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