Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Sarah S. called me just now, perhaps having inadvertently triggered the auto-dial by sitting on the phone or walking from couch to kitchen with the unlocked keyboard pressed in a confining pocket of too-tight jeans – I say this because I answered and there was no one there. I said Hey, hello, are you there? I heard static and silence intermittently. And then distant, crackling voices. It sounded like an old movie or sitcom. A woman talking to a man about mundane things in that snappy, witty, old-time way. They were discussing having breakfast, lunch or dinner. The woman had a snarky, adenoidal voice I half-recognized. Almost Bette Davis but not really. Lauren Bacall or some shit. Shelley Winters, who knows. Stockard Channing. That honking, tinny American woman’s screen voice, ever calling manhood into question.

Their repartee was punctuated by canned laughs and static, sometimes silence. I imagined how terrified I’d be if, a couple of minutes into this dreamy scene, Sarah’s living voice cut through at me. But it never did. I hung up after awhile.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

She said she was from Oklahoma and going home. Yep. It seemed so clear now: She was a pristine thing from the deep Midwest. But why the French? She'd gone there for a year, to Norman's sister city Clermont. She loved it and didn't want to leave. She tried to change her ticket but her parents came over and dragged her back. She loved the people, loved her friends, had a boyfriend, had a favorite restaurant where she ate all the time, still writes letters and postcards to all the people there and they all write her back. It all cast doubt on her Norman friends she said, who seemed shallow by comparison. Who perhaps resented her worldly ways. She spoke French she said, yeah. Didn't hang out with the Americans in her group, not at all. Threw herself into that new old world and she was glad she did. Would she go back? She's dying to but she's got a boyfriend in Norman. I'm in a relationship, she said. Such a phrase, both innocent and adult. He doesn't want to go anywhere. She said, Chris, you might have to let me go, we might have to visit, if this thing with us is going to work. So now I saw how young she was of course, how far she was beyond the reach even of my dreams. More than that she was an innocent in the best sense, clear-minded, full of love and uncomplicated desire. An American girl in France.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

When the girl appeared to take her window seat she was by me in a second or two and I didn't dare to stare at her for she was, I could tell, extremely beautiful. I couldn't even tell how old. But she was a grown woman that's for sure, lithe in tight jeans and silk-screened black T-shirt, straight blonde hair, eyes that shone and a pretty, pretty face ending with a dimpled, tapered chin. I was of course constantly aware of her presence beside me, the occasional, barely perceptible rustling of her body beneath the belt, seeking comfort. Naturally our elbows would touch. Even when she'd ask me, with a single laugh, to get up and let her by, I'd avoid looking directly at her like you avert your eyes from the sun. Wouldn't want her to think I was thinking of her, anyway.

I could swear I heard her speak perfect English and she looked about as American as a Cadillac. But at a certain point she drew a diary out of her bag and laid it on her tray table and wrote in it in French with a pink fucking pen, I'm not kidding. I stole a glance over her knuckles and I saw telltale, vowelly ending words on the page: peu, beau, lui.

She drank nothing but water. She ate her dinner, the beef or the chicken, with great interest but when the drinks came she asked for water. Water before and water after. There was water on her tray and yet she asked for more water. With an utterly endearing smile and shrug: water. As though she could never hope to fully quench the thirsty beast inside her.

I ordered whiskey, wine. Coffee.

When we were landing in Chicago and we both gazed out the same window through the patchy clouds to the roads and rivers below she asked me if I was staying in Chicago. Shocked to hear her talking, I said yes, then: Well, no, I'm going to New York. New York! she exclaimed without purpose.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Ca été, Ca été? It was? What the waiter asks reflexively, taking your plate. They don't even want to say Was it good?, they want to lead you to the answer, abbreviate the truth in their favor. It was? Of course it was. Everything was. Then it was whatever they like: It was good.