© 2007 Lisolette Gilcrest
We all have our vices and shortcomings. Sometimes they are completely out of our control - and this is the case for Gaston. He snores so incredibly loud and with such force, I sometimes wonder if he is actually human or a grizzly bear. He also passes gas in his sleep, which I find repulsive. I suppose it's somewhat natural, but it's so abrupt and uncouth, and, of course, it's not like he can pardon himself in his sleep. Maybe I’m hyper-sensitive to this issue because Gaston only seems to pass gas once it's finally quiet and I'm nearing that elusive state of sleep - only to be jerked back to consciousness by such unpleasantness.
For the first few weeks of our arrangement I tried to sleep beside him; for the first few nights I was able to catch some rest. Then for the next few nights I tried turning on a lamp and reading, but that usually disturbed Gaston. I couldn't get up and go to another room for Gaston would surely wake and it would be entirely counter-productive to me even being there in the first place. So I practiced laying there... I'd let my mind wander and fantasize about a life I will never know. It was there that I got my first inspiration to write. Myriads of stories came to me as I lay there in the darkness, with only the sound of Gaston's discordant opera.
Of course, my ideas started out very cliché -- the damsel in distress, the evil oppressor, the abusive father. Eventually, I grew some creativity and a yearn to actually write. Most of my stories reflected my inner demons. Most of them are a bit bizarre and esoteric. Most of them are a wild call out for attention, but then, most authors would say the same if they did any real introspection.
For months, I practiced this routine of meditating beside Gaston and letting my mind wander along the different paths that one of my plots might take me, but I got to the point where even that could not entertain me and I felt such a restlessness, that I went to the Doctor and feigned insomnia. He gave me some paroxetine and I have to admit, I took more than I was supposed to. I couldn't help it. I blame that damn dream. I would close my eyes and think of him... of Etienne. For most of my life I've been able to just go back to sleep and resume my dreams, but this one eluded me. During this time Gaston became a bit more physical with me. I don't know if he noticed my state of distraction and was trying to win me back or if he was taking my increased presence as a token of affection. The only thing I knew is that all I wanted to do was sleep... to just see Etienne once more...
Then it happened. I saw him... I swear I did... he looked like so much like the Etienne of my dream... I ran after that metro. I embarrassed myself terribly... I was pushing and screaming, waving and making a huge commotion. I only saw his profile, but I swear it was him. He was getting on at Porte Maillot. I happened to be wandering around aimlessly trying to break out of my daze from those damn pills. I had exited and just sat down on a bench to watch the people walk by. I had been sitting there for hours and was beginning to grow uncomfortable. A man, very tall, rushed past me to jump on to the metro... this is what caught my eye. He stepped in just before the doors closed, looked down at his right hand to check his watch, and the metro whirled off. I don't even remember what exactly I did -- I just pushed and shoved forward toward him. I think I was shouting, "Etienne! Etienne!" He didn't seem to notice.
I stood there staring at the empty space and doubted myself. Maybe it wasn’t him after all. Perhaps I was just wishing it was him. I waited in that station until the last metro departed, thinking he might make his round-trip home, but I didn't see him. I decided on the walk home that I would return the next day, in hopes that I might see this man once more.
This last week has whirled by me like most dreams do – with little concept of time, skipping from scene to scene and experiencing a range of emotions in an incredibly short period of time.
I’m still unsure at this point what is or was real and how much was my projected desires…
I went back to Porte Maillot and I sat for days on the same bench, facing the same direction. I even packed meals so that I never had to leave that bench, except for bathroom breaks – which broke my heart to take and which were taken with great expediency. I even gave one woman 100 francs to let me go ahead of her and each time I feared that that would be the moment that he walked by… but I made sure to reserve myself for the timeframe in which I had last seen him. I was growing to fear that it might be only a once a week or once a month thing… or worse, perhaps a once in a lifetime thing. After several days, I was disheartened, but nowhere near losing hope – with Gaston’s financial support, I had all day long to wait for him. Granted, I would get nothing accomplished in that time, but this had become so important to me, I was willing to take risk that time lost. I used that time to do some serious people watching, and even gained some inspiration for more stories – which I will elaborate on later.
One evening – late after the last metro stopped, I decided to walk the Rue… to breathe the air and see the sights and moreover just to clear my head. As I was walking, I spotted a man walking in the same direction on the opposite side of the street, seemingly unaware of me. So I quickly crossed over and was about 10 metres ahead of him. I thought he looked like Etienne, but it was very dark and I could not tell – I needed some excuse to stop, turn around and stare at him.
“Ask him for the time?” I thought. “Ask him for directions? I could just trip and fall, hoping that he would come to my aide and if he didn’t, then he wasn’t the Etienne of my dreams.” My mind was racing. “How do I do this without making an ass of myself?”
Suddenly, I just felt myself turning to stare at the Krasnyansky in the window of a small art shoppe that I had been the week before. I just stared intently at the window and waited for him to pass so I could look at his reflection in the moonlight. I was acting on pure impulse at this point. As he neared, I began to panic as I realized I might not get a good look at him. A few seconds went by when I expected his silhouette to have passed the window.
“Pardonnez-moi, mademoiselle,” he interrupted my panic. “Do you know when this shoppe opens?”
I turned quickly to find him standing just feet away and stared at him awestruck. It was him. He cleared his throat, obviously uncomfortable with me staring at him. He spoke up again to clarify, since I must have looked like I never heard his question in the first place.
“Mademoiselle? The shoppe…? Do you know? I’m interested in that Krasnyansky…”
“The shoppe…” I stammered, “it opens at 8 a.m. and the Krasnyansky has already been purchased… I inquired about it last week…”
I couldn’t believe it. This was my Etienne… his voice, his lips, his eyes… everything. The only thing that was different was his height, I think… he seemed a bit shorter – he must have been just a bit exaggerated in my dream. And he was trying to buy my Krasnyansky!
“That’s too bad,” he commented, “it would have gone very well with the other… Well, thank you for your time, adieu…” and he started to walk away. He was walking back out of my life again and, at this point, I wasn’t certain that this wasn’t a dream – it was too coincidental for chance.
My head started to swirl and I heard someone asking, “Which one do you have?” He paused and turned back to respond “Ceremony.”
I soon realized the voice was my own. “That… is one of my favourites… My other favourite is ‘City Serenade.’”
“You have good taste indeed, mademoiselle.”
It slipped. I swear. I didn’t mean it. I didn’t even think about it – it was like two old souls in harmony.
I started to feel nauseous. My head was spinning and my heart was pounding. “What had I just done? What had I just said?”
“My pardons… but you look just like a friend of mine, named Etienne,” I lied through my teeth to save myself from embarrassment.
“That is a funny thing,” he said, “my name is Etienne.”
I passed out. It must have been funny to a passerby, but it wasn’t funny then. I didn’t even know that women really did that, I thought it was just a bad ploy for unimaginative storytellers, but the truth is that it happened.
“Mademoiselle? Mademoiselle…? Are you alright?” He tapped my cheek gently. He had sat me up in his arms, I guess to get my head off of the dirty street.
“Mademoiselle… eh… what is your name, if I may ask?”
“Lisolette,” I mumbled trying to get my bearings.
“Mademoiselle Lisolette, would you like to get some water and rest a bit? My flat is at the end of the block…” and he nodded ahead.
I nodded appreciatively and silently. I couldn’t pass up this chance – but should I tell him of my dream? Surely, he would have thought me mad, or worse, realized I orchestrated our introduction and think that I had feigned illness to get his attention. My head… it hurt so badly. I rubbed it a bit and took his arm to help me up.
“What harm will it do him if I don’t tell him?” I have no ill intentions and do not mean to betray him. If I tell him now, I’ll never get this chance again – not without more deceit.” I decided to keep my mouth shut, “ferme la bouche, Lisolette…” I thought to myself.
“Would you like my arm there? To steady your step?”
“Oui, merci beaucoup…” I said, still rubbing my head. I was starting to feel like a giddy like a schoolgirl.
He was so polite and so formal, I laughed to myself thinking, “if he only knew that I was a cortisanne…” It was a bittersweet thought.
We walked quietly to his loft. He opened every door to let me in first, he was kind and sweet with his words. When I walked in to his loft, I was astonished. Of course, I saw the Krasnyasnky – but the rest of his loft was covered in rich, beautiful colors. Rather than the nouveau cold black and white decorations or the terrible eclectic collections of a typical bachelor’s pad, most of it was done in rich browns and dark blues. To match were other great artists, like Tarkay and van Gogh and others that I did not recognize, but with enormous talent.
He handed me a water and excused himself for a moment. I sat down on his couch and admired the art – one in particular was fascinating. When he returned, I asked him what it was and he told me it was a Cherneshevsky that he acquired while he was in the USSR.
“What were you doing there?” Of course, as soon as I asked, I realized how intrusive the question was, but before I could take it back or pardon myself, he answered.
“I was in Voronezh on a freelance project…”
It was ambiguous, at best, but I had already pushed it with the first question, so I didn’t press it further. Perhaps realizing how cryptic he had been, he added, “I’m a photographer.”
“What was your project?” Now I was just blurting things like a schoolgirl. I swear I must have grown red. This time, I was embarrassed by his answer.
“I really cannot say… it was for a private investor.” The word “investor” was strained and it made me wonder, which of course, caught me off-guard, when he asked, “What about you, eh, Lisolette?”
“Damn,” I thought. I hate this question. I usually avoid all conversation related to it – but I got caught up unexpectedly. His way was so disarming; I had let myself let my guard down for a moment.
“I am a personal assistant for a financial mogul.” Damn him for making me lie to him again. Damn him for tricking me into the subject. And damn him for being so incredibly much like the Etienne of my dream.
“You look a bit familiar… I mean aside from the fact that you bear an uncanny resemblance to my friend…” oh God, the lie was growing, “do I know you from somewhere?”
“Likely not… I’m originally from Provence and honestly I work too much to have much of a social life.”
“I see… must just be the resemblance… funny coincidence…”
At that moment, I heard some rustling in the back of the flat, near where I suspect the bedroom would be. Out of instinct, I looked down at his hand and realized he was wearing a wedding ring. I don’t know why I assumed he was single – probably because I wanted him to be. I looked up abashed and looked around for a clock.
“It’s late,” I said. “I should be on my way…”
I stood up flushed -- suddenly embarrassed at my assumption and behaviour. I was angry, too. I was too late... possibly. Who knows? Maybe he was a real and I would have hated him in the end. I knew deep down that wasn’t the case, but I needed to think those thoughts in order to keep it together and to console myself at that moment.
I babbled some gracious words and gathered up my things. Etienne tried to assure me that my presence was alright, but more than anything I felt like a fool and wanted to get the hell out of there. Etienne said something as I ran out waving goodbye in an awkward fashion, I wish now that I knew what it was, but at the time I was damning him for his lovability.
And that's it. Rather anti-climactic. And, of course, it's all I can think about. I keep replaying the scene in my head. Wondering what would have happened had I made an advance on him and his wife came out... or what might have happened had he shown interest and then found out what I am.