A wintery poem from Lune de Miel, Paris honeymoon, marriage, aging, and how the past maps itself out in pieces to be collected when you get there.
At the Café Select
Rue Montparnasse bustles outside the café window. It seems that there are very few hours of daylight in the Paris winter, though perhaps when something is condensed we can find the best part of it, like the pulp of a nut. As I watch passers-by folly onward, I listen to the voice of an American man talk about his life to a companion. I’m surprised when I turn my head to see that she is a younger woman. With my back turned to him, I imagined him telling his story to an old Navy buddy or a colleague he’s met for business. She is my age and this reminds me that I’m a week away from my thirty-fifth birthday. I hear him tell her about success, and he uses words like celebrate and thrive. But then his voice dims and I wonder if perhaps he’s slipped into French; perhaps I am just lost in the gloomy sidewalk, the gray pavement only a few shades deeper than the sky.
Later I catch him say that he doesn’t feel like a success; he pauses and continues with “in some ways more than a success.” “I have survived,” he notes. I guess his age to be seventy, perhaps, a few years younger than my father when he died, a few years younger than the ash-haired woman with a cane who passes by the window. The woman wears a tweed coat that falls just past her knees; her pale stockinged legs move slowly, even with the aid of a third. Her success is quieter, though both journeys have fought off the closing of many hours. I doubt that this as an adequate measure of success, though I like the simplicity of such an idea, as if all we had to do was float like tree branch down a long river.
The café-crème is cold by the time I turn my attention back to it, and having to strain now to hear their conversation, I lose interest in the man and his companion. Instead, I glance up to see my new husband writing a story about a little Danish boy whose mother dies. I think of my father and mother who both missed our wedding, and I wonder about the river’s end. As my thirty-fifth year comes to its end, I may be halfway there, to the moment when I recount my hours and ponder the scope of my successes. For now, I put on my own tweed coat, reach for my husband’s hand, and trace another’s steps down the boulevard.
Click on “a story about a little Danish boy. . . ” for the current issue of The Passed Note, a journal which features “The Wind Barrons of the Pharo Islands” by Eric D. Lehman, the very story described.