Photo credit: Le Bon Georges, Paris
When I was a young man, I began searching for the meaning of life. Along the way, I wrote a travel journal, a mix of prose and poetry, and labelled it Fool’s Odyssey.
I’d fallen madly in love (or lust, or both?) with the girl on the train. And she, in turn, had given herself fully to me, dragging me off to live in her little skylit flat. And there, in Paris, we’d lived a life of delicious decadent sensualism. All in the course of two hours.
In my head.
But now we’ve arrived,
I wrote in my journal,
and the train is done.
It’s like a live birth
with hundreds of dewy, wet little things
crawling out on shaky legs
and blinking into the foggy, grey
early morning sun.
And then the girl—I remember her as “Yvette”—smiled and walked out of my life, apparently never having had any idea we were in love. Ah, well, love was like that. It was just that that was one of the better relationships I’d had.
“I actually was in love once,” I journaled, “and it was nice, but after a while my skin began to wrinkle, and that was when I knew I’d been in too long. So I got out and dried off and acted indifferent. But then that got dull, too, so I threw off my towel and dove in again. What else was there to do?” Love was like that, right?
O Vanity! said the Wise Man.
O Hell! said the Fool.
Was it going to be like that now? “No!” I wrote. “Give lust a chance to do its stuff!” So I walked (although not particularly lustfully). But then I learned that the Louvre was closed and Jaques Brel had died, and the business of romance had slowed considerably.
So I settled on a little café. After staring at the menu for a long time, I ordered the one thing I recognized, “poulet et frites” (chicken and “french” fries), and some red wine.
Then my gaze happened on the oil and vinegar cruets in front of me, and I laughed. They looked like two feisty French roosters collared together, back-to-back, ready to make war. Ten paces, and then splash! Lettuce flying! Tomato seeds spilt over the honour of some mademoiselle poulet!
I was getting drunk. Then the waiter brought the chicken and drippy frites. And more wine. So I drank. And drank. And then I stopped drinking because it wasn’t fun anymore.
Only one day had passed since I’d left London, and already my life of decadent sensualism…
Had sprung a leak.