A merciless August sun scorched the streets of Paris. Even the museums, with cool air issuing from the floor vents, were overwhelmed by body heat and warm breath. A drive to incessantly walk overtook Will as he trudged along the boulevards frequently stopping to ponder his reflection in a storefront window or sip iced coffee in a café. It was during these moments, that Will was able to stand beside himself, shift his perspective, and detach from his false self. Hovering and aloof, he struggled to understand the doppelganger reflected back at him, the one sitting at the table by the curb, the man who would rather have a real drink. He scarcely knew him anymore. Maybe two weeks in this hot melting pot of disparate cultures would bring Will face to face with his loose ends and unresolved emotions.
That is what he continued to tell himself as he boarded the plane. If he meant it he might have gone to Paris alone. In reality he needed a total excavation project in a spiritual and relationship sense or he was not going to remain sane. Meeting another woman was his plan and this was at direct variance with a true solution. Will contemplated the idea of meeting Abigail in Paris. For two weeks he massaged and turned the idea over in all directions. Abigail was house sitting a three-bedroom apartment for a young Parisian couple vacationing in New England. It was free housing for two weeks in an expensive city. The only real responsibility was to care for the cat with an injured paw. A black and white tuxedo cat named Shammy.
On this third day in Paris Will needed to get away and see some sights on his own time. His research had brought him to the Rue de Oberkampf in the 11th Arrondisement. He felt at home immediately. The graffiti-lined boulevard, well worn and beautiful in that authentic lower east side New York sense with diagonal geometries crisscrossing with elements of memory from childhood all landed him squarely into a feeling of déjà vu even though this was his first time in Paris. Mopeds were parked everywhere, pedestrians angled down the diagonals where buildings seven stories high melded the residential above with businesses of every stripe below. Streets formed a triangular apex with architecture contoured specifically to the point of intersection with upper levels displaying clay plots with plants and other accouterments of apartment living confined by elaborate wrought-iron filigreed fence work. Roofs were buttoned-down, tonneau-shaped with colorful shutters adorning windows and squared off ridges and shingled outcroppings like gentleman’s outer garments finished with hand-cut lapels angled to suit the dandy’s every whim.
Will walked and the artistry of the city spoke to him. He came upon a bistro called LeBerail, translated into English as “the Fold.” A middle-aged woman with curly black hair sat at a table outside smoking a thin cigar and drinking coffee. A green awning extended out over several outdoor tables, and inside the proprietor stood behind a bar lined with dozens of jars containing pickled fruits and vegetables and meats. Liquor bottles gathered on the upper shelves and hanging meats dangled from the ceiling everywhere. Walls were completely covered with pasted magazine pictures, framed pictures, more graffiti, newspaper articles, and other random stickers and colorful pages fused and juxtaposed amongst themselves and sealed to the walls with a shiny lacquer. This all formed a background to the barkeep who was in his natural habitat. Soul and Motown tunes solidified the mood in this hip joint where Will felt Portland Oregon elements along with a New York vibe suffused into a novel Parisian experience that also somehow felt familiar.
There was a gulf that separated Will’s need for self-reflection and his desire for distraction, a distance that was a blind chasm to him. He could recite enough psychobabble and maintain a solid level of preoccupation so that his heartbreak could be kept at bay as long as he fixed the pain of a breakup with a dive into a new relationship. An excellent strategy hatched by his bottomless ego.
Eight years from his divorce, Will progressed from desirable middle-aged single professional writer to alcoholic enigma. He systematically severed many long-term relationships and uttered the words “fresh start,” more often than he could admit. He was sober now almost a year but this was a tenuous time. Alone was starting to be kind to him. This kindness felt like a stale, mundane existence wrapping him in a layer of boredom. When the chaotic pieces of his life were dropping and forming obstacles around his feet he felt the vigor of renewal. He despised routine. Routine was a surefire way to paralyze his mind and send it into a vice-grip where the only keys for escape contained alcohol.
Will looked at all the beer taps surrounded by jars of vegetables and pigs feet and pigs ears. A half lamb and strings of sausages hung from the ceiling like dried, salted and organic chandeliers. He sat at a table that was just inside the front window of the bar giving him the ideal vantage point for people-watching. He ordered a Coke Zero and his attention was still drawn to the décor. Above the bar there were also aluminum lamps among the hanging meats, a fedora hung on a string between two lamps and alongside all this hung a giant fireplace bellows.
The soul music kick-started Will’s inner Otis Redding as the barkeep chain-smoked while serving his drink. A multicultural mix paraded in front of his table and Will noticed a large Northern African population in Paris. Moroccan men smoked and sat outside kabob restaurants. Tunisian food was sold out of small storefronts on Rue de Oberkampf. The upbeat tunes then digressed to a more steady and ponderous tempo as Will tried to decipher the bulbous characters of graffiti around him.
Every big city has an amazing stratified intelligence produced and created in often cryptic layers of rebellion clearly emblazoned on buses, park benches and buildings screaming the self-conscious cry for attention yet held back in the dark compartments of an underworld, understood and appreciated by a perilous few.
There was a semantic richness to Paris that his sober artistic side craved. Artistic sobriety was previously an oxymoron for him until now. Paris spoke a new lexicon and its creative and formative powers could become an object of Will’s desire. Desire need not be directed at a single discrete object, rather, desire was focused now on an amorphous wish to achieve a certain state of mind in a particular place. Language limited Will’s ability to be specific. Language was a limiting factor in the world of objects, and as Will drew closer to what he desired, language blistered up and failed to describe it, yet Will knew, in a visceral and intuitive sense, it was in Paris and it involved his ability to manipulate words on a page to his advantage.
The residual discomfort from his last try at a relationship remained written all over his face for the next date to notice and disapprove of. He’d had a series of failed relationships that couldn’t even be called relationships. They were really one-night stands with an extra layer of empathy that kept the bed warmer longer than the typical one night wonder. Every woman truly meant something to Will and you could tell he believed each one was serious. He didn’t consider them conquests, though his dates may have considered him a subject for their own bragging rights in female circles.
Gail came into Will’s room on the second evening crying. She was trembling and Will thought she had just received tragic news.
The tragedy was all constructed in her mind and was based on the perception that her own expectations were not proceeding according to her plan.
“I’m not feeling like we can have the relationship I thought we would.”
“Why are you so upset, I’ve only been here barely a day.” Will added
Will was blown away the moment she spoke. As far as he was concerned they were in such an early stage that this type of emotional pleading was something he expected months into a relationship or at least after both had a chance to be together for a while in Paris.
“Please just be kind. Don’t be mean. I imagined things would be different when you came. I was so looking forward to it.”
“ I am just getting acclimated, Gail. I haven’t even had time to get my bearings.”
“ I told you slow is best for me. How do you know we don’t want the same thing only we are each going about it on a different path.”
He said this as kindly as he could with warm eye contact.
They hugged. She rolled over on top of his chest, Will on his back, Gail prone on top, face to face. He hugged her and gave her a long kiss.
Abby rolled onto her back. She sniffled and dried her tears.
“I like the way you put that, that maybe we are on different paths but want the same thing. Maybe that’s true.”
And then I responded,
“Yes yes, I just think you are jumping the gun. We have to let things flow, you know, happen organically.”
Will cringed inwardly as he said this and could not believe the crap he was capable of coming up with to avoid hurting someone.
They locked eye contact again and Gail smiled. Her smile was relegated to, and only allowed to explore her mouth. Her eyes and the rest of her face registered nothing resembling a smile while her lips parted asymmetrically.
She didn’t really believe him but she considered the possibility that he could be stating his own truth.
“Goodnight, I think I am just really tired.” She added as she emerged from the bed and walked to the other bedroom.
This made Will nervous. He was now less inclined to even consider romantic overtures as her outburst was only a small glint of a largely hidden labile personality that would only press him harder the closer they got. He stayed up for quite a while that night reading a Swedish murder procedural and thinking about the rest of his trip.
Will had many thoughts coursing through his mind now. He knew he and Abigail were in two different spheres of desire with respect to their emerging relationship but he did not anticipate that kind of pressure this early in his trip. This was borderline unstable and though accurate in her assessment, Will felt compelled to lie to her so she would remain calm. He did not like himself for giving her false hope. The truth was, he doubted his romantic inclinations would change at this point but he truly was not sure. He had trouble dissociating from someone who heaped good will onto him, but was that what she was doing? How this would evolve and take shape was not entirely clear to him.
Apparently Gail’s fantasy was already hardened and coagulated into her self-imposed finished form and all the behaviors were not lining up for her. At this early stage Will had an idea of the outcome but he backed off from any attempt to alter that outcome, while Abby sat at the controls and at the first sign of her production taking a wrong turn she smashed the house of cards to dust. She was in an all-or-none state of dualistic thinking and she was not accepting anything other that what she has choreographed beforehand.
He entered into each relationship endeavor with honest and authentic feelings of attraction driving the action. If the desire for physicality was mutual, then both participants take the risk that when they surface there is something else, something cerebral to keep them interested. He wanted more. He was beginning to feel himself incapable of sustaining a relationship. They all ended abruptly as if Will was a novel spice replaced back to the rack after a pinch. He was involved and immersed but didn’t really have a say. He had trouble deciphering if he wanted these forays to end or if he was being dumped.
He felt excited by the start of each new connection yet his fear imbued him with a nonchalance and detachment that women interpreted as apathy. He wanted so badly for a relationship to work he was choosing women who were unlikely to leave him, and as a result each one made him feel lukewarm. This is what it had come to. This was his strategy: connect with someone you won’t ever love to diminish the pain when it disintegrates. His discontent became obvious and there is one thing all women have mastered: the ability to ferret out whether a man has halfhearted feelings. He was continuing this game and it was leading the women to quickly disband.
When he boarded the plane, Will felt he was leaving a part of himself behind. Travel was a momentous opportunity to delve deeper into himself. A woman was awaiting his arrival. Abigail had become a modern pen pal. He had shared secrets with her of the variety that slip out easily when two people meet up against the barriers of space and a computer screen. She represented someone who Will trusted. Will trusted too easily, sometimes he felt he was incorrigible when it came to trusting captivating women. Abigail was a person he felt he could be honest with. A hybrid romantic interest and platonic friend, who was not particularly attractive to Will physically. She stimulated Will’s mind and appreciated his intelligence. He felt a process rising up inside him that was more than further avoidance of his superficial existence. Regardless of what had befallen him in the states, there was a blank, white canvas, the unknown Paris, the Paris of Henry Miller and Blaise Cendrars.
Will first met Abigail in Salem Oregon on a hike. She flirted with him in cheerful volleys along the switchbacks. He was a man who always looked ruggedly handsome and scholarly. He made eye contact with women wherever he went and they usually followed his gaze. He had the opportunity to express a wide array of enticing body language during the six miles that consisted of overlapping switchbacks where the hikers ahead doubled back and every few minutes one was able to see and feel different aspects of that person who generated interest. Enough was said without words to draw Abigail over to Will.
After a satisfying six miles, while he was eating a lunch of smoked salmon and crackers on a tree stump, she approached him and they spoke at length. Abigail was a traveler from a host of home bases, adopted with no contact to either adoptive or blood parents. She had three failed marriages that she wore as badges of courage pushing her into her current way of life. She valued the mystery of a vagabond lifestyle. She felt no ties to anyone or anyplace and the act of parting ways was a much more comfortable space for her than the loving arms of a long-term relationship. In fact, she thrived on the power of initiating a sudden split to the unsuspecting. This proclivity neatly complimented her other neuroses that were compartmentalized and only leaked out during stressful moments when she perceived herself to be intelligently concealing them. Gail developed many patterns enabling her to manipulate and trap men. An attentive man could perceive this as her bottom line yet Will believed he could cut through this tendency and somehow elicit more honesty. She was looking for an accomplished man with a trace of naivete to pray on; someone whose pride could be exploited and controlled.
Through her years fighting for the loving embrace of family recognition, and a sustained relationship with a man, Abigail entertained many manipulative schemes in her mind and she was shrewdly able to size a man up quickly. She intuitively knew what baffled most women about men and this talent never failed to sink a hook into an insecure man. Before long they were in bed, and he was spending a couple of nights a month with her buying her meals and discussing travel.
Abby was interested in travel as a lifestyle. She didn’t have to work for a living as the settlements from three divorces nested comfortably in a series of investments and accounts. Rental properties had become Air B&B businesses, and she also was a card carrying member of a global house-sitters association that contacted her about luxurious dwellings owned by worldly professionals in need of a dog sitter or someone to water plants while they jetted off to Kenya or Lake Cuomo for holiday. She was willing to travel to all corners of the globe and when she returned to Portland to visit her daughters and check on her properties she would simply house sit there as well.
“You know it’s more desirable if you are a couple to the people looking for a house sitter.
We cold have so much fun doing this together.
We could write, you could write, see any part of the world our heart’s desire.”
Abigail said to me as we sat in a café on Rue de Bercy sipping lemonade.
“I wouldn’t just ask anyone to do this with me, you know.”
“It’s not like I don’t have other options.”
She said as she tilted her head towards Will and gave him a wry look.
“This could work, I hear you.” Will added
“I really admire the financial creativity of the plan and the limitless possibilities.”
“It requires a dedication to a new lifestyle I am not sure I am ready for. There is a freedom that reaches into such unexpected possibilities that it scares me.”
Will bided time and got honest with his last statement.
I feel like you really understand me, Gail. It’s like I can spill myself onto the page and you see where the pieces land and the way you put them back together helps me to continue this process. “
Will looked at her and realized she probably wasn’t joking about having other options and he thought of responding with a snide remark about her checking other men’s resumes. then he added,
“I’d have to really think about changing my lifestyle completely for a while. It seems like you have thought all this through.”
Will rationalized to Gail. He realized he was saying some things based on what Abigail just said to him, along with what she wanted to hear, and he also could not help but bring up feelings that really did exist inside him.
It was a really tough offer to simply turn down. He could make money while traveling anthat would at least cover the air-fare and once he settled in, write to his heart’s content. A break-even proposition financially with a limitless panorama of vistas, sunsets, castles, cathedrals, safaris, and gourmet food with someone he related to. This would work if he could convince her that this did not have to be a romance, rather a sabbatical from the stress of intense relationships that they both could use.
Will felt sick in his heart, he saw it in Gail’s eyes and there was a definite repulsion inside him. He knew inside they were in different worlds. He let words smother his own visceral instincts to stay away. He was unable to talk himself into ignoring this danger. Rather, he believed he was exaggerating the negative connotations and that the warnings he was feeling were the product of an alarmist. The fact was, these warnings came from a complex interior hive of instinctual experience that transcended the ability of his mind to analyze in a cerebral manner. He persuaded himself to pay greater attention to other factors. These other factors were susceptible to the manipulations of words and rationalizations.
They both woke up on his fourth day in Paris and decided to take a tour of the Seine River by boat. They arrived early enough at the dock to score a seat on the top deck. Many ethnicities were represented and Will focused on three Somali women in their red, green and yellow brightly colored garments and head-dresses. Each woman had three small children who were rambunctiously dropping balls and toys and bits of food as they climbed over seated passengers and ran in the aisles while the women ignored them. Abigail made no secret of her displeasure in the behavior of these children.
Will stood to photograph the architecture lining both sides of the river as the tour ship disembarked. Gail let him know he was being rude by standing and obstructing the view of others. Will proceeded to stand longer than he was planning to, taking many more pictures just to inform Gail that he was not to be told how to act and that her opinion of whether his behavior was rude was of no interest to him. She continued to make no effort to tone down her voice concerning the children’s and his own actions. Will decided it would be best not to talk for the entire tour. Soon the Cathedral Notre Dame came into view and the appearance from the river was very different from the street-side view, prompting Will to record a long video while standing the whole time.
Gail made it clear to Will that she alone decided to label him as inconsiderate despite others behind him being unaffected by his behavior. Gail lived in a world of fantasies and expectations. Her fantasies supplanted reality and her dreams divided reason and logic into unusable segments that, when tossed in Will’s direction, only created vitriol. How does a woman fathom her own demands into a man’s desire? She considered herself assertive but her commentary about his driving, his manner in restaurants, or his “rude” actions in public chipped away further at his desire for her. Will detested her assertions and he perceived that she took her assertiveness and pounded it with a meat mallet transforming it into overt control.
Will was an accomplished man at a young age. His overriding sense of inferiority was partially quelled by success in college sports and academia. The distraction of accomplishments shielded him from the judgmental voices of his professorial parents, voices that were now his own. Everything in his childhood was related to expectations and propriety and his mother ruled his world. Perfectionism was expected. To answer this call he burned the midnight oil in a lamp chosen and constructed by others. There was a perpetual churning for rewards with the bar set high and this had a corrosive effect on his spiritual elements of self-awareness, and in its place a competitive drive to belittle contemporaries and see others fail rose up. Elevated thoughts became ways of speaking to deter others away from the facts. Will became a master analyst of what others perceived he should be doing and an alien to his own truth. He blended well into the upper echelon where others had a cool, hip intelligence. His mask was a mirror that shielded him from authenticity. It reflected back what Will had meticulously gathered as the qualities those people closest to him loved about themselves.
Despite his overachieving sensibility, Will still found himself coming up short in the eyes of his mother and the women he trusted as important to him. The iron fist of his maternal side growing up was derived from a cultural understanding and based on a long line of academicians and philologists in his mother’s family tree. This was a procession of academically inclined men who thrived under the lashings of never being good enough. This led to a brand of shame that Will’s accomplishments could only transiently allay. He would never overcome the shame of being repetitively belittled. He believed he had shed this from time to time but feelings of shame do not disappear, rather they only hide behind moments of success ready to leap out of the shadows when circumstances allowed.
After the hike on the first day they met, Will and Abigail wrote to each other everyday. Her first missive to him was literary and provocative, not at all like the flirtatious, barely literate fare Will was accustomed to from other women. They both shared the passion of writers and early on they exchanged and critiqued each other’s work. Gail had an elaborate way of conveying her impressions of Will’s work. She spent more time analyzing and breaking down Will’s poems and stories than she did creating her own pieces.
Will was productive during this period and he attributed this to the new freedom he felt from the warm accolades Gail sent to embrace him. He enjoyed her praise and valued her opinion. Her warm constructive criticism (this was not anything like the criticism Will was accustomed to) gave him the confidence he needed to focus on his writing and finally put together the disparate pieces of that novel brimming in the unconscious reservoirs hidden just beneath his awareness. Paris and maybe other parts of the world could offer the setting and motivation Will needed to finally act on his dreams.
Will felt the lightly calloused ridges on her toes as he massaged her feet. Her toes were neatly manicured and painted navy blue. Gail had fallen asleep on the couch with a movie on. The vodka in her system from dinner was causing fitful and abrupt movements of her feet and hands. Otherwise she was not stirring and a moment ago had a strong opinion concerning which movie she preferred, one that was very low on Will’s list. He enjoyed women’s feet and found himself tearing off pantyhose under the table at a restaurant if a woman was playful enough to remove her shoe and hand him her foot. It added layers of interest and comforting attention to a dinner date with someone he was getting to know. He found female feet sexual and erotic with neural elements that radiated pleasure from sensory organs above. If not incapable of touch feet were a universal and guaranteed erogenous zone. He preferred a high arch but found women with flat feet to be adorable and often more athletic. Much effort, research and pain surrounds the human foot. The foot is a resilient part of the anatomy, sensitive to touch, durable and capable of eliciting great waves of physical and mental pain.
Will found all that Gail let him know and all her ideas and plans intriguing. He was floating on a new ether just considering that a woman asked him to do this, even though her book cover had red warning labels all over it. This may have been coloring his powers of discernment. He had not thought about travel in those terms and she had his attention. Newly sober and fresh from being fired from yet another job for absenteeism, he both relished and was ashamed of his current station in life. A station where money was scarce but available, a trail of despondent past dealings that he excavated out of his awareness with a zen-push into the moment, and an overall positive outlook despite the detritus he left on the sides of the road.
Will kept making the same mistakes. Though highly educated, there was a boyish naivete that allowed Will, in the throes of an undying idealism, to swallow the bitterness of his failures as if that was some other guy responsible for the mess over there, and emerge unjaded and ripe for another foray into a destructive love interest. Momentous change happened in the moment and each moment erased the past.
Travel was one aspect of Will’s life that remained unfulfilled. There was a curious impression that was creeping up on Will as he got to know Gail. She had a way of complimenting him and boosting his spirits. She clearly was trying to include him in her plans, and to some degree he felt privileged to be included in her thought process. He also felt a strange voice internally warning him that he was being interviewed and sized up for an agenda Gail was designing. He couldn’t help feeling the sensations of fear warning him that this was not a developing friendship. Rather, his fitness and qualifications were being analyzed for a mission that Gail was orchestrating for two people. She was selecting the pieces that would satisfy a fantasy she was creating. The style and manner of her questions informed Will that she was not dating men in its elementary form to connect and see where two people with an affinity for each other progressed over time. This was less an organic flow and more a checking off the boxes of attributes and qualities she was interested in so as to fulfill the dreams of a well-thought-out agenda she prescribed for herself. There was no meet and get to know slowly. He was being graded on a whole host skills. This was something Will was familiar with, something he also hated.
“I don’t know if Paris is such a good idea for me right now,”
I came out and just said this to Gail one night on the phone. I wanted her to feel it was an issue of timing and not trepidation about spending two weeks with her in a foreign country or some other deeply seated fear.
Abigail didn’t ask him just once to meet her in Paris, she became clearly upset when he politely declined at first.
Will knew something didn’t feel right. An amorphous, glandular malaise would settle just below his sternum. He felt this uneasy sensation as he got closer and closer to agreeing.
He did not realize that Abigail was measuring the depth of every sentence. Her subjective yardstick was measuring every millimeter of Will’s psyche. Her travel strategy had a preconceived structure that took two people away with Gail in control and her travel partner removed from his element. She designed the structure and formulated the matrix with its interlocking components for the scaffold and then all she required was certain male traits to flesh out the skeleton and complete the fantasy and lock in her expectation.
Finally after a final prolonged conversation marbled with Gail’s overt and unspoken disappointments, Will bought a plane ticket. The deliberate and somewhat rash act, felt good and a small part of him did feel some excitement.
Certain people find the idea of dreaming up a fantasy romantic. Will has always been one of those people. It provided relief from the arduous, step-wise constraints delivered by generations of logicians who lived in the spine of his daily philosophy and always felt like they were closing in on him. A shrink once told him he might be in love with the idea of falling in love. When this happened, he fell in love with a fantasy of a woman. A romantic is in touch with intuitions and emotions, those primitive forces that supersede logic and intellect. These passionate primitive forces were powerful, life affirming and when they rose up, tended to sway higher thinking. When a person of intellect is strongly guided by passions and fantasies, this can be particularly dangerous. He saw this in himself and in Abigail. Curiously, it was the one aspect of her being that he found most attractive, yet internally he felt a strong trepidation that pulled and repelled him all at once. This is what she did to him. He was juggling conflicting ideas trying to locate some inner balance amidst the fantasy and the real. When these conflicts divided him, Will tended to embrace risk, lean into pain, and breathe out while the horizon cleared in the distance.
This volley of emails and blogs continued. Then followed several dates at fine restaurants in Northeast Portland. He loved the names, The “Glass Onion”, “Origami Edamame”, “Husk and Tendril”, and “Trim.” On the evening they discovered “Trim,” that amazing gluten-free, lactose-free, simple carbohydrate-free Vegan BBQ joint, it was a night for purple and orange skies during a summer where the heat insinuated itself into the late evening hours. The cider-based BBQ sauce at Trim was made with hemp hearts, crushed beets, and pickled ginger aged in old bourbon barrels for 18 months, making it the perfect sauce for their barbecued summer squash and peaches.
Will wanted that evening out to dinner in Portland to somehow provide a spark. Time away from Gail instilled hope that they could forge something. The distance, all the communications conspired to reset his optimism. Her ability to stroke Will’s ego facilitated a process in Will’s mind where he was continually re-evaluating and downplaying his negative feelings about her looks. When she advised him on his prose like a kind of editor, the negative feelings Will possessed in his gut loosened their grip and the good vibes he felt from her praise transformed into metaphors of beauty that reflected an essence unconnected to any of her physical attributes.
As he felt more and more safe about sending Gail his work, she would respond with frothy endorsements and affirmations for him to keep working harder.
“You just have to write, write, write.”
“Please don’t think too hard about it.”
Don’t even worry about going back to you old academic career, no way.” Abigail reassured.
“Write everyday, take the time, you got what it takes to publish more than Academic bullshit.”
Abigail stated as a typical response when he sent her a poem or essay from his blog.
Gail continually fortified Will’s false-self and this kept him at a significant remove from the reality of his true situation. In the throes of his deep-seated insecurity he felt good around her compliments regardless of how much fuel he received. On the surface he was thriving but deep down a part of him was hiding in the periphery, faltering and fragile, propping up his ego, and unaware of the nature of what was occurring.
He gave Abigail a pass physically when they met during their hike, the sweat, the mud on the trails, it was not a setting where a woman’s feminine beauty shines. But, on their first dinner date she was doing her best to impress him and Will felt a neutral response at best. Any hope, in recent weeks, of finding attractive physical attributes in her quickly leveled off when he set eyes on her. He accepted that his attraction-meter towards her was minimal. This was okay he kept telling himself. He did not want to appeal to his superficial side. Mental commonalities would feed into other areas. He continued to give it time.
Her hair was reddish auburn with platinum highlights. Her features and countenance suggested she was in her late fifties. She was thin yet flabby in her midsection and the texture of her derriere. He could see the deep indentations her panty lines created. Her breasts were large for her frame and clearly artificially enhanced. Her neck had many unfortunate wrinkles. The aging had affected the upper portions of her face and forehead but her neck and the redundant skin under her chin gave her a dramatically aged appearance that begged for a turtleneck and scarf in the fall months.
There is a dividing line in women when they reach the age of fifty. Some carry a youthful buoyancy into the seventies by virtue of an intangible factor that is more beautiful and elegant that the sum of its parts. A glow that illuminates any voids or crevices releasing beauty into what is naturally trying to run its course. Somehow it calls upon a lovely assertion that prevents replicating cells from quitting and instead fires up the youthful spark which emanates and exudes pure grace overriding and replacing that aging process with moonlight and the soft touch of summer rain. These women remain girls in Will’s mind.
Others cross over into that amorphous land where grandmothers live out their final days. It may be someone who is fifty-two years of age or eighty-two. It doesn’t matter. One glance and it is clear that there is nothing left of that beautifully elegant young flower that was desired by men. That is not to say that beauty is not replaced by other qualities. It is simply that the dreamy fodder for lust and on a more pure note, the eyeful of stunning elegance that moves figurative mountains and wrings the hands of poets to the sky with daring visions of queens and bombshells is all gone. All the elements that turn the heads of artists and stimulate burning poems, has packed it up. The arbitrary miasma of aging that coats the curvature of their essence bringing forth an unyielding portrayal of the “old lady” now lives on instead.
Some women radiate a glow and others exude a brisk light from their eyes that unconsciously motivate the feathered texture of their irises to brush up seductively against the viewer. A form of animation that speaks silently outside of any gesture as two souls sacrifice words for pure erotic energy. This was Will’s hope for a woman he yearned to partner with; a desire that would have to be met through other channels if Gail was in the picture.
It was her eyes that bothered him the most each time they met. There was a desultory aura that prevented her expressions from changing with the prodding of Will’s elevated mood. He could make her laugh and feel good yet her eyes, hazel in hue, worshiped a dark avenue inside her that prevented her gaze from expressing the more uplifting angels in her nature. No degree of humor or laughter could cause her smile to migrate to her eyes.
There was an anxious reticence to her gaze, half-lidded, with a look askance that created a vibe of secrecy. Her eyes carried the burden of hate. There was a manifestation of despondency to her eyes even when her mouth tried to smile. Her stare was weighted down by years of betrayals. There came across her eyes a kind of discord and conflict that existed deep inside, cloaked in shadows and emotional veils shielding the inner light from being displayed and extinguishing the well-spring so buoyant and alive in a woman holding herself aloft with self-confidence and a natural elegance of being. He was afraid to look deeply into her eyes. Those portals that were so very telling of someone’s interior life, felt off-limits to Will, a starkly treacherous territory cordoned off from his inquires.
Nothing in the environment, no stimulus or arousal altered this eerie gaze. Even if her mood entirely shifted, her eyes still had this deadlock stare as if she was a portrait painting hanging over a mantle with small apertures fashioned behind her eyes housing someone else clandestinely spying on the room from within the wall. If one courageously maintained the eye contact and took it all in, her eyes projected a bilious sentiment that was palpable. One could almost smell the trail left by her searchlight eyes scanning the room and this was unsettling.
His intuition told him to stay away and the physical distance that separated them made this easy to negotiate. Despite their infrequent level of physical contact, the honesty they each shared on the page was creating a mutual emotional attachment. This emotional connection was difficult for Will to categorize. Their common interests and her sharp intelligence had the effect of swinging Will’s positive emotional pendulum back into a space where he could comfortably kiss her and derive some pleasure from her physically. Yet each time he saw Gail he had the same negative visceral response. They would meet for a date and though distress signals roiled in his gut when they were together, he also found her interesting for several reasons. The reasons were entirely selfish and Will convinced himself he was attracted to her intellect. If he gave full reign to honesty, though, he would have admitted that he was more drawn to Gail’s effusive appreciation of his own writing talents. She was the first person who didn’t simply patronize what she partially understood. As long as Will was being ruled by his ego, he felt a kinship with Abby and the more writing he submitted to her the more excited she became at the prospect of Will devoting his time fully to honing his craft.
The purely Platonic nature of his attraction to Gail and the relative lack of physical fireworks, in the end, was a positive factor for Will. For Will true love had to begin with an intense physical attraction that foisted itself upon his soul making it impossible to think of anything else. When the balance sheet settled out, love ended up being about seventy percent physical and thirty percent emotional, spiritual and intellectual. At the start, however, it was one hundred percent physical attraction or nothing and the fact that his impressions towards Gail were nowhere near this was OK with him.
The details that drew Will in to his ideal woman, surrounded his awareness with an elegant subtlety: eyes, lashes, hair, skin, shape of the mouth, shape and size of the nose, size and anatomy of feet and hands, carriage, gait, unconscious listening expressions, countenance, the line of the neck, the skin below the ear and the shape of the ears, lips, teeth, breasts, thighs as they expand and meet the arc of the buttocks, calves as they contract during gait, arms, and general muscle tone. In most respects, Abigail had features that were either unremarkable, not to his liking or repulsive to Will, yet he weathered them and tolerated them knowingly. It was also comforting to Will that his feelings toward Abigail were like those towards a valued friend without the heart racing desire and stay-up-late night fantasizing that fueled lust.
This was not about love it was more about the preamble and the pre-requisites Will needed to be interested in a relationship that would have the potential to turn into a productive friendship. He could make it look like it might have the makings of love for Gail’s benefit. The idea now was to fall short of this. A careful assessment of these qualities was imperative for a relationship to take off the training wheels and then it became necessary find out what was acceptable to fall short and preserve emotional security. When Will gave weight to the features important to him he often became paralyzed with a version of sadness so incapacitating that visions of past love blotted out any reasonable attempt on his part to rationally and empirically break it down.
After this bruising exercise, Will realized that his emotions connected so intensely with physical features that starting a relationship became a base-jump without a parachute into the arms of the object of his desire. The mental, the emotional, the spiritual, the life experiences were all a distant second in the hierarchy of how love dashed its way into his heart.
There were so many variations of curves and skin and angles a woman possessed all conspiring to pull his lust into position where it hovered enticingly collecting the data that lined the soft corners of choice. A choice that did not come out of this unscathed, for it was not a choice at all.
What descended acted like a manipulative hand directing Will’s thoughts to harness comfort from the white silken skin and buoyant handfuls of spongy flesh that, with the properly selected woman, surrounded him with the urgency of a house on fire strobe light pulsing into drug-fueled willing eyes.
When the right woman came along and timing was right, there was no resisting what reminded Will that fate was alive and well ready to set the hook sometimes when the door was barely cracked open. The slightest shaft of light that got through muscled its way in like a feminine tornado scaling heights and spinning through densely protective firmaments ready to splash voluptuous pheromones onto the upholstery of his resistance.
This circumstance felt more like barely satisfying cosmopolitan meal handed to him in the setting of dormant desire. Will set about amplifying the connection so it might emerge with time holding more weight than a sober male friendship. The bottom line was, as a reprieve for a short period, he was Ok with cohabitating with a woman in Paris for two weeks under his own set of beliefs, and at the same time faking it for Gail’s approval. What he had not counted on was Abigail’s borderline tendencies joining forces with her extreme intuition to not only see through Will’s plan but to also savagely collect her revenge.
The next time they saw each other Abigail drove up to Will’s house and they took in a concert at the Portland Zoo. She and Will talked about yoga, meditation, self-care and the eternal search for self-actualization. They really connected easily and in a layered fashion on many subjects. Gail also started dropping sexual hints right and left. She made it clear that she loved sex and loved talking about sex. She had been granted certain gifts that gave her tremendous sexual energy and she was proud of these.
She had a habit of, suddenly out of the blue, planting a hard kiss on Will where their faces would smash, she tried to tackle him and their teeth would collide. Gail gave Will the idea that she wanted it rough. These moments were not erotic to Will, in fact he felt sorry for her. He experienced a form of deep, hidden sadness in these moments.
Will was sick of the carousal of women in and out of his life the last six years. He hated routine yet a side of him craved the stability of good female partner. This was not it but this could be a foray into something different for a transitory period. Abigail had other notions lurking and they did not mirror those that Will conceived of at all.
Abigail had been studying travel options extensively after her third divorce. The damage incurred during this last marriage resulted in a messy divorce complicated by the fact that her ex-husband had been a business partner and he was now suing her. Now that these headaches were nearing conclusion, she decided it was time to see the rest of the world and get off the grid in the US. She sold off most of her possessions, rented out her home as an Air B and B, and joined the International Association of Benevolent and Caring House Sitters. This allowed her to set up house sitting gigs for two to six weeks at a time worldwide, enabling her to travel wherever the opportunities were and make a small stipend while she enjoyed free housing.
When she met Will the pieces started to fall together. She didn’t want to see the world alone. Her skills in drawing a man into her world were finely honed and she felt an angle that would work with Will. She was capable of luring his mind and then the sex would do the rest. She felt the weight of age on her and at times did not recognize the person in the mirror. Her powers of seduction were still very acute and just as she could draw Will in intellectually she was also able to coax him into seeing her as she wished herself to be seen. It had always been one of her gifts. Her skill of wedding intellectualism with a carefree seductive allure that was manufactured inside a fantasy of her creation, was a trick she had performed many times.
Gail was charming and smart. She complimented everything from his appearance to his body, his mind, and his writing. He felt larger than life and one cannot begin to underestimate the power of this level of ego stroking on a man like Will whose ego was large and tenuous at the same time. He was coddled by her words and alarmed by the inner warnings intuitively telling him to steer clear. Somewhere along the continuum of Will’s relationship history he equated risk with sexual allure. If it felt safe and secure it killed his sex drive. The risk of feeling the precarious weight of loss and hazard filled up his tank with adrenalin-charged force driving the pistons of sexual ecstasy into that beautiful sphere of the unknown
The next morning, in his Portland house, Will and Gail had sex. Will felt the bed shaking as he woke up to Gail masturbating while looking right at him. Will was nude and the covers were off with the sunlight coming through the skylight giving his erection a morning glow. Like her dreams and manipulations, sexual desire was right underneath the surface. It took virtually nothing for these skipping stones of her desire to fire away, struck into exposure, needing elevation to display all that resided above the waves and on top of life’s true authentic domain. Sex was part of Gail’s authenticity and there was nothing hidden or secret about it. She could coax sexual energy out of a tree-stump then stone you as her controlling hand strummed her own clitoris to the striking and alarming tune of narcissism. She was poised to lock onto Will who didn’t have the chance to be fully briefed about the dire consequences of what was happening to him. She had the fitful paroxysms of two orgasms strung together by the high wire of a calculated hypnotic trance that drew Will into her with the force that moves a planchette on a ouija board. Will rolled on top and in less than a minute he was done. His eyes opened and locked onto hers. She gave him the expression of a woman ecstatic over the idea a man came fast, indicating her own erotic attractiveness and a woman struck with the unsatisfied disappointment that the deal was over so fast.
Through all this Will could not remain honest. His hands were full. His sobriety, build upon pillars of honest self-reflection, was teetering precariously in a faint wind. He expected more subtlety and discretion about sex especially from a woman towards whom he had minimal sexual attraction. Yet look at what happened when they had sex. That was not sex with Abigail. That was sex with every girlfriend he ever loved all at once with Gail’s body happening to be there.
Why couldn’t that translate into the minimal amount of sexual interest to compel him to act intrigued during the course of an ordinary day? That experience in the morning did not qualify. There was a time in his life when any warm body would have sufficed and he was happy to be exploited three times a day. That was also when he was in the throes of a sexless marriage. Now, he was more sensitive, more discerning and unwilling to be used and taken advantage of as a sexual object. He didn’t feel right about it, yet he felt powerless to stop it. Was this a platonic relationship that would tip over into the physical realm slowly over time? Or, was the component, the hidden kernel of a romantic beginning waiting to emerge officially dead to him? He felt like a man who was blackmailing himself into doing sexual favors for an ulterior motive he had created.
There was tension from the moment he arrived in Paris. The first night, since there were three bedrooms, they decided it would be more comfortable to spread out and sleep in separate bedrooms. Will was exhausted from covering ever inch of the Frankfurt airport on the way to the proper gate. He landed at Charles DeGaul with no phone service and barely found the living arrangements in Neuilly-Sur-Seine. They spent a nice evening exploring the sizable apartment and eating a dinner of oysters and salad with fresh baked bread. Will’s anxiety began to diminish and then he felt sleep calling him. After a night of sleep he was excited to explore the real Paris.
Circadian rhythms and sleep cycles were all in a tangle on the second day. That morning Will woke up, showered, dressed and enjoyed a cappuccino. Gail informed him that Shammy needed to have his paw dressing changed. Celine, the veterinary technician, was coming over at 10:00 A.M. Before the owners left on their vacation the cat had returned home one day with a degloving injury to its right front paw. Maybe it was a fight with another animal, or a car accident. No one knew how it occurred. Shammy had lost the fur from his shoulder down exposing raw red granulation tissue that looked reasonably healthy. The bone and joint beneath were apparently otherwise normally. It was as if the animal’s fur and hide were peeled off along the entire right front paw like the covering of a banana.
Celine rang the bell and at that moment Will shook the cat toy wand with a bell and stuffed mouse dangling on the end of a long string. Shammy came in through the open window and limped towards him. He loved that toy and used the little stuffed mouse as a punching bag. He required daily medical attention and after he padded in and struck the mouse with his healthy left front paw, he noticed Celine and tried to exit out of the window but Gail had closed it.
Celine said hello with a thick French accent. She was a nubile blonde young woman in her early twenties wearing denim short-shorts and a white see through tank top with no bra. She spoke almost no English but her French was delivered with such lovely intonation that Will hung on her every undecipherable word. Will was grateful for the heat wave as Celine bent down to pet Shammy and the lower aspect of her derriere cheeks, protruding out from under the denim fringes, winked at him. Will was glad he showered and he quickly prepared her a cup of espresso with cream. While the coffee maker chugged and choked out steam, Will gazed at Celine’s overpumped volleyball hind parts and erect nipples brushing up against the sheer cotton of her shirt. She represented the bloom and soft sunlight that had escaped Abigail’s being.
Will gathered the freshly made coffee and the gauze dressings as he followed Celine, now carrying Shammy, into the bathroom. There was a wooden slab laid across the bathtub. Shammy was placed on top of this piece of wood and Will held the cat as Celine peeled the existing dressing off the front paw. Shammy was not fond of this but Celine had a delicate touch and she soothed the cat and Will with her kind verbalizations. The wound was ugly but seemed to be growing reddened healthy tissue. The poor cat would have a large bald front paw when this was all said and done.
Celine rinsed the paw with the hand-held water pic and then copiously applied a white antibiotic cream onto the exposed wound and redressed the area with gauze and elastic cling wrap covered with non adhesive, stick to itself, coban wrap that was blue.
While Celine performed her duties, one leg was kneeling on the edge of the bathtub and she arched her back while leaning forward. The firm flesh of her buttocks was desperately trying to escape the scanty confines of her jean shorts. Will wanted to offer a helping hand to her soft flesh but he was able to quiet his desire and enjoy the angle of her lean. Abigail was standing at the entrance to the bathroom and gave Will an uncomfortable smile as he looked back at her.
Celine completed her duties and she brushed up against Will shoulder as he paced Shammy on the bathroom floor and watched him scurry away. Will remained seated on the edge of the bathtub for a few moments expressing that he felt the cat’s leg looked pretty good and then he walked Celine back into the kitchen. She had a charming way of referring to her French and English phrase translation paperback followed by a heavily French-accented statement that was usually funny both in its delivery and in it content. After she finished her coffee we all walked her out to the gate of the apartment bidding her goodbye until tomorrow.
On his fifth evening in Paris Will stormed out of the apartment and grabbed the only set of keys. Gail yelled after him that she needed the keys and she would be here when he returned. It was Thursday night, they had initially planned to catch a small-club concert after dinner in St. Germaine. He told her he was going to be late and didn’t want to disturb her sleep.
The Uber cab picked him up and he was dropped off in the middle of the action in the 6th Arrondisement near the Rue Froidevaux. There were several restaurants and a buzz of people. Outdoor tables had the unified collective sounds of a culture content in its diversity and willing to expand with good will as alien influences seamlessly integrated into a hive that did not discount idiosyncrasy or emboldened uniqueness.
He walked and walked with brisk strides feeling enough friction in the pavement to burn off the anger and negative energy humming inside him. This was where he beat himself up for compromising on his own truth. This was where he became bitter concerning the underhanded manipulative motives of some women, women he tended to be attracted to. This was where the sun was going to set and things would be much worse in the morning.
He found a quaint Italian bistro with several elegant women sitting outside at tables drinking wine. He sat down and the waitress brought him a menu and took his drink order for double bourbon neat with a draft beer back. He swallowed the bourbon in one gulp feeling the burst of soothing heat in his throat and chest expand into dark wood and cherry with black-pepper-honey. He did not need the beer, in fact it would have spoiled the way the bourbon fastened onto his negative emotions and flushed them away. He ordered another and then another. He enjoyed a serving of cannelloni with rapini and meatballs washed it all down with a bottle of 1996 Barolo. Two more bourbons after dinner and he was ready to hear some music.
Will sat back and ordered a butterscotch gelato. His phone lit up with a text message from Gail and then it buzzed.
“The bottom of my foot still hurts from last night, you hurt me.”
Gail’s voice was cracking with emotion.
“Are you going to tell me that you believe I was trying to hurt you?”
“Can you not see I was being playful?”
“ All I know is it hurts when I walk and you can’t stay here anymore, I don’t feel safe.”
“C’mon Abigail, are you really serious? You’re not joking you’re serious.”
“I found you a really nice hotel and your stuff will be there. I can’t tell you yet what the name of the hotel is, but I will text it to you in a little while after your stuff has been delivered.”
“Wait a second, can you just be reasonable for a second, Please…”
“Goodbye, Will, please don’t contact me anymore and if you try to come here the police have been notified.”
Will tried to call back and was sent straight to voicemail. He sat swirling the gelato and trying to allow this latest turn of events to penetrate his clouded mind. Now he was in a mode of thinking that made him very uncomfortable. He felt wronged and betrayed and wanted her to pay. Primarily he was upset he left without the key and that she would lie to him.
He reviewed the events from yesterday. He pieced together various aspects of the day and started to realize that Gail was acting in ways that Will was blind to. Her wheels were digging into muddy terrain and heading in the direction of an ulterior motive all her own and it did not involve Will. It really didn’t matter what Will did or how he acted, his fate was sealed, only he did not realize it at the time.
He reviewed the day before. After Celine did her thing with the cat yesterday, they were headed to the Cathedral Notre Dame and over to the 7th Arrondisement near the Eiffel tower again. The Eiffel tower was under construction yet it was still the top tourist attraction in France on this summer day. Access was limited so they took some pictures with the Seine in the background and ventured off to an outdoor market nearby. Abigail seemed to cheer up when she was able to buy gifts for others. Will was looking forward to the food.
There was a powerful smell of souvlaki and falafel along with barbequed meats. The goods ranged from elaborately hand-constructed jewelry to mass-produced tourist trinkets. There was a multicultural flavor to the market that outstripped even New York City.
They ventured from the market to an outdoor art fair in Montparnasse. Will almost bought a sculpture made of steel and plaster representing a faceless androgynous figure standing tall with no eyes and a corrugated steel plate covering half the face. He liked the detailing with barbed wire around the limbs and the stoic masochistic feeling the sculpture gave him. Hammered steel mended with plaster of Paris.
They worked their way back to the Neuilly-sur-Seine neighborhood that night. After a dinner of Indian food they came home from the bistro around the corner. Gail was not a drinker so three vodkas and a glass of wine put her into a sedated cloudy haze. She also added a dessert that came with a shot of brandy to pour over cake with custard. She was slurring and clearly inebriated. She was doing exactly what he clearly told her bothered him. Under the same circumstances Will would gain vitality and power from these dinks. This would have been a primer for the evening and would have required the bottle of vodka after that to finish out the night.
It was a full, active day, and now Will was helping Gail walk a straight-line home. When they arrived, they collapsed onto the couch and put a movie on Netflix. Will navigated the French commands and found a suitable film in English. Gail had seized an opportunity to drink more than usual and it got under Will’s skin. If she had one or two drinks it didn’t have an effect on Will but when Gail became noticeably tipsy his triggers started firing.
Once the movie started Abigail reclined to a supine position with her feet on Will’s lap and promptly fell asleep just after the opening credits rolled. It was a film with Christopher Plummer playing an aging survivor of a concentration camp whose Alzheimers was progressing. When a friend of his in a nursing home finds the location of the Nazi war criminal who tortured his family, he seeks him out and exacts revenge.
Will became absorbed in the film and all along was massaging Gail’s bare feet in his lap. He was vigorously applying pressure to parts of the sole of her feet. Despite what might have otherwise created deep tissue pain in a positive sense, Gail remained asleep not seeming to notice any part of his touch. She lay there with her mouth parted and a slight snore interrupting her breathing.
Will felt his blood rising. He tamped down corrosive feelings every time he looked over at Gail’s face. Her sharply aquiline, masculine nose and prominent chin chafed at Will and he felt a hate germinating in his abdomen. All the concessions he had made to treat her well and try his best to establish a friendship were being shoved back at him in a disrespectful way and she was not showing Will any gratitude. He despised these hidden thoughts as he felt himself coming apart and turning to cinders. She mocked his demons and selfishly thumbed her nose at him. She had no business clutching a man like Will to her heartstrings. She didn’t deserve him and now she was letting him know who was in control. She found it easy to act in way that tested Will’s resolve. On top of it all she didn’t respect alcohol.
He focused on her feet and gently ran his fingers along her calves and over the tops of her feet, caressing each individual toe. He then ran his fingers up along her inner thighs and back down to the soles of her feet. He squeezed her right calf muscle and applied pressure beneath her right knee where people are sensitive. She didn’t move or react at all.
Will then took his left hand and lifted her foot off his lap, flexing her right knee and holding her right foot aloft with both hands. He made circular swirls on the sole of her foot and then wound back his right hand and swung vigorously at the sole of her right foot hitting it hard with a loud clap. He did it twice more and then tickled her foot. The force he used was akin to clapping as hard as he could for a standing ovation. She pulled both of her feet up towards her chest and wrapped her arms around her shins cannonball style. Abigail was now awake.
She stormed off to the back bedroom and Will finished the movie. He retired with a book in his bedroom, closed the door and through the wall he could hear Gail crying and talking to someone. Will read for a while and considered that Abigail needed to sleep off the alcohol and she would be over it in the morning.
The morning brought uncomfortable silences. After coffee, Will played with the cat. Celine cancelled and Will surmised that the dressing looked clean and could easily wait to be changed until tomorrow. Gail spent the day in her room reading and doing yoga while Will sat outside in the courtyard writing and gaining inspiration from the short writings of Fernando Pessoa. Around six he showered and dressed. When Will came out of his room Gail was in the living room with the cat reading a book.
“Do you want to get your own hotel room for the rest of the stay, we might have a better time.”
Gail said this without looking up from her book.
“You really think that is necessary?” Will added
“The bottom of my foot is red and I can’t walk barefoot without severe pain.”
“I can’t believe you hurt me like that.”
Will was not sure if he was hearing a sincere expression of Gail’s truth or if he had entered some kind of Parisian looking glass where there was now a complete failure to communicate and all understanding became distorted by differences that arose from unilateral interpretations of recent events so far apart they may as well be on different planets.
“Gail, do your hands hurt when you clap really loud and hard?”
“Your foot has tougher skin than your hand and I clapped it like I was applauding at a concert.” You were passed out, I wanted to wake you so we could talk and watch a movie together.”
This was to no avail.
“I do not want to move to another hotel, but if we can’t seem to get along like we have over the next two days I will do that.”
Gail nodded and said: “ I think we will both have a better time in separate residences.”
Then after a short silence Abigail simply said: “OK.”
Will then started mindlessly organizing his books and computer on the kitchen table and said:
“I am going out to eat and hear some music you are welcome to come.”
“I don’t want to go anywhere with you.”
Gail responded immediately now looking at him with her deadlock stare.
Will grabbed his jacket after he had a coke and grabbed the keys on his way out.
“Those are the only keys, you can’t take those, I need them, I might go out.” Gail said with her voice elevated
“I don’t trust you, I need to be able to get in and you will be asleep. I am staying out late and don’t want to have to disturb you.”
“Don’t worry, you can trust me, I will be here and I will let you in.”
She concluded her statement as I hesitated and dropped the keys on the kitchen table before I went out the door.
Will sat longer than he wanted to at the Italian restaurant, watching the gelato melt to a yellowish milky liquid.
The bourbon lit up Will’s inner awareness and facilitated a cavalier reaction to Gail’s phone call. If Will was sober he would have really flipped but the booze gave him a relaxed perspective and after he finished watched the waitress clear his gelato, he had another bourbon and paid the check.
Will walked toward the venue where the band was playing. The band was called “Uncle Phunk,” and he was looking forward to some straight ahead blues and funk with some 70’s hits by “Wild Cherry,” and Barry White. Will waited on line at the “The Commodore, “ an American Blues club in Patis. and once inside paid the ten Euro cover and continued to drink doubles of well bourbon. The music started and there was still no sign of a message for Gail. Will then had an urgent sense of being without a place to stay in a foreign city and this scared him.
“What if I can’t find a hotel, or if my credit card doesn’t work?”
He thought out loud.
Will walked out of the club and called an Uber on my phone. The cab dropped him off in front of the apartment where he and Gail were staying. He looked through the fence into the apartment and the lights were on but there was no activity. She was not there. Will waited by the security gate.
Suddenly a car drove up and Gail was in the back seat. She didn’t see Will at first and started to get out. When she noticed him she screamed at the driver.
“Go, go go!”
“Please go now!”
The car sped away and Will stayed there. He thought maybe she would call the police but the bourbon gave him courage. There was a park bench near the security gate and he sat down. Will was woozy and almost fell asleep. The bench was about forty feet away from the entrance gate and the area was dark and shrouded by trees. Gail’s cab, which was gone now for about ten minutes, came back and dropped her off. She did not notice Will as he sat motionless on the bench. As she got to the security gate Will was upon her before she put the key in the lock of the gate. Gail’s eyes widened and she let out a yelp. Will grabbed her arm forcefully and stood there while she opened the gate. She resisted his attempt to pull her inside the courtyard, but with a hard pull of her arm she stumbled forward and almost fell. Will pulled her upright by her arm and grabbed her arm pulling it hard hyperextending her head and neck.
“Owww, you are hurting me..”
Gail cried out.
Will covered her mouth with his hand and yanked her hair harder muffling her cries.
“I’ll show you what fucking hurts. Now open the door.”
Will barked, as he stumbled towards the door. Gail looked at him with a scared look on her face.
“I will let you know when I am ready to leave this shithole, not you!”
She put the key in the door lock and they both walked in. Will let her go and she wheeled around giving him a savage look.
“I called the police.” She said.
“I don’t believe you, and what are they going to do if they come here, arrest me for going into the apartment where my belonging are and where I was invited to stay?”
“Your possessions are at another hotel, I just got back from dropping them off. The hotel is called “My Home in Paris.” I checked you in and they are holding your stuff until you get there. “
“Bullshit!” Will responded. I am going in with you to get my stuff.”
Will truly did not believe she had done that already.
Will stormed into his bedroom and it was empty. There was no sign of my belongings.
“I told you.” She said emphatically.
“Why did you lie to me?” I responded
“This is a strange city, I thought we were having a good time together. I thought you were my friend. I was being playful and you have completely lost your mind.”
You are not my friend and I am going back to my bedroom and when I come back out I want you gone!”
These were the last words Gail spoke to him.
Will sat on the couch after she went back to her bedroom. He felt a wave of fatigue coming over himself, a profound wave of alcohol declaring its effect as greater than expected at that moment. Will was drunker than he wanted to be. His head rolled back and quickly he fell asleep. Passed out would be a better description and time elapsed. It was unclear how long Will was out until there was a knock at the door.
Gail came out of her bedroom with blood all over her T-shirt. She looked at me and there were two sizeable cuts on her left forearm over the ulnar side that looked like defensive wounds. Her eye was also swollen with scratches on her nose and face. I noticed a long kitchen knife with blood on it sitting on the counter
She opened the door and two police officers stood there while one looked over at me. They came in and one of them had a gun drawn. Will stood up and there was also blood on his shirt and on his right hand. His head spun and he felt like he might pass out again and fall. The police officer told him to get on his knees and put his hands in the air and behind his head.
“Have you had anything to drink tonight, Sir?”
Will was silent.
Gail looked over at him with tears in her eyes, crusted blood all over her face and he thought he saw a slight smile behind her deadlock stare.
“You have the right to remain silent….”
The other officer walked behind him, forcefully grabbed his hands and pulled them behind his back as the officer applied handcuffs.