In the veins of Guillaume, comte de Neef, prince Courvoisier, duc de
Cognac, runs French bloon from father's side, duc de Bourgogne, as well as
Spanish and Scottish blood from his mother's side, princess Eugenia,
daughter of Infante Gregorio di Navarra and Lady Deirdre Macintosh of
Inverness. Still a young man of 45 years of age, Guillaume possesses an
athletic build, regular long features, deep eyes, one could never see of
what color they were, his hair light and fair, like ripe golden corn in
July, almost candid (like mother), fluently touching and covering his
ears, soft protruding lock on his wide forehead, a bit childish, frown
underneath his bushy darker brows, his cheeks falsely round and scattered
with a perennial 5-o'clock shadow. Pale complexion, almost transparent
betraying a strong and dark nature. Always dressed with simple elegance,
aficionado of the wider type of pin-striped suit, which somehow reminds
him of his grandfather's times, when Paris was the world capital of good
taste and intelligentzia.
His home, a flat just behind bd. des Capucines, still stands, owned by
a nephew of a cadet branch of the family, a certain marquess of Bourbon.
For those who may have the luck of entering this authentic sancta
sanctorum, it will testify the contradictory charm of a true altar to
Goddess Beauté, as beautifully finished, furnished and decorated as the
most superb museum of contemporary folklore: most exquisite samples of
art, masterpieces and objets d'haute chisellery from grand renaissance
masters, from Cellini's jewelry to finest imported China, from Gallé
glasses to splendid Aubusson tapestry. The highly selected, albeit
numerous objets-d'art, however of absolute grand taste, were arranged in a
somewhat dubious grade of taste in his elegant flat, otherwise ideal for
art for its high ceilings decorated with azure and golden XVI century
frescoes. Fantastic ancient Persian and Indian rugs covering almost all of
the marble and oak floors, or even overlaying, producing small little
hills, and giving to the passenger's feet the illusion of walking on
grass. The overall impression that his apartment gives to the fortunate
visitor is that of a home-made museum, a perfect reconstruction of
fin-de-siecle Paris in spite of its owner's intentions, in which are
scattered malgre’ lui, few absolutely authentic pieces, borrowed
purchased and inherited from his notoriously wild grandfather, some
half-hidden for delicacy of taste, or perhaps because Guillaume loves to
surround himself with beauty but not to boast it for the vulgar, bourgois
sake of showing his monetary prowess; he feels as comfortable in beauty as
a prostitute is at ease in the dark streets of Pigalle and Montmartre, he
doesn't have to show off to feel secure, if anything feels slightly
ashamed of being so fortunate the same way Monet didn't have to boast his
talent to feel secure of himself.
At times he would amuse himself to compose verses, which, although
showing some enthusiasm for rhythm, were too obscured by uselessly
intricate verses, vain amassments of redundant terminology, revealing as
well a knack for reiterating invented words. Needless to say, they were
published mostly out of sheer gratitude, because being written by comte
Courvoisier, his signature was the only reason why they sold so well.
However, that was not the kind of poetry he was famous for; his true
poetry lied in his authoritative gait, his quick-tempered motions, his
fingers waving thinly across the air, his eccentric lifestyle, which
seemed to say: carpe diem. His talent certainly did not lie in
originality, but he had a distinctive flavor for coordinating thoughts and
ideas of so much unrecognized genius.
He posed often as a magnificent prince of glorious history, succeeding
at times in emulating "il Valentino". Magnate of the arts,
pygmalion for bohemians of all kinds, painters, poets and opportunist
musicians, he always was proud to introduce at parties, to recommend to
friends, because if Guillaume derived immense pleasure from entertaining
with his few intimate friends, he drew even more pleasure from introducing
always fresh and brilliant young talents, who alas rarely remained loyally
grateful. His receptions were always very exclusive and sparse, but every
time his name and his guest list appears in the pages of a mondaine
magazine, creating in the reader a sense of awe and respect for the
regenerated past elegance. His name has become synonymous, or rather
guarantee of class and exquisite taste. The few guests are considered by
the rest of 'tout Paris' as privileged. To be invited by him is like
receving a diploma in elegance, a doctorate in sophistication and
A bachelor, he leads quite an active life, albeit mysterious to the
papers that would like to follow him everywhere and only rarely catch him
in a yacht with a society girl, either Parisian, Greek, Roman or from the
Belgravia quarters of London, or at a fancy party, and only once they got
a picture of him toasting with the Prince of Wales at a New Year's Eve
party. In spite of all he manages to keep a low profile. Horse races,
stock-market investments, little gambling, afternoons or dinners at Polo
or Cercle de l'union, or perhaps frequent visits paid to rue de Berri or
Guillaume is quite a reserved fellow. Being a celebrity, he can only
count on very few, trustworthy friendships, of which he is quite
unnaturally jealous. He is generous and passionate in his affections, but,
unfortunately for his friends and lovers, quite vindictive as well. His
choice of lovers sometimes made big roars in the small circle of
acquaintances, for he was always struck by extremes, whether in one
direction or in the opposite one, and some of his numerous 'special
friendships' were rather too extravagant for his class. The short lived
relationship he lived with Madeleine Berenguer, which actually made quite
a scandal at the time, reaching papers as well as gossip magazines,
started by mere chance.
A fight in the park
Come ormai da alcuni giorni, stavo passando un solitario pomeriggio
d'autunno alla Grande Cascade, godendomi il caldo sole d'aprile. Non sono
sola. Altre belle signore passano il tempo di cui non sanno mai di cosa
farsene, si godono il sole come me di questo pomeriggio d'aprile,
sorseggiando i loro beveraggi, chiaccherando come se il loro salottino
invernale si fosse temporaneamente trasferito alla Grande Cascade. Sono
sola, come al solito sola, senza pensieri, a cui ho rinunciato dall'inizio
del rapporto con Jacques, finalmente ho un po' di quiete. Un bel
giovanotto biondo arriva al braccio di una signora bionda vestita da
Cardin. Eleganti entrambi, sembrano fare coppia ma una coppia ormai morta,
come se tutto facesse parte di un gioco ormai tacito che non diverte piú. Si
siedono al tavolino affianco al
mio, accomodandosi gentilmente, come fanno i nobili, i sangue-blu. Il
giovanotto è calmo e freddo, direi indifferente. La signora, piuttosto
giovane, sembra turbata. Non si rivolgono la parole finché il cameriere
arriva per prendere le ordinazioni.
I'm quite intrigued by this couple as well as mysteriously strongly
attracted to the man. Realize my eyes have been lounging on these people
far too long and feel awkward about it, turn around. But soon my eyes go
back to neighboring table, realizing little my eyes matter to young couple
anyway. Woman starts weeping covering her face with her hands, young man
attempts, quite mildly, I dare say, to console her by placing his hand
over her shoulder. She shakes it off, still weeping. He sighs annoyed,
looks up and turns away from her. His eyes meet mine which take me an
infinite second to lower. Damage is done. Those eyes, those dark brown
eyes, didn't express pain nor bewilderment. No, there was indifference,
mingled with vague boredom (which characterizes wealthy leisurely people,
I think) that puzzles. But in all that boredom and indifference there was
a lively spark of curiosity, a little twinkling flash of passion. He's
alive. Feel observed now, feel caught red-handed. Wish very much being
invisible to watch his doings, but if I were invisible, he couldn't see
me... Half uncertain, half restless, lose my gaze floating over the heads
seated around terrace, way over through the air spacing not looking at
anything specific; urge to smoke, perlustrate purse, withdraw pack and
lighter. Draw avidly, feel better, deep sigh, feel better, deep sigh, feel
more comfortable now that mucho time has passed, nonchalantly turn. Woman
has stopped sobbing, is now talking to young man, who seems distracted and
He looks all around him with sudden, precipitous cuts into the air,
flinging his blond hair around, as if looking for someone in a hurry (or
perhaps trying to rid himself of annoying companion). His flocks wave in
mid-air reflecting flashes of sunshine. She starts, as an instinctive
reaction, looks around too, asking questions which apparently are not
willingly met. He finds my eyes again, and fixes them intently, causing
her to turn too, tears still wetting her pretty face, upset, very upset,
then turns back to him, who's still intently smiling at me. She flings her
hands around, shouting a bit, actually. He turns to her definitely bored
with her. She gets up rather puzzled. He makes her wait to deposit a
couple of notes under the glass. Temporarily, maybe as usual, garçon
gains priority on her in his scale of values. They walk out of my sight.
Feel a bit distressed for the scene I just witnessed, empathize with woman
(should remember similar incidents still fresh on my skin), regret having
lost sight of handsome man. Leisurely sip drink brooding.
Enjoy last bit of sunshine until finally persuade myself to leaving.
Walk across semideserted field of tables and reach bar inside. Recognize
many people from the terrace, who, in lack of sunshine, refuged themselves
inside for some hotter, more intimate drinkables. Equally talkative in
warm intimacy of bar. Notice blond presence sitting at counter, alone. He
seems rather absently quiet and thoughtlessly sipping drinks, comfortable.
Almost instinctively move toward counter myself, close in to young man.
Casually order a Harlequin on the rocks. At hearing this, blond wave turns
slight round, surprised, at me. That's quite unusual. Smile at him. Don't
know meaning of unusual. Unusual as in... "black sun." Smile
again. In his eyes a vivid renewed desire, a renewed curiosity, amused at
me. Or intrigued? As much as I was by his, earlier. In his face a
liveliness that conquers, I love him already. Doubt: does he moan when he
comes? Will have to find out.
Turn away, look down on my drink bartender has just pushed in front of
me. Champagne light and bubbly like my heart, red cherry passionate like
my pussy, olive green like hope your money. Yes, now he understands my
type. Close sentence with wide, malicious smile (redundant), looking at
him with self-satisfaction and self-assuredness. He smiles wholeheartedly.
Flashback to an hour ago, he showed so little care so much indifference
and lack of involvement when she was crying. Maybe she was just a brat. Or
a bore. Remember his hurry in getting rid of her. Will he do the same with
me? Oh no, am not quite same stuff. She probably wasn't good enough for
him, maybe she wasn't his girl-friend after all. Feel very curious about
reason of that hurry. May I offer you another champagne-cherry-olive? No,
thanks. I'm quite done with it; it's an old idea anyhow. Must go now.
Plans? Yes. Look at him straight in his eyes. What should I think of a man
to whom I can lie so easily, almost as though it's expected of me? Come
here often? Yes and no. May I drive you to your engagement? Silly
laughter. Do I look like I'm about to get engaged? Are you? Laugh it off
without answering, but letting it be understood that I don't. Let me see
you off. We walk side by side along the allees. On the avenue Koch
friendly we part with promise; I want to see him again but not just to see
him only. Will I see you around? Nod, pensively. I really hope so,
madame... you haven't told me your name. Madeleine. Madeleine what? Just
plain Madeleine. Play cute. Wish he'd tell me his name, don't dare to ask,
and he doesn't volunteer anything other than Guillaume.
Afternoon dies in the usual boredom of domestic life. Jacques calls
from Rio. Did you see me today, pussy?--he demands. No, you know I don't
like to see you race--I lie. I won, my little pussy, I won! Aren't you
proud of me? I'm proud you're still alive--lie again. You sound different,
are you alright? I'm alright, this concern of yours for my health rings a
false bell, darling. (I'm afraid my ironic tone is too obvious and my
concern for his racing even too novel to sound sincere) So does your
concern over my life, is there someone else with you? No, I'm alone. Are
you seeing someone? Stop asking, of course not, and even if I did, do you
think I would tell you? Glacial silence. (Fear have been too daring.) I'm
OK, (hurry to proceed) don't worry about me, I'm not seeing anyone and I'm
just fine; if anything, I'm just slightly bored. I don't want you to be
bored, you might do something you will regret. Is that a threat? Not at
all, only a little piece of advice for my little faithful pussy. Anyway,
I'm coming back next week, and I want to find you pretty and
sophisticated, alright? Alright, I'll be as you want me, Jacques. Good
girl! To hell him and all like him.
Lavinia calls almost immediately afterwards, as if to dispel boredom
cast, to make sure I won't miss her tea-party, tomorrow afternoon (no, I
won't) and that tonight there's a party at the Delacosse's, didn't I know?
(No, I didn't.) You know, Pat didn't have time to send out all the
invitations (apparently not), but since you are a faithful, like me, she
asked me to tell you informally and she would be very angry if you didn't
come. What's so special about tonight? She invited some new people, I
mean, they are actually old, I mean old aristocracy, you know, those who
never put their nose outside the blue circle... Are they going to be new
acolytes? Are you kidding? Of course not, these are really nice people,
more boulevardier, you know? No, I don't know, I don't frequent people
like that. Well, one more reason to come, you have a lot of class, you
might enter in their circle; and you might also find someone more chic to
replace that jerk. Oh, go away... Why not? It's high time you changed,
you've been with him for too long anyway. It's not quite that simple, you
know? (How can I tell her that I "can't"?) I know, none of my
business, but if I were you, I'd give him one of those kicks in the
derrier... you really should do it, at least while you're still young...
That's true, you never liked Jacques. And I'm not the only one, I can tell
you that, that psychotic freak. Lavinia! Can you deny it? He's not a
freak! Does this mean you're too tied up to come tonight? Hesitate a
bit... No, I'm coming, I'm coming, I won't tell him. Good, good, then I'll
see you there. Sure, 'til later.
I was so busy surviving, I was so blind to think it was too late to
change. I'm still young!! And I didn't even realize time was going by...
three years... how many people have I lost in the meantime? How far have
dear friends gone? For how long should this continue still? Fuck with
problems! I'll go to the party, I'll forget everything at least for one
night. She's right, it'll do me lots of good. And I hope he dies in a
freak car accident! Creep! He's robbed me of my life. And Marcel? Paul?
Taxi stops in front of no. 15 in rue de Mignon. Press brass button,
enter through dark tall oak door open. Up the large marble stairs. Ring
bell. Oh, ma cherie, you simply look marvelous! Where have you been all
these months? Please come in. It's quite obvious that she does not want to
hear what I have been doing all these months, because all she is really
interested in knowing is what I have not been doing, which she already
knows: I have missed at least half dozen of her "hilarious"
parties. You know, Patricia, Lavinia called me a while ago, she will....
Oh, I know, I'm sorry I didn't send you a formal invitation in time, but I
was so busy getting things done, with Charles away all week, you know, a
woman alone can't do everything! It's quite all right, don't worry about
me, we don't need be formal among ourselves! I knew you would understand.
The truth about the whole matter is that she didn't even think I would
come, but it was Lavinia's idea to call me; she is one of the few friends
of the "group" who has kept in touch with me. I just wanted to
say that she won't be able to get here right away, but she will not miss
your party. Oh, I know, she called here an hour ago, what a petulant...!
Hint hint... Yes, we all know her, but she means well, I can...
I can't finish my defense of Lavinia that Patricia has already dragged
me by the arm toward a bunch of people, unfamiliar to me. Ma chére, let
me introduce you... this is Louis Laforge, and this is Anne-Marie Bonbon,
and Michele d'Ivry (nobles don't like to be called by their titles in
front of plebeians, for fear of being humiliated out of middle-class
ignorance) and this is Gaston d'Ambroise; you all, this is my most
faithful "follower", except for these past couple of months, I
should bear a grudge, but I'm so magnanimous... Madeleine Laforet (o
'eck). Pleased to meet you, are you a relative of Jacques Laforet? Smile
away, assertive and secure. No, not really, should I? Oh, how witty! Isn't
she a pearl? Isn't she cute? (Incidentally, curious reader: I'm not cute;
gorgeous maybe...) Adorable, really adorable! (Puke puke... dejá…á vu
So, have you read Duras's latest novel yet? Oh yes, it's so fine... I
really don't go for that kind of stuff. What do you read, then? Bataille,
Sade... Marquis de Sade? Who else? Well, there's always good old Olympia.
Olympia who? Are you talking of our good old Olympia de Courcelles? Oh
yes, isn't she the alleged great-great-great granddaughter of the
"master"? Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha! I join in the general derision of
this Olympia I've never heard of, but who sounds like a pitiful old bag.
But you see, my dear, Sade is a classic; you can say he's violent,
sacrilegious, obscene as much as you want, but at the bottom he's really a
revolutionary. (How much at the bottom?) You mean, at the bosom! Ha ha
ha!! (spirit of potatoes!) No, come on, I'm serious, he is a philosopher
just like Rousseau, only more revolutionary, more radical, posing himself
against a society of hypocrisy and false reasoning made blind by overly
moralistic and sentimental literature; there is a powerful idealism at the
core of his writings, he believes in what he advocates, and he's so very
witty, so cynical, there's a subtle humor that pervades his writings...
Are you quite done with this apology pro vita sua? You have to admit he is
a classic, though; compare him to Bataille, you'll see what a bore he is.
(Speaking of which, I forcibly repress yawn and bring my hands to cover my
face, which pleases my friends giving them the illusion that I'm enjoying
myself at their allegedly literary comments.)
My eyes take a round trip tour across the hall, exploring other members
of the party. Some look really interesting and wish Patricia would steal
me away from this group and introduce me to other guests; but I can see
she is too taken up by boring conversation. Loosely free myself from
conversation and conversors, and nonchalantly approach drink-table. It was
about time I had a drink, then I'll be able to talk. Garçon really cute,
very young. (Stop it, you bitch, he's too young for you, and he's not
within your class-range.) Still, enjoy exchanging few words with obviously
literate lower class member. He brings up Joyce and Robbe-Grillet and
mentally I strangle him with a stocking, snap! Maybe party too literate,
not very good idea after all, I'm getting bored. But... better bored at
crowded party of strangers than bored at home alone. I love the drinks,
anyway, my compliments to the sommelier.
Patricia eyes me alone and unoccupied, after she has evidently detached
herself from issue of conversation; she must feel a mixture of shame/guilt
in the quality of her hostessry for having neglected me and irritation at
me for my unwillingness to cooperate and mingle with her precious guests.
Oh, pardonnez moi, ma petite, I have left you here all alone (see: you
have isolated yourself), I still have a lot of guests to introduce you to.
How come, Pat, I hardly know anyone here. What happened to the
"usuals"? Lavinia promised me... They'll come, don't worry; it's
still too early. The cou of the party is yet to come. Oh, didn't she tell
you? Strange, she probably wanted to save you the surprise. Well, what is
it? We're having a wonderful guest-entertainer tonight. Really? Who? (eye
around, nope, she's right, no one yet...) Who? oh, he's simply delicious
(good, I'll have him with dessert). He's a South-American poet and plays
guitar like a god. He's so... I can only call him "fresh." (I
heard that one before.) Oh, here you are! Jean, Paulette, I want you to
meet this old friend of mine, Madeleine Laforet (oh boy!), Jean Forel
(I've heard of him, comte de Sissy!), Paulette Boddard... and here! Roland
de Courvoisier (she bends toward me, hint hint, very distinguished, very,
very distinguished guest!--yawn). I hope you don't mean old in the sense
of aged, do you? You must be Jacques's wife! (yawn again) No, not really
(am running out of witticisms) Patricia interrupts them with a nonsense
phrase, which is good enough to cover my embarrassment; should be grateful
to her, but then again, she doesn't really care either way, she just wants
her guests, all of them, to be comfortable and not to make a shamble of
her party. They're just friends, good friends; what a coincidence, isn't
it, that they wear the same name? Only, I wear it better. I'll say! Say,
Patou, you know all the best dressed girls in town! And outside too! Ha ha
ha!! (Am overwhelmed by their wit.)
M. de Courvoisier (where did I hear that name? oh, yes, famous
family...) looks a bit familiar. Bah, always happens to me when I'm about
to fall in love with someone, when I want someone. Him? So soon? Yes, why
not? He's rich and he's famous and he's noble, why not? and he's kind of
cute too, isn't he? But really... he's so very quiet, doesn't seem to
participate much in boring conversation. Paulette instead is very
talkative, showing off to impress Jean who seems already impressed by her
sexy looks. Roland, however, doesn't seem impressed at all by any of the
ladies present, not even me? Actually, he seems rather detached from the
whole scenery. Maybe Lavinia was right, maybe I'm finding a new love right
here. How does one talk to aristocrats? Just be yourself, Maddie. He moves
away from group, here's my chance to make a move on him. Look furtively at
Patricia in search for encouragement or approval, but she's too busy
hostess-ing. Desert her once again and drop myself in very comfortable
couch. Roland is sitting next to me, maybe he's interested in approaching
me, maybe he's just a little bit shy. Quite boring, hein? I nod visibly.
Feel I should say something intelligent to impress him, but my usual
coolness escapes me; somehow I find him difficult to deal with, which is
foreign territory for me. He gets up and leaves. Well, so much for you,
Our paths seem to cross again, madame! Turn around. It's Roland's
original. Hello! Smile very large, and especially happy to see him now, a
familiar face. I see you've already met my brother. Bro....? I see, that's
why. You look very similar. It's only appearance, we're quite different.
My mind wonders off to green paths, fulguration suggests me he and his
brother are the two notorious salottiers so difficult to grasp, remember
articles on Figaro, they are the Courvoisiers so favorably described (or:
he's the Courvoisier the Figaro speaks so favorably of!). He's praising my
liveliness, for which he is very grateful to me in such a dead party, but
my liveliness is asleep right now. Quite a catch I made today, indeed.
Him, so charming, and yet so unreachable. Class, he has lots of class,
which I strive to have. He seldom shows up in society, unless it's
imperative; otherwise the only parties he attends to are his own. Tonight
is one of those rarities: why? His eyes shine gorgeous. Yes, I'm falling
in love with you, M. de Courvoisier, and you will too.
Willingly, I let myself sink in this oily sea of warm reassuring
pleasure. Guillaume, the name of the Conqueror, Guillaume the ninth, the
poet and the warrior, Guillaume a name that fills your mouth, with robust
ancient pulpous glory, guillotine... Gilles Villeneuve.
Villeneuve-sur-Yonne. Fontainebleu, la foret... druid priests celebrating
morning mid-summer rituals, Stonehenge, triangle... blue moon, fish,
Tyresias, the Cannibals, Partner, la chanson de Roland... Guillaume.
Sorry, am I boring you? How can you say that? Not at all, absolutely not.
Something on your mind? You seem absent, detached. Forgive me, I didn't
mean to give you that impression, but yes, I feel a bit detached from the
rest of the party. Oh, you find it boring too, hein? Too much aristocracy
in one blow; I'm not used to it. He laughs amused. Yes, I don't like them
myself. He thinks I don't know who he is, so he pretends he's not what I
know him to be; very well, my dear Guillaume comte Courvoisier, I'll play
your silly game; maybe, who knows, I'll find out if you like plebeians who
I don't mind them at all, but they are all so stiff, so hypocritical...
You are perfectly right, now that you've mentioned it, I realize that's
exactly why I don't like them. Besides, they are so utterly boring with
their stupid titles, are they not? Didn't you know there would be handfuls
of them tonight? Well, of course. Then, pardon me, but if you did know,
why did you come? Well, it's hard to admit, but they are partly the reason
why I came. They amuse me, I like to observe them playing their stupid
silly games; I enjoy making funny caricatures of them in my articles.
Wait, now I remember. You write articles for the Figaro, don't you? No,
not Le Figaro, they are too conservative for my taste; I do write
articles, occasionally, on Enigme. Enigme? I'm afraid I must confess I've
never heard of it. (Thus revealing my ignorance in these matters by
confusing the articles written by him with those on him. Am perhaps amused
more than him.) It's a small publication without pretenses and a very
small circulation, he hasten to reassure my ignorance, our group consists
of a small number of "aficionados" and very few of us have any
talent at all. Don't be so modest, Monsieur! It seems to me that you are
playing a game too, you know, by using them as puppets. Yes, and isn't
that wonderful? They have such funny ways and they are so very
interesting, in their own little bourgeois way. They stop amusing me very
soon and when I get tired of them, I have to leave. Tonight I'll have to
resist a bit longer. Why? (Is he referring to me?) I promised to please
Elizabeth, she asked me to be nice to her friends... (not me, but this
Elizabeth: wife? relative? girlfriend? the woman at the Cascade?) He sips
his drink. The fluid amber swiftly pours (descends) down his throat, which
temporarily swells within the stiff starched collar. His tie is gray, pure
and simple gray like a pearl, with little, hardly perceptible white
lozenges. His shirt is silk white, his dress pin-striped dark blue. Around
me people gathered in little groups, now sitting, now standing and
Attention everyone! Patricia is standing near designated area of
entertainment, in her usual pose, intimate excited and proud Patricia
hides behind a perfect hostess about to present her perfect poet to her
perfect audience. Next to her is tall dark man with white hair in beige
woolen turtleneck and white canvas overalls (I gather Patricia asked him
to dress down on purpose to look, how to say it? more blue-collarish, more
workinglass-like) witting on a chair, guitar in one hand. Everything about
his appearance tells anyone who'd have any doubts of his true nationality.
Patricia proceeds in her presentation:
Dear friends, I'd like to announce tonight a very special guest, a dear
friend of mine... (Guillaume whispers in my ear: i.e., she slept with him.
Fake repressing giggle. My knight does not lack cruelty, I like that)
...and a well-known Latin American poet... (Guillaume again: yes, she
definitely slept with him. In spite of my efforts, burst out giggling,
which provokes a stern "shush!" from neighboring elderly
middle-class irritated at disrespectful naughtiness) ...is why he moved
from his beloved mountains to live in the big city of New York. He
immediately found some friends who helped him publish his poetry, which we
all know. It was in New York that I met him, a common friend introduced us
and in name of this long friendship he has graciously accepted to read and
sing for us tonight. Friends, Carlos!!
General warm applause, everyone competing for the most enthusiastic
welcome to this total stranger. See?! Guillaume, ignoring earlier warning
from neighboring person. They don't really know him, nor they understand
Spanish, but this way they think they are being democratic; get it? Nod,
trying at the same time to keep him quiet, fearing renewed reproaching
from my left (but ideologically right), which inevitably comes: shush,
some respect, please! Patricia is now sitting at extreme left corner of
the front seat, after a respectful bow to Carlos, who, without getting up,
with guitar etcetera, with his fat, earthly smile of good comrade that he is,
with a touch of country-like
innocence, gives way to his duty of entertaining this pseudo-liberal,
pseudo-intellectual pseudo-audience. Everybody is quiet now, including
Guillaume, lights dim and Carlos appears in all his glory on foreground of
improvised stage under effect of spotlight.
A las cinco de la tarde...
Originality? Puah! Sorry, Federico. Guillaume is intently looking at
the indioªfaced poet, listening or not, that is the question. Find it
virtually impossible to listen to the poor chap, who might even have
talent (if only I could understand his drawling Spanish monotone), but
tension keeps me alert. Am vigorously charmed by Guillaume, from whom a
certain imprecise ambiguity derives and whose virility emanates along the
waves of subtle male cologne.
O rubia yo te quiero como la tarde...
Enthusiastic crowd applauds. Encore! Encore!! (Hope we'll be mercifully
spared of dreaded encore.) Bravo! Guillaume politely refrains from making
any further critical comments on poor performance, he probably understood
better than anyone else present, and limits himself to slight clapping
with faint smile of ironic approval on his lips. Carlos bent down several
times showing off his servile rather than humble origins, as Patricia
returned to spotlight to compliment him and beg him for another one of
those powerful poems/ballads. Turned to Guillaume again to interpret a
sign from him, if this was going to please him or what. His eyes rose
high, for a second, his eyebrows quickly up and down, silently. Nervous
tick? Irritation? More likely. Are you sharing my boredom, o gentle
companion? As if he'd heard my thought, he turned to me. I think I've just
about had it. Would you like to go somewhere else with me? I'd love to;
anything, really, but... What? I don't think we could just now, like this,
in the middle of his encore. All right, but as soon as he is finished...
zing! Fine, fine. Shush!!
Las bodeillas a mi me pasaron por las manos....
He's even illiterate, the peon! Where did she find him, I ask. Rather
cunning, actually, if you ask me, he sure knows how to milk dumb snobs!
Indeed. Shush! Young people, ha! Guillaume is rather amused by all this
show of pretence.
Como abijuelas por nada me parece nadie.
At last! Come, says Guillaume with imperative tone, it's now or never.
OK, my paladine! We'll have to apologize to Patou; she won't like it, are
you ready for the lecture? Yep.
Oh, but this is not possible, you are not going to leave me yet, are
you? I'm afraid so. Nothing personal, Patou, but my young friend's not
feeling very well, and I'm going to accompany her home. But... Madeleine,
the party has only begun just now, there are so many friends still to
come... Sorry Pat, but it's already a miracle that I managed to come at
all, I have been feeling rather ill all afternoon. ...and there are still
a few attractions to be seen... You'll have to forgive me, this time; I
promise it won't happen again. (However, if I know Patricia well enough,
one time is one too many.) You old traitor, now you are going to steal my
old faithfuls! She obviously ignored my remarks, directing her looks
exclusively to Guillaume, whom she obviously was hoping to trap for the
whole soirá‚áe, as prized trophey, reproaching him not, as she tries
to pretend, for stealing me away from party, but rather for letting
himself be drawn away by me, and therefore depriving her of her true
source of entertainment for the night. Oh, my dear Patou, I'm not
betraying you at all, I'll be back... next time. Guillaume's lie is quite
apparent. Your guest was simply delicious. (Puke.) In Patricia's eyes,
malicious jealousy for I was the one who was betraying her right in the
middle of battlefield. Eventually I would pay for this, "Jacques will
hear about it" seems to be the message to be read in between
Patricia's lines. Well, if you really must... says she in total
self-dejection. She bends her head toward me and kisses my cheek as an act
that should prove her affection toward me. Judas' kiss. Good night,
Patricia. Goodnight, Gilles. Goodnight. Down the stairs: Gilles?
We got on his old green-metal E-type and drive off. Hide my marvel at
elegant car, innerly hum a tune of happiness. Fly through nightly Champs
Elysées, bright colored lights flashes ornate our sides in our mad flight
through deserted roads. Round l'étoile we pursue avenue Koch right into
the heart of green black bois. Leave car, walk silently to little island.
Moonless night parallel to my companion's mood, which with unclear
hastiness induces him to accelerate his pace, as if eager to reach some
place as speedily as possible. I can hardly manage to keep up with him. We
arrive at the gentle slope of grass and rocks which drowns into the quiet
dark waters. We both stand slightly detached; am slightly perturbed by
this sudden change of mood, quietly sing to myself:
Words and words, phrases and periods
commas colons semicolons apostrophe S
foreign loops, stranger marks on yellow paper
one name in mind, many names all the same.
One ancestor one idea solely god.
Feel at peace with myself and the whole world. Gladly oblivious of my
whole life before and after and everything except this dark pleasure in
green wooden night, silent and remote from civilization and people. His
silent, noble presence inflates my heart with passion odorous of sweet
promises. We sit on a rock by the waters briskly wind splashing waves. He
Sur l'onde calme et noire oú dorment les étoiles
la blanche Ophélia flotte comme un grand lys,
flotte trés lentement, couchée on ses long voiles...
--on entend dans les bois lointains des hallalis. (A.R.)
to which I reply, whispering,
Ses yeux sont comme les noires nuits brillantes;
c'est la tete fine des forts égyptiens
qui dressent leurs poses lentes
sur les sarcophages anciens. (M.P.)
How do you know that? I'm not a total ignoramus. I can read. Nobody
ever quotes that poem. I go out of my way to find them. You're pretty
literate for a demi-mondaine. And you're pretty mondaine for a
demi-literate. Benevolent grin. We're both 'demi' in one way or another.
Catleyas.... What? Nothing. Is he getting tired of this game of pretence,
that I don't pay him tributes naturally due to titled people? Take it or
leave it, monsieur le comte! He certainly places me at a higher social
level than I deserve, or care. I advance to make my move, confident of
welcome reception. However, he does embrace me, and warmly too, but not
lustily, and am surprised for his reaction was unexpected. He had appeared
to be more into sex earlier today. He kisses my forehead. Not now, not
here, my dear. Feel the breeze of this quiet night? Yes. (Oh no, he's
turning into poetic mush on me!) If only things were different...
In which sense? Back to the way they were once, when there was respect
and good-taste, before vulgarity and greed took their place. You can't go
back, you know. Then all the worse for me. Why? You shouldn't complain,
there are many people who are much less fortunate than you, what's the
matter? There's no excitement any more, no novelty in this society, no
intelligence, nothing any more. (I'm sorry to see he's in a negative mood
right now. But he's wrong, he's wrong, I know he's wrong; there's plenty
of excitement, I have known and seen people of good-taste, didn't I?
Jacques? Marcel?) I disagree. I have some friends who... So?! What about
them? feel utterly stupid. He lets my words fall down unacknowledged,
unheard. Perhaps I should phrase it better. I mean, I know a lot of good
people who are doing a lot of good things and for them excitement is a
daily bread. You too could find excitement in this life, in this society.
He shakes his head, I have the feeling that I have completely missed his
sense, and feel now my words utterly vague and useless. No, non pas plus,
ma petite amie. Everything is predictable, the whole world is planned out
like a menu, life is labeled and subdivided like a branched out franchise,
nothing more to be discovered, nothing more to be invented, nothing left
to conquer, nothing left, not even this little island, even this little
island has been discovered, conquered and completely colonized. We can
only improve old inventions, but we have lost that inner, innate ingenuity
that is necessary to survival, mental survival, we have lost the sense of
beauty... don't you see? (No, I don't and I'm sorry I can't provide the
companionship he needs right now.) No more Flaubert, no more Nietzsche, no
more Cá‚ázanne. He falls again into silence, all but quiet and
peaceful, densely packed with emotions I cannot understand but can sense
inside somehow. I should like to reassure him that I have heard people
talk of this Monsieur Paul Bert, and there are certainly plenty of girls
named Suzanne. Poor rich solitary comte de Courvoisier!
You should see them during the day invade even this islet, filtering
through every single corner, leaving no privacy for nature, for art... in
flocks they come, all wows and oohs. Do you think they learn anything? Nod
approvingly. No! They are so stupid! (Me too.) No respect for the past,
throw away those old bags! "What is past is past, today we are
better, forget history, forget..." Overwhelmed with disdain and
disgust, he cannot finish what even I by now understand to be logical
conclusion. Now I understand, and I empathize with his disillusion, with
his cynical, desperate view of society. But fail to find suitable
response, fall mute after a shy word of meaningless comfort: I'm sorry.
In a flame of rage, he erupts from the ground. Let's get out of here.
Congenially raise myself, he helps me get up. Even rage does not erase his
gentleman's manners. It was a nice niche, I like it there. No answer. Walk
back to car in gloomy silence. I'll drive you back to your place. Would
you like to come upstairs? Perhaps we can talk it over some good cognac.
He wavers a bit, then refuses and drives off. Strange young man. Hem,
mid-forties, rich, prestigious position, attractive: a good marital
prospect... and yet a bachelor; makes no sense. Is it possible that out of
a large pool of well-to-do and aristocratic families he has not found the
right match? Why did he refuse me? What made him so angry? Why a bachelor
still? Two and two... but if he's gay, why would he want to take me to the
isle just me and him? And why play games with me at the Cascade? Such
uncertainty should make me desist from any further attempt of seduction,
and yet ambiguity intrigues me.
(1 - continued)