About the Author
It is raining again. I have found the perfect place to observe this. At the cafe on the corner, at a small front table. From here I can also observe the pink gray sky and the manicured trees and the effects of food on different parts of the physique.
At first I thought it was a trick that I was here at all. You see, I don’t really believe in flying. It is quite unintelligible to me that something so large and heavy could get off the ground and move through the air.
I’ve learned a lot about these people in a very short time. For instance, that they like their children. That they feed them too many sweets. That they, on billboards, like them in positions of three. That in some places, they are disappointed with them when they grow up. And that when they grow up they become all sizes and shapes.
I have become particularly interested in a certain red color that the women here put in their hair. I put the same color in mine, but still am not mistaken for one of them.
I am sorry about this. I developed what seemed the proper walk, the proper look to the eyes and mouth, the proper way to drink coffee and a practiced way of holding a cigarette. I have tried to be leisured, to understand that a crowd is a crowd and queues are not particularly necessary to their sense of order. I have tried very hard to not look like I am from another country nor feel like I am.
I am fond of Dominique, the waiter at this cafe. But I do not know what goes on in his mind. You see, we can’t talk to each other. At home, I would know what to do, but here one is not sure exactly what the problem is, or if there is a problem at all.
If I were to live here, I could manage the necessary chic. I would learn the language and I would be part of something. As it is, I feel like I’m wearing a necklace of onions and garlic which stinks unbearably.
Yesterday I got on the metro. There were four seats in the front which had no one sitting in them except a man who had only one leg. I tried not to look at his stump, but as I sat down next to him it curled near me like a little sleeping animal.
I got off at the Tomb. In the center was a big marble block. As I stood there I had this desire to dig, tear it up, open the crypt and see the pile of dust, the few bones and teeth that might be there. As I walked away the scent of my necklace grew stronger.
Dominique called the hotel. The night clerk is very upset with me. He says I should never give my name and hotel out. He feels he must protect me somehow. He is talking very loudly so that everyone in the lobby can hear him. There are some beautiful women there with beautiful clothes who are just sitting around. They seem to know him well. Now his voice is lowered. He will get me a special room he says. He says he will get me anything I want.
I want to leave, but the trains are on strike. The night clerk cannot tell me why, nobody can. Perhaps if I lived here I would know why the trains are on strike.
I have some time. I will go to the museum. Today though I won’t sit in the empty seats at the front of the metro. Because I now understand. Those seats are reserved for those who have lost a part in the war.
Oh, it seems I was misinformed, the museum is closing soon, and there is too much to see. In one room there is a spectacular picture of many heads on the ground. There is blood everywhere. And in the next room there is an arm resting right in the middle. A white arm. No blood. And in the next room there is a Greek warrior who lost parts of himself somewhere in the ruins and the restorers just tacked up what parts were left where they anatomically should be and left spaces for the missing ones. It is strange to move the eye down this warrior’s leg and see hip but no thigh, knee but no calf, foot but no toes. And then, in another room, there is a self-portrait of a man with no ear against an electric sky.
I should get back. The metro will be crowded now, the passages winding around like the ossified path of a sand worm. There is music there. A man plays a violin, another sings, and on one turn, moving in time to his own desparate music is another man on the ground who is just a torso, his arms rising up against the cement background like snakes.
Dominique will come for me at midnight, when he gets off. I understand that much. I can see him now as I pass back by the cafe, dressed in his black suit, hurrying from table to table. Maybe tonight I will be chic for him. Maybe I will wear nothing at all but my necklace.
Yesterday I went to church to light a candle and say a prayer. I don’t know why I did that except that for one moment I could take the necklace off and set it down next to me. There were people walking around everywhere and in the back a priest was saying mass. It was very noisy. People paused to watch him raise the Host as if he were a still life.
I have lost all sense of time since I’ve been here. Sometimes I have to ask someone on the street what day it is. Today, it is Thursday and the train people told me that the strike should be over on Saturday. Tonight I will say goodbye to Dominique and maybe somewhere in his room I can leave my necklace behind.
|© Laura Beausoleil, 2010|