Photo credit: Huffpost.com
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.
My life of decadent sensualism began with the girl on the train.
She was like a preview of Paris. When it got late we pulled down the thing you pull down so the light won’t come in, and everybody in the cabin went to sleep. Except her and me. She leaned her milky white cheek against the jiggling, green, streaky glass window (too many adjectives, non?), and then she slipped off her shoes. She wanted to put her feet up. I was sure she did.
Hallelujah! She wanted to put her feet up, and the only place to put ‘em up was right there across the cabin, next to me. She wanted to, I could tell. So I moved over just enough to leave a nice, cozy little spot where two feet could go, you know?
What do you want from me, a formal invitation? Stop toying with my emotions. I didn’t ask to fall in love with you. Is this ‘the French way?’ I though bitterly. But then I patted the seat and said something like, cough, cough, “Un seat, Mademoiselle?”(I couldn’t remember which was married, “madam” or “mademoiselle.”)
“Merci!” she said, “Merci!” If you pronounce it the way it looks, you get what I got! Merci! Merci! She had “merci” on me! And so it came to pass that she put her feet up on the seat.
But it wasn’t enough. I wanted them on my lap so I could rub her neat nylon feet while she drifted between two worlds: What should I do? she would think (only in French). Eet ees a forwardness, I know, but I like hees hands so much. I like hees crazy, sensitive, foolish face!
And then she would dream of taking me home to her little skylit flat over some bistro on the Champs d’Elysee (except it was me who was dreaming it, really), where “we’d live together in winsome sin,” I wrote in my journal,
Where the espresso machines thundered and steamed
and the barges could be seen sluggishly tugging
their way down the Seine,
where the room was lit, now dark, now lit, now dark,
and the ever-resounding crash of cymbal-light
from the orchestra of marquees outside, said,
“Oui!–but, non!–but, oui!–but, non!”
Where, despite the brooding, gothic-arched eyebrows
of the cathedral across the river,
we’d live in sin till the roof caved in!
I grew pregnant with my precious, prating fantasy — the train went into contractions. “There in Paris,” I wrote,
I’d grow stubble on my chin
and cut my hair with garden tins.
My lover and I would live
in the darkling red-black-red-black-red-black
and breath steam in each other’s faces
and have hot coffee for blood.
We’d feed each other croissants and cheese
and live like slippery, naked little children
playing house in the closet
under the woolen coats
with the smell of moth flakes in our hair.
Morning had come, and with it…
To read the next episode, click here.