The Blacklight Candelabra challenges us to create a character or a story based on this music:
The old woman yells, “Sortez!”
She pushes him with a broom off the back door entrance to the building. She has morning shopping to do. He is a nuisance. He stumbles up in his wrinkled clothing. He was once always dashing but his charm can still hang about him in unlikely circumstances like a cloud of dust.
He bows gallantly in front of the old woman who has no time for the likes of him this morning. It will rain soon and she wants to return home before the skies open. She walks away mumbling under her breath.
He had been nodding off, but he is in good spirits now as he always is when he discovers he has not finished his drink. He picks that up now and fortifies himself. The streets are empty yet and he does not remember how he ended up here. He will make his way down to less stiff environs though he’ll have to pass back through here to end up in Montmartre where he aims to be every night whether he knows it or not.
He shuffles to the metro and down the escalator he goes. His drink will last him for a bit more time and he knows exactly where he can find a good time at this hour of the morning. He is so heartened at the sudden inspiration to go see Guy. He is not that bad off as yet. He’s not seen Guy in ages, has not worn his welcome down as he has with so many other old friends. He will go see Guy. Guy will understand. Guy will likely be fresh as pearls on his balcony with other lively friends. He will go to Guy’s.
A gypsy child shakes him. It is a girl smiling widely with dark knowing eyes.
“Monsieur. Monsieur,” she says cheerily.
He awakens and smiles drowsily.
“Station?” she asks helpfully.
She knows his number perfectly. He rubs his eyes, trying to catch the signs outside as the train slows down.
“Bah, oui, mon enfant!”
She smiles with pride. He takes a swig of his drink. She pulls on his watch.
He slips his watch off and gives it to her. He stumbles to the metro doors and barely makes it through. She follows him and stands at the closed doors looking at him. He stands on the platform looking back at her until he can see her no longer.
He is standing under a beautiful giant chrome showerhead. Hot water spikes hit then warm him. He breathes in the steam. He feels very relaxed. Coming here was the right idea. He fumbles with the bottles on the marble shower seat. His hands are shaking a little. He cannot focus enough to read the small print. He has not read the small print in a very long time. He considers himself lucky. It smells good, that is what.
He steps out of the shower onto an impossibly soft bath mat and picks up a white thick towel from a heated towel holder. After drying himself, he wraps it around his waist and walks out to the bedroom. He sits down on the bed, his hands gripping his knees, his head hung down almost between them.
Guy strides in.
“Luc, here, eat some first, then we’ll fix you right up . . . I know it’s hard, but trust me, you’ll feel so much better after having eaten something.”
He waves casually to some bread, cheese and grapes on the table in the corner of the room near the window. Luc eats and after some bites, starts to feel like his insides have stopped trying to eat themselves now that there’s a diversion.
“Bravo, man. Now, come outside. Frida is rolling a joint.”
Luc sees the sunlight pouring into the beautiful living room with its white furniture. Frida smiles at him. Her purple sweater and her presence there across from him is like a picture. Her hair is chestnut brown, thick and perfect.
Later, Luc sleeps. They laugh at him, like his old friends used to laugh at him. “That Luc, always getting into some silly scrape or other.” He wants this to last, so he knows he must leave soon. Luc tells Guy and Frida that he has somewhere to be, somewhere important, something vaguely to do with some business thing or other. They don’t question him but Guy gallantly offers him some cocaine, as any friend would in a circumstance such as this.
Luc feels incoming a heavy heart, as he knows for a split second how this will end with Guy and Frida and he wishes with everything in him that it will be different. But, Luc is grateful for such a send off and catastrophe did not strike today. He can pretend to be a normal man for the afternoon. Where shall he go?
He thinks of his father then, suddenly. Luc wants to go shopping in the fancy stores. He’s dressed right, he’s not sloppy. He must pace himself now, he thinks to himself. He puts a hand over his heart. He can feel his emotions mounting and it will not be pretty. He needs another drink. He must keep a balance.
He had enough foresight to fill his flask with vodka at Guy’s. He had wanted to do it furtively and it took all his effort to do it nonchalantly. Neither Guy nor Frida had batted an eyelash and he had secretly congratulated himself. The swig leveled him. He would go to Tuileries. He would not forsake the sun today.
He sits on a bench. He had put on a pair of designer sunglasses while at Guy’s and had walked out with them. He could feel the appreciative glances. He was only 30, after all, he thought. Though often, he felt so much older. He soaked in the sun, sitting dashingly in the Tuileries. He was a part of life, or so he felt.
His spirits rose even more as he thought of his forbearance today. It could have been an ugly day, but he had maintained. And, he had plenty of cocaine left and Cherie was having a party tonight in Montmartre. Those were his people now.
He pulled out a half-smoked joint he had found in the bathroom at Guy’s and lit it up meditatively. He would walk to Montmartre. He was feeling good. He knew he would not have to think of his father’s watch for some more days to come because Cherie’s parties usually lasted. He walked into the sunset.
The featured image is “The Absinthe Drinker,” by Edouard Manet painted in 1859. The original is in Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, Denmark. The work of Manet (1832-1883) is in the public domain.