Jean Claude flicked the switch and the light went out. With a chuckle in the back of his throat he went to the closet of his petit pension in the 13th Arrondissement and fetched his favorite, full length, leather overcoat. Jean Claude knew that it was slightly warm for full coverage today. JC knew that people would wonder what was wrong with him that he should wear such a thing today. But not so much that they would stop and stare. This is Paris; as such, if, in what you wear, you were willing to suffer for your style, well bon chance avec la. Still, this is Paris and we have a fashion for every 4 degrees Centigrade of temperature. While we’ll give you a sigma or two of variance for your personal sense. After that you’re just being rude.
Michel, dans Le Côte d’Azur watched the videoscreen over the bar. She never approved of the screen in the first place. She saw it as a version, not a versus, the television it replaced.
As far as Michel was concerned, the café and the bar were supposed to be respites from the outside world. People were supposed to be here for the express purpose of letting their inner thoughts come out and play with the inner thoughts of people who were also crazy enough to believe they had a need to have inner thoughts anyway.
But that wasn’t the way this world worked. The café had increasingly been filled with people who craved entertainment to fill the void they didn’t know existed in their lives. Thing was, it did. They were happier with the arraignment than those who struggled with their inner voices were.
The video screen from CE and StepStone, a mostly emancipated entity of MCS Mere et Filles (as they were known in France) was the compromise. At least, Michel reasoned, with this thing, the programming could inspire conversation about the difference between the popular perception of what was thought and taught to be history, and what really took place.
Not that it didn’t wind up being used as the “not so instant replay” device that set up shots from the ideal vantage point to tell if the foot stepped out of bounds or if the ball was in the glove or if the bike rider stuck his leg out to cause the pileup of racers. To see who drew their gun first, what was said before the taping of the incident?
One would think that the image would end the fight then and there. But partisans can deny evidence right before their eyes. Partisans sont partisans et Parisians are at least no less so than anyone else.
Parisians in Le Côte d’Azur that day at that time were not engaging in discussions of philosophy, epistemology or artistry. They were transfixed by what they could not believe was happening on the screen. This guy, Stone was talking… talking avec this guy “Alex”about the most fantastical subject they had ever heard. This guy (the French alone can make a three letter word a three syllable word) is sitting in the Jardin d’ Gethsemane while Jesus and Judas Iscariot and the Roman soldiers and a cloud filled with demons; and Stone is blathering on about dimensionality… The translation feature on the shot is working flawlessly such that everyone forgets to even consider that they’re speaking in any language . In Le Côte d’Azur they’re just speaking.
Michel turns her head from the screen. She seems to be looking at the patrons. Nobody is coming in from the Place Dauphine. Nobody is going out. One person is going out, Michel.
Jean Claude, with his customary flourish throws his heavy leather coat over his shoulders. The perfection of the tailoring assures him that the cupping sewed into the shoulders of his vestment will hold to the shoulders of the man. The gossamer flexibility of the onyx kid skin; for all intents and purposes call it a cape, even though it has sleeves and pockets even a belt which is as ornamental as the rest of the garment, gives it a sheen and a drape not unlike silk. It has everything that you would want in inclement weather. Except that only a fool would wear such a beauty out in a storm. Jean Claude is not a fool.
Stepping through the plate glass onto the Avenue de Choisy serves to answer the questions that raced through his ever active mind as he approached the porte . His perception was correct; it was quiet. And yet there were more than a smattering of mopeds and moto guzzis scurrying between the 2CVs and the Renaults. But this time there isn’t the constant buzzing of horns and the squealing of rubber trying to grip the road and avoid le Grande Esplat du Vespa Vs Volvo. Everyone seems to want to be some place specific to their individual purpose. Yet, it is as if everyone is on the same sync. Whether Paris was a operating like a bee hive or ant hill depended on what the buildings looked like; today more than usual.
It raises more questions than it answers. It’s not unlike the monkey and the tiger. There is a hole in the jungle sounds, and that’s where he looks to see him. But this isn’t just a hole, it’s everywhere, and it puts Jean Claude on edge.
Jean Claude rotates universe wise as if heading to the metro or the bus. The bus, definitely the bus. It’s a beautiful day and nothing is more beautiful than a bus ride through Paris on a beautiful day. JC took his time and Ambled past his powder blue Alfa Romeo Dauphine, still waiting. She’s pretty as the day she was born, even as, just like Jean Claude himself, she has been kept modern with all manner of updates. Wedged into the same space is the MotoBecane. JC retrieves the key from his corduroy pants pocket, opens the trunk of the Dauphine and removes the meticulously stored helmet. After he straps it on, he caressingly closes the tail end of his beloved.
The pair are always in the same parking space, after all he can only drive one at a time, so the other is always holding the space for its sister to come. And they look so good together. The Parisian appreciates the aesthetic of the two and locals understand that this space is occupied even though they don’t particularly know Jean Claude, they operate as a group to maintain the small courtesies that make living in a crowded city possible.
Jean Claude always parks here because it offers the simplest route off Avenue de Choisy. Enter, merge left take the left onto Rue de Tolbiac, boom. Straight out to Quai de Austerlitz, or cross the bridge, boeuf.
Yeah that’s generally the plan, but today is a day for the scenic route. Une grande U-turn and up Ave de Choisy universe wise around Place d’Italie and out L’avenue des Gobelins , Rue Monge, gauche on rue des Écoles towards the Latin Quarter. The Motobécane is whining, the black cape, split in the back flapping to either side of the back wheel. It’s obvious where he’s going, right?
Michel hears the hole in the jungle too. She’s heard holes before. A woman in France must always be listening for the hole. The men still think this is post war. The 51/ 49 natural order of things has been restored, merci beaucoup. As smaller the hole is for a single male predator in a jungle of men announcing their presence so too is this hole in the jungle that much bigger. It’s not that there is a hole, it’s gone. The entire canopy of sound has become still. It could be ironic to call it a “Vibe”. It’s the opposite of a vibe. It’s the sound you hear when they stop playing the bagpipes! Except it’s continuous.
“I’m going to miss this,” she hears herself think?
“Why?” she answers.
“Change is good.” it didn’t sound like a question but it sure felt like one. Her feet were moving, her eyes were working, her smile, well her smile was something different. It was working fine, if by ‘fine’ you mean totally incongruous with the rest of her projected emotional cues. If that’s how you define a smile then , yup. This one was working fine.
Place Dauphine to Pont Neuf. It makes the most sense to turn right, but Michel’s feet went with the other choice.
“What do you think it’ll be like?”
At this point on the pont, Michel was very aware that the quiet, as if it were possible, stretched beyond the city. “How can I possibly know this?” “Good Question.” “You’re in the middle of the city. Do you suppose that you were hearing the noise outside the city when the city was noisy?” “Where am I headed anyway?” “Don’t worry, I know exactly where you’re going. And so do you.” “It sounded like a question to me.” “Don’t they always sound like a question to you?” “Is that a question or are you being rhetorical again?” “Again? Or still?” “Are you asking me, or telling me?” “Ooh la la, Restaurant Paul!”
Michel’s sense memories kick into overdrive as she tastes the Souris d’Agneau on her mind’s tongue. That’s another thing about Paris, a woman doesn’t have to be shy about eating lamb as though she were a wolf in a past life. But then again, Restaurant Paul can even make deviled eggs seem worth the price. “I’m going slower than I thought I was,” Michel heard herself think. Walking across Pont Neuf she heard her interior dialog… and it was different from the previous interior dialog. The quiet of the city again felt as it extended beyond Montreuil and Vincennes. Was Noisy-le-Sec Romainville also being Coquettish like Marnes?
You’ve heard of and done, “Walking as in a dream,” so don’t judge, harshly, Michel, as she stopped trying to be awake and indulges her opportunity to listen to those voices she generally only hears at twinight and twimorning. She has to say, they seem particularly active.
“Que sera et c’est tra.” Beautiful day for a stroll along Le Seine. Le Côte d’Azur isn’t even a distant memory anymore. Compare it to a giant redwood as its lifetime is seen by a Rocky Mountain, “2,000 years? Pfft, I have boulders irritating a crack longer than that.” Such is it with Michel and everything in this life up to this moment; her perspective has changed. I don’t know, perhaps it is the noise.
The noise from outside the city isn’t sound when it reaches the 5th Arrondissement of Paris. But it still does reach. It is still atoms bumping into each other. Sound dissipates as a function of diffusion, not dilution. They know this in Paris, when people have a conversation in Paris both people talk at the same time, after all you only need to hear what the other person is saying. In America, we’re in love with hearing ourselves speak so we tend to only hear what we are saying and we can’t do that if someone else is speaking. This is how Michel somehow knows that it must be quiet in the outlying territories. Because if the noise travelling out of Paris is absent, then the noise of the rest of the world would enter unimpeded.
And you know that this true even as you read this and shake your head that it is wrong. You’ve been in a situation where the conditions were right and you could hear two people whispering 500 meters away and from the same spot under different conditions you can’t understand what is being shouted just feet from face.
If a tree falls in the forest..? Yes, it does make a sound. However, by the time it makes it to your distant ears, it has been buffeted by your noise heading its way. By the time it reaches your ear it may be a part of a parcel of sound that you don’t recognize for the messages they bring. The sound is the “Vibe” and the vibe is what gives us our sense of time. Think about the observation of Europeans when they came to the New World and encountered aboriginals. “They have no conceptualization of time.” Because they did not have the same driving force of the sub sound vibe they had in Europe. Similarly, people from New York City are constantly annoyed and annoying by the pace of people outside their vibration. When you open yourself to the vibe, your perception of time alters as well.
In the still, Michel was uncertain that she could hear a mummer under the inner, inner dialog.
Speaking of noise, the whine of the beautiful Motobécane caught her attention from the flurry of activity in her subconscious. She looked at it and yet didn’t exactly “stop and stare.” The flaps of kid skin fluttered like silken banners as he drove by. “…you there…” was all that she caught.
Rue Monge, Rue des Ecoles, Sorbonne Universités oui? Non. Past le Sorbonne past Université Paris 5 René Descartes take a right across Boulevard Saint-Germain, I’m not quite sure what’s supposed to be so funny about La rue de l’Ancienne-Comédie to Rue Dauphine. JC must pay tribute, he so loves that car. Paris is a big city, but we tend to live in small worlds. Jean Claude often takes Rue Dauphine. “uh huh” is all that he can think he hears over the groaning of the bike as he passes that woman on the Pont Neuf. Just like she remembers that Motobécane, but why is he wearing so much coat? and why would he wear it such that it flapped violently outside the narrow slipstream like that? It looks cool but it is ruining the leather and the stitching too. Beyond this, there is no apparent connection between these two. Oh, and they are both not watching Stone.
It’s obvious where they’re going, right.
Michel is going right, she went right off Pont Neuf, then she went right again at the Passerelle des Arts. She needs to see it. What if this is the last time?
“That’s a beautiful coat monsieur. I wonder why you abuse it.”
“Merci Madam. Mais, you know why. You know exactly why. Because it is my favorite. It is exquisite, to me.”
Michel knew that she knew even though she wanted to deny it. She knew the second she heard the fragment of the sentence she had heard over the din “… you there.” was “I will see you there.” and it was a conversation her subconscious was having with his subconscious as they passed on the bridge. “Here we are, there then.” Already time was of less import given that then and now were somehow equivalents.
“We can pretend we don’t recognize, but we know what is happening but we saw what we saw and the time for our time has come to an end.”
“It does have that feel in Paris aujourd’hui, oui?” It sounded like a question only to soften the blow .
“The world went quiet as everyone seems transfixed to watch some industrialist fool lose the sense of himself on live everything media.”
“So here we are, together, alone together at this spot, that is never empty. When will we ever have this opportunity again?”
“You say that like it’s a question. I want to believe it is a question but somehow it seems more as though it is meant as more of an answer. You say it outloud and yet I can’t help but think that you are saying to calm yourself.”
(Note from Alex: “Robert, you’re not putting names to the quotes. You usually don’t, but this is particularly confusing.”
“Yes, Alex, and what else am I doing differently in this episode?”
“You’re writing in a female character.”
“At least or at last?”
“Kinda both, this is the last chapter of book 1. But, ‘at least’ is better.”
“And what do I know about women? How am I supposed to write from a woman’s perspective? Need I remind you of Karen Schermaker? Carla Bowen?”
“What about Lisa? You understand her, right?”
“Really? You’re going to make me go there?
“Let’s say this about that; my wife I understand as a human being. I understand her as a part of my life and as an adversary to all of the justifications and excuses I give myself. But I can not think like her. If I could and I did then she would be totally justified to be mad at me every time that I don’t think like her.
Ha! Found my way out of that one!”
“Only because you are arguing with me… if I could think like her then you’d have a bigger problem.
“Original problem still is though that we’re not sure whom is saying whatm.” Alex made a joke (ish).
“Yes, and we’ll leave it to the reader to decide for now. Let them be the one who gets in trouble for their gender bias. The fun part is that no matter which way they go, they’re wrong!”
“And you said you can’t write from the perspective of a woman.”)
“It is funny, though. Of all the things to see in Paris, today; this.” It sounded like both a question and a statement, and yet it was neither.
“I kind of come here a lot. Always have.”
“Do you know what tomorrow is going to be like?”
“Far as I know it will be just like yesterday. After all it’s today that is the one that’s out of kilter. Far as we know.”
“But the thing is that someone does know, right.”
“You say ‘right’ because you know you’re wrong?”
“Well, in all probability, whomever it was that got Stone all riled up is the one directing this one.”
“It doesn’t really matter anyway does it?” Not a question. “A demain matin I’ll wake up, whatever. I’ll be used to it as if I had done it forever. I’ll just go about my routines as per normal.”
“It does matter, and it does not. Isn’t that what you were saying here in the first place?”
“What? The Smile? I guess you could say that. God knows they have said everything else, including that you were me and I was you. But I can see how it might be the knowledge that causes the confusion.”
“There is nothing more dangerous than a little bit of knowledge.” (Hey! Uncalled for!)
“Did you know it back then?” Sounds like a question because it is three.
“About? Did I know about it? Or did I know it about you? Or did I know it about me?”
“How about all three?”
“Oh, sure, what else do we have to do?”
“Uh, wine. Coffee. Food! I don’t know about tomorrow, but today, today I live in Paris, France! Tomorrow there may be someplace better, I might be there, I might not. Maybe La Joconde will be tomorrow, maybe not. But today there is Paris.”
” A change of venue? After all the trouble he took to get us here? It must be getting close to his dinner time. Oh look, it is.
Michel is sitting with Jean Claude. The restaurant is 90% empty. The 10 percent people that are here seem calm and at peace with what transpired today. Henri, the chef, seems in particularly good spirits and laughs heartily when it is pointed out to him that “you guys make a big deal that Van Gogh was here, yet given that he couldn’t sell a single painting while he was alive, presumably that was when he was coming here, that doesn’t speak highly of your discernment.” “Vous pas plus!” Henri riposted.
The hurly burly of the world has returned, but the notes of the chord have separated for reasons I’m not at present going to explain. B flat and A sharp are no longer the same note. I will say that it seems to have something to do with the conceptualization of what it is, the difference between first person singular and first person plural.
It’s a transitional period as people come to grips with the idea that everything they thought they knew turned out to be wrong. For the patrons of La Bonne Franquette tonight, it turned out everything they were afraid to express, turned out to be true!
The conversation picks up where we left it at the Louvre.
“Did I know about it at the time? Well, did those people over there drinking Savennières Sec Sectilis Terra-Chenin 2005 know yesterday what today would hold? No, of course they didn’t. They had an idea. They thought that in the abstract; this was what explains what their personal science couldn’t or wouldn’t. But I don’t suppose many of them had a chapter 1 style dream about being here. Although I’m willing to bet that many of them will tell you that this exact experience is familiar to them.
Given that, I’d have to say, yes. I did know it. Did you?”
How about me? Did you know it about me?”
“Given your same parameters, I will say yes. That’s why we were working together on the first place.”
Philippe was back, “Terrine de Fois Gras pour madam. Et pour monsieur, Les Oeufs Mimosa.”
“Philippe! Non. Les Oeufs c’est moi!”
“Bien, tout le meme chose dans le matin.”
“Ever since the passage about Restaurant Paul I’ve been thinking about deviled eggs.”
“Et moi osi.” (That just might work.)
“Shall we toast to the future?”
“Some, with scorn in the forward vision look always away, to the past for their comfort.
“Others grimace when gazing westward in the daytime. These are people who curse the sun twice per day, once for rising and again for its setting.
“Some wink at the future as if the future has joined them in a conspiracy. To the con man, the future is the light to his moth.
“Some wave at the future. Some are waving ‘hello’ while as many are waving ‘Good bye’ From both sides of the XII.
“There has been but one who said it with a smile. A smile that was a message to herself throughout some where, some abouts 500 years give or take 10, 15 years.
The smile greets them and reminds them of the time when a silk merchant’s wife sat for the great Leonardo Da Vinci.
It’s a hell of a selfie!”