total openness and freedom. Other times. but definitely mutual. I felt that I had done the best I could by being honest and yet not pushing her into anything. she had sought me out. until she finally would have to give in. let’s get on with some real fun. as Lindy obviously seemed more interested in Julien than in me. she seemed to be replaying some Marie scenes. even if she knew what could happen between us. as long as I kept the messages true. and swear to be with me forever. it looked like I possibly could encounter the same problems. if not always clear. not realizing of course that this was exactly what my sophisticated lover was dying for. Yet to me. and how unexpected…In Paris. Maybe it was just 72 . Alison liked to think that my affection for her was nothing but an abject expression of my addictive tendencies. In fact. On the other hand. If she did not. unconsciously casting me in the role of the weaker element. It was not as simple as: “Forget him. Paris had always seemed closed and oppressive. It was the city of tolerance where Vita Sackville-West used to take Violet on outrageous jaunts. then if nothing was gained. Maybe it was time to make things happen in a different way. 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. She would come to me when she was ready.laughing at her crude approach. There was some history that I had to contend with. she had already done the infamous deed.
All right! I had never really noticed the tone of her voice…Soft. and distract yourself form all this trouble with Alison. OK? But what if I get hurt…She’ll be back with Julien. 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. and every morning when my phone rang I was always hoping it was going to be her. I’m going to do it. you have nothing to lose. you are sure not to win! Do it! It’s only a telephone call for God’s sake… Before I knew it. imagining that I was with Alison or Lindy. One can leave little concise masterpieces that say not too much. Sunday came and went. and started applying my methods for not thinking. but it’s like the Lottery. still nothing. as I had in California. straight woman in tennis shoes. there is only one way to find out. Go ahead. more movies. but if you would like to leave a message 73 . A bonanza for shy people. Have a good time. tsk. this is Linda. talking to them. I cannot come to the phone right now. lay off. I kept myself busy. American in Paris. Here it was…An answering machine. and leave a lot to the imagination. or maybe she’ll be with somebody new…Tsk. various museums and sightseeing adventures that I would live on my own. No such luck. Lindy Christoforos. and messages on them are like the modern version of telegrams in the old days. seeing friends and family. saying only as much as was safe to say. “Hello. after our dinner. yet totally unaffected. choosing dark corners where we could kiss and increase the excitement of the excursion. hoping to accidentally run into Lindy. without much success. all right. lonely person who picked up strangers for no reason…But we had reached the weekend. You could prepare your message in your head. and leave it on the machine. Driving past the Rue de Nevers was especially difficult as I would crane my neck. and she hadn’t called. as Parisian drivers don’t take kindly to unexplained slowing down. I felt discouraged. All right. and I almost had a couple of accidents. husky. These devices are great. The days went by. Ruthie. I was dialing her number. Ruthie says: you might not win. If you don’t play. Should I give up on the whole thing? Why hasn’t she called? I kept wishing that I had an answering machine in Paris.because I was from there and not from Oakland where there is no there… I started waiting for her to call me. I wondered if Lindy had one in her borrowed apartment…Well.
then to dinner. reluctant to leave my room. I hope everything is OK. and at least play the game with all cards on the table. The thought was infuriating me. Please call me in the mornings. Once you had mastered step one. Hopefully. Waiting for phone 74 . No call the next day either. if you want to do something…Do something? What? How silly. 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. and is leading me on or toying with my mind or my heart. Why can’t people just start living? I could remember myself as an adolescent. Becoming a sexual deviant was not so painful if you let yourself enjoy the good part. My phone number is blah blah blah…” I said. And why would anyone do this? She does not get anything out of it. and I don’t get anything out of it. and that there was none to waste. Oh well. we’ll see. the machine answered. Once more. attractive voice she had. “après le bip sonore”. and tucked her cold feet back in. cover ups and rationalizations. or some other ethereal and fragile entity within my system. It sure made the bad part much more palatable. I had to keep in mind that my time here was limited. Second. I had not asked to start this. If she claimed not to be interested. I had come back to the café all right. I find someone who might be able to help me forget Alison. and leave it to fate. I hung up. she got tempted and then became scared when things got too close to really happening. “Hope to hear from you soon. I had learned something since then: the hard part is to know what you really feel. And at least. “I think we should talk about things a little more. First. She had picked me up. as she repeated the last part in French. I said. What an exotic. Maybe there was a way I could talk about this openly with Lindy. and eager to leave it so I did not have to wait for the phone call. she is just like Alison.for me or Igor Metzguev who is now away till the end of October. and later with Angela. Two days later. and to not give in to disguises. well I just had to go with that. but there was nothing I could do about it. things became more manageable. I was cursing my life and the stupid situation I had gotten myself into. just like Alison. please do so after the beep”. but she was the one who asked to go to the movie with me. I found myself dialing her number again. I was going crazy. there was no other word for it. Again. It would be a waste. Why can’t people stick to their original ideas? Maybe. I left my message in English. I would have saved myself the humiliation of pouncing only to be turned down. Please call me”.
We hung up. She does not know what she’s missing. she was ahead of me and surprised me. I enthusiastically agreed.I would love to. early in the morning. Right. and that was it. that there was no more hope. Where shall we meet? I was sure she was going to say the Babylone. I knew all about it from my last days in the music business. Well.Fine. . deciding at times. Would you like to get together again? It would be great to talk… . Once more. A little early for a French date. Dream on. of the unreality that sometimes seeps from real life into our dreams. I kept myself busy all day again. “Hi! Is this too early to call? Did I wake you up?” . But things could be arranged… . I was wondering if we could get together on Saturday night… I had plans with Francoise and her husband. Saturday as in tomorrow. she does not want me. especially now that I have your phone number again.Well. if she does not want me. the phone rang while I was still half asleep.Why don’t you come and meet me at the apartment? .No. It is the daily grind of the betrayed. we’ll call you.You mean tomorrow? . She did not seem afraid or disturbed. and we talked a little bit longer about how busy she was at work and how idle I was for the time being.Sorry…I’m glad I thought of giving it to you again. but after all she was not French.Great! I’ll be there! What time? We decided on seven. ha. Then. How are you? . . I said goodbye. Don’t call us. . I somehow had misplaced the piece of paper it was on. “Same here” she said very sweetly. are you kidding? This is great. dreams of rejection. I slept with great difficulty.calls has to be one of the most horrible things in life. of disconnection. 75 . with a lot of Alison dreams. adding that I was looking forward to seeing her tomorrow. Sometimes. reality begins to follow our wildest fantasies…This is when things become really fun. just for old time’s sake. and you are not listed. ha.Yes. It was Lindy.
to not be too impatient about the evening? It was all set with my mother. seemed to have slowed down to intergalactic time. it gave her a more assertive attitude. trying very hard to concentrate on a conversation. I knew something had to be done and that the situation had to evolve fast.I was ecstatic about the idea that I was going to see where she lived. Besides. In my mind. and the stigma had stayed with me. I had lunch with some friends from high school. I did like it when people came to visit me in California. as a lover as well…I was certainly willing to give it a try… Chapter Seven I woke up in the usual racket. The clocks once more. and who knows. threatening to rain. I decided not to 76 . but it had taken years of getting used to having my own house and being able to clean it every once in a while. normal people. How was I going to spend the day. and we went home in the always hellish traffic. Even my little room was an extension of my mother’s apartment and as we know. and that it was very seldom the other way around. After lunch. There were other people in the world who could give her joy and excitement. I felt that other people. The weather was overcast. or I would be going back to hell in California without having gone through to the end of this. if she was going to give me the break that Alison would not give me: The feeling of being valued and appreciated. I took my mother with me to see a movie. a French one with a lot of style and very little substance. It always struck me as unfair that I always liked to go and visit other people. Neither of us really liked it. I called Francoise to reschedule our plans for the next day. after a sleepless night. The real conversation was going on in my head about what I was going to tell Lindy tonight. 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. as a friend. and inviting her was out of the question. less ready to abide by the dynamics laid out by Julien which said that her role was to be sad and abandoned. it was much more fun to go there. I was definitely applying for the job of being one of them. extremely noisy. had much cleaner. nicer houses…I did not really have a home of my own in Paris nowadays. 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.
At the end of this drive. I could be fashionably late. Is that you? I described my predicament. and searched the side streets to no avail. She answered. Fortunately.Lindy? . life was beginning to make sense again. She gave me the code. feeling much better. and had to back up because there was not a single parking place.Yes. waiting for me. I realized I did not have the code. I walked out of the Rue de Nevers into a café. I went back onto the quay. She looked 77 . welcoming. Smiling. and left in the still crowded evening.Hi! I totally forgot about the code and all that. I arrived at her door. It was beginning to drizzle as I walked back across the bridge. think of the time it will take to find a parking place! I said goodnight to my mother. Oh my God! Six thirty! I’d better leave now. and leave everything to the moment. It felt and I felt a little bit slanted. Here we go. It was almost a quarter past seven. She was on the last floor. as I went into the apartment. The most difficult task ever undertaken by mankind. I punched in the code. I had the piece of paper with her phone number. there is Lindy Christoforos. I decided to cross the bridge. and did not know where the apartment was. and tried to open it.rehearse my upcoming encounter with Lindy. I needed to get to a phone and call her. an almost Greek woman with a French exboyfriend. as a means of stopping myself from having too many expectations about Lindy. Sorry… She hugged me. I started feeling present and alive again. and started going up the ancient staircase. . unlucky in parking saying after all. Seven twenty five. Everything was all right. she sounded very sweet. left. and told me it was on the fifth floor. I had to make change and go downstairs to call. . I cultivated my anger at Alison. but I did not want to aggravate Lindy for stupid reasons like being really late.Allo? . I did my best to free my mind of all expectations and concentrate on living in the present. As I drove. I walked back. which was definitely worth checking out. maybe there is some truth to the lucky in love. she said without questioning my use of the nickname. the tangled webs… I drove all the way into the Rue de Nevers. and finally found a place on the other bank. the carrier of Christ. Oh. It was locked.
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.
- 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
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.
Yet she hangs on. and found some books in French and English that we had read. I still think gay women should be above all this. Don’t you think? Lindy was walking on eggs trying not to be offensive. full of resentments and judgments about 81 . gay or straight. Compared to her. we checked out Igor’s bookcase. that the key to all this is the same.. cuz he’s such a guy…Surabaya Johnny…I’m putty in your hands.You don’t have to tell me! Obviously however. you’re right! But for some reason. sipping some old cognac. . 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. and the broad he likes to make fun of and drive crazy with jealousy. I saw myself as a bitter curmudgeon.You’re right…Of course. a tough biker type with tattoos. . why do gay women think this is attractive behavior? Why do they like sex to be so objectified. and the other ones to hate themselves in response. so exclusive and unreal? . At that moment. This Alison thing has made me question everything. and I agreed with her. I said. Do you really want to know? She laughed… . Yet the payoff when it happens makes it all worthwhile. it would sound so horrible and abusive. when they have the means to make magic? Why are they trying to be so tough and flirtatious. The straight world has gone beyond that. I was not above any of the behaviors I was criticizing. like you know. Pariahs seem to me to be the result of a tacit agreement between the oppressor and the oppressed. it depends. After dinner. really. I poured us some more wine. If one were to describe her relationship with Marie as a man and a woman.It sounds to me. trying to stay relatively cool. both parties have to agree. that kind of thing…very twenties somehow.Sometimes. some that we had never read but wished we had.I’m not so sure that the straight world has gone beyond that at all… . one to hate. I am curious… Touche! I took a swig of wine. and the conversation moved on to easier grounds. I didn’t care. Brahmin or Untouchable. I felt very close to Lindy. and some we could never read no matter what desert island we were on. and talking about ourselves. I think gay women are so screwed up.Oh well. Somehow. that I would have been better off straight. We sat on the couch. side by side. the world and everything else.
as if some new understanding was dawning on us as we were discovering each other. and emotional release. It’s strange…Like all feeling of control is gone. followed my unfortunate lead and said as she got up. and realized to my amazement that it was past two in the morning.What are you thinking? She asked as I was staring into space. Every object seemed to carry its own load of deep meanings. The smoke was bathing the room with some ancient. and answers to the riddles of the world.Is that good or bad? . from the simplest to the most difficult. animated by a natural love and enjoyment of all the nice things in life. . I should go. as if the nervousness of our first encounters at least on my part was gone. easily. and I could see her heart beating in the tender part of her neck. The magical courage came back to me. I asked her permission.I was thinking of how.And now? . so you can always enjoy that special moment. quite peaceful. protective of each other. even though I would be at a loss to explain why. . evaluating he changes in my mood. and devoid of any expectation. like relationships and other hellish endeavors. . Maybe this was the first real sign of love between us. ease.Now my mind seems empty. empty glass in hand: 82 . and more of a promise of serenity. as it had a few times before. Whatever tape she had been playing had run out. all I could think about when I got here was whether or not I would ever sleep with you… She smiled. generously. The silences were easy. As I was speaking. prophecies. and lit an after dinner cigarette. We felt. I was amazed at my own fear and cowardice.It feels good.Oh God! It’s so incredibly late! I am keeping you up. yet compassionate of others. There was less of a tremulous impatience and intrusive desire. Behind her I saw a clock. . whom in my moment of passivity I expected to pick up the reins and lead me back to sanity.everything and everyone. Panic seized me. one of those that make you swear you will never smoke too much. unspeakable mystery though the orange flickering light of the candles. Lindy. . in our review of the world and the past. She seemed kind. I could hear her breathe. for whatever reason. There was silence in the room.
when we found ourselves involved in the softest. I’m sorry… . 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. and I would never leave Igor’s unbelievably idyllic bohemian apartment. climbing up the stairs out of breath. driving or better yet walking to the Rue de Nevers. We walked to the door together. embraced in a final hug. that she actually enjoyed washing dishes. without pulling back. We are shooting some location footage for the archives. We both laughed. Chapter Eight The idea of sleep was now foreign to me. I would constantly wake up. and she. and leave her cheek right there. and knocking on Lindy’s door…She would be awaiting me. The courage came back: I had the nerve to look straight into her eyes. I had a wonderful evening. and Lindy looked flushed and out of breath. punching the security code that was engraved in my mind forever. against mine. Oh. When we finally pulled apart after quite a while. “I’ll call you” she whispered. I bounced out into the cold night. and I have to be there. I felt some huge wave of unreality wash over me as I walked across the bridge. along with the frustration of not knowing what I was doing. and disappearing around the bend in a crown of light beams. I am sorry to keep you up so late. you’re right! And tomorrow is the only Sunday where I have to get up at dawn. and turned around to say goodbye… . 83 . she opened it. Instead. 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. but she said she would take care of it all. sweetest. bright as day. and imaging myself getting up. dream like…like life itself. Damn! I admire people who enjoy washing dishes so much…But I had to go.Aie! Goodness.. The cathedral was still lit.No. gathering my things. I had no idea where the car was. illuminating the river banks. I mumbled something about helping with the dishes. and a late night promenade boat glided by like a waterfall. In Paris. all was said and done. she had the nerve to give me a hug. fullest kiss one can imagine. my heart was pounding away. thanks to some inner pilot who was taking over my feet. I did not work. I did start toward the bridge. its searchlights on.Thank you. We were both rewarded for our courage. I was putting on my jacket.
but there was also a nervous tone to her voice that was unmistakable. I was finally in bed after having walked around the block about five times.Yes.Lindy? . She knew. it felt like a dream. Again. The walls were oppressive like the torture chamber in the Cask of Amontillado.What do you mean? I felt like a traitor.Well.I was hoping it was you in person too. My attention was hanging by a thread…I was not listening to any conversations. I had come back from some dinner party where I ate nothing.Well. I saw myself dial Lindy’s number. It was half past ten.It took three nights…Three nights of agitation and daydreams.I think we need to help things go where they want to go… My ears were pounding with the bass drum of my heart. Hi! I was hoping it was you… . How can this woman be like this? Does she know what she is saying? Does she really mean what she means? . I saw some friends.Yes but… . but my connection with them had become incredibly tenuous. and it all seems like an everyday occurrence… . I knew.Now? She sounded as if she was joking. My only comfort was to walk. Why was I still hiding and pretending? Lindy burst out laughing. I was wondering if you could possibly come over… . If she is home. You are flying through a cloud chatting with Julius Caesar.Come only if you want to. how are you? . then maybe you should not come over at all! I was caught… 84 . Closing in… Suddenly. walk everywhere. On the third night. well that will be a sign… Her voice on the line…With a French intonation…”Allo?” . but in dreams everything always seems so normal. You remember the code? . until I felt so tired that the idea of calling Lindy seemed like an impossible endeavor. if you don’t know what I mean. . saw and heard nothing. drank nothing.
I regained my composure.Hey.No chance! I got out of bed and put away the childish nightgown that I always wore when I was in Paris. She closed the door. are you? . and the way she gave in so easily to feelings of impending freedom. but not like a native either. I turned right on the bridge. and escaped into the shiny night. I put on a T-shirt. The code…Up the stairs…I was getting a little less confident. there were no cops to give you parking tickets. grabbed both of my wrists. and I was ready for it. a jacket. Paris would never be the same again. her beauty.I’ll be there! Don’t you fall asleep! She laughed again. wait a minute! I’m the one supposed to ask you these questions. and yet the streets were still crowded. things get really clear for me. There was nothing crude or trivial like the shallow oppression of the everyday city. It was on a weekday. I went down to the garage. The monuments on the river bank were all lit. The world never sleeps. You know. Life had just become different in the past half hour. . I could never have imagined that you… . In this new life. and proceeded with the matter at hand without further discussion. started the car. I did not feel like a tourist anymore. right? You’re not scared or anything. Did I understand all of this the way it was meant to be understood? Lindy… She opened the door..Sometimes. alone and in a state of total lack of expectations. I knew exactly where I was going and why. I was staring at her. jeans. My mind was blank. and sat me down on the couch. This is what I want to do right now. . in awe of her poise. 85 . directly into the Rue de Nevers. I was not particularly nervous. and left. where I proceeded to park on the sidewalk. and I was already used to it. like a special favor to me. shoes…I was going through the motions. as the streets were varnished by the drizzle. and said “All right…” with relief. Paris never sleeps.This is OK.
This morning the show featured ethereal streams of translucent magenta over a sky of purple agate. but smiling upon us as no ghost can stay angry in the face of tenderness. making a game of folding each item neatly. and the intensity of our feelings betrayed a depth that we had not really prepared ourselves for. Lindy and I were finally taking a break and talking. I had never realized the power and seductiveness of such a simple gesture. Yet there was the recognition of love. and the faint light of day was beginning to grace Igor’s romantic skylights. a garret with a huge skylight and a bed that took almost all the space. and relaxing brought on more lovemaking. The ghosts of Alison and Julien were there. I had a thought for Alison. lithe and free of all the betrayals to come. it was thick. No performance anxiety or uneasiness. and keeping her eyes on me. The bedroom was on top of a couple of wooden stairs. Then. Lindy reached behind her head. I had seen it done many times in movies. while we were still together. 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. the one who could share. We seemed familiar to each other somehow. We undressed slowly.Suddenly. When we were done. Why hadn’t she simply called me first? 86 . So we simply stuck to words for a while. give and receive and enjoy it all like some spiritual homework given to us by some divine teacher. shook her head gently and let her hair down. carefully. and fluid like water. It was late. We barely knew each other. dawn finally won over the darkness. young. I felt I was becoming the adult I was meant to be. Sleep meant relaxing. but nobody had ever let down their hair for me like that before. the one who savored all that life had to offer. and somewhere in my mind I felt some regret for all the times that we did not make love. I could see it all from Lindy’s bed. and desire had driven us more than thoughts of everlasting companionship. Lindy and I were in a situation close to a pickup scene or one night stand. since sleep seemed to be entirely out of the question. like a connection to the secular world that had brought us together. heavy. and I knew I had been granted a privilege usually reserved to the Gods of Ancient Greece. When I ran my fingers through her hair to keep it away from our faces as we kissed. through the skylights. we sat on top of the bed facing each other.
We were very different people from the night before. she seemed to enjoy it with a vengeance. Our conversation breaks were taking an alien turn… . plague that can break the most wonderful attempts at liberation. 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. then it will be a sign and I swear that I will do the rest of the work. 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. Alison and Marie dared speak its name…at least for a little while. and were now collecting the fruit of our labor. I was committing a terrible crime considering the circumstances. if she doesn’t call me. pleased with herself.I’m afraid I was thinking about Alison and Marie. and take it all the way.It seems to me that we are on a sailboat. I feel like time has stopped. She was definitely innocent of any such crime. The love that dares not speak its name…indeed…To their credit. and I will never go back. but Lindy reminded me that I was the one who came back to the café to look for her. And somehow. as usual. If she calls me. rite of shame.Do you ever do this…put something in the hands of fate? Think well. . . We were swimming in warm waters..To me. who was smiling at me as she was asking the question. in a cocoon of softness. and we are gently sailing into the heart of the blue ocean. the I only wanted to be friends – what have you done to me – I’d rather not see you again rite of passage. How we think the oddest things at the oddest moment! But I was also thinking about you. that will be it. and how you don’t seem to be feeling any fear… 87 .You did.What are you thinking? Ooops…I was exposed and felt disrespectful of the present moment. I guess we both had done a good day’s work. the betrayal. I did not do a very professional job…Well thank you for bringing me back to my senses. Instead. and without a single thought for how much it might hurt me… . It was a crime against me and Lindy. nor will I wish to… . so to speak! I felt I had been cowardly. Nature had become our friend and the sun our brother.
She was laughing and we felt so strong. In fact. or worse yet. laughter.Fear of being catalogued a lesbian forever.You mean now? . and I would have a normal day. but I could not find that many at all. Who cared? She said she might tell Julien. calm. which superseded and sanctified everything. I would go back to Lindy and we would have this most wonderful secret affair…Maybe before I had to leave. None of it seemed to matter one bit. fear that I will turn against you. and the noises of the cars on the Quai were finally penetrating the reverent silence of Igor’s apartment. Everybody else could stay in the dark. The day was really here. it 88 . No evil could ever come of it. Would everybody know about this? I said I had a couple of people I was going to call and tell immediately. We were making plans of the greatest importance. On the contrary. maybe a little smug…Well. I could not find any. that I will stick to you like glue and that you’ll never be able to shake me and get on with your life. .Yes now… I searched within the deep recesses of my heart. It was evident that what really counted. we had an edge on the world…It seemed ridiculous that anyone could ever feel uncomfortable about being gay. what God or whoever meant for us to feel. or straight or anything.Are you feeling any of these fears? . I took a shower while Lindy was making some coffee. we could spend 48 hours together in a row. looking for my familiar insecurities. we slowly got up. We sat on the couch where we had sat that first night when we had dinner.. so indestructible. this comfort. 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. relishing the delightful weariness in our bodies. Afterwards.Fear of what? . I was going to leave and go home as if nothing special had happened. and by then we had all the skills and effortlessness acquired through a long and full night together. was this great happiness. All I could find was a welling up of happiness. 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. Except that I knew that when the evening came. Then Lindy would go to work. this freedom.
and had given me the nerve to come back to her. of imagination and the celebration of consciousness. They gave you the terminal for free. Bravely. 89 . It was time for me to go. The car was still there. I lightly kissed her neck just where I always saw her heart beating. Minitel was the computer network installed by the French bureau of communications. who had put me on the path of this unknown woman.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. Yet. and next thing I knew I was racing down the old uneven steps. Someone had to make a decision. out on the street. illegal. and sped toward the darker western skies. call me…” I suddenly thought of the loneliness everywhere. if I didn’t want my mother to think that I had disappeared with her car. The mystery had been replaced by the ordinary. requesting that one dial 3615-ORGASM on their minitel. singles groups. the magic was lingering. My mind was full of memories of the night and expectations of nights to come. with me. “Hi. 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.was the essence of generosity. said the woman…I am Pamela…I am shameless. There was a God. that people tried to escape from through minitel networks. I backed it up to the Quai. I was out in the light. We stayed on the landing and kissed until the temptation to go back inside became unbearable. I felt elated and shaky. at the door. and then collected on your various calls and time online. of intelligence. I had been so lucky! . On the right side was a building under construction with a huge billboard. or a Goddess. I had to go. She had to go to work. 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. pick up bars and gay bars. It showed a scantily clad woman with deep cleavage and an enticing smile. you are faceless. someone watching over me. It was light out. out of place.
I was in my home 90 . I had packed. the streets and the city. It was as if we were on a beach. on my way back to California. The bag was not too heavy. . the temptation…I smiled back. We went down to the Vert Galant to watch the golden hour descend upon the center of the city. and under Igor’s skylights we made love in the bright sunshine. She did not want to cancel. and called a cab to leave on Sunday. with him. slow and gentle. So this time. There I was. Lindy came down to help me. and we quite enjoyed negotiating the narrow steps and tight corners. born in Argentina. not really either…I guess I’m just going away. while it sets ablaze the windows of the Institut and glows through the glass roof of the Grand Palais. It was hot and sultry. and he and Lindy had been a comfort to each other. Lindy had taken Monday off. I’m not.Are you going back home then? . She said she would love for Diego to meet me and for us to have our first dinner as lovers. Climbing into the taxi. no…thank you. on Tuesday. I think Francoise and her husband were the only ones who knew of my secret plans. I had jumped off the train of time. I entered the code.No. Lindy told me she had a previous engagement with her friend Diego. Hassan smiled… -Should I take you back? Ah. I usually always took the Sunday flight. Without any prompting on my part.. I had said goodbye to everyone. the setting sun graces the river with sparkle.No. I was off to Cythera…in a taxi. I had told the driver to take me Rue de Nevers instead. . and we were mellow. and proceeded to wheel my suitcase up the five flights of stairs. Diego was a painter in his mid seventies. Once more.No. On a clear summer day. Then we closed the door on the stairs. His beloved wife Antonia had died a couple of years before. and we were going to get our 48 hours together. Rue de Nevers. I could not figure out whether I had stepped into a dream or if I had finally awakened to reality. But Lindy and I had made other plans. who lived on a barge on the river. It was as if our souls were somehow directing our bodies into a dance around the light as it kept changing.
he said smiling broadly and waving us in. . We climbed aboard and right away.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. and cared for him as if I had known him all my life. we were in love with the world. The Vert Galant is a place for lovers. happy. and the world loved us back. He took us on a tour of the barge. Diego saw us walk in from an old fashioned bar. Diego was a great cook. 91 . We toasted to all of us. young. and he said he had prepared food especially for us. to friendship and love. and grilled sweetbreads on a wooden board. By the door there was a crisp black and white photograph of Antonia. We walked along the still crowded square. It had a bedroom. We agreed that while it would be great to be able to make out in the open like these people. according to him. we also enjoyed keeping a tantalizing distance. The deck was decorated with flowers. with an exuberance of color. Good for sex. There were sweet and sour vegetables to soothe the heart. . yet exuded calm. but had the looks of a converted seafaring vessel. The strangers around us seemed more interesting and friendly than usual. The kitchen was a perfect boat’s kitchen. By the window on the river side. Dinner was delicious. His paintings were abstract. We were in love with each other.Welcome! I am honored that you chose to bring beauty and love under my roof. lounge chairs. I loved it and wanted to move in and stay forever. from his mother’s ancient recipes. and many couples around us were holding hands or kissing. The door was open on an interior full of paintings. a table was set for three. posing by a dangerous looking waterfall. I laughed with him. a green and white umbrella and a couple of small palm trees. seafaring lore and framed photographs. as if to protect it from being shaken by storms on the high seas. where he was busy mixing some South American cocktail in a silver shaker. Diego’s barge was anchored not far from the Pont Neuf. he said. with candles and a bottle of wine. but it had suddenly become a mysterious undiscovered place of striking beauty. and up to the bridge. a living room that Diego had turned into his workshop. It was small. Every item had its place.city.
Maybe that first day at the Babylone. 92 . exhausted and overwhelmed. we said goodnight to our host. some unconscious part of us already knew what was in store. So we went to have a light lunch on the Place Dauphine. 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. We were stunned that everything was going so well. Unfortunately. The next morning. but could not stay apart for too long. we decided it was time to take a real break and spend some time doing more mundane things together. and always be true! Diego said…there was a second of unease. That night.. which at first was more about reminiscing and commenting on our last twenty four hours. So. Then Diego took two Polaroid photos of us. so I did care. and walked off into the night holding hands. I had escaped with a lie. I told her I loved Diego and never wanted to lose touch with him. our friend and protector. one of the most erotic tangos ever written. he said. and the names of Julien or Alison were conspicuously absent from our conversation. We had some coffee and some fruit.Always be good to each other. but we wanted to look at each other and not be in the dark. to always treasure as a souvenir. my friend Diego. 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. Finally. and how once you dropped out of the everyday routine the chances of running into someone you knew were quite slim. I pointed out how easy it is to lose oneself in Paris. Lindy was laughing a lot. At first we thought of going to a movie. Lindy said she did not care who she ran into. For dessert. we had dulce de leche. when lunch time came around and we felt hungry for food. sipped Argentinian style through silver straws from carved gourds. as Lindy and I had not yet speculated on where we were going from here. and Diego and I entertained Lindy with an improvised duet of “A Media Luz”. we woke up giddy with renewed energy. We finished the evening with yerba mate. 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. and gave us each one. Our lovemaking had become more sophisticated and quite intense.
rang the bell and saved Esmeralda from hanging. and we needed a rest.We decided that we wanted to discover something together. We were pointing landmarks to each other. As we were talking. there was a sweet summery stillness in the air as we took in the beauty of the spot. It was not very crowded up there. so we would always remember it as ours. Of course I was in love with Esmeralda then. and we were still laughing when we reached the top. Neither of us had ever been up there. She told me she had identified with Esmeralda. Climbing up was surprisingly tiring. The closest virgin territory was the towers of Notre Dame. We entered from the side. sitting out on the stone steps. The men had danced until dawn. the hunchback who lived in the tower. There is something about a moving body of water that brings on a contemplative mood. There was nobody there. and now. while the women sang and both consumed the little restaurant’s entire stock of Ouzo. and the view was sweeping and breathtaking. and walked to the lower bank by the Pont Saint Louis. and was almost disappointed when my mother finally found me. So we crossed to the Ile Saint Louis. and started up the stairs. but it was a different story to say it like that. I told her I had identified with Quasimodo. -You know that I love you. and looking into them it suddenly occurred to me that the two of us might be more than a mere sexual adventure. remembering incidents sometimes hilarious that had happened to us while visiting or near those places. 93 . I had accepted I was going to have to live there forever. she was in love with me. and sat down below the stairs. flatly. I told her I had gotten lost in the Cluny museum as a kid. In between the rumble of tour boats. She admitted hers were too. I said…You know that? We had said it to each other many times in the heat of the night. in broad daylight and in complete consciousness. Going down was even harder than going up. and I confessed to Lindy that my legs were still a little bit shaky. unbelievably. Standing by the chimaera with the horns. Lindy’s eyes were joyful and limpid. nothing but cobblestones and the milky flow of the river. A few of them had come to Paris for a brief visit with her. as typically in Paris they were always under construction. She talked about her Greek family on her father’s side. They had taken over a restaurant near the Pantheon. we remembered reading the Victor Hugo novel.
and I could not bring myself to ask Lindy if she had plans to move to California. -Yes. under the protection of the trees. and rushed by the book and print vendors on the upper bank. -How about…I stopped mid-sentence. I took a deep breath. you’re not afraid…you’re never afraid! She laughed. the cathedral and the old Pont Saint Louis. We stayed silent for a while.Come on. I said.Now I know why you wear running shoes. But I was also surprised at the relief I felt. . I could not stay in Paris. We kissed in the shadow of the stairs. but then dared to ask the hovering question. We had learned to move together and to be attentive to each other. 94 . I did not know what to say. Then finally.She replied softly. and as always trying to control her hair. she said. I was shocked. I smiled back. slender and graceful. -What do you think we should do about it? -You mean other than what we’ve been doing? I asked. Let's go home… We went back up the steps. It did not take much effort to get where we wanted to go. we did not waste any time.All right…We can try that…I’m with you… I am… We were still all alone on the stone bank. -Yes…I’m afraid that I feel the same way about you. . past the bumper to bumper traffic on the Quai. then walked briskly across the bridge. . Lindy was running ahead. Once Rue de Nevers. -Nah.How about…nothing? She said it looking at me with the sweetest and most glorious smile. I watched a speedboat going upstream and a flight of pigeons burst out from under the bridge. I caught up with her. We were so well tuned by then. Wow. hesitated for a while staring silently at the current creating little wakes around the pillars of the bridge. I guess we had found our legs again. Part of me was hurt that Lindy had not said that her utmost desire was to live with me forever and ever. .
I always will. and tucked it next to the bookmark in the pages of the book on her nightstand. She smiled in the candlelight. the kind of music that made you want to move slowly and lean back while blowing smoke rings and absorbing some forbidden substance. The TV station must have been preparing a special on our dear Marguerite. and toasting to everything. I am not a fan of jazz but this one sounded like Miles Davis. son of Aphrodite. shooter of arrows. Lindy insisted on going out to Rue de Buci to do some shopping for dinner. we put our elbows on the table and held our left hands palm against palm as we pronounced some unlikely vows. no obligation. it was also my own. I kept picturing Lindy reading it and the words flowed as easily as if they were dictated to me by Eros himself. and I stayed alone in this beautiful apartment. All we had was champagne. just live in the present and make the best of it all. At some point. I called a cab for the next morning. but that was just fine. We were feeling euphoric. we stayed as long as we could. and dreamy. it will always be there. Lindy returned. -Will you always love me? -Yes.Once there. daring and lighthearted. I said. I will always love you. Once done. and held each other through the sometimes overpowering emotions that would surface in both of us afterwards. not eating very much. and then I sat down at the desk and wrote the first love letter I had ever written in my life. It was simple: no upheaval. It was slow. letting myself believe that at least for these few hours. Ha! Imagine that! It was Marguerite Duras’ “The Lover”. and we sat down to dinner. and lover of Psyche. Then she took her turn. I started with the obvious. -Will you always desire me? -Yes. She had put on a jazz CD. Even if I can't do anything about it. I folded the letter. I repacked my suitcase. It was long. and the ease with which we had solved our future. carefully putting away in my wallet the Polaroid print from Diego. elated by the memories of our day together. 95 .
as we didn't want to fall asleep and then have to just get up and go. so I just held her and tried to engrave these few moments with her in my memory for ever. As it turned out. and soon we had to forget about dinner and proceed with all the living to be done. as our fingers folded around our left hands and held tight. Finally. before the next morning. One last kiss. 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. Not surprisingly. I probably won't be living here… said Lindy.-Will you always be good to me? She asked. Suddenly our lovemaking became more emotional than skillful. I will be. A man and a 96 . but she could have meant Paris. and made love for what we felt could be the last time. I did not know which one to go with. and finished packing. the time came. I was bouncing my suitcase on its rickety wheels without paying any attention to noise or damage. I made some coffee which I drank a little too fast and burnt myself. but it could also have fit within the blink of an eye. and then we rushed down the stairs to escape the feeling that we might be doing the wrong thing after all. we eventually did fall asleep. Lindy took a shower while I deliberately did not. the loving ahead of us. Lindy said she would call me and leave a message on my answering machine so that I would get it when I got home. We sealed the vows with a kiss. A lifetime had gone by. I cleaned up the dishes from the night before. We saw the van was already there in the frame of the arch. but we woke up in time without the alarm. -Next time you come to Paris. I think she meant the apartment. it was harder to let go than we expected. Lindy's shooting crew was supposed to come pick her up a little before my cab was due. There was promise and regret in her tone. I had first seen the sun rise from Lindy's bed just a few days ago. We set the alarm for two hours before we had to get up. -Yes! I will! Now I realize what Diego meant last night… good to you and true to you. I said I would do the same. I looked up at the wispy pink clouds of dawn through the skylight one more time.
and walked outside the arch to throw it away in the public garbage can. Lindy had taken me by the hand.woman in the cab waved at Lindy. -J'arrive. let the chips fall where they may. I suddenly was exhausted. I realized how far we had come in those few days. but she looked at me briefly and I could see how impending tears could bring out the jade in her eyes. I might meet Lindy half way in New York. her eyes were down. My heart and my breathing seemed to be fighting each other. conformity. Her cheek against mine… briefly… "I love you". with such intensity. When I finally got to the airport the first thing I did was call her and leave a message on her answering machine. We had a new take on life. She waved back. When we pulled apart. I began… The van started honking. but nothing could ever match the beauty and excitement of the discovery. I lit a cigarette. I had never known such freedom. I had never loved like this. or I might not. I turned around and felt lightheaded as quiet tears started flowing down my face like a fountain. What had we done?! I was leaning against the wall behind the arch trying to make sense of it all. and stereotype and there was no turning back. trying to compose myself and think my way out of this sudden despair. after all these days of excruciating hesitation. And then she had turned me loose…Maybe it was the most generous gift of all. even if my heart was a little worse for wear at the moment. I finished the cigarette. I had never lived like this. I waved back. and effortlessly walked me through it. Hearing her voice on the recording again. and then we held each other tight standing on the street inside the arch. and we were going to see how it would affect our separate destinies. the sense of wonder that had graced our past four days. hopping into the van and waving. -Lindy. We had crossed a threshold past the barriers of isolation. She was gone. 97 . j'arrive! She yelled back. and had to sit down on my suitcase. heart and mind had reconciled for the first time ever. And then. I might come back soon. By the time I went back to get my suitcase. my taxi had arrived. 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.
with a feeling that I would never get tired of looking at her. 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. it occurred to me that I had a crush on Bethany. Chad Kroeger "Into the Night". After the phone call. Of course. 98 . drinking a little too much. 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. 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. of inner or past troubles. well maybe I could be more like her. They called the San Francisco plane for boarding. It was time to take my new self back into the world at large. and that her presence in a room enhanced our simplest experiences and gestures. 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. beautifully open. Half way through dinner that night. There was also an aura of kinship. and off I went. talking and laughing with me and Minna her mother. and our job is to get them to reveal that mystery to us. an exhilaration I hadn’t felt for many years came over me…it was a mere flutter of the heart. There she was. 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. Not that I am such a fan of hers mind you. masculine with the masculinity of courage and strength. If I did not end up being with her.Lindy. so we can solve all of their problems. There is always a mystery in those we are infatuated with. I went to the airport bookstore to see if by chance they had a copy of Marguerite Duras’ “the Lover”. As I entered the kitchen. No surprise there. they didn’t have it. that made me feel a little too protective about someone I did not know all that well.
Gustav Von Aschenbach. and a visit to Los Angeles to meet with an attorney was part of this effort. It was just for a couple of days. I was appalled to think that at my age. and I was looking forward to seeing them again. where I realized that it was time to make peace with many people with whom I had somehow quarreled with for various reasons. struck me as most ominous. Aschenbach sees himself as Tadzio’s protector. and Bethany was not a kid anymore. sent her an email to which she responded promptly and repeated her invitation for me to come and stay. The similarity in names. I still was not worried 99 . I had met her and Minna at a mountain resort in Colorado a few months before. I was probably only slightly younger than Minna whereas he was much older than Tadzio’s mother. I could already be at the point of channeling good old Von Aschenbach. So there I was…I felt good. This was a time in my life. Venice. 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. and Minna. 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 well travelled. I liked both of them a lot. but thought that I never would. I had been doing this for the last year or so. while he is himself about to die. active woman who wore jeans and could still look good in various types of hiking gear. Home was a beautiful villa in the wealthy part of Venice. They were unconventional. As the epidemic of cholera descends upon the City of the Doges. Even after I finally went back to the perfect guest room that Minna had given me. I liked the way Bethany talked to people much younger or older than her as if they were her peers. I thanked her. in which the aging hero. I remembered Minna’s offer. a sophisticated. I liked the way Minna was always ready for adventures on skis or otherwise. and hoped that I would stay in touch. becomes infatuated with a young boy named Tadzio. California. where I had gone with Alison my partner of many years and some members of her family. enjoying all the fun and banter as we put away the dishes.I started thinking about Thomas Mann’s novella “Death in Venice”. Coming back to the dining room. I was lighthearted. At 28 she had come back to live at home and go to school to study for a PhD in psychology. So. They were for me a symbol of my beloved West: Bethany a typical blond and lithe Southern California kid. intelligent. Minna and Bethany were the bright spots of my week there.
He had the most perfect features I had ever seen on a young man. 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. and not too smoggy. That morning. Minna had assured me that the relationship was serious. and then out on a date with her boyfriend Vijay or “VJ” as they called him. I was getting ready to go into Hollywood to meet the attorney. though no engagement had been in the works as long as Bethany had not finished her PhD. We had talked at length about VJ the night before. and in love. I said. a little bit of heaven for free as they say in Moroccan pastry shops when they give you a sample of their wares. with brown skin that highlighted Bethany’s blond hair as it blew in the wind. But I wanted Bethany to somehow keep me in a special place in her memory. and Minna told me the secret location of the spare house key so I could let myself in later. I was spared honing the perfection of my few moments with her.about Aschenbach. Minna had to attend an awards banquet that night. VJ was one of these people blessed with a mixed heritage. the water was glowing with silver sparkles under a light mist. It was almost a relief to leave the house and drive on the freeway on my way to Hollywood. and know that it was just a gift. He was slim. I think she probably had received so many of them already that they were part of the basic routine for her. I knew that Bethany was going to go to school all day that day. as I 100 . his mother was Indian and his father was from Boston or somewhere similar back East. rich. His smile was broad and confident. I marveled at the way I could still get this feeling. as Bethany was already gone by the time Minna and I were having some breakfast while looking out to the ocean. beautiful. I was plotting to make sure that our moments together would be perfect…What did that mean? I didn’t really know. So knowing that I was going to see very little of Bethany. and being one of the recipients. It was a beautiful day. “Not exactly the Beauty and the Beast”. holding bottles of beer and smiling at the camera. and yet keep it light. In fact. she would have to give a speech and there was no way of course that she could miss this event. amongst the many occupants of Minna’s guest room. elegant. They were your perfect textbook Hollywood couple. Much to my chagrin however. They had showed me a photo of him and Bethany on some kind of fancy boat.
it was at the time when the sun starts going down. Everything looked good this morning. and so did the lunch afterwards. free and ageless. and in touch with truths that I never thought would ever come to light. There. It was not too different from the times. but he did apologize and agree that many things he did then were obnoxious. The water was quite chilly. When I returned to Minna’s house in Venice.revisited many of my favorite locations on the way. I felt generous. and the light somehow becomes richer and softer at the same time. I smiled remembering how we used to make fun of “MacArthur Park”. well named Tinsel Town. years before when I had lived in Santa Monica. I did not clear up all the mysteries surrounding our business relationship. I retrieved the key from Minna’s hidden location. and walked in with a spring in my step. the “someone left a cake out in the rain” song. The mist was gone. The meeting went very well. and stared at the waves for quite a while. just for fun. but I did not feel the same. and went right back outside. and the silver of the morning had turned to gold. I detoured a little bit along 405 South. where I reminded him he sexually harassed me as he implied that if I stayed with him that night. It was liberating and strange all of a sudden. and I was smiling back. I felt better. What a place to live! I sat down on the sand. things might go better for me. and walked into the empty house. We even discussed a particular night. People were smiling at each other. when it is us who should have cared enough to hang on to the recipe! 101 . magnanimous and overflowing with forgiveness. I was lecturing to Richard Harris: let us not blame those who left the cake outside. After all these years. from the palm lined avenues of Beverly Hills to the grimy sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard. After catching up on our respective domestic situations for a while. saying hello. I decided it was too early. I pulled into the attorney’s driveway on Selma. it felt like I had finally become myself. We toasted to greed and to being young and stupid. hurtful and out of line. Then went back North and through Hollywood. As I watched two toddlers see their sand castle get destroyed in a surf apocalypse. 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. guardian of our dreams and our longings. I walked on the beach all the way to the ocean and dipped my feet. feeling alive.
and firmly intending to plant myself in front of the huge flat screen TV to watch one of Minna’s DVDs. 102 . Ah. M. I was holding up the bottle of 12 year old Scotch that Bethany had been drinking from the night before.Yes. that would be nice. you never know when it might be lost or stolen. and I’ll fix you a nice cup’o tea. a second copy of “The Ultimate Orgasm". . three shelves below. Well. maybe she forgot something. I looked for DVDs in the bookcase.Great idea! I prepared that Scotch on the rocks like it was the Holy Communion. Interesting. 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. I found the leftovers from last night’s delicious dinner. . well so did I! She did seem upset.Would you like to share some of last night’s leftovers with me? I offered. . I went back to my dinner. and others that seemed to be an endless repetition of stories of life after middle age divorce. when it started looking a little more like dusk. when I heard the front door open and close. . I did not want to intrude. in time to see Bethany rush up the stairs. She smiled. . Better to be safe than sorry! I had just discovered the DVDs when Bethany came back down and said hello.D. cooling the glass with ice cubes. I said. I went back into the house. Henry James’ "The Bostonians"… ah. "Anna Karenina". finding a plate. I was examining the book collection as well. They had a lot of current and past best sellers… some of them I had read.Sure. Her eyes seemed a little pink as if she had been crying. . Had Minna decided to forego the Awards night? Nah…in spite of her outward detachment. Then some classics.Come here. by John Wyclife. pouring the whisky over the cubes with great care not to pour too much or too little. but I wanted to be comforting somehow. and was getting ready to warm them up.Finally. and as I always like to do. Here was something different: "The Ultimate Orgasm".I thought you were going out tonight. I went back to the living room.
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. he was there. . but it was on voice mail. Australia. She decided to stop by his house anyway just to keep his spirits up and help out.Or at the emergency room. and who got close enough for her to call them friends or lovers. please. 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. I heard myself voice the question I had been dying to ask. but I am not about to go lurking after him or anyone for that matter! I asked where she thought he went.Well. She was talking easily of this and that. . . .So I called his cell phone. . . We talked about movies we liked. where we had been. of course.Ah. and I was determined to help in some way. I can talk about it. eh? Hmmm…What does he say about you? 103 . going down easy and was relaxing both of us. We talked about a book I had read about the unanswered questions surrounding the attacks of September 11th 2001.So what happened tonight? Do you want to talk about it. but he was not there. For all I know. He always says he thinks she’s really hot. It was dark outside. . I wasn’t thinking of Von Aschenbach then. what we thought.Oh. or of any misplaced desire I might have experienced earlier…I just wanted Bethany to feel better. in the middle of the Outback. The wine was delicious and light.She seemed to begin to relax a little.Well that's true… she did not seem convinced. she’s from Brazil. or would you rather not? Talk about it.He thinks she’s hot. on the road. and she flirts with everyone including him. we talked about our travels. there is this girl Olivia Ramos. . by chance. as Bethany and I sat down to dinner as the light turned crimson with the last rays of the sun disappearing into the ocean. don’t hold it in. Minna had opened a bottle of Chateau Haut-Brion last night that I brought to the table by the window. I could guess.Do you have any idea where he went? .
She looked at me with a funny little smile. Yet the ghost of Gustav Von Aschenbach was asleep in its unholy grave and not bothering me at that moment.Well. At least. when in reality he is not always giving you what you need.Yes. I have been around the block a few times.But let’s get back to the matter at hand here… do you two get along well? Do you like being with him? . However. more than one.Well. I also think that there is something about you that is dangerously appealing. At least that's what I would have done… . .Ha. but I don’t think he’s ever said that about me. have you ever been with a man? . And I should know because I happen to have developed a huge crush on you since…well. I believe that a good relationship should help you come into your own and not make you more dependent. and did not seem embarrassed at all. . that is of course very important… But Bethany.Yes. I have. I said jokingly. Maybe the rescue operation was beginning to work. amazed at her beauty. We have fun together. maybe. I looked back at her. but that’s just me. She looked straight back at me. but if outwardly you are quite stunning. 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. like a joke. I’m not. and softly chuckled. this might not mean much to you. She looked down briefly. I do. Wyclife's arcane instructions. he pays me nice compliments every now and then. . smiling. since yesterday. .No. I said it lightly. What do you want to know? 104 .Well. do you love him? Your mother thinks you will marry him… . I do love him…sometimes I think I live through him a little too much…I cling to him. she asked.Are you kidding? .Oh. . he’s never said it in my presence. I mean it. from what you told me.What do you know about this.. 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. she laughed.
illicit and were deeply hidden.No. I could hear the ocean as loud as if the house was right next to the surf. quasi erotic friendships with men. my lover and I would have romantic dinners in Topanga Canyon. I became conscious of my breathing.Quite different. I had never experienced with them the same level of emotional intensity that I had with women. I recounted how we had made solemn promises to each other and how we had kept them through the years. I don’t think Bethany was much aware that at the time homosexual affairs were still considered abnormal. even though she was married for ten years and had given birth to two children. . I told her about this perfect affair I had in Paris once. being with a woman is dangerous. as it can expose the deepest recesses of our emotional selves. I said. and the ones with the big houses and the huge palm tree lined yards. I described to her how we had made love almost nonstop for 48 hours in a garret apartment near the river. and how our lovemaking gave special meaning to all kinds of different places. All of Los Angeles and surrounding suburbs even the industrial. in San Francisco’s North Beach. the ones with the little houses and the little lawns. one can remain guarded while possibly enjoying the sheer physicality of it.and in a relationship with a man. .And off we went. East Los Angeles. whether I was with her or away from her.Was that your first time? . had put on an air of overwhelming sensuality and erotic possibility. I reminisced on how any time we found ourselves alone on a beach or a secluded trail was an excuse to make love. and of an overwhelming 105 . and women are not always very careful with that.How does being with a man compare to being with a woman? . into territories where acquaintances seldom go. San Francisco…How it was magical and terrifying at the same time. I went on to say that even though I have developed very deep. oil pumping ones. and I suddenly stopped talking. On the other hand. She asked me all kinds of questions and I felt quite free to tell her all kinds of stories. Still. in Redondo Beach. my first time was right here in Los Angeles. Bethany was staring at me quite intensely. I recalled for her the story of my first female lover. how being with her transformed everything around me…Los Angeles. Actually. It was as if each moment was intensified. Being with men is more labor intensive – as you know . with a woman I had met at a cafe.
I force myself to come out and wrap myself in a huge bath towel. and started gathering the dishes. I will thank you…Goodnight! See you at breakfast…” I am back in my room. Once the kitchen was absolutely as sparkling clean as could be. I am so proud of myself for keeping my distance with Bethany. Tonight has been so good. as I really feel like running back and forth on the beach for miles all night long. filling up the dishwasher. I open my window wide so I can see the moon and its reflection on the water. to our rooms. Maybe even swimming! Swimming in the moonlight! However. wearing a Japanese silk robe with stylized cranes on it. of an elegant. and it is strange to say. I got up from the table. Wrapped in the towel. to find Bethany in my room. and she replied that it was going quite well. more intoxicating than the alcohol. I luxuriate. and was shamelessly taunting me. putting away unused silverware. 106 . and we cleared the table. so a shower will be a good substitute. My head is spinning a little from the wine. somewhat in love with her as I repeat her name to myself. just like old Gustav liked to repeat Tadzio’s name. this is not quite the Caribbean. I finally exit the steamy bathroom. we went up the stairs.desire to kiss her. though she was still nervous about whether or not she would be able to go all the way to PhD. Here’s one of them “Relish the luxuriant fragrance of French Lavender”. 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. asking how school was going for her so far. wiping counters. so I would think the water will be freezing and probably dangerous with undertow and rip tide. no…I want to enjoy the feeling and all that comes with it right now. Finally. Instead. and started busying ourselves in the kitchen. I recommend to myself a long hot shower to help me get in the mood to go to sleep. Dying is not an option. “Good night Bethany that was fun! Take care of yourself now…” “Yes. Gustav von Aschenbach emerged from the ashes of Thomas Mann. oh so very “now” nondescript color tending toward green. The salt in the air is exhilarating. as I am entranced by her. I can still hear the ocean out there. I broke the spell by making small talk. Bethany got up as well. So. Am I by any chance going down the same slippery slope of shame and obsession? No.
What follows is hard to describe in the sense that sexual encounters are the ultimate “you had to be there” experience. and I find it. She lowers her eyes and starts . she kisses softly. but…I don’t think…I’m not…I mean this is not…. looking at me with the same moist eyes that she had when she first came back home.Mind if I come in? She says… . I feel Bethany’s hands around my waist from behind me. all the way to some strange ease. a man’s robe. I don’t really care. forgotten . absolute physical abandon and comfort and an eerie feeling of belonging. sent back to their dark alleys.Sure…Let me find my pen… I look around on the table and in my bag on the bed. OK. as she whispers “thank you so much for talking to me. I start writing and stop dead in my tracks. naturally. She laughs.a little too big for her. enough suffering. we did make it though the barriers and the hesitation. . oh so softly the back of my neck and along the top of my shoulder. could you please write it down for me? It sounds really cool. she props her head up on her elbow. I’d like to get it. we end up kissing instead. are equally launched into some kind of unearthly plane. but in one of those moments that seem written somewhere in some all knowing piece of ether. if only what’s his name could see you right now. start to say something old and wise and reasonable. . The return is made of gentleness. I want to give Bethany what she wants. along with an old business card from something somewhere. where the right moves start coming to you without thinking.Of course not… -That book you mentioned. But then. I turn around. to my utter surprise. where the travelers know all. and feel all. Caught between complete disbelief and heart failure.Oh Bethany. I say. 107 . She looks flushed and smiling. And then. All I can say is that after a few tentative and trembling moments. tonight…”. I guess it went quite well after all. tenderness. Instead it is a flight into some effortless journey. as noted by my inner Sherlock Holmes.You know…I need to say this. I look at Bethany in the amber light of my reading lamp. . hours ago. where all shame and self consciousness disappear.
How easy it is to lose track of time. I am not expecting anything from you. she knows how to celebrate her relief in the best way possible. and by now. Now dear reader. I grant you that. She kisses me again lightly. We talk softly. It seemed that Minna and Bethany were up and about. . I’m not sure she would appreciate.. 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. Her beauty is overwhelming me. I got up. except that you always look upon this kindly and with respect. She is looking at me. Just consider this my legacy. as I realize Minna is coming home. and tiptoes toward the door. As I turn off the light. I am in awe of my student.Here comes your mom. 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. or that I consider myself a “teacher of love” or something of a sort that would probably please Von Aschenbach to no end. I am in a way teaching. how did you sleep? 108 . you better get out of here. She smiles back. because I remember waking up to the sound of voices downstairs. I had no idea how reality was going to impact everything now that the dreaded morning after had come. . I smile. and things don’t always have to work out that way. Bethany…I am not free anyway.Don’t worry. I must have. though. I am left alone in a mist of mystical proportions. I guide her.Good morning! Said Minna.Whoa… She rises and fumbles for the kimono on the floor. We jump off in tandem. I say as I try to disengage in a calm and measured manner. don’t imagine that I know something secretly efficient about sexual matters. 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 follow her. But in reality. . I hear the front door open. She turns back to me and kisses me for such a long time that I am the one who pushes her off. and started my morning ritual absent mindedly. I don’t know when I ever got to sleep that night. “…angel…” I say. and I snap back to the world.
we got absorbed in the anecdotes from the banquet. I slept very well. and I was feeling strong and gliding though life on a path of lightness and freedom. I could see Bethany. . I walked over to her. At least I was relieved that she didn’t seem upset or ill at ease. I finally started relaxing. By the time I was packing up to go. . energetic. she was always radiant. -Oh. even when she was sad. feeling easy and detached.Thank you Bethany. not wanting to be distracted from the moment. but maybe the way it came out was what I really meant. Bethany eventually sat down with us at the table.So I hear you and Bethany lived it up last night? We both spontaneously burst out laughing. and the conversation stayed away from my evening and how it went. I was feeling quite happy with myself. but on the other hand. and she was a perfect hostess. and it was well worth the trip. I saw Bethany finally walking out of the house. Bethany came back just to keep me company. chasing young things around Venice. I answered that it went well. My inner Gustav was somewhere else. radiant. I said.What can I say…my pleasure! 109 . how Minna had prepared notes and gave a totally different speech.Out of the corner of my eye. when after what seemed to be a very long time. I realized I had feared for a few minutes that I was not going to see her again. She laughed quite easily. for being so…so graceful with me last night! I think I meant to say “gracious”. I saw Minna wave from the terrace. trying to make sure that I would remember everything.Yep. I said goodbye to Minna. thank you! How was the awards banquet? Thankfully. up. looking at her. As I turned toward the house. and thanked her for her kindness and hospitality. dressed. and realizing that Minna only meant finishing the bottle of perfect Bordeaux. . I came down and started loading the rental car. I couldn’t help but try to detect something beyond gracious hospitality. She asked a couple of questions about my meeting with the attorney. but honestly. mixing stuff in the blender. I couldn’t. knowing that this was a once in a lifetime episode. . “Good morning!” She was smiling. I waved back. and it was about to be over.
It was a strange feeling to return to everyday life. Minna and I were not old friends. but no pain. this cut to the quick. I am not very good at blowing kisses. For some reason. the value of the experience was all in the fact that it was not to be repeated. But I didn’t really know. to knowing how Bethany was doing. By the time I looked in the rear view mirror. I wondered why Minna was not responding. Maybe she was upset because I teased her when she said that material possessions did not matter to her happiness. I sent Minna an email to thank her for her hospitality. so far. I think she would have been more the confronting type. 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. in my dark little heart. I had said that I did not expect anything. that it never occurred to me that she might not reply. waved again at Minna but she didn’t see me. For about a week after I returned home. no response ever came. Somehow. and I said jokingly how easy it was to say this from the point of view of her current surroundings. and would not have taken the sullen silent approach. and to whom one can talk about just anything.We both started laughing. hoping that she would catch up with her email. Bethany was gone. I walked back to the car. merely recent acquaintances and I did not feel free to email again and prod her into acknowledging me. and was fully expecting a response. Had she found out about Bethany and me? I didn’t think so…If she knew and disapproved. Still somewhere. so I got in the car and drove away. So there was a certain amount of longing. I was looking forward to hearing from her. I was hoping that I would hear from her…that she would call and say “I miss you” or something like that. I did not feel like I had cheated on anyone. back home near San Francisco. To my surprise. as the episode with Bethany somehow seemed to have happened on a parallel branch of reality. to enjoying a link which would not be broken. and I felt that for her. She had always been so pleasant with me. I checked the computer every day for more than 3 months. Relieved. From the shadow of the house. Or maybe she was one of these people who become briefly interested in travelling companions. However. and finally answer me. and then decides that they have too many friends already. 110 . my mind was still with Bethany. Bethany closed her eyes and blew me a kiss.
I felt like I was really cheating. It is funny how technology has given all of us the means to become stalkers. radiant of course. Whenever something went wrong and I didn’t feel like I had been at my best for any reason. I finally gave in and searched the Internet for Bethany’s name. and plunged me into a dark vat of infatuation and yearning. He was not as striking as VJ. a herald of the end of my days which was approaching as surely as disinfectant spreading over the Piazza San Marco. It was a sign that I had to start working hard on my recovery. I would fall into a private swoon about my lost Bethany. nor really a desire. and became angry at myself. I would imagine that Bethany was with me. after all this turmoil and go back to the way it was before Venice. whatever that gala was I couldn’t even figure out from the article. and he seemed to be excited and happy to be with her. I went on with my everyday life with always a little bit of anxiety in the pit of my stomach. but he was looking at her and not at the camera. but everyone around me. the local newspaper in Venice California. I felt that maybe just like Tadzio. Now. Over the caption was a photo of Bethany. and I would review over and over again our brief encounter in Venice. And it was true in a way. I felt like I was Bethany myself. regret. smooching at this year’s Gala”. that I could not help but look at him affectionately as well. at her most…well. if I was alone somewhere. in an emotional space that carried a large payload of inadequacy. About two months later. This contact with reality helped me get back some of my footing. 111 . But this knowledge did not eliminate the longing for her. thinking about Bethany. Some other times. Bethany was the angel of Death.Minna’s silence broke the link between me and Bethany. especially since it looked like Minna had lost her motivation to stay in touch. I would also have moments where I realized how silly this whole thing was. and maybe also shame. and imagined what it would be like to be her. I knew perfectly well that pursuing Bethany was not an option. The caption is what I saw first: “Bethany O’Brien and beau. Sometimes. I could not imagine what it would be like to see her now. This. and turning into Gustav von Aschenbach for good. at a time when my life should be settling into some kind of peace. Not only my partner. Often. calm and collected when I told Bethany that I didn’t expect anything from her. as I was distracted most of the time. The first article that came up was the society page of the Venice News. and she was looking at the young man with such an affectionate smile. I had to come to terms with the fact that I would probably never see nor hear from Bethany or Minna ever again. I had been so cool.
but more the idealized image that we have of them. to this gorgeous world. I occurred to me that recent events in my life related to my family or what was left of it. Looking at the photos from the Gala in the Venice News. the elation of absorbing it all and appreciating all 112 . I loved the song. It was not dark yet. I could see all these other people who looked so typical. They were playing a Carlos Santana song that I had heard only a couple of times before. going for a sexy look. responding to the splendid moon with glitter while the giant tsunami of fog was rolling over the hill. without defenses and with a real purity of intent. Where the hell did this come from? Little by little.was too distracting. accompanying me to work. My memory of the event however. to sleep. and uninteresting. that last bastion of privacy. had somehow caused an unconscious regression. listening to the radio in my car. with this strange feeling of being incomplete unless a specific chosen person loved me. It was not easy to dismiss a memory of such power. In the end. had given of herself without fear. 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. I had been aware. the clouds suddenly opened up onto a patch of purple sky with a giant moon reflected in the waters of the San Francisco Bay. They seemed to be milling about and posing in some kitschy vacuum. As I was singing and driving. California. ostracized and unloved. but the streetlights had come on. and that memory was with me a lot of the time. and could not help but start singing along full blast. they all looked alike. and my eyes suddenly filled up with tears. to quiet evenings and noisy parties alike. that suddenly placed me back into myself as a teenager. But was she really that different from them? How would I know? I hardly knew her. was that Bethany whatever her original motives might have been. a feeling of being vulnerable. to horseback rides in the hills. too unnerving. 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. One day. when she happened to be needy and probably curious. I did not enjoy feeling like one of those teenagers who have crushes on famous people that they can never attain. I happened to be driving down the hill at sundown. and I had to exorcise it somehow. except for Bethany. except for this wonderful gift of herself for a couple of hours one night in Venice. and chasing after some unknown idea of success.
miniature glimpse into the essence of life itself. was not about despair or death. is to have recognized that my attraction to this young woman. almost spiritual way. I still grieve for any kind of link between us. When I look back at our brief moments together. My infatuation with Bethany remains to this day. and I found it deep within myself. and maybe it is better this way. I do relish the memories of that night. However I will never know who she really is or whom she chooses to be in her life of every day. I do owe her respect and love for who she is and not who I sometimes imagine her to be. and reminisce on occasion. it was like that for me. still with delight. I see nothing but love. share in her happiness or be there for friendship and comfort when needed. it was all about life…the good life…Aschenbach be damned!! 113 . and I can only hope that it was like that for her as well. but I could see clearly at that moment. who was beautiful and brave.that was there for me. I have never read the “Ultimate Orgasm”. She found it again where she wanted to find it. but we had inadvertently shared a moment blessed with a view of a world beyond our selves. because it lived in each of us. Maybe it was the circumstances. Bethany and I had experienced it together that night in Venice. as I think it would be good and settling to know how her life is going. At least. To be honest. and we had opened that door for each other. It would last. or maybe it was just one of those unworldly connections that happen sometimes between strangers. As it turned out. To keep… The most important. it was our own. I realized that what we had given each other did not require repeated encounters in order to remain. that the magic and mystery of sex was in reality a quick. or maybe it was the spirit that we both harbored that night. albeit in a more restrained. The feeling was familiar. and probably a representation of a self I would have liked to be.
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